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Moving Up To The Main Road

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
My mother and father married during the early 1930's and times were severely hard in those years. The US economy was flat busted and jobs and money were mighty hard to come by. Men were out of work every where and folks had to live off very little.

Within a few passing years, my parents had my two siblings and me. For them it was more mouths to feed during already destitute times. The most economically depressed decade ever in this country had arrived. With it's extreme poverty, it was known as the infamous Great Depression. It had actually started with the collapse of this nation's economy in 1929. The stock market plummeted and people jumped out of windows.

The first twelve years of my life were spent living in an old "shotgun" house in an Ark-La-Tex oil patch. We lived on the Rambo Oil Lease in SE Cass County, Texas, near McLeod, in the Rodessa Field. My family and me lived there without any close neighbors or relatives. Mother had left her family across the stateline in Louisiana, while undertaking the laborious task of raising her family during these most difficult times.

These were the primitive days without air conditioning, or even an electric fan. Matter of fact, electricity had only recently been brought into the area by the REA power lines.

In my earliest recollection as a small child, I can still see my mother in the simmering heat of summer, bending over a sink full of dirty dishes. She was pouring on hot water heated on top of a gas cook stove. As I, the youngest child, played around on the kitchen floor, I can still see mother weeping big tears of grief and sorrow into that old sink full of dishes. She often murmured aloud, saying, "I should have listened to my mother. Oh God! Why didn't I listen to my mother?"

For years I never knew what mother meant by that statement. My young mind envisioned that she was talking about the dirty dishes, or maybe the danger of the hot water. As I got older I came to realize she meant her mother thought Mom was too young to get married and start a family. Mother felt sad, like she was isolated and perhaps trapped in a life she had little control over at that time. Of course that made me terribly sad too. I wept silently.

Around 1949 or maybe 1950, my dad managed to buy some acreage at a very reasonable price. It was up on the main road to Atlanta. It was a county road about three miles north of our old home. He worked there every spare minute, digging a water well, planting trees and improving a spot for a house place.

In 1951, Dad managed to buy an old, old sawmill house from Grogan Lumber Company, the big lumber mill in Bivins, Texas. He had to have it moved to our new location and before he ever got it completely set up, equipped and renovated, we anxiously and prematurely moved into it. But, it was new to us and we felt "up-town", though we were still fourteen miles from Atlanta.

There in our new location we were closer to neighbors and friends. We could visit and see people once in awhile and get a taste civilization. For the first time in my life, except for school, I had some close-by neighborhood friends near my own age. We could play, ride horses, camp out, search for arrowheads and do many enjoyable things together. Oh! The joy of those boyhood escapades, I'll never forget.

My Dad did some farming on the new place and he managed to put in a very large peach orchard. He dearly loved the Alberta Peach and planted many of them. At one time, he had a boysenberry field and always cultivated an annual vegetable garden, too. We kept some cows, horses, goats and a few pigs. Mother loved fresh yard eggs and she kept a flock of laying hens nearby.

Many years later, together with my youngest son, Alton D. Maxie who was 12 or 13 at the time, I decided to revisit my "early" childhood home place. My parents were still living at the time and enjoying a much more modern lifestyle than we had at the old place.

Alton and I drove a short way and then walked a distance through the woods, back to the old Rambo Oil Lease. There we found the old "shot gun" oil field house all fallen over and rotted down. It was a very disappointing sight my memory had envisioned much differently. While reminiscing there and shuffling through the rotted debris and wreckage, I came across the old cast iron porcelain kitchen sink that my mother washed dishes in and sadly shed many tears over. I had to retrieve that old remnant of long ago.

As we departed the old place, Alton and I carried the sink out with us, back to my truck. It is made of thick cast-iron and wasn't easy to carry for half a mile, but we managed.

I still have that heavy old sink in my tool shed today. It is a very distant memory of the past. It is a piece of my history and family roots from the oil-lease in Cass County Texas.
N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" >
January 1, 2007 Column
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