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27 July 2008

Evocation-- setting the mood

Dallas, 1965.

Just having moved from an established neighborhood in Fort Worth to this new one at the far northern edge of Dallas, I am too young for school. My big brother is in second grade, and so I sit alone in the, yet unfenced, back yard. My play-fort is in pieces, stacked near the alley, and I sit beside it with a handful of Matchbox Cars feeling displaced and lazy on a warm March afternoon.

Dad is at work, Mom is in the house unpacking. Schnicklefritz, my two year old dachshund, is content to lie beside me in the sun and occasionally nuzzling my leg or arm to remind me he is there.

My Mom comes out, after about an hour, with a box of Tonka Toys she has found. These were my brother’s but she said I could play with them. There is very little grass. The yard has not been put in, but there is some sand that had been brought in to fill low spots in the yard. I begin shoveling sand with the Tonka front end loader and loading up the dump truck.

Time passes without much notice, lost in my imagination. My brother has come home from school, but only long enough to ask if he can go visit a new friend he met at school. The sun is getting low, I am getting hungry, and I am about to inside to ask my mother when Dad will be home. He had promised that we would walk around the neighborhood that evening and we would eat hamburgers at a place he knew was near.

Schnicklefritz rises just as I am about to and barks. One ear is flipped backwards, and he is intently listening. I begin to hear it too, a large motor coming nearer, fast. I stand just as a bi-plane appears only twenty feet or so over our housetop. A few red clay-like granules fall into the yard, pelting me and my dog. As we watch, Snick, barks once again in amazement, and the view to the north becomes hazy red underneath the biplane, now only a dozen feet above the cotton field behind our new home, traveling quickly away. There is an airy, purring sound fading with the plane and the sound of the red pellets. I had never heard or seen sleet by that age, but it sounded just like sleet falling on a roof.

I was excited to see plane so close, and it was not long before it came back and showered us again-- lifting sharply as it neared our house. My dachshund barked threateningly at the plane, warning that he would not allow such obvious danger to go unchallenged. I squatted beside him and pet his raised hairs over his shoulders, he glanced at me, excited as I was, and wagged his tail. We both waited and watched looking at the roof of the house for the plane’s return.

My Mom came out into the garage and from that shelter asked what all the dust was. I told her about the plane and showed her some red granules that I started picking up. She said she wanted me and the dog inside, and that we could watch from the window of my room upstairs. It was not nearly so fun from there, and I was so small that I had to stand on a phone book on a chair and on tiptoes to see out. I watched a little, but tired of straining so. This little room upstairs at the end of the hall was mine. While I had been outside and out of the way, my mother had been setting boxes of my things in it. I felt better seeing familiar items again, and was about to dig through the boxes when my mother told me she had drawn a bath and wanted me to wash real well before my father came home.

She found a change of clothes for me while I bathed.

When I was ready, my Dad was home and it was dark. Back in Fort Worth, I had never walked further than my own block after dark. But that night my Dad, my brother and I walked all the way to the intersection of Coit Road and Beltline Road. There was a whole shopping center there: An A&P grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing stores, a Kentucky Fried Chicken with a giant rotating bucket and, across Coit Road, a small little round building with a odd-shaped yellow pointed roof-- a Hardies. We went to that little place to get our hamburgers.

I was awed by all of the people out, and stores open so close to where we lived.

All day long, I had seen only my Mom and the Builder who had dropped by for a few minutes to check on things. I had no idea this place was inhabited by others. The lights, the traffic, the stores, the smells from restaurants—it was a world I did not know existed. It was fun.

My brother and my Dad talked all the way and I walked quietly, taking in the details and even thinking about how I could walk there on my own. I paid even closer attention to each turn and landmark on our way back with a bag of burgers we would share when we got home.

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