It’s about 511 miles from Levelland over to Texarkana as the crow flies across Northern Texas. That distance will get you across two or three states in most parts of the US; in Texas it’s only about two-thirds of the way from Orange to El Paso.
Jim Melton likes to joke that his wife Mary, she of Texarkana, was a big traveler by the time they got married 52 years ago, having ventured as far Shreveport, Louisiana (72 miles south) and Fayetteville, Arkansas (235 miles north).
“She married me and said she wanted to travel around the world with me,” says the 75-year-old Melton, a resident of Discovery Village at Castle Hills in Lewisville, Texas. “I took her around the Northern Hemisphere twice, but the first place I took her was into a war zone.”
After having served four years in the US Navy, the threat of combat was old hat for Melton, not s much for the missus.
He found a much more frustrating form of combat after serving those four years in Vietnam.
“When I got out of the service after Vietnam, a lot of people wouldn’t hire me, wouldn’t even talk to me because they had protested Vietnam,” Melton recalls. “I wound up going back to school at the University of Texas at Arlington.”
A genuine jack-of-all-trades, Melton learned geology, and then engineering. He became an automation engineer, working in plants around the world introducing companies how to use robots to perform fabrication, and teaching employees how repair automated machines and maintain the equipment.
Working with robots was a far cry from the boyhood of a man whose hometown of Levelland had a greater number for its elevation (3,091 feet) than its population (3,053) when he was born. He remembers mostly being a little bit scared of some of his creations.
“There was one we built up, and if you have ever seen the movie ‘Robocop’, it was a lot like the battle droid in that movie that goes crazy, it would make your hair stand up,” Melton said. “We had a hard time getting people to not stand too close to it, because that arm would come swinging out and poke holes in people.”
Melton semi-retired in 1995 and remained an independent contractor through 2009 before retiring for good. He and his wife lived in Plano for a bit before deciding to start looking for a more permanent solution.
“We couldn’t find any place that would put up with me,” Melton says with his deadpan humor.
“We came over here and were some of the first people to sign up, so they haven’t run us off yet.”
Actually after visiting just about every community in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, he figured Discovery Village at Castle Hills was the right place to be within the first two minutes of his visit.
“I moved here because my wife dragged me about 400 different places to check them all out,” he says. “We came out to this one and there were a bunch of old vets sitting out here lying to each other about things they’d done. That’s when I knew I was home. There were some of the most marvelous gentlemen I’ve ever drank coffee with.”
For Mary, the choice was also easy.
“It’s the best decision we’ve made,” she says. “There’s no yard to keep up with, nothing that you don’t want to do. It’s absolutely perfect for us.”