5. The Neighbors
When you meet Harlan, you think of Alex Karras or Dan Blocker.
He's big. And good natured. And when you visit you see that he knows a lot
about a lot of things about a lot of things. He'll talk ballistics, twist
rates, hunting, crops and range management. Then History and local stories.
He still lives next to the branch of the river named for his family. They
were here when it was ruled by Mexico. He invited our lease people over to
dove hunt, gave us vegetables. For several years he hosted, a July barbecue
for all the neighbors. Even the hunters were invited. It was a big gathering,
with families and kids. It was abandoned, as we understand it, because of
our government's wish to make everybody responsible for the welfare of others
and to hold no one responsible for themselves. The liability of having a few
hundred guests at your place became too great. That was a shame and a loss
to the community.
Harlan had hunters on his place, too. He provided them a house and most of
them came from the Houston area. One of the guys pointed out to Ralph and
Doug the very ridge where the Edward's Plateau started. Right there on Harlan's
place, give or take a hundred miles. They were, in part, a woolly bunch. We'd
see them mostly at the Joppa Big Game Dinner in the fall. What our place lacked
in girlfriends and intrigue, they made up for. The house burned down when
a wife showed up at the wrong time.
More on this later.
B. Ronnie & Claudie... the BBQ and helper. Cow flop
Claudie was the BBQ man. He always had Ronnie to help him.
They'd cook for Harlan's annual BBQ. And for the Wild Game Dinner at the community
center. And surely for other things. For the Game Dinner they'd set up the
big smoker trailer at the lease and cook venison from deer, elk and who knows
what else. There were doves, maybe duck or quail or pheasant. The lease always
supplier the necessary refreshment for the cooks. I seem to remember that
Claudie didn't drink beer. But Ronnie did. Ronnie tended the fire and moved
the trays and pans. Claudie was the artist. On one of the trips when the cook
trailer was being towed to the lease, the fire box door swung open. It was
at the back of the trailer at the bottom and when going through some dip the
door got bent up several inches at the side opposite the hinge. That created
quite a problem. Ronnie wound the damage when he was going to start the fire.
He was worried that not only would the fire box not seal and draw right, but
that Claudie would be upset. It's hard for an artist to perform if he's upset
and especially if the equipment might let him down. Claudie was upset but
too much of a gentleman to let on too much. The door was attached to the back
of the heavy steel fire box had half inch hinges. It had taken several hundred
pounds of trailer to bend it up and the hunters were wondering if they could
get EB's torch or welder and work it over or if they could fabricate a seal
or if a vent of some sort could be made to regulate the air of if Claudie
could make do with an unregulated fire. Harlan laid down on the ground and
studied the problem. The door would swing but when it swung to close the right
end was four inches high. He laid on his side and took hold of the door and
swung it from open to nearly closed several times and figured. He made a ticking
sound by sucking on his teeth at the side of his mouth. He took a good grip
and pulled on he top of the door with his left hand and down at the end with
his right. He swung it from open to nearly closed and it was better. After
a bit more studying and one more bend he swung it closed to a fit as good
as when it was made. The rest is history now. Most all hands had a beer to celebrate.
Ronnie built the fire. Claudie cooked. And everybody had another of the great, big,
Game Dinners at the Community Center. With iced tea.
E. The wheeler dealer.
The new owner of the 800 or so acres east of our lease decided
to improve his new place. He built two tanks on the year around branch that
came in from the north. One was right across the fence from where the branch
came on to our place. The tank was new and the prospects were pretty good
that birds might come in to "gravel" as well as to drink. On Opening
Day of dove season Ralph and Doug were near the east edge of the property
shooting birds as the came over from the the tank. They'd introduced themselves
to the new folks earlier in the year and all was cordial. After a while the
new neighbor and his young son showed up and came to the fence to visit. After
each side having assured the other that it was fine to cross the fence to
retrieve any wounded or dead birds the conversation naturally came around
to that day's bird prospects. Our guys allowed that although they were getting
a few shots there hadn't been many flying for the past hour. The neighbor's
son was really excited about getting to shoot and proudly said that although
he'd not hunted before this year, he and his dad did pretty well bagging doves
the day before. His dad just ignored the boys obvious pride in his shooting
and changed the subject. It probably wasn't lack of appreciation for his boy's
shooing skills. Most likely it was that the season wasn't open on the day
the kid was talking about. Wonder what he said to his kid later. In any case,
he didn't stay around our county long. A relative of his that was involved
in his place someway, had been tracked down by the government for selling
land or investments that were questionable. A lot of folks out around Brady,
or Brownwood or the like had a bone to pick with his kin. It did make the
local paper. Wonder what he said to his kid later.
Shoots EB's house and brings a cake