One square block in one small Texas town
Willis Webb

SmallTownAmericaisan oft-used phrase. Most accept it without dwelling on what it means or why it is tossed about so handily.

It’s hard to give any particular dimension to the small town term or to explain it to someone from a large U.S. city much less from a city in another country.

Since I grew up in a small Texas town and spent most of a 50-yearplus career editing and publishing small town newspapers, I might be considered in some quarters as a small town expert. That’s probably not a provable theory but I can lay some claim to considerable knowledge about small towns.

A microcosm of my hometown, Teague, might go some distance in explaining small towns, and their pride, to big city folks. That microcosm is the city block where I grew up when Teague’s official population was slightly less than 3,400.

Every house was wood frame or siding. Six were white, one tan and one light green. Most of these structures were single story. In a two-block area, there were seven empty lots. To the east and north of our street was the Teague City Park with an adjoining rodeo arena. No one on the block was considered “rich” or “well-off” and some of us were borderline “poor.” It was a pretty eclectic mix. And, there was almost no class distinction.

Sounds like a lot of neighborhoods in small Texas towns. And, it is.

However, there are some measures by which it could be rated as unique or at least a nice representation of rising to the American Dream.

Within that square block in one generation, that accomplishment might be regarded as exceptional or maybe it’s just extraordinarily Small Town Texas.

From that block came three FBI agents, a college provost, a state district judge, an executive in the Texas governor’s office, the director of the Texas Department of Corrections, founder of an early computer programming company, two attorneys, two accountants and, dragging up the rear, a community newspaper editor-publisher- columnist.

Some of the products of that block have been involved in more than one of the listed career designations.

One from the block gang, the grandson of Greek immigrants, became an attorney, an FBI agent, then a Texas state district judge. Another, the son of a gas and oil distributor, became an attorney and FBI agent.

The third FBI agent, son of a rancher-cattle buyer, was also an executive in the Texas governor’s office before using his experience and his accountant’s degree to become successful in corporate management.

The educator among the block’s graduates attained a doctorate and is now retired after serving as provost of the largest community college system in Texas.

Another progeny of the ranchercattle buyer also became an accountant and was successful in starting up small businesses as well as serving in elective office.

A third son of the rancher, acquired a degree in computer technology, became a programmer and founded a successful software company specializing in health care systems.

On one corner of the block lived a young man who worked his way through college as a prison guard, narrowly escaping death in a breakout attempt in Huntsville. He was just getting off work, walking through the prison library when the would-be escapees took shots at him. As he leaped through an exit door, a bullet pierced his flapping shirt tail. He graduated with a degree in criminology and ultimately became the executive director of the Texas Department of Corrections.

While such Texas towns are small in size and population, most foster good education and encourage success.

Teague managed to provide those growing up there the chance to produce ideas, encouraged strong souls and fostered innovation, and the little town was exceedingly successful at developing moral fiber.

And, finally, when determined youngsters work their way through Teague’s strenuous development system and successfully navigate their way in a competitive world, they are grateful for their hometown’s steadfast ways.

I hope you’re as proud of your hometown as I am of Teague.

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2011-02-24 digital edition

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