Boyce Sanders recalls days of hard work, hunts

By Jack M. Willis
Journal Correspondent

There are a lot of articles and essays written about the old West, including in-depth studies of the 1930s Hollywood-style cowboys, but I had the distinct pleasure several days ago of discussing with a gentleman the rough lifestyle he had endured for a lifetime, which began just after the turn of the 20th Century when Louisiana had their fair share of real cowboys too!

Boyce Turner Sanders was born in 1922 just over the parish line west of Tullos, the middle son of Louis Sanders, with two brothers and a sister comprising his siblings. He was raised on a 97-acre homestead which abutted extensive property owned by one of the more prominent cattle-owning families, the Allbritton's, with the west bank of Bayou Castor also populated by the Pendarvis and the McCarty families who owned hundreds of head of cattle and hogs that ranged well over into Winn Parish as well as a portions of LaSalle and Grant Parish.

At one time or another the owners of the different spreads would get together for spring and fall round-ups exactly like similar scenes from Texas, Oklahoma, or any other prominent cattle producing state you could name. It would take all hands and the cook to round up and pen cattle for branding, steer conversion or dipping, and to cull the non-producing cows out of the various herds to get ready to send to the "sale".

One fact Mr. Turner Sanders was very quick to point out was that messing with a bunch of cows, wrestling ornery mavericks, roping, branding, and breaking "using" horses to ride was no Sunday school picnic. "Don't make no mistake about it; it was hard, back-breaking work!"

When Turner started school, he attended for eight years at a small rural school about five miles west of Bayou Castor, in the community of Curry. On June 17, 1933 Turner Sander's father passed away, so later on Mrs. Sanders picked up and moved to Tullos where Turner finished the rest of the school year. The next year he started in the ninth grade at Urania. It didn't take long for him to decide that he had all the education he needed to be a success in life, so he quit schooling for good in 1937. For one thing the height of the Great Depression was taking its toll, and his mother was having a hard time making ends meet.

In Tullos he went to work in a welding and machine shop owned and operated by a gentleman named J.B. "Pop" Fowler. This apprenticeship would equip him for a promotion and better paying job a little later on.

Meanwhile, H.L. Hunt had brought in the Olla Field beginning in 1937, after the Tullos boom had run its course, necessitating Turner relocating to Olla where there was more work and he was employed by Loper Machine works. Since he was already well schooled in basic welding and pre-fabrication skills, he was immediately elevated in pay to the enormous sum of $1.00 an hour. While he was employed by the Loper Company performing welding or 'daubing, as he refers to the skill, "it got into his blood", and he decided right then and there that "running a bead" would become his lifetime occupation, if it paid enough.

About this time, H.L. Hunt's persistence in finally persuading William "L'il Will" Buchanan to sign over a blanket lease to the all of the Buchanan-Bodcaw Dynasty mineral rights on over 265,000 acres paid off big time with H. L. Hunt & Co. bringing in the Good Pine # 1 in early 1940, and thus the Nebo oil field south of Jena came into being.

The oil production from this discovery would tilt the financial scales in Hunt's favor and for the first time in about 20 years of "wildcatting" ventures, he had enough cash flow to make his payrolls, without having to stay up playing poker all night to make enough to pay his hands.

Meanwhile M.R.Germany, Sr. and his three sons Marshall, Jr.,Clyde and Louis moved to Jena from Shreveport and opened up M.R. Germany Welding and Machine Works. Since business in the Olla-Tullos area had just about run its course, Turner Sanders moved to Jena and went to work for the Germanys. This was when he met Wilma Hailey, the second oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Anthony Hailey, Sr.

By late 1942 Hunt Enterprise had drilled out the bulk of the Nebo Field, work was slow at Germany's business, so Turner relocated to Monroe to go back to work for one of his former employers, Loper Machine Works. He and Wilma were married in September of 1942 and set up housekeeping in Monroe.

Because the U.S. Defense Department considered Turner's employers, who had landed several government contracts, as a valuable asset to the war effort they had been giving Turner a series of six-month long deferments to keep him from being drafted. But, at the tender age of 26 he was drafted into the U.S. Army on May 16th, 1944. He was offered a job in Maintenance in the U.S Army Air Corps Engineers, but he turned it down. He said he could have enlisted in the U.S. Navy also, but wouldn't because he didn't like the thought of being on a naval vessel for a long duration, and he insisted they assign him to the U.S. Army.

They shipped him over to the Mississippi Ordnance Plant in Flora, which was a wide place in the road about 10 miles east of Jackson, MS. They found out what his skill was, so immediately he picked up his welding trade just like he'd been doing in civilian life.

Suddenly, on February 5th, 1945 he received orders to ship out for the Philippine Islands where he was put to work helping to construct a Japanese prison camp, which was eventually turned into a junkyard. His comrades in arms nicknamed him "Sandy", and the next thing he knew he was put in charge of six Japanese prisoners. All they did was stroll around with a yard broom, a rake and a bucket or two doing yard K.P.

This type of dragging around soon got old, and "Sandy" asked to be transferred to the welding shop again and they granted his request. This last stint finished up his tour of duty, and it was back to the good oh U. S. of A. where he was discharged on May 12, 1946. He lacked four days, serving two full years in the Armed Services and was immensely pleased be back home with Wilma. Over the years they parented two girls and two boys with Turner resuming his welding vocation, but he became an independent contractor.

He performed a lot of contract work for Justiss-Mears Oil Co., and he and a fellow independent welder Abe L. Flowers collaborated on a lot of various projects including numerous contracts for the LaSalle Parish School Board. A lot of their jobs consisted of removing school bus bodies from their old original power train, and replacing them with new power trains. Their ingenuity resulted in saving the school system thousands of dollars because they very seldom had to buy new bodies.

Turner said one thing he liked about working with Abe Flowers was that they never, ever hit a snag or a problem that had all the appearances of being an impossible situation without Abe coming up with a method of solving their impasse. Sanders said he was one of the most innovative people he ever had the privilege of working with through the years. Abe's son Woodie Flowers is a semi-retired M.I.T. professor today.

Being raised in an area where wild game was abundant, he was right at home around Catahoula Lake and its Nebo environs, and about a week before deer season opened every year he hung the welding leads up along with his welding helmet, until hunting season was over and then it was back to work.

When Boyce Turner Sanders turned 64 years old he retired for good, and he meant it. He adamantly refused numerous offers of employment maintaining that he was retired forever more. His body had taken such a beating through the years by having to assume all sorts of contorted positions in order to make various welds, that he had very simply had enough of the life-style of a welder.

Turner Sanders is nearing 87 years of age, but his only concession to the aging process, is that he's hard of hearing and has to wear a hearing aid, and he doesn't get around as swiftly as he once did. He has marvelous recall of dates and names of individuals from many years past.

He enjoys recalling and relating the hunting yarns and events occurring with such Nebo Hall of Fame members such as James "Jack" Allen, Harvey Bradford Rodney Girlinghouse, William Wroe Graham, Willis Chevalier and Clarence Walker.

He recalled thoughtfully ... those were hard times, but good times, because I had a wealth of friends I could call on any hour of the day or night.

All it took was three consecutive blasts on my hunting horn and they'd come a runnin'!