|There's an old oak tree on the SW corner of the courthouse square of the little town of Comanche, TX where I grew up. When the town-site was being cleared about the year 1850 & this tree was about to be cut, an old man known as 'Uncle' Mart Fleming appeared & told of being chased by Indians a few years back. He said he was able to escape by climbing the tree & hiding in the upper branches. With his double-barreled coach gun nestled in the crook of his elbow, he proclaimed, 'That tree saved my life & I aim to return the favor.' Well, nobody cared to carry the discussion any farther & the tree became an historic icon. |
A century later that same tree became a favorite summertime hangout for yours truly as a boy while Dad & Mom conducted business at their real estate office across the street. Under the shade of the spreading branches, farmers parked their trucks & trailers & 'peddled' their fresh fruits & vegetables. Tables were set up & usually a hot game of checkers or '42' or sometimes both would ensue, takin' up from where they left off the day before. Others, young & old, gathered to visit & pass the time & catch up on the news while their wives shopped or to fill the time when they no longer worked.
Almost always, one or another would call out, 'Hey, young feller! C'mere a minute. I got all these peaches & I need somebody to test 'em & lemme know if they're ripe.' Well, I was always eager to help out & offer my expert assessment as to the quality of their product, be it peaches, melons, grapes, plums, or even sweet corn, raw on the cob. After fulfilling my inspection duties with a bite or two & rendering my verdict of 'ripe & fit to sell' I would (while, being of a thrifty nature, making sure the rest of the sample didn't go to waste) drift with chin & elbows drippin' from truck to truck, group to group, watching, listening, absorbing from the collective wisdom of this cross section of town & country as they discussed events of past & present & shared a plug of Days Work or Brown's Mule or maybe White Tag Tinsley, others puffing acrid clouds from Bull Durham, Duke's Mixture, or P.A.
'Tom, you gonna make any peanuts this year?' 'Not if we don't get some rain. I don't 'member it ever bein' so dry. I doubt I'll make 20 bushels t' th' acre. Shore is hard times.'
'I swear, them folks up in Washington don't know their a from a hole 'n the ground.' 'Well you helped put 'em there so kwitcher bit**in'.' 'I ain't. I jest don't see why we gotta be messin' around in them Koreans's bidness.' 'Huh! If we don't they's gonna be messin' in ours over here.' 'Ike'll straighten 'em out.'
'You gonna play or jest set 'n look at them spots all day?' 'Yer just pied 'cause ye can't win fer losin'. I'm plannin m' stragedy.'
'Bill, ye had that kid yet?' 'Yep, 8 lb. boy. Smartest 'n best lookin kid in th' county.' 'Huh! Musta took after his momma's side.'
'Hey Mr. Watson, how kin I free up a froze piston on thet Poppin' Johnny I got off'n Will Sims?' 'Shoulda knowed better'n to bought from him to start with. That sumbi**h been skinnin' honest folks fer a coon's age. You'll learn.'
'I'm goin' out to the sale barn 'n see iffen them weanin' calves sold. Probly have to take'm back home. With this drought, ain't nobody got 'nuff feed to carry'm through.' 'Good luck. Jest came from there. Ain't nothin' sellin'.' 'Shore is hard times.'
'My chickens 'r comin down with the limber-neck. Anybody 'member what we usta give'm?' 'Nope, but you better not drink after 'em.'
'We need to be thinkin' 'bout Widder Jones's kids. Heard she's mighty low. Somebody's gonna hafta take 'em. Ain't got no family.' 'Reckon we'll all pitch in when the time comes.'
'What y'all think that ol' Perkins place is worth?' 'Probly git it fer next to nothin'. Land's played out. Creek's gone dry.' 'Shore is hard times.'
'Ya'll gonna git one a them new tee vees they got over in Hathcock's winder?' 'He**! Ain't nobody got that kinda money 'cept doctors 'n lawyers 'n stuff. 'Sides my wife's uncle up to Ft. Worth got one & we tried to watch ol Rocky Marciano & Ezzard Charles fight & couldn't tell who whupped who with all the snow. Shore is a marvel how they can send a picture through the air though.' 'Oh phshaw!! It's jest one a them fads. It'll never go over.'
'I gotta find out what's colick'n them horses in my bottom pasture. Had two more this week.' 'Take 'ol Uncle Lige out there. He's a pure wonder when it comes to plants 'n yarbs 'n stuff. He can probly witch that well fer ye while he's there iff'n they's any water left in the ground with this drought.'
'Looky there at ol Jim in that new Studebaker he bought with the money his daddy left 'im. Ain't that somethin'?' 'Don't look like no car to me. Can't tell if it's comin' or goin'.' ''Sposed to be good on gas though.' 'Yeah, they's sayin' it's goin to two bits a gallon. Guess I'll hafta quit drivin' & hook up the mules.'
'Ya'll don't forget to come out to Sipe Springs next week. Cemetary workin' Saturday & all day singin' & dinner on the grounds Sunday at the brush arbor. Gonna be takin up a collection fer ol Mr. Higgins. He needs to go to that clinic in Temple. We're all gonna take care of his stock so Miz Higgins can go with 'im.'
'Hey Paul, You can borry that ol 9n till you git that ol Poppin Johnny runnin' if it'l help you any.'
Y'all hear 'bout that big yeller cat Jake caught down on the South Leon. Musta weighed 40 lbs. Said he caught it on a perch. Heard his wife said she warn't cleanin' that ugly thing. Said he could clean it himself 'r throw it back.' 'That just don't seem right. Wimmin shore is gittin' uppity. Bet she helps eat it.'
'Heard ol Jr. brought in a bunch more Meskins to hoe the weeds outta his peanuts. Wonder if they's s'posed to be here with no papers.?' 'Well I read where they's gonna put up a fence along the Rio Grande.' 'Just don't seem right.' 'Ike'l fix it.'
'Ya'll know how to fix a leakin' carburetor on my ol' DeSoto?' 'Yep. Just like Dodge & Plymouth if it's a six. Just pick up a kit down to Dudley Bros.'
'Hey, ya'll hear the one about the dog with two.......
'Jo-ohn!!' 'Yes mam?' 'Come on now. You've got chores to do.' 'Awww Mom..' 'And tell the men thank you. You can come back tomorrow.' 'Ye-ss mam.'
Any of this sound familiar? A few days ago Lenore so beautifully described what this board means to her & it put me to thinking. The Old Fleming Oak is still there, gnarled, & twisted,.. scarred from countless lightning strikes, but still standing with an historic marker at it's base. Occasionally a farmer will park his truck under the shade & sell a few watermelons. The old men playing dominoes & checkers are no longer there. Neither is it a gathering place to visit & share news & seek wisdom. The old ones are gone, the 'younguns' of that time & the new generations are now sitting in front of technological wonders undreamed of in those times past sharing their collective wisdom, love, prayers, humor, families, friendships, heartaches & triumphs in a different gathering place.. still seeking, offering, & receiving help, advice, news, opinions, & solving the worlds problems...others watching, listening, absorbing...there's games of free cell, spades, hearts, & checkers plus 100's of others available with a click.... Nothing much changes...just the numbers & location.
Hope I haven't bored ya'll. Just this old man's long-winded ramblings about past & present.
Submitted By: Ol Tex from TX on 2005-05-20