Free at last – the Plantation at Fort Lauderdale

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 By Bill Roberts

Special to the Beacon

When my tour of duty in the Navy was up in 1954, I was discharged at Key West, where I had been in a helicopter squadron. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and in the meantime while I was in Navy, my father had gone into farming on his own at “Plantation”, west of Fort Lauderdale, and I knew he was looking forward to putting me on a tractor.

I’d had a dose of that at Twenty Mile Bend and I had other plans. I hadn’t changed my mind about being a cowboy. I consented to help him until my brother Jerry graduated high school in 1955, which was about a year away. I was biding my time and checking out possibilities of some local cow work. As had happened to me before, dumb luck was on it’s way.

One morning, as I was on my way to do some cultivating on a tractor I hated, coming toward me in a cloud of dust was a huge Brahman bull and two cowboys right behind him. Just before he ran over me and my tractor, the men both roped him at the same time and had  him stretched out between them.

I got my tractor out of the way and asked the cowboy that was the closest to me, what were they going to do with him? “We’re not sure,” he said. “We chased him from our pasture to where he got on your farm. We need something to tie him to.”

We all three looked around and as far as we could see, there wasn’t a tree in sight. It was evident, they weren’t going to drag this bull anywhere. He almost weighed more than their two horses combined. About that time, my dad drove up in his Jeep pickup. The cowboy that had been doing the talking, introduced himself. “I’m Jim Day, sir, and this feller is Gene Couch, and we chased this bull from our ranch where he got out on your farm.”

When he said Jim Day, I knew immediately who he was. I had seen him in a couple of rodeos, and knew at one time he was one of the best calf ropers in the state. I asked him when he had switched to roping bulls? He said, “A man has to do what a man has to do.” I guess he meant his glory days were over. He was evidently pleased to be recognized and even my dad had heard of him.

I also knew from my days working with Jerry Hair, the cowboy from Bassinger, I had heard of Mr. Couch, the other cowboy, and he was no slouch either.

My dad sized up the situation and told Mr. Day that we had an old two-ton flatbed truck that we could bring up close and they could tie the bull to the back of the bed. Mr. Day was afraid the bull might damage the truck, but my dad told him as long as he didn’t eat the seat covers, he couldn’t hurt anything.

I went to the shop and got the truck and they finally tied up the bull to the back of the flat bed.

Well, I could see Providence at work here and while Mr. Day was feeling a little obligated, I asked if they needed any cow help? He hemmed and hawed a little, but Gene Couch reminded him about a roundup that they had coming up and that they definitely could use the help.

That afternoon, they came and got the bull with a big stock trailer and I made sure they remembered the job offer. I told them I didn’t have any gear or a horse and they said that was no problem. “We got more horses and saddles than we got help.”

I worked there off and on for a year. The ranch belonged to Powell Brothers Construction Company and Jim Day was the foreman there.


The above is one story from Bill Roberts’, “All I Ever Wanted To Be Was A Cowboy”.