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As they’ve done for the better part of seven decades, Roby and Billy Watson continue to battle pests, weeds and weather to earn a living from grain production.
The Watson brothers, Roby and Billy, with sons James and Billy Michael in back.
Back when they were youngsters, Roby and Billy Watson worked all week on their father’s farm then took off on Saturday afternoon to compete in rodeos within driving distance of Leonard, Texas. They always made it home in time for church on Sunday mornings.
“We did calf roping and bulldogging,” Roby said from the relative comfort of a lawn chair in a barn situated just across the road from where he and his brother grew up. They were never particularly interested in riding bulls or bucking broncos.
The old homestead is now under cultivation—corn and wheat, both of which benefitted from an early May rainfall that had the Watson family farmers—Roby’s son James is part of the operation now—hopeful for decent yields.
The three talked about crop prospects, timely rain and some close calls with a late freeze or two on a windy, overcast, cool May afternoon that held promise for another soaking rain before dark. Roby and Billy also reminisced about their early days on the farm and remarked on the changes they’ve witnessed—from adding anhydrous ammonia to global positioning system agriculture.
They started early. Roby recalls wielding a hoe when he was about eight years old. He was born in 1936. Billy was born less than two years later, in 1938. “I know I was hoeing in 1942 or 1943,” Roby said.
He got out of school in 1954, served in the army for a time and came back to the farm, where he and Billy have worked together ever since.
“I don’t recall we ever disagreed on much,” Billy said.
They’ve worked in other occupations along with maintaining the farm. “We’ve done electrical work, “Billy said.
It’s a skill they picked up on the fly. They recall learning from a friend who worked for “the light company” as he was wiring a house on his own time. The brothers helped with that and leaned about wiring.
“He just showed us how,” Billy said. “It’s pretty simple.” They’ve reworked motors and done any electrical work that needed doing. They’ve gotten away from it in recent years.
“We might have been better off staying with wiring work,” Roby said.
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They also run a custom fertilizer business and take care to evaluate new products before they recommend them to customers. They see a lot of questionable claims about some products they’re asked to sell.