Tumbleweed Smith

In his 50 professional years, Tumbleweed has interviewed some true Texas characters and assembled the largest private collection of oral history in the United States. He writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column and teaches broadcasting at the university level.

 “In 1937 my dad hitched a team to a wagon, and we went down the road a couple of miles to a neighbor’s house for Sunday dinner,” said Dewain Collins, who was living in Weatherford at the time.  “I was 11 months old and just learning to walk.  Sometime that afternoon I began to get sick.  We went on back home and I laid around sick for a couple of days.  My parents decided I needed to go see a doctor because I was paralyzed from the waist down.”

He was taken to the Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas where he was diagnosed with infantile paralysis, later called polio.

“Doctors at the hospital said they were going to keep me and told my parents they could see me from 2 to 4 on Sunday afternoons, but because of my young age they said it would be best if they didn’t come to see me at all.  I was at the hospital off and on for 10 or 12 years.”

Because not much was known about the disease then, his sister, 2 years older than Dewain, was not allowed to attend school. Later both kids were admitted, but Dewain had trouble maneuvering. 

“An old janitor met me at the school bus, took me to classes, the rest room and to recess where I could sit on a rock fence and watch the other children play.  Then after school he put me back on the school bus.  He did that for 6 or 8 weeks.”

Initially, Dwain was strapped to a board to keep his spine straight.  Then he went to braces, casts, and crutches.

“I got pretty good on the crutches and could keep up with the other kids.  Without them I was limited in what I could do.  The doctors had wanted me to get rid of the crutches, but I was reluctant to give them up.  Finally, after 10 or 12 years I gave up the crutches and started walking without them. I did that for 60-plus years.  Every once in a while, if I was going to be walking for some time, I used the crutches.  Most of the time I didn’t need them.”

After college, Dewain wanted 3 things: a job, a car, and a girl.  So, he hitchhiked to the oil patch.

“I ended up in Eunice, New Mexico working for Halliburton dispatching trucks and all kinds of drilling rigs.  Later I got a job with the Department of Public Safety and was a dispatcher 40 years.  I worked at other jobs for another 20 years.  In addition to a job, I got a car and a girl who has been my wife for 63 years.  We have a wonderful family and overall, I would say I’ve had a good life so far.”

Dewain, who now lives in Lubbock, credits his happy life to the Masons, who founded the Scottish Rite Hospital 100 years ago.  He is a Mason.