Davis brothers reunite with the family they ‘looked up to’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; James and Curtis Davis were young boys when they started working after school and during summers in the early 1980s at Phil and Jimmie Vasser’s Adams County horse ranch.

Now, the two brothers are applying the values they learned over the years from the Vassers in more dangerous and demanding occupations.

Curtis, a 32-year-old Army sergeant, was called to active duty with the 890th Engineering Battalion from his home in Hattiesburg last February. The eight-year veteran is attached to the 82nd Airborne Division in the Middle East.

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And James, 35, has been a patrolman and SWAT team member with the Jackson Police Department for 12 years.

With Curtis home on leave since Dec. 28, the brothers took time recently to rejoin the Vassers at the ranch they helped build.

The reunion was very much a family affair.

&uot;This was our family. These were the people we looked up to for values. We fell in love with this new world of horses. We learned how to work, and how to dream big,&uot; James said

James and Curtis were among a family of eight children &045; four boys and four girls &045; who grew up in Natchez. Their brother-in-law, James &uot;Tex&uot; Butler, introduced them to the Vassers, who raise registered quarterhorses for cutting horse competition on their 130-acre ranch.

&uot;Tex worked for us for years. He was a brother to me and we loved each other. Tex died in 1995, but now we’ve got the next generation,&uot; Phil said.

In addition to helping build the barn and fence at the ranch, Curtis and James learned to train and care for the horses.

&uot;Curtis would ride the edge off one horse while I was showing another one. He traveled all over the country with me,&uot; Phil said.

But the Vassers took an even deeper interest in James and Curtis, teaching them the value of hard work and determination.

&uot;They used to get off the school bus at the front gate, and I would check their report cards. Phil and I don’t have children, so we ‘took’ these,&uot; Jimmie said.

Curtis and James said their mother was supportive of their relationship with the Vassers.

&uot;Our mother encouraged us to work here. It kept us off the streets. She would say that we had an opportunity here that she couldn’t provide for us,&uot; Curtis said.

For Curtis, that opportunity was invaluable. &uot;I learned discipline and work ethics, and that has helped me in the service. Phil used to teach me that whenever I find myself thinking fast, I should go slow,&uot; he said.

And the brothers now devote their spare time to helping young people. Curtis spoke to a group at his church in Hattiesburg on Sunday, and James mentors troubled kids in Jackson.

&uot;Both of these young men have done well for themselves and for their country. We’re very proud of them,&uot; Phil said.

Still, the Vassers are concerned about the careers that Curtis and James are involved in now.

&uot;I can’t believe that I’ve raised the two of them, and they’re both in such dangerous work now,&uot; Jimmie said.

James, a father of twins, said he intends to retire from his law enforcement career after 12 more years. A champion body builder, he then plans to work in real estate and operate his own weightlifting gym.

Curtis said he wants to consider his career options a little longer.

&uot;My exit date has passed, but since we’re in-theatre, the Army’s ‘no loss law’ applies. So, I’m kind of stuck right now. But that’s something that I want to think about, anyway,&uot; he said.