They are a bit legendary to many folks who visit the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp. And George lives up to the legend.
His wife, Brenda, tells us about the time just a few years ago when George was walking the fence line with his dog. The dog chased up a wild pig, and George killed it with his pocket knife. Encouraged by this, the dog ran into some bushes and came back out with a much larger wild pig at her heels. This time, George climbed a fence until the pig wandered off.
“That second one was too big for my pocket knife,” George said.
“You are too old to be killing any pig with a pocket knife,” Brenda told him.
For several years, the Foundation has been inviting people to ask, “Who is our neighbor?” This question takes us to San Antonio where our narrative change project is examining the way different neighborhoods have been supported or not. Those efforts lean into the broadest definition of neighboring as we understand it from the story of the good Samaritan.
But none of that lets us individually or institutionally off the hook from being good to neighbors to people who share an apartment wall, a street, or a backyard fence.
In remote locations like the Texas Hill Country, fence lines may be longer, but neighbors are still neighbors. God calls us to love each other and watch out for each other.
“One of my favorite stories,” said Foundation President David Rogers, “is how Mr. Haby let our operations staff know any time aflood was coming our way. Legend has it that he could tell us whether it was going to be a two-foot flood or a 20-foot flood.” Before our current high tech flood warning system, the Habys themselves were the system. Even today they are an important partner in helping us watch the weather.
“I don’t know how many canoes, kayaks, and docks they helped us save over the years, but it has been significant,” Rogers said.
The H. E. Butt Foundation may interact with our literal next-door neighbors upstream—the Habys—very little, but each interaction is meaningful precisely because it is uncommon. We are intentionally learning how to be a good neighbor in Real County. We even opened the Real County Community Initiative office in Leakey to focus this work.
On our visit to the Haby Ranch, George and Brenda drove us on their mule from the farmhouse to the headwaters. Their dog Zoey ran in front of the vehicle half the time.
“She’s a Blue Lacy dog,” Brenda said. “That’s the state dog of Texas.”
(As a side note, the breed was developed by the forebears of our own Dwight Lacy who served as CFO and a member of the Foundation Board for three decades.)