There was a time between our first two sons being born and we had a project laying a 24″ water line up in Stephens County. Housing was hard to find so while driving around the area, I found The Possum Kingdom Fishing Camp. This was a place that was very active in the summers but pretty well shut down during the winter. I found the owner and made a deal to rent the whole place. There was a little 2 bedroom house in the center of the property with one bedroom cabins surrounding it. This was in December of 1975. We made a deal to rent them through May of 76. Madeline and I lived in the house and various hands lived in the 10 or so cabins.
There was something going on all the time, with it being mostly men away from their wives or ones that hadn’t been able to hold on to a wife.
Tom was our diesel mechanic and a good one. He worked for the company for several years. Tom drank too much, but he always showed up for work and he always started his day out freshly shaved and showered with a clean uniform on. I always admired that in Tom.
Tom had been a big cattleman in his earlier years. He had married into that business. I was never sure if the drinking screwed that deal up or if losing his cattle business and wife caused him to become an old drunk. Tom was a guy that always had a story to tell.
When Tom failed to show up for work one morning, We thought maybe he was sick or had over slept. Someone returned to the cabins but was unable to find him.
I ask around and several guys had been at a local dance hall, The Goat Shed (that really was the name) with him the night before, but left before him.
Tom, at that time was probably around 50 years old. As we were to find out later, Tom hit pay dirt after the others left. He became acquainted with two ladies and they all three left together. By morning time his truck, with thousands of dollars worth of tools and equipment missing was found in Fort Worth. Tom was found out by Lake Benbrook, south of Fort Worth. He bad been severely beaten. Tom had a rather large beer belly and those two gals had made many circular cuts around his girth. Not deep cuts but repeated slices, as if to torture him.
No one was ever arrested nor were his tools ever recovered. When he was released from the hospital, we picked him up and took him to his elderly mothers house in Rogers, Texas. She was a retired RN and she nursed him back to health over the next few months. The physical wounds were bad but the emotional ones really took a toll on Tom. I’m not sure he ever completely recovered for the later.
Since Tom was in no shape to come retrieve his belongings from the fishing camp, I sent some guys to box up his stuff so we could take it to him. We were not prepared for what his cabin looked like. I’ll just tell you we finally sent people in to haul out most everything where we could burn it, mattresses and linens and clothes. We took water hoses and washed out the inside. We paid the owner to repaint it. It was embarrassing. He had only been there 3 months.
How he somehow managed to appear well groomed and clean each morning was a mystery to me.
After a few months when we returned to Austin, he rejoined us and worked for several more years. I just never wanted to stand close to him after that, for fear bugs would jump from him to me.