To the Editor and community of Salado:
The developments of the past week have spurred me to reflection and I’ve sought the right way to speak to the community I love.
It occurs to me, once again, how lucky we are. I had the extraordinary good fortune to grow up in a very special place, and I’ve lived long enough to witness and experience several generations of change, each with its own significance in defining who we are today.
I think about the old timers from my childhood – the native sons who made their livings with cattle and corn and sheep and goats. Their names still resonate – Capps, Townsend, Hodge, Warrick, Jackson. Theirs was the generation of khaki work pants and sweat-stained Stetsons.
And then there were the mid-century immigrants who introduced a flair of sophistication – Dion Van Bibber, who made the Stagecoach Inn famous and, later, Grace Jones and Herbert and Thelma Fletcher.
And later still, Mac Sherrill built a little nine-hole golf course in a picturesque cow pasture along a beautiful stretch of Salado Creek. By the time I was in college, Mill Creek was a burgeoning retirement community, attracting a number of America’s greatest generation, honest-to-God heroes from WW-II and Korea. The brothers Tarbutton, Cliff Pyle, Harley Grimm and, of course, Jack Jones – men whose deeds are largely forgotten but whose unheralded valor truly made American great, and by mere association, inspired at least one foot-loose Huckleberry Finn type who happened to grow up here.
About that same time a bunch of creative characters rolled in from West Texas – Forest Gist, Lonnie Edwards and Steve Wesson, joined later by Joe Pehoski and Darwin Britt. And an enigmatic little wizard named Wilmer set up shop here and brought the world to our doorstep. Each and all contributed to the shifting, ever-evolving persona of this place.
When Lana and I came home in the late eighties we discovered that we were just part of the latest group whose turn it was to contribute. We had the good fortune to meet and work with Doug Willingham who, like me, came here in search of his roots. He, along with Tyler Fletcher, Pat Barton and a whole lot of other folks were struggling to preserve Salado’s historic legacy and, at the same time, find ways to gracefully accommodate the forces of a quickly changing world. Together, we saved the Salado College ruins and planted a few other landmark projects around town, and laid the groundwork for Salado to become an incorporated village.
A couple of young, idealistic journalists came along and bought the little local weekly and hoisted their masthead, reporting on everything Salado.
Of course my own Mother and Father made it impossible to not be involved. In 1994, I was drawn into the political world with the good fortune of having as my role model another of America’s generation of heroes, Col. Jack Oliver. What more can I say? His spirit has sustained me through years of work in the public sector.
Today, I’m watching a new generation invest their lives here. Graydon and KD Hill are creating a phenomenon on Royal Street, along with a whole bunch of very talented young artisans. My friend David Hayes and his group are reinventing the Stagecoach Inn. Will Lowery, Claire Hartman and a growing list of other smart, hardworking entrepreneurs are expanding and diversifying our economy. Tim and Marilyn Fleischer continue to do the impossible – keep a small town publication alive and relevant in the age of digital media.
We have one of the best schools in Central Texas, thanks to years of outstanding leadership, and young families are flocking to the area for that reason. We are truly blessed.
My time as a member of the Commissioners Court is drawing to a close and I’m a bit sad about that, but I can honestly say I’ve never been prouder of this remarkable community.
To all our friends – young and old, to the new generation of Saladoans who will leave their marks, to all of you who have enriched our lives in immeasurable ways, Lana and I say thank you.