Our destination was a pink house at the end of a dusty road. When we arrived a three-legged dog would jump off the porch and run to greet us. He’d been hit by a vehicle some years before, thus losing a back leg. He didn’t seem to know he was one short.
My family would get up early on a Sunday morning and get ready for church. Then we’d pile the six of us in our car and head to Oklahoma. About half way through the trip we’d stop at a small town church and worship with the congregation. My parents were serious about Sunday worship; we wouldn’t miss, even for a visit to my aunt’s house.
We’d arrive at Aunt Jessie’s and Uncle Jim’s around lunchtime. We all brought play clothes and would change into them immediately. We couldn’t wait to get outside. But there was no exploring until after the meal.
Jessie was a good cook. She’d prepare roast beef with carrots and potatoes or maybe fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. There was always a big salad in a wooden bowl and lots of sweet iced tea in these tall brown glasses that I really liked. My personal favorite were the cold peaches defrosted just right, still cold but not so frozen that it hurt your teeth. Of course the peaches were grown on her own trees. She’d cut them up and freeze them with lots of sugar. When they defrosted those Sunday mornings when we were still in church, a nice peachy sugary concoction would be created. Yum. I loved those peaches. And naturally there would be a big homemade cake.
After lunch we’d rest for a little while. My uncle Jim would pick at us for half an hour or so. He always wore overalls. He was a skinny little guy with no teeth. I thought he was funny. My older sister would pick right back. I didn’t say much but I’d laugh a lot. The living room was tiny. I don’t know how we all fit in it. Of course Jessie and my mother were in the big kitchen clearing the table and hand washing the dishes.
Jessie and Jim had three sons. One of them had died in a car wreck when he was about 19 or 20. There was a picture of each boy on the wall in the little room. There was a sofa, a recliner, and a rocker. The room was full. Beside the recliner was one of those ash trays on a brass stand. Uncle Jim smoked….a lot. No one ever talked about the dead son, but there always seemed to be just a bit of sadness in the house. Even as a small child I knew that.
When we finally got outside we had lots to explore. They owned a dairy. We liked to go over and visit the cows. When I was really little I was in my dad’s arms one day while we were looking over the fence at the dairy cows. I pointed at one and said, “Awww. Look how cute the little one is.” You might think it was a small calf. No. It was a tiny spotted dog. I thought it was a baby cow. That story became legend. I heard it every time we visited; we visited a few times a year for many years.
As Jessie and Jim got older they no longer had a dairy farm. Just a farm. The way they lived, one might think that Jessie and Jim were poor. Not so. They had working oil wells on their land. They had a lot of money. I don’t know when black gold was discovered on their property. The wells were pumping as long as I knew. When they died many years later the oil was still flowing.
I loved those Sundays when we drove to Oklahoma to visit the pink house on the farm. We’d leave their house about 7 or so and drive home to Texas, getting home about dark. Panhandle days are long. We’d stop at a Dairy Queen somewhere along the way for ice cream cones. I don’t know then if my parents knew the wonderful memories they were creating for their four children. But, I suspect they did.