Advice for our Granddaughter’s Marriage

April 12th, 2011

  

 

Greetings to family and friends.  What a beautiful wedding we have just witnessed.  The bride is a beautiful, intelligent, hardworking young lady. We are happy she looks more like Alice and Joyce than her crusty old grandfathers. The groom is a handsome, intelligent, hard working young man.  We are pleased with Hollie’s choice.

            Can you believe it, they have asked for   advice on how to have a long, loving relationship in their marriage.  I don’t believe I have ever been asked that question before.  I have been asked how to grow large, delicious tomatoes.  I have been asked how to have a lovely yard, full of flowers, and well-manicured lawn.  I was once asked where to dig for fishing worms and where to go to catch a string of fish.  I don’t guess he had much luck…he never asked again.

            But being asked for marriage advice   got me to thinking.   Are they serious?     However, in truth, it has been a grand adventure, for 60 years, and I would not trade it for anything.  Looking around, I can see that Alice has managed to make it a memorable journey.

            Well, I took the question at face value, went down into the meadow, to my thinking tree, to contemplate the universe and our granddaughter’s question of marriage advice.  The grass has braved the early spring days, and given me a green carpet sit on. A few flowers have begun to show their faces, and fill the air with their fragrance, and a gentle breeze tussled the leaves of my thinking tree.  As I fully expected, the answer came.  No, there was not a bolt of lightening, nor clap of thunder, or even a voice from the void.  The answer came quietly, with the warm feeling of success.  I do not have any advice for our grand daughter, for no mortal man can know, or handle that wisdom. Sorry, Hollie Gail.  But I have a few words for our future grandson-son-in-law.

            Five words in fact.  The first two are important, and cover a great deal of space in the life of a married couple.  The first two words are, “Yes Dear.”   Kevin, when your lovely bride says to you, “Mind the bicycler” your only answer is, “Yes Dear.”  Or when she asks, “Please take out the trash,” you must reply, “Yes Dear.”  If you can keep your head and remember these two words, you and your wife’s life will be a breeze.

            The next three words to remember are, “You’re probably right.”  It may be a good idea to have these words tattooed on your inner arm for quick reference.  When she says, “You should have turned right at the   signal light,” you must learn to say, “You’re probably right.”  Or when you have a car radiator overheated, and she asks, “Do you need more air in the tires?” you must check your tattoo and say, “You’re probably right.”  If you will learn to use these five simple words, “Yes Dear, you’re probably right,” you will also, some day, be celebrating your 60’th wedding anniversary.

 

           

           

               

Snow, Sleet, and Ice on the Range

February 16th, 2011

 

  

I awoke, way in the night, to the gentle sound of sleet on the tin roof of the bunkhouse at the B8 ranch, on Morgan Creek where I worked. The ranch had been in the family since 1884, and I dearly enjoyed working there.  However with the snow and sleet I knew what that meant. Some one would need to feed the cattle up on the mountain, and it would probably be me.  We didn’t put out hay or feed with range cubes; the cattle rustled grass, and browse for feed.  But with snow, and sleet the grass would be covered.   I would need to take an ax, ride up to the mesa and cut live oak tree branches for the cattle to eat.  The cattle loved them but it was a daunting task to do.

            I went to the horse meadow and caught Pacer, my horse, brought her to the barn and gave her a coffee can of oats.  She quickly ate the oats and I saddled her. Riding the trail up the mountain to the mesa I felt the old west was again alive.  On the way I pulled my old felt hat down tight and glanced at my shadow…looked just like Matt Dillon for sure.  I know, a man was not supposed to glance at his shadow, that was vane, but I was just a kid and could not help from taking a peek.

            The cold crept inside my jacket and my gloved hands were stiff.  I built a large brush fire.  The cattle could smell the smoke and come to it.  Besides I needed the fire for myself.  I called the cattle like I had heard my Uncle Otis do…Whoooupp, whoooupp.  They came running. I chose a fully leafed live oak tree, climbed up and began cutting branches. The cows came for the leaves. They ate hungrily a while then stood by the fire, sometime scorching their hair, then back to eating live oak leaves.  I’m not sure they ever got full.  I kept cutting. 

            Some time that afternoon I got careless and tired, made a mighty swing with my ax and missed the limb.  The ax slipped from my grip, made an arc up and then down just close enough to cut through my glove.  The cut soon filled with beautiful, but freighting, red blood.  I eased down from the tree, sat down in the snow and removed my glove to discover the glove cut through, but only scratched the palm of my hand.  It bled nicely, but not enough to send me home for the day.  I was somewhat disappointed.  I tied a rag around the cut and continued to feed the cattle, cutting more live oak leaves.  My mind soon wandered to my cut hand, and the old west.  Wasn’t an ax cut at all… in my mind it became a knife cut; received in a street brawl, protecting some ladies honor.  I stood tall in the middle of the muddy street to see the ruffians turn tail and run. I finally came to my senses and finished cutting oak brush.

            As Pacer and I made our way down the mountainside I stole a glance at my shadow.  Just a peek you understand.  I discovered the shadow was not Marshall Dillon.  It was the spitting image of John Wayne, bleeding hand and all.

           

    

 

 

Citizens Arrest, Citizens Arrest!

January 31st, 2011

   

            I bet you remember the “Andy Griffith Show.”  They just don’t make those good ones anymore.  One of the outstanding shows in the series was the one called, “Citizens Arrest.”  Gomer Pyle makes an ‘U’ turn right in front of Barney Fife; the town of Mayberry’s deputy sheriff.  Barney turns on his blinking red lights, sirens, and stops Gomer.   Barney gives him a ticket and a lecture that is was his duty to up hold the law as well as plain citizens duty.  Then Barney makes a ‘U’ turn right in front of Gomer.  Well Gomer stops Barney yelling “Citizens Arrest, Citizens Arrest.”  Andy gets into the argument and forces Barney to write himself a ticket.  It gets very sticky fast after that.  Rather than pay the ticket Barney locks himself in jail.  The story goes downhill from there.

            Just a show on television and could not happen you might say.  Well it did.  Right here in downtown Liberty Hill.

            After Joe Spivey, Gary Spivey’s grandfather, retired, Lee Hayes was elected constable of the town of Liberty Hill.  Lee had developed a feud with Eugene Shackleford, Title One councilor and advisor, and owner of the local pool hall.  Some nights around the pool hall things got a little loud and out of hand, and Lee Hays tried to quieten things down. Shackleford took umbrage to the request.

            The next day Shackleford saw Hays run a stop sign on his way to Allman’s Grocery.  Shackleford claimed he had almost hit him.   He followed Hays to the store and declared “Citizens Arrest,” and filed with the Justice of the Peace.  Hays pleaded ‘no contest’ and paid the $3.00 fine.  The next day Hays said he didn’t run a stop sign; he wasn’t guilty and got his $3.00 back.

            Shackleford felt unrequited, so he got a bucket of red paint, a big brush and painted, in one foot letters, on the outside of his pool hall, for all the town to see, “LEE HAYS IS A LIAR”.

            That really incensed the local law.  Hays filed a criminal libel suit in Williamson County Court against Shackleford.  Shackelford decided rather than pay a lawyer he would defend himself.  He had never heard what Abraham Lincoln said; “A man who defends himself in court has a fool for a client.”  Shackleford lost. He was sentenced to a year in jail and a hefty fine. The Texas Civil Liberties Union heard of the case and supplied Shackleford with a lawyer. The TCLU tied the courts of Williamson County into knots. Local folklore said the TCLU took the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. They proved the courts did not have jurisdiction in the case and got a reversal of the previous verdict. Further more they forced the County to pay Shackelford restitutions. The amount Williamson County had to pay Shackelford was never reviled.

        So Justice prevails.  I don’t remember how Barney Fife and Gomer Pyle’s case played out in court, but I suspect Andy Griffith was able to get the case resolved so that “Everyone lived happily ever after.”

 

        

Mountain Lion Trapper

January 18th, 2011

   

            As a kid we were all enthralled by the stories spewing from old timers sitting by the wood stove at the feed store about their trapping days.  Old Rupert McCoy, who was a regular at the store and a great storyteller, accounted in detail about his exploits as a trapper.  He said he had trapped every wild, fur bearing, animal in the woods from here to west Texas.  And, he added, made a lot of money while enjoying living out in nature.  We encouraged him in his telling.

            ”Tell us about trapping that mountain lion Rupert,” we asked even though we had heard the story often enough to tell it ourselves.

            “Well, I was camped up in the Chios Mountains out west.  In fact it was in the Big Bend country…a wild and lonely place, don’t you know.  I found a trail this cat was using on his rounds and set a big #8 steel trap for him.  I baited it with a little cotton tailed rabbit I had killed,” he said.  ”Next morning as I approached the trap, I could tell that lion had been there. The rabbit was gone, the grass and bushes was all torn up, and my trap was missing.”

            “What did you do then,” we asked.

            “Well, I baited another trap with a rabbit. This time I set a #10 steel trap and fastened the chain to a bigger bush.  The next morning I carefully approached the trap site and found that mountain lion had been there again during the night.  He had eaten the rabbit and made off with my other trap. This time I set two #12 traps about three feet apart and baited with another couple of rabbits.”

            “Did that get him Rupert?” we asked.

            “It sure did,” he said.  ”Next morning I came to the spot and there he was, caught by one front leg and one back leg…stretched out squalling loud enough to awaken the whole mountain side.”

            We enjoyed the story as often as we could trick Rupert into telling the tail.  But it had an effect on us kids.  We all wanted to hunt big game out in the mountains and sell the fur and become rich.

            I had an Uncle that had a bunch of steel traps that I could borrow.  I found a likely rock bluff, up San Gabriel Creek, with crevices, bushes, and everything.  I knew, for sure, there must be a mountain lion around somewhere close.  I fastened the trap’s chain to a persimmon tree, baited the trigger with a chicken wing from Mother’s kitchen, and set the trap.

            The next morning, just at daylight, I eagerly went to claim my trophy.  As I approached the site I could hear the chain rattling, and see it wiggling at the mouth of a crevice.  I had caught a lion for sure.  I ran all the way back to the house and got Mom to bring the gun and help me with my lion.  With a stick I pulled on the trap’s chain and out came…a big, creek wood rat.

            That ended my grand adventure of becoming a great, rich, story telling, trapper like Rupert McCoy.

 

 

              

             

           

Finding Santa Clause on the Farm

December 23rd, 2010

            My folks kept telling me about Santa Claus. I was just a small kid, and I had never heard of him but he sounded like the kind of man I would like. They said he brought good kids candy, fruit, nuts, and toys. That got my attention real quick. They said he would visit Grandpa’s in just a few days, and we might go out there to see him.  I was ready to go.

            Grandpa’s farm was way out in the country, through seven other farm’s gates on dirt roads. A trip to Grandpa and Grandma’s farm was always exciting, but a chance to meet this Santa sounded great. I knew Grandma’s table would be loaded with all kinds of things little kids liked. Sure enough when we arrived I could smell fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. I could imagine the sweet potato pie in the oven, and I knew she had her famous sugar cookies in the top shelf of her cupboard.

            “Merry Christmas,” Grandpa shouted when we arrived. “I haven’t seen Santa Clause yet. Come in and have some dinner.” I ran to Grandpa, dressed in his usual striped overalls, with a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco peeking from a bib pocket, and he scooped me up.

            The house was all decorated nice and homey. Grandpa had cut a cedar tree and Grandma decorated it with colored paper strips and looped ropes. Right on the top she had fashioned a cardboard star and covered it with shiny tin foil. Grandpa bought a box of multi colored candles that fit into clamp-on-holders for the tree. I could hardly wait for him to light the tree. At dinner I wasn’t interested much in eating. I kept my nose to the windows watching for this man called Santa Clause.

            It got dark and he hadn’t arrived yet. The phone rang, and Grandpa answered it. “Mr. Rogers has a cow down and needs my help,” Grandpa announced. “I will be back as soon as I can.” I kept my eye on the windows, watching for our expected guest.

            Soon I heard heavy footsteps on the porch, with a loud Ho, Ho, Ho.  “That must be Santa Clause now,” my Dad said. The door swung open and in came a man with a red cap trimmed in white, wearing striped overalls.  He had a funny looking beard and smelled like pipe tobacco. He carried a burlap sack that bulged with something. “Is there a fine young man here named Hollis,” he asked.  I peeked from behind Mom’s skirt. “Well now, let’s see what I have for you,”  “Ah. He exclaimed.  Here is a sack of oranges. And another with nuts in it. And look here! Here is a sack of candy. Do you think you could use these?” Santa asked.

            Could I use them? You bet I could find a use for all that stuff.  Then he dug deeper into that sack and came out with a cap pistol with a package of caps to shoot bad guys with.  Wow. That was all I could think of to say. He wheeled around and left quickly with a hearty Ho! Ho! Ho!

            Grandpa came back soon from helping Mr. Rogers. “I am sorry to have missed seeing Santa Clause,” he said. I had a feeling who Santa Clause was…all dressed up in striped overalls and smelling of pipe tobacco.

            And until this day, I still think of Santa in striped overalls, a red can of Prince Albert tobacco in his bib pocket, and a funny looking fake beard.

 

    

                         

           

Fishing Trip on the North San Gabriel

December 5th, 2010

 

            John Steel stopped by a few days ago.  The sun was shinning brightly with a gentle southeast breeze, and a forecast of more to come.  He drove across the little bridge in his battered pick up truck with that old spotted dog helping him steer.  As the dust settled the dog cleared the yard of cats and John eased his bony body down from the truck.

            “What brings you out on such a pretty day John?  I asked.  You need another cup of Alice’s coffee?”

            “No I don’t have time for any coffee.  You and me are going fishing.” 

            I didn’t remember promising him I would go fishing with him any time soon, but he easily convinced me I had.

            “I have everything loaded in the truck and time is wasting.”

            I grabbed my tackle, kissed Alice a quick good bye, and jumped into the already running truck.  I thought I would get to ride in the passenger’s seat, but that spotted dog had other ideas.  When I found John had not brought any breakfast fixings I was able to get him to stop by H.E.B.s for bacon and eggs.  John scooped up five pounds of bacon, three dozen eggs, and a big can of Folgers coffee.  On the way to the checkout counter he managed to grab a ten-pound sack of potatoes.  It wasn’t hard to get my billfold out and pay the tab before John could find his money.

            I was able to trick the old spotted dog to ride in the bed of the truck so I could sit in his place in the cab.  We turned south off county road 1174 onto a dirt road.  Well it looked like a dirt road once upon a time.  The county had not graded it in years and rocks and ruts littered the road.  Sure enough John managed to hit a rock and blew out a tire.  We were able to remove the flat tire, mount the spare only to find it was flat also.

            “Don’t worry about that.  I have a hand pump here some where.”

            I didn’t say anything, but I noticed there was a different look to the sky.  A low dark streak of clouds lay way in the northwest.

            John picked out a campsite and we put up the tent.  Well, it was once a tent.  He built a fire and put the coffee pot on.  I watched the streak of clouds turn dark blue and began its approach at a fast pace.  The storm hit in all its fury with rain, wind, mixed with a touch of sleet.  As the tent tumbled down the riverbank we raced to the truck.

            The three of us, cold and wet, filled the cab.  The spotted dog decided he wanted the middle of the cab after all and commandeered it.  Some how we managed to catch a few minutes of sleep, through the night.  About daylight the storm blew its self out and the sun broke clear, but cold.

            We managed a fire, but found the coffee can had spilled and scattered the contents over the ground.  Looking for the bacon and eggs we found that old spotted dog had already found them and ate them all.  We still had ten pounds of potatoes.  I guess dogs don’t like raw spuds.

            Alice had the coffee perking and bacon frying in the pan when we dragged our cold, wet bodies into the house. 

            “I’m leaving my spotted dog out there on the porch.  I only wish we could leave the weather bureau out there too,” said John Steel.

 

 

             

           

 

             

The Rubber Gun Shoot Out at the OK Corral

October 1st, 2010

  

 

            Of course it wasn’t really THE OK Corral.  It was Dale Stapp’s father’s old hay and feed barn.  There were lean-to roofs added to the sides of the old barn all around, with plenty of pens and feeding stalls.  Gates on rusty hinges led to different parts of the maze of storage rooms and corrals.  Up a wooden ladder was the hayloft that now held only a few boxes of personal things.  The complex had long ago been abandoned. But to us kids it became, in our fantasy, a turreted castle on the Rhine, or a Roman fortification in England or a log frontier fort on the Mississippi River.  However most of the time it was “The OK Corral of Tombstone, Arizona.”  We each had made our own rubber shooting guns from apple box ends, mothers clothes pins, and car inner tubes cut into loops for ammunition.  We swaggered around shooting each other with our guns and having a grand time in and around that barn.  We had only one rule, “No shooting in the face.” 

             Charles, Roy, Donald, Dale Stapp and me were from the “east side” of the railroad tracks in our town.  We were kind of proud of that label, for we felt a little tougher, more rugged, and certainly dirtier that the boys from “down town.”  We played a mean game of “rubber guns,” and felt we could whip anybody.  

             The clean boys from the down town group felt the same way.  They had fancy store bought guns and pretty frontier hats and jackets.  It was not long before we got a challenge from them to a shoot out at the barn next Saturday.

            The day arrived and their leader, Jerry, a tall red headed boy and his buddies came in all their fancy gear and we had a few skirmishes just for fun. Jerry then announced   the next game was for the bragging rights of being the best.  We won the toss for being the defenders of the corral.  We all decided the hayloft was the easiest place to defend.  In talking about our defense plans we noted most of us had been shot in the face by Jerry.  We decided to do something about this flaunting of the rule of the game.

            In the loft we pulled and pushed the old boxes into a line in front of the place where the ladder came into our hiding place.  We agreed to stay hidden behind the boxes, and hold our fire, until Jerry entered the loft.  One or two of the “down town guys” stuck their heads up into the area. Seeing nothing, left.  Then Jerry climbed the ladder, and in his bold manner stood up; looking around.  At that moment Charles gave the command, fire! We all stood from behind our cover and fired at once…straight into the face of Jerry.  The rubber missiles found their target.  Jerry was stunned, surprised, but unhurt.  He turned with a cry and beat a hasty retreat, taking his crew back to town with him.

            I’m not sure we really won that shoot out.  We bragged about winning, and no one was there to challenge us. I know we taught a bully a lesson that day at the “Shoot Out at the OK Corral.”

Dad’s Store

September 7th, 2010

 

 

            The flow of life moves us through the years in mysterious ways.  In the early 1930’s my Dad and Mom opened a little neighborhood grocery store.  They went to the big city and bought $34.48 worth of wholesale groceries, which filled the bed of their Model-A pick-up truck.   However those groceries also filled the shelves in their store.  The first sale was for a five-cent Baby Ruth candy bar.  Mom did not have enough money left to make change for the sale.  He promised to return the next day, and he did.  The store had few amenities of today’s “Convenience Stores.”  Summer sausages hung from nails on the wall.  A cheese wheel lay, uncovered, on the counter near the scales.  A wooden box of apples, and a crate of oranges leaned against the counter; the only ‘fresh’ items in the store.  Dried apples, peaches, and apricots sat in cardboard boxes on a shelf.    Only twenty-four and forty-eight pound sacks of flour were available. A few canned staples of pork and beans, sardines, Carnation evaporated milk, peaches and whole kernel corn lined the shelves on each wall.  The bread man came early each day with an arm full of Pan Dandy, factory baked bread.  The mixed aroma of fresh bread, apples, oranges, summer sausages, and dried fruit made us kids mouth water.

            The highway was rerouted through town and forced Dad to build a new store.   The new store had two Sinclair gasoline pumps.  On top of each pump sat a glass column that was filled with gasoline by us kids by pushing and pulling the lever of the marvelous new age pumping machine.  And the new store had a wonder of new items.  We had a ‘soda water’ case with crushed ice that made the drinks frosty cold.  Dad bought stalks of bananas that hung from a hook in the ceiling giving the store an up-town smell.  Perhaps most important was the candy shelf.  We had penny and nickel Baby Ruth and Butter Finger candy bars.  Bubble gum, big enough to fill our mouths cost one cent each.  A cream filled Daisy cookie, as big as your hand, was the greatest treat of all.  Most days Dad let us kids have a penny piece of candy, or a soda water, apple or an orange. Christmas brought ribbon candy.  The ribbon was about an inch wide, brightly stripped in many colors, folded into loops looked good, but was disappointing in taste.  The holiday also brought pecans, walnuts, and Brazil nuts for us to sample.  

            The men of the community enjoyed the assortment of tobaccos.  Dad stocked four brands of ready roll cigarettes; Camels, Lucky Strikes, Chesterfields, and Kools. Of course most men smoked Bull Durham or Duke’s Mixture roll your own tobacco.  They only cost five cents, and came in a little white cloth bag, which was great for carrying marbles, coins, and on occasions, live frogs.  Chewing tobacco consisted of Tensley, Days Work, and Brown Mule.  An assortment of snuffs, Tuberose, Honest, and Levi Garrett kept the ladies of the neighborhood happy.  Dad kept their secret secure all those years.

            That was the world I grew up in; everyday an adventure. Dad and Mom ran the store successfully for over 40 years, and eased into retirement.  But we went off to collage, fought wars, and built our own families in the big city, almost forgetting the past.

            However the flow of life continues. We are pleased and excited for our granddaughter, Brittney and her husband John, who have just bought a franchise for a real Convenience Store in the same town I grew up in.  That store has everything- cold snacks, hot food, and even electrically pumped gasoline.  The cold cases are full of drinks, and the hot coffee bar, with a half dozen flavors, is the freshest in town.  Hope you can stop by and say hello.  Have soda pop and tell Brittney to put it on my tab. 

 

           

   

           

                     

             

 

      

 

           

        

Lucky

August 23rd, 2010

 

Lucky  

   

            Our shop worked Austin and surrounding cities.  This put us on the road a lot of each working day.  One misty cold November day, returning from Manor, I witnessed a near fatal accident.  Crossing the road ahead was a small rusty colored dog.  Passing my pickup on the left was a sports car driving at great speed.  Almost in slow motion I could see the dog and car meet in the middle of the road.  The car sped on, but the dog was knocked into the ditch at the side of the road.  I stopped, backed up and ran to the dog.  He lay quiet, still, and bleeding.  I sensed he was alive, but in dire shape.  I picked him up from the wet, cold grass and lay him gently in the floorboard of my pickup.  He was still breathing.

At the shop we placed him near the fire on a mat.  In a few hours he moved, opened his eyes and gave us that look of, “What happened?”  He then lay still and we knew his life was in the hands of fate.  Fate won.

The next day he was awake, lapped up some water and a bite of food.  Looking at him lying on the mat of shop towels, we agreed he was one lucky dog.  And that is how he earned his name.

            Lucky was a small dog, hardly fifteen pounds, golden in color and frisky.  He became our “Shop Dog,” and was good at his assumed task.  Each morning he waited at the pickup to ride to the shop with me.  At the shop he would find the coolest spot in the summer and the warmest in the winter, to take up his task of being a shop dog.  Lucky greeted all guests that came to the shop with a sniff and quick tail waging, then resume his post.  Deliverymen were given the same hearty greeting, but with a more guarded personality.  A gentle pat on the head and he wagged his little tail and resumed guard duty.  Customers got the full warm treatment.  Lucky always had a friendly bark with plenty of tail wagging, which made them feel properly welcomed.

            Lucky had one annoying habit.  He refused to eat dog food.  The only thing he would eat was table scraps.  I guess he felt he was human, and we soon came to understand he possible was; Alice always fixed him a plate as if he were a guest at the house also.  He didn’t seem to mind taking his plate on the back porch, which was a surprise.  He even ate the green beans and carrots on the plate.  Often, when Alice wasn’t looking, I made sure he got an extra serving of vegetables from my plate.

            Those were idyllic times.  Lucky enjoyed riding with me to the shop, watching the traffic whizzing by and growling at fast sports cars.  Keeping his post guarded at the shop seemed to be a pleasant time for him. At about 4:30 in the afternoon, Lucky would stir from his nap to announce it was time to go home.  I usually agreed with him. He would happily run to the pickup and wait for me to open the door.  In he would hop and assume his stance by the window to watch his world slide by.

            But large, mean, dogs roamed our neighborhood.  Lucky tangled with one to many.  We buried him beneath the giant oak in the back yard with all the pomp and ceremonies a sad family could muster. Even Lucky’s streak ran out.  We still miss him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

             

                

Richard Ware

July 31st, 2010

 

 

Richard’s Eulogy

 

        We are here today to celebrate, honor, and illuminate a part of Richard Wear’s magnificent life as a builder of homes, acute observer of nature, hunter and photographer of deer, servant to his community, and as a family man.  Richard’s life was so large and covered so much area; we can only touch upon a small portion of it.

 

        Richard served 14 years on the school board at Liberty Hill Independent School District.  Richard always worked for the benefit of the children.  Moneys spent needed to be reflected to the good of each child in school.  Once Richard found a western belt with the name of Jack tooled on the back.  Fit him just fine so he took it to wear.  At a board meeting the members were discussing building something that Richard said cost too much.  They augured.  Richard stood, turned around, showed them the name Jack on his belt and said, “I am so poor I can’t even afford a belt with my name on it.” Richard won that argument. I remember Richard not going to the seminars and training classes out of town for the expense to the school district out weighed the benefits to the board members.  Yet he would work overtime to get programs and equipment that were good for the students.

 

        Family was important to Richard. Early on, when Beth, their daughter, was a young girl they bought her a Mo-Ped.  Richard and she would go to a gravel pit and both would ride over the dirt piles.  That pleased Richard.   

  Once his grandson, Tye, called from Kerrville needing help on a science project.  It wasn’t due until tomorrow.  Richard dropped everything he was doing and drove to Kerrville to help Tye build a catapult, a working scale model of a historic weapon.  They worked all night, finished the project and it proved to be the strongest and most accurate one of all.   Richard’s brothers and sisters benefited from Richard’s creative flair, and building knowledge.  And his many friend’s and neighbors homes reflect his handiwork.          Lyndon Sterns, an early childhood friend, said to me Richard made all their toys to play with.  He was just born to saw, cut, and make things.  He said Richard built them a wagon once from an old set of wheels.  They pulled the younger kids up and down the trails, which they survived with little more than a few scratches.  Maryann, Richard’s sister, said he pulled her in that wagon for many, many miles around the farm.    

 

 

        Hunting was close to Richard’s heart.  Not so much in killing a deer, but in being out in nature observing her beautiful handy work.  If Richard found a pretty or unusual rock, wooden log, or roll of rusty barbed wire, he would manage to get into his pickup and bring it home.  He had a sense of humor about hunting.  Once the deer lease did not have a cabin for them to use.  He loaded up scrap lumber, roofing, discarded doors and windows, took it to the lease and built a 24×24 cabin.  Of course he worked the other hunters to a frazzle, but they got it done.  Before he would let them quit for the day he insisted they finish the job by painting it.  The only paint in the truck was several gallons of Pink paint.  It is the only pink hunting lodge in history.  Richard enjoyed telling me the story of a hunting cabin that was inhabited with a hive of bees.  He said if you were careful in opening the door to enter, they would not bother you.  But some of the guys wanted them out of there.  They had a leaky butane bottle, so they placed it just under where the bees were and stood back.  Good thing!  In a few minutes, when the room filled with butane the pilot light on the cook stove ignited the gas.  The explosion blew out the windows, the door from the hinges, and ended up spinning around harmlessly in the yard.  The only good thing was the cabin did not catch fire…. nor kill the bees.

 

 

        But building homes was his passion.  I don’t think Richard ever built a house or did an addition without adding something a little extra for the homeowner.  Many homes he built required removing a few trees.  Richard saved the logs from these trees and built a shelf or bench for the owner to enjoy.  Some times where a window was designed he would insert a bay window, because it added beauty to the structure.  Richard’s eye was keen and saw that all lines, curves, and shapes were fair and pleasing.   Once I went with Richard to enclose the bottom of a lake house built on stilts.  We arrived early and went to work with little pomp and ceremony.  We ran to the lumber pile to fetch sticks of pine for him to nail into walls.  It was hard to stay up with his swift hammer.  I began looking forward to lunch and a chance to catch my breath.  Fifteen minutes after lunch we hit it again.  We nailed siding to the studs.  Boxed windows.  Hung doors.  Ran wire and plumbing then nailed paneling.  The shadows of evening came slowly, with what I thought would be relief.  No way.  Richard said, “You need a porch on the front of this house.”  We drug post, hauled decking, and sawed beams and soon had a porch.  Now I knew, as dark came we could go home.  Not quite yet.  Richard said, “Now we need steps form the deck to the ground.”  He built those steps by the headlights of his pick-up.  Finely I was allowed to crawl to the pick up and drag myself into the seat to go home.  However I found soon that was Richard’s normal day…from before dawn until after dark.

       

        Richard picked up a neat habit from one of his builder uncles, Roy Wear.  Each house he built, he left a note, memento, or message penciled on a rafter to be found years later.  Richard liked that and perfected the act.  He even sent one of his prized hammers with Paul Curtis, to the Ukraine to hide in a wall being renovated.  That pleased Richard.  Sherman Winters said Richard built their house in 1985.  Sherman, in remodeling just a few years ago, had to remove a bathroom window.  As he sat it down, there penciled on the bottom of the window stile he found a note from Richard from years ago, “August 10, 1985 9:PM I am tired and I am going home.”

 

        Thursday evening Richard was fighting valiantly for each breath. Paul Curtis said he could see in his mind Richard penciling a note on a rafter, “April 29th, 2010, 75 degrees, 2:00 o-clock, wind from south, beautiful day. I am tired and I am going home.”

 

        And Richard went home.

 

 

Hollis Baker   1 May 2010