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Growing Up In The Country, REALLY In The Country!
My Little Piece of the World
Life in Bluff Dale, Texas
Growing up in Bluff Dale, Texas was unusual to say the least...We moved there from Granbury, Texas in 1966, when I was 6 years old. If you click on the name of BluffDale in blue, in my opening sentence, it should take you to a few details about this speck on the map. There is another website here, if you will please click on it, that will take you to some more photos of what the country REALLY looked like then, and still does.
When we moved to this town, (pop. roughly 200 or so at the time), I was young, but not so young as to wonder if my parents had lost their minds! What really prompted them was, my father, after having having lived in Fort Worth for many years, even though we had already "down-sized" to Granbury had always want to live in the country, and even though we had lived in Granbury for about 3 years, Bluff Dale (or BluffDale, depending on who you are talking to) was further in the country and my father liked that even better. The town consisted of a small Mom and Pop grocery store, a Post Office, a couple of gas stations, a hardware store, three churches and a tabernacle. There was also a very small, red brick school. The nearest hospital, doctor or decent grocery store was roughly 20 miles away.
This is where I went to school for the first eight grades of my schooling. When you reached the 9th grade, you had to go to a neighboring town for high school. The school had two classrooms (1st-4th grade in one and 5th-8th in the other), two teachers (one for each classroom) a tiny "library", an auditorium complete with faded curtains and a stage, and one cook for the cafeteria. In the beginning, we even had an outhouse, but got indoor bathrooms shortly after I got there. That was all we had for a whopping total of 30-35 total children! As we got older, a child from 7th and 8th grade would rotate a week each, helping the cook, Mrs. Yarborough, in the kitchen each day. Then, when lunch was ready, we would go to the hallway where the two classrooms were located and yell "Lunch!", so the teachers would know to start lining us up to go to the cafeteria. This was in 1966, mind you, and it was literally like traveling back in time, going to school there.
I can remember both of my teachers, one a man and one a woman, both smoking cigarrettes and reading a newspaper during "class time". We kids spent a large amount of time at recess each day, where we would play soccer, basketball, chase, dodgeball, red rover, jumping rope, playing "jacks", We got licks or a paddling with the paddle if we acted up, but oddly enough, that didn't happen very often. When we played games, it was all ages playing together. 1st graders played with 8th graders. We would just flip a coin to decide team captains among the oldest two, and then start choosing teams, all the way down to the youngest that wanted to play. There was very little rivalry or jealousy that I can remember, it was like we were all sisters and brothers.
My family lived so far out in the country that I rarely saw any of my schoolmates during the summer vacation. By 1969, we were living on a 114 acre farm that my father was steadily working on, building fences, plowing, planting and fertilizing. I spent the majority of my time alone. My sister was 8 years older, so this made her around 17 by then, and she was busy with high school , boys and dating. We went to a little church each sunday named "Zion Hill Church", which had maybe a total of 25 people attend each service, on a good day. My father led the singing each sunday and my grandmother played the piano. I was the only child my age or even close to ever go to that church, that I can remember. I rarely had "Sunday School", I just stayed with the grown-ups and attended the actual service. Zion Hill was a typical, strict, to the letter, fundamental, hell-fire and brimstone Baptist Church.
Moving on up!
When I was in the 7th grade, we got a new, male teacher for the "big kids room". This was a terrible shock to us all, because this man was an actual, by the book, TEACHER! He believed in learning and discipline, and not always in that order. He realized very quickly that we were a bunch of uneducated, undisciplined and rowdy kids, and even told us one day in a fit of frustration that "We acted like a bunch of animals", which looking back, we did! Well, during my 7th grade year, I, already a voracious reader, had discovered a love for writing poetry, and took it upon myself, in the 8th grade, to write a poem about this poor man that made terrible fun of him. Well, somehow, a copy of that poem made it's way to a meeting of the school board, and led to him being fired. I felt terrible because this man, although we rebelled against him big time, had actually tried to teach us something, and had even taken a special interest in me and my writing. He had told me I had a gift for it, and had even entered an essay of mine into some national contest, that of course I didn't win. Then it was my writing that cost him his job...The view of the school board was that if he didn't have the respect of his students, then we wouldn't learn anything from him. Kind of ironic after the previous situation we had been used to with our previous teachers!
By the time I got to high school, I was so far behind everyone else that I had to take math classes for people with learning disabilities. To this day, I lack some of the fundamental math skills, and the majority of what I know is from being self-taught. I really wish I had grown up in a town where I could have been able to go to a better school. Looking back, there are so many things I missed out on.
One thing I didn't lack was imagination. I spent so much time alone that I had to come up with ways to amuse myself, so I spent a large amount of time outdoors, building hide-a-ways and such in the woods. I would sit for hours and watch the birds and wildlife. I always had a dog or cat for a pet for company. I collected rocks of all kinds, and spent countless hours roaming the banks of the Paluxy River that ran behind our land and most of the time, my parents had no idea where I was. You can't do that much anymore, because it's not so safe these days. I miss that.
Forty years have come and gone since then, and I have lived in big cities such as Houston and Colorado Springs, Co., but I keep being drawn back to the country. My roots are here, and in the silence of the land around me, I find peace. Here is where I belong.