Looking Back

When I was a youngster my Dad made sure that I spent a lot of time with his family on their farm outside of Marlin in Falls County, Texas. At that time, prior to WW II, rural farmers and ranchers in Texas didn’t have electricity, propane or butane. The Rural Electrification Agency didn’t arrive in Falls County until after the war.

Looking back I remember helping my Dad, draw water from the hand dug well and haul it the two hundred yards to the house. I remember filling the lanterns with coal oil. I remember the smokehouse with hams hanging around the vent hole in the tin roof and salt pork curing.

I remember us chopping fire wood for Grandma Bryan’s cook stove. If the pieces were too big she would send us both back out to re-split the wood with a stern command, “John H. and Jon, you know that those pieces are too big. Get yourselves back outside and do it right!” But the cobblers, fresh bread and rolls couldn’t be duplicated now. She was a magician with her wood stove! I remember her making lye soap in a huge black kettle and when it cooled washing my hands with it.

I remember finding my first arrowhead and looking around to be sure there weren’t any howling, Comanches around. I remember the first fish I caught in Pool Creek, bordering Grandma’s place. I remember the first covey of quail, exploding out of the fence line behind the peach orchard and how the whirr of their wings scared me, but how calm and sure my Dad and his brother, Roy, were when they were shooting them.

I remember my Dad patiently training me to shoot my first rifle, a Remington, Model 510, Targetmaster. I still have the old rifle and have trained two generation of Bryan children to shoot with it.

I remember climbing up into the peach trees and eating my fill of fresh, ripe peaches. I remember, as a lad of six, sneaking into Tom Norwood’s melon patch and appropriating one, almost as big as me. I remember the sting of the bull nettle that I ran into as I was hurriedly leaving the area.

I remember the outside toilet, a two holer complete with a Sears catalog, and having to check for black widows before you sat down. When you finished you had to drop a hand shovel full of lime through the hole on to the “pile”. A thankless job was cleaning out the outhouse! I don’t remember ever doing that chore.