Thursday, December 5, 2013

Chapter 116 Aloha ‘Oe

Anna, Texas
After the Luau we wandered down to a tiny strip center in the middle of nowhere. While Charlotte window-shopped I drifted down to what turned out to be an ATM. I pulled out my card from The First National Bank of Anna, Texas and tried it, just for fun, to see what would happen. My little bank was in a town of about 850 total population. As soon as my card was in the screen said, “Welcome George Field.” I could not believe it but I drew out a hundred dollars to see if it worked and it did, just like a charm. This was utterly amazing in the late ‘70's.

The next morning we flew to Oahu and spent a day driving all over the entire island. Charlotte bought about ten orchids and when I ask how we were going to get them home she advised me she would hold them in her lap, and she did, all the way home for eight hours. As we flew over the water on an overnight flight I was watching out the window and out of the total blackness there was a glow in the East. Soon I realized it was California and we were passing over land again with all the lights of Los Angles below us.  By the time we reached DFW the sun was up and we were home again after a trip we neither would ever forget.

Statistic on Anna, TX population found here.

Historical photo of Anna, TX found here.

Photo of orchids found here:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chapter 115 Just Another Day in Paradise

We landed at Lihue airport on Kauai and after renting a car headed for our reserved quarters. The hotel had apparently been featured in several Hollywood movies. The next morning we again took off in a helicopter to fly around the island. We went south first to an area that looked like Death Valley and the Grand Canyon. We could not believe it because the island is known as “The Garden Isle” and is home to the greatest rainfall in the world averaging 460 inches annually! Soon we passed over a mountain and over the other side it was the most luscious jungle you can imagine! What a contrast.

As we flew we came to the huge Wailua waterfall that fell over a cliff for hundreds of feet. The pilot started at the foot of the falls and then went up like an elevator to the top where he set down near the top of the falls. He had us get out and he spread a tablecloth, broke out champagne, bread and some crackers and cheese. We had a great picnic right there where we could hear the roar of the falls and look out over the jungle. We then took off and flew down right over the ocean along the beach where they filmed South Pacific.

The next day was Sunday and we went in search of a church and found one at Po’ipu Beach. We just went in and sat down, little did we know but they were celebrating their 100th anniversary and the vesting Bishop was to speak. The last time I had been in the islands I was on my way to fight the Japanese in WWII. Guess what: when the Bishop rose to speak in this church he was Japanese! It was a very weird feeling.  After the service many of the native members insisted we join them next door at a school cafeteria for a Luau. We did and it was fun but I did not like the poi. It was so bad but I ate it with a painful smile. I probably looked like I was having a gas pain!

Photo of Waimea Canyon, Kauai found here.

Photo of Wailua Falls found here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chapter114 (Mai) Tai One On

The next day we drove completely around the island stopping at the Kanapali Hotel for lunch. That evening we decided to take the evening cruse and dinner out of Lahaina. We boarded with about thirty other tourists, all strangers and pretty quiet and sitting still waiting for the crew to cast off from the dock and hoist the sails. As soon as we were under way several hula girls passed around with pitchers of a fruit drink they called Mi Ties. (Mai Tai: loosely from the Tahitian for good or very good. Indeed.) Mostly orange and pineapple juice I think.

As we sailed along they served dinner and also every time your glass got about half empty those nice girls would come by with their pitchers of that fruit drink. After eating everyone seemed to loosen up and they brought out guitars and ukuleles and asked us all to sing along. As we were singing those young ladies would come by with their pitchers and fill everyone’s glass again. This went on for about three hours and by this time it was nighttime but a beautiful full moon came up. As we approached the home dock the ladies were still filling our half empty glasses with that delicious fruit drink and every one was singing. (Not too good, but plenty loud. They probably heard us coming while we were still out at sea. )

We disembarked and headed to a club in Lahania near the famous banyan tree that was planted in 1873 and covers a city block. We spent the rest of the evening singing and enjoying the company of a Doctor and his wife from Chicago and a couple from Ohio as well as others. We finally headed for Napili Kai. It was late but still before daylight. When we woke up at about eleven the next morning my head had grown all out of shape and I had a throbbing headache. I think I must have been allergic to all that Pineapple juice. As you can imagine, we wanted to stay on Maui but had plane tickets to Kauai that afternoon.

Photo of Lahaina harbor found here.

Photo of Mai Tai found here

Photo of banyan tree found here

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chapter 113 On Island Time

Susie and Bruce gave us round-trip tickets to Hawaii. We had been working 24-7, 365 days a year for about five years and you can imagine how much we looked forward to the trip. We decided to go in April before the big tourist season. We left DFW for about an eight hour flight and landed at Kahului Airport on Maui. After renting a car we headed for our accommodations at the Napili Kai Beach Club near Lahaina. After a great seafood supper at Lahaina we were early to bed after a long day. We woke up with a bird sitting on our open windowsill singing his heart out. Welcome to Hawaii! At about ten we heard the distinctive sound of a conch horn being blown. We had been alerted that this was the signal for everyone to assemble at the pavilion down on the beach. When we arrived at the beach there were about thirty people greeting each other with hugs and laughter. They explained that many of them had been coming there for as long a thirty years and a lot of them had just arrived the night before when we did. We enjoyed Danish Rolls and juices and had a great visit with many new friends.

We left and headed down to Waimea where we boarded our helicopter for a sightseeing trip around the island. We strapped ourselves in and put on headphones that had beautiful Hawaiian music playing. We took off and the pilot kept up a steady description of all the sights as we flew around the island. We flew right down the infamous treacherous road to Hana. As we looked down at the cars winding back and forth the pilot told us it would take about five or six hours to drive what we flew in about fifteen minutes. We flew over Hana and the Charles Lindbergh home and climbed up to the top of Haleakala volcano. After flying over the lip he dropped down inside the crater of the volcano, which was quite an experience. We flew around in the volcano and then climbed back out over the top and returned to the heliport.

Photo of Napili Kai found here.  

Photo of Haleakala crater found here. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chapter 112 The Ice Storm Cometh

Magnificent Ferns before freezing
December 29, 1978 was the start of ten days of ice storm and well below freezing temperature. It was the worst ice storm to hit Texas in 30 years. We went 10 days without power. One night about 9:00 PM we lost our electricity. The alarms went off so I went down to the greenhouses. They were packed full of plants almost ready for delivery. Without electricity all of our heaters shut down. 

At this time we had about twelve houses comprising 120,000 sq ft. I had back-up diesel burning heaters for some of the houses but not all of them. I had a borrowed portable generator going in the big 10,000 sq ft house. I had to keep the temperature above freezing in the other houses or lose the crop.

 I got all the diesel heaters going and began to move them from house to house. This was after midnight and it was so cold. I would wait until a house got down to about 33 degrees and then would slide one of these heaters-that weighed about 80 lbs-to the colder house. There was about four inches of ice on the ground and I would slip and slide, frequently falling down trying to move the heaters.

About 3:00 AM, I had a particularly bad fall and was lying on my back on the ice looking up at a clear sky, a full moon with a temperature of 9 degrees, and wondering what on earth I was doing there! I fought a losing battle until about 5:00 AM. I could not stay up with it and some of the beautiful full ferns began to show signs of freezing. To make a long story a little shorter, we lost about 70% of our crop. These were plants that were already sold and waiting for early spring to be delivered. I had borrowed from the bank to finance that crop and at that time the interest rate for bank loans for small business was at 18%. Really bad deal!!

Losing Mom, Sebastian, and the nursery crop all in about an 18 month period was hard to deal with but with a lot of prayers and help from the good Lord we made it through.

Photo of Dallas 1978 ice storm found here

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chapter 111 The Best and Worst of Times

1977 was a particularly tumultuous year for me. Susie and Bruce were married on the back lawn of the ranch house in June. It was a beautiful day and everything looked fresh and green. We had a rainstorm the morning of the wedding and Charlotte started clearing out the garage just in case. I was putting the white folding chairs up in the back yard and I told them, “Just keep on putting them up because it is not going to rain this afternoon”. Fortunately, I was right for once. The pasture from the house down to the lake was like a golf course. I had put about ten tons of fertilizer on it about a month before the wedding. We had mowed those ten acres just before the wedding and it did look like a well-kept lawn. The long back porch was lush with baskets of flowering impatiens and Boston ferns on every post.  People told us for years following that it was the most beautiful wedding they’d ever attended. 
 That was the very happy part of my year. My mother had come up from San Antonio for the wedding and to be there for Susie. She had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma in February and the doctors estimated that she had six months to live. We took her home in our RV so she could rest while we made the five-hour trip down there.  I think she just hung on for Susie’s wedding because when we took her back home to San Antonio she slept most of the way.  About a month later on July 24, 1977 she passed away. 

 A month after that a teen driving too fast ran over Sebastian and he was killed.  Maurice, who worked for us in the nursery, loved Sebastian and he felt the same way about her. He would go up to the corner and wait for her every morning. When she met him he would trot in front of her car down the road, into our gate and right up to the building where she parked her car. My neighbor said that a teen was driving a car that was the same color as Maurice's car and I'm sure he thought it was her. I buried him up on the hill at the back of the ranch. Those were the sad parts of the year for me.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chapter 110 Cold Dog Night

One time in January the weather turned really cold. That night the forecast was for 12 degrees and snow. I went to the barn and got a couple of bales of hay to make Sebastian a warm bed inside his doghouse at the back of the house. Sure enough, we had a big snow that night and when I got up at early dawn I stepped out on the back porch while my coffee was brewing. Gosh it was cold and biting with a stiff wind out of the North. I hesitated to call Sebastian because I did not want him to get out of his warm house but I was worried about him so I called out,"Sebastian.” Well, this mound of snow started moving and right out in the middle of the back yard in the snow Sebastian raises his head and looks at me. Then he jumps up, shakes the snow off, and comes trotting over to greet me. He had spent the night out in the snow ignoring his warm doghouse. I guess he was not comfortable with all that hay in his house!

One night we were sitting on the back porch at the farm and Sebastian started barking up a storm. We looked down at the east end of the porch and there was a skunk up in Sebastian’s food bowl eating. Sebastian would get closer and closer until the skunk’s tail would pop up, and then he would leap back away from him. Finally the skunk had enough and slowly walked off the porch and into the night. Two nights later we were again sitting on the porch before going to bed. Sebastian came racing around the east corner of the house and slides up to his food bowl. He takes his bowl in his mouth and trots around the west end of the house. Immediately Mr. Skunk shows up for his nightly dinner but there is no food bowl waiting for him! Sebastian was not going to let that happen again!

We did have other dogs over the years but none were as sharp and had the personality of Sebastian. You know, you might have a lot of dogs in your life but if you are lucky, you may have one or two in a lifetime that are really special. That was our buddy, Sebastian.

Photo of skunk found here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chapter 109 I'm a Dog, I'm a Working Dog

Chip had picked up a pup at the Austin pound when he was in law school at UT. He selected this one because he was the sorriest looking one in the bunch and named him Sebastian. Well, Sebastian grew into a beautiful dog. He was a crossbreed but looked a lot like a Border collie. When Chip could no longer keep him, he brought Sebastian out to the farm and we inherited him. When Charlotte and I were out and about, Sebastian was always with one of us. 

One day I was loading a bunch of cows to take them over to our Blue Ridge place, about 25 miles away. My gooseneck trailer was designed to haul about twelve cows and I was trying to put fifteen in because I did not want to make two trips. I had all but one last cow finally pushed, and crowded in the trailer but this last one was half in and half out. I was twisting her tail, and shoving with my shoulder with all my might but, her two back legs were still out of the back of the trailer. All of a sudden I heard this growl and Sebastian had bitten that cow in the ankle, and she shoved herself right into the trailer. I slammed the back gate and locked it and then looked down at Sebastian. I said,” Where did you learn to do that?” Sebastian didn't say a word, he just looked up at me and grinned.

I realized then that Sebastian had cow dog parents and it was in his blood. That is something that is amazing, how a dog from a cow dog line will just inherently know something about handling cattle. He had never seen a cow until he was grown. After that, I usually took Sebastian with me when I was working cattle. He rode in the back of the pick-up but if it was hot and he had done a good job, I would let him ride up in the cab. When I did this he was a happy dog. He would jump up in the cab, and stick his nose into the A/C outlet on the dash. If I had not started the pickup, he would look over at me like he was saying, "hurry up and get this thing going!"
Everyone loved Sebastian and he was a character. One time we were throwing “his stick” which was a six-foot 2x4, for him to go fetch. (Not everyone was able to throw his “stick” for him to fetch) One of the boys threw it over the fence into the pasture. Sebastian would always run out and get it in the center at the balance point and then he would come back with this big old 2x4.  When he started through the gate, of course both ends of that 2x4 hit the sides of the gate. Sebastian backs up, drops the 2x4, goes to the end of it, picks it up, and drags it through the gate. Once through the gate, he again gets the balance point and come trotting back for us to throw it again. Smart dog! If you threw him a regular stick he would just sit by you and not even move to go get it. 

Great video of cow dogs working cattle found here.

Photo of working cow dogs found here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chapter 108 Where the Big Ferns Grow

Another exciting experience was when Richard Marcus of Neiman Marcus called. He had heard of our beautiful begonias that were his mother’s favorite. He came out to the nursery, and bought a lot of begonias. When he saw our ferns he was blown away. These were big ferns in 16” baskets lined with sphagnum moss. He asked if we could supply him with 250 of them to decorate the North Park store for Easter.
We knew that would be a challenge but we accepted. We delivered the ferns on schedule just before Easter and they were beautiful. They were in 16” wire baskets, but the ferns themselves were about 4 feet in diameter. They were hung throughout the store in all departments. Many were over clothing and other merchandise. They were up there for some time so I had to figure out a way to water them without any water running out of the bottom of the baskets. I took each basket and lined an additional basket with sphagnum moss and then covered the inner side with a plastic liner. I then pulled the second basket up tight against the real fern basket and attached it with wire clips. We then watered by putting ice cubes in the baskets. As far as I know not a single basket leaked.
We also grew specimen ferns for special occasions such as new restaurant openings. Some of these ferns were so big I could haul only one at a time in a pickup. They would fill the entire bed of a 8’ pickup bed. We grew baskets for the original Kitty Hawk (forerunner of today’s Chili’s) as well as the new Chili’s restaurants. Several high-end restaurants in NorthPark Mall and other locations featured our giant fern baskets. I would sell these super big baskets for about $200.00 each.   
We were fortunate to have a number of feature articles about us in the Dallas newspapers, nursery magazines, and ivestock periodicals with pictures of Charlotte, myself and our various businesses.  We were also proud of the fact that we had customers ordering our ferns from as far away as Hawaii. The Hawaii customer bought starter fern plants to grow out in their own nursery and then sell them to their local customers.
It is hard to tell from this picture but Charlotte had made both our shirts out of material that had prints of ferns all over them.
Photo of fern found here.

Photo of hanging fern found here.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Chapter 107 Trust, but Verify

About this time I came down with another case of bad judgment. One day two guys drifted in  looking for work. We needed workers and they said they would do anything, just give them a chance. I did and they worked pretty well. The one who did most of the talking said the other guy was a preacher and they were starting a new church in Princeton,  about ten miles east of McKinney. After about two months the talker said he noticed a bed and springs with a mattress in the barn. He told me they were sleeping on the floor over at their apartment in Princeton and asked if they could they use the furniture. I agreed and they loaded it up and hauled it off.

After about four months the talker comes in and says the preacher has a kid living in Austin with his ex-wife. The kid was graduating from middle school and his birthday was about the same time. He said the preacher had been crying because he could not get down to Austin to see his kid. He said their car had broken down and could they use the old Oldsmobile we used for a company multi-use vehicle? We let workers use it to go to town for supplies and errands. I was hesitant but finally said it was all right. 

Talker came in the next day and said, "Those two back tires on the Olds are slick." I said, "Go to Thomason Tire and tell Ronnie to put a couple on there for us." The following day, Friday, they left about three in the afternoon. Just as they were leaving the talker rushed in and asked "What if the police stop us?" They had no title-so would I jot down a little note that it was okay for them to take the car to Austin?  BIG red flag, but I was real busy and apparently not thinking so I did as he asked. He rushed out to leave and I rushed into the greenhouse to deal with some problem there.

They were due back late Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday came and I was a little worried. By Friday I knew I had been taken again! I called my buddy who was a deputy sheriff and told him my story. There was a long pause and he said, "You have lost an automobile and that is not all.” I inquired what could be worse. He pointed out my name was on the title and if they ran over someone and killed them I would be libel. I talked to the State, and they said there was nothing I could do but continue to carry liability insurance on the car for years. I carried liability insurance on that car that I did not even have for five years before I chanced to drop coverage. Of course, Charlotte helped me understand I should have told them no when they first asked for a job and of course, as usual, she was right. She never said "I told you so"; it was more a discussion about reality.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chapter 106 Keep on Truckin'

The greenhouse business continued to expand as we entered into contracts with retail garden chains as well as other stores such as K Mart, Sears Roebuck and various grocery chains. We continued to build houses and finally had 60,000 sq ft of greenhouses. We then bought George’s operation, which was an additional 60,000 sq ft. At our peak, we had 35 people working at each nursery plus we started another operation at Cibolo, Texas near San Antonio.
We had three step vans that delivered plants in Dallas, a 1½-ton truck, and a semi tractor-trailer truck that delivered beyond Dallas. We would load the semi full of plants and our driver would go to Tulsa, then to Oklahoma City, then to Amarillo, Lubbock and Wichita Falls and back to the Nursery. He would back the semi against the loading dock and crawl back to sleep in the sleeper. When we had the semi loaded, he would pull out for the south run. This was to Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and back to the Nursery.
We continued this all spring. In the Nursery business, you sell like crazy from April until July, but the rest of the year is slow. About 70% to 80% of your business is during this period. To try and smooth out this drastic curve, we began to grow plants for florists such as gloxinias and kalanchoes. We also grew about 10,000 poinsettias in 6” pots to be ready for sale each December.
We became known as top fern growers. Texas A&M had us come down to College Station and speak to the Texas Nursery Association on fern production. We also lectured at the research station in Dallas. Neil Sperry had me on his TV show on Saturday mornings to answer questions about fern production. 
The first time Neil invited me to appear on his TV program I loaded up some ferns that morning and started over to the station that I understood was in Grand Prairie. Heading out, I continued east looking for the check points that Neil had given me-until I realized the darn studio was in Ft Worth! Somehow I managed to arrive at the station a few minutes before we were to be on the air. I grabbed my ferns and bolted up the stairs to the studio and slid into the chair next to Neil just as the producer pointed to me and said start talking. I am sure my face was flushed and I was panting like a big dog in August but we made the best of it.
Photo of semi found here
Photo of poinsettia found here
Photo of Neil Sperry at WBAP found here

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chapter 105 The Greenhouse Effect

In 1974 we had a big downturn in the economy; the stock market, the cattle market and the land business all took a hit. Charlotte had her greenhouse full of beautiful plants. A friend of mine who was in the wholesale greenhouse business came out for a visit one day and could not believe how beautiful her plants were. He asked if he could buy some. I asked what price the different plants would bring and told him I would talk to Charlotte and let him know. I started figuring costs and it looked like we could make a pretty good profit.

Charlotte, ever the one to help in any way she could, agreed. I called George the next day and told him we had a deal. We hired a lady, Maurice, from down the road to help us fill orders and work in the greenhouse and she was a real hard worker. Every time George picked up plants Charlotte and Maurice would pot up more a fill the empty space created by the sold plants.

Cartoons from Neil...pretty accurate!
Due to our rapid growth, we decided to build another greenhouse. I had been reading and studying the plant business to try to get educated. Wanting to know more, I had contacted our dear friend Neil Sperry, who was the horticulture expert with Renner Research, a part of the Texas A & M System. I had sold him his farm east of McKinney and also sold him a building in McKinney where he published his magazine. He provided me with even more information. We visited many greenhouse operations around Dallas and in East Texas. We took what we learned and built a second house, this one 30 X 90’ Charlotte and Maurice got busy and filled it up with plants. We called our new business “The Country Greenhouse”.

Neil and Lynn Sperry knew us well, especially the way that Charlotte always supported me in every endeavor we ever undertook; some wild, some crazy and a few that seemed impossible. From the Telephone company, to equipment rental business, to apartment houses, to Mini warehouses, to rent houses, to buying land, to the cattle business, to farming, to a woodworking cabinet shop, to greenhouses, to building Early Texas Homes, to building log homes, to building our own homes, to land sales, to Century 21 franchise, to marketing high end subdivisions. She always hung in there somehow and worked shoulder to shoulder with me on every project.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Chapter 104 Pony is as Pony Does

I went over to Blue Ridge to have lunch at the Ranchman's cafe and meditate on what I was going to do about the cow I had tried my best not to buy. The Ranchman's had great hamburgers and a big crock of sweet tea at the back of the dining room. I drank a lot of tea and would always sit at the back so I could just swing around and fill my tea glass whenever I wanted. I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and there were about six cowboys at the next table. One guy, Slick Williams, was talking loud like he always did and he was bragging on his famous cow pony. “There is not a cow in Collin County that horse can’t catch,” he bragged. My ears pricked up and I listened to each of them tell about how his horse was the better horse.
Finally I leaned over and said that I had a cow that none of them could catch. Slick said, “I’ll just take you up on that and I guarantee you one thing. My horse will have her caught in no time.” I said that I wanted him to catch her, load her up, take her to the sale barn, and asked how much was he going to charge me if he could do it. He said he would take care of her in an hour or so, and it would cost me $50.00. I said, “Deal!” and gave him $50.00 cash.
Slick and four of his cowboy buddies met me at the gate of my place. I pointed out the cattle and said, “You won’t have any trouble picking her out. She’s the high headed one with the XL brand.” They unloaded their horses and were walking around with their spurs a-jingling, twirling their ropes. The five of them were riding together down into the pasture when I left. I drove over to the sale barn. I sat inside watching the cows go through the sale ring for a while and then drove around to the back and parked my pickup along the back fence.
I saw my friend Keith Godugle, the vet, who was pregnancy checking a bunch of cows. I sat on the top fence rail and shot the bull with Keith for quite a while until a great commotion began up at the unloading pen. We heard a lot of noise and yelling and in a minute a big 300-pound guy comes racing down the center passageway, running as fast as he could and right behind him was my high-headed cow. As he rounded the corner by us he hollered,” Watch her boys, she’s snaky!” He climbed up on the fence and as he finally caught his breath he said, "She done tore up Slick's trailer and busted down the fence at the unloading pen! She put everyone over the fence.”

I just quietly climbed down off the fence, got into my pick-up and drove away. I was not about to volunteer that she was my cow. That evening I had a call from Slick. “You owe me some more money. Your cow tore my trailer up and damaged my new saddle. She may have hurt my horse when she almost pulled me down.” As soon he demanded more money, I made up my mind he was not getting another dime from me. If he had called and told me what had happened without demanding I pay him more money, I probably would have volunteered to help with his expenses. I said that we had shook on a deal and I had paid him what he had asked for. I did not owe him any money. He hung up on me and was not a happy camper.

 Photo of Ranchman's cafe found here

Photo of working cow pony found here.

Photo of corral sitting found here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Chapter103 Spooky Little Cow

I had been buying Charolais off and on whenever I found some good cattle at a fair price. A man had a small herd of about 25 Charolais for sale in Princeton and I went over to take a look at them. The owner was sick and told me to go on down into the pasture to look them over. They looked pretty good, except for one “high-headed” cow that was spooky with a wild look in her eye. She threw her head up and trotted off into the woods when I approached the herd. The rest of the cattle soon followed her.  I went back up to the house and told the man I would buy his herd but I did not want that “high-headed” cow. He said that he would not sell unless I took them all. I said, “Sorry, no deal. If you change your mind here is my card.”
I was at my friend Bill Sportsman’s office about two weeks later. He told me that he had a lease on a place on Sister Grove Creek northwest of Blue Ridge. He said he needed to get “shed” of it and he wanted to do a “walk out” deal. In a “walk out” deal you sold everything on your place and just walked out and left everything in place, taking nothing with you. I told him I would look at it, which I did a few days later. The place was good and fit my needs. It had a nice little farmhouse for Jessie and his family. There was a tractor, a baler and a hay rake, which I needed, and lots of grass for the cows. His cattle were in good shape-most with calves by their sides.
A few days later I told Bill I was interested in taking his deal and he said, “Oh by the way I added a few cows but they are nice ones, even better than the ones you saw already." We negotiated a deal and shook on it. I moved Jessie and his family right in but it was about two weeks before I took him a check and drove over to look at my new acquisition. I drove in and started down into the pasture where the cattle were quietly grazing. As I approached one cow threw her head up and galloped off towards Sister Grove’s tree covered bottom, taking the rest of the herd with her.  “Where did you come from?” I wondered.  I stopped by Bill’s on the way out and asked him where he got that bunch of new cattle. I was floored when he told me, “There was this guy over at Princeton who was sick and had to get rid of his little herd and I bought them from him.” 

Photo of spooky cow found here.

Photo of Sister Grove Creek found here.

Photo of running Charolais found here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chapter 102 The Good, the Bad and the Poultry

Our neighbor, Jack Geren, was a really great friend and had a lot of good old country sayings. We had a winding road from the pavement up to our house that had gotten rough. It was full of “chug-holes” and generally in a mess. One morning about 6 am I was drinking my first cup of coffee when I looked down our gravel road towards the pavement and spied Jack. He was on his old Farmall tractor dragging a blade, smoothing out our road.
I had not said a word about my road to him. As he made his way up to the house I came out and offered him a cup of coffee. He said, “No thanks, I have to get on to the field and finish plowing.” I thanked him for grading our road. He said he had noticed it was pretty rough the other day when he came up to see me. I said, “Jack, I appreciate you grading the road so much. What can I do for you?” Jack sort of pouched out his lower lip and said, “A good deed, ‘specting’ one in return, ‘taint’ no good deed ‘tall’.”
A lesson in country ways was so noted by me.
Duchess before her fall from grace
We still had Duchess, our family dog, along with other dogs that seemed to accumulate at the farm. We were about five miles from McKinney, which was just the right distance for people to bring unwanted puppies and dump them off along the side of the road. Every once in a while we would discover some pups that suddenly would show up at our house. I never wanted to kill them or even take them to the pound. We tried to find homes for them but usually wound up with another dog or two. As long as they behaved themselves they were welcome to stay but if they misbehaved they were out of there. Every dog has it's weakness. Even old Duchess finally slipped and took a walk on the dark side.

We had a lot of chickens and they furnished fresh eggs every day for us and for all the folks that worked for us. One day after we had been gone all day, we returned to find all of the chickens dead. Something had  killed every one of them and there were feathers everywhere. I figured a coyote had slipped in while we were gone but if that was the case where were all the dogs? I could not figure it out. As I was standing at the scene of the crime I saw Duchess had a funny look about her. I spoke to her and when she opened her mouth I saw it was full of feathers.  On further inspection I found blood on her. No question as to who the perpetrator was. It was Duchess! We did not get rid of her but she definitely was on the unapproved list after that.

Photo of tractor blade found here.
Illustration of pointer with chicken found here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chapter 101 Think Like a Cow

One day I needed an extra set of hands while working a cow.  As with everything else I did, Charlotte was willing to help. This was one time that I think she almost decided to quit. She was helping me put a cow into the chute so I could doctor her and the cow did not want to go. It turned out to be quite the battle. The cow would dodge first one way and then another and Charlotte and I were trying to get her to turn and go into the chute. She had gotten around us several times (mostly around Charlotte, but me too). We were hot, sweaty and stressed.
I shouted to Charlotte, “Watch her! She is going to go around you again!” With that, the cow faked Charlotte to the right and then took off around her to the left. That cow could have played basketball or football. She juked Charlotte right out of her shoes. I said, “Couldn't you tell what she was thinking, you could see it in her eyes, exactly what she was thinking!”
This did not sit well with Charlotte, who never uttered a word of profanity, usually. She walked right over close to me and drew all of her 4 feet 11 inches up to about 5 feet 3, then through clinched teeth she said, "How in the H__ do you expect me to know what a D__ cow is thinking!!”  You will notice that is not actually phrased as a question. With that she turned and stomped back up to the house and I had to get the cow in the chute by myself.
 Charlotte checking a young heifer and her calf.
You might note in the photo to the right, those steel 8-foot high corrals are a very long way from that first pen I built 25 years earlier. This one was a series of gates which allowed me to work fifteen to twenty cows by myself without doing anything but quietly closing one gate after another. 
This new pen may or may not have been inspired by the last time Charlotte worked the cows with me. Charlotte may not have known what the cow was thinking but I knew exactly what Charlotte was thinking!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chapter 100 Cattle Call

We worked the cattle twice a year, in early April and then-mid September. Each time we would have to bring all the cattle up from the pasture, pen them and work them one at a time.  “Working cattle” meant different things depending on what each one needed.
Some things were standard; for example, in the fall we would give each one of them a vitamin A, D, E shot. They needed the Vitamin A because they would run out of green grass about this time and they would store the Vitamin A in the liver for use all during the winter months. The vitamin shot was given using a large hypodermic needle. I would draw the proper amount and give them a shot in the muscle of the flank.
Frequently, we would also worm them. This required the use of a balling gun. This stainless steel instrument consisted of a long rod about 8 to 10 inches long with a plunger on the end to discharge the worming pill. After putting the large pill on the end of the rod I would insert the rod along the side of the cow’s mouth and slide it down deep into her throat. Then I would press the plunger and deposit the pill and retract the gun.
In order to do this, I would insert my thumb in one nostril and my fingers in the other so that I could lift her head and cause her to open her mouth wide enough to insert the gun. After depositing the pill I had to continue to hold her nose and put my other arm around her head to hold her jaws closed until I felt her swallow the pill. If you did not do this she would usually spit it out and you would have to repeat the entire process.
I would then dust them for flies and check them for cuts, eye infections or any other needs. That gives you an idea of the process and you can see it was very labor intensive. Considering you were working several hundred cows, it did take some time and effort. At the end of each day you did not have any trouble sleeping.
I usually did not do this alone. I had several hands who worked for me. Of course Jessie was always there; another long timer was an old cowboy named Pete McLain. Pete gave me a compliment I have never forgotten. It was a lesson on earning respect as a manager of people. One spring it started raining after Pete and I got a bunch of cattle up in the pens. We had to go ahead and work them to get them back to pasture rather than keep them penned up for several days. There was a lot of mud created as the rain came down pretty steady while we worked.
The cattle got muddy as we moved them from pen to pen and into the chute. It took about six hours of steady work in the rain to finish. When we finished, we looked at one another and we were mud from head to toe. I grinned at Pete because he was a mess and he said, “I’ll say one thing by God, you would never ask a man to do anything you wouldn't do yourself.” I did not answer but I appreciated the comment and never did forget it in my next 25 year of supervising people. For my grandchildren and great grandchildren, remember, you can be given authority but you have to earn respect.

Photo of balling gun found here.
Photo of cow being dosed found here.
Photo of muddy cows found here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chapter 99 Barn Raisin'

We had a really interesting old barn on our farm which was built in 1876 by some Pennsylvania barn builders that came through North Texas at that time. It was a “timber-peg’ barn built without any nails. The timbers were hauled by wagon from Jefferson, Texas and the pegs were hand made on the job. A few square nails were used to build a door into the tack room and they too were hand made. 

Our land was originally settled by a man named Daniel Jarvis Franklin who came to Texas in the 1850’s. When he was crossing the Red River near Fort Inglish (later called Bonham) the river was on rise and their wagon started floating off. It turned over and his wife drowned but Daniel and his nine year old son survived.

Despite that tragedy, the two of them pushed on and settled the land we now own where they built a log cabin. It had no windows and the door was covered by a tarp or skin. The floor was hand hewn with an adz and was one inch thick in some places and three inches in others. 
I know all these details about the cabin because it was perfectly preserved inside the barn that was built around it in 1876. The cabin was used as a corncrib after the barn was completed. When we bought the farm, some 100 years later, the barn’s outer skin was in poor shape but the framework was sound and as true as the day it was built.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chapter 98 We're Having Cows

Our Charolais cattle business continued to expand.  I sold a 418 acre irrigated coastal Bermuda grass farm between Devine and Jourdanton, southwest of San Antonio. I formed a partnership with the buyer in the Charolais business. We sold a bull and a heifer to the Rollins kids that did well in the Stock Show. We had another heifer that took a ribbon at the Texas State Fair in October of that year.

From time to time I would buy some more Charolais cattle. I heard about a small bunch an elderly man had down at Terrell, Texas that he wanted to sell. I went down and looked the cattle over and they were nice. We struck a deal at $20,000 for the bunch. This was on a Friday and I told the man I would come back on Saturday with a check and pick the cows up. He said why not just give him a check and load the cows up, as he did not want to find any more feed for them.

I said I don't have $20,000 in my account at the bank and I would have to go up there and make arrangements for the money. He said "No problem. I will just hold your check until Tuesday, and that will give you plenty of time." I said okay and called Jessie to bring the other trailer. I loaded 14 of the cows in my gooseneck trailer and about the same number in Jessie's trailer. I gave the seller a check and I told him to just hold on to it and I would call him when it was okay to deposit it.

Monday was so busy I barely made it to the bank a little after three. We regular customers could get into the bank through the back door after hours. As I passed through the break room and into the lobby Charlie stood up and took his handkerchief out and started wiping his face. He said, "Am I glad to see you! That guy you bought cattle from down at Terrell was in here Saturday morning and demanded cash for your check. I gave him the cash, and I figured you would show up, but I had begun to worry." That was the kind of trust between long-term customers and bankers in those days. Today's banker would bounce a check like that higher than a kite.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chapter 97 Fruits of Our Labor

One of the joys of owning the farm and having a lot of room was that the family spent most holidays there. Our living room was the site for many a family Christmas. After the kids married, we'd celebrate on New Year's Day so the in-laws could be with their families on Christmas. 

On Thanksgiving we would have our family plus most of Alice and Winn’s children and eventually grandchildren. Sometimes we weren't sure where all the people came from. We would typically have 25 to 35 guests all enjoying being together. The table was large enough for about 10 people but there was plenty of room for everyone at the bar and various seating in the living room. Sometimes it was nice enough for guests to eat outside on the house-long porch.

Right after Thanksgiving, Charlotte would have the girls out and they would make tamales. It was a day long event, longer for the hostess. Charlotte would get all the ingredients together and then cook the meat for a full day before participants came out. Some years they would roll twenty-five or thirty dozen and they were the best. I have never had tamales at a restaurant that were as delicious as those homemade tamales.

We also had a big vegetable garden and grew all kinds of produce. As you can see from the wheelbarrow in the picture, we grew just a little bit of everything. Cantaloupe, squash, corn, beans, tomatoes, black eyed peas-everything flourished tended by Charlotte's green thumb. We eventually had to fence off the garden to fend off the critters, but it was a battle worth fighting!

We had been members at Highland Park Presbyterian Church for 17 years but it became harder and harder to make the 30 mile trip in each Sunday. We visited the two Presbyterian churches in McKinney and they were cold as ice. No one spoke and we did not hear from anyone. A friend in Kiwanis suggested we try First Methodist and we did. What a difference. At the first visit, two different couples came up to us after church and invited us to their Sunday school class. The following week, we had a call from the Pastor and one from another couple. We joined First Methodist a week or two later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Chapter 96 New Worlds to Conquer

My business partner, Bob Hudgins, had moved to Albuquerque. A few years earlier I had sold him a 115-acre farm which was on the pavement-not far from Willow Springs. In 1971 I called Bob and asked him if he wanted to sell that place. He said he was interested and we struck a deal and it was ours. We paid $400 per acre for it. Charlotte was happy but she still wasn't sure about moving away from the city and access to all the Hospitals and doctors, etc. She said she might be okay with it if I would build her a little greenhouse when we built the new house. She had always wanted a place where she could grow a few orchids. 
We spent about a year designing the house and a friend, Madge Widener, helped with design. When I started construction Madge’s husband, Smokey, who was a home builder, furnished helpful advice and names of sub contractors.
Our new house was finished in the summer of 1972 and Charlotte finally agreed to move to the country with me a year later. She had refused to move until Susie was out of High School.  I had built Charlotte a “little” green house, which was 30’ by 50'. I put a sign on it that read “Charlotte’s House”  Charlotte loved her greenhouse, and started growing the most beautiful plants. She grew huge flowering plants, hanging baskets, and starter plants for the yard and garden.

In 1973 we sold the Mini Warehouse. Our banker, Oscar Lindeman, would not lend us funds to build another. He said the Dallas market was saturated because since one of our customers had moved out and built a Mini across the street from us! Ah! The mentality of bankers. Not many of them are risk takers. We sold our rent houses to our good friend John Eagle and his friend Cullen Johnson.

We decided to concentrate on Ranching and Farm And Ranch brokering.  The Charolais business and land sales had been doing well for us. The Mini and the rent houses took a huge amount of time away from our main focus. Had we kept the Mini and the rent houses for another twenty years when the loans were paid out they would have generated a big monthly income. However, expenses and twenty years of labor would have been a pretty big price. Besides we had other worlds to conquer and new ideas to launch.