I posted one of these shots several years ago and promised to say more about it later, but after some thought I realized I didn’t know what to say. So I let it go.
Now, however, is the time.
The photos were taken at the Dishman Museum on the Lamar University campus in Beaumont, Texas, where David and I attended the Boomtown Film and Music Festival for a screening of one of his videos. We walked into the Dishman to register and found this piece of Art looming over us. It reached out and pulled my camera from its bag. I began snapping.
By No machine-readable author provided. Johntex~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons
Remember when Murphy Brown and her colleagues cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter, and Miles brought in a bunch of live turkeys in his BMW (nobody had specified they were to be ready for the oven, and on arrival the inside of the BMW was not in good shape), and the turkeys ran all around the kitchen, and no one wanted to kill them anyway, and the turkeys refused to stick their heads in the oven so Murphy could turn on the gas (her suggestion)?
I don’t know what happened next. I was laughing at the turkeys and couldn’t pay attention. All I remember is the whole thing slid downhill fast.
The Cottonwood community lay along Cottonwood Creek, Guadalupe County, across the San Marcos River from Fentress, Texas. The photograph above was taken at the Cottonwood School Reunion in–I believe–the 1930s. The people I know are identified in the caption. Some of the other surnames represented are probably Gregg, Rector, Daniels, Ward, and Fleming. I would be grateful for help in identifying individuals I don’t recognize. (The faces here aren’t exactly clear, but more of these pictures are out there in albums and attics, so if you find one with IDs, share the info, please?)
The picture was taken in front of the skating rink at the Fentress Resort. The skating rink now resides on Hwy 183 just south of Lockhart. It looks a lot smaller now than it did when it was in its proper home on the bank of the river.
I believe my grandfather, Frank Waller, is wearing a necktie. That didn’t happen often, at least when I was around.
In the caption, I note that Maurice Waller is partially hidden. I knew he was in the photo but had difficulty finding him until I realized he had to be beside Aunt Bettie. He was always beside Aunt Bettie. And partially hidden would have suited him just fine.
“Judge Dunne proposed and you refused him? Minna, I’ve been sewing your trousseau since Christmas. You said you had him hook, line, and sinker.”
I did say that. But during six months of parlor-sitting with Milroy Dunne, I started thinking about Papa. When he was Colonel Veazey of the Texas Militia, he took the whole family to the war down in Cuba.
Milroy would never measure up to Papa. Marrying him would be like marrying a legal brief.
In June, Judge Dunne and I were outside watching fireflies when he dropped to one knee. I helped him up and told him I was taking my new teaching certificate and heading west.
“Don’t worry, Mama,” I said. “The Judge will survive. And I’ll be the best-dressed teacher west of the Pecos.”
As it happened, I was the best-dressed anything west of the Pecos. Around Wrangle, Texas, at least. Tea gowns didn’t serve for mopping floors or comforting a child with a revolted stomach. White linen didn’t serve for battling Harvey Lubeck.
Harvey was sixteen, too old for school but he’d been kept back. He was smart but idle. He proposed to drive me crazy.
Not overtly, of course. Dirt in the water bucket. A snake in Imogene Culpepper’s desk. Ink spilled on the floor, a permanent stain. A string of disasters, and Harvey’s blue eyes always twinkling from across the room.
Then one day he asked to be excused. Suspicious, I followed. He disappeared behind the boys’ privy and returned carrying the biggest, nastiest vinegarroon I ever saw.
“You hellion.” I grabbed his ear and dragged him inside, vinegarroon and all.
“Bend over.” I unhooked the board of education from its peg and whacked him three times on his backside. Then I stood panting, my knees all wobbly.
Harvey’s lower lip trembled. “You’ll git it now, Miss Petticoats. My daddy’ll fix you.” He tore out of the building.
“His daddy’s mean,” said Imogene.
After school, as usual, I swept and straightened. Then I sat down to wait.
Two hours later, I heard hoof beats. I was alone in a gray waste of cenizo and prickly pear.
When I heard boots ascending the steps, I willed myself to stand and hold my head high.
A burly, red-haired man opened the door. “You the one whupped my boy?”
He lumbered up the aisle, then stopped and removed his sweat-stained hat. “Ma’am, I thank you for what you done. Boy’s been needin’ a good whuppin’.”
He stuck out his hand. We shook.
“Harvey says you’re pretty as the Jersey Lily. We seen her when she come through Langtry a few years back. B’lieve Harvey’s right.” He put his hat back on. “You keep that boy in line, now. Make him act proper.”
Nodding, he headed for the door.
I sank onto my chair.
When my hands stopped quivering, I took up pen and paper and began: “Dear Judge Dunne.”
According to Mama’s last letter, the Judge was still pining.
“Minna” first appeared in Chaos West of the Pecos, vol. 15 (2011), under the title “A Day in the Life of a One-room School Teacher.”
Image of Lillie Langtry by John Everett Millais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Let’s get one thing out of the way: The little white flakes you see floating across the screen don’t mean a visit to the ophthalomologist is in order.
They’re snowflakes, courtesy of WordPress. After January 4, they’ll disappear. If our weather doesn’t change radically, they will be the only snowflakes most Central Texans see this year.
We’re finally getting some 50- and 60-degree weather during the day. It was supposedly in the 40s when I left home early this morning. It’s now back down to 48.
I didn’t hear the forecast, so I don’t know whether to expect William and Ernest to sleep with us tonight. If the temperature dips into the 30s, the bed will be crowded.
One day last week, we had a high of 87, which I consider excessive even in summer. After a day like that, the cats won’t even sleep in the same room with the humans.
This being Texas, of course, nothing is certain. To quote the adage, “If you don’t like the Texas weather, just wait.” Christmas Day could bring icy streets and frozen water pipes, but we could as easily be running the air conditioning. Been there, done both. And no matter how much I grouse about the heat, I prefer AC to frozen plumbing. But most of my Christmases have fallen somewhere in between.
When it does snow–as it did two consecutive Christmases in the mid-80s, measuring twelve inches when packed and iced over–things stop. Most natives don’t know how to drive on snow and ice, and automobiles aren’t equipped for it. Road maintenance crews do what they can, but they’re not equipped to deal with streets and roads that need attention perhaps once in five or six years. It’s safer to keep drivers at home.
I speak from experience. When I was a college senior, I hit a patch of ice and ended up in a ditch facing the wrong direction. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I landed right across the four-lane lightly-traveled (that morning) highway from my father’s workplace. He didn’t appear surprised when I straggled in wearing a sheepish smile. Having driven from Normandy to Cologne under less-than-ideal road conditions, he calmly drove the car out of the ditch filled with slick Johnson grass, and twelve miles later deposited me at the bottom of College Hill. Getting up the hill to comparative anatomy was my problem.
The fact that I remember that incident is significant. It’s the only driving-on-ice story I have.
But this far south, we like to pretend. News anchors and meteorologists (I’d rather write weathermen, but I won’t) speculate on the possibility of a white Christmas. We sing “White Christmas.” Shoppers trudge through malls to the strains of “Sleigh Ride,” “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland,” and “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” We hang tinsel on fir trees to simulate icicles and put cut-outs of snowmen on lawns. We do much of this wearing cotton t-shirts.
Our friends Greg and Maryellen have the right idea. They bring a cactus plant in from the patio and string it with lights.
When we get all excited at the prospect of a white Christmas, they smile and let us talk.
They’re from Ohio. They know exactly what we’re talking about.
My high school English teacher read the Day 7 post, the one in which I wrote that she told students we had important and relevant things to say.
That is the problem with blogging. At some point, you make a remark, a perfectly innocent remark, and the person you remarked about happens across it and reads it and calls you on it. Especially if you link the post to Facebook, and that person is one of your friends.
Anyway, said English teacher (who taught me in grades 8, 10, 11, and 12, so you see what we were both up against) asked whether she really said relevant and important, or whether she said, “Hush up and write.”
I admit it. “Hush up and write” was more her style.
And I really went overboard with relevant. I don’t think anyone I knew said relevant. It was one of those television words, ubiquitous and meaningless. The curriculum wasn’t relevant. School wasn’t relevant.
Relevant isn’t complete in itself. It needs something more. Relevant to what? And in whose opinion?
The 60s didn’t get to my part of Texas until late. And being as contrary then as I am now, I rebelled against the rebellion.
According to my husband, people should never send e-mails they wouldn’t want Ted Koppel to read on the air. David is correct. That goes for Facebook and blogs and all media, I’m sure.
Although I agree with his policy, however, I don’t follow it. Anyone who has read this blog knows that.
My one hope is that any potential employer who googles me and reads my work understands self-deprecating humor.
In other words, I’m neither as dumb nor as ditsy as I portray myself. Fiction is fiction and fact is fact, and in between there is irony.
If hired, I will be on time, work through breaks and lunch and do overtime, meet deadlines, take a personal interest in my work, and play well with others. I will spell correctly and use the serial comma. And I will not write about you on my blog.
I’ve been thinking about starting every post with that paragraph. Especially the post about my hereditary tendency to burn toast.
Although I write about my flaws, or pseudo-flaws, I am a private person. I want to choose what I tell and when and to whom. I don’t appreciate Facebook’s rabid desire to help me extend my social circle. I really really don’t appreciate Facebook’s sharing my information and not telling me, or making it difficult for me to lock down information I don’t want to share with people I don’t know.
There are days when I would like to close the account completely–as if that were possible, given FB’s determination not to delete it–but I’m in too deep. Closing out of FB would be like disconnecting both the telephone and the television. I don’t use either appliance very often, but giving them up would put me completely out of the loop.
No more pictures of Kenna wearing her little pink hat and grinning.
No more surprise messages from students I haven’t seen in years.
I’ve had the good fortune to “connect” with two women I first knew when they students. They were back-to-back winners of the Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest, Young Adult Division. One has signed a book contract with a publisher. The other recently signed with an agent.
When their books come out, I’ll be jumping up and down.
I hope the high school from which they graduated will honor them by inviting them back to speak to current students. I hope the elementary and middle schools do the same.
I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.
Let me say that again.
I hope the school district makes a BIG DEAL of their accomplishments.
Not for the writers’ sake, but for the sake of children who need to see that telling stories is important, that publishing a book is an event to be celebrated, that kids who once sat in those same classrooms grew up to be writers.