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A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES JUNE 2, 1989 $1.50 ALAN POGUE Lana, Eric, and Melvin Robinson at the gate to their ranch BENTSEN’S PRESIDENTIAL PLANS Pg. 4 Locked Out A Bosque County Family Fights to Save A Homestead BY LOUIS DUBOSE Cleburne LANA AND MELVIN Robinson never should have had a million dollars to lose. One million dollars, in land, cash, or oil leases is not the sort of fortune that typically ends up in the hands of a postal clerk and railroad blacksmith: But they did have it a million dollars that they had discovered beneath their 100-acre ranch in Northeast Bosque County. A ranch they bought in 1977, when they decided that they “didn’t want to spend one more day working for another man.” The Bosque County ranch was the sort of place that is the dream of every good ol’ boy: a garden, a few auction-barn cattle, and a shot at the hardscrabble existence that for some still looks a lot better than a paycheck at the end of a 50-hour workweek. But before the Robinsons had settled in, they discovered they were sitting on a rich gravel deposit probably left there several hundred years back by the meandering Brazos river that defined one boundary of their newly-acquired property. So they traded their 100 acres and Melvin’s services as a middleman between the El Paso Sand and Gravel company and the Robinson’s Bosque County neighbors for the Fjel Hjem Ranch, located in an old ‘Norwegian community known as Cranfills Gap, 50 miles northwest of Waco. Here was something larger than a working class dream: 420 improved acres and a house that sprawls across the top of one of the highest hills in the county. From the deck that wraps around the back of the contemporary ranch home it seems that you can see all the way to Waco. And the Robinsons owned it: the land, their home, the stock ponds, a small, historical stone house out by the highway, and the prettiest view in all of Bosque County. By luck and pluck they owned it all free and clear. Until an August day in 1985 when Melvin and Lana Robinson walked into the offices of a Cleburne law firm and signed over everything except their clothing and personal belongings to John Kelly, then president of First National Bank of Cleburne. Within months, according to a lawsuit filed in Dallas by Mr. Robinson, the bank even had his family’s personal effects, including the red wagon and tiny wooden rocker that the Robinson’s 21-yearold son Eric had played with as a child. If the bankers could state their case, which they have so far declined to do, they might argue that Melvin Robinson, like others who had jumped into the oil and gas business, was surrendering his collateral and selling personal property to try to stay afloat. And if the attorneys involved could state their case, which they also have refused to do, they might argue that they were retained to represent the interest of the bank not the interest of the Robinsons, who should have had their own legal counsel. Robinson admits that he owed big money to First National, where he and a Cleburne business partner, Terry Bradley, had financed several oil and gas. exploration ventures. Robinson and Bradley were borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop oil and gas leases. And the bank, it seemed, was a willing lender. Though officers at First National will not confirm Robinson’s claim that the bank offered him Continued on page 6