Ben Thomas, former occupant of the "Leatherface Home".
Click on the above picture for a much larger version.
Photo by Lisa Paulson.
Ben Thomas: "I lived there from Thanksgiving of 82 'til Apr of 91. One of my most memorable moments was being bitten by a rattlesnake. Here's a nice shot my sister took. She lived in the house from Thanksgiving 82 to Jan 85. She recently passed away and I was going through her pictures scanning whatever I could. I can't tell you more about when as it snowed up there 2 or 3 times. One thing about the house was it had an above ground butane tank. Butane freezes so they usually buried them. This one had a pilot light which was lit when freezing weather approached. For years we paid a dollar a gallon for butane. In 1987 they outlawed those tanks so the landlord had to provide a propane tank.Propane was much much cheaper. We could have rented a propane tank ourselves and saved a lot of money over the years."
Ben Thomas: "This road was very dangerous and at least one person died while John was living there. People would fly down that road at 60 mph and make that tight curve just above the crest heading north. It was dangerous for us as well. The vegetation had to be cut back (by us) in order to see the road and even then it was a cross your fingers and gun it affair. I can remember going out there May 1983 with hedge clippers and spending two hours chopping down branches so we could get a clear field of vision. It turned out to be the worst case of chigger infestation I have ever suffered in my life. This is all speculation and based upon comments made to me by the landlord but the reason they didn't build the new 172 over the old one is because the Robinson family cut a deal with the county comissioners. The official version was that it was too expensive to build the road over the old one because of all the earth moving involved in flattening out and straightening of the hill/road."
Webmaster: How did you stumble upon the house and decide to move in?
Ben Thomas: "John [his brother] was living there alone and my sister and I were sharing a duplex in Austin. Our lease was up so we asked John if we could move in. Our main selling points were that both of us were working 2nd shift so he'd never see us 'til the weekend and I had a pickup, which is very useful out on a farm. That was November of 82".
Webmaster: How much were you paying for rent?
Ben Thomas: "I believe it was 300 a month when we moved in and it was 375 when I moved out in 1991."
Webmaster: Have you ever seen the movie?
Ben Thomas: "My introduction to it all was to drive up to Austin from San Antonio for the weekend. We saw the movie on a Saturday night at the Texas Union and then spent the night in the house. No, it wasn't scary. The Saturday night showing at the Texas Union was a regular thing back then and the gag at the time was for every one to yell out "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?" when they wheeled grandpa out for some vittles. I recall it being winter 'cause it was cold."
Webmaster: Tell me about some experiences with Chainsaw fan visitors.
Ben Thomas: "John pretty much covered it. I do remember the time I got home from work and the driveway was blocked by a car. When I got out to investigate I discovered a couple doin' what couples do in cars on Friday nights. I asked them to please get their f--kin' out of my driveway and they proceeded to leave. Another time I was relaxing on the couch on a Friday after work. Most of my working life in the 80's was spent on 2nd shift so this was around midnight. I hear this car barreling up the driveway and see the headlights as I get up to investigate. They come tearing up off to the side of the house onto the lawn. By this time, I've grabbed the shotgun and made my way out onto the front porch. It's a pickup with a teenage boy and his girlfriend. She screams out, "Please don't shoot mister". I'm sure I responded with some expletives interlaced into a request to leave immediately. As they neared the end of the driveway, I let loose with a blast straight up into the air. Within a week our mailbox was destroyed by a shotgun blast or two and it was then that we abandoned the mailbox for a post office box in town."
Webmaster: What is your view on what it was like to live in the "Leatherface" house on a daily basis?
Ben Thomas: "John covered that as well. I would like to add my experience one day with the rat traps. It was getting close to time to leave for work and I heard the trap out on the back porch go off. I dis- covered a mouse. This wasn't a little mouse trap but a big rat trap. I dumped the mice out back, reset the trap and washed my hands. As I was washing my hands I heard the trap go off again. Believing it had slipped I return to reset it only to discover I had bagged 2 mice at once. This made a total of 3 in about 4 minutes. I repeated my steps and as I was washing my hands once more, Whack, it went off again. Four in less than 10 minutes Sure enough one more had fallen victim to the devices of man. It was amazing. Needless to say I was quite pleased. Every fall one of our chores was to set up the wood stove. We would haul the stove from the shed into the house along with the stovepipe. A base of bricks laid out was our heat shield for the floor. We constructed a chimney cleaner with a block of wood with wire brushes nailed onto the sides. It was one person's job to climb up and clean the chimney before the pipe could be put up. The block was attached to a long rope and y'all can figure out the rest. It took a good hour or two to clean the chimney. The thing I enjoyed most about it was the view from on top of the house. You could see for a long way in most directions. One thing about that house was the cold in the winter. The only sources of heat for the house were the wood stove in the TV room and the old gas space heaters in the kitchen and bathroom. We all relied on blankets or electric blankets for nighttime sleeping. I can remember going to bed some nights with a wool knit ski cap on. Getting out of bed in the mornings was very hard when it was cold."
Webmaster: Tell me a little bit about the landlord.
Ben Thomas: "The owner was an old woman who lived in a high rise apartment building in downtown Austin. I never met her and dealt with her son/son-in-law. I was told the old woman and the son/son-in-law both passed on in the nineties and that his wife was the one that sold to La Frontera. If memory serves me correctly the name was Deutsch."
A BIG thanks goes to Mr. Thomas for this picture and his information. I hope to be posting more of his recollections to this page in the future.
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© 2004 Tim Harden firstname.lastname@example.org