Rudy may be gone but certainly, he’ll not be forgotten. At 85 years of age, he slipped from this world to the next last Sunday. Robert Joshua Millard, known to most folks as Rudy, was a fixture in East Texas, and in particular in Nacogdoches. His family were early settlers here. Easy going – unless you “messed with him” – Rudy was the power behind the scenes in many Nacogdoches projects and a few controversies.
We bought the land from him on which we built our home. To the frustration of the real estate dealer, we managed to talk directly to him about the price, and he reduced it. (Sorry about the lowered commission.) According to him, he “took a likin’ to us.” The feeling was mutual. Rudy’s quiet reasoning with city officials also convinced them to allow us to tie into the municipal water main, a sticking point in our land acquisition. But that’s a whole other story.
Frankly, Rudy was a “field and forest” fact. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping in East Texas. According to Nayona, Rudy’s wife, when he was young some kids wanted to get into the shed in which he skinned his catch. He refused. They were incensed and started calling him names, one of which was “you ole hog rooter!” “Rooter, Rooter, Rooter!” Well, Rooter evolved to Rudy and it stuck. Rudy Millard.
Rudy and I often talked about his recollections of the “old days” here, and I taped some of them. He had a million tales, and most of them were probably true! For example, he said cougars were fairly common around this area for many years. Back in 2009, Rudy said cougar tracks were common in his pastures and swamp land along and just north of Old Post Oak Road, particularly along the Lanana Creek drainage just a little west of our home. “We saw them all the time,” he commented to me. “But I haven’t seen any for the last 6 or 7 years.”
He described an experience in 1982 of finding one of his calves mauled and partially eaten by a cougar.
“The back of the neck was torn up and a pretty big chunk of meat was taken from the body. My dog smelled around, came back, and hid under the truck.” Smart dog.
Fresh cougar tracks were “all around the dead calf. And I felt the cat was probably right out there watching us,” he said.
Later, Rudy and Dr. Ed Klein, a local physician, went back out to the scene. Rudy said “Dr. Klein went over to the hospital and got some plaster of Paris to make casts of the tracks. He came back that evening in his Jeep after the plaster had hardened.” Since he’d come directly from work, he was wearing a suit and dress shoes. Just as he was getting the last castings, a sudden gust of wind blew the Jeep door shut with a bang. Klein told Rudy he’d been wondering where the cougar was, and when that door slammed he “took off across that swamp” and “didn’t get a drop of mud on his shoes” running back to the Jeep.
Two or three years later Rudy and one of his hired men were driving through one of his pastures when the man said: “there’s a deer.” Rudy looked over and realized they were seeing a big cougar walking up the hill. “That’s not a deer,” Rudy said, “it’s a big cat. Look at his long tail.” The cat was in no hurry and just walked along like he owned the area, and then disappeared into the brush.
About two years after that, Rudy said “I was driving down by the side of the Lanana Creek and thought I saw something moving. It was another cougar. This first cat I saw a few years before was a big cat – looked like a male. But this was a smaller cat and she had two small ones following her.” They trotted off along a trail to the north, and he never saw them again.
Rudy’s property borders ours, and from time to time the fence goes down and a cow wanders up to our house. I always phoned him and told him I had some of his steaks strolling around our yard, and wondered if I could put them in my freezer. Never did get one though. Oh well.
As I said, Rudy’s gone, and we’ll all miss him. Some animals only live a season, others a few years. The Bible says people have a roughly allotted three score and ten (70) years. Rudy certainly exceeded that.
I like to think of him now in a gentle place where his knees and hips don’t hurt, the sun shines gently on his shoulders, the hunting and trapping are good, and he’s been reunited with those long-lost relatives who went on ahead. Farewell, old friend.
Dr. Risk is a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Content © Paul H. Risk, Ph.D. All rights reserved, except where otherwise noted. Click firstname.lastname@example.org to send questions, comments, or request permission for use.