Sinking Sand/Solid Rock -An Anthology #8 Carlsbad


 Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico - daveynin/cc/flickr

The first memory I have of Carlsbad is that the church members were at each other’s throats.  Let me change this – the union people were against everyone.  The way I remember it, the “scabs” were sweet-spirited people wanting to make a living, supporting their families.  The potash mines were in the midst of a 73 day labor strike.  The biggest of all the bigshots was the president of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers’ Union and he was the biggest bigshot in our church; chairman of the church board and Sunday school superintendent.  You can see how this was like oil and water only worse.  The union members of our church would stand on the line going into the mines with baseball bats hitting the buses of some of our church members who were not union members.  I don’t think they were sanctified.  God hep us and bless us – it was awful, just awful.

Daddy was a happy man and a good preacher and Mama played the piano.  She still cooked pinto beans.  I played the church organ.  Pretty soon everybody came together through love, and thank God the strike ended.  Hard feelings were still there a little bit, but Daddy stayed there 8 years so people got over it. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock -An Anthology #8 Carlsbad”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: Gainesville #7


I don’t remember a lot about our move from Cisco to Gainesville.  I just know that we had Smokey living on a vacant Lot back of the parsonage and I had to take care of him even when he had big ol’ ticks on his body.  Those ticks sucked blood and swelled up turning purple.  Smokey’s undercarriage thingy swelled up so big that we had to get stuff that Grandpa had, so everything turned out OK.

Wednesday nights were always so horrible.  We had to go to prayer meeting at the church.  I think I loved Jesus, but I sure didn’t like prayer meeting.  Most of the reason was because people stood up and testified.  It was just awful.   Brother Chillywaters – no, that wasn’t his real name, it’s just a name we gave him – he always stood up at testimony time and started off by saying with shaky voice, “When I cross those chilly waters of Jordon … blah, blah, blah (only he didn’t say blahblahblah).  Then everybody would get down on their knees to pray and it hurt so much on my knees I thought I would die.   We had to stay there sometimes for a hunnerd hours.  There was an outhouse behind the church – it was a one holer for all the church to use – so sometimes I thought I had to go peepee.  It got me out of stayin’ on my knees for so long. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: Gainesville #7”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: Cisco Again #6

Home of the first Hilton Hotel


This was great!  Grandpa lived way out north of Cisco on a farm/ranch.  He had about a thousand cows (there were some bulls, too).  I got to know them because Grandpa had a name for every one; or it seemed that way.  They became my friends.  I walked all through the herd and they let me pet them.  They didn’t hurt me.  They were my friends and they didn’t say anything about my nose.  Grandpa let me give them cow-cake and they loved it.

Early in the morning, Mama put wood in the great big ol’ kitchen stove and started the fire so all of us could have breakfast.  Grandpa always got up first and started the fire in the meetin’ room where he and Grandma slept and went around lighting the coal-oil lamps so we could see.  The meetin’ room was where everybody gathered.  It had a radio in it (powered by a car battery) and the crank telephone.  Mama had to be careful when she talked on the phone because the operators would listen in.  I guess the meetin’ room was similar to our modern day dens except for the bed.  In the winter it became a gathering place because the fire was in there.  Of course everyone spent time in the kitchen, too.  When Mama cooked breakfast the smell of homemade biscuits from scratch (she put butter and sorghum syrup on them), thick pieces of bacon right out of the smokehouse, streaked gravy and fresh eggs got us all going in a good mood.  It took Grandpa about an hour to eat ‘cause he didn’t have any real teeth, just false ones.  We were so happy. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – An Anthology: Cisco Again #6”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Harlingen # 5


In Texas – and I turned six in August.  Harlingen was right up next to the Rio Grande River near the Gulf of Mexico.  All kinds of Mexican people came over.  They didn’t mow lawns back then.  People mowed their own lawn.  Some of the Mexicans swam across the Rio Grande to pick oranges.  They were called wetbacks.  I think that name was used by our government at first about Mexicans who wouldn’t go through the gate from Matamoros.  They swam across ‘cause they didn’t want anyone to know where they were.

Shortly after we got there, Pa Pryor died up in Waco.  I think about July of 1943.  They called him Pink.  He was a rough tough guy, but somewhat small.  He had been a heavy drinker and wasn’t noted for having a lot of patience.  One day when Daddy and Uncle Claude were little boys somewhere around Center or Abbott, Texas (Daddy was born in Center), Pa got drunk, told the boys to do something and when they didn’t do it right away, he took the shotgun and told them he was gonna kill ‘em.  They started to run into the corn field and Pa shot toward their backs, but right before he pulled the trigger they fell and the top of the corn stalks were shot off.  The rest is history I guess.  Pa became a Christian and when I was just 5 years old, right before I turned 6 in August, I sneaked into his room in Waco, and there he was on his knees.  He died that way.

School started in Harlingen.  I had never been to school.  They didn’t have kindergarten back in those days.  Mamas were supposed to teach their kids colors and numbers and things like that before the first grade.  That’s why Mama bought me a chemistry set in Louisiana, a map puzzle of the United States and spent time with me learning colors and numbers.  So I was enrolled in school.  First grade.

Kids made fun of me cuz I had a “thing” in my nose.  I didn’t know what it meant to be made fun of and I sure didn’t know what a deviated septum was.  It didn’t matter.  I was a kid and I was so happy at home.  Mama played the piano at church and Daddy preached. Tony was out back and I saddled him up myself and rode him all the time.  The Resaca was close by and asparagus grew all along the banks of the Resaca and the Rio Grande.  I was thrilled to pick it and bring it to my mama.   My folks didn’t worry much about me riding around on Tony because kids weren’t kidnapped back then. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Harlingen # 5”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Lake Charles # 4


Lake Charles was a strange place and culture.  I didn’t know it.  I didn’t care.  I was happy cuz my folks were happy people. Lake Charles was on the water.  There were so many different types of people there you couldn’t even know who was who; French, white folks, Indians, Cajuns, Negroes (descendants of slaves), Black folks from Haiti, Creole stuff, voodoo, and Redbones.  Louisiana has always been known as an interesting place at best.  People there just seemed to be … well … different.

Redbones were a mixture of about everything you could think of.  They had French blood, pirate blood, Indian blood, Negro blood, slave blood and people from Haiti with their strange voodoo religion …; whatever it was, it was supposed to be bad.  Nobody, I mean, nobody went into Redbone town.  Not even the Negroes wanted to go into Redbone town.  People thought they were the meanest of the mean.

There were no garbage trucks back then.  A Negro man had a wagon pulled by two horses and he came around and dumped our garbage into the back.  Mama said I could run along ‘side the wagon for two blocks, but I had to come home.  I liked the Negro garbage man because I liked horses.  No African-American people lived in “Luzeeanna” at that time … and no black people, either.  Those names came along later. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Lake Charles # 4”

Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Borger # 3


Do you know what?  We had to live on a dirt street!   The sand blew all the time in Borger.  No WPA brick streets where we lived; just dirt roads except downtown where the shoe store was that MartinLuther worked at. [Remember everyone had two names and they were said real fast together.]  Kids could work back then.  Rain came down in torrents and the loudest thunder I had ever heard.  I ran like crazy and jumped in bed with my mama and daddy and looked up at the picture of Jesus with sheep on the wall next to their bed.  They always told me that Jesus was a shepherd but we didn’t have any sheep.   I knew I was safe with Mama and Daddy, and Jesus.

It snowed in Borger.  Borger is in the panhandle, northwest part of Texas.  In the winter the wind and snow blew down all the way from up in Canada.  Mercy it was cold.  But that’s OK ‘cause I stayed inside where it was warm and besides, I had the mumps.  We lived right next door to the church and on Sunday morning and night I could hear Mama playing the piano while the people sang,  

“What a fellowship, what a joy divine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms!

What blessedness, what a peace is mine,

Leaning on the everlasting arms!” 

Sometimes I cried because I wanted to see my mama.  The mumps got over and sunshiny spring came.  I went back to church again and my older brother, MartinLuther, liked to sit with Mama on the second seat while Daddy preached.  The only thing is he always went to sleep and put his head on Mama’s lap.  He was about 15-16 years old.

One day, Mama got sick and was about to throw-up.  I got in her way and she tried to push me out of the way.  Both of us made it to the back porch where the hand-cranked washing machine was.  All of a sudden sshwhooosh-kuwawsch-urrupt vomit went all over me.  As a 4 year old, I didn’t care – I laughed, but my mama and Daddy and NanthaLee, my sister, just felt awful. Continue reading “Sinking Sand/Solid Rock – Borger # 3”



If a line is drawn from east to west through Cisco it would be smack-dab in the middle, 1200 plus miles both ways.  Pioneers came through that part of Texas back in the 1800s and among them were the Parmer’s who brought with them farming and ranching skills … and a bunch of pigs many of which had escaped and became feral.  Maybe that’s why there are so many wild pigs in Texas.  My mama was a Parmer.  Settling in Jack County and on to Eastland County some of the Parmer’s went south to neighboring Comanche County to find wives among some Comanche Indians there; at least part Indian, that’s what I’m told.

I am encouraged to know that one of the early Parmer’s, Martin Parmer, was an original signer of the Texas Constitution and his son, Toby, was one of the first Texas Rangers.

Some of the Parmer’s went to the south side of Eastland County to a little town just north of Comanche County called Rising Star.  I think a group of families from the Andrew Agnew, Buckner and Messegee bunches gave off a whole lot of kids, intermarrying with only God knows who.  Great-grandpa Parmer, Tobe, married Mary Jane Buckner in 1861 – she was born July 8, 1843 and died May 20, 1919 – and they had a caboodle of kids named William Lafayette (Uncle Will),  Sarah (she lived to be 103), Eliza, Angelina, Martin Van Buren, Jr. (my grandpa, they called him Uncle Van), George and Myrtle.  The Civil War left things in a mess with men going to war, people coming and going west and east trying to settle down or go to war.  This gave the Comanche Indians a chance to run wild.  Mama said they weren’t very clean either.  Mama always liked clean. Continue reading “SINKING SAND/ SOLID ROCK: Hello Cisco # 2”


Route 66 Riders

The old Hiway 66 ran all the way from Chicago to Santa Monica, California.  It was America’s Hiway made famous by the TV show, “Route 66” and the song, “Get your kicks on Route 66.”  I’m told it was built in 1926, before the crash of the great depression, and covered almost 2500 miles.  There was no interstate system back then.  In fact, I remember riding in the back seat of our 1949 Plymouth from Gainesville, Texas all the way to Dover, New Jersey which was about 850 miles.  We traveled over the Pennsylvania Turnpike built in 1940 and it was only about 160 miles long.  All of the other roads were two lanes.  It took forever, seemed like.  The interstate hiway plan was introduced by President Eisenhower in the 1950s.  He was our main leader-general stationed in Germany during the Second World War and was really impressed by what the Germans called the Reichsautobahnen.  Our politicians had been arguing about highways for a long time and when Eisenhower was elected he provided the leadership to get it done.  Of course America was preoccupied with the war so no one even got involved in highway building.

At barely 18 years of age I stood on the curb of Route 66 that wound its way through Oklahoma City watching as my parents waved from their aqua green and white ’56 Plymouth, the kind that had buttons to change gears.  Their eyes filled with tears as they drove away.  Life would never be the same for them – and for me. Continue reading “SINKING SAND/SOLID ROCK: Preface #1”