The Rich History of Brownfield - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/26/04

The Rich History of Brownfield

"We have found that we have a lot of exciting history," said Betty Hamilton, chairwoman of the Terry County Historical Commission. Cleopatra of a place once called the Egypt of Texas.

"That's the way they advertised themselves because we were sort of the food basket of this great American desert," she said.

There were, of course, natural resources deer, antelope, pheasant, without which: "A lot of people would have gone hungry I think," said Hamilton.

There's also a two-headed calf. "I don't know anything about that," said Hamilton. Born in 1935, it lived for only four days, but has been preserved forever. Spooky? "Yeah it is, really strange," she said.

Sitting outside the museum is the old jail. An 8 by 8 solid steel cage. "And I really can't tell you too much about it except that it's always been there. You can tell it's pretty solid," she said.

When we got out of jail, we drove down the road to the Brownfield Compress.

"It's the only compress in the county," said Rick Willis. He's been the manager for over 20 years. "This is the old press - it hasn't run since 1992." A massive machine from the 1930's, three stories high, dormant for over a decade, but still oozing power.

So, it just packs it , smashes it, then wraps it up? "Yeah, exactly," said Willis.

What happens if you get stuck in the press? "You wouldn't know it. They'd have to take you out to the cemetery when they got through with you. You don't want to get into that thing," he laughed.

But Willis doesn't just watch after history, his family's making it. His daughter Tyler was just named Miss Texas USA 2004. As for gentlemen callers? "They very seldom came and knocked on her door while dad was at home," he smiled.

Because they know if they misstep, they'll wind up in the compress? "Exactly, right!" laughed Willis.

Brownfield's also had its share of mystery and intrigue. In September of 1980, on a rainy and cool evening, the stage is set for a secret spy mission. "The Terry County invasion," said Lynn Brisendine, publisher of the Brownfield News, celebrating their 100th anniversary, remembering a mysterious story. "I'm not even sure we really to this day know exactly what was taking place," said Brisendine.

A plane lands at the Terry County Airport. Inside are two Iranians, accompanied by a couple of CIA agents, protected by special forces. Their mission? Head to the Auxiliary Reese Air Force Base, northwest of town. "They immediately get out of the airplane that dropped 'em, turned the wrong way, and went southeast rather then northwest," said Brisendine.

They got lost! "Behind a hired hand's house. He was behind the door with a .22 rifle, and they were milling outside with some weapons that no one had ever seen before -- and loaded," said Brisendine.

The sheriff was called out. He arrested eight people and stirred up a batch of trouble. "I kept hearing 'This is national security, you're fixing to get in all kinds of trouble,'" said Brisendine.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff get involved. Within three hours, everyone is released. Gone. The only thing left is the mystery of why they were there in the first place. "We've never gotten a good explanation," mused Brisendine.

The Egypt of Texas, the two-headed, cotton-compressing, secret spying Brownfield. Betty Hamilton had it right. "We have found that we have a lot of exciting history," she smiled.

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