To my friends in the north country, the Texas Panhandle, and others too numerous to mention, I thank you. For new readers please let me bring you up to speed. These letters are excepts from a book titled ME AGAIN. The book had it's beginning in letters I wrote to friends about places I had been and people I had met. If things go as planned, which they seldom do, it will be published sometime in the spring of 2003.
Heraclitus's quotation caught my eye and I think what he meant was, "You can't do anything again. You can do something similar, but you can't do it again." Boy am I glad of that!
Encouraged by my cyber space buddies, I started saving the stories. I thought if one were to become a famous author, then one must edit, rewrite and then rewrite again. That got to be work and when that word reared its ugly head, then it ceased to be fun. The book is not in chronological order. The stories are in the order they came to me. In view of that, I have made a vow this very day to revert to my original style of writing. So what you see is what you get.
Proctor, Texas, a little town on Hwy. 377 in Comanche County, population 220 according to the 1999 Texas Almanac. Not a sorehead in the bunch. Most of you will recognize the expression, "All day singing with dinner on the ground." I always associated this with church, never western swing music. When I was a kid in Haskell County, where Gov. Rick Perry is from by the way, we would have church for about three hours then the ladies would break out the food. We didn't have paper plates back in those days. Each family brought their own hardware, usually tin plates. Some of the more affluent brought good china.
Summer time church in Wienert, Texas meant services under the tabernacle on hard wooden benches. Dirt floor and if things got boring, the kids would entertain themselves by catching "doodlebugs" (ant lions). As long as we were quiet and didn't disrupt the preaching, we got away with it. Any of you out there who have not seen a "doodlebug?" This little critter digs a hole in very fine dirt, almost dust. He then burrows down in the bottom and waits for an unsuspecting ant to fall in. You can fool them in to coming out with a blade of grass.
After a "hog killing" meal and a short rest, the singing would start. We didn't have a piano so we had to take after the Church of Christ folks and sing a cappella. Folks really put forth an effort. Wouldn't do for your neighbor to think you didn't get a little religion. Singing went on for a couple of hours and then we would finish the leftovers from the noon meal. If it was the last day of a revival, you could count on a real Hell Fire and Damnation Sermon where tithing was mentioned quite a bit. It was also the last chance to come down front. Don't know how many times I have heard the invitation, "Won't you come? We're gonna ask Brother Jones to lead us in one more verse of 'Just As I Am.' Many times I think folks went down front just so the service would end.
Now I am not picking on the Baptist or the Methodist. Nearly all churches follow this line except the Catholic. You can just about set your clock by a Mass. One hour and you are out of there. Also, you have to go to school or attend classes to become a Catholic.
Some of you may know Randy Chisholm, giant of a man. Randy and his wife hosted this affair. It was held in a pecan grove where Randy and his helpers erected a permanent stage and poured a slick concrete slab for dancing. Dinner was served on big paper plates and it was help yourself, pitch till you win. Beef brisket that had been smoked, not burned; Polish sausage, baby back pork ribs and that was just the meat. Cole slaw, macaroni salad, red beans, peppers, potato salad and "I don't know what it is salad but it is good." Furr's Cafeterias could take a lesson from Randy and the ladies who contributed their specialties. Ice tea, coffee and about twenty desserts rounded out the meal and then it was time for the music.
Western Swing music was invented in Fort Worth. The origin is generally attributed to Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies. A young Bob Wills was a member of his original group and played fiddle on the first two songs Milton recorded. They worked for W. Lee O'Daniel, who later became Governor of Texas.
Milton's death in 1936 ended his career but Bob Wills took up the baton and went on to set the standard for swing with his Texas Playboys. Anyone who doesn't like San Antonio Rose or Faded Love, two of his biggest hits, is a Communist in my book. Sadly there are only a few of Bob's musicians left but they are still playing and you can see them at Ruidoso every October.
Well we heard all the old favorites yesterday. I was so proud to see the first band made up of young musicians under twenty-five. The youngest player in our little band is fifty-five. We call him the "Kid."
The audience was fantastic. Every song was applauded. No one asked for
my autograph but I did receive a lot of compliments. I think they were just being nice. If you ever happen to be in Proctor, Texas, stop and visit a few minutes. Guaranteed you will come away feeling better.