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  Texas : Features : Books Reviews :

Texas Books

COTTONSEED KID
Childhood Memories of a Texas Life

by Hariett Dublin
Publisher: Friday's Child Press
January 31, 2005


Reviewed by John Troesser
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The tongue-in-cheek title sounds a bit like a paperback that might've been sold on one of those revolving wire racks at the drugstore - but this isn't a ripping yarn about a gunslinger or the biography of a movie sidekick. It's a charming lilt book that takes the reader back in time to a Texas (and Kansas) that no longer exists.

The author can claim the absolute best pedigree for a Panhandle Texan (her parents being from Kansas). Her father, Willis Price, got a taste for adventure during his boyhood when he had the opportunity to ride with famed Texas scout and buffalo hunter Billy Dixon. After his time spent with Dixon, things were just too tame back in home, so Willis married in Admire, Kansas and he and his new bride Margaret returned to Texas (via Washington State and California) arriving on a railroad car - with their "bag and baggage" including a wagon and a team of mules. Settling on family lands near White Deer, the Prices had three girls; the author being the last born.

Due to her tender age, the author's insights on Pampa and tiny White Deer, Texas come mostly from family members, but her accounts of adventures enjoyed and mishaps endured on trips taken "up there" to Kansas are all firsthand. The dusty unpaved roads took the family to rented houses in Cottonwood Falls, Salina and Emporia. Houses that were rented to them by people (the author supposed) who had gone to Colorado to cool off for the summer.

Properly named Harriet (one T) after a favorite aunt, the author relates the chores and pleasures of farm life from cleaning algae from the stock tanks, to nursing orphan lambs, and gathering salad watercress from the creek. The book's cast of characters includes a hard-of-hearing maiden English aunt (complete with an ear trumpet) who (when she does manage to hear what her American relatives say) writes back home to complain about the family's unusual speech. This sentiment is shared by tiny Harriet who states: that "all we knew was her name was Aunt Lizzie, she was from England, and we could hardly understand a word she said."

While remembering her walks past the courthouse and imaging all the "presidents, kings and dignitaries" that worked there, Harriet reminds us in simple imagery how we all once all saw the adult world. Putting on a "circus" of home-dyed creatures and opening a museum of borrowed relics and curiosities are highlights of the Kansas years. Interspersed among the stories are recipes for fried mush, chopped apple cake, and as a bonus - the author reveals a once-closely-guarded recipe for Throckmorton, Texas Orange Cake.

The volume's old-fashioned quality binding (sewn in signatures) matches the value of the stories within. It does end too soon, but during the journey you'll learn the story of the scandalous hitchhiking sisters, how Harriet became Harriett, how a little girl in the Texas Panhandle wrote the most popular slogan of the of the 20th century and how to locate children with the help of lightning bugs.

Besides the enjoyable visit to familiar places we've never been, we feel it also serves as an excellent model for those readers who have considered writing their own memoirs. Try to be born into an interesting family, cut to the chase, don't get bogged down in detail, and above all else - just sit down and write it. It probably won't be a bestseller, it might not be appreciated for sometime - but someday on some quiet winter night when all the dignitaries and kings have left the courthouse, your grandchildren might read words like Harriett wrote to her heirs:

"All of my children and grandchildren love the land, animals and being a part of the natural resources that God has provided for our use and protection while in our care. It's a serious matter - proper care of the world around us."

John Troesser

Cottonseed Kid book cover

Harriett Dublin's The Cottonseed Kid

Book Excerpt:
(Chapter 3) The Ear Trumpet > next page
 
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