Friday, October 12, 2012

Texas Tough – Part 2
The following is a paraphrase of a story that my father recounted on my last visit. While I will try to accurately represent what he said, I will admit to embellishing a bit as I can't remember the whole story clearly. I suspect he may have embellished a little too, but the cobwebs of time steal too much of us for that to really matter. The most important parts are accurate (you'll know it when you read it).
Uncle Seth was rich as sin. How he came to that state is a story for another time. There may even be a few folks still out there that don’t want it told, so I won’t – well, maybe later. He had a ranch in northwest Texas which his progeny owns to this day (yeah - I checked). While my father refers to him as ‘uncle’, I still am a bit unclear on the genealogy of the matter. I am thinking ‘great uncle’ is probably more appropriate, though there might be a 'once removed' in there somewhere. That doesn't mean that my father and his parents weren't treated as family. They were invited and attended parties, barbecues, and dances at the ranch on a regular basis.
At this point you are thinking (given that this is Part II of the Texas Tough series) that I am describing an early Texas mob family.  There are parallels as the family helped each other, the more fortunate reached out and helped the less fortunate (when they would accept it - which in my experience  the pro-forma response to help offers in my family is, "no thanks, I can handle this alone" or some such nonsense). Couple that with a moral backbone where found pennies are turned into the local constabulary, and you have the antithesis of a mob family. That is not to say that Uncle Seth did not defend what was his from all comers: from drifters that would be better served by moving on, to giant oil companies who would steal his potential wealth and land.

One of the jobs my father held was to work on a survey crew for a major oil company. Their job was to establish accurate elevation maps of the vast spaces that comprised the then relatively uncharted sections of Texas. While we take such data for granted now, at that time the only way to determine the shape of the land was to go out there and measure it. Of course, over the years, those early surveys have become obsolete as the accuracy of aerial and satellite surveys far surpasses what they could do back then. Be that as it may, the oil companies needed such maps so they could make guesses as to where to drill their test shafts.

So one day my father learned that his crew would be surveying uncle Seth's land. Since he hadn't seen him in a while, he called him up and left a message letting him they would be working his land and that he'd like to see him. The next morning, as they were unpacking their gear at the fence marking the extent of uncle Seth's ranch, my father noticed a man on horseback watching them.  As the picked up their gear and approached the fence, the rider came nearer. Dad realized then that the man was uncle Seth. When the crew saw him they stopped in their tracks.  There was no question who it was as uncle Seth was well know as was his disposition. The crew leader also knew him, and knew that dad was his great nephew.

After introducing himself, Uncle Seth informed the crew, "You're not coming on my land." The crew leader was astounded. As a representative of the oil companies and the sudden wealth they could bestow on the land owners, his crew should have been received with open arms. The problem you see was primarily a lack of manners - the oil company hadn't asked.

With that backing came a certain arrogance on the crew leader's part. He responded, "What are you going to do if we do?". Uncle Seth's reply was to draw his gun, point it in the the general direction of the supervisor, and reply "I'll kill you." Something of a 'castle doctrine', early Texas edition - one man, one horse, one gun. This gave the crew leader something to think about. If he backed down, he would loose face, not get the survey data, and might have trouble with others.

What he did decide to do, was ill advised. The supervisor brought family into it by asking "Well, what if we just send Roland (my dad) over?". Uncle Seth considered that for a few beats and came up with an appropriate answer for this fool. "Him i'll just shoot in the leg". There was only one possible outcome of course - they picked up their gear and returned to their vehicles.

Thus ends my first week of blogging. If I go anywhere this weekend memorable, i'll post a trail report over the weekend. Otherwise won't issue another pontification until Monday. Have a great weekend!

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