Fred was an old bachelor and had served his country in World War 2. He had traveled the state helping to build bridges in his younger days. When I got to know him he was in his late 70’s, maybe even early 80’s.
I met Fred through Woody, my old accountant. Woody’s wife Lucy had a sister that lived in College Station Texas. Her name was Josie. Josie and Fred dated.
Fred had retired and lived out on his sizable farm out east of Bryan near the little town of Kurten. He mostly just tended to his cows and would go every day to a local cafe/bar where he would hold court in a big round booth toward the back of the place. People would come in to hear Fred’s stories and join him for coffee in the morning or a beer in the afternoon.
Woody and I would always try to go see Fred when we were over that way, which was late 1970s and early 1980s. When Fred and Josie would come to Austin for a visit, Woody would bring him and we’d make the rounds to our projects. He always enjoyed being around and seeing our jobs. He said it brought back lots of memories.
I went to Fred’s house a few times when we traveled down that way bidding jobs. His old pickup would be setting out to the side. I’m not sure there was a straight piece of metal on it anywhere. It was a fairly new Ford Pickup. It seems that Fred had a bad habit of not lining up real good when he would go through a gate and if he came in contact with a fence post, he’d just floor it and keep going.
He lived in an older mobile home. He had never had air conditioning so he left the windows open throughout the most of the year. The window screens were mostly all missing. I don’t think he even worried about closing the door. He had a neighbor lady that came and cleaned for him so it wasn’t a dirty old place. But with his several dogs having the run of the place, it wasn’t the best kept place either.
Towards the end of his life he decided to build a new red brick home there on his place. I don’t remember going there after it was finished, but did see it while it was being built. He may have passed on before it was finished.
What really sticks in my mind is Fred’s financial situation. When he would go to the Post Office each day he would never know what to expect. Sometimes it would just be a little royalty check but others times he may have several large multi-thousand dollar checks. He would gather up all of mail and go his favorite cafe booth and open it. After he would see what was in the envelopes, he’d put it and any of his bills in a paper bag and take them to a lady there in town that was his bookkeeper.
Sometimes he’d have several days worth of those receipts laying on the dash of his pickup before he’d get around to dropping them off. She would make his deposits and pay his bills. He claimed to not even have a checkbook in his own possession, he just let his bookkeeper lady take care of all that.
Only a short time before I got to know him, they had started drilling on his land and had developed oil wells all over his sizable place. But coming into money had not changed Fred one bit.
He decided to take Josie to Las Vegas one time. It was the first time he’d been on a plane since riding in a troop plane back during the war. He told about how that jet airplane started down the runway at a high rate of speed and he said “I looked out the window and those wings went to flapping and the next thing I knew that thing came off the ground just like a big ole bird“. I don’t think anyone could have convinced him that the flapping of the wings isn’t what got the plane airborne.
When they arrived in Las Vegas he wanted to rent a car, so they could come and go as they wanted. He wasn’t sure they would be able to find a cab when they needed one. Well no one would rent him a car because he had no credit cards. But he said “damn I had enough cash in my bags to have completely covered them up”.
I think it was probably just as well that they used taxi cabs to get around.
As soon as he got back to Byran, he went in the bank and told them he needed some credit cards. He never wanted to be embarrassed by being refused having something he wanted. He said those bankers were real nice and a few days later he had a mailbox full of credit cards.
I’m not sure if he left a will. He had a niece and a nephew of which he always claimed was a scoundrel. I think those were his only legal heirs. I looked for a grave marker and was unable to find one. I hope they at least gave him a good burial.
In the comments on the post I made Facebook when this story first ran.
I noticed a fellow on one of the groups that I belong to, was originally from Kurten.
Not being all that big a place I ask him if he knew Fred. He did. He told me the following story:
One time Mr. Fred bought about a ton of sack feed and stored it in an old barn.
His nephew and another fella went to (borrowing) some of it. They picked up a sack and there was a bill made out to THEM for the number of sacks they had already gotten.