HAPPINESS COMES FROM HARD WORK
"Happy are those who live in the dream of their own existence, and see all things in the light of their own minds: who walk by faith and hope to the guiding star of their youth, which still shines from afar, and into whom the spirit of the world has not entered!"
This was the spirit of the man I met in 1958. For the years I knew him he truly resisted the spirit of the world, which proclaimed that sixty-five was the age to retire. The memories of what was and what could be were continually pushing him forward.
I can still see Adron coming in the back door, his thin figure unbending to the years, ever pushing to fight symptoms of mental and physical aging. At times he would jump up and click his heels just to show that he was still very fit.
For years we all listened to his many stories and sometimes thinking "someday this needs to be written down. Here in our midst is living history." It is with great memories that I remember the weekend of Aug. 1980, two months preceding his death when I interviewed him and probed into the chronological order of the tales of his life. With regret, as I sat challenged by the trials of writing his stories, I realized there were still spaces of why, where and how that are unanswered.
I try now to weave together the threads of the story.
Trip To Portales
“Good bye Texas", yelled the excited five-year-old boy as he expectantly looked for the fence or line that would indicate that truly the small wagon train was leaving Texas. For two long weeks, as he had journeyed and sat with his family members and friends around the night campfires, listening to stories and anticipating, he had longed for the end of the journey.
As the man at the front of the procession yelled, “Leaving Texas,” the urge to bid farewell was more than the young Adron Turner could resist. He threw up his cap and bid his farewell. It seemed appropriate to have an eventful entry into the territory that was to be called New Mexico one day.
This was the in the spring of 1899, that Adron came to the New Mexico Territory in a covered wagon train from Glenrose, TX. The wagon train was made up of three wagons and one buggy. The occupants of the wagon train consisted of, Father Sam, Mother Serena and ten of their children, Adron's Aunt and Uncle (the Dun laps), who joined them in Snyder Texas and Bradshaw and Myrick, two friends of Adron's brother. One child of the family, George, who was twenty-one years old, was already at Portales. Adron’s sisters and brothers who made the trip were Lela, Mote, Lizzie, Carol, Polk, Alma, Tude (Celestia), Bug (Cornelia, who acquired the nickname because she had freckles which made her look like a bug), Adron and Alford.
This group was part of the Anglo-American ranchers who were coming from Texas and other states. This influx caused the cattlemen in the territory to fight to keep the "nesters" off the open Range. Range Wars such as the War of Lincoln County had occurred twenty years before young Adron and his family came. When they neared the small town of Portales, Adron’s uncle Dunlap was hesitant to go into town, fearing that the ranchers would frown on so many new comers, so he remained behind some two miles away where the family later set up camp. The others went into the one-year old town of Portales, which consisted mainly of saloons and the expected General Store.
The Turners experienced remnants of the hostility toward "nesters" as they camped outside of Portales. The weary travelers had set up camp, had taken out their wash pots, had gathered cow chips for fire fuel, had filled pots with water from the nearby H Bar Ranch water hole, to wash clothes. While the Turner family was away from the unguarded camp one day, some cowboys invaded and roped the pots and pulled them into a nearby tank.
Farming At Portales
The 160 acre plot the Turner’s filed for was one and one-half miles N.W. of Portales. The first year they were there they built an adobe home, living in the wagons until it was built. The house was two big rooms and a cellar. One of the chores of Adron and his brothers and sisters was to gather the cow chips used for fuel; the gunnysacks of chips were stacked near the house.
In a family where you were number ten in line of six sisters and four brothers there was always something occurring. One night Bug being impelled by nature’s call treaded out-of-doors, and as she passed by the stack of gunnysacks, one of them moved. Adron recalled, that after all the screaming and commotion, the movable culprits were discovered to be passers-by, who were there laying on the sacks, only to find a night’s rest.
As in any family, the oldest, in this case, Lela, George, Mote, and Lizzie were expected to take care of the younger, Carol, Polk, Alma, Celestia (Tudi), Cornelia, Adron and Alford.
Life In Portales
Adron attended school in Portales, beginning when he was nine years old. The three- room school had been completed in 1903. Adron was part of the 376 pupils who made up the enrollment of the school by 1907. He went to the Portales School until he was 15.
As any other small child, he was not always aware of the rise of concern for the increased number of saloons, which were established to patronize the cowboys and railroad workers, but he heard adults talking about them.
Adron's dad Sam was a charter member of the Methodist Church of Portales.
According to Jean M Burroughs, New Mexico Magazine, December 1978, “When Christmas spirit overflows the heart, folks generally find a way to express it. Adron Turner, a child of five in 1899, recalled his first Christmas in the little railroad town of Portales. The P.V. and N.E. R.R., on newly laid tracks, had brought “civilization” to the homesteaders of Roosevelt County. They cleared a railroad tool shed for a community celebration after a cedar tree, gifts and holiday treats were brought up from Roswell.
On December 24, several cowboys, with rough frontier humor, attempted to fasten deer antlers between the ears of a pack burro. An enthusiastic townsman dragged log chains across the tin roof to signal Santa’s arrival. The resultant human clamor, stamping to tethered horses and excited braying of the donkey caused the waiting children inside to cry out in fear.
“Stampede, stampede!” they shrieked and ran for the door to be met by a jovial Santa astride the subdued little donkey.
Santa was dressed in red flannel underwear trimmed with quilt tatting, with one hand grasped his burlap sack bulging with goodies and with the other he vigorously shook a large cowbell as he shouted, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to one and all!”
Moving To Yeso
Like many of the farmers who came to the plains regions in increasing numbers during the last quarter of the century, Adron’s family soon found the 160 allotment inadequate and with the coming of the railroad and available land in the Yeso area, they made plans to move. In 1909 after ten years of farming in Portales, the family of fifteen-year-old Adron sold out and headed for Yeso. There a man had a store half-built so Sam bought it. This structure provided shelter upstairs for part of the household and the rest was provided for in the camp set up nearby. The completion of the store structure was the first building in the coming community.
Adron attended school in Yeso for 2 years. The school was a partial term school, had no grade advancement and the local preacher was the teacher. Adron said he liked school and believed he learned a great deal.
The colorful wild west of 1919-1914, truly surrounded Adron and his industrious family.
Adron’s brother George was twenty and in New Mexico one year before the family. He worked for a sheepherder near Yeso. He became afraid of the boss because he came into camp with a human hand and sat around pulling the leaders to make the fingers work. He told George that he found the hand in a cave nearby. After the man left George realized he couldn't trust him, so he left the herd.
George then moved on to Roswell to heard sheep for another individual. While there, his original boss came looking for him to attempt to convince him to return to Yeso. When George refused, the boss, who was sitting on his horse, cracked his bullwhip at George. George grabbed the whip and pulled the man off of his horse and they proceeded to fight. After the fight they went into a tent to wash up and the man pulled a gun, but he only waved it around. George didn’t go back with him.
During the years that his older brothers were off adding to the color of the old west, Adron was working on the railroad at Yeso. He was 17, when he worked for the railroad loading coal on locomotives. His employment ended when his boss fired him for taking a nap in the coal bin.
Even though Adron’s father was an honest trader, he was more of a farmer than a merchant and fell, as did many others for dishonest Eastern traveling salesmen.
After one big purchase Adron began sorting through the sack of merchandise, hoping to pick out clothes. It seemed that mainly the things were old, out of date and completely inappropriate for the local folk. This big purchase was one of the factors, which caused the store to be unsuccessful and go broke.
The New Mexico territory was changing and it became a state in 1912. Adron was 18 years old at the time of the proclaimed statehood. After the store failure at Yeso, and because of his dad’s progressive blindness and failing health, the Turner’s left the year old state and returned to Graham, Texas to his grandmother Betty Medlan’s place. They had been in Yeso four years.
Return To Graham Texas
Nineteen-year-old Adron made the trip from Yeso to Graham on horseback, which took sixteen days. He stayed at Graham and farmed on his grandparents' place for two years; where he made two bales of cotton, but left it in the barn because the price was too low to sell.
The family had been in Graham 2 years when Sam died at age 68 of prostate complications. After his father’s death, when he was 21, Adron returned to New Mexico to file on his homestead at Yeso.
Homestead At Yeso
Before he left Graham he made a chuck box that he used on the return trip.
His mother didn’t return at this time; she stayed at Graham. . The return trip took fifteen days. On his way he stopped and talked to farmers. When he was on the Texas plains his horses got away from him and broke the wheel on his buggy. It cost twenty-five cents to get it repaired. When he arrived in Yeso, he filed on one section that he had to live on for three years to be able to keep it. His Homestead was 12 miles south of Yeso in the Gamma Valley, near Dunlap, NM.
Cowboy At Starr Place
During these Homesteading years, Adron worked for a rancher, Mr. Starr, for one dollar a day. As he worked these 5 years, as a cowboy, he also was able to learn the well drilling trade from Mr. Starr.
When Adron was 24 years old and working at the Starr Place, he was drafted into the Army and was stationed with the 19th Infantry at San Antonio, Texas. He was released early after staying for eight months and four days, because the unit was outfitted with new machine guns and World War I was over and they didn't need him any more.
Adron returned to the Starr place and was allowed to run a few head of cattle there. Later when Mr. Starr went broke he leased his place and bought his well drilling equipment. He now had a herd of 125 cattle and was one of the first people to practice selection to build up quality in his herd. It took Adron two days to drive his cattle to the Buchanan railroad siding to load his cattle to be sold. One time, when he was twenty-three years old, he rode the caboose to Chicago, with his cattle, because he wanted to see the city and the ride was free. He rode the passenger train back to Buchanan after staying five or ten days.
Besides ranching, Adron started his own well drilling business. He drilled water wells for himself and neighbors, charging one dollar per foot, for the next twenty years. He stayed on the leased Starr place for 3 years, running cattle and drilling wells. In the last year there, his mother came to live with him. He also added two more sections to his Homestead. He remembered buying one section for eight hundred dollars. He then sold his entire Homestead for seven thousand dollars, which was a large amount of money in 1923.
Homestead At Ramon
By this time, Adron's brother Mote had filed thirty miles south of Vaughn. This was in 1923, one year before Ramon was established. Adron and his mother, Serena, came and filed next to Mote. They lived in half dugouts in the banks of draws.
Mote, who was the third from the oldest, became partners in a Moon Shine Still. One can only speculate at what went wrong. Adron’s only memory of the incident was that Mote and his partner got into an argument and the partner shot Mote. Adron tried to find his killer, even going to Ft. Worth looking for him. Following Mote’s death Adron paid $1500 for the plot of land that had belonged to his brother.
Other family members came but did not do well because they could not find water on their places. They built flat top homestead shacks. When the relatives left, Adron moved their shacks to his place, put them together, and added to his house. It was here where he “ a few years later got into money with land and cattle.”
With such a background it was inevitable that he should grow-up with a sense of duty to his family. He stayed behind and remained a bachelor because his mother depended on him. He became self-supporting.
Adron’s nephew, Cicero, was married to Johnie’s sister, Billie Jean. Adron and Cicero built dirt tanks on the ranch during the depression. Adron met Johnie when he went back to Texola, OK, with Cicero and Billie, in a truck, to get furniture. He was thirty-seven and she was twenty-seven.
When it became evident to him that he was planning marriage, he started a “hope chest” by hiding some dishes in the barn under some sacks. His choice of hiding them was dictated by the fact he wanted to avoid teasing by his brothers.
Johnie came out to visit and Adron went back with her to Texola and they were married, which was around two months after they met. He was almost thirty-eight when they married in 1932.
They honeymooned in Oklahoma City and on their way back to Ramon bought things in Amarillo for the house on the Ranch.
Ranching At Ramon
The Ramon families got some supplies at Vaughn but mainly went to Roswell to shop. It took about four days to make the trip; a day and a half to get there and a day and a half to get back they camped out.
These years were filled with hard work, happiness and sadness. In Sept. of 1932, Johnny fell on the house doorstep, which caused her to deliver her first child Adron Neal early, and he couldn't survive. Adrienne Joyce arrived In March of 1934. In January of 1936 Alan was born, but he was totally paralyzed and only lived until the age of 6. In July of 1939 Terry was born.
Socializing consisted of: Rodeos and dances at the Dunlap’s. (The Dunlaps lived near Vaughn.)
Adrienne had to start to school, at Lon, when she was five and a half years old, because they needed her to have enough students to justify the school. When she was older and Terry was ready for school, Adron bought a house in Ft. Sumner, where the two kids and Johnny lived during the week, so they could attend school. On the weekend they went back to the ranch.
During the depression they survived even though times were hard. Once during the depression he sold calves for three cents per pound. Even though the times were difficult Adron helped family members, who came to the Ranch to live.
When Adron and Johnie sold their ranch they had thirty-three sections, they owned one half, and the rest was public domain and state school land. He sold his ranch in 1947 and six hundred and seventy-five head of cattle (He commented years later that, Mr., Childress, a banker from Roswell who bought the ranch, made more money on the ranch in five years than he had made in thirty years) They sold out because it was hard to live at both places so the kids could go to school.
Moving To Portales
They moved to Portales and bought an eighty-acre farm that they lived on for eight months, and then moved to the two-story house located on the South Floyd road. Here he raised his family sending both of them to college and saw them choose their mates.
Through these many years he continued to farm and to do some Ranching on a place he called The Ponderosa. He shared some good times there with his children (Adrienne Turner Taylor & Terry Lynn Turner) and 4 grandchildren (Alan Taylor, Karan Taylor Cuomo, Kelly Turner Woods and Ron Adron Turner.) He was always making plans to involve all of his family, especially his son and son-in-law (Benny Lee Taylor.) Because of his background and interest, at times it was hard for him to accept the different way of life, his children chose.
Even in his later years, his life was built around doing all the work he could do. Nothing delighted him more than to have work laid out for all the family. His happiest times seemed to be to have family members be a part of his projects. Others, might dream of trips to far-off places as being the “Good life,” but, for him his “Good life” centered around making plans for that day’s work at his small farm and ranch; beginning early and staying late to finish. . Doing things on his farm or ranch was his entertainment and he wanted everyone to "have fun."
In the twenty-two years that I knew Adron Turner, as his daughter-in-law, Terry's wife, I observed in him the spirit that built New Mexico. He loved the state and his recalling experiences reminded you that his pride and love for the state was justifiable, because coming into the territory made he and his family very much a part the history of the state. He was a self made man and was very proud of it. He had several outstanding qualities: loved family, was vigorous, clicked his heels, told stories, helped people, worked hard, was industrious, loved ranching and farming.
On the last year of his life, even though age 87 was very near, he denied the defeated spirit implications that many years has for the aged. He talked of plans for the future of his farm, ignoring the fact he did not feel his best. He truly acted as if he was going to live forever and made plans for the future.
If I had to state the philosophy of Adron Medlan Turner I would use the following quotes.
“Happiness, I have discovered, is nearly always a rebound from hard work,” David Grason.
"Do all the work you can; that is the whole philosophy of the good way of life," Eugene Delacroix