Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Post by Betty Barlow

My Daddy died from contracting Bulbar Polio during the horrible polio epidemic just a week before Christmas in 1952.  Mama loaded up her 1949 green Dodge with all her earthly possessions, including her three kids with chicken pox, to make the trip from Lubbock to Punkin Center, a small cluster of farms about five miles outside of Early, Texas, on Highway 183..   My grandmother’s farm would be our new home. This was the place my mother spent her entire life, my grandmother, too, for that matter.  My Daddy grew up on the adjacent farm.

Ma lived in the big house.  Her oldest son, my Uncle Sam, was paraplegic from a broken neck, from a football injury he got playing football at Daniel Baker College (now Howard Payne) when my mother was 12.  Ma tended Uncle Sam’s every need for 34 years, until his death in 1968.  Ma’s second son was killed on Wake Island during WWII.  

Ma grew her own vegetables and had cows providing meat, milk and butter.  She had laying chickens and pigs.  She bartered for most things she needed, and leased some of her land for grazing.  She shared everything with us.

The house we moved into was a one-room, unpainted clapboard shack with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling and no running water.  We used the outhouse out back. There were no screens and when the windows were open, the curtains blew in and out on the breeze.  Mama put up a calendar, nailed some of our artwork to the wall and put a few pictures of Daddy scattered around as d├ęcor.  

The kitchen was along one wall of the house and consisted of open shelving to hold the few groceries and dishes, a small table with four chairs, and a wood-burning stove for cooking which also served as the only source of heat in the winter months. I guess we were poor, but we didn’t know it.

Mama bathed us in an old tin washtub filled with water she carried from the stock tank out back.  That stock tank was not only our fishing and swimming hole, but also the watering hole for all the wild life around, as well as my grandmother’s old milk cow. 

The room had three feather beds, one for Mama, one for my brother, and one for my sister and me to share.  Being the littlest, I got to sleep by the wall with a window.  I loved that window.  I lay my pillow on the sill on the hot Texas nights so I could look outside.  I could see a million stars and wondered if Heaven was on one of them.  I could see the shadow of the old mesquite tree, dancing in the moonlight.  I heard all the sounds of a Texas country farm, the old barn owl hooting, the katydids in the tree, the frogs in the stock tank, and the distant sound of train whistles.  My favorite sound was the song that the old windmill made.  It was a humming lullaby, of sorts, to send me to sleep.
The windmill was probably the most expensive piece of equipment on the farm.  I know it was the most useful.  Mama’s dad was a well man and built it himself, and it was the best in all of Brown County on the day it was built.  It not only gave that precious, life-sustaining water, but electricity for the big house before the days of the REA, Rural Electric Association.  Granddaddy had built their house out of the red rocks of the land near the front of the property.  He and my grandmother were raising three sons and expecting my mother when a well accident in Coleman County took his life.

The old windmill stood proud in the front pasture as a monument to my grandfather.  Her wooden tower was tall with many sets of crossbars, making it easy for small legs to climb to the platform near the top where the blades were attached to the wheel.  The vane told us which way the wind was blowing.  When we went with Mama to fill the buckets with drinking water each day, she reminded us not to climb on the tower as it was too dangerous for children, but we were indestructible.  Besides, you could see forever from up there!

The old windmill had a personality all her own.  Sometimes she screamed as if in agony when the wind blew too hard.  She moaned when the weather got too cold.  This is when my grandmother would put a bonnet on her head and wrap a quilt around her shoulders and trek down to the windmill to tie it off so the blades could not turn.  She made sure the pump was turned off so as to not burn up the engine and threw the quilt she had been wearing over the well head so it would not freeze.  It was very quiet on those nights, much too quiet to fall fast to sleep.  I missed the humming.  The only thing I could hear was the creaking of the tower.  That made me sad.

By the late ‘50s, “city water”, as my grandmother called it, came to the farm.  It was time to retire the old windmill.   That old windmill is a symbol that good things come from hard work and that anybody can have a song in your soul, even when you’re old and tired.  I guess that’s why I love windmills to this day. 

I have taken trips back to my grandmothers’ farm and shot a few photos to enhance my memories.  Things change.  The old shack has had its porches closed in to make additional rooms.  The big house has been fitted with energy efficient windows, vinyl siding, and a new roof.  The old windmill no longer stands.  I guess all things change in sixty plus years, I remember fondly the songs Ma sang and the lessons she taught.  My memories are those of a simpler time in rural Texas in the early 1950s.  These will never change.

Photos courtesy of Betty Barlow


Judy Johnson said...
Beautiful story, Betty.  My husband's bamily was from Blanket.  His aunt by marriage still lives in the little house his grandfather built.  His grandmother lived there till she did in late 70s, still heating water to take a bath.  

Wanda Bryan said...
Really touched my heart.  The best fruit springs from humble ground.  Let to memories of my early childhood...from 3rd grade San Antonio.  Very different environment, but poitnant memories lasting almost a lifetime.  

Anonymous said...
Fascinating. Really puts our current times in perspective. 


Wanda Bryan said...

Really touched my heart. The best fruit springs from humble ground. Led to memories of my early childhood...from 3rd grade on in San Antonio. Very different environment, but poignant memories lasting almost a lifetime. Wanda Bryan

Judy Johnson said...

Beautiful story, Betty. My husband's family was from Blanket. His aunt by marriage still lives in the little house his grandfather built. His grandmother lived there till she died in late 70s, still heating water to take a bath.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. Really puts our current times in perspective.