Grandfather an innovator of local agriculture

By Karl Terry

I
always knew my granddad, Bob Terry, was pretty handy with anything
mechanical but I didn’t know until this week that he was one of the
first in the area to adapt a peanut thrasher to pull through the fields.

I was interviewing several long-time Roosevelt County residents
about the antique peanut harvesting equipment that Dennis Harper had at
the Ag Expo.

My ears perked up when Glynn Wilhoit started talking about the
Keystone thresher that Bob Terry fixed up to pull through the field. It
was significant because prior to those adapted machines the threshers
were set up stationary and the peanuts were brought to the machine on
trailers. The process required a lot of labor.

Suddenly, 40 years after he died, Granddaddy Bob was coming up in a story I was doing.

Glynn described it as having “a long snout” on the front. He said
Granddad had put a bin up top because the machine was originally made
to catch peanuts in a sack. Glynn said he remembers as a young man
walking in front of that machine and forking peanut vines into its maw.

Granddad was typical of most farmers, if he thought there was a way
to adapt some piece of equipment and make it work better or faster, he
wasn’t beyond taking it completely apart the first chance he had, to
give it a try. The hard part was always finding the time to do that if
he was rushing to get a crop in.

My dad inherited a watch from Granddaddy Bob that has a great story
behind it that demonstrated how mechanically inclined he was.

During the Depression he was a young man and had gone out to Kansas
to work as a delivery truck driver for his brother. On one of his trips
back, because he didn’t have a car or any money he hitchhiked back to
Portales. Along the way, the story goes, that he even spent the night
at the jail in Amarillo, something that was allowed in those tough
times.

Somewhere along the way he came onto a fellow with a truck that was
broke-down. He went to work fixing the truck alongside the road,
thinking he would at least get a ride out of the deal. The guy didn’t
have any money but was grateful and gave him a nice railroader’s pocket
watch in exchange for the work.

I was 9 when Granddaddy Bob died from a brain tumor at age 59. So my
memories of him are pretty sketchy. Things I remember are like fading
snapshots of places and times in my brain. There are a bunch of his
grandchildren, younger than me, that didn’t even get that much of a
first-hand memory of him.

I remember two pickups he drove, the first one a late ’50s model
Apache Chevrolet and the other about a 1963 stepside Chevy. Both always
had a canvas water bag hanging from the mirror to catch the breeze and
keep the water inside cool. Both had racks welded to both bumpers on
the passenger side to carry gated irrigation pipe.

I recall riding to or from town with Granddad in those pickups and
stopping at Caudell’s Store on the South Floyd Highway for a “sody
pop”. The pop was in one of those where the bottles hung by their neck.
Sometimes you had to move the bottles around from row to row to get to
that grape soda at the back. It was never a problem to talk Granddad
into springing for a moon pie as well.

The refreshment was then taken out onto the porch to enjoy while Grandpap talked to whoever was in the store.

He had stopped milking cows on the dairy by the time my memory kicks
in, but he kept nurse cows on the place that had to be brought into the
old milk barn twice a day to be nursed. We got to help bring the cows
and calves in and it always amazed me as a little guy that he could
tell exactly which calf and cow went together.

I remember being pretty shook up after his brain surgery when I was
out at their house to see him and he mixed up the names of his
grandsons. He said that didn’t matter as long as we were there to take
care of his calves.

Granddad’s shop building a drafty metal building with piles of metal
in and around it where he could pull a piece of farm equipment inside
to get out of the weather to work on it.

I remember if he had to fabricate something in the shop he would
draw the plan out on a piece of scrap iron with chalk or a rock. Soon
he would start cutting and welding and eventually he would plunge the
part into the water creating a hiss. The part would be bolted up and
the machine went back to the field.

These days even if something can be repaired with whatever is lying around, folks don’t have the skill or patience required.

Granddad may not have had the fanciest of tools but he kept track of
them and knew how to use them well.