Vernon George Schoenhals, lifelong resident and farmer and rancher for 42 years in Lipscomb County, died June 6, 2022 in Amarillo, Texas. He was 89.
Vernon was born March 3, 1933 to H.G. Schoenhals and Millie Hanshu Schoenhals on a farm southwest of Darrouzett, Texas, where his family has farmed and ranched for generations. He liked to tell everyone, “I was born three three thirty-three and I’m left handed.”
Early in life he learned the importance of hard work and being a proper steward of the soil, his livestock and his crops, which he fussed over like a newborn child. The coffee shop was no place to be so long as there was work to be done, and there was always work to be done, work in progress and work tomorrow. His normal work routine was usually sunup to sundown six days a week, with Sunday being a day for church and football, both of which he enjoyed with great relish.
Vernon graduated from Darrouzett High School in 1951 and then attended Texas Tech University, resulting in a life-long love of all things red and black and the Red Raiders, which brought him great pride and joy when they won and a “Nah, they didn’t play any good” when they lost.
Vernon was drafted into the Army in 1953 and trained at Fort Bliss in El Paso as the Korean War continued to claim the lives of our best and brightest. He served in active duty during wartime, rose to rank of corporal, and served his country well as gun crewmen for Battery A, 25th Army Artillery of the VIII U.S. Army Corp. He was stationed in Germany, which was a perfect fit for him as he spoke fluent German. He loved attending church in Germany and there made lifelong friends who welcomed him into their home on many occasions.
He was honorably discharged on March 10, 1955.
He helped his father H.G. with the farm until H.G.’s retirement, and he started on his own with little to no farm equipment, no livestock and no capital. He gradually grew his business, despite years of drought, hail storms, ice storms and crop failure, to a successful farm and ranch, eventually owning and leasing several thousand acres in Lipscomb County along with hundreds of cow-calves and stocker livestock.
It is a neglected truth that behind every good farmer is a good spouse. He married Dorothy Schoenhals from Follett on December 31, 1966 and since she was widowed and had four children in ages from 4 to 17, he jokingly said, “I want to get married before the end of the year to get the tax deduction.” They were happily married for 58 years.
It has often been said that the true measure of a good farmer is not the sophistication of his equipment or the size of his income, but in the good health of his land. Vernon cared deeply for the land and soil, ensuring minimal erosion through contour farming, conservation tillage to maintain wheat stubble, and dozens of miles of terraces he built himself with a terracer and a small Massey Ferguson tractor which he kept for more than 40 years. He despised poor and lazy farming and was a vicious attacker of invasive weeds. He was awarded an “Outstanding Conservation” award from the Soil Conservation Service.
Vernon had a wicked sense of humor and self-deprecation, that often resulted in “Vernie-isms” that left everyone smiling. Shortly before his death, he was asked how he was feeling. “I can’t see, I can’t hear, I can’t walk and I can’t breathe, but other than that, I’m top shape.” During his final illness at Baptist St. Anthony’s in Amarillo, he responded to inquiries about his health with, “I have a little room for improvement.” Most conversations with family or neighbors began with “How much rain did you get?”
Vernie’s list of service includes: 63 years of continuous membership at the American Legion Post 635 of Darrouzett, including being Post Commander; 17 years on the Follett City Council, where he was instrumental in acquiring a water pumping system that would keep the city supplied with water in spite of power outage; an active member of the Methodist Church of Follett, where he planted the beautiful pine trees and irrigation system lining the drive at the church and building and, with Max Blau, construction of the steel bridge from the parking lot to the church entrance; he was a Mason and longtime member of the Kiva Shrine, and gave freely of his time and money to any person or charity that was helping others have a better life.
Vernie’s greatest joy was his spouse Dorothy, who survives him, and his children and grandchildren: daughter Kimberly Johnson of Denver, Colorado; his son Mitchell Ehrlich and his spouse Kathy Ehrlich of Perryton, Texas; his son Dana Ehrlich of San Angelo, Texas; his daughter Kathy Smith and spouse Dennis Smith of Amarillo, Texas; his grandsons Aaron Smith and his spouse Emily Smith of Frisco, Texas, and Cole Smith and his spouse Laramie Smith of Euless, Texas; grandson Daniel Ehrlich and his spouse Taylor Schoberle of Cedar Park, Texas, and their two children, David Ehrlich and Emma Ehrlich; his granddaughter Anna Smith of Denver, Colorado; his granddaughter Michelle Powers and her spouse Stephen Powers and their son Houston Powers, of Edmond; his granddaughter Emily Hammer and spouse Eric Hammer of Canyon, Texas and their children, Katie Hammer and Jacoby Hammer; and granddaughter Jessica Bishop and spouse Ben Bishop of Long Island City, New York and their children Beau Bishop and Hope Bishop.
Follett Fire Department
PO Box 601, Follett TX 79034
Darrouzett American Legion Post 635
P.O. Box 52, Darrouzett TX 79024
Follett United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 186, FOLLETT TX 79034