daughter, Leighton, after TL, whose middle name was Leighton.
“The things that have happened in this town were things
he talked about and they happened. He was pretty smart.’’
after her mother
and TL came
out publicly in
in 1970, when
Robin was 13,
she had considered
father and called
him Dad. Her
her father, a
ranch hand at
Cow Creek. Her
youngest brother, Darren, also began calling TL Dad.
Not so for their middle brother, Donnie. “I called him The
Boss,’’ Donnie says of TL.
“I just kind of kept my mouth shut, kept my head down
and went to school,’’ he says. “He just didn’t really care for
me, I guess because of my dad.’’
His dad, Don Robertson, worked for King Ranch in Texas
after leaving Cow Creek and later for the Seminole Tribe in
Florida. Don blamed TL for breaking up his family, a position
Donnie shares as well.
Donnie sometimes lived with his dad in Okeechobee and
Texas and sometimes lived with his mother and TL at the
Orange Avenue compound. His siblings lived full time with
TL and their mom. Donnie says TL would rarely address him
directly, instead speaking through his mother.
He remembers going to Okeechobee one Saturday morning
to see friends and stopping in to say good-bye to his mother,
who was working in the corporate office.
“Tommy walked in, saw me and didn’t address me,’’ Donnie
recalls. “He asked my mom, ‘Why don’t you have Donnie
clean those leaves out of the pool before he goes?’ The pool
was wide open without a screen and had leaves in it all the
time. It was like he had to find something for me to do, and
he didn’t even address me to do it.’’
The friction continued for years. Donnie says that when he
was attending Texas A&M University, TL saw a friend of Donnie’s
and told him that Donnie was flunking out of school.
“I didn’t flunk anything, but that’s what he said about
me,’’ says Donnie, who has a cutting-edge business in Texas
conducting ultrasounds on cattle to determine potential
beef quality. “I didn’t understand some of the things he did
Brother Darren got along with TL and grew to admire him.
Darren says TL gave him a job at the grove and made sure
he didn’t receive special treatment. “Anytime I was out
there he made sure nobody would take it easy on me
because I was his son,’’ says Darren, logistics manager for
Guettler Brothers Construction in Fort Pierce. “I was there
to work. He would provide for you but he wouldn’t give
Darren recalls some of the sayings TL drilled into him:
Donnie Robertson was president of the Future Farmers
of America at Okeechobee High School in 1978.