By Gael Montana
– Wood Wench, Ret.
Contrarian and Tonsorial Artist
first day of spring brings to mind the clear, sweet sunny days on
the old Arrow-B Ranch between Waring
and Welfare, now known as ‘Southern Oaks’. I've tried to be respectful
and succinct, short & sweet... spent all day trying to make my sentences
work right but it was a waste of energy. There's nothing in this world
like missing the heart of the matter and that's the deal. The best
has passed. Those coming up must take some mighty huge steps to cover
My old friend, Bill Bacon, and I spent many a leisurely hour putting
around the old Arrow-B in his old Dodge truck with the ever-present
and most loyal pal, Oso, enjoying a beer, lots of stories and the
beauty of these old hills. Everyone who knew the General as a friend
can relate because so many of us were blessed to be among his extended
family. We were his tribe, I guess. No one was shunned; everyone who
knew him was lifted by that selfless familiarity & strength.
Eventually the inevitable housing developments began to surround their
ranch with no respect whatsoever for the history of the land they
felt compelled to dissect. Little by little folks began chipping the
land into shards, breaking Bill & Doris' heart and stealing their
peace. Bill laughingly wondered whether to install a shooting range
or a rendering plant along those fence lines, and I'm pretty sure
he was nearly serious. Considering the fact that he saved that very
ranch from greed and the threat of usury in the 40's, it's no wonder
he was revered as a local hero. Bill Bacon was a man of few words
when up against it, and he made it very clear, in no uncertain terms,
that the local bankers would not have the family land to liquidate
under any circumstances. No one argued with Bill about things of
import. He was above reproach when it came to justice, living by a
code of no-nonsense honor and seeing to it that those he dealt with
followed suit. I wish it were possible to relate the exact words he
used with that long-ago banker but they would 1.) not be politically
correct & 2.) I'd get my mouth washed out with lye soap by Doris in
my next life. No kidding.
years I sold cord wood that came from the diligent grooming of the
Arrow-B & carried it to folks from Fair Oaks to San
Antonio four or five times a week. Bill would have it cut & loaded
in a covered horse trailer and I'd pick it up and deliver it evenings
after work. He sold it to me at a reasonable rate and I was able
to turn it for enough to make the trip worthwhile, even though 1604
was referred to as 'death alley' in those days. It was never about
getting rich. Plus, I stayed in pretty darn good shape through those
years. Bill & Doris also had stacks of "Polo" brand velour 'casual'
suits, which we sold quite a few of at bargain prices, not to mention
the rabbit meat, but that's another story. There was always plenty
of good-natured wheeling and dealing going on down Baconville Road.
also had the finest Beefmaster herd in the country, and the biggest
damn bull I've ever seen. That bull would eat from your hand (if
you held it high enough) and was waiting for me each evening under
the tree where the trailer was parked...right next to the tub of cake.
He was gentle as a lamb and followed Bill around like a puppy, a mental
picture I'll take to my grave. They were so alike.
It puts me in mind of how truly big, strong men in the world, no matter
their physical stature, are not shaken by the small stuff or by differences
in people real or imagined. I've run into folks who have become so
impressed with their own marching orders they tend to walk all over
folks, or worse, just not take the time to bother with anyone who
slows them down on their path to power. Heck, I've encountered fellows
who won't shake my hand...I guess because I'm a woman, but who knows?
Maybe it's just because I'm a nuisance. General Bill C. Bacon was
not among that tedious number. As it turns out he was a loyal friend
to so many of us. I will miss him and that laugh of his from now on.
He taught me to abide.
I first began my journey into the web-building world, Bill said he
needed me to go ahead and build a good presence for the Hill Country
Veterans Council since there was precious little communication forthcoming
from Washington (DC) . He did not ask, he made it understood. That's
just how it was. We needed to save the Kerrville
VA Hospital, and we needed to get with it quick. At one point, San
Antonio had proposed a plan to the Kerrville City Council to utilize
the VA Hospital facility as a kind of 'half-way house' for three-time
losers who had trouble being rehabilitated. Bill had a heart-to-heart
with the powers that be, and, needless to say, that bad idea never
happened. He figured it to be an exceedingly bad deal for the surrounding
area to be over-run with the two-bit criminals (and worse) that SA
was hoping to jettison from Bexar County.
Bill took the time to meet & speak with Rep. Lamar Smith on several
occasions seeking support for the Kerr County Veterans Hospital, but
to no avail. At that point we all dove in and went to work putting
petitions everywhere they would let us, asking for support via signature
from the US Vets all over the country who understood the problem,
and oh-my-God did the Vets ever respond! We addressed representatives
from all over the US with hundreds of thousands of appeals to make
good the promise to those who served with all they had, unlike the
fancy oh-so-busy politicians who barely lifted a finger for the Vets.
Lamar's e-mail literally would not receive our appeals unless we sent
them one-by-one, making the entire project grind to a mind-numbing
pace. Of course they did offer up $1,500 plates of BarBQ with an eye
to raising campaign funds for the self-serving re-election business
they're forever wrapped up in. Bill pointed out that he didn't really
know any Veterans who could afford that kind of party, but perhaps
that outfit could serve up what was promised to them since the Vets
in question had laid their lives on the line so folks like Mr. Smith
could go to Washington in the first place. Unfortunately, the politicos
wouldn't up the dust for the hospital so the council went to the mat
on their own. Lamar was, as Bill pointed out to him personally, an
S.O.B., but allowed that he was OUR S.O.B. No matter how dysfunctional
a politician might turn out to be, Bill was a positive force in his
behalf in the end. He resisted, often with a great deal of effort,
cutting a man down at the knees.
At Bills customary 'request' his colleague and friend, General Walter
Schellhase, traveled to Washington DC to exercise his considerable
influence to invite Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Anthony Principi,
to have a look at what was at stake; namely the proposed closing of
our VA Hospital. Thanks to General Schellhase's diligence, Principi
came and made the connection. He was favorably moved by the dedication
of the Hill Country Vets grassroots operation. The late Bill Bowden,
his daughter, Bill's wife Helen and all of the the council et al,
were instrumental in orchestrating much of the detail. The rest is
history; the Kerrville Veterans Hospital remains in operation to this
honestly believe, despite the lack of hope in this world, that a few
people can change the course of history when strong, dedicated individuals
work together. We could learn a lot from those fellows, now, when
everyone seems angry and unhappy with everything coming down the pike.
Bill came through the rye knowing that war was not the answer, but
he made us think long & hard about the question.
Call your various 'Departments' what you will, America, the world
feels nowhere near as safe without Bill Bacon watching our backs.
Rest in peace, Old Top, it's never going to be the same without you.
The Hill Country Veterans are alive and well. Please visit them at
They represent the best of us, treat them with respect:
President - Walter Schellhase
Past President - the late Bill Bacon