INTERVIEWEE: Tootsie Herndon (TH)
INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT) and David Weisman (DW)
DATE: February 21, 2006
LOCATION: Spofford, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Jenny Gumpertz and Robin Johnson
REELS: 2357 and 2358
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 mark the 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’s David Todd, I’m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas. It’s February 21, 2006 and we’re in Spofford, Texas, which is south of Brackettville and we have the good fortune to be visiting with Tootsie Herndon, who is the mayor pro tem of Spofford and has also served on the board of the Kinney County Ground Water Conservation District and is a member at large of the Middle Rio Grande Economic Development Council and has been involved in a number of fights against proposed projects out here, ranging from the Texcor Radioactive Waste Site to the Adobe Industrial Waste Site and then most recently proposals to explore a lot of groundwater from this area and for all those reasons is a wonderful person to talk to and I wanted to thank you for spending time with us.
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TH: You’re very welcome.
DT: I thought we might start by asking if you could tell us why water might be important to you and protecting it?
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TH: Well, I was born and raised here in Spofford and Spofford’s always had a serious water problem. And Spofford’s been without water for thirty days at a time. So, you know it’s pretty devastating to go to your faucet and there’s no water, you know, to wash dishes or use the commode or anything. And during the Adobe fight we were cut off of our water supply due to the fact they wanted us to rescind the resolution against the Adobe and I had to call their Air lackland—Laughlin air force base and they brought tankers in here and we went down there and the only water we got is what we went down
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each family and got. We needed drinking water we had to drive, you know, twenty miles round trip to get drinking water and for thirty days that’s a long time not to have any water. So I was born and raised here in Spofford without any water. My dad all—had a little wagon he put two barrels on and we’d have to help him push this wagon across the railroad tracks to get water, you know, to bathe and everything. So I’m very concerned about all this exportation out of Kinney County until they have good science data to—to let us know how much water is in Kinney County to pump, you know, as much water as they’re wanting to export out of Kinney County.
DT: Could you tell us a little about Spofford and Kinney County, how does Spofford get founded originally?
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TH: Well, it was founded as a railroad town. My daddy and, my grandparents moved here and my daddy ranched here and my grandfather worked on—as a boiler maker on the steam engine so that’s how they originated here and lived all their lives here. There’s about four generations of us, lived here for a long time, ‘course I left for several years but then I came back and built my home here in Spofford.
DT: I see. Well, maybe we ought to just jump right into it and talk about some of the projects that might have forced some pretty severe changes on Spofford and Kinney County. I think the first project that got proposed was the Texcor Low Level radioactive waste site, believe back in the early nineties. Is that correct?
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TH: No, they came in—in 1988.
DT:’88, I see.
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TH: And they came and met with the Chambers of Commerce and different organizations first before, you know, Spofford e—ever knew about it. I think this was in the making for several years, you know, before we knew about it. And they kind of got the blessing of the—the county judge, you know, because they come in with their—their, I guess swift tongue about money, you know, and you’re a poor community and they offer you jobs and they offer you hundred thousand dollars a year, you know, that’s pretty impressive to some of the people, you know. And when they come in they say “Oh, its just a little N.O.R.M., you know, it doesn’t hurt anybody or anything” you know, but I guess…
DT: What is N.O.R.M.?
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DT: What does N.O.R.M. stand for? Is that Naturally Occurring Radioactive Waster Material?
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TH: Yeah, but see they—they put—these licenses are real funny. They use, you know, those—that terms but that terms means, you know, they can put several different types of waste in these facilities and that’s where it’s so bad till you don’t—they really don’t know a whole lot about N.O.R.M., you know, at this time they didn’t.
DT: Where was the N.O.R.M. coming from?
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TH: All over, all over the United States.
DT: And these were from mines or from…
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TH: Well from mines and different, you know, that creates radioactive like, you know, the oil fields and all of that. That’s, you know, natural occurring and that’s where it was all coming from.
DT: Oh, so some of this was pipe stem, drill stem from fields that had radioactive strata?
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TH: Yes, yes
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TH: And see there wasn’t very much known about it at the time. I think Utah was the only one that had one of these facilities, to my knowledge.
DT: And who’s proposing to dispose of this here?
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TH: Texcor, Charles Salsman was their, I guess you’d call him the one that was promoting the idea to put it here. You know, he came in pretty smooth talking, you know, and we had a meeting here after we learned that some of the people of the like the Chamber of Commerce and the bank president had kind of endorsed it and everything. So we really didn’t know much about it but my thought was I didn’t really like the idea one half mile from my home here, with all the traffic from the trucks, you know, and our roads aren’t too good anyway, you know, and then they—then it’d blow that—that stuff will travel at least thirty-five miles from one of those facilities there so and they wanted to…
DT: How did they pick this particular part off the country?
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TH: Well because it’s—we’re a border region. They targeted the whole border with all, from their radioactive waste because it’s slow education, no political clout in Austin. You know, they figured they can come in and you’re country people and you’re going to believe what they say, you know, and they—they pick up on just—I think more or less Hispanic—mostly Hispanic, you know, and just low education people, you know, that don’t have a whole lot of education and no money, of course that’s the number one problem. When you fight these big companies, you have no money to start them and so they basically—low cultured people, I guess I’d—I’d put it like that.
DT: What was this facility that they were going to put this N.O.R.M. in?
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TH: They were going to dig, the way I understand it, a big hole and put a liner in it and then just dump all their junk it.
DT: And how much stuff were they going to put in it, how many tons or cubic yards, you know?
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TH: I don’t really remember exactly but I think I’ve got it there. I don’t remember but it was going to be a huge one and if they’d got that permit, it was going to be eight thousand acres worth of toxic waste.
DT: Well, tell us about the fight, how did you organize to…?
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TH: Well, I didn’t organize it, I was just here in Spofford and this rancher lady, Madge Elizabeth Belcher, she’s the one who got it started. We all kind of met—about thirty people in the Episcopal church and then kin—started a name for it. You know, and the more we divulged into it and realized what—what they were trying to do, put all this junk in there, then we just started—well it was hard at first because we had no money and see that’s the big deal with these big companies. They’ve got so much money and there’s so many lobbyist in Austin till they, you know, the Department of Health was the one then, not the T.N.R.C.C., [Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission] they listened to the big rich investors. You know, you can’t trust none
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of the politicians in Austin. I’m just going to be real honest, you cannot trust them, you got to get out and fight your own battle. First you’ve got to get community support. Without community support you cannot do anything. The first deal you have to do is get community support. Then we had to get resolution out of the Nine County Region, that’s Middle Rio Grande Development Council, you have to get that before their—they’ll make a stand. They don’t really like to get involved in none of this but I got on that
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board and we kind of put pressure on them. Then we got resolution from all the nine county regions. Then we got the Senator Judith Zaffirini. We got Bonia. We got some of our congressman involved in the fight. You first have to get community and then you have to get resolution from surrounding counties, you know, like Eagle Pass, Del Rio in the nine county region, that’s what we did.
DT: Well, what would you tell them because I’m sure they saw this as a facility that would provide some jobs and maybe some…
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TH: Well, because I think the first thing we did we tried to educate them also that, you know, that this was a big—very big project and there was a lot of land down here, you know, that was going to be utilized for these huge massive dumps and from it coming all over this United States now, you know, we just convinced them what we thought that we—it was bad, you know, and then there’s a fault zone laying here in Spofford, see.
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And that’s what we were afraid of it would contaminate and it would—it would go all the way in the—into the Rio Grande River and then that’s when we started going over meeting with the mayor and the President Salinas of Mexico and got them involved in our fight. And they helped us a lots in this Texcor fight here.
DT: Well can you talk about some of your meetings with these different municipalities or with some of the Mexican representatives?
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TH: Well, see, there was a La Paz agreement and that’s what helped us a lots that they could not put any massive dump on the border within forty miles, you know, and Spofford’s within forty and that’s—that’s why I think Mexico was just real concerned that they were going to contaminate more of the Rio Grande River because, you know, it’s already contaminated with all the maquilla waste. That’s why there’s so many babies being born down on the—at the Laredo and Brownsville and everything without any brains. It’s due to the maquilla waste being put in the Rio Grande River.
DT: Can you explain a little more about that? I’m not really familiar about that.
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TH: Well, there was a hundred cases diagnosed down there and now I read an article in the San Antonio Express about they’re saying that at La—Laredo, there’s a lot of that—the babies being born and that the corn tortillas is contaminated. Well, you know, they watered the corn with the Rio Grande water there. And I’m—I’m a firm belieder—believer that that’s all that toxic waste that’s—that’s being pumped into that Rio Grande River. That’s my opinion and I’ve always thought that.
DT: Well, so the Mexican Government was concerned that the La Paz agreement was getting violated…
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TH: They violated, yes.
DT: Because it was being polluted already…
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DT: By the maquilla waste and then…
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TH: They did want all this from all over the United States being (?).
DT: More from the N.O.R.M. waste?
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TH: Uh huh.
DT: I see, I see.
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TH: So, they helped us a lot. You know, but it was a hard struggle. We—we marched on the both bridges and stopped the traffic there, you know, and had our signs. And I used to wonder, why are people protesting? You know, why don’t they just go and talk to the government? Well people, when the government won’t listen to you, and they stand to make a lot also out of all these lobbyists and everything, you just have to—you have to just do your own protesting.
DT: We see you said that the government didn’t always listen to you…
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DT: Well what would happen? You’d call a representative and what would they say?
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TH: Well, you know, they, well (laughs) they—they tell you “Well, you need to talk to this one. We don’t have no control over it; you need to talk to the E.P.A or the Health Department”. They’ve already been bought out, they’re in bed with the investors, so what can you expect? You know, they didn’t help us any.
DT: Well, did you see signs that some of these investors or lobbyists had already spoken to the representatives?
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DT: How could you tell?
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TH: Well, you go to a meeting, you know, when they had all the public hearing. You could just see their interest lied with the—with Texcor. You could just see it. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know when—when they (laughs) what side their sympathy lies on, you know. And they need a place to dump things and where would be a better place than here with the river coming right through here too. We have the railroad to contend with all the—the stuff being dumped here. See this was a perfect place for their—their dump.
DT: When you said that the representatives wouldn’t listen to you, so you made picket signs …?
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TH: We made picket signs. We went to Austin.
DT: Well, what would the signs say?
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TH: “Don’t dump on us”, you know, like the one with J.B. about BFI and Texcor. See Brown at first was going to, first they were involved as a partner with them but when they saw so much opposition they was smart enough to get out of it. They didn’t stay, you know, but oh it was just “don’t dump on us” and “ Del Rio opposes it “ and, you know, it was—it was a lot of signs (laughs) made, you know, during that time. Even when we went over there at the Ci—Civic Center we had a lot of signs and a lot of people speaking out against it and you just got to show your anger. You know, you just got to be
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angry about what they’re doing to us because they will, like Charles Salsman, I even presented him with my—my brother’s flag that—he was killed in Korea and I felt like they were taking our freedom away and the—and like the health department said “Well, you don’t have any rights” they don’t care if you—you oppose the dumping. You have to have science to back you up, you know, and a lot of things for them to deny a permit, you know. They’re not going to do it because you said I don’t want it in my back yard. Really a citizen, you really don’t have a lot of rights till you all band together and united we stand, divided we fall and, you know, it’s amazing that this town, Kinney County,
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defeated two massive toxic waste dumps with the money they had, it took a lot of praying and a lot of God’s help that—that helped us that opened doors for us, you know. We baked, we made tamales, we sold tamales, we did bake sales, we did anything imaginable, garage sales, recycled cans from the dump, we did everything it took to make money, you know and J.B. spent a lot of money personally and so did Madge Belcher. We spent a lot of money personally to fight the dump but you just got to band together
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and just and sometimes the good people does win, they do, you know. We’re living proof that you can defeat a lot of money and a lot of lobbyists up there. I think Texcor had 62 lobbyists up there.
DW: Quick question, you talk about the coming together, it sounds sort of easy. I have to imagine there must have been some folks in the community who thought they were going to make out ok, I mean…
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TH: Oh yes.
DW: So not everyone was on your side in the beginning, were they?
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TH: No but there was so much….
DW: You can tell the story to David.
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TH: There was so much going on, till the ones that really believed in Texcor was very silent except my own brother, my sister-in-law. They firmly believed it and we didn’t speak to each other for 6 years during the Texcor fight because they thought it was going to bring a lot of jobs, you know, and everything so we lost a lot personally to Texcor, you know, and because my brother got Cancer not too long after that and he died from cancer but we did get back together but for 6 years, you know, we didn’t speak and we lost a lot. So they—they really disrupted our lives I’d like to say, you know, because we had to
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send out so much material to the president to the vice president the—to the Governor and anybody we could talk to that would listen. Some of them would run from me especially, they would actually run from me they didn’t want to talk me, you know. But you just got to get so many people involved, you know, it just—it took us a long time to get even community support because it looked good to these people but like I told Charles Salsman, for him to offer us a hundred thousand, that’s nothing for the amount of money they would make for their permit and they were speculating in the permit. They weren’t going to stay—stay here. They were going to sell that permit and it was worth about five hundred million dollars.
DT: How did you find out about the permit application and the facilities?
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TH: Well our, finally when Jim Saunders was our first attorney before we hired Rick Lowerre and he’s the one, you know, just told us so much about what it was going to contain. Till you get attorney and somebody to help you, you know, you have no idea, you don’t know what you’re up against, you just so naïve. And see, when he first come here he said ”If there’s any opposition, we’ll leave”. They just lied and we were so naïve we believed them but they—they’re not going to leave, they see lots of money. This was a ideal place for them to put that—that dump. And see they come back the second time that’s what so weird, you know, they didn’t give up the first time after all the millions they spent. They come back the second time.
DT: Can you tell us about some of allies that helped you in the fight against the Texcor?
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TH: Well, we—we had all the nine county regions, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Dryden, and every place. See they was trying to put a big dump up at Dryden too. See it looked so obvious they just was picking all the border regions to—and Dryden defeated them also, you know, by us all banding together and then they picked Sierra Blanca for nuclear waste during the same time. And in fact the former mayor of Brackettville and I went up there and made speeches to them because they were about to give up and I said “You can’t give up”, you know. And the first meeting that we ever had, we went to Austin
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and I’ll never forget it. Panna Maria, where they had that big dump down there at Panna Maria, their citizens was there. They were—they were appearing before the senate because they had—they had agreed and let them in there and that waste was coming out and it was contaminating their milk, the farm land. Their little dogs, when it rained would lose their hair and die and they couldn’t imagine what was going on in there. And they—so they were testifying up there so they had to gather up $75,000 dollars out of their own pocket to make this company open up to see what was going on. Well, your
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health department hadn’t gave them a permit and it was around 13 years I think and what they were doing was dumping it on the ground. And that’s why I had no use for the health department and so that’s what they we’re trying to do is to—is to clean up that facility there and come and dump it on us and they hadn’t even renewed they’re application or anything. That company was bringing it out of France, Germany and every place and dumping it on Panna Maria. And there was a little lady there and she followed me out of there and she said “I want to tell you something, ma’am, you don’t have the
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contamination. Said a lot of our babies are being born down there, the pregnant women and said they’re—they are deformed and everything, Ya’ll don’t have the contamination. I’m going to give you advice, fight with every breath in you and then when you want to give up, you take a second breath and you fight more. And you just, you write to everybody, you get anybody you can think of that will get involved with you, to help you and said don’t ever give up”. A lot of times I wanted to give up, I’ll be real honest,
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because it’s a tough fight. You send out so many letters and flyers and you do this. You take one step forward and you’ll take two steps backwards but you just keep fighting and ask God to help you. I did, I said “God, just open doors for us and help us because we’ll do the work if you’ll show us the way” that’s the only way we succeeded. I—I will say that.
DT: Well, was most of your help local folks or did you get any help from non-profit groups of from people in the agencies?
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TH: Well, no mostly our help came from Mexico, you know, that and then there was a fight over the easement in the land down there with Joe York, Jr. And he—he sued them at the last there because they wasn’t going to let him have a easement threw there and that was his land and that’s what helped us a lot in the Adobe fight. This was later on in the Adobe fight, but mostly we had people from Mexico come over with signs and everything. We took buses to—to Austin and we demonstrated up there, like I say we went and did the bridge. We—every time they have a public hen—hearing here in
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Brackettville, we demonstrated against them, you know. And we just—just fought hard, you know, and it took a lot of time and effort and it got so we couldn’t discuss Texcor when we went to bed because then we’d be up all night, you know, because this was our home, you know. We—we built this house and—and we had reporters come down here from Dallas and every place. We did attract a lot of attention in the T.V. and everything.
DT: Well, maybe you could tell us about what the media and news, T.V. and radio?
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TH: Oh, John McCormick, he—he works now for the, the San Antonio Express, he worked for the Dallas Times and he’d come down here and we’d had a meeting here and he—he just started all his negative views, you know. Well, you can’t do this; they’re not going to listen to blah, blah this. And I said” You know what sir? I think you ought to go back to Dallas, with your negative views. We don’t need to hear your negative side of the deal”. So I told Madge I said “Well I guess I blew it” because I didn’t have no, you know, I said “We have rights as citizen”. I still think that in the long run we can defeat them. He said, “No, they’re a big company and it’s going to be hard for, you know, the
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size of the community to defeat them”. So then he come back, oh two or three, four, years later and worked for the San Antonio Express, he says “You remember me?” I said “Yes, I sure do” and he says, I said “You’re the one from Dallas, the reporter I kind of chewed out” he said “Yeah, you did”. (laughs) And he said “I got to thinking about all the things you said” and I said “Well, you know what? They’re—they’re being pretty tough, they might succeed. So he kind of come down and did a lot of stories for us, you know, and—in the Texcor fight, now Adobe—we didn’t get the attention we got in the Texcor fight.
DT: Well, let’s not quite get there yet….
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DT: In 1993, Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission rejected the permit for Texcor. Did you have any expectation that was going to happen?
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TH: Well, we were hoping but see Ann Richards was the governor then and one of the big investor was real close to Ann Richards, and we were so afraid that, you know, that—that I think it was kind of a deal made that denied the permit here and put one out some other place at Andrews. Now I was told there was a deal kind of cut there.
DT: Some sort of a swap between…?
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DT: A site here and then this current one they’re putting in at Andrews County?
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TH: Yeah because Mexico was coming down real heavy on them about the La Paz agreement and I think they just didn’t want to take on Mexico, you know, about the La Paz agreement. And I think that’s the one thing swayed her but see, these politics are so entwined with all the investors and the lobbyists, you have a tough time as everyday citizens fighting them.
DW: It seems like you had a chance to go head-to-head with like this Charles Salsman guy, I guess the chief executive of the…
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TH: Yeah, he was the chief
DW: Well, what’s it like? Most citizens go against big companies never get one-on-one within five feet of the chief executives, so now you got him in your sites…
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TH: Oh yeah.
DW: How do you go at him?
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TH: Well, it—we just—he came and he had meetings all over—all over Kinney County, you know, but they had a lot of secret meetings before anybody really knew they were here, that Spofford did. Spofford was the last one to hear about, you know, Charles Salsman and he was very suave operator. He was and he had a P.R. man, George Bacarni was even more, you know, and they know how to work the public. Now you have a hard time till you convince—like I say if you don’t get your community support you’re lost—you’re lost
DT: What sort of public relations pitch would they make?
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TH: Oh, about—they offered a lot of money and, you know, jobs and they went to the 4-H, you know, and bought the champion pig, you know, or calf and they just did a lots for the community. Of course they offered, dangled all this money before a lot of people and they—they offered some of the commissioner money, also, you know, and I the judge took some money from them. And you just have to just keep fighting one day at a time, you know, and then you wonder how you really did beat them, you know. But you just—and Madge was a real wonderful person that she knew how to deal with Austin,
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you know. She was very well educated and she went up there. She had some friends up there in the—in the health department, different places that kept here informed and then she knew Ann Richards real well too. So that helped us out a lot.
DW: And I recall you said that you had a first lawyer and then you later had a second lawyer?
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DT: Could you tell us the difference between lawyers and what the role of a lawyer is and how it might or might not work out?
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TH: Well, the two lawyers is—you have to have attorney. When you get in the big court fight with the hearing examiner, you got to have attorney up there and then you’ve got to have your own expert because they’ve got their expert telling you how safe it is down here, you know, how—what good ground—and of course Spofford, no water here. So that was a real plus in their favor. Your lawyers in turn hires experts to tell your side of the story and then they brought in the Spofford Fault that separates Edwards Aquifer, you know, here at Spofford because it just turns. So, without attorneys you’re just—you
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don’t stand a chance because they keep you informed of what’s going on in Austin, you know, or wherever you fighting, like in California or anyplace and they can find out a lots, you know, about the type of waste. That’s what you got to worry about is all the types of waste they can put under one permit, you know. They can tell you N.O.R.M. permit then when you really look there’s a lot of waste coming in under that N.O.R.M. permit. And they’re speculating on the permit so they don’t care who’s going to clean up the mess. See, that’s number one, you superfund, that’s just a big laugh, it ended up in court. There was 2,000 dumps for them to clean up. They didn’t clean up any because it bogged down—the attorneys got it all. So who—after they closed it up, after 60 years, who’s going to clean it up? Who has the money? You don’t think your government is because they’re sure not.
DT: Well, following up on David was just asking, you’re saying that it was really key to have an attorney involved because…
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TH: Oh, you have to have one.
DT: It was such a complicated procedure but you had two attorneys, one after the other, why did change from one to next?
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TH: We didn’t change. We just needed another attorney to help us because oh, massive depositions. You won’t believe the paperwork that it took those two lawyers full time to do all the paperwork. It’s unbelievable what they—the paperwork, the boxes that you have.
DT: And you also mentioned you got some technical help on the geology of the area?
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TH: Ahh, huh.
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TH: Well, we had one geologist, what was his name? His last name was Berlango from Mexico. He’d come over and help too, you know, and then we had to have different experts too—the salt in the water, you know, and how it runs and—it’s a big deal.
DT: What were some of the geologic problems they found? You said there was a Spofford Fault?
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TH: Well, that’s what they—they finally proved there was a Spofford Fault and see when Mexico had their earthqu—earthquake over there, J.B. went over there—one of our neighbors said that—that something was wrong with this pack line. And J.B. went over there because he had no water at all and there was a big hole were the pipe had separated and they think it was from the—the Mexico because that’s when it all took place. It left a big hole down side of the road too, you know. And we think that—when Mexico had their—their earthquake that it affected Spofford here also, you know, because it just—something separated the pipe. So we went on that, you know, and—and then—and if you got a fault right close, you know, all that contamination is just going to go right on
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in and if that, you know, like Camato and then all the way to Brownsville in time, you know. And they were wanting to bring in 45 trucks per hour down to this dump that was on their permit. That’s a lot—a lot of tonnage.
DW: You say that the Chamber Of Commerce types, who think they’re going to make a lot of money on this deal, are in favor of it…?
00:33:55 – 2357
TH: And the bank.
DW: And the bank, and you and the citizens aren’t—is there anyway they retaliated against you locally? Is there anything they’d take out on you that somehow just to—behind the scenes or even in front of the scenes trying to push you out?
00:34:09 – 2357
TH: Well, in the Texcor fight, I don’t remember them doing much personally to Spofford but in the next fight with the Adobe, a lots was doing personally to Spofford, you know.
DT: Well, maybe this would be a good time to go towards the Adobe, which I think was—was started in the mid nineties, is that right?
00:34:33 – 2357
TH: Yeah it—well Texcor I think was denied, if I remember correctly, ‘93 and I think the Adobe came in ‘95 or something like that, in the nineties…
DT: And this is a…
00:34:47 – 2357
TH: Well, maybe earlier than that. The—one year later, I think, after the Texcor permit was denied, then Adobe came.
DT: And is it—Adobe ecosystems and it was to be a …
00:34:58 – 2357
TH: Well, they first come in here with it being a regional—well it was kind of a tradeoff with, I think, with the attorneys and—and the CARE group that—after the permit was denied, if we’d let a regional landfill come in here, Spofford never agreed to it. When they called us over there, we never agreed to any type because we didn’t want no part of the dump because you can’t trust them anyway, you know, but Madge and them kind of agreed with Jim Saunders and them—that—that we wouldn’t put up a real big fight if it was a regional landfill. And so Spofford never—we never agreed to no regional landfill even. We would just kind of wait and see, you know, deal and I said “Well, a regional landfill wouldn’t be quite as bad as toxic waste”, you know. Well anyway then they came on the picture and it was the same company with the same investors, same attorneys and everything that was put in the re—regional landfill.
DT: In the same site?
00:36:05 – 2357
TH: In the same site and what they were going to do is probably use—but I can’t imagine them wanting to do it since we beat them on the, you know, the sites on this. I don’t know what they’re idea was unless maybe they thought we wouldn’t fight them. And then they brought a man from Mexico, Joe York, Jr., the one that owns all the land down there and Tim Ward, the former judge, he brought the—this Spanish guy here. They said it’s not going to be nothing but a small regional landfill and I thought “Mmm” and then they had this Mexico investor and he was sitting right there and I asked him, I said “Are ya’ll going to put maquilla Waste in here?” “Oh no—no we’re not going to
00:36:50 – 2357
have any maquilla Waste nothing”. But when I saw the Mexico investor, I knew they had to be maquilla waste. There’s no—there’s no money in a regional landfill people! You cannot even make any money off regional you have to bring it in from all over and then what—nobody didn’t want to get involved in the Adobe fight, you know, they “Ahh, it’s just a regional landfill” the commissioners of Brackettville and the city council, nobody wanted to get involved. So I—I started and I thought well, what can I do? So I said well, I got to go educate the people. I’m going to get a petition signed. So I went door-to-door and got a petition signed. So then I took it to the county judge and that’s Tommy
00:37:38 – 2357
Sergeant the main one down—that’s the judge for all this. He didn’t want to listen to me and he didn’t want the commissioner to do a resolution. So I had the time and I talked to him and everything and they still wasn’t real convinced, you know, that it wasn’t real good. It was a regional landfill and it was going to bring money in so, at first, I didn’t get a resolution signed. So I kept on, you know, and the more Rick Lowerre was our attorney and he investigated what they were trying to do. And finally I got a friend in Fort Clark, her name was Jean Struthers and she started putting letters out about the
00:38:18 – 2357
maquilla waste and all of that, you know. And I really didn’t have a lot to go on but I just had a hunch that—what they we’re trying to do. So then—I felt like the Lone Ranger, you know, I thought “oh my gosh (laughs) there’s nobody wanting to help me, they all think I’m kind of crazy”, you know, and everything. But then the preacher that was so against us in the Texcor fight, he kind of got on our side and started—he wasn’t real comfortable with Adobe because they had no former experience or nothing. His name was Jim Speman. So he didn’t really know a whole lot so he kind of got on my side and
00:38:58 – 2357
then Jean Struthers, then I got the mayor of Brackettville. She kind of got on my side and we started putting out what we knew and finally Rick Lowerre sent a deal they were going to hospital waste and they were going to bring maquilla waste and just all kinds of toxic waste, you know, from—like radiation from cancer, you know, the old machines, you know, that they do radiation. They were going to dump all that here so, I kind of finally got started getting Kinney County involved, the people, you know, got them
00:39:31 – 2357
behind me and they’d come and put pressure on the judge and the commissioner. I got a resolution finally ought of it. Then I went to the city, of course Spofford got their resolution in and then the next thing we knew Tommy Sergeant called the Texas Ranger on J.B. and I and said that we had defrauded the government out of grant money and that I had took money that I earned and he wanted an investigation into it for the City of Spofford for the CARE group. So the Ranger came here and investigated J.B.—of course we were audited in every grant we got, you know, from—we still hadn’t got any water
00:40:12 – 2357
yet but we got water money for a new pipelines. And then he investigated us and of course he’d come here and ask me “What did you do with money?” I said, “Well, which—which are you talking about, what I earned for the City of Spofford for a pump?” because Spofford didn’t even have a pump and we had to earn money because the budget had six dollars when J.B. become mayor. And so but, I had give it to our city secretary and she deposited it in the bank at Brackettville. The money that I earned for CARE, well, I turned it over to—to Brett Trent and Debbie Trent because they were the one kind of
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handling all the money. So, nothing ever come of it, they investigated Middle Rio Grande and us, you know. Then they got the—some of the people stirred up here. So, then they filed on us that we never had election, we just kind of appointed because there’s no salary. There’s no money here, you know, to pay anybody so, we just for a year—Spofford just appointed mayor of city, whoever wanted to serve that had a good back, then that’s how we got our mayor. So, then we faced that, you know, and then they sent
00:41:21 – 2357
a letter they were going to sue me for some article I put in the paper but I was always very careful to state the truth and nothing else, you know. But—and then Joey York calls us one morning says—see we had got water while waiting for our grant from Fort Clark Springs through his pipeline that run through Spofford, he agreed to let us use his pipeline and then he’d get water too from Fort Clark. Well when Adobe came along he wanted that—that to sell all that land 8,000 acres to him. So, he called J.B. one morning
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and said “Well, if you don’t rescind your resolution and Tootsie give up her—her fight against Adobe, I’m going to cut your water off”. J. B. told him “Well, I guess you just better cut the water off because we’re not going to rescind no resolution”. So he did then we were without water for about a month and then the C.B.G Grant kicked in and then we got emergency pipeline just on top of the ground till we could get our—our water in place, you know. But Spofford suffered a lots through all this fight with these dump people, you know, because see Spofford refused to let them have water. We were about
00:42:32 – 2357
to get water when Texcor come on the picture but then if we’d got water, the whole town voted not to do it until we get rid of them, you know, because we didn’t want to let them have water. So, then in turn in ’98, Adobe goes, buys a bunch of land over there adjacent to Fort Clark, it’s got about eight artesian wells on it. So, then that was the master plan to—when their permit was denied to sell water out, they got with a few farmers and ranchers and that when they started in on this water fight.
DT: You’ve been telling us about this Adobe facility and I had read that the site was going to be something like 100 feet tall, is that correct?
00:43:18 – 2357
TH: Oh yes.
DT: Over 200 hundred acres in size?
00:43:21 – 2357
TH: Yes, they were starting out with the first permit. They—it was going to be 100 feet in the air. And then it would contain some municipal waste and then toxic waste and everything. And we were right down—we didn’t have no money, this community had just gave to the Texcor fight till there was no money left, you know. Then we seemed like we couldn’t get Del Rio involved too well again. You know, they didn’t want a massive—because they—they spent a lot of money in the Texcor fight. And—and then we thought about getting the Air Force involved but, you know, you think you’ll pick up the phone and get the Colonel over there and get an appoint—um uh. It don’t work like that. And so I—Rick Lowerre said “I think we’re just going to have to give up the fight”. We had a meeting over there with Don Parks and of course Madge was already passed away and Debbie Trent and Brett and they were ready just to make the best deal we could with the Adobe. And I said “No, Spofford is not going to make no deal with the Adobe. We’re going to keep our reso—our, what do you call it? I can’t even think now.
00:44:37 – 2357
TH: Yeah, to—to, you know, we’re not going to rescind our resolution against them. We’re going to stay and pat and if they come in here—if CARE wants to just—and I hollered at Rick Lowerre because I was real upset too but he just couldn’t work. He said “There’s no money, we’re just going to have to some…” Well, the next day Spofford was all irate about—because we’d fought so hard and everything, we just didn’t want to give in to all this waste from all over the United State and the maquilla waste is the worst, you know.
DT: And it was supposed to be about 5,000 tons a day?
00:45:11 – 2357
TH: Uh huh. That’s how much it was going to be. And so, I went to Brackettville that morning. We all come together at a little place called the “Crazy Chicken” to drink coffee and all the way I “Lord, you got to help me, you got to open a door today, do something for me”, and this is the honest god’s truth. I prayed all the way to Brackettville, got there and was talking, you know, our usual talk about Adobe and the
00:45:34 – 2357
dump. This—this black person was sitting right across from us, he was taking it all in, he says “Ma’am, are they—what are they trying to do to ya’ll down there?” And so I went through my spiel and he says “Well, they put one by my mother in Louisiana and said “Boy that’s a bad deal there. Said they’ll put anything under a regional landfill, said that’s what they do. They come in with three or four different types of waste”. I said “I know it!” And he says “Well, what have ya’ll done?”, and I told him about the bit about the attorney and everything, that we didn’t have no more money and I needed to get
00:46:08 – 2357
Laughlin Air Force Base involved because they were going to have, you know, waste, household waste and everything which will attract the birds and everything and get in those jets and it causes ma—massive damage to jets. He kind of looked at me and smiled and he says “I’m going to give you two names, said I’m retired out of the environment deal in Del Rio”, can you believe this? This is the honest god’s truth and he said “I’m going to give you two names to call in San Antonio but you don’t dare tell nobody where you got these two names”. So, the first one I called she wouldn’t even touch it and the
00:46:44 – 2357
next one, her name was Peggy Stone, and she says “Well, ma’am, I don’t know what to tell you”. I said “Well”, she said “You need to hire an attorney”. I said “No, I don’t need to hire an attorney, we got one, we can’t pay him. What I need is appointment with the Colonel at the base over here because it’s going to cost the Air Force a lot of—and that’s when they we’re trying to close Del Rio and a lot of the—the bases, you know. So I said “They will be on the hit list if it goes in and two or three planes, you know, crashes”. So
00:47:15 – 2357
that kind of got her attention, she says “Okay, let me see and I’ll call you back in thirty minutes”. And I said “I hate to tell you ma’am if you don’t call me back, I’m going to call and bug you because I’m desperate”. So she said “Okay”, and in thirty minutes, she called me. She had J.B. and I appointment with the Colonel over there, that’s how we got the—and we—I—we went over there and met with the Colonel, stated our case, what they were trying to do and everything, and then one thing led and I gave them Rick
00:47:41 – 2357
Lowerre’s number. And that’s how it all come about and they got involved and I think basically there the ones helped stopped it the second time. Mexico wouldn’t get involved at all because they were—some of the big shots was wanting the maquilla waste put in here at Spofford so they wouldn’t get involved.
DT: Now they were saying this was going to be a regional waste site but was there not enough room in the landfills in Brackettville and Del Rio?
00:48:09 – 2357
TH: No, there’s not—see Brackettville ships theirs out to San Antonio. See, that’s why they—they—and we—we’re—we take ours to Brackettville and they pick it up. No there’s not room but I knew it wasn’t going to be no regional landfill. It was the same deal. They just come in with they’re lies because they won’t tell the truth. They say they’re going to tell you the truth but they don’t, they can—they can out lie anybody. And—and I knew when they brought the—the investor from Mexico, that was their first mistake.
DT: Well, now, speaking of investors I understood that the Adobe site was applying for a loan for the North (?) development plant…
00:48:51 – 2357
TH: Well, that’s what they first did…
DT: Can you tell about that discussion?
00:48:56 – 2357
TH: Yeah, they were trying to borrow money from the—the beck and I don’t know how Rick Lowerre found that out but he found out that they were trying to borrow money, so they had a meeting in Del Rio. That’s when we went over there and Lee Weatherby, he was a former city council, very strong for environment and we went over there and met with them and that was the article I gave you, that they said I was bullying the (?), you know, but—you know what? Their—their name is Border
00:49:26 – 2357
Environment Conservation, you know. And I said you’re on one hand trying to clean up the border and one hand you’re going to loan money to them. See we—I even went to El Paso too to meet with the Border Environment Commission up there, you know. And I couldn’t see them loaning the money so we raised so much heck about that because that’s not what they’re there for. They’re there to clean up the border not to put more
00:49:51 – 2357
contamination in the border, you know. And so, we got that. They didn’t get to borrow that money. So but they kind of said I bullied the Border Environment Commission but I—I felt like that, you know, you got to bully and do what it takes to—to defend yourself against these rich people because you’re—you’re—I really, I guess I don’t have much confidence in our state government because there’s so many lobbyists that they’re—they’re like a bunch of sharks. They just—you know, so it’s whosever got the most money to pay for they’re re-election campaign, that’s who they listen to.
DT: So that’s what it comes back to is campaign finance?
00:50:39 – 2357
TH: Sure it is. Sure it is. Absolutely. It’s ca—that’s what it’s all about. You look on the computer now and see they got the computer now that you can be so much—you’ll see the money trail, you do.
DT: And so some of these representatives get sort of compromised and they can’t listen as well to you?
00:50:58 – 2357
TH: Really, that’s what happened? Yeah.
DT: I guess part of the effort to try and make your case opposing Adobe was to tell the media. Did you get much help or opposition from local newspapers and T.V. stations and radio?
00:51:21 – 2357
TH: Well, see, we were fortunate the Brackett News helped us out a lot, then we kind of had the San Antonio Express. You know, they kind of gave a fair deal to both sides, you know. They wasn’t just so—so bias, you know, they kind of, you know, and but we didn’t have the—I don’t think we had the news like we did in the Texcor fight, you know. It was such a big deal then. We had some news coverage but not like, you know, like we did in the Texcor fight.
DW: You also mentioned, and I don’t know whether I didn’t hear you right so, I don’t want to confuse Texcor with…
00:52:02 – 2357
DW: Adobe, which is the one where there was one were you say that a local religious leader was kind of opposing you?
00:52:08 – 2357
TH: Oh, yes that—that was…
DW: Because I know that can sometimes affect a community too. Maybe tell David a little about…
00:52:14 – 2357
DT: Well, thinking how the clergy is often and the church or—is often part of the community and helps organizes people and hear people out, well, what was the response to the clergy in those two cases, the Adobe and Texcor case?
00:52:36 – 2357
TH: Well, I really don’t really know what changed for Brother Joe Townsend’s view unless it was my neighbor over there was so against the Adobe, you know. And he was very good friends of theirs. And I think it was just because he thought they didn’t know anything, they’d never put in a facility or anything. And I don’t know—and see when I started going out getting petitions signed, they put a real bad letter out on me. They flooded Fort Clark Springs and Brackettville with a letter that I had stolen all this money and I did this and that. I tried to find a copy of that letter I know I have that they put out and I went to the post office and asked who put it out. And I knew it—I knew who it was and they said we don’t know. They were all in boxes sitting out there. They sent them
00:53:29 – 2357
out all over Kinney County. And what they were trying to do, I guess, I to—they knew I was taking a petition up and they wanted to stop it, you know, so that I couldn’t get any resolutions out of the town, you know. And they were trying to discredit me, I guess, you know. And I knew it was Tommy Sergeant and the judge and Adobe, you know, Jim Stevens and them because it took a lot of money to just send it out to, you know, stamps and everything. And they tried to discredit me there too but, you know, people knew me
00:54:02 – 2357
all through the Texcor fight and they know what I stand for that, you know, I’m trying to protect our community. I have no hidden agenda on the water or—or, you know, like these dumps. They offered to buy me out. They did everything trying to get rid of me out of Spofford here.
DT: What were some of the things they tried to do besides, I guess, in a sense, discredit you? And they also tried to provide you with some money or opportunities?
00:54:28 – 2357
TH: Oh yes, Adobe did. They sent my neighbor over here and they wanted to buy him out and he said if I would sell out, that he would sell out to them. And I—it was one Christmas, I remembered so well and I was outside and she’d come over. She said “Well, Tootsie I need to talk to you about Adobe”. And I said “What about it?” and she says “Well, they’ve offered Paul Malone a deal and they will offer you a good deal also”. And I—I looked at her and said “You know what? I might sell out someday but it sure
00:55:02 – 2357
won’t be to those people because I know, I’ve learned so much in the Texcor fight what they’re trying to do to this community and I have to look in the mirror and like myself. I will never sell out to them and they tried another person too—to—to, he called me up wanted to buy my house, you know. And I said “What do you want to buy my house for?” He said oh, I just want to buy—I said well, if the Adobe sent you, you just tell them my house is not for sale. They’re still going to have to look at me 24 hours a day and they’re going to have to get up before daylight before they out smart me in any of this fight because I’ve had—I had years of experience with Texcor, you know. And they
00:55:41 – 2357
just, you know, I know, I guess I was so determined to protect this town, you know, because the reporter just says nothing here but old mesquite trees and everything. There’s not a thing here, I said maybe not to you but I was born and raised here and I’m pretty proud of these mesquite trees, maybe the snakes also, you know, because it’s where your roots are. And I learned so much where they put these dumps what it did to the community, you know, it don’t bring no jobs in. Who—who’s qualified to work down there, like I told my brother “you’re not qualified, how could you even work down
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there?” They’re going to send people in that’s going to (?) out bogus tickets and tell, you know, what’s not true, what’s going in there like they did at Panna Maria. And see, you can’t trust your government. Why did they re—didn’t renew their permit in 13 years? You can’t tell me you’re going to trust anybody, you’re not. You just have to be smarter than they are and just be tougher and that’s what it takes, a lot of prayer and being tough and persistent. That’s all I can tell you.
DT: How did this whole Adobe issue get resolved in the end?
00:56:52 – 2357
TH: Well, they—they denied their permit also, I think due to the fact that Joe York filed a lawsuit against them. They all got in a fight and Adobe apparently didn’t pay Joe York what he had coming and then they had the easement through there and Adobe—see, you can’t put a facility in with a easement threw the land, you know. That’s got to be all locked up. They’re not going to let you have a easement and due to the fact that they could not get no water down there, Spofford denied them water and we—we held fast to that. They would not get no water through this town.
DT: So they needed water to wet down each layer?
00:57:31 – 2357
TH: Oh yeah, wash all the trucks and everything down there, you know, they got to have a lot of water.
DT: I see, and then the access question was that there was some kind of road coming from this main paved road into the site and it crossed over Mr. York’s property?
00:57:48 – 2357
TH: Yes and see, he had a easement—see that—York’s is estate deal. You know, his daddy died and left all this and he gave it to the grandkids and everything. So the first one that sold was P.H., the—Joe York’s sister’s boy see. The bank was about ready to take it so they come along and paid him some money. So he sold it but then when it come down to it, they all got in argument I—I suspect, I don’t know for sure about money and then the easement and then Joe York filed against them. So, that helped us a whole lot right there, kind of turned the tides, you know, and then we had all the—the land issue and the fault and everything and in the Texcor. See, they did not have anything like that. You know, they were just relying on the other data from the Texcor deal so…
DT: The geologic information?
00:58:44 – 2357
TH: Uh, huh. Yeah. So, we didn’t know if we were going to win or not, you know. That’s something you don’t know. You just got to fight hard, you know, and of course we went up to Austin several times and rallied up there and did whatever. We was kind of seasoned by the time Adobe came. We wasn’t so naïve and then the second thing I did after I got resolution from Kinney County, then I went to the Nine County Region and then I had to get resolution for them. That’s when Middle Rio Grande did a resolution against it too because see, they should of went down there and talked to Middle Rio Grande, you know, at the Solid Waste Committee and—and got permission or something for them to start, you know, a regional landfill but they knew it wasn’t going to be a regional landfill. That was just a bunch of malarkey but they had a lot of people in
00:59:39 – 2357
Brackettville convinced, you know, they—well that’s better than the N.O.R.M. waste, you know, but actually it was worse. It was whole lot worse, I think than the N.O.R.M. even.
DT: Well, I think that may wrap it up for the Texcor and Adobe.
[End of Reel 2357]
DT: Ms. Herndon, you’ve told us about the fight against the two waste proposals, Texcor and Adobe, shortly after that I think there came in proposals to mine some of the groundwater that lies under Kinney County and export it to other areas particularly San Antonio…
00:01:18 – 2358
DT: And I was wondering how that first started, how you first became aware of it?
00:01:24 – 2358
TH: Well, see, Rick Lowerre had sent me a I guess what you’d call—I guess Rick found out they had bought this land adjacent to Fort Clark that has all these Artesian Wells. So, he sent the master plan that they had—they were going to sell to Laredo and San Antonio and how much water those wells produced and blah, blah, this, you know. And so I went and met with Fort Clark but they wasn’t real worried about it or anything, you know, and I was real concerned about it because a neighbor that I know in Brackettville told me that Jim Steven, Adobe was meeting with Zack Davis and McDaniel
00:02:08 – 2358
out there on the water in the Edwards Trinity. You know, that—that the Pinto Creek runs through there. And I talked to Zack Davis and McDaniel and they said no they wasn’t going to sell water to Adobe. I thought they were trying to cut a deal with them to sell water out of Kinney County, all of them together. Zack and McDaniel said no. So, then it kind of just rocked along and then everybody started hearing rumbles
00:02:35 – 2358
about selling water out of Kinney County. So, Tully Shahan and—he’s a county attorney of Brackettville and Kinney County decided that maybe we needed a water district, you know, to—to help protect the water because they were getting real concerned about San Antonio. They been kind of looking at our water for quite awhile to, you know, export it out of there. So they formed the Kinney County Groundwater Conservation District. So, then I wasn’t real involved in it and then one day I got a call at the last session. They wanted me to go up there and speak before the senate about the water, you know, and I
00:03:20 – 2358
thought goodness, you know, really by then didn’t know who to trust because you heard about the (?) its kind of deal, you know, that they were trying to sell water and that the Davis’s is kind of—just a big deal among all—some of the ranchers and farmers. So, I didn’t really know who to trust when I went up to the senate, you know. So I went up there, made a speech concerning the water, that I felt like, you know, they were again, trying to discriminate against the poor people of Kinney County, you know, because if they export all this water out then what if Los Mores springs is in Fort Clark Springs, you
00:03:59 – 2358
know, and Fort Clark brings a lot of revenue in Brackettville and there’s Pinto creek. There’s several springs there at Brackettville. So, I didn’t really get involved until then, they had an election for the board of directors, you know, they just kind of appointed, you know, they were trying to all get, you know, and they were—back then they were trying to dissolve the water district, you know, (?) we hardly got started. And so, then we had our election…
DT: The district was started in 2002, is that right?
00:04:35 – 2358
TH: Uh, huh, yes. See, I didn’t get on the board, I was appointed in Darlene Shahan’s place. She was there, then she become the water board’s general manager so, then the commission of court appointed me in her place. Well, I was just going to fill out her term; it was just for a few months. Then they kept calling me—Joe York Jr., see, he’s on our side now to preserve the water in Brackettville, you know. So, see, it makes strange bed fellows, you know. So, he called me and said “Tootsie, you’re the only one we think that can run to beat Tony Ferret, he owns the Woolly Mohair and he’s dealt with ranchers for
00:05:15 – 2358
years there, you know, and—but his dad has water out there on the Edwards Trinity. So, they wanted me to run and I didn’t really want to, I said “I’ve just fought two battles here and I know what it takes, you know, it takes a lot of energy” and I—I give it my hundred percent. If I’m going to fight for a cause, I’m going to do the best I can. So, I talked to J.B. and the girls and said it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort of time, you know. And yeah, you need to do it Granny; somebody’s got to protect the water. So, I ran for the board and it was kind of funny Tony Ferret’s told everybody he’d beat me hands down because he knew all the ranchers and everything. And I beat him by 200 votes, which I was real proud of, you know. I didn’t think I could beat him really but I said I’d get out and work on it and I did. So, we all went in and we used a slogan “Save our water”. Well, then the McDaniel lady and the Jones another form—they filed at the
00:06:13 – 2358
ethic committee that we used that not as a slogan but to—to—to try to change the town’s people to get their votes. So, well, really it was just a slogan we thought to identify our self, you know, to save our water, you know. And it was such a different fight for me being a director—I’m just used to going out and doing my thing. Rick Lowerre would tell me, I don’t know what you’re doing, you know, but when you’re a director, you know, they—when we were running we had a big barbeque there. And they—that’s when they filed on us. We couldn’t get up there all together on the stage, it was just a big
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ordeal, you know, I don’t know they just—you can’t be for—for director at one time at any place unless you post a meeting. So, that was all new to me to me too, you know, of course, I’ve been Mayor pro tem here for years in city council and it was such a new deal for all of us and then they put me right into permit hearing. That overwhelmed me. I had all this paperwork, didn’t know anything, you know, but I said sit down and read and everything. So, after the second meeting I was there…
DT: Is the permit for wells to explore water?
00:07:36 – 2358
DT: And how much water are we talking about?
00:07:39 – 2358
TH: Well, see the farmers out there, their agriculture use, they wanted all this water, some wanted 14 acres of—of water under agriculture and historical use, you know.
DT: They were saying they were using 14-acre feet per acre of ground every year?
00:07:56 – 2358
TH: Yes, for agriculture use, gimmie a break. Then we had an expert, Steve (?) that works for the Edwards Aquifer. He was our export there telling us to give then all this water and I was on that board about twice or three times and I told the board, I said “Ya’ll need to fire that attorney then you need to fire the expert”. Well, they—our president Cecil Smith, I butted heads with him. He said “Oh well, just give them all this water and you can take it back”, now you know and I know you can’t give all this water out, say hey give me this water back. If I gave you fifty dollars and I say I want that back, well,
00:08:34 – 2358
you’d say “No, I’m not going to give it back to you”, how am I going to make you give me back fifty dollars then, you know, that’s like the water there. Well, we all kind of butted heads and everything so, I studied up what alfalfa used, you know. It don’t take a lawyer, you know, after you once know what your doing that what it takes to actually agriculture use people, it didn’t take all this water.
DT: A lot less than 14-acre for—you’re talking what? Three, four?
00:09:02 – 2358
TH: Yes, they were wanting just all kinds of water, you know, they said they used for—you’ve got about one percent farming in Brackettville, you got about two farmers really, I’d say in the whole territory that, you—you know, which I called this farmer and I knew it was just another deal, you know, that they were just trying to get our water to sell it out. Adobe was our first permit that we had and I loved it. I loved to be the one to make the motion how much water to give them and, you know, they—they put you up there and when you have to go against your attorney and expert, it’s very hard to do, it’s tough, you
00:09:42 – 2358
know. But see, it makes me feel good now that I went against them and I kind of—I think that I kind of changed the board’s view on (?) because he wanted to give them all this water. He had no notes; he had no pictures to show us to tell us if the wells was leaking, you know, if it was wasting water out there, whatever. And that’s what a conservation district is and that’s why we were elected, to protect and conserve our water there not to just give it all out. So, they’ve already—most of them has leased their water to Water Texas.
DT: What is Water Texas?
00:10:22 – 2358
TH: It’s a big company that exports water, you know, to—makes big deal like the San Antonio, Laredo and all of them; they’re a big rich company. Same kind of like Texcor and Adobe but they’re in it for—for the export water and there’s no data. There’s no science saying how much water is in Kinney County. Until we know how much water, you know, we cannot permit all this water out. Well, in the meantime, we got another deal on the other side of Kinney County, it’s Grass Valley. They’re asking all—for all this water under a regular permit to sell to Laredo. So, on one side we got Water Texas over here, we got Grass Valley over here. They kind of sandwiching us now, you know,
00:11:10 – 2358
so, they filed—they took us up to legislature, (?) Puente and Armbrister. They all kind of ganged up and they were going to dissolve the water board. So, we had to hire lobbyists, then we have to go up there, same old thing like Texcor and Adobe but just it’s about water. Well, we defeated that. Well, then they call a state audit on us, you know. So we survived that, you now, and now we’re trying to change it, Rick Lowerre is our attorney and he’s trying to change some of our rules. We’re such a young water board, you know, we’ve made mistakes, you know, and I read where Brian Sledge, our attorney,
00:11:52 – 2358
our last attorney before Rick Lowerre, he talked the water board—him and Armbrister, threatened the water board to make them have a fifty year contract, a historical permit. You never give nobody a historical permit on fifty years! Mercy, that’s where—where I read—see, the water board, I read that they wanted to give ten years historical, you know, use which would been not really good but it wouldn’t have been bad as fifty years, historical but see, what they wanted to do—they know none of them farms, they can go back fifty years where they really did farm a lots in Kinney County, you know.
DT: Oh, I see, so, this is finding out what there greatest use was in the past fifty years?
00:12:37 – 2358
TH: Oh yes, see, you have to go back with evidence, you have to look at the evidence, you know, and then you have to decide, you know. And it was some tough decision for the water board to decide, you know. And I just basically looked at evidence and gave what I thought it took to raise a crop. And if the court—high court, if they take us to district court—they done filed one deal on us and we lost out to Judge Peniten from Hondo, the—of the user fee, see, they—and…
DT: They’re filing user fees for exporting water?
00:13:10 – 2358
TH: Uh, huh, uh, huh.
DT: But they’re not authorized to do that until the injunction is over?
00:13:14 – 2358
TH: Well, really it’s so complicated about what he—he told us what we could do and can’t do but then he goes right back to your official being tied in with water (?) see. See, the—the district judge in Del Rio wouldn’t try it. So, then Judge Peniten from Hondo got it. That—that was another bad mistake on our part that we didn’t ask for another judge
00:13:44 – 2358
because he’s tied in with the water (?) and he ruled against us. So, we haven’t heard what—because we depend, we have to have a user’s fee but we’re—I think we’re going to appeal it because he’s lost every appeal that he’s—he’s made against the water district, you know. This affects to all the water districts in Texas. This—this ruling here that he put on—because all—we didn’t do any ru—user fee that any other water board didn’t use, you know, and he voted against all of us, all the water district. So, I think what
00:14:20 – 2358
we’re going to try to do is appeal the case. But see, this is just the same case of big rich people trying to force their way—to get their way to take all the water out of Kinney County, same as dumping on us, they’re raping us for our water.
DT: Can you maybe explain that by talking about the attempt to dissolve the district and then later to do an audit, how did that come about? Why—what kind of argument did they make to say that it should be dissolved…?
00:14:55 – 2358
TH: Well, you have the water marketer up there crying, Jennifer McDaniel, one of the farmers, the big farmers out there works—I think she worked for Armbrister or she worked for a senator up there, well, she went up there crying, they wouldn’t allow her daddy to farm, we wasn’t give him enough water to farm and we allowed him three-acre foot almost everybody, three acre foot of water. That will water anything in this part of the county, you know. And so, they just went up there and basically Madeline and them
00:15:31 – 2358
put it on the bill to dissolve the Kinney County Water District but they didn’t get it done. You know, how can you do that? How can—up there we did what the state ordered us to. We formed a water district, we put our management plan in, we did our rules, we did everything the state wanted us to but then there’s a money trail, again, for campaign. So, there’s a money trail to all of them.
DT: Where’s the trail go?
00:16:00 – 2358
DT: Where does the trail go?
00:16:02 – 2358
TH: To all those politicians up there, to Armbrister, Puente and Madeline, the whole bunch but see, Madeline helped us in the Texcor fight. He was our biggest supporter, him and, you know, but—I think Brian Sledge, our attorney talked to Madeline and told him our water board wasn’t any good. When we went against him and the—and the—our expert—I think—that’s me that’s hypothetically, you know, that’s my opinion that he’s the one that went up there and got this all stirred up to dissolve our water board.
DT: When we were talking earlier saying follow the money trail and can you help us understand the kind of money that’s at stake here? I read somewhere that the water in Kinney County is worth between 3 and 9 thousand dollars an acre foot, is that roughly right?
00:17:07 – 2358
TH: That what? I didn’t understand.
DT: That the water in Kinney County for exporting is worth between 3 and 9 thousand dollars and acre foot and they’re talking about exporting something like a hundred thousand acre feet a year, is that all?
00:17:24 – 2358
TH: Well, I know that’s how much they’re trying to export out of there. Now, I don’t know—I’m sure the farmers didn’t get that amount of money but they do have a—they do have agreement with Water Texas, they’ve sold their water rights to Water Texas.
DT: How much do people get for selling their water rights? Do you know?
00:17:44 – 2358
TH: See, I don’t know that, I don’t know. We had so many citizens get up there, that—see Brian Sledge, our attorney, after I was up at permit hearing about three, called me in the back and he said “I want to tell you something, Director Herndon, you’re going to have to be unbiased, you were elected to be unbiased” and I said “I’m going to tell you something too, Mr. Sledge, you tell me how I can be unbiased when I know people up there that’s lying under Gods oath. You tell me how to be unbiased, I was elected to try to conserve this water and that’s what I intend to do, be biased or unbiased” and I just left
00:18:21 – 2358
him there, you know. And they oh the—the expert then, they don’t like me because, see, this wasn’t my first rodeo see, with experts and lawyers and everything. And so, one of the directors the other day, Chuck Hall said “Tootsie, I thought you were the dumbest person. You got on the water board and you got in there after threatened me, wanted to fire our attorney and our expert and everything. He said, I told me wife God, she’s stupid coming on here wanting to fire everybody and just fussing with our president and everybody” and said “But, you know after awhile, I kind of—you put that seed of doubt in my mind and I kind of watched what—and then I went home told my wife, you know,
00:19:02 – 2358
she’s not as dumb as I thought she was” I said “ Well ya’ll forget I fought many years over there against Texcor and Adobe and I saw Brian Sledge for what he was and that I don’t care if he works for—what he works for the Edwards Aquifer. He’s nothing, he sold that community out and he robbed us. He took money, probably from both sides, that just the way I feel about it, you know.
DT: It seems like a lot of these cases get very political but they also get to be kind of argument between scientists on one side and scientists on the other and one says that this amount of water is possible to produce. The other says “No, no, no, it’s this amount” is that the case with your situation?
00:19:52 – 2358
TH: It is but they—they really don’t have any—we just have to go by what the water commission says. They say we have sixty-nine thousand, you know, in—in reserve, you know. We have to go by their figures, you know, that’s what our water board—we have to go and we’re—we did different zoning and, you—you know, and we cannot give out more water then what we have. And that’s what—what the expert did. On the Edwards Aquifer, he’s over permitted 180,000 acre foot of water. So, now what kind of expert is he? You know, I just don’t understand these experts when they over permit as much as
00:20:33 – 2358
he did and he tried to do the same thing in Kinney County, only we had a board that stood tough and we just—we didn’t over permit. And if they take it to—to a big court and we lose, so be it. I know I’ve done what I told the people I would do, try to conserve the water, you know, the best we can. And we’re a new board, you know, we made mistakes, you know, because it’s overwhelming, you know, it’s overwhelming when you’re a director. It’s so different than just out here fighting, you now, when you’re fighting the duck people, you know, you got to be careful because than you get the whole board in trouble.
DT: So, what is the difference between before you were a member of C.A.R.E. a little non-profit group association of citizens and then you now board member of this conservation district and, you know, you’re an official, how much latitude do you get with those two different positions?
00:21:37 – 2358
TH: You just don’t—to me I never represented C.A.R.E. when I—I spoke or done anything I always just represented myself, you know, and they really—they had a deal o—in Brackettville when they were, you know, trying to get the board elected. They didn’t want me to speak because they know I’m just going to tell like it is and oh well, let it fly where it may, you know. But then the—the mayor had asked me to speak to the citizens of Brackettville about the water, you know, and I kind of laid it on because I’m very worried about our water due to the fact Spofford hadn’t had water all these years and
00:22:17 – 2358
I, you know, I know what it’s like not to have water. So, I spoke, they didn’t really want me too, you know, because I guess there’s a fine line between being a director—and Rick Lowerre asked me not to speak at the senate, said I don’t want you speaking. He said I want you to keep your mouth shut, pleased don’t speak. So, I didn’t, you know, but that’s where it’s hard for me because I’m used to just calling an ace an ace and a spade a spade and that’s the way it’s go—with me.
DT: Well, maybe we can give you a chance to call and ace an ace and a spade a spade. We often wrap up these interviews by asking a question about what sort of advice you’d give the next generation that comes on board in Spofford or Kinney County. What’s important, what should they work for towards conserving the water or land?
00:23:10 – 2358
TH: I think that they should realize that we’re only caretakers here. God gave us a beautiful planet here but man has really tried to ruin it and this—like the waste dumps, it’s just like a toxic—it’s like a merry-go-round. They put it here and then they move it here and everything and it’s just for money, for greed. And I think that our new generation should learn to conserve and protect. The most important thing we have is water and our land and the air we breath—or breathe. We should protect it at all cost. And I think it’s every citizen’s moral obligation to protect our water, our air and our land because God gave it to us. It was beautiful when he gave it to—but we have nearly
00:24:02 – 2358
destroyed—and I think that—that, you know, San Antonio, I don’t feel sorry for. I’m sorry, they waste a lot of water in Fiesta, Texas and all that that they—they could stop a lot of that. I think we all need to conserve and protect our natural resources because water is life, you know, and water now is like liquid gold, you know. I never thought—you go to the store and buy a little bottle of water and see what you pay for it, you know. And for my advice to the future generation to stand up and be heard mostly and it has to start
00:24:40 – 2358
when they’re little. And I think my grandchildren see, they wrote to—to president, governor and everything when we were fighting Texcor and I think they all realized how important it is to protect our land, you know. And I’m not saying—I know they make a lot of waste but they could—they could stop a lot of it, you know. It’s just so much
00:25:03 – 2358
money in it till they just—they’re destroying our land and they’re—now all the big city is trying to eat up the small people here and take our water now, you know. We’ve always had plenty of water but we don’t know how much water we have if you put big pipelines in to pipe it to San Antonio or to Laredo, you know. And it’s not a job you get paid for all these many hours in permit hearing and you’ve got to make tough decisions. There’s no money in it. There’s no hidden agenda on my for—for nothing I do because I have no water and if I had water, I wouldn’t want ex—export it out unless there’s a lot of data
00:25:46 – 2358
they’re telling me how much water is in Kinney County. And I think somebody should spend about a million or two and tell us how much water, why can’t the state come in here, some of our officials from the state and get us some grant money to tell us how much water before they want to dissolve our water district and sell our water out to San Antonio. That would be my advice to them, you know.
DT: You told us that the future generation should think more about conserving land and water of course. And I was hoping you could tell us a little about why this community of Spofford and then brush country out here mean so much to you, what is it about it that…?
00:26:34 – 2358
TH: Well, I think when you’re born and raised in a place, you have roots and my family, all my family, was here. My grandfather, my grandmother and I think it’s the love of the country. I would not even want to see any place devastated with all these massive dumps, you know, right close to—to your home, you know. I think they could find a better place to put some of it and cut down a lot of it that they make. I think there’s other things they could use, you know, other sources that they could do, you know. And if our future generation don’t do something to—to really think about conserving, you know, our
00:27:14 – 2358
water and everything, in fifty years, what is it going to be like? You know, you have to instill this in your younger generation because us old people we’re going to be dead and gone, you know. Somebody’s going to have pick up the—the sword and fight, you know, for what they believe in. And you got to be persistent and you got to care. You got to love your—your country and you want to—you know, like they just throw out trash everyplace, you know. Give me a break, it’s so sad now that they have no respect for, you know, the beaches or nothing. They throw all their trash right there, you know,
00:27:52 – 2358
and they close all these little dumps up and then they go down and just throw it any place. So, see, I wonder what the state’s thinking about because it’s better to put it in one place if you’re going to have a dump, you know, than just throw it out all over, you know, but the future it seems like the lobbyists has took over our country and that’s the sad part about it. That you not only have to fight some of your citizens of Brackettville but you’ve got to fight your state also. That’s the sad part that—that we have fought so hard against our own state government because that—they have no mercy for us. It’s whoever’s got the big bucks up in Austin, that’s who—who they look at.
DT: Well, it sounds like they’ve heard you several times.
00:28:42 – 2358
TH: Oh, yes, I’m sure they have and they’re going to hear me several more times probably before I’m off of the water—water board but I really didn’t want to get in this fight because I know it’s a tough fight. When you fight big money, you know, it’s the same deal as here, your just—have to fight it in a different way.
DT: You’ve got a lot of heart for it, thank you so much for coming.
00:29:04 – 2358
TH: Thank ya’ll. I appreciate it and I want you to read the Los Angeles Times because that is a very good article that tells a lot there.
DT: I will do that.
00:29:14 – 2358
TH: About the Texcor fight.
DT: Thank you for telling us, I appreciate it.
00:29:18 – 2358
TH: Thank you.
End of reel 2358
End of interview with Tootsie Herndon