‘History surrounding Norman Porter, Sr., a historian’ The old Breaker home, Cockrell Canyon & a misnamed country road
“My parents, Ralph and Elvira Castillo had the Breaker property leased,” said Roger Castillo. “Two sisters, Rita and Helen and brother, Willie, were out there. They were younger. I was the oldest.
“We only lived out there for about a year and a half.
“I can remember the period around 1964 because that was the year I went into the Army. I graduated in May and left for the Army in August at the age of 18.”
Castillo said, “One time, it was a dry year and they had to put in some extra pipe in our well. At the time we had some cattle and Norman Porter helped out by giving us water. I would take the tractor and trailer with three fifty-five gallon drums and go to Norman’s house which was on 281. He had a well at the back of his house. I’d fill up the barrels with water and bring it to a water trough for the cattle.
“I did that until we got the well fixed. Back then, with the drought, when we needed water well repairs, Henry Shearrer would help. He was quite busy at that time and couldn’t come ‘right now’ in many instances - everybody needed him.”
Castillo continued, “Norman was my teacher at that time and was a very good man.
“He had a place down Crain Road. My grandfather used to have that property years ago and Norman bought it.
“Norman was kind and always helpful.
“Anything he wanted at our place, he could have. We had crops and when he came we’d say, ‘just help yourself, Norman’. He’d get corn or whatever we had available - we were glad to share with him.
“You know, back then, people would just help each other out and think nothing of it. That was ‘an easy call’.
“Another thing I remembered about the Breaker place (now Beyer property) - the well where you pumped water into an artesian tank was very close to the house. You had to have a pump to get it into the house.
“Guess where the pump was? Under the house. Oh man! When that pump would go dry, I’d have to get underneath the house and prime it - at nighttime, whenever.
“ I was always scared of spiders or a snake or something. We had to pour water in that little primer to make it work when the water leaked out. Then it would pump water back into the house again. That would happen ‘ever so often’.
“I used to burn pear for Mrs. Harriet Peel’s cattle when I was in high school.
“When Mrs. Peel left, we moved in - lived in the house about a year and a half. My dad was a truck driver, hauling cattle, and was gone a lot. When I left for the service, my mother didn’t want to stay out there by herself. She moved back to Patrick Street in Pleasanton where we had lived before.
“After the lease, I think Mr. (Larry) Persyn leased it.
“That land there wasn’t very fertile, being hard with clay, where we planted peanuts, close to the highway (281). It got dry quickly and that was difficult farming. It wasn’t the root rot, it was the drought. We kept the peanut allotment up - like they say, though, ‘don’t quit your day job’ - because you weren’t going to make it on that place.”
I asked how many acres on the Breaker place were farmed?
“Well, I think, maybe 50 acres. Along with the peanuts on 281, we planted some right across the canyon (Cockrell), that’s on the south side of Crain Road. Being on a hill, that was some better land there.”
He mentioned that they also had a small, two-acre vegetable garden near the house. “It wasn’t very much,” said Castillo.
“We planted yellow squash in that area close to the house where we had a well. It was at a higher level where it ran down the hill to help with irrigation.
“We also planted jalapeños, cucumbers and tomatoes.
“Joe Echigo, a man living in Pleasanton used to contract to sell farmer’s produce. This was fresh produce because he came to us along with other farmers.
“When we were growing up, local people would buy from Echigo.”
Elizabeth Zabava, this writer’s mother, often purchased fresh produce for our family from Echigo.
Castillo continued, “I had an uncle in Poteet - Ben Sanchez. He would sell strawberries to Echigo who would take them into San Antonio.
Castillo said, “When Mrs. H. H. Peel, a school teacher, had the place, we had leased the farming part. She had the cattle part, being the brush. My dad had a peanut lease. On peanuts, you were only allowed what the allotment was.”
Castillo said, “I remember the Crains. That road, the first time I saw it, I said that is spelled wrong - it’s supposed to be spelled C-r-a-i-n instead of Crane. Somebody doesn’t know the history of this road here.”
I mentioned that Iris Porter and myself had it changed. County Commissioners decided to have signs made and placed on the road, in two lines, saying, CR Crane, and below, AKA Crain Mr. Crain lived down the road past Norman Porter’s place, around a little curve in the road.
Castillo said, “I think Mr. Crain worked for the highway department. At one time we leased some land from him. We planted black diamond watermelons on his place. They didn’t sell too well, probably because the melons we produced had some white in the heart. They weren’t pretty and red so there wasn’t too good of a market for them. I believe we just did it one year - we didn’t plant that particular variety anymore. .
“Butch Tudyk has a place, I believe his dad, Frank, had it at the time - it’s across the highway (281).
“The Burmeisters also had a place right across 281 and they let us keep a couple of Jersey cows on it. I’d park on the highway and go across the railroad tracks and get milk from the cows and bring it back to the house before I went to school.
“We had a little plot, maybe ten acres or so, on the Burmeister place - my dad had made some kind of lease deal for that. It was a little pasture there, separated from the big place. The lease went along for a little while - not very long.
Commenting on their peanut place on the Breaker property, Castillo summarized it this way, “It was dry land peanuts and you know how that goes with dry land. It never rains until you go to thresh and (chuckle) that’s the story about dry land farming. You never get a rain until it comes time to harvest the crop.”
Castillo said, “I enlisted in the US Army in August 1964 and was stationed in Tan Son Nhat, South Vietnam from April 1965 through April 1966. I was assigned to 1st Logistical Command. Our command was in charge of providing logistics support and all the other necessary equipment necessary for our troops in South Vietnam. I lived in a tent during my year there. There were 19 other soldiers occupying the tent. We were located 4 miles north of Saigon. In April 1966, I was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey, until I was honorably discharged in 1967.
“I began working in the Pleasanton Post Office in February 1968, a year after being discharged from the Army. I was hired by Mr. Elmo Vickers, who was the postmaster at that time. Mr. Vickers’ wife, Rita, was Iris Porter’s sister. I worked 2 hours per day, 7 days a week, at the beginning. I was happy to ‘get my foot in the door’. The post office was the only place with a civil service retirement plan in Pleasanton. I eventually was promoted to a full-time position. During those years, people didn’t retire unless they were ready to. My patience paid off and I became a regular employee with a regular pay check. In October 1989, I was promoted to Postmaster, Charlotte, Texas. I retired in April 2007. I really enjoyed my years in the postal service. I did my best to help everyone and treat them as I would like to be treated.”
Castillo said, “I served on the Pleasanton ISD School Board from 1986 through 2004. Darrel Pool was superintendent when I began as a member. He was a ‘workng man’s man’. Darrel was very kind, would listen to your concerns, and ‘shot from the hip’. I was a member during the years that we had great expansion that included a new gym, track field, new remodeling of the high school and building of the new campus on Bensdale.”