Pointe Personalities: Meet Barbara Ferguson
Posted By: Becky Davis - 1/2/2020 4:07:43 PM

“If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train,” said author Marianne Williamson.  And sometimes, you don’t even realize you’re waiting on a train until it just shows up. 

For Barbara Steele, that train arrived with an unexpected invitation – one that would take her on a lifetime of adventures she never imagined.  The year was 1953, and she had just returned to Dalhart, Texas, the hometown where she was raised. 

The only child of Herman and Erma Steele, Barbara grew up during World War II and remembers the government rationing certain items such as food, gasoline, and even clothing.  It might be her positive outlook that kept her from feeling deprived, but Barbara says she had everything she needed and more.

“My mom sewed my clothes, so I always had Sunday clothes and school clothes – skirts, not pants. We used stamps to buy shoes. And sugar, too,” she says.

Her home was a happy one. “Mom sang around the house all the time, and I learned a lot of the old songs just listening to her,” Barbara recalls.  “I used to think my friends’ lives looked like so much fun because they had siblings, but later I realized that I didn’t have to share my room or my clothes or my parents’ attention.  I think that makes a big difference in the way you grow up.”

This was the 1930’s, and there were three air bases in Dalhart so the town felt like it was overrun with people.  Weekly gatherings at the local church attracted a score of military men, and Barbara felt very grown up playing ping-pong with them. She also performed at the USO and local movie theater – ballet and tap dance were her specialties.  

She left Dalhart to attend Colorado Women’s College in Denver, where she studied Humanities, and then went on to earn her bachelors degree in Home Economics from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her plan was to pursue merchandising with a minor in business, but an illness in the family called her back home.  

After attending summer school at West Texas State University (now WTAMU), she got a temporary teaching certificate and spent the next year teaching a class of 6th graders.  She had 36 students, and she was required to teach all subjects. After that first year she didn’t return, and friends assumed the position was too demanding. But that wasn’t exactly the case.

While Barbara was getting initiated in the world of teaching, something was brewing in the small town of Stratford about 30 miles away.  Bob Ferguson, a young attorney and county judge, was finding it difficult to activate a social life in such a small town, so he started making the trek to Dalhart.  One Sunday morning, a young woman in the church choir caught his eye, and he asked a friend to arrange a blind date. Luckily for him, Barbara Steele said yes even though she had never laid eyes on him. “I was blind, but he wasn’t,” she jokes. 

They married in the summer of 1953 and settled down in Stratford.  She did some substitute teaching until their first daughter, Beth, was born in 1954.  A partnership opportunity for Bob took them back to Dalhart, where their family expanded with the births of Susan in 1956 and Lee in 1960.

Barbara may not have known she was waiting at the station for Bob Ferguson, and she certainly didn’t know that this life of adventure would involve a lot of train rides.  “Bob loved trains,” she says.  “He was like a little boy about trains.” He delighted in taking her on rail trips that spanned the U.S. and Canada – including the east and west coasts, Montreal to Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Lake Louise, Texas to California, and Utah. On one of their California trips there were docents from the railroad museum in Oakland on board, and they gave lectures which thrilled Bob. 

Bob also loved to dance, but they didn’t dance regularly for the first 25 years of their marriage. At a wedding reception, he mentioned that if she would quit leading, he would dance with her. Soon after, they took up round dancing and learned some steps that translated well to the dance floor. “Bob took two years of dance lessons,” she says, “and I used to say he was going to get his doctorate in dancing.”

In 2006 Bob retired and announced a move to Granbury, Texas, to be near their grandchildren. The announcement surprised Barbara. “He was 82,” she says.  “When I was 82, I couldn’t even move across the hall.”

Granbury became their home for the next seven years, and Bob took up walking regularly – sometimes as much as six miles in a day. He would anxiously await the arrival of the latest Texas Highways magazine, and then plan a road trip.  Port Aransas was a favorite destination, and they loved watching the porpoises and dolphins lead the boats into port. Fishing wasn’t on the agenda, but they liked to go boating with friends who lived in the area. Their road trips often included visits to museums and art galleries, a passion they shared.

A unique prayer group formed during their time in Granbury, and the weekly meetings impacted Barbara’s spiritual life.  “It really was powerful,” she says.  “It allowed us to get to know people from all walks of life.”  It also prompted them to be re-baptized, signifying a renewed commitment to the Lord. Lifelong Methodists, they met a couple who led music at the Baptist Church and decided to attend. “Bob didn’t like me saying that we went to the Baptist Church because of the music, but we did,” she explains.

In 2012 they returned to the Texas Panhandle, moving into a retirement community in Amarillo. It was in 2013 that Bob and Barbara took their last train trip together. To celebrate Bob’s 90th birthday, the family rode the North Pole Express out of Grapevine, Texas.  In 2016, Bob passed after a short illness. He was 93. Today Barbara enjoys hearing updates about their three children, eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. She feels very blessed to have lived the life of adventure she shared with Bob for 63 years.

In September 2019, she came to call Bivins Pointe her home. Life is a little slower these days, but she still sees it as a grand adventure. And she’s so very thankful she didn’t miss the train.

 

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