It is a privilege to tell the story of my good friend, Bennie Daniels. Bennie is a man of varied talent, wisdom and success. He has taught me much about life and relationships over the past 25 plus years. He has been my older brother that I did not have as I grew up, because I was the eldest sibling in my home. (The wisest and most favored by my Mom, I might add. Don’t tell my sister I said that!)
Bennie’s early years were difficult, to say the least. His parents divorced before he was born, his father was career military and became an alcoholic and his mother had 2 more marriages and passed away at the early age of 26. Bennie was raised by his grandparents and worked hard on the farm all his youth. These years would bring a strong work ethic and attitude of determination in Bennie’s life.
But from these meager beginnings began to emerge a productive and successful life and career as he determined to never drink alcohol and to get an education. Also, these years on the farm produced some great stories that I would like to relate; stories that we all can enjoy and laugh with.
Bennie married his childhood sweetheart, Gloria Toland. They were from Smackover, Arkansas. (I know, you’ve never heard of this thriving metropolis before.) They graduated from Louisiana Tech University (Of Terry Bradshaw and Phil Robertson fame) and Bennie began working for the US Census Bureau in Washington, DC, transferred to Dallas and retired from there after 22 years and was a recipient of the US Department of Commerce Bronze Medal. For the next 22 years he was a State Farm Insurance agent, retiring in 2007 in the top 7% ranking of agents in the US. He currently serves on the Rockwall, TX city council, is a deacon at the First Baptist Church, a former Chairman of the Board of Rockwall County Helping Hands, where he is still a member of the Board of Directors and an active member of Citizens on Patrol. He is an expert wood worker and a fairly salty golfer, I can say from experience.
When I was about 14 Grandmother convinced Granddaddy that he should sell all the cattle since he was in ill health and the cost of maintaining the cattle was a financial burden. We had not had any goats for about two years. Getting rid of the cattle would leave us with only a few chickens.
We had a new 1954 Chevrolet pickup. Well it was not exactly new; Granddaddy had wrecked it about a mile from the house before he ever got it home for the first time. At that time we had about 35 head of cattle. The truck would carry only 4-5 cows at a time. Since the auction was on Tuesday, we spent all day Monday getting the cattle to the auction barn. The last trip was finished about 7:00 pm. When we got home from the last trip, it was one of the few times I saw a big grin on Grandmother’s face. I think she was truly happy beyond description.
Tuesday we got off to the auction early. The auctions usually started about noon, but we had to get to the barn to look at all the animals that were for sale.
I am not sure why we had to go through the ritual on this particular day since we were selling only, not buying. Usually Granddaddy did not get his “refreshment” until we were on the way home from the auction; however, on this particular day we made a stop by the store on the way to the auction. I was doing all the driving at this time and had been doing so since I was 13.
Our cattle sold at a good price and Granddaddy was really pleased. Our last cow sold about mid-afternoon and I was ready to cash out and head for the house. Granddaddy, however, wanted to stay and watch more of the auction. He was feeling pretty good and I think he just wanted to visit with some of his buddies. Then the unthinkable happened. There was a herd of goats in the auction pen and for some reason Granddad started bidding on the goats. Unbelievably, he had the high bid and now we were the owners of 20+ goats!
We got all 20+ goats packed in the bed of the truck and headed home. The goats really were packed! (Yes, we stopped by the store for Granddaddy to get another bottle of “refreshment.”) His preference was gin. He got two drinks straight from each pint bottle and the bottle was then empty. He would need every bit of stimulus he could get when we got home. We drove straight to the loading chute and unloaded the goats when we got home, then pulled the truck up to the front gate at the house. To Granddaddy’s dismay, Grandmother had observed the unloading of the goats. When we walked in the house, Granddaddy would have been dead in his tracks of looks could kill. I melted into the woodwork. The next Tuesday the whole lot of goats were sold at auction!
Well, I suppose all’s well that ends well.