Friday, February 3, 2012

Echoes From Trinity County - Memories of a country life

When I was a boy we lived for a few years in the Piney Woods of East Texas in a shack of a house with no indoor plumbing, no running water, a wood stove in the front room and chickens roaming the back yard.  A milk cow resided in the barn, pigs in the pen and corn in the field.  We moved there from our suburban home in Houson that lacked none of the modern conveniences one would expect in Texas' largest city.  Years later I came to understand that those three years were my mother's nightmare.  For me, they were some of the best years of my life.

During those years I was able to crack open a door just a bit to the world that my father grew up in. It was a fascinating place, where life was lived close to the earth, a sometimes hard and forbidding world where every success was earned and every failure measured against survival.  For me it was a time of discovery and exploration and kinship with the natural world that I've not known since.  There was something honest and true about those years that were unique to that place and time.  It was a time indelibly etched into my consciousness.  A time I'll never forget.

I'm transcribing my father's memories, written by hand many years ago, and as I typed each page I was transported into that mystical world of my childhood once again, where, for a few years I came to know the kind of world that informed my dad.

Here are a few excerpts from his childhood memories, exactly as he wrote them:

Me and my two cousins, Bobby and Pal, always ran around together.  When we were little, Ma and Aunt Janey said we’d leave in the morning and sometimes we would not come home ‘til late afternoon.  Sometimes we would see some of Finis Tullos’ sow hogs with pigs and Bobby would put Uncle Wade’s mark on Finis’ pigs.  After I got bigger, I often wondered what Finis thought about Wade’s pigs following his sow.

I remember one Christmas Eve we would hang up our stockings over the fireplace and the next morning they would be full of fruit and nuts.  We never got any toys ‘til daddy started working at the shipyard.  Our toy was a Garrett snuff bottle.  Sometimes when a wagon wheel went bad we would take a rim off of it.  The wheel was about ten inches around.  We would take a Prince Albert tobacco can and beat it flat, turn it up on two sides and nail it to a long piece of wood so we could roll it.
Me and my cousin Paul, we started smoking when we got big enough to roll our own.  We used to steal eggs and take them over to Albert Terry’s store and trade them for Prince Albert papers.  Me and Pal used to go down to Uncle Sterling’s.  He had a hand roller.  You could roll ‘em and they would look like store bought.  I went down to Uncle Sterling’s and I liked it so well I would get off the school bus every day and stay down there. 
Daddy told Orville not to let me get off the school bus but I would get off anyway.  I stayed about two weeks.  One day, daddy rode his horse down to Clarence Odom’s store – it was about a five-mile ride.  He made Orville ride the horse back home and he got on the school bus with me.  When we got to Uncle Sterling’s, he asked me if I was going to get off.
I said, “No, I believe I will go home today.”
Polie heard daddy talking to me.  He went home and told Aunt Janey that Uncle Athena said he was going to give Billy some medicine when they got home.  I did not get off the school bus no more.