BY LARRY M. JONES
While I’m really not qualified to be referred to as “elderly,” I’m certainly no “spring chicken.” In thinking back over the sixty plus years that I can actually recall from a teenager or adult perspective, it is startling to note the changes I’ve seen in both our nation and Parker County.
Down on the “pore farm,” my parents built the home that they would live in for their entire lives in 1938. They didn’t do it the way young couples do today by taking on a large mortgage payment often for the rest of their lives. Instead, they made a good crop that year and, despite a depressed economy due to the Great Depression, they actually made enough money to build it themselves for cash. With the help of my Grandfather Thomas, a bricklayer for Acme Brick, my father, along with help from a few cousins and brothers, built the entire “mansion” for $400. It had no electricity, no running water, no bathroom, and no mortgage. It was a dream come true.
Although incredibly humble by today’s standards, the old home wasn’t particularly out of place during that era. No one lived in shining mansions on the hill in those days. Most everyone in this rural farming community had to scrape hard for every dime they had and homes were often old wooden frame houses or those like we had, houses built by the owner’s own hands. We didn’t have splendid horse farms with stables and outbuildings fit for royalty. Yet, these early farms actually produced agricultural goods that were marketed to provide food and fiber for America. Today our farms primarily produce only huge piles of an equestrian by-product.
The transition of rural Parker County from a collection of small farming communities with crop and livestock production being the basis for the economy to a bedroom community of the Metro-Mess has been a gradual process. This transition has been a result of many factors. First, this area has never been well suited for extensive agricultural production. Eastern Parker County was an excellent region for the large ranches and livestock operations that flourished in the area; however, being closest to the large cities, they were first to feel the effects of urban encroachment. It breaks my heart to see large tracts like the Walsh Ranch converted to rooftops and asphalt. The lighter soils of the Brazos watershed on the west were more suited to subsistence farming rather than large scale agricultural operations.
I suppose the final blow to a rural agricultural Parker County came as a result of rising land values. When it was no longer was possible to pay for land from its farming profits, potential young farmers moved to the cities seeking a higher standard of living. Older farmers have died off or sold their land to eager developers. If this continues, who will feed us in another sixty years?
The “Parker County Today” magazine published by Marsha Brown is a delightful snapshot of modern Parker County, but for me it is no longer an image of the Parker County I know and love. My Parker County more closely resembles the old house my parents built long ago--a battered and weather-beaten product of hard work and hard times, yet for now, still standing.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org