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Marie Killebrew

INTERVIEWEE: Marie Killebrew (MK)
INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT) and David Weisman (DW)
DATE: October 7, 2002
LOCATION: Canadian, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Melanie Smith and Robin Johnson
REEL: 2223

Please note that the recording includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Numbers indicate time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera conversation or background noise, unrelated to the interview.

DT: My name is David Todd. I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas. It’s October 7th, year 2002, and we’re in Canadian, Texas at the home of Mrs. Killebrew, Mary Killebrew, and we’re going to be visiting with her about the ranching business which she has been in, with her husband, for many years and also about her recent efforts to try and protect some of the groundwater resources in the area that they’ve relied on, both at the ranch and in the community here. So I wanted to take this chance to thank her for spending time with us and explaining what she’s been up to.
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MK: You’re welcome.
DT: Mrs. Killebrew, I was hoping we might be able to start by talking about your childhood, and if there were any experiences when you were growing up that first introduced you to a familiarity and a love of the outdoors?
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MK: Well, as I have stated in my written article, my father was a farmer and we have always lived in the country. And we started out down at Bowie, Texas which is where I was born. And we came to Perryton, in two covered wagons, and one of the teams was
balky and we spent the night at a little white schoolhouse on the way. And my dad said we’d get away before the teacher arrived the next morning. He did, but we didn’t, we had the balky team. The teacher came and made us get down and clean up everything off of that school ground before we left. So we finally made it to Perryton. And then we lived in Perryton for a while, and then we moved out to Ochiltree, which is south of Perryton. And we had to walk three to five miles to school, which I spent my first year there. And then from there, we moved to Borger, and then, Darrouzett, and then, ended up
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in Dalhart, north of Dalhart. And we were there in the early 30’s, and there was a terrible dust storm came up one time and you couldn’t hardly see your hand before you. And we had to use wet washcloths to even breathe. So that was my first experience, but really the cleanup of the schoolyard was my first experience of conservation. And I never will forget that. And then the sandstorm was my next. And I feel like that if people don’t wake up and start conserving water, the whole country’s going to be a sand—a dustbowl. So.
DT: Could you tell us a little bit about how you think these dust storms came about?
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MK: Well, this one, I understood, blew in from north of us. You could see it rolling in and then when it hit—I guess, back in those days, they were dry everywhere, which is what we have been the last few years. And I understand that a lot of people are short of water and if they don’t wake up and start conserving water instead of wasting it, that we’re going to be sorry someday. I probably won’t see it, but I think the future generations will.
DT: Well, did the dust come about in areas that had been farmed or grazed or some of both?
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MK: I’m not sure where it came from but it was really dark.
DT: Were the clouds quite high in the sky?
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MK: Yes, yes they were.
DT: And what color were they?
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MK: It was nearly black. It was dark brown.
DT: Could you see the sun through it?
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MK: No. You couldn’t see anything. When that hit, you could not see, as I said, your hand in front of your face.
DT: And would it last for hours or days?
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MK: That one did. That’s the worst one that I’ve ever been in. But, there were—had several smaller ones out there after that. But, that was the worst one.
DT: You mentioned that your father was in the farming business and I guess you and your siblings helped out. Can you give us a little image of what it was like to be in the farming business? You were farming cotton, I suppose?
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MK: No, we—maize and high gear, mostly. And we, come harvest time, we kids cut the maize by hand and put it in the wagon, was pulled by a team. And then, we used teams to plow the ground up with. We had a team of mules and a team of horses and you know, mules won’t do anything to get hurt, but horses go wild. And one time my sisters and I was working in the field and one of the horses got excited and run by the team of mules. And they took off and ran back to the house and the horses went through a fence. But the—the mules went back to the house and just stopped. So they were a little smarter than the horses were.
DT: Was it a pretty diversified farm that you grew up on, in these various locations from Perryton to Dalhart?
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MK: Well, that’s what we mainly planted all the time was the maize and high gear. And then we cut the stalks and then shucked it, you know, too. So.
DT: Did you have a garden as well?
MK: Yes.
DT: A vegetable garden?
MK: Yes, we had a vegetable garden.
DT: What would you grow in it?
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MK: Just anything that would grow, really. We went to town once a week for main staples but then the rest of it, we tried to grow ourselves. And we had chickens and milk cows, so.
DT: Were you pretty self-sufficient? I mean, how much stuff would you have to buy in the store?
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MK: Oh, like flour and sugar and things like that. But most—mostly we raised a lot of it.
DT: Now maybe you can bring me to the next stage of your life. You married your husband in your late teens, is that right?
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MK: Yes.
DT: And got into the ranching business with him? Maybe you can explain more about that.
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MK: Well, it was still pretty hard times, at that time. And since we lived about 25 miles, or 28 miles, northwest of Canadian, we had to come in here to buy our supplies. And we’d come to town once a week or once every two weeks and get our supplies. And then we didn’t—we didn’t have any indoor plumbing, or any electricity, so we’d buy a 300-pound cake of ice and wrap it up in blankets and tarps and take it back out there. And when it was gone, we did without. But, we canned, or I canned a lot of—we raised 00:10:07 – 2223
chickens and hogs. And I canned chicken and sugar cured the hams and made the sausage and made—made lye soap and canned some beef and we had friends that would come out to see us. We didn’t have any telephone, no mail service up there, so they’d come out unexpectedly on Sundays, expecting to eat lunch. And they’d go out and catch a fryer and kill it and dress it and we’d eat it. So.
DW: I have a question. Sorry, but it just sounds like—it all sounds like so much hard work. What did you do for fun out here? You must’ve had something that you’ve done and you can (inaudible).
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MK: We—well, we really—we worked from daylight till dark every day. And on Sundays, we kind of laxed off, and then we’d play—the only recreation we had was playing cards with the neighbors. And we didn’t do that too often because we didn’t have any transportation except horseback.
DW: When—I notice that there’s a Palace movie theater here in Canadian. Was it a big trip to come into town to see the picture show?
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MK: We didn’t even have the money to go to a picture show when we came to town. We sit on the street and watch the people go by. So.
DT: Can you describe your place that you share with your husband?
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MK: We live—the house that we lived in was, well, it had three rooms in it; kitchen, bedroom and a kind of a living room to start out with. And our first furniture was a round oak table that the pedestal was wired together with baling wire, two cane-bottomed chairs, an old oak stove, wood stove, and an iron bedstead, and I made my cabinets and dressing table out of orange crates and apple boxes. And then, later on, I—this—a surveyor came through and they left some dynamite boxes, so I made a washstand out of 00:12:53
dynamite boxes. I was real proud of that. I made—I had a hammer and a saw and that’s all I had. But I made three drawers on one side and a door on the other. And I painted it green and put a piece of linoleum on top, so I was really thrilled with that.
DT: And this house is on the ranch, is that right?
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MK: Yes, it’s been moved, then to another—to—up to the home place. At one time, it was about 5 miles from the home place. But there is a log cabin up—or log house up there that Walter’s mother was born in. And it was added on to and then they put stucco on it, so you can’t really tell that it’s log. But—and they held elections up there for fifty years at that h—place.
DT: Now was there originally a dugout on this place as well?
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MK: No, not particularly. When Walter’s grandfather came up here from Wise County, he lived in a dugout north of Miami, a little ways. And he served as commissioner and county clerk at one time. And then he moved up to the ranch and built this log cabin. And that’s where it all started.
DT: Mrs. Killebrew, I was wondering if you could discuss the ranch that you and your husband operate and the size and the shape and the terrain that makes it up?
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MK: Well, right now, we have 11 and ¾ sections. But at one time it was 17 sections, and then when Walter’s mothers passed away, it was divided up in thirds. And Walter’s brother passed away, so we bought his part. And it’s kind of hilly. Some of it’s flat, but the most part has got quite a few hills on it. But it is down on the river, well, part of it’s on the river. And then it goes back up into the hills. It’s kind of rough in spots. In fact, you have kind of a hard time getting up in some of the pastures.
DT: And so it runs from the Canadian River up to the Caprock?
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MK: Yes.
DT: Is that right? And then you have some meadows?
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MK: Well, those meadows are down on the river.
DT: On the river?
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MK: And we have three sub-irrigated ponds that was dug and they have been lower this year than they have ever been since I’ve been associated with the ranch. But—and I feel like, that—if they start draining that water out, it’s going to take a lot of it. We won’t have that.
DT: Well, speaking of water, what does the river look like along your ranch? How has it changed?
00:16:30 – 2223
MK: It’s—well, when I first went up there, the river was about a mile wide. And when it rained back to the west of us, it would come down full and at one time, it was up to this bridge out here, across the river by Canadian, to the bottom of that bridge. And now, it’s about, in places, about six feet wide. The stream is. So, that’s after they built Lake Meredith Dam.
DT: You get some water, as well, from groundwater here?
00:17:10 – 2223
MK: Well, if we get a lot of moist—a lot of rain, it drains off from up above us, you know, and drains off into the meadows and the river. In fact, I think it was in July of this year, when we branded; I take food up there to them when they brand. And it started raining real hard when I got up there and it rained all afternoon. And as I was coming back in, the cow trails was running like creeks and the road was running—running like a river. So that’s the most I’ve seen water that way in a long time.
DT: I guess most of the water in the Canadian is caught in Lake Meredith, is that right?
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MK: Most of it is, but there is some drain off from Lake Meredith down this way, but not like it used to be.
DT: Was there much controversy when the dam at Lake Meredith was built and the water was retained there?
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MK: I don’t think so. There was a lot of recreational people that wanted the lake. And then, too, Amarillo gets their water from there. And now they’re wanting our water to add to that to make it better water. We’ve got some of the best water in the country.
DT: Did any of the ranchers in this area have water rights that they had to sell or give up to the Canadian River Water when Lake Meredith was built?
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MK: Not when Lake Meredith was built, no. Not in this area. But, some of them have since then. But we don’t want to sell our water rights.
DT: Maybe you can go back a little bit and just talk about the operation that you’ve got out on your ranch and the amount of water that you need there. You have a cow-calf operation, is that right?
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MK: Yes, that’s right. And we have windmills and a few electric submersible pumps. And we built some dams and some terraces to take, you know, take care of the overflow. So, we try to conserve water, but it takes, well, it takes quite a bit of water for cattle to drink. And we don’t—try not to waste it.
DT: Maybe you can give me an example of how much water a cow might need, or that you might need for irrigating your meadows?
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MK: We don’t irrigate the meadows. The water rises up from underneath in the meadows, in the wintertime, used to. But the last couple of winters, it hasn’t risen up in there very far. Very much.
DT: Is that what you mean by sub irrigation?
00:20:42 – 2223
MK: I’m not sure. It—it might come from a—a spring underneath the ground or just—just how it works. But it does rise up in the meadow in the winter, and then in the summer it goes back down.
DT: And you cut hay down there?
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MK: Yes.
DT: Can you tell about the early days of cutting hay and baling it?
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MK: Well, we started out with just stacking it loose. We’d cut it and had horses draw a stacker, you know, and just stack it loose. And then, we went to a—a baler that was horse-drawn. And then we went from—to one that was pulled by the tractor. And now, they can do it all in one swipe. But Walter’s mother—Walter would feed the hay into the hopper and his mother would backwire and I would tie. And we did that every year till after they got these that make their own bales and ties their own bales, what, we lost our jobs.
DT: It’s interesting to me to see how ranching has changed from, say, the time before World War II or before the 50’s, say, and how it is now. Can you compare what it was like to be in the cattle business in those prior years and the more recent years?
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MK: Well, in the original years, the cow and calf operator, they would sell their calves to local people and they wouldn’t draw up a contract or anything. Their word was as good as a bond. And now, these feeders’ lots, they go off and buy these cattle from old Mexico, back in several different places and they bring in, to me, they bring in more diseases than what really—we really need here. But we have to ship ours to the—when we sell some, have to ship them to the stockyards to sell them.
DT: Was there a time, say before World War II, where you sold your cattle immediately for slaughter, or did they always go to a feedlot?
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MK: They—people that bought them, they put them on wheat and then they would sell them to—on the market. Back then, I don’t think they had too many feedlots.
DT: Can you tell what you recall about how these feedlots got started and the whole idea of feeding corn to cows?
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MK: Well, me not being involved in it, I don’t really know that much about it. I just know that somebody, you know, started the feedlots and, I guess, made a profit off of it.
DT: About what time was that that you first saw feedlots built in this part of Texas?
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MK: Oh, I can’t recall, but it’s just been in the last, oh, I think, maybe 15 years, probably. Time gets away from me, so.
DT: And you’re primarily a cow-calf operation. Do you ever do any stockers or buying and selling?
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MK: No. No, we just sell our calves and we get attached to them and some of the cows, we keep them till they’re so old. But at one time we had Hereford cattle. And Walter—we dehorned, and Walter got to where he didn’t think he wanted to dehorn anymore. So then, what does he do, he goes into the Longhorn business. And so now, he’s about got rid of all of the Longhorns, except he’s got a few head, and he’s got three trophy steers, he calls them. And they’re horns are pretty big. But we got rid of the—most of the Longhorns and have gone back to Black Angus.
DT: You’re talking about Walter’s work and dehorning. Can you talk about any of the other kind of handling he has to do? Does he use parasiticides? Is there any worming that he had to do?
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MK: We never did have much sickness in our herds, but we vaccinate them when we brand them every year. And I can remember one time, as I—during the war, he and I took care of that place by ourselves and we fed horseback all the time. And we were branding some one day and big steers—and I was putting them in the chute and he was branding and they kept kicking me on the shins. And he told me, said, well, if you get up close enough to them, they wouldn’t kick you. And I said, well, they kick me before I get there. So, we had a little discussion about that.
DT: Do you have any other memories about working cattle, either for branding them or for gathering them for sale?
00:27:05 – 2223
MK: Well, and yes, at one time we had to take ours to the neighbors to load them out, to go to the sale and we had an elderly man from town here that came out and helped Walter and I. And we were—started out from the headquarters, horseback, and we took a sandwich and an apple with us. And it took us nearly all day to get them down close to where we were going to load them out. Well, we got almost there and there was one steer in the bunch, or one heifer, I’ll take that back, we were shipping steers. And there was 00:27:50 – 2223
one heifer and she was on my side of the herd and he wanted—told me to cut her back. So I did and started up a hill with her, and my horse stuck both—both—he landed with both feet—front feet in a hole and just threw me out over the top of him. And I knocked the breath out of me—I just knew he was going to land on top of me. But they came up there to see me and this elderly man said, well, she—she’s all right because the first thing she did was to reach and see if she still had her apple. I’d kept my apple, but.
DT: He knew you were safe.
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MK: But, anyway. We finally—finally got them to the pens.
DT: In those days, you did a lot of your cattle work on horseback.
00:28:42 – 2223
MK: Right. Hmm-mmm.
DT: Did you ever use helicopters?
00:28:47 – 2223
MK: I don’t know if they even made helicopters then or not. That’s been about sixty years ago.
DT: When did you start using trucks and so on?
00:29:05 – 2223
MK: It was after World War II because Fred came home from the war and he bought a truck. And they had leased some land up in Kansas and he took some cattle up there for that because we were short of grass down here. So.
DT: Did you ever end up buying a tractor or equipment like that or would you hire out?
00:29:38 – 2223
MK: We bought…
DT: Cutting and baling?
00:29:41 – 2223
MK: We bought a tractor and I can’t remember just what year we bought it in. I guess it was when we—well, we bought it when we were pulling that baler with a tractor. It’s when we got it.
DT: Where I’m going with this, I’m sort of curious when you found that the ranch was needing more machinery, equipment, fuel, things that you had to buy from off the place and you’ve heard that and so on.
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MK: Well, I think it was probably in the—in the 40’s that we bought the first tractor. But, that’s my best recollection of it.
DT: And was it about that time, or a little bit earlier, that some of these oil and gas fields started to be developed in your area?
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MK: It was a little after that that they started. They started leasing after that.
DT: And was this a gas field or an oil field in your…?
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MK: Mostly gas. They have a few oil wells around, but it’s mostly gas.
DT: Did they drill on your place or did they just lease nearby?
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MK: Yes. Yes.
DT: Can you tell what that’s like, to see them come in and prospect and then drill?
00:31:08 – 2223
MK: Well, sometimes they get a dry hole and when they make their location, they tear up quite a bit of country and it never gets back to where—what—the way it was. They plant grass on it but it never does do very good. So.
DT: And is there a waste pit associated with it, with the storing and drilling the land?
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MK: Yes. Yes. Right. Hmm-mmm.
DT: Do they cover those?
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MK: I think they’ve got regulations now to where they have to line those slush pits with plastic, heavied plastic, and then they take that out, or when it dries up, they fill it with dirt. So.
DT: Most of the people who are your neighbors, and yourselves, are they mostly in the cattle business nowadays, or are they in the oil and gas business or do they lease out for hunting? How do they make a living out there?
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MK: Well, they mainly make it off of cattle, but the gas, you know—as you know, the price goes up and down and sometimes you get a pretty good check and other times you don’t. And then they’ve—some of the wells have gone dry so they plug those.
DT: Are many of your neighbors absentee landowners?
00:32:40 – 2223
MK: Yes, there’s a ranch that—which belongs—that joins us on the east, some people from Kansas bought it, and—but they hire someone to take care of it. And then, Mr. Corson, that joins us on the west, he has someone working up there. And Mr. Pickens, that’s on the south side of the river, I think he use—uses his mainly for hunting purposes.
DT: Has it gotten difficult for people to stay on the land? Is it difficult to make a living here?
00:33:23 – 2223
MK: No, not if they manage it right, they can make a pretty good living.
DT: Well, do you find that most of the kids who grow up in this area go to school and 4-H and FFA and so on. If they’re inclined that way, can they manage to stay here or do they have to go to the city?
00:33:43 – 2223
MK: Some of them come back and stay and take over the family business. And then some of them, they would rather do other things. So.
DT: Well, do you find that people can still pay the note on land by running cattle?
00:34:02 – 2223
MK: Yes, I think so.
DT: Well, maybe you can talk a little bit about some of the new folks that have moved in, I think you mentioned T. Boone Pickens and some of his other neighbors. What originally drew them to this part of the state, do you think?
00:34:24 – 2223
MK: Well, they both have been involved in oil and gas business and I understand Mr. Corson also has some land up between here and Perryton. And then he bought the place that joins us on the west. So.
DT: Are these tracts originally bought because of the mineral rights underneath them?
00:34:42 – 2223
MK: Probably.
DT: Well, do you get the sense that their major interest in these lands is to make money off of them rather than…
00:35:05 – 2223
MK: Yes. Yes.
DT: To live there? I understand that after they’ve developed some of these mineral fields, they’ve more recently been developing some groundwater. Is that right?
00:35:20 – 2223
MK: Yes.
DT: How did you first learn about that?
00:35:24 – 2223
MK: Well, it—one of them was pretty well put into place for—in fact, two of them was before we ever knew what was going on. Salem Abraham, he sold his water to Amarillo and the first meeting I went to in White Deer, to the groundwater meeting, he was there and he spoke up and stated that, well, he was sorry but he had to sell his water rights because his neighbors was selling them. And a few days later someone brought me an article from the Wall Street Journal and he had bought up the water rights, most of them, and had sold them to Amarillo for over twenty million dollars.
DT: Now was Amarillo drilling its own wells before then and outside of the city limits of Amarillo?
00:36:33 – 2223
MK: I’m not sure just where they drilled them at up there but they were using wells up there to get their water from.
DT: And so Amarillo is spreading its well fields farther out from the city limits, is that right?
00:36:53 – 2223
MK: I understand that—I don’t know just how far out of the city limits they service their water, but then they are taking water from Lake Meredith now and they want to mix Salem’s water with that Lake Meredith water.
DT: How much water did they buy from Mr. Abraham?
00:37:25 – 2223
MK: I’m not sure, there’s several acres that they bought. And then Boone Pickens owns quite a few acres himself and then he drew up a—kind of like an oil and gas lease to where he paid him so much an acre to begin with and then when he started delivering the water, he would give them the rest of—the balance of it. Which, I don’t know, he may not get his water sold, and to me, those people are tied up for life now.
DT: And did their leases say if they’ve sold all of their water, or half of their water, or a certain flow rate or what?
00:38:15 – 2223
MK: Well, they’re only supposed to take a certain percent of the water but who’s to regulate that. You know, you can’t stay on top of it all the time. And, I don’t know.
DT: How many acres are involved here? How many acres of water rights have been sold?
00:38:38 – 2223
MK: Oh, there’s—I don’t know the exact number, but there’s an awful lot. But I do know of one woman that sold her water rights, lives over close to Pampa. Well, her rights—water rights are all gone now and she doesn’t have any money left. So where is she?
DT: How much are they paid for these water rights, for a gallon or an acre-foot of water, do you know?
00:39:08- 2223
MK: Oh, 275 and 375 an acre.
DT: And why do you think they feel compelled to do this, to sell their water rights?
00:39:20 – 2223
MK: Make money. Greed. So.
DT: Do they feel like they’ll always be enough water for them to continue living there, or do they expect to leave, move to the city or something?
00:39:39 – 2223
MK: They say that the aquifer will not be drained for several years, till, I’m thinking, 2058 or something like that. There won’t be any significant change in it.
DT: Do you think the water level is dropping now, or that it will drop in the future?
00:40:03 – 2223
MK: I think it’s dropping now and if we don’t get more rain, it’ll drop further. It takes that aquifer quite a while to rebuild itself. And I understand it covers five states and the saturated thickness to the west is a lot thicker than it is down to the east. So, I don’t know. But I was talking to a fellow the other day, and we was talking about that and he said, well, the reason is they’re drained it out from under there. It’s making it thick—thinner in places.
DT: Well, how do they get the water from here to Amarillo or, I understand that T. Boone Pickens was trying to sell it to San Antonio, is that right? That’s far away.
00:40:58 – 2223
MK: They have—they have to pipe it down there and that would be quite expensive in my estimation. And to me, those people down there should be thinking about the future and should’ve been thinking about it a long time ago, building reservoirs and dams and things like that. Because they get more water, on the average, than what we do up here.
DT: And who would pay for getting the water from here to there?
00:41:24 – 2223
MK: I—I’m not sure about that but I understand that he would file for a grant to build that line down there and you know who would pay for that grant.
DT: Who?
00:41:35 – 2223
MK: We all will. The taxpayers. So. But the CRMWA is already built a line and I have not seen it, but someone told me that—that a man could stand up in that pipeline.
DT: CRMWA is a…?
00:42:04 – 2223
MK: Canadian River Municipal Water Authority.
DT: I see. And where does this pipeline go from and to?
00:42:12- 2223
MK: Well, it goes from Roberts County down through Hutchinson County and down in there.
DT: Going towards a municipal buyer?
00:42:22 – 2223
MK: I guess. I’m not sure exactly where it goes to.
DT: But is that the general trend is that they’re shifting water from agricultural lands and rural communities to urban municipal use?
00:42:38 – 2223
MK: Yes. Hmm-mmm.
DT: What do you think about the ramifications of that? What is it going to do to little towns and ranching communities?
00:42:46 – 2223
MK: Well, we now have—I think it’s going to hurt them badly because over in Lipscomb County, Brahms have five of those irrigation systems up there. And when they turn those on, the people around Shaddock, Oklahoma can’t get any water out of their wells. So I think that’s what going to happen.
DT: So you think that the aquifer doesn’t really respect boundary lines.
00:43:18 – 2223
MK: No.
DT: It doesn’t know where Texas ends and Oklahoma starts.
00:43:22 – 2223
MK: No.
DT: Have you had any discussions with your neighbors about where they might locate wells and how it will affect your water in your place?
00:43:32 – 2223
MK: Well, we objected to their permits and argued with them about—they’re supposed to put two high-impact wells to the section is what they’re supposed to put. And they’re not supposed to be—drill on—within a mile of your—or a half a mile of your property line. And we tried to get them to extend it a mile, but they would not do it. But, of course, their well will be half a mile from our property line and our well that’s close to theirs, it’s maybe not quite a half a mile from it.
DT: You mentioned that the well that they’re planning on building is a high-impact well. Can you give a picture of the amount of flow that would come out of a high-impact well versus a windmill or submersible pump that you might have for your cattle?
00:44:37 – 2223
MK: Well, I—I don’t know the exact measurements of it, but if they put a stronger pump on there than what you’d use in an average well, they’re going to pump it out of there pretty fast.
DT: Well, is the casing on one of these high-impact wells, is it six-inches across, is it really big?
00:44:59 – 2223
MK: I am not sure. I don’t think that was discussed.
DT: Well, maybe you can give us a picture of some of the discussions that you’ve had trying to challenge some of these people’s plans to drill these wells. How did that go about?
00:45:20 – 2223
MK: Well, we hired Mary Saws out of Austin to act on our behalf. And she got a geologist and another fellow to come up and—now I don’t think they ever came up here, but they studied the maps that they had and to decide how much damage it would do to us. But we didn’t get anywhere.
DT: Did these geologists calculate that there would be some effect on groundwater underneath your tracts?
00:46:08 – 2223
MK: They didn’t think it would affect it too much. But I don’t think they thought it out well enough because—you know, if every—if all the states are not getting the rain they use to get, why wouldn’t that impact the aquifers?
DT: You say that this part of the state isn’t getting the kind of rain it used to get, do you see a long term drying trend from when you first arrived here?
00:46:43 – 2223
MK: Hmm-mmm.
DT: Maybe you can compare, what kind of rainfall did you used to get and what do you get now?
00:46:51 – 2223
MK: Well, I don’t know that we even had a rain gauge to measure it back then, we just guessed at it. But our creeks used to run and wash out. And they don’t do that anymore.
DT: Do you think it’s part of global warming or what is the problem?
00:47:13 – 2223
MK: Of course, everybody starts talking about that global warming, but I don’t know that that’s the full cause of it.
DT: Then I guess basically, you found that there just isn’t as much surface water as there used to be and you’re concerned about the groundwater that remains?
00:47:33 – 2223
MK: Right. Right.
DT: Do you think that the Groundwater Conservation District up here is sympathetic to your concerns?
00:47:40 – 2223
MK: Well, to a certain point, but they’re kind of in a bind, I guess you’d say because they got sued because they didn’t want to give the permits to all of them.
DT: Well, tell about that.
00:47:59 – 2223
MK: Well, there were several different people that were filing for permits and their ruling was that they had to have a place to take the water before they could get a permit, which Salem did. He had Amarillo that would take his, but Boone Pickens can’t find anyone to take his and they refused him a permit. So, consequently, they sued the water district and they finally, kind of, gave in a little bit and gave him five years to find
some place to take this water—to sell the water to. And if he didn’t come up with it in five years, he’d have to come back and apply for another permit. And then they’d give him five more years to be—to deliver the water. So anyway.
DT: So the conservation district is trying to keep you from speculating on water, just banking it and not having anybody to sell it to?
00:49:13 – 2223
MK: Yes. Hmm-mmm.
DT: What about the Water Development Board or any of the other state agencies? Do they have much to say in this water export scheme?
00:49:27 – 2223
MK: I think the state agency kind of regulates the water boards in what they can do. But I just don’t think they’ve found out all the information they need yet.
DT: Is there a Canadian River authority that is concerned about spring flows or anything like that?
00:49:55 – 2223
MK: The Canadian River Municipal Water Authority?
DT: Is that what it’s called?
00:49:59 – 2223
MK: I haven’t visited with them too much, but they have already got in place their pipeline to deliver water.
DT: And so the Authority is delivering water to which…?
00:50:16 – 2223
MK: I’m not sure just which—they’re—Lubbock, I think, is where they’re going with it.
DT: So it sounds like there’s a lot of water that’s basically coming from this area and going out. Is there any water coming in from other areas?
00:50:33 – 2223
MK: Not that I know of.
DT: I’d understood that some of these exporters had to show that they would not hurt the prospects of the watershed that they were exporting from. Is that not being done?
00:50:50 – 2223
MK: Well, they’re trying to regulate it and see that it won’t be done but, again, I say, that as many as there is taken out of it and we’re not getting much put back in it, that I don’t think it’s going to last fifty years. But as they said, at one of the meetings, we probably won’t be around to see it, but they’re not thinking about the future generations.
DT: What do you think will happen in the future? What will exporting this water mean to your ranchland or to the city of Canadian?
00:51:35 – 2223
MK: Well, it’s going to lower the value of the land if you don’t have the water there. Because what good is land without water?
DT: I noticed that you had served as the vice-president of the bank.
00:51:51 – 2223
MK: Yes.
DT: Can you talk a little bit about what that might mean to the loans that some ranches have outstanding or might want to get?
00:52:03 – 2223
MK: I think it would go against them getting a loan.
DT: Is that part of the collateral that they are essentially posting?
00:52:11 – 2223
MK: Well, that—I don’t think they look at that as a collateral, but that would—that would tie in to what would have there, you know, have them better crops or better cattle or whatever they raise. That would tie into it. I would think.
DT: Are these water lease rights that are being sold, are they staying in the community, or is the money mostly going out to Amarillo?
00:52:44 – 2223
MK: I think the money’s mostly going out.
DT: It seems like a lot of this problem hinges on the rule of capture. Can you talk a little bit about that?
00:53:04 – 2223
MK: Well, to me, I think it’s wrong because, to me, the water under you belongs to you. And for them to fix a rule of capture to come in and take just whatever they want. If this works, what are they going to try next?
DT: So you’re saying that some of these folks are kind of exploiting the rule of capture, they’re capturing water that’s really underneath their neighbor’s land.
00:53:34 – 2223
MK: Right. Because that aquifer doesn’t have any boundaries, it—it covers all lands.
DT: Well, are there different kind of groundwater regimes in Oklahoma or Colorado that you think make more sense?
00:53:51 – 2223
MK: I haven’t studied that part yet, but I know Colorado, I understood, sold their water rights several years ago to Cali—some guy from California bought them. And Oklahoma, they was going to sell their water to San Antonio and the Indians over there throwed such a fit that they didn’t do it.
DT: Well, do you have some other people here that you’re working with who have similarly throwed a fit about this?
00:54:26 – 2223
MK: Well, there was a few that started out and then they just quit. They didn’t, you know, stand up for what they believed in, or. But one meeting I went to over there, the one that I protested, and one of the women that was there, she evidently had sold her water rights. And she said, well, said, I was hoping to get my money today, so.
DT: Why do you think these folks decided to back off? Is it that they mostly wanted to cash out?
00:55:08 – 2223
MK: Well, it was too expensive for them to fight it, I guess, and they didn’t have the time to spend on it. It’s pretty expensive to hire lawyers, you—as you well know. And so that was the reason we had to drop out when we did.
DT: And the regulators? What did they tell you when you explained your beliefs and the costs of trying to fight it?
00:55:38 – 2223
MK: Well, they acted like they were concerned, but the judge that was there at one time, he made the remark—I think he was more in favor of us than anybody. He made the remark that we had—him and us had gone back a long ways and he was an elderly person. So I think he felt like we was right in trying to fight it.
DT: Well, what about the proponents for this? What do they say when you talk to T. Boone Pickens or some of the other…?
00:56:20 – 2223
MK: The only time I talked to him was after he got his permit. And he came up to me and asked me, said, well, are you satisfied? And I said, not exactly. And he said, well, he said, what is it you’re not happy with? And I said, well, I just think there are too many entities taking water out and it’s going to ruin it. And he said, is that all? And he said—I said, no. I said, I think that export fee, if, you know, they’re going to collect an export fee to send it out of the region. I said, I don’t think that ought to be that a way, I think it ought to be inside the region as well as out.
DT: So some of these exports are technically staying within the watershed, and so he doesn’t have to pay such an export fee?
00:57:11 – 2223
MK: Yes.
DT: For sending the water to—if he sends it to Amarillo, would there be an export fee?
00:57:17 – 2223
MK: I—I think Amarillo’s in this region, is what I think.
DT: Say he wanted to sell it to San Antonio?
00:57:28 – 2223
MK: That’d be an export fee.
DT: Per gallon fee of some kind. Do you think it’s enough of a fee? Would it really discourage him from doing that?
00:57:37 – 2223
MK: I doubt it.
DT: If he is not discouraged, what do you think is going through his mind? When you talk to him about your concerns, they seem reasonable to me. Does he think that there shouldn’t be people living here and enjoying rights to water?
00:58:00 – 2223
MK: Well, I really don’t know what his thoughts was except he was looking at the money side of it.
DT: And some of the other proponents? I know he’s got other partners. Have you any idea what they’re thinking of?
00:58:15 – 2223
MK: Well, probably the same thing. So.
DT: Why don’t you share their interest in money?
00:58:25 – 2223
MK: Well, what is more important, money or your lively—livelihood? And it takes water for you to live. We can’t—we can’t get along without water.
DT: Looking into the future, what do you think the big challenges are? Do you think water’s going to be one of them or is there other major challenges for conservation in your part of the state?
00:58:56 – 2223
MK: I would like to see conver—conservation but I think it’s going to be the other way around.
DT: Why is that?
00:59:06 – 2223
MK: Well, I just think people are after the money.
DT: And what sort of advice would you give to people to dissuade them from being so interested in the money side of things?
00:59:20 – 2223
MK: They better think of farther ahead than that. Because when that money’s gone, what are they going to have left?
DT: I have one last question.
DT: You seem to love land. Can you maybe give me an example of a place that gives you great serenity or joy to visit?
00:59:51 – 2223
MK: Yes, when you go out on a piece of land that you’ve worked hard to build it up and, in my estimation, if you have a chance to own land, you need to take care of it to the best of your ability and leave it in better shape than what it was when you got it. And when you go out there, you just feel relaxed and it’s just a different feeling.
DT: Can you describe the view from your favorite spot on your place that you share with your husband?
01:00:33 – 2223
MK: I don’t think I have any one particular favorite spot unless it—it’s the meadows.
DT: What do they look like?
01:00:42 – 2223
MK: And the hills.
DT: Is it during the fall when the leaves change in color?
01:00:52 – 2223
MK: Well, mostly in the spr—spring and fall.
DT: I’ve heard some people talk about the big sky up here. Is that something that you enjoy?
01:01:04 – 2223
MK: Oh, yes. Yes. You can look for miles and—in fact, you can see the—even the Canadian lights from the ranch up there at night.
DT: Good. Is there anything you’d like to add?
01:01:24 – 2223
MK: Oh, not that I can think of.
DT: Any sort of advice for younger people coming up and what they should consider?
01:01:35 – 2223
MK: Just be honest and act decent and live a long time. Work hard.
DT: Living a long time. That’s good advice. Thank you very much.
[End of Reel 2223]
[End of Interview with Mary Killebrew]