`Intelligent, Old-Fashioned, In-the-Grain’ Some recent references to the Observer in other periodicals: “The Texas Observer has stood . . . as a compliment and a rebuke. to Texas. It is a compliment in that Texas is big enough for a publication devoted entirely to state issues, and a rebuke in that Texas is small enough to need such a publication. . . . The Texas Observer well serves the state of mind known as Texas. . . .” St. Louis Post Dispatch, an editorial, November 16, 1962. “. . . the Texas Observer, an intelligent, old-fashioned, in-the-grain political journal. . . . For many liberals, the Observer gave more than the news, it was written proof of their very existence, and its office served as a social nucleus for this group.” Barbara Probst Solomon in Harper’s Magazine, November, 1963. “The state’s leading liberal newspaper, the biweekly Texas Observer. . . .” Sam Kinch, reporter, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 6, 1964. “The Observer . . . is recognized as the leading liberal organ in Texas,” A United Press International report, as published in the Dallas Morning News, March 6, 1964. “The Texas Observer, the Bible of the real Texas Democrat.” Archer Fullingim, editor, ‘The Kountze News, April 23, 1964. The Observer “has long been the standard-bearer of the fight for liberalism in Texas.” William V. Shannon, columnist, in the New York Post, May 12, 1964. . . an influential, controversial periodical.” Houston Chronicle, news story, June 14, 1964. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 504 West 24th Street Austin 5, Texas Enclosed is $5.00 for a one-year subscription to the Observer for: Name Address City, State This is a renewal. This is a new subscription. A SUMMER REVIVAL Pat Helmer There was the warm hum of a summer night’s activity and from the darkness streaked with the flights of fireflies there beckoned a bright oasis of light, the revival shed with its bug-spawning lightbulbs hung naked from the rafters. Each light had its own fuzzy halo with June bugs clustered noisy and blind about it, unminded by the bright-eyed, fan-swinging women and tired, round-shouldered men. Tired, but dominant, they sat, clutching limp greyfelt hats in their large, calloused hands. The choir to the side of the pulpit lifted shining faces that glistened with beads of perspiration and proudly. with mis-matched voices sang Love Lifted Me to the accompaniment of starched dresses that rustled and somber voices exchanging greetings. Then the singing ended, and like an undercurrent were the small children who immediately sought an escape from sermon and prayer and stifling, sad adult entertainment. The songbook was thumbed through many times, and scrawled notes from sermons and Sundays past were read and done with, and now one small girl sat with head thrown back, intent on the bugs playing about the rafters and lights, and the loud, angry words of the red-faced preacher passed fleetingly overhead. The constant, rhythmic voice became soothing even, lulling her into drowsiness, loud words pressing on heavy lidded eyes. But a sharp rap on her leg broke the spell, and she looked guiltily at her mother who sat mouthing sit -up and pay attention. Somewhat apprehensively she looked up through a haze of fuzzy, unshaped brows to see if the angry voiced preacher might have seen. Dangerous he seemed. She felt relieved that he hadn’t noticed, but mindful now of the possibility, she sat stiffly upright, hearing him insist that ye must have faith oh ye sinners, repent and have faith no matter of the cross of temptation or of disbelief . . . faith, faith, laith, daith, saith . . . musical words lured her mind along the side paths of thought and she sat quietly lulled, so that it was with a start that she saw that the preacher’s red, angry face had cracked, not melted, into a pacifying smile and he was looking at her, pointing his finger at her, saying yes, ye must have faith as a child does, as this lovely child before me does, and she tried to shrink into the hard, unyielding bench, to take refuge, but he kept his eyes, eyes with reflected light, not depth, fixed on her. Then coming from behind his pulpit he motioned her to him with a sweep of his arm. Come here, child, he said, and the little girl heard the proud, maternal voice saying go ahead, Laura, and caught between the two authorities, she raised herself hesitantly from her front row pew and walked to the front of the pulpit. My, what a lovely child, his voice said, and he turned her as an inanimate object to face the congregation, but an agonizing need ,to avoid those blurred faces and murmured approvals before her caused the little girl to study, to scuff her shoes across the rough, plank platform floor. Look, child, he began, and then hesitated as he dug his hands into both trousers pockets, stood poised momentarily, then pulled them out, fists doubled triumphantly. Your name, he said, what is your name, and with a tremendous burst of bravado the little girl whispered Laura. Well, Laura, he said, do you believe, do you believe I have something in my hands? Believe, believe . . . the words rushed through her mind and she lifted pleading eyes toward her mother who sat proudly maternal, a smile of encouragement on her face. Yes, she whispered, and triumphantly he undoubled , his fists, exposing a nickle in each palm. Laura drew back, away from the strange game, but he stood towering in front of his congregation, face reddened and voice extolling yes,’ ye must have faith, as this child has faith, as this lovely child had faith. Then turning once more, he handed the two coins to her, and saying bless you, he sent her rushing back to her pew, head bent toward the rough plank floor, richer by two coins clutched in her hand. Sinking deep into the shelter of the bench she kept her head lowered, waiting for the blush to go away to once again feel secure and safe from eyes. Her mother’s hand brushed her leg proudly, reassuringly, and slowly the little girl relaxed, though she avoided looking up at the man who still thundered words through the night. Then she unclenched her fist, and there lay the two coins, not shiny ones, but dull metallic coins that lay hot and sticky in her palm. But then she remembered what they would buy . . . an ice cream, a soda pop, candy, or any of the assorted treats displayed along inviting store counters. Possessively she once again closed her hand and leaned dreamily back, to plan, to think, to decide how she would spend the money. And thinking deeply, the constancy of the buzzing June bugs, the droning of the loud voice, caused the lids to close once again, the breathing to become slight and regular, and then, the fist to unclench and the nickels to fall from her hand and hit the plank floor and roll, to stand momentarily on edge, to linger, linger, before falling from sight through the wide spacing of the plank platform. Unbelievingly her eyes had seen the too sudden, decisive drop from sight and already the hot tears stung her eyes and she was immune to the sharp rap her mother gave her. She knelt on the floor, her face pressed closely to the crack, but there was nothing but a sliver of total darkness. August 21, 1964 13
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