Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where I'm From

I am from starched Wranglers with a crease pressed down the center of each leg, from baseball caps with seed company logos and sides chosen between John Deere green and International Harvester red.

I am from the ivy screened porch of a west facing ranch-style on a grid-straight street on the edge of town.  From the worn green felt of the recliner and the brown, green and gold flecks of the 70's shag carpet and the flecked yellow kitchen cabinets that matched the sunflower dinner plates.

I am from cotton trailers sitting in gin yards and fields of sunflowers facing the light.  From dust-filled winds that scoured and scorched.  From long twilights with the sun setting a thousand miles away on the horizon and a sky studded with stars so numerous and brilliant that constellations were hard to find.

I am from Friday night football and resting on Sunday, except when there is a Cowboy game on TV.  From family Christmas potlucks and weather-lined faces and farmers tans.  From Mom and Dad Porter and Granddad Taylor and Flaudie and Virgie and Hilton and Joyce.  From frugal money managers and paying cash not credit and FHA farm loans.

I am from broom swept dirt porches and hard work as a virtue.  From tears only at funerals and infrequent laughter.  From constant low-grade worry - about weather or crops or time or money - and resting only when the work was done.

I am from plaques on the school walls with honors for sports and grades with names the same as mine.  From study hard and go far and why would you ever want to leave?  From travel to the neighboring state as a grand adventure and suspicion of world travelers and big-city folk.

I am from once saved always saved, Baptists don't dance or drink, and good girls don't.  From grace not works but calls for repentance of secret sins to bring the rain.  From tent revivals and alter calls to hymns pounded out on the upright piano.  From dividing lines drawn hard in the street between us and them, heaven and hell.

I am from covered wagons from the east and pioneer stock whose origins have vanished in the smoke of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  From hard-scrabble share-croppers and gentried land-owners and Indian blood.  From the unique pride that is the Independent Republic of Texas. 

I am from suppers of fresh tomatoes and squash, black-eyed peas just shelled, and okra with prickles that itched for days after the picking.  From summer watermelons on picnic tables cold from the irrigation ditch and homemade blackberry cobbler with ice cream.

I am from a World War II veteran who lied to be old enough to fight and a chemical engineer who couldn't ignore the siren call of the farm.  From the first generation of children to all finish college and then go back to do it again.

I am from faded albums of pictures from an old manual camera that documented my childhood and a wedding album full of lies.  From stories handed down without documents to verify facts and folks who don't believe much in living in the past.  I am from five living generations on both sides of my line, one documented in print, the other only by words.  From a family so close in proximity that we didn't need pictures and a generation that has finally left the family farm.

I am from men and women who settled the High Plains of West Texas a century ago, history before long forgotten or erased by the wind and the future no longer contained in 100 square miles of dirt.

Inspired by this writing exercise template that also inspired this beautiful prose.


  1. This is so beautiful! I feel like I have a more vivid and visceral sense of who you are and where you are from than ever before. Thank you, thank you.

  2. Exquisitely beautiful! Wow! Wow! Wow!

    Made my day.

  3. Nicely said. Aren't we a "mutly" mix? They say the muts are the most stable and easy going of all the breeds.

  4. Beautiful! As is the land and place you describe.

    I grew up in Abilene and spent every summer with my grandparents in New Mexico driving through those high plains, where all the eye could see for miles and miles were rows upon rows of cotton, in order to reach their house. Your description brought back those memories.

    And starched and pressed Wrangler's? Well, those are some good memories too!

  5. I really enjoyed this! It made me think of what I'd say about where I came from.

    I love how different our heritages are and yet we seem to get along just fine. :)

  6. What an amazing piece! I could smell, taste, see, and hear everything from childhood. This line in particular was incredible to me, "From tears only at funerals and infrequent laughter. From constant low-grade worry - about weather or crops or time or money - and resting only when the work was done."

    It reminded me of the repression and denial of emotions in our family. Being emotional was weakness and a sign that you were not in control...don't cry too much or laugh too loud. Also, it made me think of the underlying message of "nothing is can never rest."