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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Good Day for a Story"
"Good Day for a Story"

Back home in It-lee, Texas, USA
by Jeanne Moseley
Photos by Bill Ward
As we pulled out of my driveway, I settled back in the soft leather seat of his California Cadillac. Today he was making good on a promise to share Ellis County memories with me, and I was raring to go. So with the tape recorder strategically placed between us, this longtime family friend and I were off to explore parts of his past in Italy, Milford and Forreston -- all small towns in Ellis County, Texas.

He left his hometown of Italy just two weeks after graduating from high school, and while he has returned home now and then over the years, this was the first time in more than 25 years that he had stopped to remember.

His career in radio broadcasting took him to Dallas, Louisville, Providence, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and then back to Los Angeles, where he became well known as a premier broadcaster. As a young boy on Italy's Ward Street, his favorite pastime was listening to Gene Autry's radio show, and he dared to dream that one day he would go on to manage this cowboy star's radio empire and become one of his closest advisors.
Italy Texas fire station
Italy Fire Department
Photo by Bill Ward
I made every attempt to help him acclimate to the local lingo and navigate the 3-way stop signs. I reminded him that Italy is the name of the European country, but here at home, the town is pronounced "It-lee."

"Oh, yes," he said with a slight giggle. And it all started coming back to him.

Using his luxury car like an all-terrain vehicle, we'd pull off the highway onto dirt roads whenever necessary. We drove past Italy's Fire Station, which was just a couple of blocks from the house where he had lived with his grandparents, and then we began to ramble through the roads of this small, rural town.

An avid photographer, he found lots of "photo ops" -- one which included a "saddle swing" hanging from a tree branch. Then we came upon a pile of rubble where an old home once stood, to which he commented: "There goes the neighborhood!"
saddle swing in Italy Texas
A saddle swing
Photo by Bill Ward
He pointed to one house and then another, sharing names and memories of growing up in this close-knit community, but all the while making it clear he was only here for a short visit.

I think it's safe to say we were the only ones in town that Monday afternoon discussing the viewpoints of Carl Jung and Thomas Wolfe, all of which made me thirsty for a Dairy Queen cherry Coke.

His comments went something like, "All rural farm towns look the same." And "A little nostalgia goes a long way." And I wondered what he thought of folks like me -- those who'd stayed and carved out a life with one foot grounded by history the other tapping its way into the future.

But we were having too much fun for serious questions, and besides, what really counts is that both of us understand the emotion behind John Denver's words, "Hey, it's good to be back home again."


September, 2001
Copyright 2001 Jeanne Moseley


Readers' Comments:
I was born in milford texas and was familiar with italy. I used to go to the movie in italy on the interurban (because we had no movie). My brother (Dick Murray)ran a radio repair shop in earl shives drug store. If anyone remembers me - please write. - Flora Murray (Henderson), 27/Apr/2002, Email : flo_h_2001@yahoo.com

Italy, Texas
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