Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Texas 1959

Two black dirt roads run in front the row of four houses. There is about twenty feet between the roads and maybe thirty feet between the southern most road and the railroad track. The two roads come together and end on the west where a farm to market road intersects Texas State Highway 24 which parallels the track. On the east end, they end at an oil top road, which crosses the track and meets the highway.

There are no trees in the yards of these houses. Any trees that grew on this blackland prairie were cut long ago to make way for cotton fields. When it is dry in the summer, the ground cracks open and I am sometimes afraid that my little brother will fall in a crack and end up in China.

The Santa Fe a line trains come by several times a day but the trains don’t stop here. We can see people in the passenger cars and sometimes they wave to us. We don’t use the roads in front of the house much. There is gravel road behind us and the garage is back there anyway. When entering the house from the back, you have to walk through the bathroom so company uses the front door just to be polite. When it rains, the black earth turns to gumbo so it is a good thing that the road behind us is gravel.

On the other side of the highway sits a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a garage and maybe a dozen houses. There are about six houses on our side of the tracks and a few others scattered around, maybe twenty-five in all. The school is about a mile and a half up the highway. A small store is about a mile and a half farther away. The cotton gin has long been abandoned. About seventy people call this microburg in the western corner of Hunt County home.

The metal swing set that our father bought us sits in the barren yard between our house and the house to the west of us. A divorced woman and her three children live there. I am pretty sure that everyone is gossiping about her. Divorce is strongly frowned upon in rural Texas in the late ‘50s but she is doing the best she can. The daughters are both older than me and mean as stink. My arm aches just thinking about how the younger one twists it behind my back when she thinks she can get away with it. The son is just out of diapers. He often wets his bed early in the morning. Not wishing to stay in wet clothes, he takes them off and goes outside. We get up and look out the kitchen window to see him lying on our slide nekkid as a jaybird. My parents decide that the swing set will be just as well situated on the east side of the house. A black woman comes to stay with the children every day since single moms have to work. The little boy is just learning to speak and is picking up the cultural vernacular of his baby sitter. It is quite amusing to hear it coming out of the mouth of a blond toddler.

My parents play 42 with the neighbors on the east side of us. They are like an extra set of grandparents. The adults slap dominoes on the table and drink iced tea while we chase lightening bugs in the front yard. The Russians launch another satellite and we all stand out in the front yard and watch it go over. There are no streetlights and no other satellites so it is easy to spot. We are in awe of the technology. I get the feeling that the adults are uneasy about it. I’m not sure why.

Kennedy runs for office and the adults are concerned because he is a Catholic. I am not sure what a Catholic is but it has something to do with telling everything you do to a priest and not being baptized. Makes no sense to me. We are eight miles out of Greenville. Every time we go to buy groceries or anything else, we pass under a sign that says, “Welcome to Greenville, the Blackest Land and the Whitest People.” I don’t even know what color Catholics are. Could they be red, yellow, black or white? Are they precious in His sight like the song we sing in Sunday school says? The only black people I have ever seen are the woman who baby sits next door and the ones who show up to work the cotton fields. They seem OK to me. The only brown people I know come once a year to do the same thing. They stay in a house that faces the gravel road behind us and for a few weeks, I have a playmate named Gloria who is the same age as me. She may be Catholic for all I know.


Hel said...

This is such a fascinating look into a live so different from all I know.

Your words paint such a clear unjudgmental picture.

seventh sister said...

hel, I looked at your profile and saw that you are only 3 years older than my oldest child. Also, rural Texas during the'50s and '60s has to have been a a world away from where you are. It seems like a world away from rural Texas now. Thanks for stopping by.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Wow, this is great. Like being there. You seem to have total recall of the sights and smells of the place you grew up, as well as a remarkable ability to bring it to life for those with very different histories.

My father was also quite worried about Kennedy's Catholicism because "they have to tell everything to the Pope, and such a person clearly cannot be trusted with State secrets."

I was pretty sure he only had to tell his personal secrets, but didn't dare to contradict our household God.

I think you should expand this piece into a memoir, if you are not already doing so.

seventh sister said...

I am just finding my voice about my childhood and the area in which I grew up. I think you have to get out into the wide world and meet people of all different backgrounds to see how unique each one of us really is and how our expereince differs from others. It is by seeing this contrast that I am gaining perspective. As for it becoming a memoir, I amnot putting that much pressure on it right now. It will be what it will be.
Thanks for your confidence.

lizgwiz said...

Very evocative writing. Nice.

sexy said...
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