Raif: Losing my history

The old saying is, “You can’t go home again.” Well, I discovered there is more truth to that than I knew.

Ron and I had finished our business in Fort Worth and I wanted to drive about 30 miles north to Decatur, where I have lived twice. The most recent time was from 1980 to 1989. While there I was thoroughly entrenched in the community. My sons had attended school and we went to church there. The first time I lived there I was a secretary in the extension service, which had its office in the basement of the courthouse.

The second time I lived there I had a farm, raising two kinds of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, along with gourmet vegetables. I took them to Dallas once a week, where I had contracts with two hotels and several restaurants to supply them with vegetables and berries. Actually, I outgrew my supply and started buying from local farmers in Wise County. One grower in particular was delighted. If he had let his corn mature, he got only $1.20 a dozen. But I bought small ears from him — at the hotel’s request — and paid him $4 a dozen.

I also started a wholesale bakery, which was active during the time before the vegetables were ready. On weekday mornings I delivered donuts and sweet rolls to cafes and service stations as far away as Alvord. I was always amused to see the groups of men in a cafe not far from the courthouse in Decatur. They gathered to drink coffee, eat and gossip before they began their day. I also sold pies, cakes, cookies and bread retail as well as wholesale.

There was only one account I turned down. I had to go through Denton to get to my accounts in Dallas and noticed a nice restaurant up on a hill outside of town. I baked four different pies and made a sales call. As usual, after one bite, I had a new customer. However, when I asked the manager how many pies a week he wanted. He said 200! I almost fainted. It had taken me all day just to make six pies when I first started. Needless to say, I turned him down.

Ron and I began our visit at the courthouse, the only still recognizable place, with one exception. The door I had entered to get to the extension office had been sealed up, the yard planted to the foundation so no one could tell there ever had been a doorway there. No loss. There had been a well from the steps to the door that I avoided many times because it was filled with crickets.

Next we walked around the square. The original buildings are still there; they just have new businesses and tenants. The local newspaper office has moved down the street to a much larger, new building.

From there we went up on U.S. 287 North. As might be expected in a growing small town, there were many fast-food restaurants. The old A&P grocery store is now a combination re-sale and antiques store. The greenhouse that grew bedding plants for me has been gone for many years.

Our next ride was out FM 51, to where my farm was. It had been a beautiful site, with woods on one side and tall oaks leaning over a creek on the other. The farm and pond were between the two. Wild plum trees edged the pond and there were persimmon trees lining the fence next to the highway. Across the highway was a friend’s house.

One day years before I yelled for Charley to come get his cows. They had escaped his property through a broken fence and were in my garden. I had to laugh at one of the cows, though. She had huge brown eyes and long eye lashes, with a dreamy look on her face and a corn cob extending from each side of her mouth.

As Ron and I drove down the highway, I looked in vain for my old place. It was nowhere to be found. No pond, no creek anymore, no woods. All the berry plants were gone, as were the plum and persimmon trees. Even the steel over the bar ditch that was the entrance to the property was no longer there. My friend’s house across the highway was no longer there, either. We drove by the property three times, just to make sure I had not missed something. But it was all gone. And so was a big part of my history.

It’s true: you can’t go home again.

— Gayle Raif, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.

Today's Bible verse

“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ”

— Jonah 2:9

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