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Git Home!

This rough, gruff, to-the-point Texas rancher
is deeply involved in the War for the West.

Tom Linebery:

Boss of the

Story by J. Zane Walley. Photo by Doug Miller.

Tom Linebery is getting on in years and has a lot miles in the saddle, but his mental powers have not been diminished one iota. He sits under mesquite trees and an umbrella at the Jones family picnic on the Wineglass Ranch in Southern New Mexico sipping lemonade and visiting with neighbors from two states. They unmistakably admire this rough, gruff, to-the-point Texas rancher. Linebery is having a great time shaking hands with old cowboy buddies, young cowpokes, bear-hugging their wives and children, answering questions and spouting country wisdom.

Linebery likes to talk politics because he is, and has been, deeply involved in the War for the West and preservation of western heritage for over 30 years. Linebery doesn’t just talk politics, he puts his money where his mouth is, and expects everyone else in the ranching industry to ante up their fair share if they want to keep ranching. Linebery and his wife Evelyn founded the Scarborough-Linebery Foundation and were instrumental in establishing the Paragon Foundation, non-profit organizations that are having considerable positive impact not only on ranchers but on property owners across America.

The Scarborough-Linebery Foundation goal is to keep western heritage alive. It has supported numerous museum projects in Texas including the West of the Pecos Museum in Pecos, Windmill Park in Lubbock, and the Haley Library in Midland. Through 4-H foundations, they also support scholarships for bright students in Texas and New Mexico who plan a career in agriculture, as well as other education grants. The Foundation also supports litigation to maintain private property rights as determined by the U.S. Constitution.

The Paragon Foundation fulfills Linebery’s dream of a fighting arm, a legal sledgehammer. It funds private and public property litigation that concerns not only ranchers, but Americans from all lifestyles. The old man has a real passion for the property rights fight. He gives rancher Bob Jones, Paragon president, a sideways glance and says, “I’ve worked with Bob and the boys 30 years. They are the most efficient group that ever fought against the BLM. I don’t claim to be much, but I am a good judge of horses and men.” He looks at Bob again and chuckles, “Hell, anybody that don’t trust Bob Jones should be drowned!”

Linebery pauses and reflects: “I remember meeting LBJ [Lyndon Baines Johnson]; that man had a sorry countenance. You can’t trust a fat politician; they are too well fed. A fat person don’t have to care too much about the nation.”

Tom and Evelyn’s involvement in the ranching industry has earned them several awards. The one they seem proudest of is the “Boss of the Plains,” presented by the National Ranching Heritage Center. They were presented with a Stetson Ten-Gallon hat, like one made famous by Tom Mix and Dan Blocker. Linebery reckons the hat wasn’t big enough. “By the time the awards committee got through talking about what we have done in ranching, my head swelled up so much it wouldn’t fit in the durn thing.”

Linebery got his education in an unlikely manner. He was born May 21, 1910, the sixth of nine children, on a Johnson grass farm in Brown County, Texas. It was there, he says, “I surely learned how to work.” During the Depression of 1929, the young farm boy took the train west to Midland, the new oil capital of the Permian Basin. There he found work operating the elevator in the new high rise Petroleum Building. For the next four years he met, listened to, and learned from the pioneers of the oil industry, knowledge that was to be important later in his life. Linebery reminisces, “I reckon four years riding that elevator was better than a degree from Harvard College. I was exposed to some of the finest business minds in the United States.”

In Midland he met and courted Evelyn Scarborough, the keen and captivating daughter of rancher Bill Scarborough. Evelyn graduated from Midland High School, attended college at Wayland in Plainview and Simmons in Abilene. When Texas Tech opened its doors, she transferred to Lubbock, where she received her bachelor’s degree in the first graduating class. She and Tom were married on Nov. 2, 1933 at the Scarboroughs’ “Big House” in Midland. Linebery left his job at the Petroleum Building and joined Evelyn’s father at the ranch.

Bill Scarborough died unexpectedly in 1939 (“My father-in-law was on the range till he died,” Linebery recalls) leaving the young couple the 45,000-acre Frying Pan Ranch with a large debt and a lengthy drought. It would have seemed hopeless to many, but Tom and Evelyn worked shoulder to shoulder until retiring the debt in 1950. Linebery remembers those were fatiguing, laborious days. “We both worked hard. Many times our day would end at 11 o’clock at night and start again the next morning at one o’clock. We had to hold on to the Frying Pan and we did it by just working hard and moving the cattle wherever there was grass.”

Linebery credits his success on the ranch to Evelyn, “She is the best ranch woman in the country. We never would have succeeded on the Frying Pan without her ranch knowledge, management skills, and constant work. She knows more about the ranch business than any woman I’ve ever met and she was always willing to do anything that needed to be done, whether it was saddle horses or help the chuckwagon cook.”

As their inherited debt dwindled, they began purchasing leased land including BLM properties adjacent to the Frying Pan. “It was a question of buying or losing the chance to buy,” Linebery remembers. By the early ’60s, Tom and Evelyn owned outright the entire 135,000 acres of the present Frying Pan. He never forgot his neighbors who had to depend upon federal grazing land and has worked throughout his life to help them. He became politically involved while working on a facilitating action to secure passage of Section 8 of the Taylor Grazing Act, a crucial provision for ranchers.

Oil was discovered on the Frying Pan in 1926, but mineral development occurred in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The Lineberys just kept on ranching, although Tom admits that the surface damages they received from oil companies helped through many a drought year. Those lessons Linebery learned while shuttling oil magnates in the Petroleum Building elevator became priceless. At almost 90 years of age he is still viewed as one of the toughest oil and gas lease negotiators in Texas and New Mexico.

But “tough” is Linebery’s nature. Droughts, predators, long hours in the saddle in all kinds of weather, see-saw cattle prices, the two-legged coyotes in the oil business and dealing with politicians have made him that way.

He sure isn’t happy with today’s crop of politicians. He virtually growls when he says, “Congress is sorry as hell, just about all are sold out. I believe that if every American in our country sent a letter to them, they wouldn’t change. We must quit listening to the lies on TV and in newspapers and realize that a vote for an incumbent is a vote for the status quo. I got something to say to the readers of RANGE magazine. People and hard work, not the government, are creators of our economy. If you fail to speak out, fail to fight back, we are sure as hell going to lose this war for our rights.”

The evening sun is starting to cast long shadows across the Otero Mesa. Linebery looks a little disappointed to be leaving the picnic. He heaves out of his chair, steadies himself on his walking cane, says his good-byes to his neighbors as he remarks, “Well, the sun is getting ready to set and I gotta be home by milking time.”

For information on Paragon Foundation check <> or call 505-434-8998.


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last page update: 04.03.05