Robin also blames some of TL’s financial problems on an
accountant’s advice on a tax deferment schedule. “When the
economy fell out, he couldn’t sell his properties. The taxes
compounded daily and it added up.’’
None of his investments earn enough money to cover expenses,
so in 1981 — five years after an injection of cash from
selling the home ranch — TL and Jo Ann sell the remaining
part of the ranch that had been turned into citrus groves.
The land is sold to Pennsylvania Groves for $2,675,000. The
company is owned by a partnership controlled by Bernard
Egan, whose Bernard Egan & Co. is the largest marketer and
shipper of Florida citrus.
The sale is the last piece of agricultural land that the family
owned and which at one time exceed 75,000 acres in the days
of Frank Raulerson.
It also means TL and Jo Ann had to cut ties with their most
loyal employees, Will’um and Curtis. Will’um had worked at
Cow Creek for Frank Raulerson going back to the late 1940s
and Curtis had worked there almost as long. They had married
sisters and were also best friends.
Several of the sons of Cow Creek current and former cowboys
had also worked at the grove for Curtis, including Deroy
Arnold, Curtis’ son; Buddy and Kent Mills, sons of Junior
Mills; and Stevie Arnold, son of former Cow Creek foreman
Aubrey Arnold. Diane’s sons, Donnie and Darren Robertson,
had also worked for Curtis.
Bernard Egan keeps Curtis on to manage the grove and
hires Will’um to work there as well.
EYE ON NORTH CAROLINA
With the sale of the grove, TL turns his sights to the North
Carolina farm. Tellico had been Jo Ann’s haven and had become
her full-time home after TL began living with Diane.
In their early years of owning the farm, they raised registered
The opening of the the Tellico Trout farm was featured on the front page of the
Franklin Press in 1987
Herefords, but it had been mostly a nonworking, nonincome
producing property. However, while recovering from
kidney cancer, TL comes up with the idea to create a trout
farm using the creek that ran through the property.
“What he wanted to do was supply processors with fish to
make food products,’’ Debra says.
The move requires the installation of expensive raceways,
a stepped system to house various sizes of trout. The work
takes several years but by the mid-1980s the Tellico Trout
Farm is established. Construction costs and improvements to
the farm total $1.3 million.
The opening of the new trout farm makes the front page of
the Franklin Press on July 3, 1987, and the newspaper quotes
TL as saying, “I had no idea when I bought this place that
someday I would built a trout farm here, but I wanted to put
the farm in a productive mode.’’
The article says TL designed the facility after visiting other
farms. The farm includes 4,000 feet of concrete raceway,
which is terraced into 60-foot and 80-foot holding ponds,
with water from Tellico Creek flowing through. The article
says the farm can produce 1,500 pounds of trout per day.
TL and Jo Ann Sloan’s grove property was purchased by a company controlled by Bernard Egan in 1981.