Houston, TX— The dispute that led to the tragic shooting death of Clyde T. Coburn, owner of the Pleasant Valley Mining Company, has turned into what some call a blessing in disguise as the Texas legislature passed the Clyde T. Coburn Stand Your Underground law yesterday on a vote along partisan lines. Governoris expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the week.
“Nothing is going to bring Clyde back,” said Coburn’s brother-in-law Charlie Dorgan, “but at least we’ll get some closure and, God willing, a nice settlement.” Millard Smyth, owner of the house that sits atop the land for which the Pleasant Valley Mining Company owns the mineral rights, gunned down Coburn, who was armed at the time with a 12-guage shotgun.
Apparently Coburn confronted Smyth on the porch of the latter’s home, informing him of the mining company’s intention to start a new drilling operation in his backyard, where Smyth has grown prize-winning zucchinis. Smyth, claiming he felt threatened, withdrew into his home and later returned to the porch armed with an MA5B assault rifle. He then pumped twenty-eight rounds into Coburn’s chest and abdomen.
Although under the current Texas Stand Your Ground law, Smyth cannot be charged, relatives and friends of Coburn can find consolation in knowing that the new Stand Your Underground law will, in the future, fully protect mineral rights’ owners, allowing them, if feeling threatened, to shoot and kill with impunity anyone who merely owns the surface rights to the land in question.
“This is a victory for mineral rights owners everywhere,” said Tom Billings, who will replace Coburn as CEO of the Pleasant Valley Mining Company. “Stand Your Ground is a good law. But Stand Your Underground is a better one. It’s that simple.”
Millard Smyth disagreed. “Truth is, I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what who owns the ground underneath mine. Anybody from that friggin’ mining company tries to disrupt my zucchinis and there’s gonna be hell to pay.”
In the wake of what many see as two conflicting laws, the Houston police department is bracing for more bloodshed. “I feared it was going to come to this,” said police chief Melvin Metcalf. “I mean, when the time comes, which law are we supposed to enforce?”
On the presidential campaign trail in Indiana, where he is expected to win the uncontested May 8 primary, had this to say: “I don’t follow mining very much. But I do know a lot of mining company owners.” He called Coburn’s death tragic and senseless and probably bad for business.
Funeral arrangements for Coburn are still incomplete. But it is certainly ironic that he will be buried in a mausoleum. Dorgan did not know whether or not the Coburn family owned the mineral rights beneath the aboveground structure.
© Daniel Bruce Brown, 2012