Home on the farm: Newman retires from oilfields, joins wife on Pike County farmPublished 9:36pm Friday, May 9, 2014
After 46-plus years in exploration and production in the oil industry, Cyril Newman has retired and come home to Pike County much like a sailor home from the sea.
However, Newman didn’t spend all those years on an oil rig bouncing around like a buoy in the ocean. He worked first at Shell Oil’s showplace, East Bay, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi about 80 miles south of New Orleans.
“That was a great place,” Newman said. “We had everything there – a café and a movie theater, volleyball courts and softball fields. We shrimped, fished and set trotlines. There were a lot of Cajuns down there so I had to learn to speak French.”
The romance language still rolls off Newman’s tongue as smooth as silk.
“In French, ‘Cut the grass’ is ‘Mo de lawn’” Newman said, with a sly grin and a twinkle in his eye.
At his first job with Shell Oil, Newman made $2.97 an hour, which was sufficient to support himself and his bride.
“That was good enough because I liked the work and I worked seven days on and seven days off,” he said smiling. “I had a honeymoon every other week.”
Linda Newman shook off her husband’s teasing but admitted that their marriage was not the typical Pike County marriage.
“A lot of men down around Curtis where I grew up and around Elba and Opp worked in the oil industry, but no men around Pike County,” Linda Newman said. “So, our marriage arrangements were a little out of the ordinary for around here.”
When the couple got married, Cyril went to “sea” and she went to the farm.
Cyril Newman’s family was deeply rooted in Pike County. The land at Enon where he and his wife have lived almost all of their married life has been in his family for more than 100 years. He had strong ties to the land, ties that distance could not break.
The Newmans met in 1966 when they were both working at Dorsey Trailers in Elba.
Just home from basic training with the National Guard, Cyril was proud to have the job, which had fringe benefits.
“Every day at lunch, I would see this pretty girl take off in her blue Mustang,” he said. “She had blonde hair piled up on her head like a beehive.”
The girl in the blue Mustang caught Cyril Newman’s eye and won his heart. And laughing, he said that his future wife wanted three things in life – horses, a diamond ring and me.
“And, in that order,” he said.
In 1977, the Newmans moved onto the land that would be their home “for always.”
With Cyril gone for seven days at a time, Linda quickly took over the management of the farm.
“No matter whether Cyril was here or not the cows and horses had to be fed and the farm managed and the children, Amy and Evan, had to be looked after, so it was my job to run the farm and raise the children when he was away,” Linda said. “But I’ve always loved the outdoors. I’m not an inside person. I’ve always loved the farm life.”
When Cyril was home, he and Linda shared the chores and responsibilities of home and family.
“When it was time for him to go back to work, he would leave me a long list of things to do while he was gone,” Linda said. “But I had a sharp pair of scissors and I just cut the list.”
Cyril worked on a production platform for years. He would take a boat out through the marshes to the platform, which would be home for seven days for a while, and then he went on a 14-day rotation.
“I was a ‘down hole specialist’ and, when I was working, my mind was busy all the time,” he said. “I looked forward to getting home so I could calm down.”
Cyril knew that his wife needed something more to do than just housework and farm work.
“The children were in school and Linda needed somebody to talk to during the day,” he said.
So, when the opportunity to drive a school bus for Pike County Schools came her way, Cyril encouraged his wife to take it.
“That was in 1985,” Linda said. “I have the Banks route and I’m still driving the school bus and still loving it – and always the farm.
After 25 years with Shell Oil, Newman retired and then signed on with a couple of other oil industry companies for two scores more. The lure of the “sea” was strong and so were the ties to home. But, he could do both because he’d married that pretty girl with the beehive and she understood.
“I was fortunate that I could do both. The oil industry has been good to us,” he said. “Linda and I have always enjoyed working together and, when I was off working, that worked for us, too. I knew Linda could manage things here at home and that she would.”
Linda, laughingly, said she works cheap.
“But she gets everything I have,” Cyril said, with a smile but in all honesty. And he’s just as serious about his retirement.
“I’m not going back,” he said. “I am home.”
Home from the “sea” and back on the farm.
“But, I’m not giving the farm back over to him,” Linda said. “He can help, but I’m in charge.”
The big blue barn behind the Newman home is a work in progress and it has “his and hers” written all over it.
“We are building it together,” Cyril said. “We’ve still got more to do but it will soon be a home down the hill. It’s a working barn but we’ve got a kitchen, a washroom, a den and bathrooms in it and we’re going to have family and friends over and we’ll have a lot of good times at the barn.”
But the best times will be when Cyril and Linda Newman ride off together in the pickup truck to tend to the farm, or cast a lure into either his or her ponds or just ride off into the sunset on their horses, just like Dale and Roy Rogers or as Cyril says in French, Roy Ra-zhay.