Some days are better than others in the newspaper business.
Friday was one of those days.
It was a beautiful sunny autumn morning in south central Texas. I was driving my Jeep heading west on 97. I was heading to the Poco Seco ranch where I had business to attend to. I had been invited by ranch owner Jim Steel to talk to an amazing group of men who had founded the 10-7 organization, a group formed to teach the love of the outdoors to children of fallen first responders or Wounded Warriors. I was looking forward to meeting the incredible men who founded the organization and the good souls locally who help take these children hunting and fishing every year. But I am getting ahead of myself.
As it was a beautiful day, I put on some Jazz while I moseyed on to FM 1682. After all the rain and coldness we had endured last week, the rubbernecking I was enjoying during the ride out to Bebe was way out of proportion to what I should have been doing. The ranch lands looked lush and vibrant filling the air with a heavenly fragrance that only comes after a lengthy period of rain. I smiled at the thought of the goodness of God’s bounty and found myself humming along to a great Miles Davis song. I was so in tune with watching the scenery that I completely missed my turn to the Poco Seco. Eventually, I found County Road 155 and turned south onto the dirt road.
There, the real adventure began. Since I didn’t know where I was going, I inched along at 10 miles an hour on the mud-splattered road. As I was checking out the topography on the left-hand side of the Jeep a huge black buck reared his head out of the grass. It may have been the biggest rack I have seen since I moved to Texas. He was a magnificent looking beast and I was completely mesmerized by his majesty.
While playing the city slicker gawker I completely missed the events taking place to my immediate right. I had to slam on the brakes because a small cow was running down the road next to my vehicle. I hit the brakes, and the cow crossed right in front of me—narrowly missing the vehicle by inches.
That episode brought me back to reality. I turned off the radio, took a deep breath, and began moving along the ranch fence line. I hadn’t driven more than 100 feet when I looked into the ranch property and saw another stunning vision. Moving along the edge of the tree line, there were axes grazing happily all over the place. I smiled at the sight and pulled over to watch the animals for a few minutes. As I was sitting there, a couple of nice white tails scampered by, oblivious to me and the presence of humanity. I looked ahead for a minute, and an eagle was gracefully gliding toward a landing on the property to the west
“What the heck is going on here?” I thought to myself, then settled upon the thought of “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I didn’t know the entrance to the ranch was still over two miles away, so I idled back up to 10 miles per hour. My head was on a swivel, because there was such an abundance and diversity of game that I was enraptured by it all.
Jim called me on the phone, we chatted briefly, and then it was back to the wildlife scenery. As I got closer to the ranch house, I noticed three enormous bucks—all of them with 10 points or more, watching my coming with great interest. These bad boys were huge, and I could only smile at the thought of what one of the children would say or how they would react when they came within site of these magnificent animals over the weekend.
But alas, I was there to work and meet the people who created 10-7 and the volunteers and law enforcement personnel who came to volunteer. They were from Fort Worth, Louisiana, Arlington, Gonzales and points in between. They were all having a good time before this year’s kids arrived, and the joking, fellowship and camaraderie they felt for each was obvious and contagious. I won’t get into the day there (you can read the feature story that starts on Page 1 of this week’s paper) but suffice it to say I met some of the kindest and good men that I have ever met. On a day of outstanding weather and sunshine, plenty of wildlife and exotics—meeting these men and sharing a few hours of time with them was a real treat. It made me feel good about humanity for having been there.
Later, after all the interviewing was done, Jim asked me to step inside his house because he wanted to show me a special gun he had. As we walked into the house, I learned Jim had started in the produce business and had made a nice life for himself by supplying produce for decades to Walmart, H-E-B and others. As we walked into his impressive gun room, he went over to the back wall and pulled out a beauty of a shot gun.
It was a specially made weapon. On it was the signature of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and on the other side was a likeness of his image. Jim handed me the weapon, and oh what a beauty it was. It was light but had outstanding lines.
“Sam Walton gave me this gun himself,” Jim said. “We started out together in the grocery business and he said it was his way of thanking me for being there with him from the beginning. It was quite a gesture.”
I smiled at the irony. Here was Jim Steele opening his house to me and he shows me the gun given to him by Sam Walton. Walton was saying thanks, and so was Jim. But on this day, it was about Jim and the 10-7 crew giving back to the children who have lost their fathers in the line of duty. The symmetry was perfect. Everybody there had been paying their good fortune forward.
It was a great to be alive and be apart of Gonzales County. Like I said, there are just some days that are better than others in the newspaper industry.