Carthage, Deep East Texas

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.


A Day in East Texas

I drove down to Texas to help Bill’s Ma recuperate after surgery, but she rested after breakfast, which gave me time to bump along with Pa on Bill’s Ranger through the back woods. The crisp wind in my face, I saw deer’s white tails disappear into the pine trees, and a dozen tiny swallows, scared out of the bushes, fan across the road.  Around the bend a coyote streaked across the road in front of us.  A mighty fine morning, as Pa said, even if the ground was a bit muddy from the recent rain.

We went to check the wild hog traps, and, although Pa hadn’t caught one in months, sure enough, there it was, an almost grown pig stomping ‘cause he just lost his freedom.  He didn’t know he’d soon be losing more than his freedom for destroying Pa’s nice smooth pasture. We drove back home where Pa got his rifle and I got my camera.  I’m not squeamish, haven’t been since learning to skin chickens on daddy’s farm as a girl, but I looked the other way before the gun went off.

Pa chained the hog to the Ranger and drug the animal over the soft ground about half a mile to the barn. “They’re always bigger ‘n they look,” Pa said. This nearly 150 pound beast looked big enough to me. Ma, her arm in a sling, came out to see the corpse before Pa strung it up for skinning and butchering. An old boar might have got dumped in a ditch, but this young one would be good eating. That’s how it is in East Texas.

Back at the house, I cooked chicken soup for Ma, 75 years old, Pa the hog butcher, 87, and Aunt Peggy somewhere up there.  Aunt Peggy sat for hours doing word search puzzles. Wish I could be as content. During the older folks’ naptime, I took the Ranger over to the cabin Pa built from pine wood cut on his saw mill.  A hawk swooped down from the clouds and landed on a nearby pine limb. I sat on the porch swing and then put flowers on the “settee” I bought so Bill and I could have coffee outside sometime.  I’m trying to figure out how to decorate the place with a distressed look, but then, it might not need much more distressing. It looks fine to me.

I hurried back to help with supper.  We went to bed early, but Pa’s polka music  played until late in the night.  Since I had to wake up at 5:30 for Ma to show me how to make sour dough biscuits for breakfast, I decided to stick around for nap time the next day.  Just hope Ma doesn’t get well too soon ‘cause then I’ll have to go back to Oklahoma. Don’t tell Bill I said life in Texas is good.


Carthage, Texas


The famous East Texas pine trees

I’m still looking for the perfect place to sit and write. This is a cabin in Carthage, Texas. Bill’s pa is building it, even taking the lumber from the trees on his land and cutting them on his 100 year old saw mill. Did I say he was over 80 years old! The cabin sits on about 40 acres of beautiful pine tree covered property. That will work!