By J. S. ‘Steve’ Kole Jr.
Steve Kole said when John Deere sent the twin “MX” experimental pre-Model “R” tractors to their Kole Rice Farm in 1942, when he was 3-years old, they created so much excitement that this was the first memory he can recall as a child. The tractors were painted battleship gray rather than John Deere green and yellow.
“My father, J. S. ‘Skeet’ Kole Sr., had a close working relationship with the John Deere factory people from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, until his health started slipping. In 1950, my father purchased four Model “R” Diesels when I was ten-years old. He later purchased an “820” and “830” as soon as they became available.”
“As a teenager, my next younger brother, Lawrence, and I grew up on the Model “R,” “820” and “830.” You haven’t lived until you spend most of the summer on a steel-wheeled Model “R” pulling a John Deere moldboard plow, with three 12-inch moldboards, plowing at a four-five-inch depth, while having to travel all the time in low gear. We would start plowing in a 100-acre field with four Model “Rs” at 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning, take a 30-minute lunch break, stop plowing at 5:30 p.m. to grease and fill up with fuel, and it would take us until Friday afternoon to complete plowing the 100 acres. Plowing that Beaumont Blue Clay in the summer is like plowing compacted road base material.”
“When we got the “820,” and later the “830,” as teenagers we thought we had died and gone to heaven. I still regard the “820” and “830” to this day as engineering masterpieces. The John Deere engineers pushed two-cylinder technology to the edge of the envelope when they built these two tractors. The best analogy I can think of is the P-51 Mustang Fighter airplane. The “820” is like the P-51 with the Packard engine, and the “830” is like the P-51 with the Merlin engine.”
“My father died in 1962, at 52 years of age, from complications related to diabetes and undiagnosed sleep apnea. Eight months prior to his death, our farm experienced a once-in-50-60-year saltwater flooding due to Hurricane Carla, which struck the Gulf Coast with an abnormal storm surge in September 1961. Our entire 2000-acre rice farm was covered by the Gulf of Mexico, with saltwater from nine feet in depth on the north end (which was 3 miles farther inland.) This once in a lifetime event took its toll on my father, who had been slipping in health the last few years of his life.” “At the time of his death I was 22, and the oldest son and second-oldest child of eleven children. My mother was 41, with eight minor children still at home. My brother Lawrence was in the Air Force, stationed in San Antonio, with three years to serve.”
“My new bride of six months, Joyce Ann Waguespack-Kole, and I willingly accepted the challenge of taking charge of the rice farm and assisting my mother with my eight minor brothers and sisters who were still at home.”
“Fortunately, we also had Adam Labove Sr., our foreman, who had been working for my father since 1946. Adam worked back to back with us in turning the operation around after Hurricane Carla. Also, the early 1960s were a good time to be in rice farming because of technological breakthroughs such as herbicides, along with being able to get a second cutting of rice from the same plant in the same growing season.”
“A third major breakthrough in farming technology was the introduction of the John Deere “5010” tractor. Some people may not understand how big an event this was, and how it positively impacted our lives. As well engineered as the “820” and “830” were and still are, the leap to the “5010” was as dramatic in technology as going from the P-51 Mustang Fighter to the F-86 Sabre Jet Fighter.”
“The “5010” not only eliminated the cranking engine, steel wheels, and the hand clutch, but it introduced to us the large capacity three-point hitch with effective draft control, along with having a quick-coupler feature. For the first time we had a fully adjustable wraparound armchair-type seat with a shock absorber cushioning mechanism.”
“The balance and agility for a machine this big and powerful was astounding. It could turn on a dime and give you a nickel in change. The increased productivity it afforded us reduced our manpower requirement, level of management intensity, etc., etc. I cannot say enough about how dramatic this leap forward was in one fell swoop. It was a fantastic experience, and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”
I saw my first “5010” in the fall of 1963, at my cousin L. W. “Bill” McBride’s rice farm near ours in Chambers County, south of Winnie, Texas. He had just purchased it, and it was pulling an eleven-foot Taylor Way Disk plowing in new ground and walking away with the load. Adam Labove Sr., and I saw it together, and we could not believe it. We were not even aware that John Deere was working on such an animal. I believe this was one of the first, if not the first, “5010” on the upper Texas Gulf Coast.”
“Our farm purchased a “5010” the next year, in 1964, when I was 24. Within five years of the introduction of the “5010,” the rainbow tractor, Oliver, Minneapolis-Moline, Allis Chalmers, etc., owners started to replace them with “5010s.” The John Deere “5010” completely buried the competition in the rice country along the upper Texas Gulf Coast, where we farmed between Houston and the Louisiana border.”
“Between 1963 and 1966, Lawrence would arrive on leave from San Antonio, and at every opportunity he would help part-time with whatever farming operations were going on that time. In 1966 he finished his tour of duty with the Air Force and returned to the farm full time to help out with raising our younger brothers and sisters. I was looking for someone to help take over as a partner, because I had my plate more than full. By this time, Joyce and I had four beautiful children. The first three children, Renee, Christine, and Jim, were born 12 months apart, and our fourth child, Maria, was born 14 months after Jim.”
“After taking some trips into Arkansas to look into Farm-Raised Catfish Farming, Lawrence and I decided to enter the catfish farming business in 1966. Lawrence looked after that operation. At the time we entered into the catfish farming business, little did we know that it would enhance the value of the farm to the point that the 2000-acre farm would be purchased from us lock, stock, and barrel at a premium price in 1971. At the time I did not want to sell but was out-voted by the family. Looking back, we sold at the right time for catfish farming along the Texas Gulf Coast, as it did not pan out in the long run, and rice farming has also been on the wane since then along the Texas Gulf Coast.”
Stephen Ottry McBride, pioneer rice grower, has been planting a rice crop every year for upward of half a century, beginning with small acreage and developing his property since coming to Chambers County a quarter century ago he has been one of the large producers in this section of Texas. Mr. McBride has a productive and carefully cultivated rice farm, located ten miles West of Winnie, in Chambers County, which he is now working in partnership with his grandson, and which averages some six hundred acres in cultivation annually.
Mr. McBride planted his first rice crop in 1885, in San Landra Parish, Louisiana, now known as Acadia Parish, cultivating providence rice, but depending on highland farming for his main sustenance. His first year he only planted ten acres, gradually increasing this, and one year made eleven hundred sacks of rice off of providence rice, which was threshed by steam engine that year, although he ordinarily used horsepower. In 1912, he left Louisiana and came to Texas, locating in Chambers County, and working on the Farmer’s Canal, making twenty-three hundred sacks of rice his first year, off of two hundred and forty acres. After the canal came in, he raised as much as four thousand sacks per crop, and his average yield has been eleven sacks per acre, with his average acreage until recently around three hundred, his present cultivated acreage being around six hundred acres.
Mr. McBride was born in St. Landra Parish, Louisiana, on the fifteenth day of June 1854, and is a son of Walter McBride and Judie Higginbotham-McBride, members of pioneer Louisiana families. Mr. McBride grew up on the farm, and early turned to farming as a career. Mr. McBride was married in Louisiana, on the twenty-ninth day of September 1874, to Miss Louise Woods, a daughter of P. W. Woods and Louise Woods. Mr. and Mrs. McBride have seven children: Pierre W., Stephen P., Ottry T., Sam E., Frank H., and William McBride, and Annie, now Mrs. James Kole, the only daughter. They belong to the Catholic Church. Mr. McBride has membership in the Rice Growers’ Association. Although an octogenarian, Mr. McBride has that stalwartness that has been gained from outdoor living, and his hobby is driving his car, and inspecting his fertile acres. He can look back over a life usefully lived, and his comprehensive and practical knowledge of the development of the rice growing industry is unique in that he has lived through and taken part in the vital years in the advancement of rice growing as a coastal crop.
Stephen Ottry McBride
William Michael McBride has been active in developing the rice growing industry in Chambers County, Texas, for the past score of years, and during this time has also engaged in the cattle business in connection with his agricultural interests. Mr. McBride has a well improved farm, lying nine miles west of Winnie, having begun the improvement of this place in 1917 at the time he entered the rice growing business independently. Prior to that time, he had rice farmed with his father for about five years. Mr. McBride’s first crop on his own place was two hundred and twenty acres, which acreage he increased until in 1928 he had four hundred and sixty acres planted in rice. He has since dropped his acreage, due to market conditions and other factors, averaging around three hundred acres annually. He also runs about two hundred head of mixed cattle, of Brahma strain, which he is consistently grading up.
Mr. McBride was born in Crowley, Louisiana, on the ninth day of September 1894, and is a son of Stephen Ottry McBride and Louisa Woods McBride. He attended the schools of Louisiana and in 1911 came to Texas with his father, farming with him for several years, as he had done in Louisiana. He then branched off for himself and has since developed substantial farming interests. Mr. McBride was married at Beaumont, Texas, in October 1916, to Miss Iva Plummer, a daughter of F. W. Plummer and Sophie Blume Plummer. Mr. and Mrs. McBride have four children: William Carlisle, Jack Clealen, Wilton Ward, and James Woods. The family is of Catholic faith. Mr. McBride has membership in the American Rice Growers’ Association and the Coastal Cattlemen’s Association. His hobby is cattle, and the herd of Brahma cattle represent far more to him than a source of income, he taking great pride in maintaining them in prime condition, and in the high grade individuals he adds to the herd from time to time.