3. Frederic Collins

By Jeep Collins

Frederic Charles Collins Jr. Born in Akron, Ohio October 7, 1910. Cynthia, three years older than me gave names to every person and animal.  Naturally as the little brother I said everything the way she did. So our name for our dad was Bawa. No one knew why she called him that; the only theory I ever heard was that that was what our dog Rosie called him.  Today I don’t think of him by that name, but simply as my dad.

Growing up in the city he was far from the west, but he loved stories about the cowboys of the northern plains down to the brush country of south Texas. He left us his books, including first editions of Smoky, and Sand  by Will James.  His first taste of the cowboy life was after high school graduation when he went to Jackson Hole Wyoming with some friends and spent several weeks on a ranch. In a letter he wrote to his mother he describes the natural beauty of Yellowstone Park, the Tetons and the mountains he rode through on horseback every morning and evening after dinner.  After this experience he dreamed of living the cowboy life and was inspired by the paintings and sculptures of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell and became a sculptor himself.  

In the fall he attended the University of Michigan where he studied engineering.  Then in 1929 the stock market crashed and his father lost everything.  With the loss of the family fortune his dreams had to be put on hold because he was needed to help provide for his family.  I remember years later when we were looking at a photo of Mt. Rushmore he told me he had had to turn down an invitation to work on it.  The spirit of adventure in his chest, was now only smoldering embers waiting for an opportunity to burn.

In the Summer of 1941 he was working for the Fruehauf trailer company in Detroit. When the opportunity to go down to Texas with the company opened up he gladly volunteered. During his extended stay in San Antonio his mother, Gammy came down to visit.  She had never been to Texas and wanted to see what all the fuss of it was that he described in his letters. She took ceramic lessons at the Witte museum from a young woman, Enid Roessler.  Quite taken with this girl, she arranged a meeting for the two of them. Frederic was 31 years old, unmarried and with no prospects at the time and Gammy decided that he needed a little help in finding a wife.  This girl was not shy and the two of them took to each other right away.  Gammy went back to Bloomfield Hills, satisfied with her efforts in matchmaking.

My dad had a Buick convertible and on the weekends they drove up to the hill country west of San Antonio.  Bandera boasted to be the "cowboy capital of the world" and had several western nightspots.  One named the Silver Spur was built on the side of a hill overlooking the Medina River that flowed past the edge of town.  It was a romantic setting, dancing under the stars with the moonlight glimmering on the river - the river that began on the little ranch that they would own and work someday.

He had found a girl that was more than a dreamer, she was a do-er - she was a fan for the embers in his heart.  He wanted to buckaroo and she encouraged him.  They talked of buying a ranch though neither of them knew straight up about a cow, or the ranching business. 

On his birthday, October 7th of that year they were married in Bloomfield Hills Michigan.  Two months after their marriage Pearl Harbor was bombed and their plan to buy a ranch in Texas was delayed.  My father, unable to serve in the military as a result of a broken eardrum worked in a war plant in the Detroit area as a draftsman.  My mother soldered avionics equipment for warplanes, a skill she learned in jewelry classes as an art student at Texas Woman's University.

Photo:   Frederic .  sketch by Enid .  1941

  • Jane Michel - September 12, 2016

    Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

  • Carole - September 12, 2016

    Really enjoying your stories Jeep, keep them coming.?

  • Loretta Schmidt - September 12, 2016

    Really enjoying your writings. Glad to know more about your father.

  • Sandie Smallwood - September 11, 2016

    Very interesting. I didn’t know anything about Frederic Collins early life. Thank you for sharing



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