Rumsey Strickland was a wonderful friend. He started and owned Strickland Motor Lines for many years before he sold it. However, after the sale he kept an office in downtown Dallas. While I was managing the investment portfolios for that big insurance group, he was on my investment committee that oversaw my activities.
When you are going north up Oak Lawn Street from Downtown Dallas, the road splits and the left split becomes Preston Road. Right on the north side of that split, behind the trees is a most beautiful, Spanish Style house. That was Mr. Strickland’s home. Behind it, along Turtle Creek are all those beautiful azaleas which so many people come to admire each Spring. Mr. Strickland’s wife planted them and kept them well fed and watered. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys owns that house now.
All Mr. Strickland’s children had died. It was quite tragic. So, I would go up to his office and visit with him, since he always seemed so lonely. He really seemed to appreciate it. And eventually we started to buy tracts of land together when I would find one at a good price that seemed to have big potential. Of course, we bought tracts individually also.
I remember when he bought this little field that was planted in cotton. I said: “Mr. Strickland, why in the world would you buy a cotton field and pay $1.25 per square foot for it?” He claimed that he figured it had great potential in spite of the price. That tract is now the southeast quadrant of LBJ Freeway and the Dallas North Tollway that has all those big, tall, shiny buildings on it. He had a great feel for real estate.
Later he bought a big ranch about 12 miles west of Ponder, Texas. He wanted me to run cattle there and for us to be partners in the cattle heard. I got a fairly large herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle from the big Callan Ranch at Lorena, Texas and located them there. Since it had a nice little house, I got a cowboy to move there with his family to watch the cattle.
When the cattle needed working, or spraying for flies, I would go there and help the cowboy. It was a big place with lots of quail and good grass and water. Since we kept spare horses there, I would just put my saddle and saddle blanket in the back of the pick-up to go help work the cattle.
At Texas A&M the professors say that the coyotes that came up from deep south Texas mixed with the red prairie wolves that lived on the north Texas prairies. That hybrid was very vigorous and spread all across north Texas and beyond.
The cowboy that lived on that ranch had noticed that one of those mother critters had a den along a small creek on the big pasture on the east side of that ranch. When I had finished working there late one afternoon, I went down to that little creek and found that den. I took the shovel and made a hole a little way back from the entrance to the den. I could hear the pups making noise down there. I knew that if they had their eyes still closed, I could get them out with no problem. But if their eyes were already open, I would get bit for sure.
I reached down and brought out five little squally pups and put them in my saddle blanket. I gave two to a hippie friend who made guitars and harpsichords on a property on the east side of Ponder. I kept a male and a female and the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Zoo came and got the other one.
I fed my two on milk until they were large enough to take more solid food. My ranch had a really nice dog pen with a concrete base on all sides and very heavy wire that was over 10 feet high, with the bottom of the wire imbedded in the concrete. It had heavy metal poles to support the wire and a secure metal gate. It was a good place for these two critters.
I had them stay in the pen about half of the time and run free on the ranch half of the time. I have had many pet dogs of several breeds, but never anything like these two. They were so much more quick than a dog.
The 1,600 acre ranch was about 3 ½ miles west of Interstate 35 on a paved county road with almost no traffic on it at all. Our closest neighbor was 2 ½ miles away. This was a perfect place and distance from the town of Denton for people to come and throw out cats and dogs that they did not want. This happened regularly and consistently
You may not be aware that the very favorite food of coyotes is house cats. That proved true for these two hybrid critters, too. I have never known of a dog that could easily catch a cat, but it was no problem for these two. This may seem cruel to you, but people would throw out so many cats on such a regular basis, that there was no way for them to catch enough song-birds and mice to survive. I didn’t want to shoot the cats, and you couldn’t catch them, but these two took care of the problem. My wife and I would go for a long walk along that lonesome road in front of the ranch on pretty nights, and these two would get at least one cat every time. They quickly ate every scrap……feet, ears, tail and all.
People would also drive out from town and drop out dogs, especially really mean ones that they just couldn’t keep in town. My two red wolf hybrids could kill any dog, even when the dog was over twice their size. They seemed to sense which ones were mean and which dogs were nice. They never bothered the nice, tame ones, but it was death to the bad ones. I was glad, because I didn’t want to have to shoot all those mean dogs, and you just couldn’t let them run free and kill the young calves.
These two hybrid wolves didn’t fight like a dog. Dogs will fight one of two ways. In both ways they will try to get at the other’s throat. When fighting head-on they will try to make the other dog only bite the back of their neck where their skin is very thick. But more often they will back up to each other so that the other dog must reach around to get at their throat.
These two red hybrids didn’t fool with all that and the dog didn’t expect or know what to do about it. They would just rip open the dog’s rear flank where the skin was thin and incapacitate the dog in nothing flat, and then kill it by grabbing its throat. I am sorry if this all sounds gruesome, but those were really mean dogs and this was just the way it was done. Dogs will growl loudly and make a fierce noise when fighting, but these two would dispatch their job and never make a sound.
They would make big sounds when my cowboys would go by their pen and howl at them and get them to howling. They would also howl back at the wild ones across the prairie too, especially at sundown and on moonlit nights.
These animals are very mouth-oriented. They were always interested in my hair when I would bend down or be sitting with them. One night when everyone else in the house was asleep I went out to their pen to play with them. They really wanted to put the whole top of my head in their mouths. I finally let them do that. They spent a long time at it. I am sure it had to do with something deep down in their genes. But from that moment we were totally bonded together as far as they were concerned. I can’t explain it, but it was very obvious. You wouldn’t believe how protective they were of me after that night.
One time when I was speaking at a conference up in New York, I was gone for over 10 days. The rest of the family was off on a trip for the whole time. So, when I got home, I let them out to roam for a few days. Before the trip I had forgotten to tell the newspaper man not to deliver the newspapers while I was gone. He delivered them only to the mailbox which as at the road about the distance of two city blocks from the house. Since the mailbox only held one or two, there was quite a pile papers under the mailbox since I subscribed to several daily papers.
While I was unpacking my clothes, I kept noticing that these two critters were going back and forth from the house to the road, over and over. Finally, I went out to see what this was all about. I had never trained them for it, and I don’t know what was in their minds, but they were going down to that mailbox and each getting one newspaper and bringing it up to the house and putting it up on the porch, neatly in a pile right at the front door. They kept this up until every newspaper was right there by the front door.
Eventually the male died. Then the female started going off for the night with the wild ones. Then she started staying off for 2 or 3 days. Finally, she never came back. I have often wondered if she had a bunch of pups.