One of the wisest saints I've ever known was Marjorie Lester. Marjorie was a member of Houston's Bering Memorial Church. She lived to be 101 years old. Before coming to Houston, she was the second woman admitted to the bar in the Commonwealth of Kentucky after her husband was murdered, leaving her a widow with two young sons. In Houston, she was in charge of legal records for one of the natural gas companies.
In my first year at Bering Memorial Church, during the worship service where I was asking worshipers to complete their pledge cards and bring them to the Altar, she asked to speak to the congregation. Leaning on her cane, she said these words, "The Apostle Paul would be envious of the mission field at our doorstep."
Those who recorded the pledges told me that about half of the cards had the first figure erased or crossed out and a higher amount written in, no doubt in response to what Marjorie said.
In one of my last home visits to her in 1986, she said this to me. "Ron, I hope what I'm about to say does not render me a heretic, but when we get to heaven if all we are going to do is stand around God's throne and sing, I'm not sure I want to go."
I replied, "The endless singing is the work of the Angels. We get to join them, but there are other things for us to do there. I'm not sure what our other tasks will be, but I look forward to your being there beside me when the time comes."
I wish I'd had this hymn handy to share with her.
Angel Voices Ever Singing
1 Angel voices ever singing
round Thy throne of light,
angel harps, forever ringing,
rest not day nor night;
thousands only live to bless Thee
and confess thee Lord of might.
2 Thou who art beyond the farthest
mortal eye can scan,
can it be that Thou regardest
songs of sinful man?
Can we feel that Thou art near us
and wilt hear us? Yea, we can.
3 Yea, we know Thy love rejoices
o'er each work of Thine;
Thou didst ears and hands and voices
for Thy praise combine;
craftsman's art and music's measure
for Thy pleasure didst design.
4 Here, great God, today we offer
of Thine own to Thee;
and for Thine acceptance proffer,
hearts and minds and hands and voices
in our choicest melody.
5 Honor, glory, might, and merit
Thine shall ever be,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
of the best that Thou hast given
earth and heaven render Thee.
Author: Francis Pott (1861)
ANGEL VOICES (Monk) Composer: Edwin George Monk (1861)
My dad, A.C. Pogue, moved to Houston from Rogers in Bell County, Texas in 1936. After he was settled, he sent for my grandparents, Coy and Nora, and his five brothers, Jesse, Gerald, Tommy, Pat, and Bill. They all moved to Houston and sought work.
During WWII, Dad served in the National Guard and continued in his job at Reed Roller Bit Company, which had been granted a defense contract to build tank parts. The other five brothers enlisted in the military and served until the end of the war.
After WWII, the six brothers formed the Pogue Service Company in Houston, Texas. Their company, headquartered in the 7600 block of Homestead Road, involved a variety of enterprises, including a construction company, a lumberyard, a service station, and a meat market. They also bought some 1,300 acres in Walker County, Texas where they had a herd of over 300 head of cattle. That herd was one source of meat for their market in Houston.
They called the cattle operation the Bar Circle P Ranch. The brothers sold the herd and the land in 1949. My dad and his youngest brother, Bill Pogue, kept about 50 head of Brahman cattle and moved them to another piece of land nearby.
In 1950, there was an anthrax outbreak in the area. Dad and Uncle Bill went to vaccinate their Brahmans and, in the process, one of the cows knocked my dad off balance. He stuck the needle of the syringe into his arm and contracted anthrax. As the illness progressed, Dr. Donald M. Gready, our family physician, saved his life by performing an emergency tracheotomy in the Medical Arts hospital hallway.
As a consequence of the anthrax, Dad could not tolerate the Houston heat and began to look for someplace else to spend the summers. His housing development business was very successful and he could afford to buy 2,000 acres in Grand County Colorado. I spent many happy summers there and I’ve returned to the area often as an adult.
Recently, when visiting with my Uncle Bill, the last of the six brothers, I asked if they branded their cattle at the Bar Circle P Ranch. He told me they did and described the brand for me. He personally made the branding iron. It was somewhat large and branded the cattle on the side instead of the rump because it made it easier to identify them among trees on the ranch property. He said that the branding iron had been lost and he doesn’t remember seeing it since sometime in the early 1950’s.
I mentioned this to my cousin, Cody Pogue. His grandfather, Uncle Tommy Pogue, acquired a portion of the smaller property after Dad and Uncle Bill sold their Brahman herd. Cody grew up visiting his grandparents there and his family still owns the property. Cody promised to search for the branding iron on his next visit.
On Friday, December 26, 2014, Cody found the branding iron among some old tools in a shed. He sent a photo and I forwarded it on to Uncle Bill, who believed the iron was lost and gone forever. What an interesting surprise for all of us.
It is a symbol of an era in our family heritage of faith, collaboration, enterprise, and hard work and of an era when these six brothers helped each other build a new life for themselves and their families in Houston.
The original photo shows a reverse image of the brand because the face of the branding iron had to be that way in order for the image burned into the hid of the animal to appear correctly.
I’ve flipped the image around to show how it would appear on the animal's hide after branding.
Cody and his dad, Jimmy Pogue, are making images of the brand so that we can provide copies for other descendants of the six Pogue brothers to remind them of the importance of our family heritage, values, and lessons for future generations. That Bar Circle P brand reminds me that I was born into this branch of the Pogue Family and that wherever I may be, the lessons of one generation are passed to succeeding generations.
Cattle are branded or ear marked so that their ownership can be identified wherever they may be. In Baptism, Christians are "marked as Christ's own for ever." Who we are and whose we are leaves an indelible mark upon us, even when we stray. Whenever and wherever I am, if I can only remember that I am Baptized and have been made a child of God by grace and adoption, I am reassured. Generations of Christians have passed lessons on to mine and now it is my privilege to share them with those who come after me. One of our favorite hymns says it well:
Each newborn servant of the Crucified Bears on the brow the seal of Him Who died.
Soon, we'll be taking possession of our new house in Arlington, Texas. It will serve as our home base as I continue interim ministry in The Episcopal Church. We're going to refer to our back yard as the Bar Circle P as a way of honoring our Pogue Family heritage. And, we'll have a branch office in Jackson, Wyoming, where I'll live out the imperatives of the seal on my brow as Interim Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, starting February 15.
Gay and I ask for your prayers as our journey continues - in a new pasture!
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