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‘Not Even a Lead Pencil’ Hard Times for Old Man ‘A Texan at Bay’ * * * * Crume’s Dry, Nostalgic Melancholy \(Continued from Page 11 months’ work, he says. He had joined the union before the war, a year or tv’o after it organized. Inexpensive and Neat The Woods live on Highway 202 across from an icehouse and between a chiropractor and a vacant lot on the edge of Beeville, the oilwell and farm servicing town in South Texas. Their house is a white, fourroom frame with a red roof and a white plaster chimney. A yel Thaddeus Wood lowing TV antenna juts from the roof. A lone mesquite tree. Two green metal yard chairs. The small circle drive takes up all of what would be the front yard. By the side of the house there are trellises for vines, but no vines. A hoe and a rake were leaning by the door. Wood was wearing a blue dress shirt, khakis, and black shoes. He has dignity and no false cheeriness. He wears his brown hair without sideburns. His skin is smooth, shiny, and pink, his expression so benign that even with his long ears he looks like an aging cherub. His hearing aid is visible in one of his shirt pocketsboth of them crammed with scraps of things. He wears the old-fashioned rimless spectacles with the thin gold earpieces; tape holds them together. His eyelids slack from age, he peers from under their folds. He left the living room frequently, apologizing, “I have a nervous condition, can’t hardly THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 June 3, 1961 do any kind of work now,” and again explaining about a bladder condition that “conies when it’s getting cold or starts to rain.” The Woods have plain American tastes. A gilt-framed mirror above the cardboarded-over red brick fireplace; a cornucopia on the mantel; a light green rug of wavy ribboning; the couch, tan and magenta bolster pillows, three upholstered chairs, a small two-level coffee table. A painting of a carnation, a red rose, and yellow ones. Another of a scene from James Fenimore Cooper, a lake at night, a man in a canoe, the full moon overhead, a campfire glowing out across the water from the grove on the bank. Everything was inexpensive, clean, and neat. ‘AII Prairie’ Thaddeus Wood started work 68 or 69 years ago before sun-up on a farm in Central Texas. His father was a Confederate veteran from Alabama. As a boy Thad “heard talk about the Battle of Bull Run,” but his mother didn’t like to hear about the war, and the boy did not find out if his father was in the battle. Wood guesses his father moved to Belton, Texas, in the 1870’s, but he is not sure “because we lost our Bible. Never had any fires we moved and it was lost.” His mother was born in Washingtonon-the-Brazos, where, on March 2, 1836, the Texans declared their independence from Mexico. “She was borned in old Washington that’s where she was born,” Wood said. “She always spoke very highly of it. She always spoke of it ‘over t’ Washington.’ Use to brag about old Washington’.” Wood got his religionhe is a member of the Christian Church in Beeville and has been an elder in itfrom his mother’s father, who was a roving preacher of that church. “He was the first preacher I ever heard preach that doctrine,” Wood remembered. “I was about ten years old. I went home and told my mother about hearin’ Granpaw preachin’ that doctrine. At that time we had the Campbellites and the Presbyterians, you know. She told me, ‘Oh, he’s just a roamin’ preacher, that’s all he’s ever done’.” The Woods settled down in Belton and had nine children, seven boys and two girls. Two died in childhood; four are still living. “When my father came to Belton, Temple was a little store, that’s all it was,” Wood said. “Everybody had animals with them, not cattle, but they all had a bunch of horses. An old man at Belton struck my daddy up to trade my daddy out of one of those fillies. My father said, ‘What’ve you got to trade?”Well, I got a leg of land over t’ Temple.’ Just a store over there,’ my father said. ‘Why hell, I wouldn’t give the filly for the whole county.’ “All mesquite, prairie, rock that’s all it was,” Wood said. “My first work was my father a-learn’ me to plow. I was eight or nine. Of course he used old horses he knew were safe . . . plow a while and have a rest. ‘What’s the matter with old Dan?He can’t hardly get started when he stops.”Well, he’s got heart trouble.’ I didn’t know what he was talkin’ about. Same trouble I’ve got now.” Thad went to three or four country schools for seven or eight years. “They’d always run out of money,” and they could only operate seven or eight months while they lasted because during the fall harvest “they’d have to wait for us children to finish with the laborthat was the only labor they had those days.” What was it like, boyhood on a Texas farm at the end of the nineteenth century? “We’d get up we’ll say . . . well, in the wintertime we’d have to get up about two hours before the daylight, because they had a lot of work to do around the place. Each one had his jobs. Usually mine was milkin’ the livestock. My older brother did the feedin’ of the animals. That was the beginnin’ of the day’s workthat was before breakfast. In the daylight we went to the fields”fields of cotton and corn and cane. “My father run a community cane mill in Belton. All of us had to make a hand when that cane business came around. I remember working sometimes till midnight till we’d get through. You had a run on the molasses, you know, you had to work till it was through. “There was never any money involved. He’d take molasses for his part. When he needed groceries, he’d take the molasses to town.” . The boys never had any money. “Wasn’t nothin’ for us to spend it for if we had it.” There was no high school aroundthe nearest one was at Milanobut Thad had to quit school anyway and go to work for wages at 14, when his father died. “My oldest brother stayed at the place while I ha’rd out for wages to support the family. The wid’ woman at that time couldn’t get credit like a man could, so I had to work for farm wages for $10 a month. We had to trade that out at the store where we had the credit. That helped us a whole lotthat bought a whole lot at that time.” That work ended with the laying of the cotton in July, 1900. “Everybody was always in a rush to get it laid by by the first because they wanted to get to a picnic by the fourthalways a big picnic.” He remembered hearing that Governor James Hogg made a speech on one of these July fourths, but it was “in the other county” and he didn’t go. “He was one of those good governors we had, wasn’t he?” Wood asked. That same year, in the fall, the boys went off to pick cotton and for the first time they were paid in money, fifty cents a hundred plus room and board. In 1901, when he was 15, Thad ventured away from the world of canefields and farmhouses where they bartered a filly for a leg of land and he worked for credit at the grocery store. He joined a construction gang hired by Ricker 8; Lee Construction Co. of Galveston to build the right of way for what he still calls “the Santa Fe Railroad.” The work was all done by mule team and scrappers and hand labor. “That was my first public work. I was 15 years old,” Wood said. To Be Concluded A TEXAN AT BAY, by Paul Crtune, McGraw-Hill, 1961, 212 pp., $4.50. AUSTIN “At the edge of the fastest current there is always a backwash. Some few of us prefer to drift slowly with this against the stream, equipped with a piece of driftwood for protection against those who are shooting the rapids toward destiny.” Dry, nostalgic, melancholy: Crume of the Dallas News. At risk of prosecution for violating the 500-word reviewers’ limitation, I would rather quote Crume’s short curled sentences than talk about him. “My dad once warded off colds for the whole of a bad winter by munching on raw Bermuda onions. He warded off just about everything.” “A genius is able to make a work of art out of the spring impulse, but the garden-variety poet merely loses control of himself.” “At least five camp owners, bait sellers, and boat renters are now living off every fish now remaining in the United States.” “Sometimes, about midnight, the notion occurs that the American standard of living, like the dinosaur, is going to die off because of its size.” “Lariat,” in West Texas, “has matured now. It has a population of two hundred. It has a tree, which gives it a gardened look.” “There may have been some excuse for bird poets once, but not now. In our modern and highly specialized age, a man has to make up his mind whether he wants to be a birdwatcher or a poet. He cannot appear as an expert in both on TV.” “Whenever one of those magazine writers comes down to get the big Texas story, one of our rich men takes him off and lets him photograph some money. This so impresses the writer that he rushes off and does a piece about solid-gold. Texas. The magazine writers haven’t caught on yet that they’re all seeing the same old hundred-dollar bills.” “It is only outlanders who doubt . . . Outlanders never understand that the Texas tall talk is not a lie. It is the expression of the larger truth.” “THE COUNTRY I remember was the boundless acres of tableland between the Rockies and the caprock, a plain in which a distant house was a dot and a man a speck, and the tides of white moonlight that flooded it at night, moonlight and the yucca flowers that stretched dimly white toward the horizon, and great grass carpet waving in the cool wind, moonlight and the smudgy wall of night beyond which lurked the shades of the Spanish wanderers and the Comanches and the dreams that ached in a young animal’s heart but were not clear in his mind.” “Most of us who studied under her,” a Latin teacher at the University of Texas, “sensed twentyfive years ago that Miss Lavender’s world was dying. It was a world in which learning was the beginning of wisdom, not the means of turning out supermechanics. To be able to read Latin was the mark of a gentleman, and a gentleman was one who would not stoop to do certain things, some of which are hardly looked upon today as mortal sins. To be a cultivated man was an end in itself. The measure of a man was his personal worth. “Perhaps it’s just as well that all this died. It wouldn’t work in the modern world.” “Let a man remember a dead friend and he will know that he has experienced a person who has lived a strange and unique life that never was before and never will he again.” “Probably, the Things have ideas of taking over the earth and dominating man. My advice to the human race for the present is to go armed. Never step out of the house at night without a pair of pliers and a blowtorch.” “In recent years, the American people have worked out a revolutionary new system so that they can have a higher standard of living and eat more per person without gaining weight. Under this Paul Crume system, chicken salad is made out of tuna fish and tuna salad out of cheaper fish. Trout is not trout but flounder. The custard in custard pie is not custard but a kind of pudding. Beef may very well be calf. Certainly veal is. And I know a man who spilled a pint of milk on his new suit the other day, but the milk had some marvelous new kind of butterfat in it that didn’t spot the cloth.” “ALL THESE SCIENTISTS who I worry because 75 per cent of some people who died were smokers are missing the point of the whole study. The key statistic here is that 100 per cent of the people die. This is what concerns me.” “A man may know . . . acutely how short a breath in the life of the universe was his whole life, and yet he cannot but hope that some small scratch that he put upon the limitless and titanic universe will last to show men of another day that he individually was here. “The need for’ a monument is the last of man’s vanities . . .The faceless gravestones in the old cemetery near the Dallas city auditorium testify to their futility. So do the old downtown buildings that in obscure corners bear the names of pioneer hair-tonic manufacturers and carriage-makers but are now known merely as the location of some other man’s store.” “The competent liar is necessary to the political health of a people . .. After all, the liar lays the hard bedrock of myth upon which men base their lives. If a man believes in States’ Rights or The Noble Savage of The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, he can go ahead and operate. Without this firm foundation or essential meaning that does not exist, the actions of his life seem quite pointless.” “The heart of any man’s morality is what he will commit violence for.” THE DALLAS NEWS may not know who they have been pub lishing all these years. More like ly, they know. R.D. RELIABLE REAL ESTATE SERVICE Arthur Hajecate METROPOLITAN REALTY CO. 4340 Telephone Road HOUSTON, TEXAS