The first time I saw Fred Gipson, about 30 years ago. He had just came back to Mason Texas from, I think, San Angelo, writing for a paper there. He was thin and pale. He told me he had stomach trouble. Probably ulcers from being confined in a fairly large town, Fred wasn't built for that kind of life and it got next to him.
He was born a country boy. He lived and thought country, and he died a country boy. He had a thick coat of country gold polish on him that could not be tarnished by city life.
Fred Gipson was many things to many people but there was one thing he was not, that was trying to pretend something that he was not. He was the same man where ever he was and whoever he was with. Take it or leave it.
The reason he could write so good about the things he wrote about, was the same reason the late and great Zane Grey could write so good about the things he wrote about. He lived that way, that was a part of him. To be with Fred sitting in front of his large fire place on the Llano river with a large hole of water you could see from his living room, through large glass doors and windows. He would take out a cigarette, lean back in his chair, and tell you some kind of story that happened to him when he was a boy on the farm. He must have been very fond of his papa for he mentioned him after one story was what he claimed, was the longest trips he ever took in his life. His papa bought horses to work the fields with and also sold horses to other people and this trip was with his papa. They went to Menard Texas to look at some horses. Menard is about 36 miles west of Mason and the San Saba river. They traveled in a wagon pulled by a team of horses. When they got to where they were going, there was a man who owned the horses. He had a boy working for him. He had on blue overalls, and a straw hat, Fred's papa told the man he wanted a team of horses he could work in the field and also ride them. The boy with the straw hat said, yes you can ride them. I will show you. He jumped on one of the horses. The horse pitched clear around the field, the boy then jumped off and said see there, you can ride them, papa said yes you can, if you are a good rider.
Another story papa had pretty black hair and mama got scared he might get bald because papa always wore a felt hat winter and summer. She went to town one day and came back with a straw hat she paid a quarter for. Papa came in for dinner. The midday dinner he always fed his mules in the wagon tieing one on one side of the wagon and the other on the other side. Mama had dinner ready that she had cooked on the wood stove. There was still coals of fire in the stove. Papa ate dinner, rested a little while, put the new straw hat on, went to the lot to harness the mules. The mules looked up saw papa with the straw hat on and went wild. One jumped over the wagon and the other one jumped over to the other side. Papa went back to the house, lifted the stove eye off, crammed the straw hat on the coals of fire, and burned up a half days work.
To be around Fred you could not help but seeing the home place. You could see the fields in the summer time. The heat waves dancing across the fields you could hear birds singing in the trees you could hear the cows bawling late in the evening coming home to be milked. You could see and hear the thunder storms giving across the farms satisfying the thirsty land. You could see the sun sinking in the west at evening you could hear the hoot owls hoot at mile. The frogs cocking at the mud tank. You could hear the hounds bawling on the trail of the coon you could hear their excitement when the coon went up the tree. You could see the sun rising in the east in the morning. The chickens flying from their roast in a larger Post Oak tree. You could see and hear nature in all it's glory.
Yes Fred had faults. But let the one without fault cast first stone. He also had many troubles in life, but since he never talked about them very much why should anyone else be so concerned. I remember one day I asked him why he didn't write a book. Titled- The Man Who dared to be Himself. He said that sounded like a good idea.
Fred never got around to writing that book on paper. Whether he knew it or not. He wrote it with his life. He is gone now. But the spirit of his kind of life still lives on a lot of farms in Mason County today.
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