When Carl Mydans first started working for LIFE magazine, he was asked to go to Texas and document everything from its last great cattle drive to its tough oil towns. Part of Mydans' Texas photo essay was featured in LIFE (Jan 17, 1938). The caption there reads: A big felt hat, a cigar, a gold watch chain and cowboy boots identify Carl Pugh as Freer's chief of police.
Freer's notoriety came from its being an oil boom town. Early in the 1900s, a small number of families purchased the land and watched it blossom into a community. However, when oil was struck, a flood of settlers overcrowded the area. Although the second oil boom (1932) brought a new age of prosperity to the town, it also attracted a colorful crowd of outcasts. Prior to Mydans' visit, the town constable would chain those who broke the law to telephone poles or to horse hitching posts overnight because Freer did not have a jail. By the time Mydans set foot in it, the town had a small police station along with a chief of police.
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