Yesteryear in Ozona and Crockett County (Con’t)
V. I. Pierce
The depression of 1929 and 1930 wasn’t our first one, of course. We had another one in 1920 that was pretty bad but didn’t last very long. In1929 everything had gone up. Prices had soared and I had a lot of sheep, but I owed a lot of money. Joe had a lot of sheep, and we had a lot of cattle. We had bought some ranches but owed for the whole thing. My father had retired, quit business altogether. We were young; we had never seen anything go down. Everything we had bought had gone up. All you had to do was buy something keep it a month or six weeks and it was worth a lot more money. Land had jumped from five or six dollars an acre to $15. If you bought a bunch of sheep you couldn’t get them home before somebody would offer you a profit on them. It was the same way with cattle.
Joe and I bought a bunch of pretty good Mexican cattle in Sutton County; they were Trevino cattle out of Mexico. We received them where HIllery Phillips later lived. We drove them to the Twin Hill Ranch where Monroe Baggett later lived. We didn’t have a chuckwagon with us, and that was only about ten miles from home. We intended to lope on home, spend the night, then come back and get the cattle the next day. But when we arrive there we found Monroe and Will Baggett camped there, figuring on buying the place, so we spent the night with them.
Next morning we were driving the cattle on toward home. I was on one side of them and Joe was on the other. There were about two hundred head. The more I looked at them the less I liked them. I decided to play a little strategy on Joe. I would go around to where he was and offer to buy his half, figuring he would offer to buy me out instead. I figured he would offer me a dollar profit, but I would have been contented just to break even. I think we had given $40 a head for them.
I started, but before I could get around to Joe a car came along and scattered the cattle. I had to go back and throw them in on my side. The car stopped. It was Theo Savell and Russell Martin. They said, “ We heard you had these cattle. We came over to see if we could buy them.”
Joe said, “Yes, we’ll sell them for $50.”
They went off and studied a little but, then came back and said, “We will take them. Turn them around and drive them back.” So we turned those cattle around and took them back to the Savell Ranch.
If they had come along ten minutes later I would have sold my part to Joe for nothing.
Prices on everything were going sky high. People were buying anything and everything; nobody dreamed that a depression was on top of us. Almost Nobody.
My father was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, taking the baths. I don’t know where he got the information; I never could get anything out of him. We were living where Vicki and Johnny live today. He drove up there at noon and ate diner with us. When dinner was over he said to me, “How much money do you owe?”
I said, “ Well, I never have figured it up, but I owe a whole lot.”
He said, “ Well, I went broke one time. I’m going to tell you something; you can do it or not do it, but things are fixing to go to pieces. They are going to go fast——today, not tomorrow. You start selling. Doesn’t make any difference whether you get what you want, you sell them anyway. Sell whether you get the money or not. If you think they can pay, sell them.” Then he went over to Joe and told him the same thing.
We had never seen anything go down, but he was so sincere in his belief that I started selling. I had a lot of muttons and some steers. Rob and Row Miller had hit me up to buy those muttons. They didn’t offer me within a dollar a head what I thought they were worth, but I went right quick and told them I would take what they had offered me. They accepted. I had a bunch of calves, cows and ewes. l sold them and paid off nearly everything I owed. I had sold 200 calves to Dr. Fussell. When he went to pay for them the bank wouldn’t make anymore loans, they told him they didn’t have the money. I told him, “Well, I owe the bank. They had just as soon have your note as mine.” So we went up to see Uncle Elam Dudley. He said to me, “All right, that just gives you credit on your debt.” So Doc took the calves. I don’t know how he came out on the deal. I sold several bunches that I didn’t get the money for at the time, but the buyers’ word was good, and they paid for them afterwards.
After we had sold off enough stuff to pay what we owed, Papa said, “Sell off the rest of it. You can buy it back in 60 days for a tenth of what you are getting for it.” We didn’t do it, but he was right. Those sheep that were bringing $20 could be bought within 60 days for $2 to $2.50 a head.
I had sheared a lot of sheep and had the wool in San Angelo. I was up there talking to Robert Massie. He said, “I can get you 671/2 cents for this wool, but if you will wait a week I can get you ten cents more.”
That depression lasted only about 18 months. Wool came back pretty strong after they worked off this surplus up there that netted the people six cents in 1921. Within a year we were getting 25 cents for our wool and sheep went back up to 10 to 12 dollars a head. Sheepmen were all right, but cattle stayed down — It seemed to me— for another ten years . A cattle ranch wasn’t worth much.