Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Parade

My grandparents lived in the tiny town of Pecan Gap, Texas. (That is pronounced pucahn, not pee can.) There was a main street just one block long lined on one side with a feed store, grocery store, a dry goods store, a washateria and a gas station. My great aunt owned and ran the washateria. It had washing machines with no tops. You ran you clothes through wringers consisting of two big rollers placed nest to each other. They looked a lot like overgrown pasta machines. My great uncle owned the gas station. It had one of those tall pumps with the glass globe on top.

On the other side of the main street sat the post office and the local garage as the mechanics shop was called. Between them was the croquet court. It was the men’s place. In most of the little towns around, the men gathered at the feed store or the domino hall, but in Pecan Gap, it was the croquet court. Women did not even like to walk by on that side of the street. They crossed in front of the post office if they needed to go there. I don’t think they were afraid. They just felt extremely unwelcome.

There was another grocery store at the north end of the street where it made a sharp curve to the east. At the south end, it made a sharp curve to the west. Just past this curve sat on old arts and crafts bungalow. It had at one time had beautiful gardens but no one had taken care of them for years and now they were overgrown with bushes and vines. The house appeared to be abandoned. However, it was inhabited by an old man who had become the town hermit and a small flock of peafowl.

In order to lure people into town on Saturdays, the local merchants decided to pool a small amount of money each week and have a drawing for it. This was done at four o’clock sharp and you had to be present to win. If you had ever put you name in the hat, it stayed there unless you died. (It may have been in there anyway, but I am sure they did not call the names of the deceased. They most likely threw the slip of paper away so that they would not accidentally draw it again.) The town was always full off people just before four o’clock. They would be sitting on cars, standing on the sidewalks and crowding the streets. Everyone was waiting for the drawing. I was waiting for something else. Some Saturdays, the air would be pierced with a jarring screech. The crowds would part to make way for the parade of the peafowl. The largest male would spread his tail and lead his strutting flock right down the middle of the main street until they became startled and scattered on the way back home. Although I once won four dollars in the drawing, it was nowhere near as exciting to me as the peacock parades.

When I was seven years old, my grandparents bought the old bungalow. They cleaned up the garden and made a proper yard of it. I don’t exactly remember what became of the peafowls. I remember that they looked for someone to take them several miles away because it is well known that once peafowl establish a place as home, they own it and must be taken far away or they will return.

The same cannot necessarily be said for the human species. In 1910, the Gap as we called it, had 600 residents and seventeen businesses. The railroad removed its tracks in the 80's.It has had a steady delcine of population with only 214 in 2000. I don't know if there are any peafowl or not.

Peacock photoo from


heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a fascinating vignette. I really love your stories, and also peafowl.
You are able to portray small town life so beautifully.

By the way, I just did the exercise for which you tagged me.

Hel said...

What a funny sad story.

seventh sister said...

Thanks for your comments, Heart. I'm really stretching back to my earliest memories for this stuff.

Hel, I had to think about what might be construed as sad. It is definately a picture of small town life that has gone away as this country has become more mobile. Most people who live in these little towns now drive to a larger town for work. They also do their shopping in the larger places. I wonder if the railroad execs are thinking that they abandonded some of these routes too soon. The tracks were taked out long before NAFTA which has had a big impact on rail use.

Taexalia said...

I love reading your memories. When I was a child we also had those wringers. I remember my Granma carrying the washing basket to the barn to wring the clothes and then carrying them to the garden to hang them. I have a horrible feeling that croft has been covered in concrete and turned into houses now but I'd rather not find out because I prefer the memories :)