My mother, Ola Sawyer, was born on March 28, 1901 Near Hallsville, Texas in the Sabine River bottoms.  Her father, John Wesley Sawyer, farmed a 160-acre homestead there, and also worked as a blacksmith.  The family lived off the land and Ola helped with the backbreaking labor of picking cotton, rendering sugar cane into syrup, and all the daily chores of pioneer life in East Texas.  Her mother, Anna Summers Sawyer, died when Ola was nine years old and her father passed away when she was fourteen.  Her twenty-year old brother, Adolphus, became the head of the family and kept them all together.

Ola lived during one of the most prolific times in the history of the world.  The airplane was just being invented and she lived well into the age of the jet.  The First and Second World Wars were yet to be fought and the Spanish influenza had not devastated millions all over the world.  The Great Depression lay ahead, as well.

Married at the age of 18 to Charles Logan Stokes, her first child Charles Eugene Stokes, was born in 1920.   Four more children followed over the next 12 years:  John Wesley, Alice Elizabeth, Bonnie Ruth and Pauline Glinda. 

Ola survived the worst depression in our history as a single mother with five children, in one of the poorest parts of the nation.  She persevered when her first husband abandoned her, to struggle through the depression with five children. 

Movies came into full flower during the early part of her life, yet she probably did not see one until sometime in the 1930s.  She worked in a sewing factory during this time alongside her widowed sister-in-law, Annie Sawyer.  Tired of hitching the ten miles into town to go to work, the two of them purchased a Model A Ford, even though neither knew how to drive.  They learned together and persisted.

In 1937 Ola met and married Jack Arrant, a rough and tumble character from Louisiana.  She and Jack had two children: Reddick Adolphus, and Jerry Doyle Arrant.  They lived mainly in East Texas lumber mill housing where Jack held various jobs earning minimum wage while supporting a large family.

Ola had all her children at home with the assistance of a midwife, except for her last child, when she was attended by a doctor.  She would usually work in the fields, or washing clothes outdoors, or other manual jobs before each birth and then pick up immediately and go back to work.

Life in East Texas continued as she followed her husband who worked various jobs while she kept house.  Her children grew up, got married and began to have children.  In 1952 Jack, Ola, and their two boys, Reddick and Jerry, moved to Dallas to begin the last phase of her amazing life.  Ola began ironing clothes and keeping children in her home to help supplement her minimum-wage husband’s income.  She could make a $10.00 weekly grocery budget go a long, long way.  Through her ironing, she made friends with people from all walks of life:  doctors, lawyers, shop-owners, busy mothers and many others.  Every person she met became a friend.  She could say your name and make you feel better, and she would often say “honey, everything’s going to be alright”.

All seven of Ola’s children lived into adulthood and prospered with just basic education.  She suffered the tragedy of her son Reddick’s death in a work-related accident just three weeks before his 21st birthday.  Her lament at the time was “the circle has been broken”.

Widowed at the age of 59 she continued to make her way in the world, all the while ironing other people’s clothes and caring for generations of children, some of them her own grandchildren.  She traveled around the southeastern part of the country and enjoyed gatherings with her large family.  Ola died on February 26, 1989 just one month and two days shy of her 89th birthday.  She left a legacy of love that will continue to echo through many, many years.

Hot Air Balloon Adventure

All right!  The day was finally here – hot air balloon ride!  For my birthday my kids and grandkids gave me a balloon ride and the day to tick this adventure off my bucket list had arrived.  Up at 3:30, left at 4:15 for the short one-hour trip from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and the Intel bus pickup station in Albuquerque for Judy and Julie, then I headed on down the road to meet up with the World Balloon folks.

My greatest anxiety before the ride was worrying about getting to the bus stop on time and then getting to my destination by 6:30.   Of course, we had nothing to worry about, traffic was light, and I arrived well before 6:00.  It was dark, and it took me a bit to find the place which was behind a Village Inn restaurant.  We had noticed a bit of fog on our drive in but figured that it would burn off quickly.  Tables were set up under lights in the parking lot and as I registered and turn in my disclaimer form, I noticed that the tables were damp from the fog.  A couple from Florida had also arrived early, and we chatted while waiting for the sun to come up.  The sunlight came and then the fog seemed to be getting thicker.  More people arrived until there were about one hundred of us milling around.  There were seven balloons to be launched with five to eight people in each.  Because of the fog we were told that the first hop people would be bussed further south for launch and that we in the second hop would catch up with them when they landed. 

Waiting for our ride…
And there it is!

Another hour passed as we all anxiously watched the fog swirl about over our heads.  Finally, my group was ushered into a van.  I had four partners:  a young black couple from New York and a black mother and daughter from Atlanta.  A prayer from the daughter praying us into the safe arms of Jesus, and we were off to find our balloon.  The communication system chattered with base coordinating locations of drivers and pilots.  After several minutes of searching we found our balloon in a sandy field a few yards off a busy street.  The transition was completed with one passenger getting out of the balloon then one of our group climbing in while the crew held the basket steady and, on the ground.

Tracking down our balloon…
First hop coming in for a landing…

Mike, our pilot, said that ours was a new balloon, and gave us quick instructions on how to crouch and hold onto the rope handles when we landed.  And suddenly, we were off!  The ground quickly receded as we climbed into the clear New Mexico sky.  The fog could be seen in the distance, with the sun coming up over the Sandia mountains.  The burners to provide hot air to keep the balloon afloat were just over our heads and we could feel the intense heat as our pilot pulled on the control to provide hot air for lift.  Between the periodic blasts of noise caused by the burners we experienced a silent, gliding ride over the changing landscape below.  Our group was most enthusiastic, cheering and clapping as we moved along.  Our pilot was in communication with the van driver who was trying to follow up as we crossed fields, schools, warehouses, shopping centers and freeways.  The wind was very light, and we drifted slowly, sometimes even turning in a circle.  A balloon pilot has no control over direction, able only to raise or lower the balloon as it drifts.    We passed over poles with high voltage electrical wires, carefully avoided by our pilot.

Hold her down!
Ready to board!
We’re in, let’s go!
Farewell Mother Earth

After about an hour, as we drifted lower over residential areas, our pilot began to look for a landing site.  I remarked to one of my fellow passengers that it was like peering into the life of the people below as we saw manicured front yards and backyards with various kinds of landscaping and animal life.  Before we could see them, startled dogs could be heard barking frantically as we approached.  People stood at their windows or on patios and waved as we sailed over.  A grassy playground was spotted as well as several cul-de-sacs as possible landing sites, but each time the wind drifted us a bit out of range.  Our pilot indicated that open fields in the distance close to where we started looked promising.  The chase van continued to shadow us.  There were times when we seemed to be only a few feet above the rooftops and trees below.  We were talking with people on their patios as we passed over. 

Then suddenly, our pilot told the chase van that were setting down NOW.  We had just passed a residential area and were over a four-lane highway with a fortunately wide median.  The pilot carefully aimed for the median as he instructed us to crouch and hold the rope handles.  A slight bump and we were down, the huge balloon still above us. 

Wrapping it up!

The ground crew members were right below us and quickly began to control the deflation of the balloon.  Cars speeding along the roadway stopped and waited until there was no danger of the balloon covering their passage.  As the crew pulled the balloon along the ground the hot air slowly escaped, and the entire envelope was stretched into a 60 feet long line along the middle of the median.  My fellow passengers left with a friend who been following the chase van.  I had told our pilot while we were aloft that I wanted to ask him a question after we landed.  So, having safely reached the ground I asked him what his roughest landing had been.  He said that he once landed in a lake and water reached up to the chests of the passengers.  However, the balloon was still inflated, so everyone was able to safely reach dry ground.  

Our crew stretched and tied up the deflated balloon with Velcro cords, then I helped as we folded it into a large canvas bag.  Lifting the heavy package onto a trailer the crew quickly stowed it away.  We then lifted the gondola onto the back of the trailer and were off to return to our original location.  Mimosas and small cakes were waiting for us to celebrate and receive our flight certificates.

This poem is inscribed on my flight certificate:

The winds have welcomed you with softness.

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands.

You have flown so high and so well, that God has joined you in your laughter,

and set you gently back again, into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

The Oldest Kleenex Box in the World

I used to be good looking – trim, smart corners – a kind of metallic gray cover, and I was full of beautiful, white tissues – a full 160 count.  I lived on a nice cool shelf in the bathroom – no one ever bothered me.  Then, someone got the bright idea to put me in the car.  “Yeah,” they said “this will be a great size for vacation. Everybody will need to wipe their noses. “

So, I began my life of service in a car.  At first, I sat proudly between the two front seats and waved my top tissue for all to see.  Then, because someone needed the space, I was relegated to the front passenger floor board.  That’s where the trouble began.  I was willing to share my little pieces of paper with anyone in the car, but I didn’t expect to be treated like so much dirt under everyone’s feet. 

Bumped and scraped, I was unceremoniously tossed into the back seat, where some baby kept punching at me.  “Quick, give me a tissue, the baby just spit up.”  Yeah, I was always there for every emergency, but then just tossed back into the seat.

Time wore on and so did I.  I was flattened and thrown around until finally one end of my box came open.  I held on tight to my insides, and kept serving the ungrateful family.  Then, one day someone tossed me into the back-window ledge, and horror of horrors, a shiny new box was placed in the well between the front seats.  This was one of those streamlined versions with a lot fewer tissues.

I still live in that back window, ready at any moment to serve until my last tissue is dispensed.  I won’t give up – just wish someone would give me a friendly pat now and then. 


Finding our Own Eldorado

A Little History of Eldorado

El Dorado or El Rey Dorado (the golden king), is the term used by Europeans to describe a mythical tribal chief (zipa) of the Muisca native people of Colombia, who, as an initiation rite, covered himself with gold dust and submerged in Lake Guatavita. The legends surrounding El Dorado changed over time, as it went from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom, and then finally an empire.

A second location for El Dorado was inferred from rumors, which inspired several unsuccessful expeditions in the late 1500s in search of a city called Manõa on the shores of Lake Parime. The most famous of these expeditions were led by Sir Walter Raleigh. In pursuit of the legend, Spanish conquistadors and numerous others searched Colombia, Venezuela, and parts of Guyana and northern Brazil for the city and its fabulous king. In the course of these explorations, much of northern South America, including the Amazon River, was mapped. By the beginning of the 19th century most people dismissed the existence of the city as a myth.

In the 16th century, the Spaniards in New Spain (now Mexico) began to hear rumours of “Seven Cities of Gold” called “Cíbola” located across the desert, hundreds of miles to the north. The stories may have their root in an earlier Portuguese legend about seven cities founded on the island of Antillia by a Catholic expedition in the 8th century. The later Spanish tales were largely caused by reports given by the four shipwrecked survivors of the failed Narváez expedition, which included Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and an African slave named Esteban Dorantes, or Estevanico. Eventually returning to New Spain, the adventurers said they had heard stories from natives about cities with great and limitless riches. However, when conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado finally arrived at Cíbola in 1540, he discovered that the stories were unfounded and that there were in fact no treasures as the friar had described — only adobe towns.

While among the towns, Coronado heard an additional rumor from a native he called “the Turk” that there was a city with plenty of gold called Quivira located on the other side of the great plains. However, when at last he reached this place (variously conjectured to be in modern Kansas, Nebraska or Missouri), he found little more than straw-thatched villages.

 Finding Our Own El Dorado

My wife, Judy, and I struck out on an adventure recently in search of the fabled “El Dorado” and the rumored “Seven Cities of Gold.”  Our trek took us into the “Land of Enchantment”:  New Mexico.  We had been told that we might find the place we were looking for near the old Spanish settlement of Santa Fe.  We approached from the south, as the conquistadors would have, and there a sign was spotted declaring the place “El Dorado”.  Eureka!  We were sure we had found that spot of fabled gold.

Turning onto a nicely paved road we saw a shopping center, a community center, a grade school, and a fire department.  Hmmm, no gold yet.  Continuing along we saw adobe houses set well back from the road amid high desert plants.  Four miles down the road we found our place:  a pleasant adobe structure with a nice roof deck, but still no gold.

It was late in the day with the sun slanting across the desert landscape, and as we sat on the roof deck we began to see the gold.  Spread across the sky all around us was the most beautiful sunset we had ever seen.  The deep blue of the New Mexico sky was challenged by the sun, making great red, yellow, orange and gold splashes everywhere we looked.  The clouds were alive with all the colors nature could conjure.  The show wasn’t just in the west, but all around us – on all sides.



We continued to discover all sorts of gold as our month progressed.  We enjoyed the gold of visits with our daughter’s and son’s families.  National monuments called to us to explore the gold of their history.  Story tellers in the cool of earlier evening wove tales of Native American history with the beautiful, golden sky all around.  We even gave up some of our gold as we shopped the farmers’ market and the plaza in Santa Fe.

Our golden adventures continued during an amazing month in El Dorado, until finally it was time to leave.  As we sorted and packed and tried to get all our treasures into the car for the return trip home, Judy happened to look out onto the deck.  “Quick, come look at the rainbow”, she said excitedly.  There before us, from one side to the other of the stormy sky, was an arc exhibiting all the colors of the spectrum.  Deep red, golden-yellow, vivid green, cobalt blue and intense purple.  It was the most beautiful rainbow we had ever seen.  “It’s a sign, I’m sure it’s a sign that we will come back to this land of gold”, she said.  Indeed, we had found that fabled city of gold:




Post Script:  The adventure described above occurred during August, 2016.  After due consideration and soul-searching, Judy and I determined to find a place of our own in Eldorado, so we began to look.  Working with our wonderful real estate agent,  we went back to Santa Fe in November and found the perfect house.  After closing in January, 2017, we have begun the process of settling in to our new sometime home.  We continue to experience beautiful sunrises and sunsets along with a bit of snow.  We truly have found our Eldorado.   





Spirits of Flagstaff

“The Old Woman” ~ In room 305 of the Monte Vista Hotel is the ghost of an old woman who used to sit in a rocking chair by the window for hours, just watching the town below.  This is reportedly the most active room in the hotel.  People have reported seeing the old woman sitting in the chair, but many also have reported seeing the rocking chair by itself.  Cleaning staff report that is they move the chair to another spot, it always manages to move itself back to the window.  Excerpt from “Flagstaff’s Haunted Places”

I was dead tired after spending the day driving along Route 66.  You know, that road that winds 3,000 miles from Chicago to LA, as the old song goes.  I felt that I had driven all 3,000 miles, although I had traveled only from Albuquerque to Flagstaff.  I was anxious to check in at the Monte Vista Hotel and get a good night’s rest.  Checking in, the desk clerk breezily mentioned the ghosts and spirits that haunt the place, and that I should be on my toes.  I told him that the only thing I was interested in was a nice comfy bed.

Assigned to room 210, I made my way there as a bellboy appeared to help with my bag and welcome me to the room.  As I turned to offer him a tip he seemed to have disappeared.  Closing my door I caught a whiff of cheap perfume and heard laughter from the hallway.  Shedding my clothes and preparing for bed I snuggled in for a quiet rest.  Suddenly, I got the strange sensation that I was being smothered, as if someone had put their hand over my mouth and throat.  Sitting up quickly, I found that there was no one in the room, but again the strong odor of cheap perfume was everywhere.  I had a hard time getting back to sleep, but finally did.

Next morning I checked out quickly, retrieved my car and made my way down San Francisco Street to continue my Route 66 sojourn.  Looking in my rear-view mirror I was startled to see an old woman in a rocking chair waving to me from my hotel room window.  Ghosts – spirits?  Did I dream all that, or was it real?  I don’t know – you tell me.

Keep Your Shoes On

I found a shoe in the road.  Looking a bit further I found the other one – both were small, worn sneakers that had seen of lot of use.  It was one of those blustery, gray days that you get on the gulf in late February with a wind that cut like a scalpel coming off the water across the shingle.  High thin clouds that looked as cold as the ice crystals they were made of scudded across a deep blue sky.  It was early Saturday morning and I had decided to get out of the house to try to clear my head.  Sally wasn’t there anymore, and a house can be a mighty lonely place with no one else about. 

For some reason I picked up the two shoes, pulled my windbreaker closer and walked on along the road, about a hundred yards back from the surf.  The road looked like a fresh black scar running along the beach from east to west.  It was early and the sun still painted soft shades of dawn colors across the water and along the beach.  The dunes in the area formed small, wind-carved cliff-like indentations close by the road and as I walked along I could hear muffled crying coming from one of the sandy hills.  I couldn’t see anyone at first until I got off the road and walked toward the water.  Sitting on the ground in front of a dune facing the water was a small boy, maybe nine or ten years old, howling like his heart was broken.  He was wearing a thin, short-sleeve tee shirt and worn jeans.  I could see quickly that his feet were bare and cold and raw looking. 

“Hey son, what’s seems to be the problem?”

“Maybe if I sit here long enough without my shoes, I’ll catch a cold and die.  My mom’s always telling me that if I run around without my shoes on I’ll catch my death,” he said between sobs.

“Well, that would be a mighty slow and painful way to die.  What say we go across the road here and get something warm to drink?

He really did look miserable and after thinking over my offer for a minute or two, got up and dusted the sand off his pants.  I handed him his shoes which he quickly slipped over his bare feet and followed me across the road to the Waffle House.  As we each slipped into the opposite sides of a booth just inside the door I got a better look at him.  A small wiry kid with sandy hair and dark brown eyes, he didn’t look like he had seen the inside of a bathtub in several days.  I asked him if he would like to slip into the restroom and wash the sand off his face and hands, and so he did.

Mable came over to pour me my usual cup of coffee and I asked if she had seen the little boy around.  Her reply was negative.  Once the kid returned, we ordered hot chocolate for him and a full breakfast for each of us. 

As I sipped the hot, black coffee I gently asked “so, what’s going on that makes you want to catch a cold and die?”

“Nobody listens to me, ever!” he replied.

“Where do you live” I asked.

“Over behind the Italian restaurant in those ratty old apartments with my mom and her boyfriend” came the reply.

“So, what do you like to do?”

“I like to draw pictures of buildings,” he said.

I could see a spark light up his dark eyes as he continued to talk about drawing houses and barns and office buildings.  He seemed to know what he was talking about.

“Do you mean like an architect?” I asked.

“What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s someone who draws plans and designs buildings for a living.”

“Yeah, that’s what I want to be, an architect, but nobody ever listens to me” he said.

“Well kid, sometimes you just have to find out for yourself what you want to do and make up your mind to accomplish your goals on your own.”

Mable brought our food and the kid dug in like it was the first meal he had had in days.  We didn’t talk much while we were eating, but I could sense that he was thinking over the possibility of becoming an architect.

“Hey mister, how do you learn to be an architect?” he asked suddenly.

“Well, you apply yourself to you studies in school, make the very best grades that you can and find a good college to attend.  If you are really serious, you might even get a scholarship to help you.  Does that sound like something you can do?”

“You bet!”

We finished up the last of our food, I paid up and we made our way out the door.  As he left to walk back toward the apartments, he turned around and said: 

“Hey mister, thanks for listening”

I replied “Your welcome kid, keep your shoes on!”

2016 ~ A Proper Celebration


As we celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary this was a very special year for us.  So, we decided to celebrate all year long.  To get started, in January we returned to one of our favorite places, Barcelona Spain.  We settled in the same little hotel that we had stayed in before on La Rambla in the heart of the city.  After visiting and revisiting favorite places around Barcelona, we boarded a ship and sailed to Morocco; the Canary Islands; Funchal, Portugal; and Malaga, Spain.  We even managed to squeeze in a camel ride across the dunes!

Back home during February, we celebrated our grandson, Jasper’s, second birthday with candles, cake and movies.  Jasper, and our other two grandchildren, Dana and Garrett, have added much joy to our celebration of fifty years together. 

March saw us celebrating a very special St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans with our daughter, Julie, and two of our precious friends, Hans and Helga Geigl.  Hans and Helga ventured from Germany with friends, Willie and Astrid, to tour the Southeast US.  We met them during their stop in New Orleans for breakfast at Brennen’s, a ride on the St. Charles streetcar through the Garden District, a swing through Bourbon Street, and finally a bang-up St. Patrick’s Day parade through Jackson Square.

Then it was April and time for a little Scandinavian journey among the Vikings.  Sailing out of Southampton, England we visited, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.  Being captured by trolls, and rescued by a sturgeon and our favorite waiter was all part of the adventure.  (See the whole story at:  jarrantblog.wordpress.com.)

We coasted through May, June and July in preparation for more celebrating in August, an amazing month of beautiful sunrises, spectacular sunsets and brilliant rainbows.  Staying in Eldorado near Santa Fe, we enjoyed our family visiting us, and exploring the region.  Julie, Dana, Garrett, and Eduardo came for a week during which we had spa time, river rafting, Breaking Bad, Meow Wolf, Pecos National Monument, and lots of good food.  Then we had a week with Chris, Deanne, and Jasper during which we celebrated Chris’s birthday, rode a train, played in several parks and ate lots of good food.  Jasper watched over us while Chris and Deanne went to Arches National Park in Utah.  All too soon we had to come back to reality in Texas

Another catch-up time during September and October.  We celebrated at the State Fair of Texas, where we ate corny dogs and funnel cakes, and reminisced about the fair fifty years ago – the only thing that has changed are the prices.  We also celebrated Dana’s and Garrett’s birthdays in October, and Julie’s in early November.  They continue to do well in school – Dana attends TWU, working toward her masters, and Garrett is getting his basics at Brookhaven Junior College – and both work full time!

Then November and time again to venture out to our wonderful Santa Fe for Thanksgiving, except this time with a twist.  Every time we visit we love the place more, so after much thought – we celebrated by buying a vacation home!  We look forward to spending as much time as possible getting to know Santa Fe better, and enjoying the wonderful people there.

Blessed with good health and a willingness to explore and find new adventures every day, we look forward to the wonders that God will show us in 2017 and beyond.  We might even celebrate another fifty years – who knows? 

Merry Christmas and Much Joy

to each of you, our beloved family and friends. We love you, and wish you a

Very Blessed New Year…

Judy, Jerry and Daisy (Yep, she’s still with us)


Chickens I Have Known

Have you ever been acquainted personally with a chicken?  I have known several and all were pleasant acquaintances.  My first encounters with chickens were with one named Henny Penny and another named Little Red Hen.  The first of these two was an excitable little biddy who tried to convince her king and the world that the sky was falling.  The latter, calmer bird planted seeds, grew wheat, baked bread and ate it all herself because none of her lazy friends would help her in the process.  Both friendships gave me life lessons that I still use today.

Then there was the tin hen that laid marble eggs.  She was a gift my mother bought me as consolation after my finger was severed and re-attached at the age of seven.  A colorful rotund bird, she would, after turning a small crank on her wing, reward me with a cackle and a beautiful “egg” which popped out of her nether regions.  The novelty soon wore off.

I was not friendly with a mean old rooster that ruled the chicken yard behind our house, and after several encounters in which I was not the victor, I picked up a small rock aimed for the cock’s feet, but instead hit him squarely in the head which dispatched him to chicken heaven.  My mother was not happy.

Next came my pet chicken.  My mother would order baby chicks from the local feed store which were then sent to her in the US mail.  They came in a ventilated box full of peeping, hungry little beaks.  Allowed to run in a protected part of the yard, they were closely watched.  Many dangers lurked.  They had to be put up at night as protection from predators.  If rain came and they got wet, they had to be carefully dried out in a warm oven.  So, inevitably, one of these miniature chickens became my pet.  I would feed her special tidbits from the table or bugs gathered from the yard.  She would follow me through the yard, up to the door, then into the house where I would carefully pet her.  I did not name the dumb cluck and I don’t remember what happened to her.  Her lifestyle choices were limited:  an egg layer or a fryer.  You imagine the outcome yourself.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to get to know a chicken on a first name basis, take it.  You will be richly rewarded, I promise.

Mind Trip

On a beautiful Senior-Day Thursday, my wife, Judy, and I boarded the Dart Rail in Carrollton for an adventure at the State Fair of Texas.  Our impression of what we saw this year?  It all seemed a bit tired and overdone. Even the sheep and pigs in the livestock barns seemed bored with the whole process.  The obligatory corn-dogs and funnel cakes were gobbled down with gusto, although to our waistline’s chagrin.  We dodged the crowds, wheel-chairs, walkers, and motorized scooters for a couple of hours and then made our way back to the entrance where we boarded the Green Line for Carrollton.

This is where things got interesting.  As we left the Fair Park Station and railed our way west and north my mind started a journey back in time.  First my thoughts were of Fair Park and those days in the 1950s when I would spend the entire day at the State Fair, my mind fairly boggled at the marvels to be seen.  Side shows, crazy rides, and those amazing new cars were wonders to experience and behold.  All this was ours for about $2.00 – saved up for weeks in advance.  The whole park was filled with grade-school kids, wading through ankle-deep trash on the Midway, and just enthralled with the sights and sounds of it all.  After spending all our money, we would hang out in the food and fiber building hoping for handouts.

Rolling further along the rail-line, I was amazed at all the current construction around Baylor Hospital and the eastern end of downtown.  There, in my mind’s eye, was my dad’s Sinclair gas station on Second Avenue where I worked for a while after high school.  It was a rather lazy, laid back place with not a great amount of business happening, and a lot of time to just sit around and wait for lunch.  Washing cars, changing oil, and filling up the coke machine took up most of my time.  Remember, this was the time when a car came into the station the attendant filled the gas tank, checked the oil, cleaned the windshields, and checked the air pressure in the tires.  All of that came to an end when my father died at nearby Baylor Hospital in 1961.  You can no longer tell where his gas station was.

Moving toward downtown Dallas, we passed what is left of Crozier Tech High School.  Just a shell now, but thankfully, it is being saved, and partially restored as part of a commercial project on Bryan Street.  I spent six weeks there one summer in the mid-50s making up a flunked English class in junior high.  It was an eye-opening experience for me.  The teacher that I had during the regular year, Miss McClain, cared more about her appearance and chumming with the popular girls in our class than finding out why I was not doing well.  She intimidated and scared the hell out of me.  I could have done with some careful counseling.  So, I failed the class.  Then, there in summer-school was wonderful Mrs. Venable.  I could see in her eyes the pride she took in teaching and feel how proud she was of me for the work I did those six week.  I easily passed the class, and took the lesson learned with me.

Across the street, the Plaza of the Americas is still there, where I spent a small but important part of my banking career at Texas Commerce Bank.  Texas Commerce was one of those Texas-based banks that was gobbled up by the big guys in the 1980’s banking debacle.  Another place where lessons learned helped me through the rest of my career.

And the train rolled on, as I captured glimpses of the Republic Bank Building, Thanksgiving square, First National Bank Building, Sanger Harris Department Store, and One Main Place – all places frequented when I worked downtown in the 60’s and 70’s.  Surprisingly the buildings are still there, although now being used for much different purposes. 

Approaching Lamar Street, I could see a block away the tall parking garage where once stood the Texas Bank and Trust building.  Memorable because this is where I met my future wife, Judy Macken, and where I began my banking career.  The career lasted 45 years, the marriage is going on its 51st.  The thought of that gang of young bankers that we met there, some of whom are still friends, bring back many warm memories.  Those were our salad days, when we were ready to conquer the world.

Sliding on down the track, I caught a quick glimpse of the Jewish Holocaust Museum, and then there it is – the School Book Depository with Dealey Plaza beyond.  My mind flashes back more than 50 years.  A raw Army recruit sworn in and shipped off to Fort Polk, Louisiana on November 19, 1963, when on that ugly Friday we all got the news that President Kennedy was no more.  Ripped away from home for the first time, in a place where I did not care to be, doing things I did not want to do, I wondered – have I fallen into hell?

Around a curve we traveled past the American Airlines Center and again into scenes of amazing new construction.  Where the Dallas Power and Light tangle of electrical towers and wires once provided the power to a young city, I now saw towers of glass and steel providing expansion upward for an ever-growing metropolis.  Even Goat Hill has been taken over by high-rise apartments.  Little Mexico is no more.   

Gliding on I see a building that was built to resemble the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, but here houses technology businesses.  I can hear in my mind’s ear the roar of high-school kids in the 1950’s as they cheered their teams to victory, when this place was the location for a football field – first called Dal-Hi, then Cobb Stadium.  The players all have gone home and the cheer-leaders are silent now.

On northward we proceed, past the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital where a nephew’s life was saved in the 1950’s.  Parallel to Harry Hines Boulevard, the train makes a stop at the new Parkland Hospital.  But, it’s the old Parkland that brings a jarring memory.  My dad, after a terrible highway construction accident that brought my brother’s life to an early end, had to identify his disfigured face at Parkland.  It is a memory that haunts me still.  He never recovered from that loss and died a short year later.  The doctors said his death was due to medical reasons, but part of the cause had to be a broken heart.

We are off again, and this time it’s Love Field.  I’m back again to November, 1963.  A place that I had just flown out of three days earlier for my appointment with Uncle Sam, now saw a handsome young president and his beautiful wife land for a glorious day in Dallas.  There was the pink suit and pill box hat, red roses and big white cowboy hats.  The procession traveled Lemon Avenue and on through downtown Dallas until it reached that place none of us can forget. 

For years, I had a prayer as I watched films of the whole event, that somehow we should be able to make it un-happen.  Just stop the film.  I first heard the terrible news at Fort Polk coming out of a clinic for an eye exam.  Three days in, and we were being fitted for GI glasses.  There was white-faced Walter Cronkite, on a television in the waiting room, telling us that our president was dead.  Later, sitting on the steps at our barracks, one black kid just lost it, and cried into his folded arms.  His hero was gone.

And on we sped – Bachman Lake, Northwest Highway and what used to be the “Circle”, a failed experiment of a European round-a-bout.  While it existed, it was one of the highest traffic accident spots in America.  Once again paralleling Harry Hines Boulevard, I can see the backs of all the Asian discount shopping spots and massage parlors along that thoroughfare. 

Then we pass those streets that were new in the 1960s – Walnut Hill Lane, Royal Lane, Forest Lane – where thousands of ranch-style houses were built and bought up by young new families, as Dallas expanded northward.  Those families are all gone now – children grown up and parents moved into senior living or cemeteries.  The houses remain and new families have moved in to repeat the cycle.

Then we pass under LBJ Freeway and are almost home.  As we pause at the Farmers Branch Station I catch a glimpse of First Baptist Church, where I know, just to the east is a historical marker for Peters Colony – one of the original land grants given by the Republic of Texas some 175 years ago.  Peters Colony covered a good chunk of North Texas, but all that is left now is the marker, and a cemetery filled with many of the settlers from that time.  That’s about as far back as I will go on this mind trip.

Passing Old Downtown Carrollton with its shops and restaurants, we hop off the train at the elevated station, leaving behind our so-so State Fair Adventure, and a long-remembered trip through time.


Working in my garden last week I started thinking about all the plants that I have that are from every corner of the world, and how even though they are each quite different, they all seem to live peacefully together.  There are Mexican petunias, with pink, purple and white blooms that look like a senorita’s dancing skirt.  Mexican heather blooms along a walkway next to French lavender.  Beautiful green Russian sage grows on the backside of a Canadian red maple tree while European multi-colored pansies flourish in the front.  An Indian hawthorn bush, flowering pink in the spring, sits at one end, quite happily surrounded by gray-green Italian dusty miller. The Malaysian coleus forms a miniature forest of muted colors in another area.

Now there are those plants that are not welcome in my garden – dandelions, crab grass and clover for example.  But, those are my preferences and restrictions placed on the vegetation.  I’m quite sure the other plants don’t mind them.  I do talk to the good plants and the bad plants, cajoling or scolding as needs require.

I mentioned this noteworthy thought to a friend and she said “yes, I have a Chinese pistachio in my yard that seems quite glad to be there”.  Of course, the natural progression of this reflection goes along this line “why can’t people take a lesson from plants?”  We create borders and say “don’t you dare cross that line”.  When someone is a different color or are of a different religious persuasion we disparage them because, we claim, “they don’t think like us”.

So, can we actually change the way we think by emulating the plant realm?  Do we need to take a page from the book of flora?  These are indeed great questions for each of us to ponder as we contemplate the plant world all around us.