Tom Linebery is getting on in years and has a lot miles in the
saddle, but his mental powers have not been diminished one iota.
He sits under mesquite trees and an umbrella at the Jones family
picnic on the Wineglass Ranch in Southern New Mexico sipping lemonade
and visiting with neighbors from two states. They unmistakably
admire this rough, gruff, to-the-point Texas rancher. Linebery
is having a great time shaking hands with old cowboy buddies,
young cowpokes, bear-hugging their wives and children, answering
questions and spouting country wisdom.
Linebery likes to talk politics because he is, and has been, deeply
involved in the War for the West and preservation of western heritage
for over 30 years. Linebery doesnt just talk politics, he puts
his money where his mouth is, and expects everyone else in the
ranching industry to ante up their fair share if they want to
keep ranching. Linebery and his wife Evelyn founded the Scarborough-Linebery
Foundation and were instrumental in establishing the Paragon Foundation,
non-profit organizations that are having considerable positive
impact not only on ranchers but on property owners across America.
The Scarborough-Linebery Foundation goal is to keep western heritage
alive. It has supported numerous museum projects in Texas including
the West of the Pecos Museum in Pecos, Windmill Park in Lubbock,
and the Haley Library in Midland. Through 4-H foundations, they
also support scholarships for bright students in Texas and New
Mexico who plan a career in agriculture, as well as other education
grants. The Foundation also supports litigation to maintain private
property rights as determined by the U.S. Constitution.
The Paragon Foundation fulfills Lineberys dream of a fighting
arm, a legal sledgehammer. It funds private and public property
litigation that concerns not only ranchers, but Americans from
all lifestyles. The old man has a real passion for the property
rights fight. He gives rancher Bob Jones, Paragon president, a
sideways glance and says, Ive worked with Bob and the boys 30
years. They are the most efficient group that ever fought against
the BLM. I dont claim to be much, but I am a good judge of horses
and men. He looks at Bob again and chuckles, Hell, anybody that
dont trust Bob Jones should be drowned!
Linebery pauses and reflects: I remember meeting LBJ [Lyndon
Baines Johnson]; that man had a sorry countenance. You cant trust
a fat politician; they are too well fed. A fat person dont have
to care too much about the nation.
Tom and Evelyns involvement in the ranching industry has earned
them several awards. The one they seem proudest of is the Boss
of the Plains, presented by the National Ranching Heritage Center.
They were presented with a Stetson Ten-Gallon hat, like one made
famous by Tom Mix and Dan Blocker. Linebery reckons the hat wasnt
big enough. By the time the awards committee got through talking
about what we have done in ranching, my head swelled up so much
it wouldnt fit in the durn thing.
Linebery got his education in an unlikely manner. He was born
May 21, 1910, the sixth of nine children, on a Johnson grass farm
in Brown County, Texas. It was there, he says, I surely learned
how to work. During the Depression of 1929, the young farm boy
took the train west to Midland, the new oil capital of the Permian
Basin. There he found work operating the elevator in the new high
rise Petroleum Building. For the next four years he met, listened
to, and learned from the pioneers of the oil industry, knowledge
that was to be important later in his life. Linebery reminisces,
I reckon four years riding that elevator was better than a degree
from Harvard College. I was exposed to some of the finest business
minds in the United States.
In Midland he met and courted Evelyn Scarborough, the keen and
captivating daughter of rancher Bill Scarborough. Evelyn graduated
from Midland High School, attended college at Wayland in Plainview
and Simmons in Abilene. When Texas Tech opened its doors, she
transferred to Lubbock, where she received her bachelors degree
in the first graduating class. She and Tom were married on Nov.
2, 1933 at the Scarboroughs Big House in Midland. Linebery
left his job at the Petroleum Building and joined Evelyns father
at the ranch.
Bill Scarborough died unexpectedly in 1939 (My father-in-law
was on the range till he died, Linebery recalls) leaving the
young couple the 45,000-acre Frying Pan Ranch with a large debt
and a lengthy drought. It would have seemed hopeless to many,
but Tom and Evelyn worked shoulder to shoulder until retiring
the debt in 1950. Linebery remembers those were fatiguing, laborious
days. We both worked hard. Many times our day would end at 11
oclock at night and start again the next morning at one oclock.
We had to hold on to the Frying Pan and we did it by just working
hard and moving the cattle wherever there was grass.
Linebery credits his success on the ranch to Evelyn, She is the
best ranch woman in the country. We never would have succeeded
on the Frying Pan without her ranch knowledge, management skills,
and constant work. She knows more about the ranch business than
any woman Ive ever met and she was always willing to do anything
that needed to be done, whether it was saddle horses or help the
As their inherited debt dwindled, they began purchasing leased
land including BLM properties adjacent to the Frying Pan. It
was a question of buying or losing the chance to buy, Linebery
remembers. By the early 60s, Tom and Evelyn owned outright the
entire 135,000 acres of the present Frying Pan. He never forgot
his neighbors who had to depend upon federal grazing land and
has worked throughout his life to help them. He became politically
involved while working on a facilitating action to secure passage
of Section 8 of the Taylor Grazing Act, a crucial provision for
Oil was discovered on the Frying Pan in 1926, but mineral development
occurred in the late 1950s and early 60s. The Lineberys just
kept on ranching, although Tom admits that the surface damages
they received from oil companies helped through many a drought
year. Those lessons Linebery learned while shuttling oil magnates
in the Petroleum Building elevator became priceless. At almost
90 years of age he is still viewed as one of the toughest oil
and gas lease negotiators in Texas and New Mexico.
But tough is Lineberys nature. Droughts, predators, long hours
in the saddle in all kinds of weather, see-saw cattle prices,
the two-legged coyotes in the oil business and dealing with politicians
have made him that way.
He sure isnt happy with todays crop of politicians. He virtually
growls when he says, Congress is sorry as hell, just about all
are sold out. I believe that if every American in our country
sent a letter to them, they wouldnt change. We must quit listening
to the lies on TV and in newspapers and realize that a vote for
an incumbent is a vote for the status quo. I got something to
say to the readers of RANGE magazine. People and hard work, not
the government, are creators of our economy. If you fail to speak
out, fail to fight back, we are sure as hell going to lose this
war for our rights.
The evening sun is starting to cast long shadows across the Otero
Mesa. Linebery looks a little disappointed to be leaving the picnic.
He heaves out of his chair, steadies himself on his walking cane,
says his good-byes to his neighbors as he remarks, Well, the
sun is getting ready to set and I gotta be home by milking time.
For information on Paragon Foundation check <www.paragonpowerhouse.org> or call 505-434-8998.