by Walter B. Jackson
They were taken from the newspaper column he wrote during the '30s Depression under the heading Your Sunny Friend.
The other day I got a hankering for some grape juice after I heard Paul Harvey say that a glass of Welch's Grape Juice is one of the healthiest things a person can drink. That revelation whetted my appetite for some fresh, homemade, muscadine grape juice.
I decided I would make a trip across the Trinity River to The Den -- a tract of land that has been in my family for over 150 years. Although it is no longer in production, this rich, fertile, sandy soil was most prolific during the years it was being farmed; now I share it with wildlife -- deer, wild hogs, bobcats, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, foxes and wolves. I only get to harvest things that grow wild.
But these wild pickings are a true blessing, a real treat for me. My favorite things are the wild plums and mustang (muscadine) grapes. I also revel at trying to beat the raccoons to the persimmons and digging the wild sassafras to make tea from its fragrant root. The blackberries are plump and juicy, and I gladly share them with the varmints and snakes that like to lie in the shade of the vines.
I left early in the morning just as the sun was rising. A trip to The Den (our family name for the land) is always filled with high anticipation. I took along several pots for boiling the grapes and enough provisions to last a couple of days.
When I arrived at the century-old camp house, I unpacked my gear
and grabbed a five gallon bucket. I quickly headed down to the spring.
The crystal clear, cool water flowing out of the white sand of this
natural spring is sure to quench anyone's thirst. A sign on a
cypress tree growing on the banks of this oasis reads, "Whosoever
drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the
water that I shall give him shall never thirst again." -- John 4:14
I took a long slow drink of that cool spring water and headed over to the grapevines to begin my harvest.
As I walked, I thought I heard someone speaking to me. I stopped, cocked my head, and listened with my best ear. I looked around and asked, "Who's there?"
In a rapid response, I heard, "Who, who, who are you?" To my relief, I looked up and saw a hoot owl perched in the oak tree just above my head. I was amazed that this wise old owl would even be out in the broad daylight, much less conversing with me. I found a log and sat down. As the owl stared down at me, I began to drift off and let my mind start thinking about life on this land in bygone days.
I soon became lost in thought and started recalling the words of my namesake and great grandfather. He was born in 1858, and much of his childhood was spent on this old plantation. It was here he fell in love with nature and the wildlife around him.
"Texas was almost heaven when I was a boy. It was BIG then. I would pitch camp at Green's Bluff high above the Trinity River and look westward for miles and miles. Texas was such a beautiful place. Many an Indian maiden was wooed along that riverbank on bright moonlit nights when nature was all in balance.
"I remember Texas well when it was being settled. Abundant farm land, and the rivers and streams once fished by the Indians, attracted many a southerner from Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. There were no fences, and the country was full of deer, wild turkeys, wild hogs, foxes, and wolves. It was not uncommon to see panthers, antelopes, and buffaloes. Bears roamed these woods, and I often saw cubs playing in Catfish Creek.
"Just look at that old sorghum grinder over there. That grinder came
from Tennessee. The name of the manufacturer is still on it, Chattanooga
Plow Works. I spent many a day playing here, while Paul Gee, Jim Vance,
and the other 'darkies' ground up sugarcane to make syrup.
"Fannie, your great grandmother, loved it here. It reminded her of the
home she left behind near the Tombigbee River over in Mississippi. She
would sit in that big rocker early in the morning and listen to the
mockingbirds, doves, whippoorwills, and redbirds while they sang to
Walter B. Jackson holds a B. A. in Political Science from the University of Houston. Walter lives in Mexia, Texas, where he teaches English and Spanish at Coolidge High School.
Walter spent most of his professional life as a chamber of commerce
executive in the Gulf Coast Region of Texas. He served as president of
the Humble, Conroe, and Galveston Chambers of Commerce, and later as
Director of International and Domestic Business for the Greater Houston
A Nun's Tale
Mother Goose and Me
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