(This is a story that was published on TownTalk in 2012 when long-time Terry County business, Sonny’s Feed, Supply and Nursery Company was closing its doors. With the passing of Speedy Lindsey, one of the owners of the business, we felt it would be a good time to refresh everyone’s memories of what a wonderful place Sonny’s was and how well it served our community. Enjoy, and please don’t hesitate to share the story and your memories with others! GCK)
Sonny’s Feed, Supply and Nursery Company has been in business in Brownfield since 1947. Before that, it was Sonny’s Coal and Grain, located in Gomez, back when Gomez was actually a town. Sonny’s, in one form or another, has been in business longer than most of the residents of Terry County have been alive! But, as of January 1, 2012, Sonny’s is no more.
Sonny’s Coal and Grain was begun in Gomez by Sonny Whitley and Pop Whitley and they would haul coal to people for heat. They also would grind your grain for flour and meal. In 1947, they saw the need to move to Brownfield in order to stay in business. While the business has always been located on Main since it’s move to town, the main street hasn’t always run in front of the store. When the store was moved to Brownfield, the main road coming into town from the west ran behind the store. The Whitley’s moved the quonset hut that housed their business in to town and it was placed on the cement foundation that was the original foundation for the Brownfield school building. The original Brownfield School foundation is still visible by the still standing quonset hut. Upon close inspection, much of the framework for the quonset hut is still in remarkable condition, considering it’s age and the moves that it has been through.
In the early 1950’s, Sonny bought the old Lahey School building (built in 1924) that had been moved from Lahey to Wellman and had it moved to town and it became the main store building. The Lahey portion of the building is recognizable from the inside due to the original wood floors still remaining. When the building was still at Lahey and was a school, it was also used as the community church on Sundays. Sonny’s has had customers come in to the store and look around the Lahey portion of the building and tell stories about being in class in that building or being in that building when they came to know Jesus.
In 1958, current grounds owners, Speedy and Mary Lindsey bought the business along with their partner, Paul Yancy. The new owners dropped the coal and grain portion of the name but kept the Sonny’s name and It was then called Sonny’s Feed. The primary enterprise of Sonny’s at the time was grinding and mixing grain for feed. They had two mill motors and two mixers and that was the base of their business. They would drive trucks and deliver feed to many farmers and ranchers in the area. They have many funny stories to tell of their adventures delivering feed into a pasture or pen full of cattle. The Lindsey’s expanded their business to also sell baby chicks, which Mary would drive to Slaton and other areas to pick up. She stated that she would, “load the backseat and the trunk down with cheeping baby chicks, with the children in the front seat. You can’t imagaine the noise hundreds of baby chicks can make inside a car from Slaton to Brownfield!” Her son, Lou, would beg her to stop the car and put the chickens out. Sonny’s often sold over 30,000 chicks a year. One of their fondest memories is of parents bringing their young children in to see the chicks. This was a highlight for several generations of people. When Speedy decided he might want to add a nursery to the business, he began wondering about the old school and whether or not it had a windmill he could tie into. He called Shag and Judge Bynum to come up and look. After surveying the area, Shag announced he knew where the windmill was located. He pointed south and said, “Right over there.” The area to which he was pointing was right in the middle of the paved Highway 380! Needless to say, the Lindsey’s were unable to use that windmill site!
Speedy brought his brother, Pete Lindsey in as a partner in 1960. It was later that year that tragedy struck Brownfield when the Goodpasture Elevator exploded. Pete and Speedy both remember working inside an air conditioner on the east side of the building when the explosion happened. They did not know what had happened initially and took off running. As they began to get their bearings about them, they started boarding up the south facing windows that had been blown out by the explosion across the street. Both men talked with sadness of hearing the screams for help of the man trapped in the top of the elevator as he awaited rescue. The Lindsey’s were not sure for hours whether or not there would be another explosion in the other end where the fertilizer was stored. Speedy states that he has always felt it was a miracle that there weren’t further explosions and he credits God with saving many lives that day. Pete states that afterwards, they began to grind the remaining grain for the elevator and each load had thousands of tiny rocks and concrete chunks in it. It was also at Sonny’s that Pete met his wife, Betty. Betty Green was working as a DE student while she was in school. Pete was in the military at that time, and was home on leave but there was a spark there! Later, Betty was working at Ross Ford and had bought herself a shiny Red Falcon and she met Pete again on the drag. The couple will celebrate their 50th Anniversary this year. So, many things grew at Sonny’s. Not just plants!
In 1972, the Lindsey brothers bought out Mr. Yancy. They began to change their business as the needs around them changed. Speedy points out that , “God took care of us. Every time one door would close, He would open another.” As their nursery business began to expand, they bought the old Boots’ Cafe on the west side and were able to expand the nursery area. As the business grew, Speedy began to be in charge of the feed side of things and Pete worked on the nursery end of it. Pete really took great delight in growing his own roses. Mary Green also hothoused many seedlings for the business.
Sonny’s was always known for friendly smiles and great customer service. In reference to this fact, Mary Lindsey stated, “We always felt that each one of our customers were special. We told every employee that the most important person in his life was the next person walking through the door.” Pete and Betty both felt that “the salt of the earth Speedy and Mary retired in 1993 due to Speedy’s health issues and sold the business to Pete. The years of being around the feed grinding and the dust and various other things in the air around Brownfield had wreaked havoc on Speedy’s lungs and it was a matter of life and death to remove themselves from the area for at least the harvest portion of the year. After Speedy’s retirement, Pete’s son Greg came aboard to help and opened the door for weed spraying as a new service. Pete states that he thoroughly enjoyed working with family while in business at Sonny’s. He said, “I don’t remember any problems that we couldn’t handle and still remain family.” One person that should certainly be mentioned is Karen Brown, who has kept the books for Sonny’s for 40 years. No story of Sonny’s would be complete without mentioning the “fat cat” that rested on the counter when the mood suited him! Kids remember the baby chicks and that fat cat most of all!
As the business closes it’s doors after being open since 1947, it is with a sense of sadness that the Lindsey family views the place. “It was such a hub of activity for so long. Friends met there and visited there.” The Lindsey’s have served Great-Grandparents all the way down to the 4th generation coming in for help in the garden or feed for their animals. “We just want people to remember our place with a smile and the memories of the smells, the sights and certainly the people.” Well, Speedy, Mary, Pete, Betty, Greg and Karen, we will never forget Sonny’s Feed, Supply, and Nursery Company. Thank you for your service to Terry County.