Commentary

Connectors are valuable device for storytellers

There’s nothing like going to a rural Texas community gathering to scoop up a whole batch of comparisons to life now and how it was, say, 60- 65 years ago or more.

Most of us beyond 50 years of age have become accustomed to going from our air-conditioned homes to our air-conditioned cars to an air-conditioned store, mall, church, friend’s or relative’s home. That’s a dramatic change from growing up in those 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s prior to the universal use of A/C in businesses, homes and cars, even pickup trucks.

Many par ts of rural Texas cling to such long-established gatherings generally for staying connected with their geographic roots and/or to keep in touch with relatives, who may have to travel several hundred miles or more to participate in the gathering.

A few months back, I was privileged to attend the 90th birthday of one of my heroes, Leon Hale, the venerable longtime columnist of the Houston Chronicle and author of a dozen or so books. The party was held at Winedale, near Leon’s and his wife Babette’s country home. They live part of the time in a Houston condominium but Leon’s roots are “country” and he makes no bones about that. He grew up in West Texas and maintains that regional drawl.

Several hundred people attended Leon’s celebration in Winedale and, as I suspected, a big percentage of the attendance was, like me, septuagenarian or more.

And, aha, here we are at the connector.

Many of the women attending, and who situated themselves outside the community hall to visit before and after lunch, had hand-held fans.

My exposure to these fans began six or seven decades ago when my family attended a one-room country church with no A/C. Then, there was an annual summer (as in hot) “memorial” service at this country community’s cemetery (free plots if your family roots are in that community) with morning church service, “dinner on the grounds” and a “singing’” in the afternoon.

That extended to a “first Monday” evening gospel singing at the local funeral home, which early on had no A/C but ultimately the refrigerated air replaced the hand- or arm-generated variety.

Now, if you’re a city slicker and have never attended any kind of country conclave such as this, you’re probably not acquainted with an old tried-and-true rural practice of using a hand-held fan to maintain some semblance of cool, as in the comfort sense rather than the “hip” delineation.

These fans are made of a paper board similar in thickness and feel to the poster board many of us used to make a presentation in public school. The paper board is attached to a wooden handle about the size and thickness of a stick you’d get at the paint store when the Life Partner proclaims there’s a home improvement project at hand.

Wielding one of these fans to stay cool can be tiring enough to one’s arm to offset the coolness generated to keep you comfortable at a singing or church. However, that doesn’t diminish the number of fans you’ll see fluttering at one of these gatherings.

As a youngster, attendance to church or a singing dictated that I sit by my mother and she always wielded a high-powered fan, so I could stay cool as well.

Everything has its drawbacks, however. Staying cool by being in proximity to Mother’s fanning was sometimes offset by her ability to quietly and, surreptitiously handle any misbehavior on my part. She would fold her arms, then, with the hand closest to me, grab a hunk of the flesh that covered my ribs and twist it 360 degrees.

Hurt like crazy. However, any sound to indicate pain, emanating from me, brought a quick trip outside the church where she used a switch, handily and hastily plucked from one of the bushes, or a belt she kept in the car for just such an occasion. Yeah, I know, I deserved it.

Anyway, that’s how writers use connectors such as hand-held fans and switches.

wwebb@wildblue.net


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2012-05-31 digital edition



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