The Houses on Lee Street

February 22, 2015

My mom and dad’s houses on Lee Street in Valley View, Texas……..

When Mom and Dad were older but still not adults their parents both bought houses on south Lee Street, across the street from each other in fact. Yes, like something in a Norman Rockwell painting or a Hollywood movie’s depiction of some “All American” small town Mom and Dad lived across the street from each other. What were these houses like? I will tell you about them.

Dad’s home was a one story wood frame house with no brick. It had two bedrooms at the front of the house, a living room by the front door, a dining room, a combination den and bedroom, a kitchen, and a screened in back porch and clothes washing area And one very small bathroom that had a tub and but no shower. There were trees in the front and back that we played under many days and there was a shed that served as a garage too.

For heat there was no furnace but there were several gas space heaters around which did work well. There was no central air conditioning either but some wall units were there – although not when Dad was younger. Speaking of no A/C, in the summer the family would sleep in the screened in porch, Dad said he would out a wet towel on top of him to stay cool. Such porches sometimes were called “sleeping porches” back then since many did sleep in them in the hot summer months. The house they lived in before, torn down to build I-35, had no indoor toilet and had an outhouse instead. Thus, the house was nothing fancy to say the least but it was functional and they had a roof over their heads, plus “indoor plumbing” too. Imagine not having A/C, heat, and an indoor “john”. With modern new houses having five bedrooms, three baths, and being over 2500 square feet on average few of us now can even imagine living in such a house.

Mom’s house was not fancy either but by comparison was luxurious. It had four bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen and “breakfast nook” – a depressed booth in the kitchen where the family could dine, a dining room, a living room, a laundry room, a detached garage, plus a separate wash house and shed behind it. And trees of course out front and in the back. As with Dad’s house there were gas heaters and wall unit A/Cs too.

As kids we played all over both of these homes. We swung from the trees, chased lightning bugs in the warm summer twilight, pulled chirping cicadas – we call them locusts in our local dialect – from the branches of the trees, and did special things like hiding under the table in the breakfast nook at Mom’s, building spaceships out of junk from the wash house there, climbing the big tree in Dad’s home’s back yard, and scampering endlessly on its front porch while making a lot of noise as all kids do. We used our imaginations and what was at hand to make our childhood fantasy universes come alive on fun and happy days with our cousins, parents, and grandparents that we did not want to end. Thus these houses may have been Mom and Dad’s homes once but they were our homes too in many ways when we were young.

In the present era both of these houses are still on Lee Street, new owners and time’s passage have changed how they look in some ways but in my mind I still remember how they were and who and what was once there. The echoes of many lives led there still resound in my head.

With families now scattered across the face of the continent and not simply across the street from each other and living in homes that would have only been only for the rich not so many decades ago, old houses like these are relics of another age – some are in historical preservation districts in cities in fact.

Decades ago when there were no video games, Facebook, or Chuckie-Cheeses people were more focused on being home with each other and were not glued to some screen or wondering around a mall. We knew how to have fun with only what we had which sometimes was not so much. But yet do you hear people of that era ever say they were bored or wished they had what we have now back then? I never have.

So one day soon turn off all of the TVs, put the tablets and smart phones down, and go outside and play around a big tree, look around your home & yard, and be glad for what you see as was done before the age of 24X7gadgetry. And build some memories that will outlast all of the trendy digital devices that endlessly come and go.


A Bottle Rocket Fight On The Brazos

February 15, 2015

Here is  a fond memory which will be in “Notes About Growing”.

When I was fifteen I worked at Worth Scout Ranch one summer as a merit badge counselor.  It was my first job and paid something like $50 a week (maybe less since it has been far too long to remember but it was not much).   However the place itself and my time there was worth much more than the pittance the Longhorn Council paid us with its mesas and the Brazos River downstream from Possum Kingdom Lake and its dam.

On the Brazos itself various merit badges were taught like swimming and lifesaving and also canoeing too.  The river itself,  like most rivers and streams around here, is not real clear but at least it was a little cooler than being on the shore in the 100 degree summer heat. And one night we used it for something else that is not something you can earn a merit badge for.

One July 4th weekend some of the older boys who could drive went and bought fireworks for those of us who wanted them.  It was very dry that summer so we dared not shoot them off in the middle of camp for fear of setting the whole area ablaze. Instead someone suggested we go down to the river since the Scouts were not there on weekends and the few adult staff was nowhere to be seen either.  It was a perfect opportunity to have some non-sanctioned fun.

When we got to the bottom of  the hill and the river side someone had the revolutionary idea that we team up in canoes and have a bottle rocket war whilst going to and fro on the water in the dark. And that is exactly what we did.

I do not recall who was my canoe mate, maybe it was Glen Alred or Paul Taliaferro (from Denton) who were my friends but regardless of who it was we launched and started going back and forth in the dark.  The only way you could target another canoe in the country darkness was by hearing someone talk or their paddle stroke’s swish or better yet gain a visual sighting of their orange glowing “punk” which was used to light the bottle rockets themselves.

So the naval carnage began.  You could see the ghostly punks going back and forth and then the flash and trail of a bottle rocket would erupt as it was lit up and fired at an enemy “vessel”.  We fired them by lighting them and then tossing them down a metal tube which was then aimed or did it free style by simply holding the lit rocket lightly and pointing your hand at the target and off it would go when it ignited (you did not get burned by the way).   The battle went on with shit talking and dares, and splashing paddles too – a hastily evolved tactic to put out the enemy’s punk and thus suppressing their fire, plus an occasional hit on an enemy “warship” or “crewman”.  Admiral Nelson or Admiral Nimitz we were not but it was great and jolly fun and no one got hurt.  Until we all ran out of bottle rockets that is. And so the ageless waters of the Brazos became calm and peaceful again and we all put the canoes up and walked back the hill to out tents on Staff Hill. Nowadays you’d be arrested sent to jail for inciting violence or something lame like that.

And that is the point, as a culture we have lost the ability to have some fun since we are risk averse and try to require “zero-tolerance” of anything that might mean a skinned knee or the like.  That’s a shame since I bet many of the now always coddled kids won’t have a clue what to do in some really dangerous situation they might one day face.  Their helicopter parents won’t be around in such an event to teach them to remain calm under fire like a little mostly harmless bottle rocket war on the Brazos River did that year.  It’s funny what an experience like that will teach you when you look back on it as an adult.  So don’t fear the bottle rockets in life y’all……