Potholes in the Dirt Road
you a shovel son. Let's walk up the road and patch some holes.
raised on a rural oil lease in southeast Cass County in the Ark-La-Tex
region of northeast Texas was goodthe good country
life. It brought me through some mighty interesting, tough, and
unusual experiences. But dont get me wrong here. I wouldnt
have traded it for any other upbringing. Truthfully though, to
this day I have never adapted very well to big city life.
were four miles west of McLeod in the Rodessa Oil Field, back
during the 1940s, mainly after WWII, making me about six
to ten years old at the time.
mother was a hard-working homemaker who never worked a day outside
the home for any other person in her eighty-three years. She often
said, If your dad has a job, works and makes a biscuit,
I will get half of it. And of course, Dad didnt mind
that, because Mom had a full time job raising us kids, keeping
house, doing outdoor scrub-board, washtub laundry, cooking, sewing,
mopping, and all the laborious daily chores. And all without benefit
of any of our modern day conveniences. She often carried gallons
of drinking water from a cool, bubbling spring half a mile away.
You see, we were poor, worked hard, and had close, family love
and traditions that still continue today.
in the oilfield, Dad was a pumper-gauger that fellow workers nicknamed
High Pockets. He often worked six or seven days a
week. He had come up through the ranks of general flunky, laborer,
roughneck and roustabout for a Shreveport oil company named Louisiana
Iron and Supply Company. Times were very hard back then and all
the work was manual and highly labor intensive.
were no paved roads in that rural area. The public roads maintained
by the county were mostly all red iron-ore gravel, if we were
lucky. Some roads were also deep sand, plus many slick, red-clay
hills in treacherous places. Even in those days, there were no
Farm to Market state highways, and state-maintained roads were
little better than the poorly maintained county roads.
road to our little shotgun oil-camp house was a private oilfield
road, as were all roads serving the oil wells and storage tank
facilities. Any maintenance or upkeep they received came from
the oilfield employees themselves.
a school day I can remember walking home in late afternoon after
getting off the school bus. Our bus stop was way up on the main
road, which was three quarters of a mile away. By that time of
day, Dad was getting home from his regular job about the oilfield.
can see him now saying, Heres you a shovel son. Lets
walk up the road a ways and patch some holes. And most of
the time, I didnt mind one bit. It was sort of fun working,
or playing, in the dirt, talking with my dad for an hour or two
in the cool of the evening after school. Knowing mom would have
supper waiting when we returned home helped a lot, too.
of the potholes had been made by Dads old 1939 Chevrolet
pickup. It was our only family vehicle. My mother never learned
to drive and dad used the pickup in his job. It was about the
only vehicle to ever come down our dirt road. But occasionally
Dads field supervisor might use the road, or maybe a working
friend of his. That was about it for traffic on the dirt road
to our house. It was one lane with two ruts through grass and
Dad and I meandered along looking for potholes, we would talk
and laugh a bit. Always asking me about my schoolwork, he was
interested in me getting a better education and not having to
work as hard as he had all his life. He told me, Education
is the key to success in this life, son. He had only been
able to finish the eighth grade before full time farm work helping
provide for his family had consumed him. I have often heard him
jokingly tell people, I went to school three days in my
sisters place, one time.
he tried hard to encourage us kids and to provide a better life
for his offspring, believing strongly that each new generation
should be much improved over the previous one.
Dad would stop and pick up a heavy shovel full of dirt from the
roadside. Tossing it into a large pothole, he would say, Thats
a bad one. It needs several shovels of dirt in it. He threw
in some from his side of the road and I threw in some from my
side. Then one of us would walk on the dirt to pack it firmly
into the hole before moving on to the next.
went along having fun as we worked. Some holes needed only a shovel
full or two. I liked to throw shovels full of dirt and make it
scatter. Then I would walk on it, make my footprints, handprints,
or maybe a toad frog house with my foot. But mostly, in a kid-like
way, I enjoyed stomping the dirt into the holes to pack it down
firmly so it would last a while.
road-patching chore occurred fairly often on our three-quarter
mile dirt road. The dirt was pretty soft and wouldnt last
for many weeks. With the rain, the wheels splashing, it washed
out again and again, and some new holes came along. All this was
the joy of a dirt road, of father and son bonding while working
together in a positive constructive manner.
the way throughout the years I learned an important life event.
Or rather an accomplishment called the right of passage.
The right of the inevitable passage from youth into adulthood.
of my greatest desires in life, like my dad, is for each family
generation to be better educated, better prepared, more successful
and have a better life than the generation before. I believe,
because of my parents, I have had a better life than generations
before me. Because they worked hard to point me in the right direction.
Because they insisted on a definite discipline and direction for
my lifea Christian direction based upon clean living, hard
work, and strong faith in a higher, Supreme Being.
trust and pray my childrens lives and accomplishments turn
out much better than my own. Their mother and I have tried hard
to give them the foundation young people so desperately need.
Growing up surely isnt easy this day and time. Our youth
need all the help and positive direction we can give them.
once said, It takes a village. I strongly concur,
starting in the home, of which our church and schools are only
an extension. But a most important extension based on a strong
foundation in the home.
the way I have learned something I never heard my parents say,
but I find it so true. PARENTHOOD IS FOREVER.
RAY MAXIE, former Texas Highway Patrolman and Special Texas
Ranger, native Texan, now retired, enjoys writing short stories
from experiences as a youth in the Ark-La-Tex area, as well as
career experiences on Texas highways.