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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :
THE VICTORY LEASE

by George Lester
George Lester
When we left Spunky Flat and moved to east Texas near Gladewater our new home was on an oil lease named after the landowner, Birdie Victory. We always referred to it as the Victory lease.

Sam and I attended Union Grove High School just a short distance away. Many of our schoolmates lived the same way, right where the job was. The lease had two pumping wells that my father maintained. There was also a treatment plant to remove impurities from the crude oil prior to sending it down the pipeline to one of the holding tanks in the area. My father never left the lease to do his work and he could come back to the house for a hot cup of coffee anytime he wanted and he often did. Therefore, I had both parents around a lot. It was a Camelot life to me and I loved it.

We used company natural gas for cooking and heating and even to run the electric power generator. We had a well pumping water to the house. Our employer furnished the building material Dad used for the construction of our home. No house payments, no rent and no utilities bills, what more could you ask? It was the middle thirties so the salary Dad received was modest, but we could enjoy a comfortable living because of the other advantages. My fatherís skills never ceased to amaze me. All the buildings, except our house, were constructed out of lumber he harvested right out of the woods. Sam and I made the shingles from split cypress using a drawknife on a specially designed workbench. We peeled the bark off hundreds of pine saplings to be used in the place of two by fours.

Our home sat in the middle of a pine and hardwood forest with the nearest neighbor over a mile away. I found great joy in ambling through the thick growth of trees and staying until hunger drove me back to civilization. After a while I got to know every little hill and dell on our lease. Then I started exploring the wild, uninhabited territory bordering our place. Everyday I would find something new and exciting, like the time I discovered a big rock with petroglyphs carved into it. Then there was a dug out place in the side of a hill with logs stacked on top for a roof. It looked as if it had been abandoned for a hundred years. There was an ancient trail going right in front of our house that had been traveled by pioneers in covered wagons in their migration to the west. We drove on part of it to get to the main road. With treasures such as these to find, I wanted to live there on the Victory lease forever.

Is there ever a valid reason for things to change from the halcyon days of our youth? I couldnít comprehend my fatherís explanation of why we had to move. The wells had almost quit producing and our staying there was not practical anymore. Dadís boss was sending him to manage another oil lease inside the city limits of Gladewater. I didnít want to leave. They almost had to drag me away. Every building was moved to our new location within a few days and life went on as if nothing had ever happened, at least with the rest of the family, but not for me. I would lie awake for hours every night with pictures of our former home racing through my mind. I could see every little detail as clearly as if it were still the same and we had never left.

Even though we had moved to Gladewater, Sam and I continued to attend Union Grove High School. One day I decided walk home from school instead of taking the bus so I could visit our old home site. It was a three mile trek but I figured it was worth it. Upon arriving at the lease I entered the gate from the main road and tread the narrow lane through the trees leading to the home site. It was about a quarter mile hike, giving me plenty of time to relive the memories I had made there. I came around a curve and then into the clearing where the house once stood. Not much was left to indicate anyone had lived there, a piece of scrap wood here, a length of pipe there, and a few more remnants left behind. Then I saw an old weather beaten picnic table. Many times we had gathered around it in the cool of the evening to enjoy an outdoor meal. The happy sounds of laughter seemed to still hang in the air. I sat down and looked out at the now lifeless scene before me. It took all the willpower I had to leave but it was getting late and I knew my parents would be worried about me. The evening shadows were stretching out behind me as I took one last longing look back before I headed on to our new home.

I think I did a lot of growing up that day. I learned the hard way that life changes and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
© George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir

September 28, 2004
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