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  Texas : Feature : Columns : "They shoe horses, don't they?"

My Father's Desk
Judge Leonard W. Scott

by Wayne Scott
Photos courtesy the Scott Family
Leonard W. Scott and employees in front of the Goodyear co-workers in Goodyear

In my father's store were five rooms. The largest of these was the showroom and office. It had plate glass windows which faced main street. The front was enameled metal: white, with blue and yellow trim. There was a sign which proclaimed "Goodyear" and between the Good and Year was a shoe with flying wings.

The showroom office had a door that opened onto the alley. I remember that because, Mr. _____ came in one day complaining about the way a tire had been put on his truck. His tone was threatening and abusive, and my father just opened the door and invited him into the alley. The man declined, even though he was bigger and younger. Pop was a very powerful man, and nothing stopped him. Everyone in town knew this.

The front of the showroom had large appliances to the south, and the smaller ones, such as televisions, toasters and radios were to the north and west (front).

Dad's desk was behind the counter with two other desks belonging to the bookkeepers. Harold Braun was the one I remember best, but there were others. His predecessor was J. W. Fulps, who ended up as a janitor at the post office, where he got a better pension.

Saturday was the big shopping day in Lockhart. The town would start filling up right after lunch as the farmers and hands came into town to do the week's shopping.

In the store the payment line would begin to form shortly after lunch, and an employee stood there and accepted weekly payments for most of the afternoon.

Those wanting to be "helped" [the word has now lost its meaning--served, sold something, but with courtesy, with knowledge that the buyer, not the seller, held the upper hand] stood away from that line and was quickly spotted. No matter who went to them, they usually wanted to be waited on by Dad.

Often someone from the line, or who had stood as though he was waiting to be helped, but who bought nothing, would be escorted over to Dad's desk, and he would burrow into the lower right-hand drawer. Books bound with rubber bands would be produced, purple carbons protruding, and things I could never quite see, were exchanged.

Sometimes another customer would be waiting to sit in the chair by Dad's desk. And, they came back on a regular basis. Some on a weekly basis, some monthly, and some not regularly. As I grew older, my curiosity grew. I wondered what they did at the desk. I asked Dad, but he just answered "business" or "helping them." "Helping them" to me, at that time, meant selling them something, or talking to them about their credit: why they hadn't paid, or why he couldn't give them credit because they hadn't paid.

Finally, one day I asked Harold just what went on at that drawer in the desk. Harold grumped. Harold grumped a lot. When he grumped, he bit harder into the ever present cigar that he chewed on. "He's going to get in trouble. I keep telling him, he's going to get in trouble." Now I could not imagine my father in trouble. Everywhere I went, everyone told me, "You'll never be able to live up to your Dad," or "If you can only be half what your Daddy is...." He could never get into trouble.

I asked for an explanation. "Hell, he keeps those people's money for them. Keeps them in checking accounts. They can't read. They can't write. They're just dumb and ignorant. He deposits the money, writes their checks; he's going to get into trouble one of these days. One of `em is going to say he stole from them. Just watch. I tell him, he's going to get into trouble; he doesn't listen." Harold thought my father was crazy for working so hard, for trusting so many people, for keeping that lower drawer.

My father never got into trouble for keeping the money for those people. Mother says the practice continued after he became County Judge. It even expanded. He took care of everything for them, writing wills (he was no lawyer--but he charged no fee), filing for social security, helping on land transactions, serving as a go-between between people and their attorneys. He helped explain things to people. They trusted him.

(Harold, by-the-way left the store after it changed location - long after I was gone. He subsequently died at a relatively young age, long before Dad. He was making the trip of a lifetime to see Germany. He died in Switzerland. -- No offense, but he did grump a lot.)

Dad's desk and oak swivel chair are now both now in my office.

See
Judge Leonard W. Scott of Caldwell County
They Shoe Horses, Don't They?
June 15, 2006 Guest Column

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