Over the years, Thomas has established himself with various businesses. He owned a service station, Thomas Conoco, which later became Thomas Citgo, for 25 years, but sold it in 1993. Today, he runs Thomas Mini-Storage, located off State Highway 19 in Athens. It opened in 1973.
“We have two locations,” he said, “and 250 storage spaces. We’re just raising grandkids now, and taking care of family business.”
Then came Jason’s accident.
“We kept records and there was between 350-400 people that drove from this town to Harris Medical Trauma Center in Ft. Worth to see him while he was in there,” he said. “Everybody in town knows him and knows us.”
The family persevered, in no small part thanks to faith and friends.
“The main thing that all this is to take time with the grandkids,” he said. “Our faith and the people that are our church friends is what has got through all of this.”
When he’s not working or spending time with his family, Thomas enjoys hunting, simple carpentry, doing work for Faith Fellowship Church, which the family attends and collecting Native-American artifacts he finds on his hunting treks. A grindsaw that was used to make meals was found by Thomas in Colorado.
Tomahawk and arrow heads that he found in Mason, Texas, are displayed in a glass case that Thomas built.
“I made it out of wood that came out of my schoolhouse,” he said. “It was falling down, and made that.”
His hunting adventures have taken him all over the U.S. and into Canada.
“I spent five to six years in Saskatchewan, Canada,” he said. “I enjoyed it, but it was cold.”
The back patio of the house has its wall adorned with deer and elk heads, along with a few other animals that Thomas has killed. But the biggest kill doesn’t belong to him.
“That’s my wife’s,” he said, pointing to one adornment. “That hurts, doesn’t it?”
To bridge the gap between past and present, he watches little Natalie play a computer game.
“The kids will never know where they came from,” Thomas points out, “unless you building a ‘Flying Jenny’ or show them how to push wagon rings. Everyday shows me that I haven’t seen it all.”