Norton James
(1919 - 2009)

Norton James

June 27, 1919

September 30, 2009

Guest Book
A great story that Mr. james loved to tell and loved to laugh about was way back in 1970 or 71. Geneva and I were up at Mystery Mesa Ranch late one afternoon and Mr James asked me to come along with him to round up a cow that had not come in with the rest of the herd. We drove out to a small pond in a utility cart and he dropped me off about 150 ft. from the the cow. It was drinking and not bothered by our presence. He told me that he would go around to the other side of the cow and on his signal, I was to run towards the cow and yell so it would start heading home. Mr James said it knows where to go, I just needed to get it started. He would pick me up and follow it in. He positioned himself on the other side of the water and signaled for me to start running. I take off for the cow, waving my arms and yelling. The cow actually did start back from all the comotion. What I did not know was that the cows do a lot of their business right at the waters edge. I found this bit of information out after I was well past my ankles in it and had stuck my arm into the stuff to keep from falling. I looked up to see Mr James laughing hysterically and driving away behind the cow. When I got back to the house and was washing myself off at the water spicket, I started laughing just listening to him tell Geneva and her Mother. It was a great story that would come up every now and then and he would always have fun telling it.

Ron Nitti
Ron Nitti (Monica's Dad)
October 11th, 2009
My dear Uncle Nort was a good, kind, honest, hard working, happy man who loved his family with his whole heart. He was so proud of his kids, grandkids,and great grandkids. His wonderful stories were full of humor, his zest for life, and would always bring a smile to your face. We miss him.
P.S. Mom told me Nort's first horse was named "Tot" not "Trot".
Cathy Mott Sheeren (Niece)
October 7th, 2009
I have a strong admiration for good story tellers. Jesse was one of the best. Though I had known him only four short years, I have memories that will last a lifetime. It is true, the sun really does set in the west.
John Noble
October 7th, 2009

I am 9 years old walking home from the bus stop after school. I come up my driveway past the dying ivy ( it costs money to water it) and into my living room. The carpet is two unmatched remnants that meet in the middle of the room....a money saving idea of my dad's. I look for my mom and find her in the kitchen with its turquoise counter tops and slightly chipped pink sink (more of my dad's deals).

My homework is to talk to my parents about fire safety in case I am in the house and a fire breaks out. After going over some of the basics my mom said that I should know where the money is hidden. Money??? We have money??? Anyway she opens the drawer that we keep the potatoes in and shows me that under them and the paper liner was money....more than I had ever least $3000 she said. I was told if there was a fire to "Take the money and run" :)

Making money and saving it was something I learned as a child. Dad paid cash for everything....the house ( yes the house!!!), cars, trucks, bulldozers, tractors, cows.....everything. It taught me that with hard work, saving and patience I could have anything. The question was did I really need it?

I never felt deprived as a child. I was secure and protected and knew dad would take care of me.

One of my dad's bits of wisdom:


I understand that now more than ever.
Geneva Tibbits (Daughter)
October 7th, 2009
I always admired Jesse. A simple man with a good work ethic, a huge heart, and nothing bad to say about anyone. I loved to hear his stories and my favorite was his motorcycle trip to California. He told it to me several times just because I asked him too. He was the salt of the earth and I will miss him. They just don't make them like that anymore!
Ken Collin (Family Friend)
October 6th, 2009

My dad sure didn't have an MBA but the guy knew how to run a business and make money. My dad leased hundreds of acres to run his cattle. One day the Fire Marshall came up and told him he had to clear a huge pile of wood and lumber that apparently had been sitting there for years. Dad called the owner of the property and told him the situation. Not wanting to be bothered and knowing my dad could handle anything he offered him $1000 to "just take care of it". Dad then found someone who would BUY the pile of wood and haul it away!!!!!
Smart businessman my dad...

Geneva Tibbits (Daughter)
October 6th, 2009

It seems like another lifetime ago that our James Family reunions took place. I have wonderful memories.

I remember the overwhelming safe feeling of family tranquility knowing that everyone around me, what seemed like thousands, were all related to me. The first reunion I recall below the dam along the river’s edge is vague however I do remember Jeff James & Bobby Porchot couldn’t get rid of me. They were the little cousin fun magnets.

The second reunion 5 or 7 years later was up on Lake Whitney (Lakeview? I think). I remember staying up late w/cousin Jonathan James listening about the world through my uncle’s stories. California, Alaska, the war, how Nort & Odette met, & the James family growing up. Catching so many fish they had to hire another sea plane to fly out all the fillets of fish. Man, my imagination went right there with them. I don’t think any one of my Uncles could finish a story without over-embellishing the facts. Those brothers talked over each other all night and it was great ! (I was lucky to have Uncle Joy around later to straighten out the facts, I think . . .)

I remember meeting Mom & Phil out in California to visit right after I married M.E. Man, we got the grandioso tour from our Uncle Nort & California cousins. Again I got that same safe feeling of family tranquility a 1,000 miles from my home just knowing I had Uncle Nort James by my side.

Those influences from that James side of our family has formed a big part of who I am today. I’ve told my children about the James family and they've met a few. What a tight bond those 11 siblings had regardless the distance between them. I also embellish some of these stories as well as many others simply because . . . I learned from the best.

God has truly blessed this James Family.

Respectfully your cousin,

James Mark Mott
Mark Mott (Cousin)
October 5th, 2009
Mom doesn't "want to mess with the computer" but she just told me a few stories I'd like to share.

When she was about 12, Nort was working in the cafe and she went to work for him as a cashier. The first customer bought a nickle cup of coffee, but gave her a dollar. She rung up a dollar on the cash register. Nort said "that's not the way you do it", then very patiently, showed her how to do it right.

Nort's first horse (according to Mom) was named "Trot". He was a good horse but one day got spooked, took off across the farm with Nort on his back, then threw him off landing on his head. The family was really worried about Nort, but he didn't have to go to the hospital. She said Red had to go to the hospital in Waco once, because he was making moonshine down by the river and got typhoid fever.

Mom said their Daddy called Nort "runt" because he was was the smallest of his sons, but you have to remember all those boys were tall. She said their Daddy used to brag on Nort all the time because he was such a good shot. "He could pick off a squirrel on the top of a tree at the other end of the farm!"

The one memory that brought the biggest smile to her face was reminiscing about the visit with Nort & Odette at Jeff & Carol's when Veronica was born.

Ferbia (Sister)
October 5th, 2009
I have been a good friend of Jeff and Carol for many years. I've met Grandpa several times when I visited Carol, but mostly I've heard many stories about Grandpa and all the interesting things about how he lived his life. The one thing that stands out to me is how Jeff and Carol cared for Grandpa, and how he was blessed to live so close to them and be part of their lives, everyday. They included Grandpa in their lives and took good care of him up until the end. I have had such respect for Jeff as I watched him care for his dad and adjust his life to his dad's needs as he aged. I saw Jeff's heart and character in his relationship to his dad. And Carol has done a superb job of caring for Grandpa and opening up her heart and home to him. Jeff, I'm sorry for you loss. My love to you and Carol.
Barb Kloos (friend of Jeff and Carol)
October 5th, 2009
I also was left with buckets of bent nails. My children spent parts of their childhood straightening out nails. I also have 40-50 screw-drivers, many broken, eight to ten files which Jonathan tells me are not good, among hammers, saws, and other tools. I keep them just in case they'll need them one day. Joy was so much like Nort and Chip. They were good men, hardworking, loved their families, and spent their lives caring for their families, providing, and helping. Joy was like Nort in that he didn't tell the children that he loved them, but loves helps, cares, and provides, so he showed it in many ways. When the James boys were in the service, they were all known as Jessie. Six of them served our country; five in WW II and Notie in the Korean War. Those in the service were Chip, Red, Nort, Bug, Joy, and Notie. As the years go by, their memories will be more precious. I was privileged to be in the James family.
My first memory of Nort was his coming into the drug store where I worked in Whitney to meet me. He bought himself and me a coke and stood at the counter to visit me. He knew Joy and I were dating.
October 3rd, 2009
It was the spring of 1969 I had just arrived in California a few weeks earlier. I had a couple of days off and went to see Nort and Odette. Nort was in the process of loading 24 white ducks that he had to deliver to Universal City studio for the filming of a scene in the movie Sweet Charity. Nort invited me to go with him as a Duck Wrangler for the night. “Duck Wrangler” another course I obviously had skipped in college, along with pigs, cattle and race horses.

We got to the studio late afternoon. The guards checked us in and we went to the set. Everyone we came across knew Nort. I got introduced as the duck wrangler to everyone from movie stars to stage hands. They all knew Nort. And they all laughed and smiled when they shook his hand.

The scene shot was running late but since we, the duck crew, were on the clock it did not matter and we were free to roam. Some time around 10pm Nort took me to the cantina which was the cafeteria where we had a buffet meal fit for kings. We talked to a couple of guys across the table who I was later told one was Paul Newman. Being a West Texas boy my response was “I am I supposed to know who he is?”

About two in the morning they were finally ready for the ducks. The ducks were supposed to be in the studio copy of the pond under the NY Central Park pedestrian bridge. The lead actors were supposed to jump off of the bridge into the water full of ducks. Nort suddenly realized he had not brought 24 female ducks. Enter the duck wrangler. My job became hide under the bridge and chunk rocks at the ducks to keep them .. apart…… for two hours. Nort was laughing the whole time. I never saw the movie but I’m betting they had to edit my big feet and rock out of the movie. 6:30 AM we are leaving Hollywood I’m dead on my feet and Nort is still smiling.
Ron James (Nephew)
October 3rd, 2009
My oldest memory of my grandpa is being in Jeff's backyard and Grandpa and I having on the same red checked cowboy shirt. It had white snaps, not buttons, I was maybe 5. Somewhere there is a picture of that day, not sure where it is now, but it will always be in my mind. Now I have memeories of Grandpa with my children, telling me I am good mom, and that I have great kids. That meant alot to me. Listening to grandpa's stories, and hearing him laugh when telling them again and again was always fun to hear. I love to try to "explain" grandpa to my friends; his "bone bolo", turning nothing into something worth $100's, and his story about Sampson, Sarahs pet turkey, and how he "whooped'em a goood one". He had so much to offer us, knowledge and love in his own ways. "Your a goody gpa...." I love you....
monica nitti (granddaughter)
October 3rd, 2009
Uncle Nort always made me smile. He had such a way of talking to me that made me know he loved me--even though this was not a James thing to say. Thank you for bringing him to Fort Worth last year and letting us have a visit with him. He came to Fort Worth with three cigars in his front pocket, a steak bone clasping his red bandanna around his neck, and that twinkle in his eye. I told him he should have shared some of his cigars with Daddy, and maybe he would have lived longer. We went to the cemetery where Daddy is buried and he cried. He talked to me about Daddy and it was obvious he was as hard-headed as Daddy was. He said that he always thought that Daddy's girls were as smart as the boys and should have gotten to go to college. We laughed together as I agreed. Nort loved life, loved family, and maybe never said the words about either. He lived them though. I regret that I did not make it to CA to see him; he did ask. God have mercy on his soul.
Rebekah Martin (niece)
October 2nd, 2009
I have only fond memories of Nort and Odette. I regret that we didn't get to spend more time visiting with them.
Over the years, they...and you (Jeff)...all seemed to be living such interesting lives! I know that Chip's eyes always lit up whenever we talked about Nort.

To me, Nort and Odette always seemed bigger than life. Like Chip, Nort was a man's man. (I always think of "Crocodile Dundee".) There don't seem to be too many of those left, although the gene seems to run pretty deep in the James' men's veins. Chip and Nort both loved being outdoors and all that went with it.
Neither one of them were what you would call "city" boys! Nort, in particular, lived a very long and interesting life...the stuff of books, really.

I still remember going up to the "Mesa" the summer before Ron and I got married in 1969. We had such fun up there. I just wish Becky
and Libby could have had that experience. They've heard us talk about it many times. It's a shame there are so many miles between California and Texas!

For the James' family...all of us...this is truly a big loss.
Sharon James (niece)
October 2nd, 2009
I have a spate of memories of Uncle Nort:

1. I was twelve years old. Our family was visiting Nort’s family north of LA, I think in Sylmar. My family was going to go to Disney Land. I didn’t want to wear socks, because that was cool in Texas. My Mama and Daddy insisted that I did. I was in the seventh grade! Uncool was akin to death. Uncle Nort assured me that boys in California wore socks, and if I didn’t I would be uncool. I wore socks. I think Daddy put him up to it . . .

2. Thirty years ago and more I was pastor of a little church in Augusta, Montana. Montie Montana, the Bee-est of the B movie actors of all time, trick roper and stunt rider, was uncle to a woman in our church. Montie came to town for the Augusta rodeo. On the Sunday morning of the rodeo, Montie Montana, Iron Eyes Cody and Ben Johnson came into church and sat on the front row in their later-in-the-day rodeo regalia. We had a fun visit.

Several years later I was in LA and had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Uncle Nort and Aunt Odette. The first morning Uncle Nort said, “Let’s go eat some doughnuts.” They were living up near or in the Placerita Canyon area at the time and if I recall correctly, we went to Newhall for doughnuts. He obviously had buddies he met there and we went in and sat down with Montie Montana, Iron Eyes Cody and Ben Johnson! Montie said, “The preacher from Augusta!” “Jesse” (as they knew Uncle Nort) was amazed.

3. Then, a few years after that I was in LA and spent a day with Nort and Odette again. We went up on the ranch, and he showed me the movie set for “Roots.” Filming was going on there and during a break I visited with the “stars,” whose names I cannot remember and didn’t know who they were at the time anyway. Uncle Nort got the biggest kick out of the fact that I didn’t know who they were and was unimpressed to boot and said, “That’s good for ‘em! Montie and them guys are better people to know anyhow.”

4. I was in CA at a conference with some of my staff. I was going up to Santa Barbara to see Uncle Nort and Aunt Odette and asked the others if they wanted to go with me. They had sessions they wanted to attend so opted to stay behind. Nort had told me, “I’ll fix us something to eat.” I got there and had this exquisite mutton soup that I remember many years later. I got back and asked the guys what the had for supper – banquet rubber beef and vulcanized green beans, etc. Over the years they expressed their disgust at themselves for not going to eat Uncle Nort’s soup!

5. I remember driving from the house on the hill in Santa Barbara down to town to the apartment. Nort was driving his pickup, and as we drove along he would ask me alarming questions like, “Is that a car coming?” “Will you tell me if something is in my way?” I learned later from Jeff that he wouldn’t ride with his dad because of his eyesight.

6. A very few years ago Nort went to Ft. Worth to see family. I took him to the airport for his return flight home, and knew it would likely be my last opportunity to be with Uncle Nort. We visited well, and talked seriously. At the security line, I found a man who would help him because he could not see to read the signs. The security people let me go with him all the way to the metal detector. He turned to say goodbye, and did something that I think was uncharacteristic. He turned and hugged me tight, said some tender things to me, thanked me, and with tears in his eyes, said goodbye.
Nathan Joy James (Nort's Favourite Nephew ()
October 2nd, 2009
I’ve known my grandpa my whole life ;) and I’m not sure the entire internet could hold all of the memories I have with him, or that I can even find the words to describe the unspoken bond between us. He planted an Oak tree for me the day that I was born and I grew up with him telling me that he was watching us grow together; someday I would grow up to be as big as the Oak tree. I saw grandpa every day of my life until I left for college, and still frequently after that. He’d come up every morning sometime before 7am and I’d run down the hall screaming “Grandpaaaaaaaaa!” He always smelled of cigars and was never without a cowboy hat and boots. He always wore a belt buckle that had “Jesse James” inscribed on it- but the belt didn’t do anything because it was my routine as a little girl was to take his pants by the belt loops, pull them up and say, “Grandpa! Your pants are falling down!” Every Saturday morning (bright and early) we’d go down to his trailer on our property and he’d cook us taters, eggs and toast, then we’d run down to the massive tree swings he made for us on the eucalyptus trees below his place. Whenever my friends would come over, we’d run down the ranch to go to the tree swings and see my grandpa. I was always so proud of him and wanted everyone to meet him.
Whenever he drove us kids from our house down to his (he’d always let us sit in the bed of his truck), he’d just put it in neutral and coast because it saved gas. I think grandpa got gas maybe twice a year. He’d let us sit in the bed and let the wind hit our face while he drove around the property, he’d let me take bites of his cigars so I could see what it tasted like, he got me a white horse and taught me how to ride and take care of it (I was not very good at the latter), he’d take me to lunch at classy places like IHOP and Carrows, I’d do gymnastics for him in his living room and he’d tell me how good I was, then give me milk and Fig Newtons. He always was telling me stories- stories about growing up, about cooking during the war, starting his own restaurants, different jobs he held, about how he met Grandma, his various ranches, his amazing family, and the “hard times.” The best part was that Grandpa called a spade a spade- I knew exactly how he felt about every person and situation during every story-which sometimes made it funnier, but sometimes more difficult to hear.
I came to appreciate him more and more as I got older. I appreciated his intellect, dry sense of humor, never-ending stories, unintentional comedy, and overall wisdom about life. One morning he came to our house as he always did, we chatted, and he left. He walked back in a few minutes later and said, “Have you seen my truck?” He said he had driven it up to our house but when he went outside to look for it, it was gone. We went outside and found that it had rolled down the driveway and off the bank into a tree. He had forgot to put it in “Park.” That was just like grandpa though…he was never exactly Mario Andretti and drove his truck more like a bumper car, there were dents and dings in it everywhere...
Every morning as I was getting ready for school, we’d have the same conversation,
Me: “So what are you going to do today grandpa?”
Him: “Well….just round up what I did yesterday…”
Me: “What did you do yesterday?”
Him: “Nothin”

Although funny, this was never true. Grandpa never did “nothing.” He once told me that he was building a new horse corral for my kids so “they can grow up to be like their Grandpa and love horses.” I don’t even have a boyfriend, let alone kids! He always was building something, fixing a fence, digging a hole, filling up a hole, moving a rock, planting a tree, watering the avocado orchard, or picking oranges or tomatoes to bring up to me because he knew they were my favorite. This is all so difficult to write right now and I am disappointed I cannot fully capture all the life and laughter he brought to my 25 years. He never told me he loved me, but always said, “You’re a goody,” and I knew what that meant.

My last conversation with him was over the phone. I called him and as always, he sounded excited to hear from me:
“Are you busy Grandpa?”
“Well, I’m just sittin here with my cats. What’s goin on?”
“Okay, I just wanted to tell you that I miss you and I love you.”
“Well, goll-ee there ain’t nothin else a grandpa wants to hear. You’re a goody.”

And we hung up. That is the way I want to remember him, and I hope that is what he remembered of me- that I love him, and will miss him dearly.
Veronica James (Granddaughter)
October 2nd, 2009
In July I had texted this message to Veronica's phone:

I just dropped gpa off to get a haircut. Yesterday we agreed that I would take him at 1pm. He drove up to the house at 9:30am.

On the way we passed our neighbor's whose house had been for sale for a few months. As we drove by, gpa said, "Well I guess ol' doomafotchet hasn't sold his place yet"
Carol James (daughter-in-law)
October 2nd, 2009
I always remember getting creamed at dominoes. Even when he was mostly blind, he could still beat me. I think I was 11 or 12 when I finally beat him! One time, I brought a friend from college to meet Grampa. We had got some groceries for him but we "didn't go to the right store". When I made a face at him, he said "Valerie I wouldn't trade you for the best billy goat in the world."...thanks Grampa. A already miss you.
Valerie James (Granddaughter)
October 2nd, 2009
I'm trying to figure out what to do with six buckets of bent nails, that can be straightened and used again. Or the cans of paint that are only hard on top, there is plenty good paint underneath. "Save it for Hard Times" Maybe just put it with his brother's collections.
Jeff James (Son)
October 2nd, 2009
I only had the privilege of meeting Nort a handful of times, but I will always remember the twinkle in his eye and the crooked grin, features identical to my own grandpa. Grandpa used to talk to Nort on the phone. "If you could give me one of your ears, and I could give you one my eyes, we'd be in good shape!" I will always remember the two of them as the hearty cowboys they were:)
Libby James (Chip's Granddaughter)
October 2nd, 2009
I visited Jeff and Carol several years ago for vacation. One day my cousin Jon and I were riding around Jeff's property in the back of Nort's pickup. At one point we reached the top of a hill, and Nort shut off the engine. My cousin and I looked at each other funny as the truck began to "coast" down the hill in neutral. When we reached the bottom Nort yelled out "Gravity is free!". I didn't have the priviledge of spending much time with Nort, but I have a feeling that this story just about sums him up. He will be missed.
Luke Pent (Grandson of brother)
October 2nd, 2009
I'm not sure I've ever seen this picture but I've seen the smile ever time I was ever with Nort. Nort is the only uncle I have had that I ever got to work with. When I first got out of college I was assigned to the LA basin as a Sales Engr. Every day off I'd go to the mesa ranch. It was at the time that Greg and Jeff were hospitalized from the bike wreck so Nort was always happy to have an extra hand. Cattle pigs and Holly Wood were not in my degree plan but working with Nort was a hoot. The smile never vanished and in my mind it never will.
Ron James (Nephew)
October 2nd, 2009
Uncle Nort was my dad's brother. My father passed away before I was born, so my uncles were the closest links I had growing up to see what my father was like.
In 1980, I got to spend a week with Uncle Nort and Aunt Odette at their ranch outside of Los Angeles. I broke my foot in a construction accident and couldn't work for several weeks, so Uncle Note and Aunt Ferbia flew with me to visit for the week. It was a wonderful time to be with Uncle Nort and his family.
Katherine and I were able to visit Uncle Nort this summer and see him on his 90th birthday, and it was likewise a very good visit. His mind was sharp; he told many stories about the James family and his ventures in life. I understand he was driving his bulldozer within the last year or so of his life. We are very sad to lose him but are thankful he lived a good full life.
I will always remember Uncle Nort fondly.
Monte James (Nephew)
October 2nd, 2009
You were a wonderful man. I have fond memories of us playing dominos at the beach and eating breakfast before dawn. I loved hearing stories about your childhood by the fireplace. I am proud to be your granddaughter. You will be forever missed.
Amanda Tibbits (Granddaughter)
October 2nd, 2009
We raised hogs and cattle on the ranch. The less you spent on feed the more profit you would make on the sale. My Dad was always thinking about how to get inexpensive feed.
For the hogs he had made a deal with Carnation and Hostess to get all their out of date products. So once a week he would bring a truck load of Twinkies, Snoballs, Pizzas, and instant breakfast to the hog barn. He would tell my brother Greg and I to go unwrap the items and put them into the many barrels we had at the barn. This would always turn into a food fight, with Twinkies and snoballs flying everywhere.
For the cattle he made a deal to get the carrot culls from the carrot factory docks. They were free to us for keeping the docks clear. We would load our big bobtail truck with 12 tons of carrots, then dump them in the fields as the driverless truck would chug through the pasture. I remember one day picking up 100 tons of carrots.
Jeff James (Son)
October 1st, 2009
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"In the years that I knew Mr James, he was always kind to me. Geneva and Monica, you are always in our prayers, as will be all of the family. This is a man who will be and is missed by many."
Ron Nitti
October 11th, 2009
"Jesse was the most influential person in my life outside of my family. He taught me how to be a successful cattleman, farmer, and businessman. I owe my value of family and friends to Jesse. Jesse said "don't tell me, show me" and lived by that."
Walt Fisher
October 5th, 2009
"He was a hard working, honest man who would do everything he could to help anyone out. The last of the "Good ole boys""
Jeff James
October 3rd, 2009
"What a man!!! the real deal. When most would settle for a rocking chair, he rode the bulldozer. All the best, our best thoughts are with all of you."
Brandon Fuller
October 2nd, 2009


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