10 Jun Jada: Getting ready to leave our first home away from home
Our harvest season in Olney is wrapping up. It is sad to leave a stop. Since we have been harvesting in Olney for many years, it often feels like we live here! That was especially the case in 1992. It rained so much that we were in Olney for 6 weeks and 3 days. My sister, Tara, and I were quite young so my mother kept us occupied by taking us to the library, swimming pool, Bible school and other kid friendly events. We were held up from the rain so long, the school was even trying to enroll us for the next semester.
Other harvesters dealt with the rain in their own way. The late Bruce Neufeld, who did wood working as a pastime, had time to enjoy his beloved hobby. He carved out the shape of Texas, put a rain drop in the center, painted them and added the date. We still have ours. It serves as a tribute to 1992 and just how unpredictable harvest can be.
That year, everyone in the Spring Creek trailer park enjoyed our almost daily Texan-style cookouts. Locals would bring their meat smokers and the cooking would begin at 3 in the afternoon. The beans, which were cooked in a huge cast iron pot, were the most important part of the meal. To me, it felt like they just dumped everything they had in the pot. Somehow the beans still turned out wonderful.
Today, we still stay in the same campground and when it rains we have cookouts. While they are not as elaborate as in 1992, we always have mesquite grilled meat which is quite a treat for us Northerners. Hoffman Harvesting is warmly greeted in Olney- we even have a charge account at Stewarts, the local grocery.
One of our favorite stops is GP’s Leather Shop. Owner, Garland Phillips, specializes in repairing boots, saddles, chaps, breast harnesses, tacks, and making leather billed hats and customized belts. Every year, our crew stops by to get their very own customized belt. People who order belts can choose the color of the leather dye from natural to brown to colored, tool designs, name to be carved in the leather and filigree, which is the background color where a person’s name is cut out in the leather. He takes orders in person and over the phone at 940-564-2992.
Garland has been in business for over 40 years. His profession as a leather man began after he was hurt in a truck wreck that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Garland said, “I knew I had to change my profession and I had a friend who had a bunch of leather tools he wanted to get rid. I picked up the skills from him and things progressed from a hobby to a profession.” The rest is history.
The injury doesn’t slow Garland down. He is a happy-go-lucky person who is very active. Garland and his wife, Gena, of 37 years also own Lone Star Bakery which is attached to GP’s leather shop. Every Friday and Saturday they make homemade donuts and every Thursday thru Friday they make homemade pizza. The bakery also makes pastries, cakes, pies and does catering.
When Garland isn’t taking care of his businesses, you can see him driving around in his pick-up truck which was made especially for him. He controls the gas and brake pedals with his hands. He also enjoys recycling metals such as aluminum and copper, dove hunting, barbequing and spending time with his family. Gena and Garland have 3 kids, Todd and Tiffany of Olney, TX and Toby of Kilgore, TX. They also have 7 grandkids. Gena is retired from nursing but continues to help out by teaching CPR classes, and helping at the nursing home in her free time.
Garland starting driving truck for a cattle hauling business when he was just 17 years old. He drove a 1965 Freightliner cab over. His knowledge of trucking helped create a special bond among my father when he stopped in at GP’s more than 15 years ago. My father had some straps that needed sewing and Garland helped him out. Today, we always make a point to stop in, grab a donut and coffee and sit down for a visit.
Steve’s Auto repair is another business we don’t necessarily enjoy stopping at unless it is just to say hello to owner, Steve Leatherwood. He has helped us repair some of our equipment over the years. In fact, he has work orders tracking back to 1988 for Hoffman Harvesting. Leatherwood specializes in general repairs- typically automotive- but has been known to repair just about anything.
“I always have been a fixer. When I was a toddler, my mother said I was already tearing my toys apart to see how they work. The other day someone came in and I fixed their weed eater. I say if I am not busy, you can bring in anything- your toaster, bicycle or whatever- and I will fix it,” said Steve. While he doesn’t have any formal training besides the necessary certifications, Steve is a natural. His father was the type of person who drove a vehicle until it needed replacing. Once his father replaced his vehicle, he would then park it away and Steve, beginning at the age of 13, would fix it up. Steve’s first job as a mechanic was at a Ford dealership in Jacksboro, TX in 1978. He was the first employee without formal training who was put to work directly on the line. Before deciding to open his own shop, he worked at the local GM Dealership for two years. He worked out of his home for six months then, in 1981, he moved into the building he works in today. Steve and his wife, Lynda, have two daughters, Samantha, 27 and Tiffany, 23.
Steve checking out one of our trucks. This year Steve had to repair an air conditioner in one of our trucks. Can’t be without that in Texas!
Jada Bulgin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. All Aboard 2009 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection