by DONN BROOKS
Forty years ago there were three men who kept Kyle afloat. These were the “fix-it fellows,” by name Morris Schmeltekopf, Gary Hutzler and J.F. Montague. We lost Morris earlier in the year in a death that is still impossible to fathom. These guys could build anything, and when something somebody else built broke down, they could fix it.
Morris and Gary worked for the school district and Mr. Montague worked for the city. Together, they formed a team, albeit unofficial, that was capable of fixing anything that went wrong in city or school operations. The school district has wisely commemorated Morris and his wife Linda, a retired administrator with Hays High School. The library at Hemphill Elementary School was named in their honor. Rightly.
Local people should recognize the untiring service of Gary Hutzler, first as a shop teacher at Hays Jr. High School (later Hays Middle School) and later as director of maintenance for the school district.
I am pleased that J.F. “Boots” Montague will have his name attached to an important room at the Public Works building for the City of Kyle. Boots was the total face for the City of Kyle for many years before growth started to crank up and staff was added.
Things were much slower in those years of the late 1960s, the 1970s, and up through the 1980s and Boots was called upon to do everything. I recall an especially cold spell when he spent nights in his truck to keep a lift station from freezing up. Once when he was home sick, the water tower began to run over and Boots got out of bed, climbed the water tower, and then went back to bed. The City Council, of which I was a member, voted to appropriate money to hire someone to perform the “climbing and fixing” that went on with respect to the water tower, but Boots allowed that it took more time to hire someone else to do the job than it took him to just go ahead and do it.
But, come to think of it, I never got the impression that Boots enjoyed any aspect of the climbing of the water tower.
The relationship between the city and the school was a splendid one, and there was a great deal of cooperative effort those years. Sometimes Boots would “borrow” some of the shop students to help him do something that required more than two hands. The city didn’t have much to offer in those days, but it was understood that the city stood ready to cooperate with the school. The payoff was that those students learned things we couldn’t teach in shop class.
Of the uncomplimentary things that could be said about Boots, lack of attention to detail and dedication were not appropriate adjectives. He knew there wasn’t anyone else to do whatever task needed doing, so it was my observation that he made a hard effort to do it right the first time.
As a city councilman I appreciated his candor. He had the appropriate respect, in that he acknowledged that final decisions belonged to the council, but he was completely open with offering his opinions and advice. What we heard in private conversations was what we heard in council sessions. He knew how to deal with differing points of view, a quality that many of us in public service lack. In those days, dark ages according to some, everybody knew everybody and there was quite a bit of joshing going on. Boots participated in the humor, but he was always serious when it came to city business. I suppose it dawned on him that he would need to fix our mistakes, so he didn’t hesitate to point out areas where our thinking was off center.
Over the years, I wish I had taken the time to jot down a few Boots-isms. He has a marvelous sense of humor and when one is working on sewer lines, climbing water towers, fixing leaks and putting up with the ornery public, that humor was definitely an asset.
The city ought to name the PAWS facility the Sam-Thumper building. Those were his dogs and they managed to be around enough of the goings-on that it would be right and proper to commemorate them along with Boots. Boots is a great outdoorsman and, of course, a dog lover. He told me the other day about a conversation he had with a fox in the street in front of his house. It might be the same critter that graces our yard from time to time.
Kyle has grown into a paid fire department with all sorts of fancy doodads. Good for them. But Boots was a mainstay of that department for years and years and, again, often as not it was he and Gary Hutzler that kept the old machinery going. Naturally, good Morris Schmeltekopf did his time in the fire department. Both Boots and Morris served as reserve deputy sheriffs.
This is a better place because of the service of Boots, Gary and Morris. This is Boots’ time to shine and the public ought to congratulate the city for doing the right thing in recognizing an outstanding public servant.