At Orr-Reed Wrecking, Hannah Hargrove Inherited Treasure in a Junkyard

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We walk out and go next door to a large warehouse. It comes back to me. I was here two years ago. I was doing a story about a zoning battle John Hargrove and Louis Okon of Okon Metals across Rock Island Street were waging against City Hall — one of the very few instances I have ever seen where people were actually able to beat City Hall. Hargrove was walking out of this big ramshackle metal building when I met him two years ago. His daughter, just home from college, had some idea that he should rent it as an expansion area. He gave me the impression he thought the idea was a little goofy.

So now she's the boss, and she is renting it. My memory is that it was full of junk when I looked in. Now it looks like a well-run factory floor, with neatly stacked inventory out of the weather and employees cleaning and processing more material.

We are back in her office, and now we must come to the story of his death. John Hargrove was an on-the-wagon and off-it-again guy, 50 years old. He was killed in the early morning hours of January 26, 2013, in a dive bar on Grand Avenue called Club eXtasis, since closed by state liquor authorities as a place of general menace. Police said he was struck with fists, a chair and pool cues. Then, 23-year-old Frederico Prado gave him multiple kicks to the head.

The next day when Hargrove failed to appear for work, his daughter began calling emergency rooms and drunk tanks. "And then I knew it was time to call the morgue," she says.

Her 15-year-old brother Sam glides into the office and takes up a post in a chair just slightly out of the conversational circle. Silent at first, handsome like his father, he listens with folded hands and then begins to interject Groucho Marx wisecracks far beyond his age.

His own feelings about his late father exhibit a certain edge and precociously sardonic wit. When Hannah begins to wax rhapsodic about long road trips she took with her father, I ask Sam if he went along. "No," he says, flat-lining it. "I don't do road trips with people who smell like fried chicken and cigarettes."

Hannah talks about how much she thinks she is like her father. "I'm kind of John Hargrove with boobs," she says.

"Yeah," Sam mutters. "But boobs you're supposed to have."

After the death and after the funeral, it was time for Hannah to arrange her own wedding, done at Orr-Reed, of course. "It was my junkyard wedding," she says.

The Okon family fashioned scrap-iron arches for the procession. Hannah traded doors and windows for a wedding dress. The meat she had bartered for turned out to be spoiled an hour before the reception so an emergency trip to Sam's had to be executed. Somebody called Orr-Reed at the last minute to say her dogs were loose. It rained up to the moment of the outdoor ceremony, stopped just long enough for the vows and then began raining again immediately afterward, which she credits to her father.

"I'm not a religious person. I am a faithful person. I have to believe there is something else out there. I don't want to die in a box and never exist anymore. But since he has died, I feel him in places. That's going to sound like some crazy psychic hoobie-bajoobie. But when I need him, I feel him."

Then Hannah tells me something very Rock Island. "I know that he would much rather have gone out in a John Wayne bar fight than at home with a heart attack," she says. "In the end he got his cowboy death, which I think he would have greatly appreciated."

In the great Dickensian plot twist that is East Dallas, it turns out Hargrove's attacker was a troubled kid who had gone to Woodrow Wilson High School with Hannah's cousins, who knew him. Perhaps because it wasn't easy to prove which blow in the melee was the fatal one, and because a key witness got scared and backed off her testimony, Prado walked away with seven years' probation.

But then Hannah tells me something else that it is even more Rock Island: "I'm hoping he makes it," she says. "He was a problem kid in school. I had two parents. This poor guy wasn't that lucky. I hope this is enough to turn his life around."

Prado, she says, has a daughter. "Every little girl deserves a daddy," she says.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze