Things to do in West Texas
My friend Jack Messenger recently wrote a blog on Tennyson. That blog reminded me of my grandfather who was raised on a ranch in West Texas. (Hold your horses and I’ll get to Tennyson.)
My grandfather used to tell us great stories from his growing up days in the early twentieth century.
We’d ask, “What did you do when you were little, Poppy?”
And in his deep bass voice, he would tell us the things to do in West Texas in the teens and 20’s.
“Well, we had chores, collecting eggs and sweeping the porch, we had school, and we helped work. But in our spare time we did all sorts of things. One thing, we liked to go down to the gate at the road and wait and count the cars that passed in a day. Sometimes we counted two or three.
“Another thing was to watch the big red ants come in and out of their hole carrying things. We’d give them things to carry and had to be careful they didn’t bite us.
“Then there was playing with marbles. I had a great collection, including a big old blue taw, that’s the one used to hit the little ones. We’d draw a circle in the dirt, clear the rocks out, and play. I won a lot, but my brother was four years younger.
“When we got tired of marbles, we’d roll wooden hoops. We’d throw the hoop out to roll, and run after it, keeping it going by hitting it with a stick.
“My brother and I also had horses and rode them around to check on our traps which caught ringtails and such. We’d skin ‘em and cure them and sell them, saving the money to go to college. I saved a lot.”
At this point in the tales, as a little girl, it was usually time for me to visit the bathroom, but as there was only one, and it was often occupied by someone else, I’d run to the little house next door.
That bathroom held something else to do in West Texas: read.
For that little house had been where my great, great-grandmother had lived. She was an Englishwoman who had emigrated from England to West Texas. She loved Alfred Lord Tennyson’s work and had posted his Crossing the Bar on the wall in the bathroom just across from the toilet. One sat on the throne over the waters and read that Tennyson again and again (someone laminated it at one point).
Tennyson must have given my great, great-grandmother sustenance out there in the wind and the dust, so far removed from all. As did her favorite grandson, my grandfather, whose name of course was Alfred.
Crossing the Bar