Who is Bobby McAnelly? It’s none other than Phil, nicknamed Bobby when his older brother by just 18 months, John Jr., couldn’t say Baby. Phillip Aaron was born on October 29, 1946, to John E. and Elizabeth Underwood McAnelly. Phil has been married to his wife, Linda, for 48 years, and they have two sons, Lance and Matt, and eight grandchildren – five boys and three girls, including twin girls.
Reminiscing about those early years growing up in the Hondo community, with few TVs and no air conditioning in the early 50s, Phil has fond memories of playing outdoors with his many cousins. One vivid memory was of the families sitting outside… “lying on a blanket on the grass and watching the night sky for the chance to see a falling star.” They learned about the constellations from The World Book Encyclopedia, and, with no TVs, video games or IPads, the kids used their imaginations to “turn an old rope in a backyard tree into a vine in the thickest jungle in Africa.”
Another fond memory was playing baseball. Little League Baseball was new in those days, but every community had several teams, and Sandlot baseball was highly anticipated every spring. No one had any money for vacations, so baseball was the summer past time. Another tradition that stands out is that of all the cousins gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas at their grandfather’s ranch in Yancey.
Both Phil’s parents were teachers. His dad served as the Ag teacher at Hondo High School for over forty years, and his mother taught reading there and various other subjects. After public school retirement, she continued to teach by starting a kindergarten program at FBC Hondo, where she remained for another twenty years.
Phil attributes his third-grade teacher as influential in his becoming an athlete, with competitive games being staged against other classes. By the time he entered high school, he says he was one of the fastest boys in school; yet, he had quit football due to an injury and managed to convince himself that he didn’t like football anyway. But his baseball coach and Principal, Bob Nations, talked him into going out for football his sophomore year. He did, and right away won the spot of JV starting quarterback. However, an emergency appendectomy interrupted his playing for a month. When he returned, he moved to running back. That providential event landed him a full scholarship to play football – even though baseball remained his favorite sport – at Texas A&M under Coach Gene Stallings. He experienced the joy of winning the Southwest Conference in 1967 and defeating Alabama in the 1968 Cotton Bowl. “If it had not been for Coach Bob Nations, I would have never played football,” Phil thankfully states.
Phil says that he fell in love with ranching as a very young boy, watching the men work and herd cattle. Today, he is proud to be a fourth-generation rancher on the land that has been in his family since 1883. However, he knew that an education was needed if he was ever going to be successful. Choosing a field of study at A&M – his father’s alma mater – needed to be one that prepared him for ranching. After looking at all the options, he recalls, “My dad said to look at Ag Education.”
In May of Phil’s senior year, his brother, John, was getting married in Morton, Texas, a town way up in the Texas Panhandle. Phil was destined to walk down the aisle with the bride’s best friend. That young lady was Linda Gayle Burleson. “It was love at first sight,” Phil exclaims. He even told his brother that very night that she was the one he was going to marry. Linda, whose home was outside of Lubbock, was attending college at Texas Tech.
It would be a while before the budding relationship could move forward. Because Phil had entered college in 1965, while the Vietnam War was really heating up, he knew that he would be drafted. So, to avoid going into the military as a private, he entered Officer Basic Training at Fort Sill, OK. “Long distance dating was a lot harder back then with no cell phones, no texting, no e-mail, no face-time or FaceBook, and no money.” He adds, “We had our first date the third week of September, and God gave her to me for Christmas.”
Phil graduated in December of 1969 – a semester late due to the rigors of football – and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in January of 1970. The couple had planned an April wedding, but, he sadly recalls, “I would be going to Vietnam like nearly everyone else. Three of my fellow athletes from A&M, as well as a high school classmate, had already been killed. Most everyone in the military, and all of the hippies, knew that we could not win the war. Too bad the politicians didn’t know it. The war was so unpopular in the U.S. and the anti-war activists were so aggressive that we were actually told NOT to wear our uniforms in public. Imagine that – men fighting and dying for their country and could not wear their uniforms when they returned to the states.”
With those facts weighing heavily, Phil found a way to serve his country without going immediately to Vietnam. He chose “Voluntary Indefinite,” a change in one’s commission, but a guarantee of a choice of assignments for at least one year. In return, “We were theirs as long as they wanted or needed us.” Phil chose Germany and Special Ammunition Support Command – SASCOM.
An interesting turn happened on February 5. Phil’s commander at Ft. Bliss informed him that if he was planning to have his new wife join him in Germany, they had to be married before he left – the next day! Linda was aghast when Phil gave her the news. She already had her lovely dress, and all the plans were set for April 4! Never the less, the next day, Linda, her mom, and one of her best friends drove from Lubbock to El Paso, went to the courthouse and got their license, went to the JP, and had a “quickie” ceremony – conducted by a fellow Aggie who, after having heard the circumstances, said, “Phil, do you want to marry Linda? Linda, do you want to marry Phil?” They both said “Yes,” and the judge said, “That’s good enough for me”. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was official,” Phil adds.
When April 4, 1970, came around, the traditional wedding went off as planned, Phil having received a three-day pass during his extensive training. They flew together out of Germany on May 11, “the day that the huge F5 tornado hit Lubbock.”
Phil’s assignment was as the Assistant Commander of the Nike Hercules site – the thirty-foot long missile that was armed with nuclear warheads and the ultimate in air defense. The “Cold War” with Russia was still very real. The German Air Force provided ground security and material support, and Phil had a German officer counterpart and had to learn enough German to be able to communicate. He had “Top Secret Crypto” security clearance and thus was not allowed within forty miles of the East German border for fear of kidnapping of him and his family.
One of Phil’s experiences, which gained him the Army Commendation Medal for leadership, was when a helicopter carrying a nuclear warhead lost power and made an emergency landing some twenty miles from the base. Phil organized a convoy with the German Air Force to safely transfer the warhead.
As things evolved, the site commander was sent to Vietnam, leaving the post with one officer short. As a result, that shortage of officers kept Phil there and safe from a tour to Vietnam, and he was able to go back home in mid ’72. But while there, Phil’s and Linda’s first child, Lance, was born in a German Catholic hospital with a German midwife who spoke no English.
Finally home, Phil wanted to pursue that lifelong dream of becoming a rancher. But, one night, he recalls vividly, “We were praying when God told me in a voice so plain that I can still hear it ‘I want you to work with boys’.” Not sure what that meant, Phil got a call the next day offering him a position to coach at Tahoka, some thirty miles south of Lubbock. It was a good experience with the boys there, while Linda finished up her schooling at Tech and taught English during that second year.
Still longing to ranch, yet recalling that clear message to work with boys, Phil and Linda settled in Yancey on the McAnelly Ranch in an old family house they had moved there and remodeled. “We were on the ranch where I had always wanted to be, and I had four cows.”
Deciding not to continue coaching where he might have to move often, Phil decided to teach instead, and he thus joined Col. Henry Moss, a WWII veteran and Ag Teacher in Devine. They taught together for eight years. Ronnie Outlaw joined them in 1977. Then, Travis Byrom came over from Natalia. He was followed by Todd Herring and then Karen Harris. Phil racked up thirty years in teaching, 28 of them in Devine, before retiring in 2003.
Meanwhile, Phil built up his ranching business – fulfilling his lifelong dream – running cattle in Medina, Frio, Uvalde, and Bandera counties, along with working with boys – his God-given calling. Phil’s relationship with Christ and serving Him has been his other love. He has served as a Deacon for FBC Devine for over 33 years and currently teaches an adult couples’ class and works with the RA boys.
In other capacities, Phil served for thirty three years on the Board of Directors for Yancey Water – twelve as President; President of Medina County Cattleman’s Assoc.; President of the Medina County Appraisal Review Board; Grand Jury; State Curriculum Development Team for Ag Science; Area VII Ag Teacher’s Assoc. Officer; Revaldina Dist. Ag Teacher; many State FFA committees; Medina Count Stock Show Board of Directors; judge in many district, area, and state FFA contests; and countless committees in school and church-related settings.
“I know that God loves me and has had and still has a plan for my life and that He puts experiences and people into my life at just the right time and place to permit me to do what He wants me to do. I have come to understand that we are blessed so we can bless others.”