A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Stories from West Texas 
by Rosemary H.  Eskridge (Apr 2009)


My cousin Walter was the same age as my younger brother, Frank, and sometimes the stories the two of the would tell would start an endless verbal competition of adventures that even Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn would have enjoyed. Now, when you add more cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters, in-laws and extended members of a family several tape recorders and a host of stenographers couldn’t catch all the Whirling Dervish.

My Aunt Lerline died on Valentine’s Day and about twenty- or thirty (whose counting) of us were back at her home after the funeral and as usual I was sitting on the couch with my laptop on my lap trying to keep up with all the stories that were literally whirling through the air. As I listened, I remember that this part of my family loved Country and Western Music often getting together, telling stories, play guitars, the accordion and singing along. Uncle Harlie had played the accordion which resulted in both my sister and I learning to play the accordion.  Uncle Harlie and my mom were brother and sister and our families never got together without the banter of best told stories about families, school, adventures, travels and family history shared by everyone who could manage to get their story told. West Texas slang made the stories even better. Gordon and I have been working on collecting stories from every person that we have listed on our Family Group Sheets and Pedigree Charts in our own Personal Legacy Book. “Dead or Alive”, our families help us write what could be remembered.

Glenn, Walter’s brother started, “When I was in the 2nd grade I had a girlfriend named “Joan.” Dad had started tooling leather as a hobby and I asked him if he would make her a leather belt with her name on it. Unfortunately, when he made it, it turned out backwards and upside down. So, Dad had to remake it. Unfortunately for us four kids, Mom took possession of the original belt that was made wrong, and it became the belt of choice to discipline us with. Many a time, all it took was for Mom to say, “I’m going to get Joan after you!’ to get our attention. Needless to say, my relationship with Joan went sour after that”.

Now Walter, couldn’t let that get by without his favorite story “The Shoe.” Walter began, “At age ten or eleven, mother bought me a pair of vinyl loafers my uncle Curly was selling. One night I went to the Esquire Theater on Washington Street. I got to the movies and took a front row seat because everyone wanted to sit on the front row. Five minutes into the show I went to the concession and bought some M & Ms. I proceeded back to my seat, opened the candy and started to fling them up one at a time to catch them in my mouth. Along comes the usher who just said “Let’s Go.” Well, I knew what that mean: “Thrown out again!” 

            I couldn’t call mother and tell her I’d been kicked out of the movies again, so being summer months and warm, I just hung around outside the movie theater. I got board and noticed June Bugs on the walkway. I decided I would see how far I could punt one of these bugs. Well I reared back and gave a kick, and launched not only the June bug, and the vinyl shoe flew right off my foot and crashed into the overhead marquee and busted two or three of those little long neon tubes lights.

            Of course, my shoe landed right next to the door where the usher opened the door and picked up my shoe. I as trapped! The manager made me call home to tell mother what had happened. We got the money and paid for the light and the manager gave me two free tickets to “Lawrence of Arabia”. I got my shoe back along with the two free tickets”.

            Glenn retorted, “I remember camping one year and there was this squirrel that was being particularly noisy, Mom made a comment about how annoying that squirrel was and Walt picked up a rock and threw it at the squirrel to shut him up. We were all shocked and amazed that the rock hit the squirrel and it fell out of the tree dead”.

            Walter: I remember a rather large snowstorm that visited Amarillo in the 60’s. They were coming through with the new Interstate 40. We all got our skies, inner tubes and sleds together and hit the slope. The channel four news wagon was there so I decided to make my big debut. I was at the top of the slope with the sled, standing on it. And away I went. Everything was smooth sledding until I got to the bottom of the slope. I must have tumbled two or three times. My head hurt, my pride hurt, but sure enough I made it on the 6:00 news”.

            Glenn: “I remember Dad and Mom in East Texas going to fish at Lake of the Pines. Mom was so proud to show me the 5-pound bass she had caught earlier that day. The only problem was that a snapping turtle had come along and decided to have sushi and by the time Mom showed me the trophy, all that was left was the head. She was not happy”.

            Walter: “As I and other class mates got older we became much more daring. Three or four of us would call our folks to say we were spending the night. Well that left us on the street for the night. We walked over to the Manley Drive in where we slid the window up and down until the lock sticks fell out of the window. One of our friends climbed into the window and started making cokes and handing them out. I went to school Monday bragging about the week end we had had to some other kids. Our ring leader met me at my locker, grabbed and pushed me up against the locker and said “Don’t you say another word about the weekend. All I could squeak out was a quick “Yes Sir.” Later, and through a few years, finally I told Mother about our escapade. I hate to think what would have happened, had we got caught at the time.”

            Glenn: Mom always had a great sense of humor and would often come out with the funniest one liners: like having Dad build her a “Fraidy Hole” after we were all scared out of our wits when a B-52 bomber flew so low over the house that it sounded like a tornado.”

            Walter: “Mom told me of this happening when I was three or four years old. Dad had been working on our family car for two days trying to get it to run. I guess he finally found the combination. He had it running the driveway, when I decided to put my auto techniques to work. I climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the key off. Boy, was dad upset. He spanked me for turning the key off; then when the car wouldn’t start, he spanked me again. Grandpa thought that was the funniest thing he had ever seen. But, Mother didn’t quite see that way. She was one mad MAMA.”

            “Wait”, Walter added. “In 1970 after graduation, we had had our party down at the bowling alley. After the party, we left in our friends 69 Chevy. We peeled out of the parking lot and sure enough, an officer of the law stopped us. The officer came up to the driver’s window with his ticket book out. At the same time the coach came walking up and asked “Officer, can I have a word with you?” and the officer said, “Sure”. I knew they were cooking up something. After about a minute the coach walked up to the car and said, “Phillip, I’m going to give you an ultimatum. Either the officer will write a ticket or we can square this away when we get back to the gym. Solemnly, Phillip told the coach he’d rather pay at the gym. We got back, made one big circle around Phillip and the coach and he laid ten big ones on Phillip. Ouch!!!!!!!!!

            Then Beverly another cousin had to tell about Grandmother. She laughed as she said, “When Grandmother McBride was born, the family lived in tents and whatever was available as well as the covered wagon in which they traveled. They lived around Tribbey, Oklahoma, which in 1902 was still Indian Territory. Grandmother was afraid of Indians. Once, she saw an Indian and it scared her, so she would always get in the chuck box on the wagon and hide from them. One time, while she was hiding in the Chuck box, her sister, Eldridge, put the bolt on the Chuck Box and locked her in. She was not happy about not being able to get out when she wanted.

            Aunt Cleora had to add her adventure about learning to drive. Cleora began, “My brother, Henry” at age 15 had just learned to drive and he wanted me to learn to drive so he put me in the passenger seat and he started his old car. We were about six miles from home and I scooted over in the driver’s seat and he crawled out the driver’s window onto the hood, so he could climb over and come back in the rider’s window. Well, he fell off. And here I was sitting up there going down the road and he must of run two miles before he caught me. I was just sitting up there and he had to run his little legs off. He finally caught me and stopped the car. It’s a wonder I hadn’t run in a ditch and killed myself.”

            Uncle Artie had to tell us about his friend Othel Johnson who went to the lake and gathered up mud hen eggs. Artie asked Granma McBride to cook them. Othel said he could eat six. Artie said he could eat the same. Othel decided he could eat six more. Artie could get down four, so he gave Othel his left-over two, making Othel eat fourteen mud hen eggs.

            Then back to Aunt Lenora who was over 90.  “She tells us that, “When I was about six or seven years old, we had a sled and we had the water barrel on that and the team of horses hooked on to the sled. Now my brother Henry thought it would be funny to put me over in the empty water barrel on the way to the creek. I thought everything Henry did was all right. Neither of us expected the horses to have a runaway and all the time I was in the barrel wondering what was happening. “Boy, was Papa upset when he found out.”

            These were typical of the stories told by the family before they would get out the guitars and then they would sing songs for the rest of the evening.

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