"Local Personalities"

Neal Smith
Tecuya Feed & Animal Supply

by Maggie Van Ostrand

The name Tecuya comes from the Yokut Indian name for the Chumash Indians who occupied this region, but when Neal Smith answers the phone, he just says, "T Feed."

Tecuya Feed was opened in 1989 by Neal and then-wife, Brenda Smith, the current owner. They have two children, Terri, a nurse, who lives in Lake of the Woods, and Daina, a horsewoman, who lives in Truckee.

Just a kid in 1959 when his family decided to leave Enid, Oklahoma and join their grandparents in Frazier Park, Neal remembers how things used to be. "Where the post office is now," he recalls, "there used to be a spring-fed swimming pool. There was another swimming hole in Lake of the Woods. There was a tether-ball out here in front of the store and the former owners lived in a log house across the street where the Frazier Park Market parking lot is now."

For 16 years, Neal worked as a driller in oil fields from California, Nevada and Utah, to Mexico, then worked in "all the gas stations that used to be in Gorman a long, long time ago, and I worked as a dishwasher in the Lebec Coffee Shop. I lived in the old Lebec Hotel when I was 16. My mother worked there, too. On the first floor is where all the dishwashers, cooks, and waitresses lived.

"There used to be an old, wooden bus barn over there," he remembers wistfully, "It was adobe at one end. There was a garage, a beauty salon and a grocery store and they had a great big cafe and bar at the other end." He goes on to say, "Where Don's Liquor Store is, that used to be a two-bedroom rock house where me and five other guys lived."

Neal recalled the Frazier Park Theater owned by Bill Owens, and many other buildings which have since been replaced with other structures and businesses. "The place has really, really changed," he says ruefully, "especially Gorman."

Former wife Brenda once owned a cafe in Frazier Park, The B & B Corral (standing for Buffalo and Beef), which had as many as 16 employees including both daughters, until health problems forced her to semi-retire. She now raises miniature bull terriers and travels to dog shows around the country. In her absence, Neal holds down the fort at the store and takes care of Brenda's nine dogs.

Of all the animals, Neal's favorite is Floyd the Bearded Dragon, who eats crickets, meal worms and vegetables. Brenda just added a baby Bearded Dragon to the family. "We ain't named him yet," says Neal, stroking the baby's neck with the back of his index finger, "but I might call him Wilbur."

He watches his favorite TV show, Stargate, on the SciFi channel, while eating his favorite home-cooked meal, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and string beans. Occasionally, he visits daughter Terri's family and enjoys her lasagna.

Loyal to the state in which he was born, his favorite football team is Oklahoma University. "Now they're Number 2, but soon they'll be Number 1," he says with a confident smile. "They say USC's Number 1 now, but that won't last long."

Reprinted by permisson of Maggie Van Ostrand

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