Saturday was a very special day for Down Home Ranch.
We were awarded the Agriculturalist of the Year at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner at the Lost Pines Resort.
The Ranch has won a lot of honors and had a lot of good publicity over the years, but this is the one that means the most, because these are our friends and neighbors.
And if the title of this piece makes no sense to you, that's because you might not be aware that Elgin is the sausage capital of Texas, and it's the motto of our famous Hog Eye Festival held every October. The Ranchers love Hog Eye because they can usually snare a realistic looking pig snout to wear to work for a week or two afterwards. They also enjoy the dance, the carnival, the music, and the food.
Work's more fun while you're wearing a pig snout.
In fact the Ranchers are a major presence in Elgin. They attend several churches in town, volunteer at the food pantry, go to the library on occasion, and are great fans of the summer park programs.
We didn't know Elgin 21 years ago when we bought the land that was to be the Ranch. It was blind luck that brought us close to a town that could be the model of what we envisioned for our community--that old fashioned neighborhood where a helping hand is never far away.
Elgin is a scrappy little town, but it's a place where folks take care of their own. We've attended numerous fund-raisers for families who have been burned out of their homes, had a child with cancer, or for a family member whose insurance has run out. Elginites have helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Down Home Ranch as well as other local charities.
Fr. Bob Mahoney, then at Sacred Heart Catholic Church was the first to open us with welcome arms when I went visiting local clergy shortly after Jerry, Kelly, and I moved to the Ranch. Fr. Bob was so excited that he dashed out to the Ranch the very next day and, having visited with us in our tiny trailer, said he left thinking, "Those people either have more faith than anyone I've ever met or they're dumb as a bag of hammers!"
He never told me which he decided we were, but we listened to many a sermon over the years on Divine Providence, which was the centerpiece of Fr. Bob's faith. Elgin was not the only town to know and love "Bullet Bob," but nobody loved him better.
It might be that you've blown past Elgin 100 times or more on Hwy 290 and thought that what you saw on the highway was all there is, but, if so, you're sorely mistaken. We have an historic downtown worthy of being in the movies, which it has been on many occasions.
We've got barbecue joints--Southside Market, Meyer's, and several others--and they're all good, and all cookin' all the time. We've got the Southwest Stallion Station, where you can get your mare bred, or get your heifer in the family way at Elgin Breeding.
There's Elgin Veterinary Hospital, which attracts horse and cattle owners from around the world.
One afternoon we found our miniature horse Smokey in terrible distress, heaving for breath with two neat puncture wounds between his nostrils. We rushed him into Elgin Vet. They cut down a vein, got an I.V. going, ran tubes down his nostrils so he could breathe, and kept him overnight.
I had awful nightmares that night.
Not about the horse, but about the bill. When the grand total of $118 was quoted to us I almost fainted with gratitude. I figured that might have covered the cost of supplies. It was a kindness never forgotten.
But that's what Elgin is like, and we're just happy to have landed here.