We’ve all met unforgettable people in our lives. Some were great in their fields. Some were just people we loved or who had a certain something that drew us to them. This is about one of the unforgettable people in my life.
When I was a kid, I figured my Uncle George knew just about everything. He always seemed to know the answer to every question I ever asked him, and he never seemed to hesitate about a course of action. He just knew what to do in every situation.
He mustered out of the army air corps as a master sergeant after spending a couple of years of World War II in the Pacific. After gathering up his wife and stepdaughter and stopping for a brief visit with my grandparents, he moved to Lamesa, Texas, to begin farming on some land my grandfather and his brother—my Great-Uncle Clarence—had purchased.
Apparently 1946 brought a good cotton crop to the South Plains, because the very next year he began to expand his operation, renting land from others and slowly buying more land of his own. By 1949 he had his head far enough above water to go in with several other area farmers to build the Farmers’ Gin.
Although he was one of the youngest owners, Uncle George was selected to run it, a position he held for over 30 years. Under his leadership, it went on the become the Cotton King Gin and ultimately, after merging with a neighboring gin, the King-Mesa Gin, probably the premier cotton gin in Dawson County and one of the biggest and best in all of West Texas.
As a kid, I spent a couple of weeks every summer visiting in Lamesa, splitting my time between his family and my Auntie Mac’s family. He always welcomed having me ride out to the farms and/or gin with him. I’d get up whenever he said to—usually 5:00 or earlier—to be sure I didn’t miss him. I’d be starving to death by the time he went back to the house for breakfast at 8:00 or 8:30.
When I was with him, he talked to me all the time, sometimes explaining things about the farm operations and sometimes imparting wisdom about life in general. I’ve always treasured the memory of those conversations.
Uncle George always had a weight problem, carrying 260 or 270 pounds on his 5’10” frame, but it didn’t slow him down. He always seemed to have enough energy for two people. He’d probably have been a good athlete if he’d carried a little less weight. As it was, I don’t recall ever beating him at ping-pong, and I was in my mid-teens before I ever beat him at golf. He and I played 45 holes of golf one day when the family was gathered for some holiday. Other family members would join us for nine holes at a time, but he stayed with me for the whole day. I remember I shot consecutive 34’s on two of the rounds, and I never beat that score of 68 for 18 holes except on a very short course at Cloudcroft, New Mexico.
A fairly severe drought plagued the South Plains for most of the decade of the 1950s. He took on extra work farming around Pecos, some 150 miles away, leaving some of his hands to farm his Lamesa-area land.
In 1960, the drought behind him, he built a large new house. He also started doing most of his farming from his office at the gin, occasionally venturing out to be sure things were being done properly and then returning to his air conditioned office.
By the mid-1970s, his four-pack-a-day smoking habit began to catch up with him. I think it was 1977 when I first stopped by the gin to visit with him and found him with an oxygen mask over his face. That was sorta the beginning of the end of Uncle George as I’d always known him.
Before long he had to have an oxygen tank in his vehicle as well as in his house and office, limiting his mobility so that he moved around only when he had to. When it got to the point where he couldn’t make it from the tank in his bedroom to that in the car, he resigned from managing the gin. He spent the last couple of years of his life pretty much confined to his bedroom. He had a long enough tube on his mask to get from his bed to the bathroom, but that was as far as he went. He died just about the time of his 66th birthday.
Although I hated to see this man who’d always been such an important part of my life go, I was happy for him. He no longer had to suffer for every breath he took. I still miss him, though.
Ø What relatives have played crucial roles in your development?
Ø How have these people affected your life?
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