Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

JACK SUDDUTH - A MAN OF FEW WORDS


By Dub Ramsel  click on photo for a enlarged view
(These stories cover a period from early 1950's to the late eighties.  These stories have come from my memory with an occasional quote from some Williamson County residents.)


Jack Sudduth grew up in Williamson County, Texas and came from a large family of five boys and three girls. When I first met him and his wife Nettie and one daughter, Joyce, his youngest child, lived on a 20 acre tract of land northeast of Georgetown, Texas. Jack had built a home there and had several outbuildings and a sheep shed. They also had a good well with a windmill. All this is on a rise in the terrain and drains well. It was not farmland, but it served his purpose.

 I came to know Jack Sudduth in 1952, the year we moved here from El Paso, Texas. I went to the Livestock Sale in Georgetown. It was a Friday sale and had quite a few sheep for sale as well as cattle and hogs. Jack bought most of the lambs that came. He was what was known as a Sheep Dealer.

 Jack also went to sheep sales throughout the Central Texas area. One of his sales was at Mason, Texas. He always drove a Chevy pickup that was rated one ton. This long bodied pickup was double decked. In addition, he had a tandem trailer that was also double decked. He could haul about sixty lambs on this rig.

 I had the good luck of going with Jack to the Mason sale one day. We went up in his rig. When, Jack sat down to buy, he did not stop when he had his pickup load. He Just kept buying until he had a couple of hundred charged to him. If there had been more, he would have bought more. I was wondering how he was going to get all these lambs loaded up without making several trips. He explained that most of the lambs were going to he hauled on big rigs that belonged to commercial truckers and sent direct to Ft. Worth. If there were any that could not he loaded this way would be put on his pickup and trailer and brought hack to Georgetown. Most of them went to a commission company in Ft. Worth, who took them in on consignment. There they would be fed and handled as Jack instructed them to do, and sold.

 Many other livestock jockeys tried to do as Jack did, but always went broke doing it. My advice to anyone who gets the idea, is to forget it unless they were schooled by Jack.

 Jack had a high school education, but he attended "Hard Scrabble" College and got an education that few ever hear about. He and his folks survived the great depression, and this in itself will teach one how to sake money and hold on to it. Jack was not tight with his money; he just kept up with it and knew where every dollar went, and if he was making any money.

 To see Jack in a crowd, you would not suspect that he was anybody outstanding. He dressed in his working clothes mostly and blended in with most rural men in this area. Also, he did not say much, he was straight forward when he did talk, and sometimes I did not like the answer I got when I asked him a question. He was always right. He would put out the right answers with no sugar coating. I admired him for that. If you didn't ask him anything, he would never volunteer any information. Sometimes it took a couple of beers to get anything out of him at all. 

About twice a week Jack would take a load of fat lambs to Ft. Worth in his pickup and trailer. He could get more miles out of a vehicle than most. When they finally traded in an old one for a new one, which was only twice as long as I knew him, it would have over 210,000 miles on the engine.

I wondered how he got the lamps loaded onto his pickup while still hooked on to his trailer. So he showed me. The tailgate of his pickup had a ramp that would let down into the front of his trailer. The sheep would go into the trailer and end up on the pickup. His dog would help out in loading up his rig. It was Border collie and was trained to this job.

 In addition to buying for the Ft. Worth market, Jack had something going on the side that was very profitable for him. A lot of Exchange Students from Pakistan, Israel and other foreign countries liked lamb meat. They had to slaughter the lamb according to the rules of their religion, and Jack let them buy his lambs and butcher them there on his place. He would get a good price for the lambs and then get the hide and offal free, The skins were dried and sold and he buried the guts in a pit and covered up for compost. He would then apply this rich soil to his garden along with dung from his shed. Yes, you guessed it, he had the best tomatoes in town. 

Jack had feeding facilities on his yard and bought feeder lambs in addition to fat lambs. He would feed a fattening ration and most of these lambs, when the fat would go to the local trade.

 Jack has been gone about ten years now, but up until he died, he kept the lambs on feed. When he could not make it to the sales he had a friend who ran a livestock sale in Taylor send him replacements for his feed lot .Don Schiller knew what Jack wanted. 

Jack was not always a man of "all work and no play”. He loved to fish and his best way was with a gill net in the San Gabriel River. He would fish for round tall Suckers. Since suckers are members of the Carp family and have lots of bones. Jack knew how to prepare these bony fish so that they would be extremely edible. The water had to be cold and when he netted enough, he would dress them and score them with a sharp knife. This scoring would cut the hones in small sections. Then when they were dropped into very hot grease, preferably hog lard, until they floated.You could eat them, then without being bothered by the bones. Americans are the only people in the world who do not eat carp regularly, according to Homer Buck, the Biologist and world traveler. 

The San Gabriel River used to be pure and free of the effluent from the Waste Water Disposal Plant. When Jack was doing his fishing all of the discharge from the Georgetown Sewer went into a large field known as to "Sewer Farm" and very little of the waste water went into the river. It might not be so safe now. The old "Sewer Farm" has been converted to a recreation area with hall parks.

 Jack, in addition to his sheep buying, had a standing order with Fairway Food, Grocery that stood east of the Square in downtown Georgetown, to buy fat butcher calves. All of the markets used handy weight carcasses then. This means that suckling calves that did not dress over 400 pounds were used. Now most all beef comes from carcasses twice this size. Jack knew exactly what they needed and could tell the dressing percentage without guessing. He liked to buy at the auctions because he had more to select from. When he bought directly from the farmers, he had to haggle over how much shrink he had to have to make the carcass cost within the range he needed. I have seen him take a ten percent draw on some and three percent on others. 

In addition to his fishing and sheep buying, Jack was a pretty good hand at barbecuing. He could do goat and lamb as well as beef and chickens. We always had time to help out with cooking up the barbeque for the Williamson County Livestock Assn. each year. Sometimes there would be over a thousand pounds of meat on the long pit in the San Gabriel Park. It would be ready on time and the lines were long. Money was raised this way to help the Assn. build a show barn for the 4-H and FFA kids to display their animals. They did a lot of other worthwhile things for the community.

 As I said earlier, Jack was generous, even though he watched his money real close. He would loan money to friends without any security. He trusted others as he would be done by. I know one incident where a friend needed a hundred dollars. He gave it to him plus a hundred more. Mumbling that a hundred dollars wouldn't do him any good.

 Jack was a man who showed very little emotion. Like a lot of other country men I have known, they think it is a sign of weakness to do so. He loved his wife dearly, but when she asked him how he liked the food she prepared for him, which was his favorite dish, he answered "I ate it, didn't I. Nettie knew him like a book and was not bothered by his response. Nettie is a good woman and also came from a large family who were also old settlers. The Gunn family had been around Williamson County a long time.

 Nettie now lives alone in the same home they built over sixty years ago. She had her 90'th birthday three years ago. She still drives when necessary and keeps her house and flower garden in immaculate condition. Jack left us about ten years ago. I still miss him and think of him every day when I drive down County Rd 151 going to my small farm nearby. I credit Jack with teaching me everything I know about sheep and a lot about cattle. I am proud of having known him. I hope that, wherever he is, that he has a few sheep to look after.

Sheep and Angora goat raising has about disappeared from the ranches in this county. This is because the coyotes have multiplied as well as dogs that run loose in packs. Spanish and Sour goats have replaced them. There is good money in raising goats for meat. Shearing has gone so high priced, that most ranchers cannot afford to pay for the shearing. Also, the prices of wool and mohair have not kept up with the cost of living.

So many things have changed since Jack was wheeling and dealing that he would not he able carry on his method of earning a living. He probably would have gotten run over on IH35 if he got that far. May be it is best he never had to face the changes.

 

 


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