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Interview with Bill Cumbie in Burleson, Texas- February 28, 2020
Were you born in Midland?
Bill was born in Memphis, Texas. He moved to Midland when he was a small child and life began full speed ahead. His Dad owned a trucking company on Garden City Highway and farmed and ranched as long as he can remember. So cattle, cotton and oil were all familiar to he and Bill Countiss.
The book, “What’s in the Water in Midland, TX”, is important because Midland didn’t seem to be on the map until Wahoo McDaniel became famous. All of a sudden everyone started talking about Midland.
Wahoo’s dad, Hugh, had a welding company, and moved it to Midland. Bill Cumbie’s dad had a trucking company and used the welding company regularly. Hugh, AKA “Big Wahoo”, did a lot of work for the trucking company. Big Wahoo was an excellent welder. After this interview, we decided that Big Wahoo (Hugh) was more famous in West Texas than Little Wahoo. So, now everyone knows the real deal, and why the class of 1955 is needed in this book.
Bill Cumbie’s dad kept a truck after selling the truck company. He would take cotton bales to Sweetwater and they would mash them down and make them smaller. He also hauled cotton seed to Lubbock.
Bill had a brother named Joe who became a teacher in Eagle Pass. His brother graduated MHS in 1959, the same class as John McElligott’s brother, Tom. Joe went to and graduated Sul Ross State University with BS and Master degrees and started teaching biology as a teacher at the high school. Joe is married and he and his wife continue to live and enjoy retirement in Eagle Pass.
Childhood as remembered by Bill Cumbie:
As a child I grew up in Midland, and went to grade school at South Elementary and Davy Crockett. I don’t remember a lot, but remember friends such as Harvey Kennedy, Todd Southern, Bill Buskirk and Billy Godwin and Jimmy McClendon.
The first time he met Bill Countiss was in Junior High at Austin.He also met George McBride at Austin and they were pretty good friends.
I met John McElligott in the 7th grade at Austin Junior High School. We played football together. Once there was a scrimmage at Cowden. Doug Barker was the quarterback. I, along with John and several of other guys including Robert Samford, Harvey Kennedy, John Walker, Joe Berneathy and even little skinny Eddy Shirley, hammered Doug Barker.
Of note in our interview- John and Bill discuss Doug Barker:
We both remember Doug joined the Marines after high school. During his enlistment, he was in a fight and got beaten with a rifle butt and was seriously injured. John Barker was his brother and he recently died. Doug has passed on, as well. Older brother, Tracey, was in the Marines and threw John McElligott out a window after he came home from the Marine Corp on leave and was out with friends. John slid off the two story did a back flip and landed on his feet and ran all the way home to Terminal Texas. The problem was, John was not a fighter.
Midland High Youth Center:
(A funny memory shared by Bill Cumbie)The English Teacher Ms. Carter caught Jack Champion out of class in a tree. “Jack what are you doing in that tree? So quick thinking, he told her he was in Biology class and my teacher had me looking for exotic birds. The English teacher actually bought the story!
Drive In Movie:
(A memory shared by Bill Cumbie)
I had a 55 Chevy, and it wouldn’t start-dead battery. I went over to the concessions stand and everyone was gone. The Jones’ lived under the screen of the Texan Drive In Theater and John McElligott’s mother and Alice Fisher ran the ticket booth and concession stand. Eddie Arnold would sing on top of the concession stand when it was still out front. I went and knocked on the door and asked to use the phone and a woman said, “I’ll call the police” I said, “Good. Call the police, yeah that’s good.” Finally, she handed me the phone out the window and I called my Dad about 1 am in the morning, and I finally got home.
High School :
When I was in high school, my brother, Joe and I purchased 144 head of sheep for $7.00 apiece. My dad had to co-sign for the loan. I also bought 4 bucks, and I put them out in the pasture, but it was 33 miles from the house. My brother Joe and I talked my dad into co-signing the loan, but my dad didn’t know anything about raising sheep.
Eventually, I sold the lambs at $6 ahead and sheered the sheep and got $6.30 for the wool per sheep. My dad said he didn’t care if they went broke, the sheep were going and that was the end of the sheep.
Bill was the President of the FFA was also elected the Outstanding Citizen of Midland High School. I would like someone to verify this from the yearbook. Ok Bill I John McElligott swear that I read that you were elected The Out Standing Citizen in the 1963 CATOICO and in in my personal book of life you were elected by me “The Man”. I worked measuring cotton fields that summer and the next.
According to Kenneth Atchison, LHS 63, they did the measuring every summer. We all 3 knew where all the watermelon patches were, and as I told John “who gives a crap”. Well Bill, all of us guys that often wondered where you and Countiss disappeared to every summer now know.
Now, Kenneth Atchison did graduate from Texas Tech in 1968 (right on time) with a degree in measuring cotton (actually a B.S. from TT & M.S. Univ Arizona 1973, in Agricultural Engineering), and he finished his life in Abilene TX. at age 71. Kenneth made us MHS guys look dumb from what we have found. John tried to call Diane Atchison, but the phone was disconnected.
Bill Cumbie and John McElligott
Bill and John discussed why John went to summer school. John said it was to avoid senior English with Ms.Carter. She had such a horrible reputation of flunking everyone, but especially handsome boys like John and Bruce. John’s brother, Bruce, decided not to go to summer school, and he failed and did not graduate on time with John and Bill.
Bill said he did not see John much that summer except when Billy Pittman invited them to drink beer west of Midland on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Most of the time John hung out with Arvol Brown and Mike Murphy (RIP), and they all lived in Mike’s house for the summer. Bill was measuring cotton. Arvol, John and Mike worked as lifeguards and went to summer school at Alamo. Mr. Cummings taught the class. John said he took Mr. Cummings’ kids home from Hogan Pool just to get brownie points in order to pass senior English. Well, luckily John passed, and they both graduated. Graduation night they downed a few beers in Bill’s car with Barb and many other friends, most of whom they never saw again.
Bill Cumbie went to Texas A&M, and was in the Army Corp the summer he graduated from MHS. Bill majored in agriculture. Bill Countiss joined him at Texas A&M that fall. Rusty Jones was also a friend from the MHS FFA, and went to Texas Tech. He stayed the summer and fall semesters at Texas A&M and then transferred to Sul Ross in the spring. Once at Sul Ross, he attended one semester, then enrolled at Texas Tech.
Important to note, while home from Sul Ross, Bill and Barb got married. They moved to Lubbock when he enrolled at Texas Tech. In 1965 his son, Glen was born. Bill and Barb had been sweethearts since the 8th grade. They were together through all of junior high and high school. Barb would ride the bus to visit Bill while he was at Texas A&M and Sul Ross. They had wonderful love story.
Bill drove a delivery truck and installed glass until he turned 21 years old. He made $1.40 an hour and worked 40 hours a week. At 21, he could then work at Merchant Motor Freight.
Merchants Motor transferred Bill out to Fort Worth in 1980 where he built the house he still lives in. Bill his family had some pasture with cattle between Midland and Garden City. Even after he and Barb married and had a son (who by the way looks like a movie star), he maintained the land. He also raised quarter horses, and always had cattle.
Bill was the Operations Manager over many sites for 30+ years. Bill remembers when a maintenance team from the Dallas Terminal came to fix his motorized chains that moved the carts full of freight around the terminal. Guess who showed up? It was John McElligott and his welding crew! It was a Saturday morning and a very cold and snowy day. John remembers that Bill was stunned since they had not seen each other in several years. John was described as being in a hurry since he supervised Saturday’s Crew and they clocked in early and punched out late. However, they drank beer from noon till leaving time and John would go back to the Dallas Terminal and punch everyone out. John would hand out their checks since they were all, including John, at NTSU in Denton.
Merchant Motor Freight sold 2-3 times while he worked there. Finally, they wanted him to transfer to Denver but because of his folks and their health problems, he was not willing to transfer. He quit and ran an orchard business and took care of the horses and cattle that they owned. He did cow trading and Barb worked for an insurance company. She always worked in the insurance industry. When she wasn’t working, both were together, pretending they were ranchers. They loved their wonderful life.
Due to his parents failing health, Bill and Barb moved his parents to Burleson, just down the street from Bill & Barb’s house. It was just 4-5 houses down from his home and he saw them often. According to Bill, his dad passed away in 1992 and his mother passed away in 2000. Barb and Bill were the caregivers and decision makers, which kept his parents from being over treated and having unnecessary surgeries. Bill and John discussed that it was the right way to handle it, since “one must remember 90% of expenses on Medicare patients are in the last 30 days of life. And most of the care and surgeries do nothing to improve quality of life or saves lives”. After he retired from Merchants, he applied for a job with Johnson County after watching some guys doing road work out front of his house. He saw several of them leaning on shovels and watching one poor guy working and he told Barb, “That’s the job for me!” He applied and went to work for the county the next day. He told Barb he would work for the rest of that summer, and then stayed for 16 years.
Bill said he loved the job because his biggest decision each day was what he was going to eat for lunch. Then, after 16 years, he retired a second time.
Sadly, Barb passed away at the age of 72 from Alzheimer’s Disease.
Where is Bill Now?
Bill’s grandson was in the Navy and he lived with Bill for 3 years. He was on a sub and was in training school for Navy in CT. He is currently at UT-A and has an associate’s degree in Biology, Fine Arts and in now majoring in Biology. He just recently moved into an apartment with his sister.
Bill’s granddaughter is also close by and visits regularly. She is also in college and is in the banking industry in Fort Worth.
Bill is still in the same house in Burleson and enjoying a slower paced life.
His son, Glen, and his daughter-in law, Angela, live with Bill. Glen now works on a golf course as the Customer Service Manager. He previously worked for Sprint for 15 years.