Milam Thompson


March 17, 1907 - January 10, 1991
Role: Camp Cook, Preacher
Known for: Deep connection to nature, extraordinary cook

In addition to being an extraordinary cook and preacher, Milam's life as a survivor engendered a wisdom that earned him the title of philosopher. He was raised by his aunt and uncle until he was about ten years old. His uncle was a cruel man, so, to escape his beatings, Milam ran away and lived amongst the Mexican families and at times in a hollow log in the woods. He raised himself in Goliad, Refugio, and Victoria Counties. Milam taught himself to read and absorbed all he could from his world, the natural world he lived in and observed daily. “I started out a cowboy when I was around fifteen years old. One day, the cook didn’t show up and I was told to pitch in and do dinner. I didn’t know how to boil water. I just had to depend on the spirit to guide me. I was scared. I didn’t know nothin’ about cookin’. I called on that source that has taken care of me through life – God. I cook by revelation.” Milam’s first steady job was cooking at the Welder Vidauri Ranch. He eventually worked as a camp cook on all the ranches in the area. He became famous for his wonderful food, the best in the business, and he was rewarded with his great wish, to be buried on O'Connor land. Milam was like none other. Listening to him was like observing man evolve through time, always learning from nature and his experiences. He was a gentle soul with a sense of humor that would keep you laughing all day. He loved his work with this project—it seemed to make sense of his life for him and gave him a vehicle with which to pass on his considerable knowledge, a boon for all who choose to partake. A day with Milam was filled with great joy, always eagerly anticipated. He never failed to make it a memorable experience that seemed to also delight his soul.

Introduction to Milam Thompson

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Milam Thompson
Milam Thompson – When it come to cooking I kinda learnt myself by depending on that little soft voice y'all hear me talking about which is a "inward spirit." And Mr. King rode up and down the roads behind the workers.

L.V. Terrell - Horseback.

Milam Thompson – Horseback. And he hollered at you constantly. "Hurry up! Come on," to each man. "Hurry up, there! You getting behind. Come on up there. Get on to work!" I could not take that. And so, I decided I'm going to be a cook because he cannot ride behind me in the kitchen. Now, that's really actually why I decided to start to cooking. I do not go by recipes. I go by "revelations."

Documents

“I learned to cook by dependin’ on that little soft voice in me — an inward spirit. I started out a cowboy when I was around fiteen years old. One day, the cook didn’t show up and I was told to pitch in and do dinner. I didn’t know how to boil water. I just had to depend on the spirit to guide me. I was scared. I didn’t know nothin’ about cookin’. I called on that source that has taken care of me through life
— God. I cook by revelation.”

Cryin' For Daylight: Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend