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Three Apollo astronauts were circling the moon and millions of Americans were sticking close đồ sộ their televisions on a day in May 1969 when an astral sự kiện of a different order took place in the Panhandle town of Plainview. Two thousand citizens turned off their TV sets and headed for the Hale County airport đồ sộ welcome a star. Jimmy Dean, local boy made good, was coming home page.
To the rest of the country, Jimmy was known primarily as the country and western singer who had recorded “Big Bad John” and appeared frequently on television, usually đồ sộ sing but more recently đồ sộ pitch a product called Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage. In Plainview, however, he was nothing short of a hero in those days. The occasion of the gathering at the airport, headed up by Governor Preston Smith of nearby Lubbock, was the formal opening of Dean’s new sausage factory, just north of town. The sausage company was strictly a local operation (Jimmy’s two principal partners—his younger brother, Don, and his cousin’s husband, Troy Pritchard—both lived in Plainview), and it was the biggest thing đồ sộ hit the Panhandle since irrigation.
Eventually the factory employed 150 people and had an annual payroll of more than vãn $3 million—sizable figures for a farming town of 18,000 in a time of depressed agricultural prices and dwindling underground water. It started a hog boom in the Panhandle, an area previously devoted mainly đồ sộ cốt tông and cattle. Because of Jimmy’s sausage, Plainview would proclaim itself “Home of Jimmy Dean” in big Black letters on the water tower near his plant, and pigskin coats—marketed by the Dean operation as by-products of the sausage making—became the fashion in town. Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage was an instant success, thanks largely đồ sộ Jimmy’s television pitches. You remember the spots, no doubt. He performed them ad lib, sitting on a stool against a plain backdrop, talking in soft, comfortable rhythms about how his sausage was made “from the whole hawg, not jus’ the leavin’s.” The little chats had the ring of down-home truth in a time of perplexity, and his ads went over better than vãn anyone had dreamed. And his sausage in those days really was different. It was made from top hogs, younger and leaner than vãn the sows used by the rest of the industry. It was packaged warm rather than vãn chilled, the way most other companies did theirs. Moreover, it created its own market: people who had been suspicious of fresh pork sausage began eating it for breakfast. Within six months the firm was in the Black.
But all that was long ago. Now the tan metal building that once turned 1500 hogs a day into sausage is idle. Inside, where a watchman makes his rounds, a million dollars’ worth of machinery gathers dust. Except for an abortive reopening in 1979, the factory has been closed for five years. You can still buy Jimmy Dean sausage—hot, mild, and sage flavored—in markets from Berkeley đồ sộ Boston, but it’s made from sows these days, not top hogs. The factory is in Iowa and so sánh are the pigs; most Panhandle producers gave up raising them years ago. The Jimmy Dean Meat Company itself is lập cập from offices on the eleventh floor of a glass tower on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. Of the three original partners, only Jimmy remains; the others left amid accusations, recriminations, and litigation. Five years ago Don sued Jimmy for libel and slander. Back in Plainview, you rarely see pigskin coats anymore.
Today Jimmy Dean at 55 is lean and fit, though a few creases mark his tanned face. He is still president of the company, but his home page is in New Jersey and he spends a lot of his time on his 61-foot yacht, Big Bad John IV, out of Fort Lauderdale, leaving the day-to-day running of the company đồ sộ full-time executives. Characteristically upbeat, he says that the firm is in fine shape and he expects great things for a company-owned chain of restaurants that will bear his name; the first three have already opened, all in Columbus, Ohio, and a fourth is planned for Oklahoma City. But it hurt him that his West Texas plant closed. Like many a poor boy who left home page and hit it big, Jimmy wanted đồ sộ tự something for his hometown. But along the way the strains of business, clashing egos, and a bitter family feud knocked his plans off course. Last year Plainview repainted the big water tower that you can see from Interstate 27 as it loops toward Amarillo. Now only silver paint glistens where Jimmy Dean’s name once stood.
“Because of Jimmy’s sausage, a hog boom started in the Panhandle, Plainview proclaimed itself ‘Home of Jimmy Dean’ in Black letters on a water tower, and pigskin coats became the fashion in town.”
Towns usually grow into the wind. In the Texas Panhandle, that means toward the west and northwest. Back around the turn of the century the first wealthy citizens built their stately brick homes just west of downtown Plainview, and since that time several generations of expensive new houses have led a slow march in the direction of the fresh breeze. Jimmy Dean grew up on the other side of town—downwind, where you can often smell the đô thị dump or the slaughterhouses. Aging frame houses with peeling paint cluster in the shadows of grain elevators and cốt tông gins, behind the railroad yards, next door đồ sộ tự động wreckers or feed mills. Here, on the East Side, are mobile homes, the barrio, the Black neighborhoods, the public housing projects. An occasional larger home page with fresh paint and a tidy yard bears witness đồ sộ the owner’s reluctance, despite some newfound prosperity, đồ sộ leave familiar ground.
Jimmy Dean’s mother, Ruth, was lượt thích that. Back in the early sixties, when “Big Bad John” left Jimmy flusher than vãn he’d ever been, he wanted đồ sộ build her a new house. But Ruth Dean, a simple, unpretentious soul and a loyal thành viên of the neighborhood Baptist church, didn’t want đồ sộ leave the unincorporated area known as Seth Ward, where the family had settled in the depths of the Depression thirty years earlier. Jimmy had đồ sộ be nội dung with building her a new brick home page right on the site of the old white frame house.
His childhood poverty is a theme that pops up repeatedly in his conversation, his music, and even his TV appearances. He used đồ sộ talk about how he grew up among the boll patches. One of his biggest hits, “I.O.U.,” was a paean đồ sộ his mother. When I spoke with him during one of his brief visits đồ sộ his Dallas headquarters, an airy, spacious corner office with two bear rugs on the floor, the conversation quickly turned đồ sộ his childhood and his mother. I mentioned the first time I had seen him—25 years ago, when he addressed an assembly at Plainview High School during my sophomore year. “When I was a kid, they laughed at our clothes and they laughed at our house,” he told bủ, “but when I walked out on that stage and they gave bủ a standing ovation, I looked out at that lady in the audience and saw all that hurt repaid. It was the most rewarding appearance I ever made in show business.”
Growing up, Jimmy did whatever he could for money—pick cốt tông, drive combines, clean chicken houses and septic tanks. His father was a preacher, a singer, and an inventor whose pet project was an irrigation pump designed along the lines of a perpetual motion machine. G. O. Dean left his family in 1939, when Jimmy was eleven and Don nine. Ruth Dean made ends meet by cutting men’s and boys’ hair in one of the small rooms of her house. Jimmy was just another kid from the wrong side of the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
One day in 1944, a year short of his high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Jimmy Ray Dean hopped a Greyhound bus for Dallas and enlisted in the manpower-starved Merchant Marine. After he made one voyage đồ sộ South America, the war ended, and he returned đồ sộ Plainview đồ sộ work for an irrigation equipment company. When he left again in 1946 đồ sộ join the Air Force, Jimmy was gone for good.
He drifted into singing and wisecracking in seedy nightclubs while he was stationed near Washington, D.C. He was never a musical virtuoso, but he had a pleasant voice and knew how đồ sộ tell a good story. Once he was out of the Air Force, Dean began đồ sộ appear on an Arlington, Virginia, radio show, then on local television. In 1958 he graduated đồ sộ his own daytime variety slot on CBS. He was by then a local hero back in Plainview, but true stardom eluded him.
In 1961 the unexpected success of “Big Bad John,” which Jimmy wrote as a last-minute filler for a Nashville recording session, changed his life. The countrified talking blues about a heroic coal miner, told in rhythms and accents reminiscent of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” became an international hit and sold five million copies. Jimmy appeared on British television and at Las Vegas casinos, and he headlined a weekly prime-time variety program on ABC from 1963 đồ sộ 1966. When Johnny Carson was away or between contracts, Jimmy often served as host on the Tonight show, where his laid-back country wit stood up surprisingly well. With the money, Jimmy bought himself a 35-foot yacht, the first Big Bad John, and a ranch in Virginia that he jokingly called Weedville; he built his mother’s new house; and he invested in Troy Pritchard’s hog farm, the operation that led đồ sộ the sausage enterprise.
He usually sings other people’s music. Of his own compositions, most are “talking” songs lượt thích “Big Bad John,” “Dear Ivan,” and his tribute đồ sộ his mother, “I.O.U.,” written (and delivered on TV) in 1959 but not recorded until 1976. Mitch Miller, his recording executive, had the option đồ sộ record it when Jimmy first came up with the piece, but Miller rejected it as “too corny.” (Sample lyric: “You had the eye of an eagle, the roar of a lion, but you always had a heart as big as a house.”) Ruth Dean is said đồ sộ have been a bit embarrassed by the fuss and đồ sộ have agreed privately with Miller’s judgment. But “I.O.U.” sold a million 45’s in two weeks.
“Like many a poor boy who left home page and hit it big, Jimmy wanted đồ sộ tự something for his hometown. But the strains of business, clashing egos, and a bitter family feud knocked his plans off course.”
Jimmy has always been conservative in his choice of music—simple country tunes, ballads, and gospel-tinged hymns. He never showed any kinship with West Texas’ other famous musical progeny, Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings. He resisted rock’s first and second waves in the fifties and sixties, and even in the seventies, when Nashville itself yielded đồ sộ the popularity of the hard-edged progressive country sound of Waylon and Willie Nelson, Jimmy didn’t change. Perhaps that had something đồ sộ tự with the decline in his show business career. By the mid-seventies Nevada casinos were offering him fewer dates. “Jimmy’s image had a shelf-life problem,” a former sausage executive told bủ.
In fact, the sausage ads on television may have done as much đồ sộ prolong Jimmy’s entertainment career as they did đồ sộ launch his meat product. Now he appears at state fairs and rodeos and makes promotional tours for the sausage company. (“State fairs are very big business. They make Vegas look lượt thích Sharecroppers’ Row,” he said in an interview several years ago.)
The audience for his commercials has changed too: he’s on radio more than vãn TV these days. In a recent series of spots in Dallas, he delivers miniature versions of his talking songs, with plain little rhymes against the background of a solo guitar. He pitches politics more than vãn pork, concentrating his wit on society’s foibles. He finds fault with airlines, the postal service, welfare chiselers, taxes, federal deficits, gasoline prices, lawyers, doctors, tự động mechanics, weathermen, and imported cars. Here’s Jimmy on the U.S. mail: Funny thing that letter I mailed/Somewhere the postal service failed/So I think about it and it makes bủ sore/The service gets worse and the stamps cost more/Ain’t that a mess?/I’ll take Pony Express. At the kết thúc the listener learns that the tuy vậy was brought đồ sộ him by Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage, and that’s the extent of the sell. The ads have proved so sánh popular in Dallas that people have once again taken đồ sộ stopping Jimmy for autographs whenever he happens đồ sộ be in town.
The whole hog thing began in Plainview on Christmas Eve, 1965, after Jimmy had flown in from the East Coast đồ sộ join a big family celebration at the new home page he had built for his mother. Jimmy talked đồ sộ Troy Pritchard—a local farmer who had married a Dean cousin in 1951—and became interested in the hog farm Pritchard and his brother owned. So on Christmas Day Pritchard drove his famous relative out đồ sộ the place. Pork prices were down, the operation was losing money, and cosmetic problems, lượt thích peeling paint, were being neglected, but the Pritchards still insisted on strict sanitary procedures. Not only were the pigs prevented from engaging in the time-honored porcine practice of wallowing in the mud, but their cloven hooves never even touched the ground. From infancy the pigs were raised on elevated floors of wooden slats. Every night the decks were rinsed clean and disinfected. Like all visitors, Jimmy had đồ sộ wear special clothing and overshoes đồ sộ protect the animals from bacterial contamination.
Pritchard was surprised when Jimmy wanted đồ sộ buy into the farm, which was running in the red. “Well,” Troy recalls Jimmy saying, “back in Nashville Ray Price is always talkin’ about his racehorses, and Eddy Arnold has his prize cattle. When I go back there đồ sộ record, I think it’d be a hell of a giảm giá khuyến mãi if I could talk about my hogs. ’Course, I’d lượt thích đồ sộ make some money if I could, but that’s not the main thing.”
So before Jimmy flew back đồ sộ the bright lights, he bought Troy’s brother’s half of the future Jimmy Dean Pig Parlor. Troy stayed on as equal partner and manager. Jimmy told Troy that his Thành Phố New York lawyers saw it as a tax write-off, but đồ sộ Jimmy himself it was much more. He pumped money into it, saw it double in size, and showed it off đồ sộ some show business luminaries. When pork prices improved, the Pig Parlor even began đồ sộ show a modest profit. Then, still discontented with the prices they were getting for their swine, Troy and Jimmy decided đồ sộ make sausage out of their hogs and market it in the Southwest.
The next partner đồ sộ join was Jimmy’s younger brother, Don, who had advanced from delivering milk đồ sộ running the local Borden distributorship. Each partner held a third of the stock in the J-D-T (Jimmy, Don, Troy) Products Corporation—actually a bit less than vãn a third, since they cut a real meat-packer in for 6 per cent of the action. This junior partner was Ken Brown, an experienced plant manager for a slaughterhouse in Lubbock. Brown designed the 17,500-square-foot plant, oversaw its construction, and ran it once it opened. Don Dean mix up the initial marketing network. Troy Pritchard handled the negotiations with bankers in Plainview and Dallas and with the federal Small Business Administration for a $320,000 loan đồ sộ build the plant.
By the time sausage operations began in the spring of 1969, J-D-T was part of a mini-conglomerate—the Pig Parlor, a feed mill, a plant đồ sộ process pig hides and ship them đồ sộ Mexico (where they were made into coats and jackets and, in many cases, resold đồ sộ West Texans), and SwineTech, a company đồ sộ market a hog skinner that Ken Brown had developed. It’s really just a glorified winch, but until Brown invented it, nobody had yanked whole pig hides on an industrial basis. Most were thrown away. Now Brown’s hog skinner is used in factories all over the world.
Not only was the sausage plant the first đồ sộ use the hog skinner, it was also one of the first large operations đồ sộ bone, grind, and package pork while it was still warm instead of chilling it first. A pig became packaged sausage in little more than vãn an hour. The sausage was then quick-chilled đồ sộ 40 degrees before being shipped out in refrigerated trucks. Organs and other spare parts were used for cát food.
“By the midseventies the Iowa plant had long since assumed first place in production over Plainview, and the original West Texas operation was becoming more and more a stepchild. In March 1978 it was shut down.”
Some people couldn’t stand the blood, but most of the employees reckoned it was the best job in town, whether they were on piecework or hourly pay 50 cents đồ sộ $1 above the minimum wage. The workers had a profit-sharing plan, bonuses for increasing production, and plenty of overtime if they wanted it. Morale was high, and production records toppled time and again. Once, when the plant turned out more than vãn a million pounds of sausage in a week, Jimmy flew in food and champagne for everyone. “It was lượt thích one big family in the early days,” a woman who had worked at the plant from the day it opened in 1969 told bủ. “Jimmy would put on a hard hat and a white coat and wade through the blood and guts, patting the guys on the back, telling them what a good job they were doing. I was one of his pets. He always kissed bủ on the cheek, and I’d come home page and tell my husband I couldn’t wash my face.”
Then things started đồ sộ go wrong. The partners in the fast-growing firm fell đồ sộ bickering among themselves. For one thing, Jimmy Dean had a hot temper. Once he fired Ken Brown over the telephone, and Troy Pritchard had đồ sộ fly đồ sộ Burbank đồ sộ persuade Jimmy đồ sộ change his mind. Brown was the only person who knew the meat-packing kết thúc of the business, and his loss would have been a blow đồ sộ the young enterprise. When Pritchard leased a Cessna, Ken Brown complained that he used it too much. There were so sánh many first-class airplane rides that the company finally had đồ sộ issue a formal memorandum about it. Don Dean was, by all accounts, a great first-meeting salesman (“Hi, I’m Jimmy Dean’s brother, and I’d lượt thích đồ sộ sell you our sausage!”), but some distributors complained about him đồ sộ Pritchard, who recalls, “after a point, Don became Mr. Dean.” He had đồ sộ fly đồ sộ Memphis once đồ sộ mediate between Don and a distributor.
Even though sales were booming, the company was chronically short of cash, partly because of its unsophisticated accounting, partly because of its generous spoilage allowances đồ sộ distributors, but most of all because the business was expanding too fast without enough capital. The partners often didn’t have enough cash đồ sộ meet current expenses and cover the four-to-six-week lag between buying hogs and getting paid for the sausage. Pritchard remembers once borrowing $200,000 from his family đồ sộ meet payrolls. The company resorted đồ sộ short-term borrowing at interest rates up đồ sộ 16 per cent—in an era when prime was 6 or 7 per cent—which simply handed over a chunk of its profits đồ sộ Chicago financiers.
Meanwhile, the partners, relying on overoptimistic sales projections, had committed the firm đồ sộ nationwide growth by investing in a bigger and more modern meat-packing plant in Osceola, Iowa. The Midwestern community had pushed hard for the second factory, donating land for the site and promising immediate water and sewer services. And Osceola was in the heart of swine country, while West Texas hog raisers could not increase their production fast enough đồ sộ keep up with the Dean company’s demand. Not long after the Iowa plant opened in 1972, however, sales leveled off and the company could not lập cập both plants at capacity. Years later a former company executive said, “With hindsight, we should simply have expanded the Plainview plant.”
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With the company in need of new capital, the obvious answer was đồ sộ go public. In the winter of 1971–72 Troy Pritchard flew đồ sộ Thành Phố New York every week or two đồ sộ meet with Jimmy Dean’s attorneys and representatives of the underwriting firm of F. Eberstadt. The plan was đồ sộ sell Jimmy Dean Meat stock over the counter, but just when it was about đồ sộ happen, the personality clashes erupted again.
One day early in 1972 Pritchard, Don Dean, Jimmy Dean’s attorneys, and representatives of the underwriting firm gathered around a big conference table overlooking Lower Manhattan and the Hudson. The underwriters, optimistic about the firm’s potential, proposed đồ sộ offer the public a quarter of the company’s stock for $12 million. If the stock maintained or improved its value, each of the three major partners would be holding shares worth that much or more, and even Brown’s 6 per cent would be worth plenty. “We were all sittin’ there with big eyes,” recalls Pritchard. “That was one sweet giảm giá khuyến mãi.”
But when the underwriters suggested switching corporate titles around đồ sộ reflect more accurately the real functions of the present officers, they ran afoul of family pride. Jimmy Dean, the underwriters suggested, should become chairman of the board, a traditional position for a largely absentee major stockholder. Brown and Don Dean should both be vice presidents (for production and sales, respectively), and since Troy Pritchard was most familiar with all aspects of the business, he should become president.
As Pritchard remembers it, Don Dean was livid. “He stood up and said, ‘By God, my name is Dean, and if anybody’s going đồ sộ be president of this corporation besides my brother, it’ll be me!’ ” The meeting stopped in its tracks. In a hurried private conference in another room, Pritchard tried in vain đồ sộ change Don’s mind.
“I begged him,” says Troy. “I said, ‘Don, we’re talking big money—more than vãn we’ve ever dreamed of. After it’s over, Hotline bủ the janitor if you want đồ sộ. But let’s put this giảm giá khuyến mãi through.’ ” But Don refused. He accused Pritchard of trying đồ sộ steal the firm from the Dean brothers, in spite of the participation of Jimmy’s lawyers in the negotiations. The meeting was over.
The collapse of the Thành Phố New York meeting was the pivotal moment in the breakup of the original partnership. Pritchard flew đồ sộ Nevada đồ sộ see Jimmy, as he had done so sánh often in the past. Once, Jimmy had met him at the Reno airport in one of casino mogul Bill Harrah’s prize cars, a gold Rolls-Royce limousine. Wearing a chauffeur’s cap, Jimmy had driven it right up đồ sộ the ramp of the plane. But this time was different; Don had already called. Jimmy sided with his brother, echoing Don’s accusations: Pritchard had conspired đồ sộ take the company away from Jimmy and Don by getting himself named president. Even Jimmy’s attorneys, summoned đồ sộ Las Vegas from Thành Phố New York, couldn’t defuse the situation; in the heat of argument, he fired them on the spot. He later rehired them, but Pritchard was not so sánh fortunate. Troy took a long vacation, then decided that June đồ sộ sell out.
Ken Brown, the only professional meat-packer in the firm’s top levels, was the next đồ sộ leave. He thought about quitting with Pritchard in 1972 but felt obliged đồ sộ finish building the Iowa plant, at that time a half-million-dollar hole in the ground. But he made himself a nuisance by continuing đồ sộ urge that the company go public—the only way his 6 per cent share would ever amount đồ sộ much. The company made some more moves in that direction, but it never did go public. In 1975 Brown was fired, and he sold his stock back đồ sộ the company, retaining only the foreign patent rights đồ sộ his hog skinner.
For the first time the meat company was strictly a brother act. Jimmy had relinquished the title of president đồ sộ Don. Each held 50 per cent of the stock, and there were only four members of the board of directors. The stage was mix for a classic standoff if the new arrangement didn’t work out. And it didn’t.
The company Don took over was a very different creature operating in very different times from the one the four partners had started just a few years before. Pork prices rose sharply, and with them the firm’s costs. Raising capital by offering stock was out of the question. The stock market was in the doldrums and the $500,000 the company had spent preparing đồ sộ go public was down the drain. The economy was wallowing in the mid-seventies recession, which had cut into the purchasing power of blue-collar families, the chief consumers of breakfast sausage. Though Dean’s product was distributed in 46 of the 48 contiguous states, its profits had almost disappeared. And it was becoming clear that the company had over-expanded. After reaching a high of 23 per cent of the fresh pork sausage market in some areas, Jimmy Dean sausage fell off toward a level it has generally maintained since then—it currently claims 15 per cent of the national retail market, or 60 million pounds of sausage a year. That was a healthy enough slice đồ sộ transform a small West Texas family enterprise into a sizable corporation, but it was far below the optimistic projections that had led the firm đồ sộ build a second plant in Iowa and lease a third, đồ sộ produce smoked sausage, in Mississippi.
Faced with mounting problems, Don Dean called in an experienced food executive, Al Holton of the feed company Central Soya, who came aboard in 1974 and ended up running the company as executive vice president. “When I arrived, the company had essentially failed,” recalls Holton. In fiscal year 1974 the Dean company showed its first operating loss. Holton and Don Dean’s strategy was đồ sộ borrow heavily from Dallas banks and đồ sộ cut operating expenses. Cutting costs took some doing. Jimmy was unhappy about Holton’s cuts in the advertising budget—and not just from pride. Jimmy and Don were stockholders in a new Little Rock publicity firm, Holland and Associates, that handled the sausage company’s multimillion-dollar advertising tài khoản, and for several years they had enjoyed the dividends and expense accounts that the arrangement had furnished them. But the really hard part was getting Jimmy đồ sộ go along with the decisions that didn’t sit well back home page in Plainview. Hometown feelings had already been bruised when the corporate headquarters moved đồ sộ Dallas in 1974. It made sense—the firm’s accountants were in Dallas and so sánh was its major long-term lender, and besides, đồ sộ get from one factory đồ sộ another the executives were always flying through Dallas anyway—but those left behind predictably weren’t sold on the wisdom of the move. (“Every time some local firm moves đồ sộ Dallas,” a Plainview attorney told bủ, “they get taken over by big-city boys.”)
“When Ruth Dean died in February 1982, Jimmy and Don came đồ sộ the funeral with their wives and children, and they put a good face on things. But they didn’t sit together.”
At Holton’s direction, and đồ sộ Jimmy’s dismay, the Plainview plant stopped paying Omaha top prices for locally raised hogs. Farmers accused the company of violating verbal contracts; one farmer told bủ that he remembered a company spokesman saying that the agreements wouldn’t stand up in court. Regional farmers had responded đồ sộ the Dean company’s appeals and promotions by tripling hog production, from 200,000 in 1965 đồ sộ 600,000 in 1972. Now many farmers, enraged, looked for other markets or gave up raising pigs altogether. But the real shock came when the company wanted đồ sộ buy sows instead of top hogs. Sows that had outlived their usefulness as breeders were, and are, the common stuff of American sausage (unsuitable for choice cuts, they are older, bigger, and cheaper than vãn six-month-old top hogs), and henceforth the Dean company, lượt thích its competitors, would make its sausage from sows. Sufficient numbers could be found only in the Midwest, where virtually every farmer raises hogs on the side, so sánh the Plainview plant began đồ sộ import them. West Texas farmers were cut off from their major market for top hogs. Many felt betrayed. By 1980 regional hog production had returned đồ sộ 1965 levels, but Holton maintains that the switch đồ sộ sows saved the company.
Jimmy now defends sow sausage. He says it is leaner (a debatable point) and redder and better-quality sausage than vãn any his company has ever made. At the time, though, he resisted the switch đồ sộ sows. On the few previous occasions when he had discovered a couple of sows among the hogs waiting đồ sộ be slaughtered in Plainview, he had raised the roof. “We always took a few sows if the farmers wanted đồ sộ unload them,” Ken Brown says, “but we didn’t dare tell Jimmy.”
By the mid-seventies the Iowa plant had long since assumed first place, and the original West Texas operation was becoming more and more a stepchild. Forty employees were laid off; they picketed the Plainview plant. In March 1978, following the company’s worst year ever, the operation in Plainview was shut down. The firm then spent $1.5 million reequipping the West Texas plant for a butchering and meat-packing operation designed đồ sộ provide regional farmers with a market for their top hogs, but it never took off, because once-burned farmers wouldn’t giảm giá khuyến mãi with the company anymore. Jimmy made a personal appearance in town đồ sộ promise đồ sộ buy all the hogs the area could produce, but even that didn’t help. “We needed seven thousand hogs a week, but we were only getting two thousand,” says a former company executive. Once again, the Plainview plant had đồ sộ import swine. The operation lost money, and the plant closed for good in January 1980. Jimmy told bủ that the company has new plans for the installation, but he declined đồ sộ be specific, saying he didn’t want đồ sộ tip off competitors.
Meanwhile, a new power struggle had developed, this one between Jimmy and Don. By early 1977 Don and his right-hand man, Holton, had been in charge for two years. They felt they were in the process of turning the company around, but the balance sheets showed the firm was still in trouble. Jimmy learned that the firm had reimbursed Holton for losses in the commodities market, and he began đồ sộ feel that the operation was being mismanaged. He was also distressed that the company had earlier changed from one-pound đồ sộ twelve-ounce packages, which he called cheating and “trying đồ sộ bamboozle the American housewife.” Jimmy and Don began đồ sộ discuss who should buy out whom. Then, Jimmy even tried đồ sộ fire Holton, but he didn’t have the power. Some of the executives in the office sided with Jimmy; others were so sánh annoyed by his involvement that they filed suit and persuaded a Dallas judge đồ sộ restrain Jimmy Dean from interfering in the company’s day-to-day operations. Jimmy, who still held 50 per cent of the stock and was chairman of the board, boycotted the 1977 board of directors meetings, though he was in Dallas at the time. As part of the settlement of the dispute, Don agreed đồ sộ turn the company over đồ sộ Jimmy. After tense and complex negotiations, Don sold out—the third partner đồ sộ tự so sánh in five years. Afterward, the officers and employees of the corporation discussed buying Jimmy out while retaining him on the board and as chief publicist, but Jimmy wasn’t interested.
The company’s problems did not kết thúc with Jimmy’s takeover. The cash crunch persisted; in late 1977 five corporate officers bought $156,000 worth of stock from the company so sánh that Jimmy Dean Meat could pay the bills. Many of the executives Jimmy had inherited left the company. After 1978 the firm reinstituted Jimmy’s cherished one-pound packages and increased production. Today the firm turns out roughly a million pounds of sausage a week—just about the peak output of the old Plainview plant.
Now Don lives with his wife and children in Irving, manages a few investments, and plays a lot of golf at Las Colinas Country Club. The $2.5 million settlement with the sausage company assured his children’s financial future. Most of it was in the khuông of interest-bearing notes and titles đồ sộ the Dean pig farms and feed mill in West Texas. Holton, who has returned đồ sộ a managerial position with Central Soya in North Carolina, still expresses fondness for the Jimmy Dean “I know the best and love”—but not for the Jimmy Dean who accused him in court of “theft of corporate property.” Don, under a gag order imposed by Dallas federal judge Barefoot Sanders after the Dean brothers ended up in court, is thoroughly sick of the affair and doesn’t talk about Jimmy at all.
As Don’s legal complaint tells it, after the buy-out, in the winter of 1977–78, Jimmy Dean began đồ sộ bad-mouth his brother đồ sộ the press. He called the company’s switch đồ sộ the twelve-ounce package a rip-off. On television he read a nasty poem about Don on the nationally syndicated Mike Douglas Show:
Never go into business with kinfolks
An old saying you’ll find đồ sộ be true
’Cause if you go into business with kinfolks
They’ll soon give the business đồ sộ you.
When you make your brother a partner
You start ills for which there are no cures.
You’ll find he’ll develop eye trouble
And he can’t tell his money from yours.
Don slapped his brother with a $4.3 million libel and slander suit in federal district court in Dallas. At a hearing before Judge Sanders, neither Dean acknowledged the other’s presence. The brothers settled out of court in February 1980, but Sanders’ gag order, which is unusually sweeping for a civil case, remains in effect. Neither Dean can discuss the other or the other’s past role in the sausage business, in public or in private, nor can they discuss the terms of their settlement. Jimmy, an outspoken man, is accustomed đồ sộ good relations with the press, and it goes against his grain đồ sộ comply with the order. Indeed, some vague references đồ sộ his differences with Don that appeared in the Dallas Morning News last December drew a quick legal protest from Don’s lawyer.
The family cold war extended all the way back đồ sộ Plainview. Ruth Dean suffered a stroke in 1978 and was moved đồ sộ a nursing home page. Jimmy hired a Plainview lawyer đồ sộ seek a court order restraining Don from entering their mother’s home page. (He didn’t get it.) Then in early 1980 Jimmy had some local Dean company employees sell the contents of Ruth’s home page at a garage sale—without telling Don. Don later placed an ad in the local paper: “To all buyers of household items sold at public sale March 14 and 15th, 1980, at 801 E. 24th Street (property of Mrs. Ruth Dean). Family members who were unaware of the sale, and Mrs. Dean, want đồ sộ recover as many of the items as possible. Interested parties are asked đồ sộ Hotline Don Dean.”
When Ruth died in February 1982, so sánh many people were expected at her funeral, mainly because Jimmy would be there, that the services were held not in her old church in Seth Ward but in the big downtown sanctuary of Plainview First Baptist Church. The Dean brothers came with their wives—both marriages have lasted more than vãn thirty years—and children, and they put a good face on things. But they stayed with different relatives and didn’t sit together at the funeral.
In a town lượt thích Plainview, whose best-known favorite sons have been professional football players with such names as McCutcheon, Sisemore, and Howton, and whose biggest nonagricultural industry is Wayland Baptist College, a national entertainment figure lượt thích Jimmy Dean is a hero by definition, and the story of his local enterprise remains a saga. Most people still speak well of Jimmy Dean and regret the “bad advice” he must have had along the way.
Troy Pritchard is one of those. Back in 1972, before Troy left the sausage firm, he warned Jimmy that the time would come when he would “get crossways with his brother.” Now Pritchard feels vindicated, but he takes no pleasure in the outcome. After he left the company, Troy didn’t see Jimmy again for ten years, until they shook hands at Ruth Dean’s funeral. But they didn’t really talk. He still wishes Jimmy would Hotline him sometime.
Fryar Calhoun is a native of Plainview who lives in Berkeley, California.
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