I’ve buried too many close friends lately and I just decided it would be nice to write a living memorial for two people who have been the greatest contributors to my life, my own brothers, John and Tom Taylor. Most of you, who know me through my fossil work and this web site, never see those behind the scenes. John and Tom have been there. And without their help, encouragement and sometimes critical financial help, my fossil work and the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum would not have been possible.
John is my older brother of three years. Tom is three years younger.
John is an actor, an operatic singer, a dancer, and reads some 50 political and news sources a week. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t get much up on my brother. John is also a long-time member of MENSA. That’s an organization for smart people, one I’ve never attempted to join – for good reasons. But, we all grew up on the farm with a dad who was a cowboy. We raised cows, horses, and stupid sheep.
By the way, all sheep are stupid… Being 17 miles from the nearest town, and farming in the 1950s, a farmer rancher had to be able to do everything; rebuild engines, fix flats the hard way, weld, solder, castrate hogs, shear sheep, kill and cut up beef, be a mechanic, an expert tractor driver and a good hoe-hand. Most of all, you had to work and work hard and long. John did all of that long before Tom and I. He started working in the field at age seven. Tom and I had so many allergies that we got out of a lot of work till we were 12. Then we too were expected to get out there and hit it hard. “Stau wayno!!” was about the only compliment we got from our Pa at the end of the day or at the completion of some hard task. ‘Stau wayno’ was the cowboy version of the Spanish, “Esta bueno” “or “It’s good”. And John did everything as good as Pa, unlike me who broke things, plowed in the wrong field, and let the horse runaway with him into the fence.
Our dad, whom we only called Pa, pronounced, “Paw” was an entertainer. He was a hilarious story teller and like his sons had alter egos. Our favorite was the moron with severely diminished intelligence and the crippled hands that waved limply in front of his poor pitiful walk and whose eyes rolled uselessly back in their sockets. His rendition as a hick in a pair of red cowboy long johns delivering Andy Griffith’s “What It Was, Was Football” was an immense hit at the local Lions Club shows. That and the “Wild Man of Borneo” cemented our brother John’s desire to do likewise. And he did.
But like our Pa, John had a serious side. He also had a wonderful voice inherited from our Mother. A group of us came together to record two long play records. Our Mother sang some of the solos with us boys in the ‘oo ahh’ section. John recorded one the best versions of Broad Is The Road I have ever heard. I got to sing backup to Karen Hausenfluke’s excellent arrangement of it. She was one of the girls we grew up with who was then studying music. Primitive Baptists sing a capella and we still sing the old somber hymns like Broad Is The Road in the minor key.
After all the plays in high school, the political scene grabbed John’s interest. The fact that our Pa was running for Congress came in handy. And The Texas Farm Bureau decided to let John represent them at their National Convention in Philadelphia. But not till he shaved that beard! After all, this was 1962. Only Beatnicks had beards!
John studied law and politics – which is another form of entertainment. And not to let anyone think his antics such as drinking a whole bottle of Worcestershire’s sauce meant he wasn’t mentally “up to it” he went on to join two fraternities, became a BMOC (Big Man On Campus) as an officer of Delta Sigma Pi and as President of The Young Republicans. He even qualified for Who’s Who In American Colleges and Universities, as Tevye says, “Just for show!”
Law school followed, but performing in the same black suit every day for a living lost its appeal. There had to be a more colorful way to earn a living…And as things would have it, a stint with Rauscher Pierce Securities (a stock brokerage) in Dallas took him and his Triumph motorcycle to Wall Street in New York City.
There he discovered THE~STAGE, where he belonged all the time. The American Academy of Dramatic Arts was glad he did and let him graduate at the top of the class, having done all the romantic leads like South Pacific, Most a Happy Fellow and so on. Right after he graduated, Fiddler On The Roof gave him a professional start, and an Equity card, as they toured all over the country.
The tour ended and John decided to go see Mama and Pa, who had by now moved to Grinnell, Iowa where Pa was called to pastor a church. This introduced him to his future wife, Mary, who agreed they ought to tryHollywood, where I was living. Here John quickly fell into several movies, stage productions and TV shows. He even got me into a medieval play about Ostrogoths. At the time, we looked enough alike that some of myHollywood friends mistook us for the other.
Hollywood, and immaturity, can be hard on a marriage, so John and Mary moved back to Iowa. They adopted Joel Daniel, who has turned out to be no mean artist, occupying a loft in – of all places—New Yawk City.
In Grinnell, John busied himself with a construction business Pa and Tom had started. He also became a “star” in Grinnell Community Theatre productions of Pippin, Annie, Get Your Gun!, Kiss Me, Kate!, and John’s all-time favorite, South Pacific.
The marriage ended and John came to Texas where I was living in our home town of Crosbyton and beginning to pursue the fossil business in earnest. John, like Tom, was the one who helped me excavate some of my very first fossil sites. He and I took out a very heavy Pliocene steggo mastodon tusk from the Mt. Blanco fossil beds and he helped me clean the first three-toed horse bones from a nearby site.
While in West Texas John recorded an excellent album of hymns.
John Taylor Hymns In Concert album (soon to be re-mastered and re-released)
Not long after that he landed the part of Quanah Parker in TEXAS! and parts in God’s Country our own local Old West outdoor drama. John began working in Dallas regional theatre. He created the role of Lee Collins, the father, in The Floyd Collins Story, a role he would later play in the world premier musical production based on the same story, Floyd Collins.
New York and theatre were calling again. In 1993 John and wife Linda dropped off to see me where I was restoring the Burning Tree Mastodon in Ohio on their way to get settled in to the heart of all that’s New York City. From the Chelsea area (streets you see in a lot of New York City scenes) John began the arduous task of competing for the New York Stage.
It takes more than talent to survive the rigors of New York City. It takes hard work and guts. It takes the same kind of passion for a wife. John’s wife Linda has been voluntarily teaching in one of the most difficult, though rewarding areas of the New York City school system. It takes genuine commitment and a lot of love to go with the hard work.
Today, John has launched a new web site and is ‘open for business’…show business of course. My brother is an excellent actor, still has a beautiful voice and the easiest guy in the world to work with. Check him out at: Johnramondtaylor.com
Space would not permit to tell all that my brother John has done for me. He helped Tom do the carpentry for the displays in the Mt. Blanco museum. Lord knows how many useful things he has contributed to the museum and its work. His encouragement has been never-failing. Without his help the Mt. Blanco Museum would have been closed by our 7 year legal battle.
One of John’s greatest gifts is having the patience to hear you out, whether good or bad. And regardless of the fact that you may feel that you are the one who has been wronged in something, John never fails to tell you straight if he thinks that it is in fact you who is in the wrong. That takes love and wisdom. He stood by me through the nightmare of the Allosaur debacle, encouraging me not to give up and give in to the bullying of lawyers and the attack by those with money and power. God bless you my brother! You will list your faults and failings, but I list your successes and your never flinching love. You’re a great brother and my life would be much less without you.
You have been a great inspiration to me.
Thank you! with all my love.
Your little brother, Joe.
While John was out doing field work, Tom and I were playing. We woke up in the morning ready to play and after breakfast (brakrust then) wrote out the script for the day. The conversation would go something along the lines of, “Plike like (play like) you’re Gene Autry, Tom, and I’m Roy Rogers and we’re fightin’ the Indians and plike like…and so on till we had a whole morning of playing laid out. Growing up on a farm where there was still lots of dirt to play in was great. The dirt around the shop where Pa and Grandpa worked was littered with nails and metal pieces of all kinds, spark plugs, some from when Pa was a kid and all sorts of space craft-like things. With metal rods, spark plugs and other high tech ‘space ship gauges’, we were able to blast off from the soil of
Texas and right out into space. Tom and I were constant companions. Nothing was any fun if my little brother wasn’t along. It upset me when kids my age wanted me to come play and leave my little brother behind. Eventually, as teenagehood goes, Tom began to be his own man. In 1960, country music wasn’t cool. And though we lived with cowboys all around us, ‘Ivy league’ was in. Ban Lon shirts were the rage, not western snap long-sleeves. Tom didn’t care. He was going to be a real cowboy and he was gonna dress like one and listen to cowboy music. Tom was a genuine ‘stomp” and took every opportunity to work on the local ranches.
When he graduated high school, I tried to get him to come to my art school. Tom could draw as good as I could, but by age 13 he left off the art for the real thing. He wanted to live it, not paint it. And live it he did. Tom’s creativity didn’t go into paint on a canvas. It built a better fence, better gates and made wherever he worked, work better. Instead of art school, Tom enrolled in animal husbandry at Iowa State.
Our family had a lot of fun; too much sometimes to Mamma’s embarrassment. Restaurants were fun. We boys and Pa would get going on some thing and get each other laughing and as things got funnier, they got louder. Mama would finally have to threaten all of us. It never did much good. Anything was fair game. Occasionally, we would have to suddenly get serious and cease the laughing, as Tom would get to laughing so hard he’d choke. Once, he threw up, but like a good cowboy used his boot instead of the floor!
John thought it would be funny to enter us in a wild cow race. And Tom came up with a plan to win. Pa watched from the stands laughing loudly to see his three sons were as crazy as he was. And WE WON $23 each! It was the hardest $23 we had ever earned.
Tom became a professional welder, diesel mechanic and unknown to the rest of us got his license to drive semi trucks! All of it would eventually land him the dream job of all true cowboys.
In college, Tom didn’t just ride to prove he was tough, or stupid…sometimes, cowboys’ mothers and wives can’t tell the difference… Tom rode well. He intended to win; because winning could take you to Madison SquareGarden, and the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo and to the bank. It was one way to buy your own ranch some day. After a 100 rodeos… that’s a lot of rodeoing folks… Tom decided that it was a good time to get out, since all his parts were still working.
And besides that, Kathy, his childhood sweetheart, decided to visit our folks. Now, most of the time, if a blonde fashion model is willing to marry a cowboy and all she asks is that he not get himself crippled up so that he couldn’t support her and the kids, he’ll go along with it. Today, their youngest son, John, is a senior football player and Kathy, like John’s wife Linda is teaching. And in line with our family’s love for music, is appropriately teaching music to a new generation.
Besides that, Rodeos happen on weekends, and you can’t go to church and rodeo too.
But Tom didn’t hang up his spurs. He kept raising cows and farming. And by 1982, all of it got him a job managing a 25,000 acre Texas ranch with as picturesque a place to live as any movie ever produced. He systematically went about improving the roads, drilled wells, bulldozed new tanks, built really good fence and managed the ranch pastures so well that he ruined it for arrowhead hunters. Never before had the ground been so well covered.
This couldn’t have been more fortuitous for his older brother who by then was seriously studying fossils. The ranch Tom and Kathy managed was a fossils collectors dream come true. There was everything from the bones of modern cows and horses to buffalo to dinosaurs, giant crocodiles and fossil wood and sea creatures.
Through Tom, I met his boss’s wife who introduced me to the world-famous Dr. Sankar Chatterjee who introduced me to the world of strange Triassic animals and even showed me the real bones of what he then was naming Proto avis, a Triassic bird, all from right here near Crosbyton, Texas!
More than once, it was Tom who directed me to a new spot that turned out to be a significant site, and without him going to the trouble to go get the tractor to haul out some heavy filed jackets filled with iron-red clay and black bones, I would have been unable to move them. More than once, the same tractor
pulled me out of a flooded creek or took me back the several miles to bring gas to my dead 4X4.
What do acting, guitar music and rodeos all have in common? They’re all entertainment. When our county decided to put on a play about our Old West heritage, Tom and Kathy and kids all got in the act. I even did a part and learned to square dance, something Tom and Kathy had already mastered.
But that’s the short list. As my niece Barbara, Tom and Kathy’s daughter used to say, “It’s nice to have a dad who can do anything.” And she wasn’t kidding. There isn’t much Tom hasn’t or doesn’t do, except play guitar, and he left that up to me.
The first recording I ever did was with Tom. The first band I was in was with Tom and they still play our Mother’s records on the radio that Tom and John and Kathy and I sang back up on. Today, Tom and Kathy sponsor Sacred Harp singings. These are performed acapella and the music which is mostly 200 years old, takes a pretty darned good musician to keep up with, what with all four parts taking the lead at some point in the song, weaving in and out of the other parts and ending with an energy that is akin to shouting on pitch. But that’s not enough. Each song is usually sung at least once by the notes, by the names of the shapes of the notes; do, ra, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. Sometimes the notes are coming in rapid-fire16th notes. I join in, but usually get lost early on.
It’s all church. And church is what Tom traded the rodeo for. Not because he wasn’t good enough. He was. There is no doubt in my mind that Tom would have been in the national finals in saddle-bronc riding, bull riding or bull-dogging and anything else had he pursued it. But, something trumped all of it. And that was church and the desire to serve his Savior, Jesus
Christ. Tom felt the leading to enter the ministry, and 10 years ago was ordained as a minister in the Primitive Baptist church. No amount of awards, or money or fame as a cowboy would even come close to being equal. Having managed a large ranch in the best of all possible settings, which no cowboy would think of giving up, Tom went to his boss and told him of his desire to enter the ministry and that if they needed to replace him, he fully understood. His heart was no longer in the thrill of riding horseback through the mesquite, looking for the next challenge in the rugged breaks of Blanco Canyon. The rancher was agreeable, though a few years later the ranch was turned into a hunting ranch and their Texas landmark house was turned into a hunters’ lodge and Tom and Kathy moved nearer town. One notable change; was not having to slip and slide over and up out of the canyon on four miles of dirt roads to go to church or get to school. When Tom started a small compact tractor business I told all my digging buddies they ought to get the one with the 12 inch backhoe with 4 ft front end loader. Check ‘em out at: www.affordablecompacttractors.com
Anyone who has visited the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton has seen Tom’s handiwork. He built all of the displays and hung the sign and has done the metal work and carpentry on numerous displays that have gone to museums everywhere.
Without Tom’s help, where would my fossil career be today…? Not anywhere near what it is. And Tom, like John has suffered through the Allosaur travesty right along with me. It has been a burden that neither he nor his family should have had to bear. But they have.
I know I can speak for my brother John in saying, there isn’t a better man in the world than our little brother Tom Taylor. May God’s richest blessings come to you Tom. How you have done all that you have, and as well as you have, with extreme asthma and allergies, and all those bones pinned together, mangled by tractor accidents, I don’t know. How you can keep from complaining, I don’t know. Maybe I have done enough for both of us.
If there was ever a son who stayed home and did his father’s bidding, never asking for anything, and who rejoiced to see a prodigal brother return home, it’s you brother. You have stayed the hard course. God bless you and your ministry and your family.
With great respect and greater love,
Your big brother,
Article and photos copyright Mt. Blanco, originally published 2009. Re-posted August 2015
*Mt. Blanco Archives: Because of the many changes since Mt. Blanco opened in 1998, we are re-posting many of the old updates, articles, etc. that were originally on our website. Some of the information may be out of date, but each of our archived articles are an important part of Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum’s history.
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