raised on a rural oil lease in SE Cass County in the Ark-La-Tex
region of northeast Texas
was good; the country life. It brought me through some mighty interesting
and unusual experiences. But don’t get me wrong here. I wouldn’t
have traded it for any other upbringing. I tell you the truth, to
this day; I have never adapted very well to big city life.
We were about 4 miles west of McLeod
in the Rodessa Oil Field. The period of events in this story occurred
in the 1940’s. I was about six to ten years old at the time.
My mother was a stay at home mom. A hard working homemaker who never
worked a day outside the home in her long 83 years for any other
person. She often said if my dad had a job, worked and made a biscuit,
she would get half of it. And of course dad didn’t mind that because
mom had a full-time job raising us kids. Keeping house, doing outdoor
scrub-board, washtub laundry, cooking, mopping and all the laborious
daily chores. And without benefit of any modern day conveniences.
We were poor, but we had love.
Daily, in the oilfield, dad was a pumper-guager and often worked
six or seven days a week. He had come up through the ranks of general
flunky; laborer, roughneck and roust-a-bout for a Shreveport company
named Louisiana Iron and Supply Company. Times were very hard back
then and all the work was manual and labor intensive.
There were no paved roads in that rural area. The public roads maintained
by the county were mostly all red iron-ore gravel, if we were lucky.
They were also deep sand with many slick, red clay hills in some
places. Even in those days, there was no Farm to Market state highways
and state maintained roads were little better than the county roads.
The road to our little shotgun oil-camp house was a private oilfield
road, as were all roads serving the oil wells and storage tank facilities.
They were private roads and any maintenance or upkeep they received
came from the oilfield employees themselves.
Many a school day I can remember walking home in late afternoon
after getting off the school bus. That was way up on the main road,
which was three quarters of a mile away. By that time of day, dad
was getting home from his regular job about the oilfield.
I can see him now saying, “Here’s you a shovel son. Lets walk up
the road and patch some holes.” And I didn’t mind one bit, most
of the time! It was sort of fun working, or playing in the dirt,
with my dad for an hour or two in the cool of the evening after
Most of the pot holes had been made by dad’s old 1939 Chevrolet
pickup. It was our only family vehicle. My mother never learned
to drive and dad used the pickup in his job. It was about the only
vehicle to ever come down our dirt road. But occasionally dad’s
supervisor might use the road, or maybe a working friend of his.
That was about it for traffic on the dirt road to our house. It
was one lane with two ruts made by wheels.
As dad and I meandered along looking for potholes, we would talk
and laugh a bit. Always asking me about my schoolwork, he was interested
in me getting a better education and not having to work as hard
as he had all his life. He told me, “Education is the key to success
in this life.” He had only been able to finish the eighth grade
before full-time farm work for his family had consumed him. Thus,
he tried hard to encourage us and provide better for his offspring.
Occasionally he would stop and pick up a shovel of dirt from the
roadside, saying, “That’s a bad one. It needs several shovels of
dirt in it.” He threw in some from his side and I threw in some
from my side. Then one of us would walk on the dirt to pack it in
the hole a bit.
We went along having fun as we worked. Some holes needed only a
shovel full or two. I liked to throw shovels full of dirt and make
it scatter. Then I would walk on it and make my footprints. But
mostly, I liked to stomp the dirt into the holes to pack it down
This road-patching chore occurred fairly often. The dirt was soft
and wouldn’t last many weeks. With the rain, the wheels splashing,
it washed out the holes again, plus some new ones. But all this
is the joy of a dirt road, of father and son working together. Along
the way, learning an important life event. Or rather an accomplishment;
the “rite of passage.” The rite of the inevitable passage from youth
One of my greatest desires in life is for each family generation
to be better educated, better prepared, more successful and have
a better life than the generation before. I believe I have had a
better life than my parents before me, because of them. Because
they insisted on a definite discipline and direction for my life;
a Christian direction based on hard work and strong faith in a higher,
I trust and pray that my children’s life and accomplishments turn
out much better than my own. Their mother and I have tried hard
to give them the foundation and direction young people so desperately
need. Growing up surely isn’t easy this day and time.
Along the way I have learned something that I never heard my parents
say, but I find it so true. Have any of you parents noticed this?
“PARENTHOOD IS FOREVER.”
© N. Ray Maxie
May 1, 2008 Column
More Texas | Online
Magazine | Texas Towns | Features
| Columns | Ramblin'