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Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

Quanah:
Bread Buttering,
Cotton Ginning and Bop Dancing

by Darrell Gilliam

In 1961 my father had accepted a job as a electrical mechanic at one of the [Cold War] missle silos near Altus, Oklahoma. Having 5 children to support, he searched around the area and decided Quanah, Texas was the best place to move.

I was starting the 10th grade and very disappointed to leave Tulsa where I grew up. Upon arriving in Quanah I recall the culture shock of leaving a brand new high school in Tulsa and attending classes in an old two-story brick school. One with rickety stairs and old seats in the auditorium. Little did I know at that time how much I would eventually miss my times in Quanah.

The kids were pretty kind to me and my older brother who was entering the 11th grade, actually, a little too kind for the city slicker with an attitude about thinking he was a little too good for the small town country kids. A few days after we moved into a rented house (destroyed in a fire several years ago), a neighborhood girl invited my brother and I to attend a party at her large two-story house a few blocks east of ours. I casually mentioned to her that I could "bop dance" which caught everybody's attention. They had never seen a city boy dance like that and took great interest. Later, during the Saturday night dance at the youth recreation house on the east side of the street dividing Quanah, I started dancing, generally by myself with the kids circling me to catch the moves. Soon afterwards, all the kids started dancing the city 'bop.'

I had never been to place where the whole town celebrated whenever there was a pending football game and where the kids would fan through the downtown merchants stores full of high school spirit. It was spell-binding and a experience I never forgot. That year Quanah went to the state championship game against Donna, Texas, a game Quanah eventually lost but it will always be remembered as "the year we went to state." I never forgot my worship of Blackie Wade the little halfback and the other team members.

One day, while eating in the school cafeteria (a unique experience only possible there), I witnessed Blackie Wade spreading butter on one side of his bread from the one pound butter tub in the center of the cafeteria table. He carefully folded the bread over into a sandwich and to this day, I still eat my bread that way. I also patterned my basketball game from Blackie who was a terror on the court; running after the ball and otherwise interfering with the other teams offense. Blackie Wade went on to play football in college and I was very saddened to learn years later that he had passed away.

I turned 16 and ran the wheels off my father's 1961 Pontiac Catalina driving the main drag in Quanah. The envy of all us boys during those years was the guy living in Eldorado that owned a 1957 Chevrolet. It was black with a black and red interior, floor shift, dual quad carburetion, and the fastest car in the county.

Another thing I never forgot was the smell of the cotton being milled in Quanah. It took me several weeks to find out what caused the smell until one of my friends enlightened me. The whole experience in Quanah was etched in my soul and although we only lived there one year before returning to Tulsa, I still feel Quanah is my town.


Darrell Gilliam, Tulsa, Oklahoma
"They shoe horses, don't they?" November 15 , 2007 Guest Column

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