Most days for years, a group of friends has gathered for breakfast to trade news and a few good-natured barbs
At about 8 a.m. each weekday, and occasionally Saturdays, a group of longtime friends mosey into Rogers Malt Shoppe in Dickinson, where they sit at the same table and eat pretty much the same breakfast.
Brenda Ybarra, who has worked at Rogers for 40 years, keeps the hot coffee coming. No one needs to order. Ybarra knows what they’ll be having.
For more than 20 years, the same group of 10 to 12 friends — sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on circumstance — convene for stimulating conversation, camaraderie and storytelling. The laughter is loud and the insults and barbs all are in good fun. A few members of the group are in the ranching and farming business. Others are retired or still active in their respective occupations. They range in age from 65 to 81, with most being from Dickinson and a few from outlying areas.
Ernie Deats, a Dickinson rancher, presides at the head of the table — some call the king’s throne — and is the one who initially launched the concept of a daily gathering. Although there isn’t a specific name for what some call a “brotherhood,” attendee J.L. Giamalva refers to it as “Rogers’ Brain Trust,” he said.
Giamalva, an auctioneer and quarter-horse breeder in Dickinson, has been going to Rogers for 50 years. It was his high school hangout, he said.
“Some of the most intelligent people in the world come to Rogers,” said Giamalva, who sports an American Hat Company 20X silver belly cowboy hat. “We talk about agriculture, the weather, hay bales, horses, fishing, guns, politics and cars, especially when Mitchell Dale is here.” Dale is the owner of auto dealership McRee Ford in Dickinson.
Laughter around the table dominates, the jabs come and go. But no one seems offended and no one seems to mind the same stories being repeated.
“We can take the insults, most of the time, so you have to have thick skin to be here,” Giamalva said.
Ron Morales, Dickinson chief of police, has a ranch in Lovelady, Texas. When he points out he’s the only one who is still actually working for a living, someone yells, “But not much.”
Morales, who grew up in Dickinson, recalls back in his high school days when he was in the car with Hal Dues and Dues accidentally drove his car into the side wall of Rogers.
“We’d just finished football practice and the whole wall was destroyed,” Morales said.
Memories of the past as well as current topics are exchanged with everyone talking at once. Rebuttals are common, but everyone moves on to more important matters, with a bit of politics thrown in.
“We are all pretty much on the same page with that subject, except for one of us,” Deats said.
Fingers point and all are made aware of who that is.
Billy Patton, retired owner of Keyworth’s Hardware in Dickinson, often exchanges texts with his fellow breakfast mates as the conversations go on and on, he said.
But Dickinson City Councilman Walter Wilson rarely participates because he has an older model flip phone.
“I don’t need a phone smarter than me,” he said. “I have text capabilities, but I don’t text anybody back, and flip phones are harder to hack into. But if you really want to know what’s going on in Dickinson, you can find it right here at Rogers. It’s not a rumor unless it started here.”
All kidding aside, the friends agree they like to help those who need it.
“When Ernie tells us about someone who needs assistance, we all pitch in,” Wilson said.
When it comes to outsiders expressing an interest in joining the group, Deats makes the final call.
“There are one or two outcasts that didn’t last long, and they shall remain nameless,” Wilson said.
Along with Ernie Deats and Dale, other longtime members of the group include Joe Matlock, a retired state trooper; Harvey Criswell, a retired Dickinson teacher and coach; and
Dickinson City Councilman Wally Deats.
As breakfast dishes are cleared and before the group disperses, a question arises as to who gets Ernie Deats’ head chair at the table when he’s no longer around.
There is a wave of silence, until several comment among themselves.
“We’ve always sat in the same spot and that won’t change,” they said.
Did you know?
Annie and Owen Rogers opened Rogers Malt Shoppe in 1960 and owned it until 1994. Descendants of the Rogers family still own the property, 4410 state Highway 3. But the restaurant is operated by members of the Margarita and Benito Betancourt family.