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Monday, April 8
Fran Houser Adrian Midway Cafe
Tuesday, April 9
Peter Avila San Benito Conjunto Museum
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In Print: On News Stands Now


by Tumbleweed Smith

Tom Browning has spent most of his life in Athens. His daddy had the first dairy there.

“We milked thirty cows twice a day,” says Tom, “and sold the milk for ten cents a quart, delivered. He went out of business in 1942. When you milk thirty cows twice a day, it’s quite a job. We had a Delco light plant back in those days. We had a big boiler to wash the bottles. We did every bit of it: bottled it, delivered it and sold it for ten cents a quart.”

The delivery wagon was a popular sight around Athens.

“He had a Model T truck first, then graduated up to a Model A. We used that old Model A truck for years. It had the words BROWNING’S JERSEY DAIRY PHONE 152 painted on it. There weren’t very many telephones. Every time someone got one, they added that number to it, so we were 152.”

Tom grew up going hunting and fishing and it seemed only natural that he have a career as a game warden. He’s retired now and lives beside a private lake just outside of town. Every room of his house is like a museum with all kinds of Indian artifacts, pocketknives, animal skeletons and other memorabilia he collected during his years as a game warden. Each item is carefully displayed in large cases with glass tops. He enjoys showing the articles to visitors and telling bout his adventures.

Tom worked all over the state and knows about the flora and fauna of several parts of Texas. He has a keen woods sense and knows when to hunt or fish. He spends a lot of time doing both. Some of the trophies on his wall indicate his deep knowledge of the outdoors. Tom’s family loved practical jokes.

“I had an uncle that lived at Paducah, Texas and farmed several sections of land. This was back in about the mid-thirties, I think it was. He wrote my daddy a card and wanted him to send a three-foot alligator up to Paducah. Some people out of Dallas had built a big lake down here called Coon Creek Club and there’s alligators in it.

“My daddy got one of the guides down there to catch a three foot alligator. He crated it up and sent it to my uncle, Otis Browning, in Paducah, Texas. My uncle got it and put it in the back of his pickup, which had about three inches of dirt in it. He watered it down a little bit and pulled in at the local café. Within about fifteen minutes there must have been fifty people looking at that alligator in the back of his pickup.

“One of the gentlemen there was about 85 years old and had the reputation of always having the last word. If you told about something, he told something that would top it. He looked at that alligator and asked Otis where he got it. My uncle said he plowed it up. And man replied, ‘when I first come to this country we used to plow them things up coming and going.’ He wasn’t going to be outdone.”

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