Liquidating estates is like sharing someone's personal collection of LOVED things with anyone who can & WILL appreciate them.
I have to say that it is MY HONOR to share in the story of Mrs. Ona Van Dorn! This 96 year-old cowgirl & entrepreneur has a TREMENDOUS life. It's hard to not get emotional remembering the interview & just learning HOW MANY people that have been blessed by her life & are still being BLESSED by it!
It's one of those blogs where I will do my best to share ALL of my thoughts & feelings, but her life is JUST SO BIG....I don't think it can be captured in these words....but I'll give it my best shot.
The interview started out going back to about 1960, starting with the story of how & why they started the South Texas Trail Ride, which starts in the Corpus Christi area & ends at the AT&T Center in San Antonio coinciding with the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. At the time, her & her then-husband Big Jim Wright owned the Motts Steakhouse in Corpus Christi - which garnered diners of the likes of Roy Rodgers & Johnny Cash.
|Pictured with Johnny Cash.|
Sitting there at The Motts, with their friends Fay & Pete Sample they came up with the idea to have a trail ride start in Corpus & end at the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo. I knew this story was going to get good when she said: "Everyone told us it was impossible." Mrs. Ona goes on to say that the Stock Show was approaching & they needed to get approval, BUT before that - had to make sure that they would have people in support of this ride & willing to work with them. They set out and made a trip on the route they had planned to take & made stops talking to certain individuals that would serve as key players to help push this vision along. First of all, it AMAZED me that she remembered SO MANY details of, not just this part of the planning, but EVERYTHING!! What seemed to be the key shot of encouragement to keep moving forward with the trail ride is when Mr. Perry Callison said to her: "All of South Texas is my business & I think it is a good thing!" Hearing her say it, it seemed like it was just the right dose of encouragement that was needed to carry on towards the goal. Needless to say, A ride that started with a small group of around 30 or so riders grEW to where, at its peak, had 1500+ riders! She remembered all kinds of details like...recalling a goal to have 50 horse-drawn buggies on the ride for their 50th Anniversary Year & only getting 49. She chuckled about it :). I just love the tenacity...of being told it's impossible & going after it anyway...of talking to the RIGHT people to encourage & push it along...of witnessing the passion & hearing about the work put in to do it....& of the absolutely incredible life journey this ride took her & many others on. She recalled one year cooking for all the riders with water up to her knees! Back then, we aren't talking about a trail-ride with heated trailers & living compartments. We are talking...sleeping in tents, beds of pick-up trucks & on the ground, riding in whatever weather was on the trail... We have the first horse trailer camper that ever went on the ride in the auction on December 10th! Just to give you an idea of how much Mrs. Ona LOVES this ride....she has gone on the ride EVERY YEAR! The last time she rode was 8 years ago! Since then, she's ridden on the wagon :). If anyone gets the chance to visit with her about it...ask her about the year she rode sidesaddle the WHOLE way & the clothes she made for that ride! On average riders ride 35 miles a day.
|Mrs. Ona in her hand-made duds - ridin' side saddle.|
|Mrs. Ona in the hat!|
|Check out the growth of that vision!|
If you think that was an awesome story...just wait!
I had also heard about her entreprenuel spirit. There is really no tellin' how many businesses Mrs. Ona has owned or have been a part of. She couldn't recall all of them & after meeting with her we've learned about more :). One theme that seemed to be pretty consistent (with a few exceptions) was restuarants & feeding people. I asked her why restaurants? Mrs. Ona looked square at me & said: "Everything I've done was done for a reason...for a purpose." Visiting with her, it became pretty clear that opportunities presented themselves to her & if there was a reason or a purpose for it...she would do it...even if the road ahead would not be easy.
Her & her second husband, Doug opened up Vans BBQ in Oakville. At the time, she was selling real estate and good at it! They had other restuarants also. Like I mentioned before, an opportunity presented itself to Mrs. Ona. Once again the odds against her were difficult. It all came down to a desperate seller needing to sell a piece of real estate, that later would turn into Vans BBQ. She shared that she was apprehensive. The local paper had just come out highlighting the hard times Oakville was headed towards & here she was...thinking about opening up a restuarant right in the middle of it. One day she had the idea to make some BBQ, take it up to the Oakville location, &....ultimately...see what happens. It was a rough start, but the people that stopped by begged them to stay open....& it has been in business ever since. That was around 1982. She didn't say this verbatim, but the way I understand it - the REASON Van's in Oakville happened was because she had a client with a need, that she could fulfill & the purpose for staying open, is because people wanted her to.
She shared a story that is just too good to not share. She told me that when she was first getting going with Vans, the people of Oakville were givin' her a hard time. It was a dry precinct & she went through all the required notices & paperwork to get the beer license for the restaurant. A member of the local church stopped by & said: "Mrs. Ona, are you sure you want to go down to the courthouse? There are two bus loads from the church headed over there to protest against you getting the beer license." Mrs. Ona said: "Yeah? I'll ride with ya!" Needless to say, she drove separate, had to be escorted in the back door for her safety, & the judge granted the beer license to Vans because all the necessary paperwork had been filed & there was nothing against their name. Vans in Oakville was sold this year, but you can still eat at their Three Rivers location!
After this story...I asked Mrs. Ona what her "WHY" was. Why did she do all this, and go through all this? What was her drive behind the decisions she made in her lifetime? She sat up, looked at me kind of speechless & thoughtful for a moment, and said: "I guess I just love people so much I just want to do these things." Probably the best "WHY" anyone can have.
We moved into her love for horse-drawn buggies & wagons. Mrs. Ona has a collection of horse-drawn buggies, carriages, & wagons that will be up for auction on Saturday in George West, starting at 10AM. There is a gig & Mexican cart that came off the Kennedy Ranch, which will be in the auction on Saturday, along with several other items from Kennedy Ranch & Chapman Ranch. She also had the stage coach & Mrs. Kennedy's Buggy, which they gave to The Corpus Christi Museum. They were in her care from 1965-1975.
|Will be in the Auction in George West on Saturday.|
|Mexican Buggy off of Kennedy Ranch. Will be in Auction in George West|
|Will be in Auction in George West on Saturday.|
|Will in in Auction in George West on Saturday.|
|Front buggy off of Kennedy Ranch. Authentic to period. Maintained. |
Will be in Auction in George West on Sunday.
She said she started collecting these, because she had a vision for a family dude ranch & a place similar to Motts in Corpus Christi, but she can't get around like she used to & it never came to fruition.
Her horses & the Chuck Wagon & Parade Harness were filmed in the Movie: Red & Yella, Kill a Fella, just last year. She also had the opportunity to be filmed as an extra in The Alamo with John Wayne & appear at Happy Shahan's Alamo Village in Bracketville.
This story is what took me over the edge. I COULD NOT HOLD MY EMOTIONS IN. We had somehow started talking about another one of her past businesses, Chuck Wagon Caters & someone mentioned "orphans." It struck me & I asked Mrs. Ona if she could elaborate. She told me: "There were LOADS of'm!" She said that they weren't all orphans. Some of the kiddos came from very wealthy families, but were lost in a sense. Her & her husband would take them in. They moved three buildings in from North Beach to house them. She said there would be 10, 15, 20 at a time. Some would stay only on weekends. Some never left. They would help with their businesses & with the horses. She said that the MAIN rule, was they HAD to go to school. There was one boy in particular that really had a hard time. She said they worked to get him on track & he was making great progress. Then one day his daddy showed up fussing & mad at the boy & tried to drag him off the place & she ran him off. After that story, she couldn't hold back her tears either.
She joked about her brother always saying that she could turn a piece of string into gold, but as we were sitting there visiting - we both agreed that big things don't just happen. You have to WORK to make them happen. Mrs. Ona's life is a legacy of LOVING HARD & WORKING HARD. She has selflessly worked & served & given & created & lived for others & has a heck of a time doin' it!
|Ona & I after the interview!|
Just goes to show how we all have it in us. Buck Up Auctions & myself have teamed up with Danny Jennings with ELCO Auctions out of Odem, TX to carry out this auction for Mrs. Ona. Danny was the VERY FIRST Auctioneer that gave ME a shot, when I first got my license. He's been in my corner ever since I started this auction journey, back in 2011.
We would like to invite EVERYONE out for this 2-Day Auction Event! We will be in George West on Saturday - Auction Starts a 10AM & Oakville on Sunday Starting at 1PM. Items will be available for Preview from 3PM until dark at both locations on FRIDAY. Go to www.buckupauctions.com for all the info. We are updating the website daily.
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