Wandering all over Dallas and Ward Counties
Some warnings to readers: This is another column from my much-diminished pile of ancient columns and feature articles. It dates from November 1981. Another interesting facet to this gem is that it illustrates how inflated one’s perception of his own stature and domain of authority can become if he lingers in any position or place too long. < Claiming that Dallas is Ward County’s north forty!!! Bosh!!! Presuming to exhibit how a lady’s coat needs cleaning!!! Pish!!! > Oh well, I was young then…and handsome and wise. I need to alert you to the fact that this column is about 1,300 words long, so don’t feel disloyal if you begin to yawn and want to wander off to your bed or couch. I tried to make the piece engrossing and exciting, but it’s not a cliff-hanger mystery tale, people. My genius can only accomplish so much. However, you won’t offend me at all if you don’t finish perusing. Just rest in your nightmares.
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The following column is rated R. It is recommended for adult reading only. It should be read only at night.
Well, I finally got off to Dallas for a brief vacation last weekend. I suppose you’re wondering why I’d include Dallas in an “Out in the county” column. It’s this way. I’ve begun to look at Dallas as sort of the “north forty” of Ward County. That’s because every time I fly up there I see someone from Ward either going to or returning from Big D. This time it was N.R. Bragg, a retired gentleman who lives out in Thorntonville. Also, my traveling companion on the trip was Tom “Delegate” Murray, recently elected president of the Ward County Democrats. In Dallas, I gave Tom a whirlwind tour of the “cultural pubs” along Knox Street, and then he went on up to Denton while I visited family and friends in the Metroplex.
One strange new phenomenon I noticed along I-35 was a motel called the “Non-Smokers Inn”. Later, my mother showed me a Bob Greene column explaining the innovative inn. It has apparently just opened up, and the owner — who had recently lost some friends to emphysema — had sworn not to allow any smokers, either registrants or employees, to stay there if they smoked a single cigarette. Even the construction workers, Greene noted, had had to be non-smokers, a requirement which no doubt slowed the construction schedule.
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During my brief sojourn in the big city I was just in time to attend the final reading at SMU’s annual literary festival. At one of the entrances to McFarlin Auditorium, I encountered old friends, an English professor and his wife, who were greeting people at the door in their capacity as two of several departmental hosts for the week-long event. I had wanted to sit in the back so I could make a quick exit if the mood struck me, but they insisted I sit with them and piloted me up to the fourth row. Featured reader for the evening was Donald Barthelme, a frequent contributor to New Yorker magazine, so you can imagine what the pieces he read to us were like — short, comical, sophisticated. However, I must have molted off my cultural skin during two years in West Texas, because I sat there like a cigar store Indian bemusedly examining the brown tweed coat on an elderly lady directly in front of me. Two long strands of detached hair were lying along the right shoulder of the garment, and I was mightily tempted to remove them for her. But, I feared she might jump like Little Miss Muffet or turn about indignant at my officiousness if she happened to detect my action. Then again, she might never know. The issue was resolved when Barthelme began his last reading. The theme of it had something to do with chronometry, I believe, and each paragraph ended with an oft-used barnyard phrase “…and all that s—!” The lady with the hair-littered coat and her male companion of an equally advanced age, after hearing Barthelme’s selection nearly to its conclusion, arose and left the auditorium. The author, it seemed, had wrenched my opportunity to do a good deed that night right out of my grasp.
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Another event which I consider historic (although I missed it by three or four weeks) was the demise of Henry’s Café on Hillcrest across from SMU. Saturday morning, I walked across the campus, fully relishing the prospect of a breakfast such as I had enjoyed with musician friends at Henry’s virtually every Saturday for many years. I was shocked upon finding instead a remodeled building with a sign over it saying “Dixie’s Hamburgers”. What Dixie’s called a breakfast was a scrambled egg and sausage pressed between the halves of an English muffin. Time occasionally marches with a rather abrupt tread.
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Back at Midland-Odessa Airport, Tom and I spent a good while locating my dust-covered Pinto. It was already dusk when we drove out onto the highway, and I said, “Sure glad you waited to come back with me, Tom. It’s a long dull drive between here and Monahans, and having you to talk with will help me keep awake.” By the time we reached the caprock, Tom was slumped in the carseat — asleep.
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A couple of days later, Sgt. Jim Vaughan of the MPD said to me, “Something really weird happened while you were gone, Bob. I got a call from the Homicide Bureau of the San Antonio Police Department. They had traced your license number on the NCIC and wanted to question you about a bunch of assaults in San Antonio. They asked me, if they described your car, could I find you. I told them they didn’t have to describe it. I knew what it was, I said, a brown Pinto and you were our editor. Then they said, ‘That can’t be. The car we’re looking for is a Mustang!’”
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In the more conventional mode of “Out in the county”, I ventured into Wickett Tuesday afternoon. There I was informed by City Secretary Sherry Adams that the building permit fee had been raised to $5 from 25 cents at the last council meeting. I asked Sherry why it had been raised so much. “The fee should have been raised a long time ago,” she replied. “It costs us more than 25 cents just to get the information we need. The permit’s original purpose was to get people in here so we’d know what they were doing. Now there are several people in town who haven’t gotten a permit and they’re adding on or building a new building.”
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At the Wickett Post Office, I met Postmaster Don Bowen, who has served in his present position ten and a half years, although he started with the post office in Monahans in 1965 and still resides there. Bowen is an out-going sort of fellow. His favorite leisure time activity is bowling. Several league trophies are prominently displayed in his post office. “I enjoy the fellowship,” he told me. “I enjoy it when I win and I enjoy it when I lose.” The postmaster informed me he is putting mail into 330 rented boxes, about 100 more than when he came to Wickett ten years ago. Twenty of those boxes belong to businesses.
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One of the businesses served by the post office is Luckie’s Grocery, a family-owned operation in Wickett for 36 years. (And that is the correct spelling!) In the grocery store, I met not only the present proprietor, Olaff Luckie, but his father and the store’s founder, W.B. “Barney” Luckie. “I moved here from Eola, Concho County, in 1944,” the elder Luckie recalled. “I worked for Wickett Refining Company until I got crossways with the boss one day and he fired me. Then I was talking to a salesman one day and he told me, ‘There’s a little grocery in Pyote and you could make a lot of money there if you run it right.’” So, Barney got his grocery business started in Pyote, and when son Olaff got out of the navy in 1946 they moved it to Wickett. “In ’46 nearly everybody here was working for Gulf or Cabot,” said Olaff. “Nearly every account we had was with people who worked for those two companies. Now it’s practically all servicing companies here, about twelve of them.” “Yeah,” said Barney, “and they can’t find anybody to work or it would be even more of a boom town than it is.” Added Olaff: “If the work force in this country would put in a seven-hour day for eight-hours pay, commodities would go down in price ten percent — but they just won’t do it.” — Monahans News, November 19, 1981