in 1912 in Cumby, in Hopkins County, Green moved with his family to Weatherford
when he was a boy and attended school there. One of his grandfathers, David W.
Cole, patented Republic of Texas land in Cumby in 1841 and 1845 and founded the
town, first called Black Jack Grove. Ben apparently went from the crib to the
corral and he never stopped buying, selling, trading, breeding and doctoring horses.
At various time he claimed to have attended Texas A&M University, Cornell
University and the Royal College of Veterinary Medicine. At other times he denied
having ever attended any of those institutions. At any rate, the “D.V.M.” was
removed from his name after the first printing of “Horse Tradin’,” though he practiced
as a “horse doctor” in Fort
Stockton for many years and wrote a book about it.
Ben Green was in
his fifties when he started writing, or at least publishing, and he was in high
demand as a speaker as well as a writer. He might have been a big media star of
his day, but he got off to a bad start and never recovered.
worked by his own rules,” Greene wrote of Green. “One night he called and asked
about a contract he had with ‘KAY-nop’ (his version of the publisher’s name).
‘I’ve got a contract for 85,000 words,’ he said. ‘Does that include the Introduction?’
I said the exact figure didn’t matter. ‘Th’ hell it don’t,’ Ben said. ‘I ain’t
givin’ ‘em nothing they ain’t paid for.’ He cut 640 extra words from the Introduction.”
acknowledged that Green was vain and cantankerous, making up and leaving out a
whole lot from his stories when the details involved his own marriage, arrest
record, or false D.V.M. credentials. A.C. recognized in Green a certain humanity
that other writers missed and, as a mentor of sorts, he tried to keep Ben out
of trouble. But that was a hard proposition.
An ill-fated interview with
Barbara Walters is a good example. Walters interviewed Green about one of his
stories, the hilarious classic “The Last Trail Drive Through Downtown Dallas.”
In that interview, Green casually dropped the “n” word. Walters exploded and Ben
Green was never interviewed by another national TV network again, though his books
continued to sell well.
Late in his life, A.C. commented on the episode
to publishers of a special printing of “The Last Trail Drive Through Downtown
Dallas.” A.C. sympathized with Ben on the matter but only up to a point.
“He was cussing out Barbara Walters for being too thin-skinned (political correctness
hadn’t been invented) but I told him he should have known better,” A.C. said.
“He protested that he had never been a racist and had worked with Negroes all
his life, etc., but I still insisted. I wasn’t defending Barbara Walters, I was
simply saying Ben should have known better. I think the whole episode truly puzzled
Ben Green died from a heart attack in Kansas in 1974 when he was
63 years old. He had given the Cumby cemetery four acres for his burial plot because,
as he put it, “I don’t aim to get hemmed in when I die.” He stipulated that if
anybody were buried within 50 feet of him the land would revert to his heirs.
“We sure weren’t about to arouse Ben’s ghost,” the undertaker said, “so we sent
a surveyor out here to make sure of the distance.”
2, 2013 Column
"Letters from Central Texas"
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