Robert G. Cowser
WITH THE FAMILY
a child, I can remember the excitement I experienced when on a Sunday morning
in summer my mother would say to my father, “Roy, it’s time we visited my brother.”
Or perhaps she would announce that we ought to visit a family who had once lived
on a farm near ours but had since moved to another community close by. I cannot
remember my father ever suggesting one of these visits, not even to visit one
of his brothers or sisters, several of whom lived short distances away. But he
never said, “I would rather not” to my mother, who herself did not drive. Of course,
these excursions included my younger brother and me.
On these short trips
we would often take roads unfamiliar to my brother and me. Most of the roads were
narrow dirt roads in either Hopkins or Franklin County. Sometimes overhanging
branches would scrape the top of our car, or a small boulder in the road might
damage the car’s oil pan. Some of the wooden bridges were in disprepair and probably
should have been condemned.
The road we took one Sunday when I was eight
or ten led to a farmhouse near Quitman
where Uncle Louie, my mother’s brother, and Aunt Lexie lived. After my uncle contracted
rheumatoid arthritis, he lived with his son’s family.
After the noon meal,
my brother, my father and I accompanied Uncle Louie to the site of a collapsed
bridge on Lake Fork, a tributary of the Sabine
River. I had seen rusty metal many times before, but I had never seen as much
corrosion on a structure before.
We stood on the bank below the bridge
and stared up at the girders. I imagined the look of the bridge when it was new
If there was an alternate route to our destination that allowed
us to take a highway, my brother and I would beg my father to take that route.
We two especially liked the highway to Winnsboro,
a town south of our farm, because there were two or three steep hills. My parents
preferred the dirt road because it passed the houses of several people they had
gone to school with or had met at square dances. But occasionally Daddy would
take us to Winnsboro on the
paved road. An exciting part about the trip on the highway was that Daddy would
shift the gear stick of the ’38 Chevy to neutral and we would coast down the steepest
only more enjoyable activity on Sunday afternoons than visiting a different place
was seeing a matinee at the picture show. These opportunities were rare. One Sunday
afternoon when I was ten years old, my parents decided to drive to Paris,
some forty miles from our house. They invited my newly married sister and her
husband to go along. When we drove through the courthouse square in Mt.
Vernon on our way to Paris, I read
on the marquee of the Joy Theatre that Sergeant York, with Gary Cooper, was the
film featured that afternoon.
“Mamma,” I called out, as my brother-in-law
turned the car away from the square and headed north to Paris,
“let me get out. I wanna see the movie. You all can pick me up on your way back
My mother did not
think my plan was at all feasible, so I rode with the others to the courthouse
square at Paris, noticing the USO Building.
Soldiers came to the canteen when they were on leave from Camp Maxey, a WWII
training camp a few miles north of Paris.
We drove to the entrance to Camp Maxey; then we turned around and drove back home.
I never had a chance to see Gary Cooper as the Tennessee hero.
shoe horses, don't they?"
Guest Column, June 18, 2010
Columns by Robert