Hopkins County Stew By Jean Froneberer London, England EXACTLY WHAT is Paint Rock?” our grown-up daughter asked as we were driving up from Houston Friday night so we could attend the stew Saturday. “It’s a community,” my husband said. Our sons were busy with work and Photo by Jean Froneberer school. I was glad Karen had been able to come up from Galveston to go with us. We had all neglected my husband’s “roots” and that part of theirs for too long. Community. That’s something we’ve had to catch on the run the past few years. I tried to remember this one, glimpsed long ago through the few childhood memories my husband had thought worth sharing. “When we lived out at Paint Rock” was a phrase he and his family sometimes used, but I had never bothered to get it all straight. We had spent most of the past decade moving around ourselves, at the behest of a multinational corporation. Changing continents eight times in eight years, we were too rushed and preoccupied on our annual visits home to consider local and family history. Besides, whenever I felt nostalgia overseas, it was not for the gently rolling farmland of Hopkins County, it was for the land of my own heart, the rugged hill country some 400 miles to the southwest. My people were ranchers. The Hopkins County dairy farmers were pleasant and friendly, and I liked them, but their place wasn’t mine. Driving through the darkness of the East Texas piney woods, I wondered about the people we would see at the stew which relatives, and who else would be there. It had been a long time since our leisurely visits when the children were little, when my husband used to take us out from Sulphur Springs to this vaguely-defined area that he called Paint Rock, where we would drive around perusing roadside farmland and scraggly woods for landmarks of his childhood. Karen and I thought we remembered one, a little house with two front doors. Yes, my husband said, that was where he and his sister Mary Frances had lived for three years when they were kids, when their father was teaching upper grades in the Paint Rock school. Their mother had been a primary teacher, but the year my husband started school his cousin Wanda had taught him. But the school was gone now, wasn’t it? He said it was. And the church? Gone, too. There had never been a store out there, nor a cemetery. His two sets of grandparents were buried in two different neighboring communities. “No post office, either,” I murmured. “They wouldn’t allow two Paint Rocks in the same state.” Somewhere out between my own home town and San Angelo is another Paint Rock, that one official enough to rate a dot on the road map. When I was a bride I was a devout regional chauvinist, and was miffed then to learn that some little nowhere up in northeast Texas had audaciously conferred upon itself the same name as our Paint Rock. Mellowed now, I wondered if the names had been similarly inspired. It had something to do with Indian paint on a rock, didn’t it? My husband said that was true about his Paint Rock; he had shown it to us once. Karen thought she remembered, and he seemed pleased. After we arrived in Sulphur Springs that night, my father-in-law assured us that we could still see Indian paint on the rock, but it 14 JUNE 4, 1982
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