My turn: Progress hermit was a character

Old Josh Blocher had a problem with Muleshoe.

He said its residents were thieves, stealing the Bailey County seat that belonged to the community Blocher created seven miles to the west, called Progress.

Blocher had no love for Farwell residents either. He called them devils. He said they claimed Lariat was the only stop between Muleshoe and the state line — intentionally ignoring Progress and its 300 residents.

But those who knew him told the Amarillo Daily News that Blocher didn’t really have any enemies.

J.R. King, my uncle who once lived near Blocher, said he was more character than cantankerous, and that he had an angelic singing voice.

Mary Kate Tripp, longtime regional editor for the Amarillo newspaper, reported Blocher came from Kansas, where he had been a hypnotist with a traveling tent show before moving to Texas.

“… (H)e even ran for public office shortly after setting up shop as entrepreneur of Progress …” Tripp wrote.

But by 1951, at age 85, he lived alone in a one-room shack with a dirt floor, drank rainwater, ate spoiled canned fruit, read books on personal magnetism and theology, and walked four miles for his mail so it wouldn’t be delivered to his house from Muleshoe.

The odd lifestyle and disposition made him famous across Bailey and Parmer counties.

And some people thought Old Josh Blocher was rich.