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v v CHAPTER 14 The Primary C rockett Camp called to let me know that Gerald McCathern had filed for the Democratic primary thirty minutes before the deadline. McCathern was a farmer who had gained national recognition as the founder of the American Agriculture Movement. He was from Hereford and lived only a few blocks from me. In 1977, McCathern led the farmer’s strike protesting the Farm Bill. The farmers, who were faced with increasing fixed costs and rising interest rates on their farm loans, also protested the FHA (Farmers Home Administration), who was trying to force land foreclosures for past-­ due loans. In a huge protest movement, McCathern led a “tractor-­ cade” of three thousand tractors driven by farmers across the nation to Washington, DC. It was a brilliant idea, and every night the national news featured the hundreds of tractors traveling across the highways of America, American flags flying above each. There was negative press though because the tractors blocked traffic for miles on the highways. The farmers had the public’s sympathy until some of them started plowing up the ground around the Washington Monument. The first time I saw Gerald McCathern was on ABC’s Good Morning America. His interview focused on the problems of American farmers. During the interview, he declared his candidacy for the Texas Senate and emphasized his dedication to helping US farmers. McCathern, an aviation engineer during World War II and a Texas Tech graduate, had a huge following. He was a hero to the farmers in the Thirty-­ First District of Texas and its twenty-­ seven agriculture-­ producing The Primary • 141 counties. The tractor he drove to Washington, DC, is on display in the Smithsonian Museum. I knew I was in big trouble. I was an unknown running against a national hero. When McCathern held his press conference for his formal announcement , the room was packed with supporters, farmers, and ranchers. He was on the front page of the Amarillo paper. I felt helpless and had no idea how I could possibly beat this well-­ known and popular farmer with national name recognition. I was still determined to give it my all. Pete Gilvin hosted that promised fundraiser for me—­ a bird hunt at his ranch with business leaders from Amarillo. Some of the men I met at that event are still lifelong friends. I met Jerry Hodge, a young drug store owner who became a good friend and supported me throughout my career. Jerry started Maxor Drugs and became one of the most successful men in Texas. Maxor eventually became a national pharmacy, providing thousands of jobs. When the fundraiser was over, Pete handed over the checks totaling a little more than five thousand dollars. It was a fair start. I called Speaker Clayton seeking advice and encouragement. He told me to not give up. I asked if I could buy his old mobile office. It was on its second engine and had more than 250,000 miles on it. He agreed to sell it to me for five hundred dollars. I picked it up and had my logo painted on both sides and on the back. To cut costs, I designed my campaign brochures and included family pictures of Donna, David, and me, as well as pictures of me as the FFA president engaged in conversation with a farmer in a cornfield. I took my draft campaign brochure to a printer and told them I wanted five thousand brochures printed. My campaign colors were deep blue and gold. The colors of Boys Ranch and the Future Farmers of America. I bought an eight-­ track tape of the soundtrack from the movie Rocky. That tape became my motivational music that I listened to while traveling the Thirty-­ First District in my mobile office. I glued a road map of the twenty-­ seven counties in my campaign district to a piece of cardboard and developed a campaign schedule where I would visit every town at least five times before the election. Election Day was only twelve weeks away. Sunday was my only day to spend at home with Donna and David. 142 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch I had spent almost all my campaign money and only had enough left to buy gas for the van. I had to hit the road and start talking to the voters. I called Farmland Industries Co-­ op in Dalhart to speak to the manager I met when I made my first sales...


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