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They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

At Schneiderís Store
you can go home again

by Lois Zook Wauson
Something keeps drawing me back to Schneiderís Store, the little filling station on FM 541 at Dewees in the southwest part of Wilson County. It has been there for over 80 years.

I think I feel attached to the store because it is the only business or school left in that part of the county that I remember from 75 years ago. Before television and Internet came in, it was the era of small farmers living out there, and small schools that were the meeting places for all the families in that part of the county. Now the small farmer is a thing of the past.

I read a book called ďYou Canít Go Home AgainĒ. Thomas Wolfe wrote that you canít go home again, but he also wrote: ďSome things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen. The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air--these things will never change.Ē He is right - some things never change.

Schneiderís store is the only link to my past when we lived on a 100-acre farm by Kasper School west of Poth on the road, and that store is still standing and in business today! All the schools have been torn down and mesquite brush and cactus is all that is there on the site of Kasper School. You canít even see the old cistern that sat near the school. Eight years ago, I was out there and the cistern was still there. And a barren field is all than remains on the site of Dewees School across the road from Schneiderís Store.

I visited with Alene Pawelek, the owner, who bought the store and land around it, from Helen Schneider in 1997. She first met Miss Helen when she would come with a group of friends from the Catholic Church in Poth, after mass on Saturday night. Miss Helen was going to sell the place, so Alene put her name in the hat with three other persons who wanted to buy it too. They had more money than she did, so she didnít think she would get it. Alene Pawelek was the one Miss Helen chose to buy the store. But Miss Helen owned and operated Schneiderís Store for over 65 years.

During cotton ginning season the old cotton gin was a busy place with wagons pulled up and in line with their loads of cotton waiting to be ginned and baled. Miss Helen would begin in the early morning cooking up big pots of stew or chili. The farmers could come in the store all day long to get a bowl of stew or chili for 50 cents and a bottle of soda pop for 5 cents. Also she would cut up cheese and sausage and weigh it on a scale and sell it with soda crackers for $1. It was a full meal! I am sure the old timers still around that part of county remembers those days!

DeWees TX - Girls on bales of cotton

Alene gave me copies of pictures that Miss Helen gave to her. The accompanying pictures are of two little girls sitting on bales of cotton at the gin. They look like little girls perhaps in the 30ís. Perhaps someone recognizes who the girls are. The other picture is one that was taken in front the store by the old gas pumps. There is a little girl on the right who seems to be sitting down playing - with her back turned to the camera. Perhaps she was too shy for the camera. It would be interesting to hear if anyone knows these children.

DeWees TX - gas station old photo

But John Steinbeck wrote, ďThomas Wolfe said you canít go home again, because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memoriesĒ.

Schneiders is still open for business today. Oil field workers come there to get gas and eat lunch. Alene serves hamburgers and sandwiches to the workers sitting at the counter or the tables.

I sat there that day and the store was the same. Same old floor, same counter, still the same size, except Miss Helen enlarged the back room and put in a few more tables. The front part still feels the same as it was in the 40's when Daddy brought us in and while he drank a beer and talked to old friends, we were treated to an ice cream cone. Alene still serves ice cream cones. So that day, my brother and I got two chocolate cones as we left.

Thomas Wolfe was right about one thing: Some things never change and I felt like I had come home again.

© Lois Zook Wauson
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
September 2, 2015 Guest Column

Lois Zook Wauson's book "Rainy Days and Starry Nights' (2004) is a collection of her stories about growing up in South Texas during the 1930s and 40s.

Floresville, Texas

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