By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Ralph Mendez stood before a dozen or so low-ranking politicos with his arms spread wide, his thin mustache unable to contain his toothy grin. "Good morning, and welcome to Old MacDonald's Farm."XX X XFor many members of the city park board, it was their first visit to this sizable chunk of Dallas-owned acreage hidden in the sticks between Mesquite and Sunnyvale. Samuell Farm Park was supposed to look like a late-19th-century farm--red barn, wood fences, white chickens--and was designed to give city kids a chance to cavort with nature and feed barnyard animals corn from a 25-cent gumball machine. Some 24,000 schoolchildren field-tripped here last year, and most of them had a good time. But ever since Samuell Farm fired longtime employee Kathy Rogers last summer for allegedly assaulting a first-grader, complaints about this all-but-forgotten property have been flooding City Hall.
On February 11, Mendez, the assistant parks director in charge of the farm, needed the park board to see that allegations of animal abuse, tree killing, illegal dumping, and nature rape had no merit. "The inspector from the USDA [Department of Agriculture] was out here yesterday," he said, "and I am very proud to report that we have received our license...We passed...We are in compliance...The animals are healthy again."
But according to Dr. Jeanne Kjos, the inspector from the USDA, which regulates animal exhibitions like Samuell Farm, that just wasn't the case.
Oh well, it was getting chilly outside, and park board members wouldn't be there much longer. Mendez continued the meeting by focusing attention on the upcoming Civil War Weekend, something positive that generates real money for the city.
On March 13 and 14, nearly 6,000 people were scheduled to flock to Samuell Farm and pay their $5 to watch 1,000 mock soldiers dressed in blues and grays relive battles from the Civil War. The Parson's Dragoon and 12th Texas Cavalry, regional groups of Civil War buffs, sponsor the annual event. Park board members listened as re-enactors touted the weekend--complete with cannon fire and other pyrotechnics--as educational and fun for the whole family. Mendez reminded everyone of the free publicity that this re-enactment had received from the History Channel and The Dallas Morning News. He also stressed that the event had provided a consistent revenue stream for the cash-hungry Department of Park and Recreation.
Doug Melton, manager of the farm, then took his City Hall visitors on a guided tour. They marveled over an 800-pound hog and giggled when a longhorn urinated in the wind. They piled into the petting zoo as the animals munched madly at their feet; some board members captured this Kodak moment with disposable cameras. "Man, we're having fun!" one member shouted. The animals sure seemed happy.
But on this 45-minute tour, which covered only about 75 of the farm's 640 acres, the park board hardly saw the real Samuell Farm. No one took them to the site of a 20-foot-high pile of trash visible through leafless trees, nor to a second dump site festering behind the evergreens at Pig Lake, where a broken portable toilet sat atop a mound of dirt embedded with insecticide cans, beer cans, the tailgate of a white city truck, and several orange barricades. A rusted "Do not dig anywhere in this area" sign was crumpled in the wreckage.
Two larger dump sites were hidden still deeper in the woods. One looked just slightly littered, but the sinking dirt covered 25 feet of landfill. And along the banks and in the water of the North Mesquite Creek, which flows into the Trinity River, countless boulders of concrete and environmentally unfriendly asphalt protruded from tangled cobwebs of steel rebar.
The park board never toured the main barn either--a dank facility that houses the wildlife rehabilitation center. Once inside, they would have seen large peacocks roosting in rafters speckled with rat feces. They probably wouldn't have opened the two freezers, full of dead hens, peacocks, and geese. Melton did, however, take the board behind the barn to the under-renovation hog pen, which was cluttered with power tools. "We've got a drainage problem we're dealing with," Melton said, pointing to the muddy wallow. "We found out there's a natural spring running underneath it."
But Melton, like Mendez, was just saying what the park board wanted to hear. City plumbers and farm staff knew there was no natural spring--just a leaky pipe. The real drainage problem was the hog feces that trickled out of a white plastic tube, collecting in a small pool before running down to the creek.
None the wiser, city officials headed back to the "town hall" building, where they laughed over their goat-feeding adventures and pushed through the line of catered Sonny Bryan's barbecue. While they ate, Melton and Mendez chatted outside, obviously proud that the tour had gone so well. What had been obscured from view was Samuell Farm's own civil war, a simmering battle between those who want to make it a revenue-generating playground for re-enactors and Wild West enthusiasts and those who see it as a nature preserve and rehab center for wounded wildlife.
Animal caretaker Kathy Rogers would claim she was the war's first casualty. But the fight has left scars on the habitat and its inhabitants, pitting environmentalists and animal-rights activists against farm managers and city bureaucrats in a war of attrition over the very soul of the place.
A terse declaration gave the park board control of Samuell Farm: "Real Estate to City Dallas Park Board for park purposes--not to be sold." Written on the back of a blank prescription form, these words were part of the will of prominent Dallas physician Dr. W.W. Samuell, who died in 1937. With this bequest, he gave the city 11 parcels of land, including Samuell Grand Park, Tenison Park, and Samuell Garland Park. But by far the largest property was the vast, tree-covered expanse east of the city that would become Samuell Farm.
Bought shortly before his death, the land in what was then the town of New Hope was his summer home. The road that would become Samuell Boulevard led to the house he built, surrounded by a series of lakes that stayed full partly because of a water-tower pumping system topped by a windmill. That windmill, visible from the road that is now Highway 80, would become the symbol of the Dallas park.
Dr. Samuell also left behind some money for the upkeep of his properties. He established a permanent foundation, administered by a bank, which would pay money into a trust fund administered by the city of Dallas. In 1941, the foundation was worth half a million dollars. By September 1998, it had grown to $7.4 million, which generates an average interest of $320,000 a year for the city trust.
When the court interpreted his will, it ruled that the park board could use the income from the trust only on parks established by Dr. Samuell and that "no part of said income shall be used on any other public parks in the city of Dallas."
For 40 years, the farm was just open green space for camping. But the board decided to turn it into something more worthwhile in 1981, when it went with a working-19th-century-farm concept. For a few dollars, kids could come see fields of corn and cotton, butter-churning, a syrup mill, and horse-drawn wagons.
By 1991, the recession-minded park board, like everyone else in Dallas, was desperate to generate revenue. To manage the farm, it brought in Doug Melton, a self-proclaimed "city boy" from St. Louis who had most recently headed the city's lawn-mowing department. He immediately began to trim the fat and draw in more schoolkids. After two years, the farm's revenue doubled to nearly $200,000. He raised the profile of the farm by adding special events such as an Easter egg hunt, a haunted Halloween barn, an antique tractor show, and the Civil War Weekend.
Samuell Farm, however, didn't get any of this money--or any money from the Samuell Trust, for that matter. Since at least 1980, the park board has taken the annual allocation from the foundation and the money from the trust interest and transferred most of it into the general fund, or the "black hole," as Samuell Farm employees call it. Department of Park and Recreation Director Paul Dyer defends this creative accounting: "Samuell properties get more money up front from the budget than they bring in, so in effect it's not violating the Samuell trust. When the money goes back into the general fund, it's paying back part of a loan."
But not all park board members agree. Rob Parks, who represents the White Rock Lake area, says, "I feel like Dr. Samuell didn't intend for his money to go to the general fund. He intended for it to go directly to his parks to help offset the expenses, and that's not happening." Also going into the general fund is most of the revenue generated on Samuell properties. For fiscal year 1996-'97, Samuell Farm brought in $246,000--more than double the revenue from all other Samuell properties combined.
In 1994, Melton began "Sons of the Old West," a cowboy comedy troupe consisting mostly of farm staff who staged gunfights for schoolkids and company picnics. The gunfighters, along with some volunteer firemen, helped staff the haunted barn for Halloween. But not all Sons of the Old West jobs were volunteer work. Its members put themselves out for hire at Old West shows and private gatherings. Rogers claims that Melton and his crew often left her in charge of the farm while the gunfighters went to their for-profit gigs--off the property but still on the clock. Melton denies that he ever participated in outside events. "It would be a conflict of interest," he says.
Also in 1994, the farm began holding another special event--the Civil War. That first year featured 50 re-enactors from the Parson's Dragoon, a group of Civil War enthusiasts and historians with whom Melton had come in contact through his work with the gunfighters. The annual Yankee vs. Rebel war game has since grown into the largest such event in Texas. The re-enactors loved Samuell Farm. It seemed an ideal space, and farm staff always seemed willing to help. If they needed a bridge over the creek, Melton built it. If they needed a clearer path through the woods, the staff cut down trees.
Re-creating the Civil War could sometimes cause trouble. Three summers ago, the event took place during an extreme drought. A statewide burning ban was in effect, but that didn't prevent the farm from providing firewood for dozens of campfires. A big blaze started when a tent full of gunpowder ignited. Flames spread to several other canvas tents, many of which also were stocked with gunpowder. Then the trees began to burn. Though the Mesquite and Dallas County Fire Departments threw a fit at farm management over the incident, the park board representatives never caught wind of the near-fiasco.
They never heard much of anything when it came to Samuell Farm--perhaps because complaints mistakenly went to the city of Mesquite, or perhaps because the Dallas Park and Recreation Department didn't want the park board to know anything that would jeopardize the farm's revenue-generating potential. When rumblings of trouble did make their way to City Hall, the department tended to circle the wagons to protect Doug Melton. And Doug Melton knew how to protect his interests as well.
"All he cares about are the Civil War people," says Robert Brunson, who runs the farm's horseback-riding concession. "They run the park."
But for others who worked there, like Kathy Rogers, the farm was more than just a stage set for a bunch of middle-aged men who got their jollies carrying muskets and singing "Dixie." For Rogers, Samuell Farm was a refuge for wounded wildlife, like the duck that was brought there after its bill had been burned off by some Mesquite teenagers. She loved her animals and tended to get a little emotional about them.
Kathy Rogers came to Samuell Farm in 1985 as a volunteer. She eventually joined the staff, only to be laid off in the late '80s when the recession forced the park board to slash personnel. She continued working for no pay until she was rehired in 1989. At that time, the park was still modeled after a 19th-century farm, complete with butter churns and bonnet-wearing farmhands. When the couple who established this concept retired in 1990, they named Rogers the interim manager. Once Melton came aboard a year later, she resumed her duties as livestock manager, which included taking care of the animals and keeping various farm records--such as the log for the old fuel tanks, which she noted were leaking 35 to 40 gallons with each fill. But Melton claims this was normal. "Due to the configuration of the tanks and the weather, we would have that much fluctuation," he says.
In her spare time at the farm, she founded the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center--a nonprofit animal hospital for wild fowl that she named after herself. She turned her Mesquite home into the headquarters, and her office in Samuell Farm's main barn became the clinic. At first the center was taking in just a few dozen injured birds, but soon the cages were stacked ceiling-high. Today the volunteer-staffed center treats and releases nearly 3,000 birds a year. It has also begun a breeding program for exotic migratory birds. The RWRC became her true love. Sitting amid the cackle of her recovering patients while looking out the window into the petting zoo, she envisioned an educational center, exhibition cages, and more birds.
Rogers tried to establish an official relationship with the Dallas Parks Department; the process \would prove unending. Her quest for a five-year lease, under a contract that would have her handing over 10 to 30 percent of all donations to the city, began in 1996. While she waited for word of the next step from her boss, Doug Melton, City Hall was waiting for her paperwork--for eight months. "Doug never told me they were waiting for anything," says Rogers. Eventually, an impatient city official copied her one of the many memos sent to Melton, and Rogers immediately responded with the necessary information.
In December 1996, the city told her that because she was a city employee, she needed to remove her name from the center and resign as the nonprofit's director. She did, and the park board later approved her proposal for the new RWRC, renamed the Rescued Wildlife Rehab Center. While the contract waited on Ralph Mendez's desk for a few signatures before being sent to the city council for final approval, Rogers and her organization began building an outdoor walk-through exhibit area for large birds of prey, such as owls, hawks, and vultures. Then she waited some more.
Rogers says that Melton always blamed the waiting game on city bureaucracy and that she had gotten used to uncooperative behavior from her fellow park department employees. She tells a story about a cold day in '95 when she was putting tarps over pens, her hands reddened by 40-mile-an-hour winter winds. Melton and the rest of his staff sat by a space heater inside the main office and watched TV westerns. That August, she filed seven memos in one day, voicing her dismay about everything from unsafe animal pens to the still-broken air conditioner in her office. And she was very specific about her problems with the farm's caretaker, Dale Johnson.
Johnson, a Buffalo Bill-looking farmhand, loved to irk Rogers' animal-lover friends. One of the August memos complains that he told the president of the Pot-bellied Pig Association of Dallas County that his ill-behaved swine should "be taken out and shot and fed to the bobcats to enjoy." Over the years, Rogers' problems with the caretaker continued. She had to do his job for him, she says. And worse, she believed he was killing animals. She began stocking the barn freezers with bird carcasses she claims he knowingly ran over with his city truck.
She blamed practically the whole staff when it came to animal abuse. "They just let the people run wild," she says. One day she stormed into Melton's office and slapped a dead goose on his desk, showing him the puncture wound in the neck, presumably from a litter stick.
Melton must have been thrilled when the tables were suddenly turned on Rogers.
May 5, 1998, was supposed to be Rogers' day off, but she was at the farm, working the same seven days a week she had for years. She had fed the animals and gone into the barn to work at the rehab center. Eight classes of first-grade students from Edna Rowe Elementary School were on a field trip. A few kids were getting out of hand in the petting zoo, as kids often did. Rogers watched children throwing rocks at a duck, and another boy swinging a stick at a peacock. She ran outside and grabbed the stick from the boy, yelling, "You're outta here!" As she talked briefly about the problem with two adult chaperones, another boy stood at the edge of the pond with his leg cocked, ready to kick a duck. She ran over and yanked him by the arm from a four-foot drop-off--to prevent him from falling in, she would later testify. One of the chaperones, the mother of a classmate, claimed Rogers had assaulted the child and scared the rest of the kids. The mother of the child would make no complaint, and neither would the teacher, who was the other woman supervising the children that day. But one angry mother was enough. When Rogers arrived at work June 2, Melton, standing next to his right-hand man, John King, handed her a termination letter.
"You need to sign this," he said.
She refused. He told her she had 20 minutes to get off the property.
"This is bullshit!" yelled Rogers. She spent her last 20 minutes at Samuell Farm feeding the animals.
She took her fight to City Hall and appealed her termination to the assistant park director, Ralph Mendez, who denied her claim. She then appealed Mendez's decision to the park board, which convened a three-member tribunal to look into the matter.
The park board decided they needed to speak to the teacher, Nancy Armstrong, before rendering a decision. Her January 11 testimony conflicted, in part, with the disturbed mother's. And, Armstrong admitted, "I think [the boy] wasn't harmed physically." Yes, the children were frightened, but mostly because "they were going to get in trouble back at school."
Though the allegations were weak, the board decided to demote Rogers. She was reassigned to the animal hospital at the Dallas Zoo, with a clause restricting her from contact with children. Rogers wasn't satisfied, but the city refused to let her prosecute her appeal any further. Both Melton and Mendez refuse to comment on Rogers' demotion, saying it's a personnel matter and confidential. Of course, that hasn't stopped Rogers from speaking out.
"Doug wanted me out," she says. "[My demotion] was based upon false allegations to begin with...Judgments and decisions about my very future were being made based on lies, cover-ups, and deceptions."
Almost immediately after being fired, Rogers asked whether she could continue her volunteer work at the RWRC. Melton said no--she was not permitted on the farm. Steve Culp, a longtime rehab volunteer, took on most of Rogers' duties.
The El Nino-driven heat wave of 1998 was beginning to kick in, and the animals soon began dying. The first was an obese rabbit, which suffered hemorrhaged kidneys during a heatstroke in June. Culp claims that during each day of the summer, he was finding five to eight farm fowl dead--chickens, turkeys, peacocks, ducks, geese, everything. "And that's not counting the ones I've seen Dale run over," says Culp. "I pick up probably 30 a year. He honks once but keeps on going." Culp learned the farm well, driving his truck over most of the acreage as he laid out feed for the migratory birds that fly there each year. He'd see dozens of bales of rotting hay and found it suspicious that city dump trucks pulled into the farm's back gates full of concrete and asphalt and left empty.
Yet Doug Melton claims the dumping problem is not a current one: "The park department, over the years, was bringing trash in, even before the farm was programmatic in 1980." He admits he knew of the existence of the dumping sites, but says he is too understaffed to deal with it. "The problem areas are on our minds, but we already have so much to do with the people and the kids and the animals."
When Rogers' replacement, Shannon Grhard, joined the farm staff in September, she began keeping a log of dead and injured animals: a total of two ducks, two chickens, and a turkey from September through November.
"And what about the ones they're not reporting?" asks Culp, pointing to an area near the creek speckled with animal bones.
When horseback-riding concessionaire Robert Brunson made a routine visit to the farm in November, he stumbled on a pony with no water in one of his pens. When he and one of his trail-ride employees entered the pen, they found another horse lying in the corner, dead. Brunson says he didn't own either horse, and Melton refused to give him an explanation of where they came from. The next day, when he returned, both the dead horse and the live one were gone. No animals were reported dead or injured in November, and there have been no records of any horse deaths or carcass disposals since August.
This incident was the final straw for Brunson, who says he is through with Samuell Farm and will not be submitting a bid to renew his city contract. "As long as Doug's out there, we don't want to be out there," he says. "They've worn us down and chased us out."
Meanwhile, Culp and the rehab volunteers were also feeling unwelcome. Melton sent a memo to the center accusing volunteers of leaving gates open. He changed the locks without telling them and began enforcing a by-the-book policy, insisting that all volunteers be off the premises by 10 p.m. Park department Director Paul Dyer denied a petition from Karen Outland, the newly placed director of RWRC, for occasional 24-hour access to tend to sick, injured, and baby birds. Melton also required all rehab volunteers to keep a copy of their driver's licenses and insurance cards on file with the farm. The Civil War re-enactors, however, who came out to the farm to practice roughly two weekends each month, never received such a mandate, and the farm has no driver's licenses or insurance records on file for them.
In October, Pat Melton, a former Dallas broadcast journalist and nature lover (and no relation to Doug Melton) joined the rehab volunteers. She began bringing her teenage children, who were fulfilling school community-service requirements, to the farm each weekend. She was appalled by the animal problems she saw and by the stories she heard.
On December 2, she filed a complaint with Donna Blumer, her city council representative, about unfed animals and a lack of hay. Eight days later, Doug Melton called Pat to assure her that everything was fine, that the animals were being well cared for every day. Dyer also sent her a written response the same day, reiterating the farm manager's claims and adding, "We are pleased to announce construction of new public restrooms and a maintenance barn."
"It's interesting, then, that only 10 days later," Pat Melton wrote in a complaint delivered to the park board in January, "we saw empty feed troughs, green standing water in the water troughs...no hay for bedding, and animals standing in six inches of mud. Such conditions are not indicative of recent daily care." She sent her son to Wal-Mart to buy a disposable camera. "At first I assumed someone would be along later in the day to remedy these situations. But after subsequent visits, I noticed that this type of care was the norm, not the exception."
After a call from Ralph Mendez to assure her again that the animals were fine, Pat Melton visited on January 3 at 12:30 p.m. It was below freezing, and the water troughs were frozen over, ice unbroken, which meant that water was unavailable. She discovered a large sheep lying on its side. The downed ewe's legs were twitching. She paged Mendez, unsuccessfully, and then reported it to a trail-ride staffer, who informed Dale Johnson of the problem. Pat Melton followed up with Doug Melton two days later. He assured her that she was mistaken about the frozen water. The ewe, the farm manager told her, had a low body temperature and would have to be put to sleep.
She went back to the park board with her photographic evidence of dead and dying animals. Mendez took issue with her accusations, as did rookie park board representative Ralph Isenberg, who interjected that as a real estate developer, he was familiar with staged pictures and said that the photos looked staged.
Alienated by their attitude, Pat Melton began calling other agencies--the USDA, the SPCA, the EPA, and the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. She also introduced herself to the city of Dallas fraud investigators.
Officials in the city auditor's department had already been tipped off about some possible misdeeds involving the Sons of the Old West gunfighters. In the sleeve of his notebook labeled Samuell Farm, senior investigator Hector Collazo has a business card for the "volunteer" group. On the front is a picture of Melton, Johnson, and other farm employees dressed in their Wild West best. Bold letters on the back spell out "GUNS FOR HIRE." The card indicates that the group has been in business for three years and lists the Samuell Farm phone number and an 800 number paid for by the city.
A separate investigation was already under way. Thanks to a hot-line call from Kathy Rogers, the Dallas Police Department's Public Integrity unit was asking questions of John King, the assistant farm manager.
For low-level criminals sentenced to perform a certain amount of community service, Samuell Farm is a court-approved site for working off those hours. Dallas police caught John King allegedly trading community-service hours for computer equipment for the farm. The police have since turned the case over to the district attorney, who plans on presenting evidence to a grand jury in March. Paul Dyer, however, insists the case is closed. "Since it wasn't for personal gain, they [the police] looked into it and told him he shouldn't be doing that."
But at least a few people say Samuell Farm's system of barter justice was well known among the "hooligans," as farm employees called the 200 or so people sent there by the courts each year. Four years ago, Bill Wilson was sentenced to 24 hours of community service. He had already been volunteering at Samuell Farm with his 9-year-old daughter, so he was excited when he learned it was a court-approved place. A portrait photographer by profession, Wilson did leatherwork as a hobby. "Doug Melton told me he needed some holsters for the gunfighters, and that he could sign off my hours for them," says Wilson. "I made a couple of real nice ones for him." Melton denies any involvement with Wilson. "I don't remember that at all. That never happened. It wasn't me," he says.
The park board's primary concern was the Department of Agriculture. In an attempt to appease Pat Melton and others making complaints about animal care, it invited the USDA to inspect the farm, which had somehow escaped any federal regulatory scrutiny during the last two decades. On January 12, the USDA sent Dr. Jeanne Kjos to conduct the inspection, and she identified 10 code violations, saying she would return on February 10 to determine whether they had been remedied. The Samuell Farm crew worked frantically, putting in more hours than anyone on the farm remembers, erecting fences, repairing buildings, and replacing feed troughs. At the same time, they still had to prepare for the March Civil War, which consisted of moving dozens of railroad ties from the parking lot to the "battlefield."
Kjos returned on February 10, and though she noted several improvements, Samuell Farm still had a way to go before it was fully compliant. Still problematic were the hog barn with a drainage problem, rusty fences in the petting zoo, the shelters for pot-bellied pigs, and a turkey pen with a leaky roof. She gave them deadlines for each unfinished task--anywhere from two weeks to 75 days. She would be back, this time ready to levy fines.
Yet when the park board received its guided tour on February 11, Ralph Mendez assured its members that the farm was USDA compliant "as of yesterday."
Doug Melton claims that the farm rather than the park board initiated the contact with the USDA. "We weren't even on their list of inspections. We just wanted to make sure we were doing everything by the book. Dr. Kjos' visit reinforced that we were doing everything right," he says.
In the aftermath of the park board's "successful" visit, animal rehabber Steve Culp learned that the rescue center was living on borrowed time. Apparently, John King had let it slip that the RWRC wouldn't need any more volunteers as of the next week because it would be gone from Samuell Farm.
Melton and Mendez must have smelled victory. On its February 18 agenda, the park board placed Item 29: revoking the contract of the Rescued Wildlife Rehab Center. The reason for the item, says Paul Dyer, was that a city employee can't enter into a contract with the city. Although Kathy Rogers was working at the zoo and had resigned as RWRC director, she was still acting as head of the rehab center.
Culp and Rogers called Pat Melton, who had just talked to the USDA and learned that despite what Mendez had told the park board, the farm had failed its second inspection. The deception made an ally out of park board member Ralph Isenberg, who agreed to go to bat for Pat Melton and Rogers' posse of animal lovers.
On February 15, Isenberg met with Rogers and Culp in Dyer's City Hall office. Dyer agreed to strike Item 29 from the park board's agenda and to work toward getting the RWRC a permanent home on the farm. They discussed some compromises regarding the upcoming Civil War re-enactment--toning down the cannon blasts, creating a buffer zone between the battlefield and the birds, and coordinating future events so that they don't occur during the nesting season.
Only now that they had set Doug Melton and Mendez back on their heels did the animal-rights activists go in for the kill. At the February 18 park board meeting, they made a full-scale assault on the Civil War re-enactors. Pat Melton brought the president of the Dallas Audubon Society, pictures from the fire three summers before, and a letter from animal-rights attorney Don Feare informing the park board that if the Civil War re-enactment were allowed to go on, the city of Dallas would be violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act--a series of international treaties making it illegal to disturb nesting colonies of migratory fowl. But the meeting took a turn for the absurd when black activist Roy Williams blasted the board for allowing people dressed up as Confederate soldiers on city property. "It's Jasper," he said. "This may be akin to collecting membership to white supremacist groups."
Representatives from the Parson's Dragoon then responded by saying they were shocked at the insinuation, since re-enactors play both Yankee and Rebel roles and have strict policies against any affiliation with hate groups.
Dyer also spoke briefly. His beet-red face showed he was visibly disturbed; he had believed that if he made an agreement with the animal contingent, they would back off in exchange for letting the rehab center stay at the farm. Because the city had a contract with the re-enactors, he said, the Civil War would go on as scheduled.
But the next day, on February 19, Doug Melton met with his gunfighter friends at the farm, and Paul Dyer got a call from the Civil War folks: They were giving up the fight. They wanted away from all the controversy. This year's Civil War would be the last one at Samuell Farm.
The animal-rights people had won the battle. But there are those like Kathy Rogers who will not be content as long as Doug Melton remains in power. Yet with no written contract for the rehab center, and with City Hall growing frustrated with the relentless assault by wildlife activists against this once-beloved moneymaker from Dr. Samuell, the question remains: Will they win the war