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AUSTIN, TEXAS 78705 baseball cap who stood at the end of the pier with his son and cast out into the water with long tireless loops of his surf rod. His son sat on an up-ended bucket, using a small cane pole. They fished there most of the afternoon without ever showing either enthusiasm or boredom. They did not have any luck, but if they had caught any fish I’m sure the fish would have reflected the man’s lack of emotion: they would have got aboard the hooks with the routine, professional disinterest that brakemen use in getting aboard trains: just meeting their conveyor and being borne away.. . . When the sun was nearly down the man stuck the butt end of his surf rod under the stump of his left arm and reeled in one last time and then turned and began to lumber in from the end of the long pier. The boy shouldered his pole and walked along behind his father, carrying the bucket. There was no more fuss to their walking than there had been to their fishing. When they reached their car at the baithouse they disappeared into it and the man maneuvered it evenly and continuously out of sight down the beach toward the road to town. Their passing from sight was so effortless, so casual and yet so complete, that it was almost dreamlike: I felt that if I had idled over to where the car had driven away in the sand, I would have found no tracks. We did not have poverty in my home town when I was a boy. There were people who were poor, of course, but they were not called that. They were simply referred to by their last name, and since everybody knew what that name implied there was no need to say anything further. Negroes and Mexican-Americans were not poor because they were not white. Only whites could be people enough to be poor. Except that there were no white people in town, either, because white people did not need to think of themselves as being white: they had the luxury to be just people. The rest were called niggers and meskins and that too, in 1940, was all that needed to be said. There is a pasture in my life a little stretch of land beneath a hill, with oak trees and many leaves on the ground that I carry within me as a private place. It is where I would go, I think, after a time of great despair. I would park my car and walk from the road into the trees and I would come to that spot which would not have changed since the time I had been there last. The dirt would still be richly dark and if I looked I would be able to see goats grazing in the distance and maybe a few cows. I would touch the rough wood of the trees, I would walk through the grass slowly, and I would know that I was home: I would know that the place contained an essence which was both deeply me and something deeply beyond me: a thing I could not identify but which I could respect, and be awed by, and love. 12 The Texas Observer