Joseph Cook, presenting Katee's
“Jack is as strong as the steel he has formed over a hot forge most of his life, but so soft inside when it comes to his family. Nothing could harm us when Pop was around. When we are sad he holds us with his calloused hands and makes it all better. When we are happy or successful, he laughs and celebrates with us. He is a man of few words, but when he does say something, you better listen 'cause it is important” is how my grandmother explains her feelings for her step-father, Jack Inman.
Born in Seminole, Oklahoma on September 24th, my great grandfather, Jack Wayne Inman, is one of the most interesting people I have ever learned about. His parents were Bert and Leta [Presley] Inman, yes- she was a distant relative to ‘The King of Rock’n’Roll’ Elvis Presley. Jack finished high school in Haskell, Oklahoma, and then later attended Bacone College, a predominately Native American school in Muskogee, Oklahoma. During the summer of 1948, he married Jane McSpades and moved to Tulia, Texas, where he still resides today. Jack and Jane conceived three children: Ronald Wayne, Donald Lee, and Janna Kay. They divorced, and later he remarried my great grandmother, Pauline (Polly) Belcher. They got married on July 2, 1970. Pauline came into the marriage with two children, Paula Ann, my grandmother, and her brother Thomas Earl. They now had a joined family of five. “I sure got lucky when [Jack] married mom, Tom, and I. He has lots of room in that great big old heart of his,” says my grandmother.
On December 25, 1948, Jack’s parents Bert and Leta moved to Tulia so that Jack and his father could open a partnership doing custom harvesting and operating Inman Welding and Blacksmith Shop in Tulia, Texas. Rumor had it that he had actually won the business in a poker game, but Jack believes the rumor to be false.
Throughout the year, Jack would travel with the equipment and his harvest hands from Texas to Canada harvesting wheat, maize, and corn. When he wasn’t harvesting, he would return home to toil in the shop welding and doing blacksmith’s work. He continued this until their custom harvesting business was discontinued forcing him to work in the shop year-round. The shop built trailers, plows, and rolled discs for farm tractor plows. They also bent horse shoes and did just about anything to do with metal.
Jack once told my grandmother that “[he] love[s] both welding and blacksmithing, but it sure [gets] so hot and so smoky that welding is probably [his] favorite.” He uses coal for the forge and has to travel all the way to Arkansas to get a special coal that smithy’s use called anthracite. Blacksmith’s also use bellows, anvils, a 50 pound hammer operated by a foot pedal, and have a water tank behind the forge used to cool the fiery hot steel. Sometimes farmers would bring their newly bought equipment in and would get my great-grandfather to put a hard surface on the plows to keep them from wearing. The surface Jack put on them was used on the bottom for harder soils, and the top for sandy ground.
Bert Inman, Jack’s father, retired in 1974. With Bert’s retirement, Jack bought out his half of the business to be the full owner. Tulia High School wanted to set up a welding course at the high school and went to Jack for help; he helped set up the course and taught it for a while. He really enjoyed teaching the course for two reasons: he was doing what he loved, and he enjoyed being around the lively young people.
About a year and a half ago, Jack sold most of his shop equipment and the building where his shop had once been. This action made everyone believe he was headed for retirement, but they were wrong. “I don’t believe he will quit working until the day he dies. That’s not Jack’s way,” is how my grandmother explains her father’s working habits. Instead of retiring like everyone thought he would, he opened a smaller shop closer to home and was back in business within months. He still welds today; mostly working on feeders and hay transport trailers. He is currently repairing a feed truck that has four twenty-four inch augers that run from front to back to mix the feed as the truck drives to the cattle pens, then a side dump allowed the feed to be put in the cattle feeders.
“It is hard
work being a smithy and the years of working over the forge have
taken a toll on Jack’s poor ole worn out body.” Today, there are
few true blacksmith’s left in
Texas, especially in the panhandle where my
great-grandfather resides. It is becoming a lost art, which truly
makes me proud to say that my seventy-eight year old
great-grandfather, Jack Inman, is a Texas Blacksmith, and is still
working hard to this day.