spot for our 1967 Volkswagen camper van, badly maimed in
an auto crash but still usable for camping and which we left
at the grove when Tommy and Jo Ann sold it in 1981.
I ask Brant if he remembers a camper van or if there is one
still at the grove. No sign of a camper van, he tells us.
Then I ask if he remembers Curtis Arnold, who had overseen
Tommy’s grove operation, and his sidekick and brotherin
law Will’um Thomas. After my father’s death in 1990,
except for Jo Ann, we pretty much had lost contact with our
friends at Cow Creek.
Brant remembers Curtis well. Curtis had continued managing
A view today of the Egan grove, formerly the Cow Creek Ranch grove.
the grove after Egan purchased it and he and his wife,
Vee, had lived in a small house on the grove until Curtis’
retirement in 2008.
Then I mentioned Junior Mills, another cowboy at Cow
Creek. Brant said he knew Buddy Mills, Junior’s son. I hadn’t
seen Buddy since the main part of Cow Creek was sold in
1976. Brant gave me Buddy’s number, which would open
countless doors for me in reporting the story.
With the newfound leads from Brant, Phil and I drove
around the grove. The biggest difference I saw over the
half-century was that where Tommy kept vegetation off the
lanes around dikes and groves, Egan preferred the lanes less
manicured to create habitat for more wildlife. So many of the
once barren lanes are now shaded by oaks. We drive along
the western border of the grove, where mining for marl had
created a reservoir much bigger than I remembered it.
As we leave the grove, Phil helps me follow another lead.
We learned from Brant that the Larson Dairy family owned
the other side of the ranch. Phil knew Jacob Larson and called
him to see if we could come by that day. Jacob referred us to
Oak-draped lanes that once were barren in the Cow Creek days create
habitat for wildlife.
his brother, Travis. We were unsuccessful at reaching Travis,
so we called it a day and headed to lunch.
BACK WITH BUDDY
A few days later I called Buddy Mills. Buddy had followed
in his dad’s footsteps and always kept his cowboy roots close
to him, working as a day cowboy in his early years and still
raising his own herd today.
I caught him on a Saturday morning just about as he was
going to give a presentation at a folk festival. Did he remem- >>