Carthage, Texas, population 6,779, lies in deep East Texas where I’ve been staying to help Ma after her surgery. Thunder rolls across the sky and lightning flashes through the curtains which calls for sleeping in, but about 6 a.m. I hear Ma’s wake-up radio playing country music, something like “Blue Jean Girl.” She only has two volumes, and with Ma rocking in the other room, I know it’s time to pull out her sour dough “starter.” She still can’t lift the 2-ton cast iron skillet with her right arm, and since I’m here to help, I get up to practice making sour dough biscuits again. Guess they’ve eaten biscuits while watching the Texas sunrise for more than forty years now.
Pa starts a fire, bringing in logs from the wood he chopped and stacked on the front porch. He sits down in front of the TV, updating himself on the world, the weather, and the war. He’s very interested in the military talk since he was in WWII. At the same time, Ma turns on the local KGAV station to find out if she recognizes anyone who died or got a DUI the previous night. There was a bad 18-wheeler accident carrying cooking oil right outside of Carthage and I heard the radio comment, “There’s enough oil out here to cook all the catfish in Panola County.”
Speaking of catfish, we didn’t get to go fishing this week, but Ma probably has enough in the freezer to feed all 6,779 Carthage citizens.
Every day this week, Pa and I rode the wheeler to check the hog traps (no more wild hogs caught yet!) and stopped at the cabin he built to add to his old timer’s collection. A horse shearer, a froe mallet, a hay bale hook, and a knuckle buster hang on a wall in the pine-covered breezeway. There’s more – like a sadiron, a washer plunger, and a children’s cotton weight. The weight was used to weigh cotton picked and I guess children had a lighter weight. The display is topped off with a single tree harness for a mule (not to be mistaken for a double tree harness used for two mules). A butter churn and slop bucket sit elsewhere, along with many other artifacts. Pa would love to explain their significance if you want to mosey on down and take a gander. It’s an unusual collection. (I didn’t mention the rat trap, or the calf rope Pa wanted to hang from the ceiling as a noose – which didn’t seem wise.)
One of Pa’s proudest trophies is his grist mill. I must admit I didn’t know what it was, but Pa took a handful of dried corn, dropped it in a funnel, and turned a handle. Viola. Corn meal. Said a man could have made a living making corn meal. I’m amazed at the trappings of the prior century.
I haven’t seen more deer, but a Texas longhorn grazed across the street, and mocking birds and blue jays scattered as I drove around.
The evening fog settled round the trees at the cabin and the mood took my breath away. God knows how to make beautiful. Buried in the tall pine trees, the cabin is built for a hermit, and if I’m still missing from Oklahoma in a week or two, I’m probably hiding down here in East Texas making sour dough biscuits and grinding cornmeal.