Breckenridge Texan

Letter to the Editor: Local resident explains why she’s ashamed of Stephens County in wake of courthouse animal policy

November 12
17:32 2023

A couple of weeks ago I re-posted on Facebook the Breckenridge Texan article about Thomas the Courthouse Cat being evicted by unanimous vote by the Stephens County Commissioner’s Court and Judge Roach, with the header “I’m ashamed of my county.” I got several responses, only two supporting the decision and one of those was the brother-in-law of the Judge but all the rest were from people who were either shocked, saddened or angry with the decision. Responses to the Breckenridge Texan were similar in nature with the County Attorney’s wife defending the decision, while others were also mostly shocked, saddened, or angry.

I’ve been thinking about why my knee-jerk reaction was “shame.” I’m a “transplant, former Navy brat” that has lived all over the US and world. I married my husband while he was in the Navy, and when he retired, we moved back to Stephens County and the family farm that has been in his family for well over 100 years. Adjustment to rural living and a small town took some doing, but now I wouldn’t trade it for the world because of the unique, idiosyncrasies it has provided for my children growing up and for our entire family in our own little “Mayberry,” like:

1. A Ray’s Grocery store charge account when my children were in school so they could pick up lunch or snacks and I’d pay the bill each month.

2. Banking locally where, if we were “out-of-pocket” and our teenage children needed money, we could call the bank, they’d sign a debit and give it to them.

3. When Neil Edwards at the Goodyear Store changed our daughter’s tires on her car when her Dad had emergency surgery, brought her and her brother a Coke and candy bar while they waited and sent a get-well card with them when they headed on to Abilene and Hendrick Hospital, saying “we are praying for your Dad and I’ll catch up on the bill later.”

4. When our daughter was going shopping for her first car and her Sunday School teacher, who was also a local DPS trooper, gave her a thumbs up.

5. When I was a home health nurse and offered to spend the night at a patient’s home while I taught his wife to do tube feeding because she was so stressed out after arriving home in the evening from Dallas. By the way, she did great!

6. When I needed an IV infusion pump for a home health patient and the local hospital trusted me with one until one could arrive the next day, while treating a patient for a brain abscess at the direction of an international infection specialist in Israel. He was amazed the local hospital would loan me a pump. I wasn’t!

7. When a local family arranged anonymously with my husband, the Dean at TSTC at the time, to make sure a well-deserved nursing student got what she needed to make it through school, including an allowance for uniforms, gas car pool money, a grocery tab, etc., that wasn’t covered by a Pell Grant. They stood in the back at her graduation and watched her walk the stage. Her life and those of her children were forever changed by their kindness.

8. A local ranching family that set up an account at the bank for TSTC when it first opened for “stuff” to get started…. like a petty cash but for $5,000, no strings attached, just wanting the college to succeed, so the community could reap the benefits.

Now back to Thomas the Courthouse Cat. I’ve seen him sunning on the courthouse steps or strolling the hall but mostly in his bed in the County Treasurer’s office. Cats can easily sleep 15 hours a day. Thomas reminded me of “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.” He was left in the library drop box, suffering from frost bite and emaciated. He lived at the Spence Library in until his death at the age of 19. He was named Dewey, after the Dewey Decimal System used to catalogue books in a library.

He was featured on Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” and the book about his life became a non-fiction best seller. His obituary was in 270 newspapers worldwide, and the movie rights to his story sold for $1.25 million.

After Dewey’s death, the library decided not to allow another cat to avoid possible problems for patrons with allergies. So, yes, times and situations changed, but it seems like the situation with Thomas could have been handled with a little more finesse. The entire tone of the eviction was so punitive in nature with series of “fines” attached to the “ruling.” Perhaps a full explanation to the public prior to the announcement. Perhaps a “retirement” party for Thomas as he went home with Ms. Trigg and she wouldn’t have resigned? The “retirement” party to honor Thomas and a “bon voyage” for Justice could have become a fundraiser for both monetary donations and dog food for the Stephens County Humane Society, that is hanging on by a thread. Ironically, the public sees posts of so many dogs and cats “dumped” in the county, left to starve, being injured, or killed by wild animals NOT being addressed by the County Commissioners, which makes the eviction of Thomas all the more difficult to understand.

As the ramifications of Thomas the Courthouse Cat’s eviction continued to unfold with the retraction of the appointment of a Commissioner’s wife as the new County Treasurer due to a ruling of the Attorney General of Texas as being a nepotism issue, I shook my head even more.

So, I’ll close by thanking Sharon Trigg, who apparently inherited Thomas by default but remained loyal to him. I don’t know what the Commissioners and Judge had planned for Thomas…. euthanasia, turning him loose to join the other strays around town, or perhaps one of them planned to adopt him when he was evicted? Our local County government has demonstrated, at least to me, that I do not have to look to Austin or Washington, D.C., to see government dysfunctional, since it took a series of emergency and special-called meetings over a two-week period to appoint a new County Treasurer.

Humanity is the benevolent thread that demonstrates love, kindness, and social intelligence. Edward Thomas defines “social intelligence” as the ability to act wisely in human relations. I think the Stephens County Commissions and Judge Roach in their decision to evict Thomas the way they did it have at best “fragged” that thread and at worst “broke” it and that’s why I remain……ashamed of my county.


Dana McKelvain
Stephens County, Texas



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