The Spring Of '53

     It was down in McLennan County, Texas in the Spring of '53 in a town named Waco along the banks of the Brazos River. Mother's Day had come and gone, and in it's wake had left a path of distruction never seen before or after in the history of this lazy little Texas town.
     Because Waco lay near the steep banks of the Brazos River, tornadoes would never strike there. Or so went Indian legend which called it "the valley of the flat smoke." But on Mother's Day all 85,000 residents learned differently. Shortly after four p.m., the only tornado ever recorded in Waco history took 114 lives. The spring drought of 1953 had ended, quite dramatically, in the little city of Waco, Texas.
     My Dad was a contractor and the following days and weeks were spent in the re-construction efforts, rebuilding a path 2 miles wide and 4 miles long. And this was the spring I was to learn one of life's little lessons. As a twelve year old boy, a rascal who was always into everything, this is a tale forever etched into my memories of a loving childhood down-home in Texas.
     My Dad (born 1898) was a man of habit and always wore starched and ironed kaki pants, a white long-sleeve shirt with all buttons buttoned, a brown leather belt, Florsheim shoes and a hat (John B Stetsen XXXX Beaver Silverbelly in winter, Bailey Staw in summer). Upon his arrival at the job site each morning he would change into his over-alls, carefully laying his clothes aside for his use after the close of the work day. He never went to-and-from work in his work clothes. And on this day nothing was different.
     Dad chewed plug tobacco, and on this day he carefully placed his plug and pocket knife on a window ledge and went to work in another part of the house rebuilding the damage caused by the storm. I was with him on the job site that day and like a my usual impish nature into mischief. I had often see Dad take his knife and slice off a small chew from his plug and place it in his mouth, the site of that plug laying there with the knife now became just too much for a small boy to resist!
     Quickly looking around to insure no adult eyes were on me I took the knife with relish and gently sliced off a neat chew....
     Just as the acrid taste of the tobacco began to well up in my mouth my Dad walked into the room. BUSTED! He immediately saw what I had done, I was still standing there with the plug & knife in my hand. He just smiled real big, and said, well son, looks like you have finally grown up, but now that you've cut your chaw you get to chew it. He continued to watch as the juices flowed and I slowly turned green. Needing to spit, I headed for the open window, and with a simple shake of his head as a command Dad said no, if you're a real grown man then swallow...
     First came the shame of having been caught red-handed stealing my Dad's tobacco, next came more juice than a Texas rain... As I slowly turned green Dad just continued to smile. Within 5 minutes nothing on earth could have held me back from the door, for it was a race to the yard where everthing came up, juice, tobacco and shame...
      That was 51 years ago this past spring, and a lesson long remembered for it was my first and last chew of tobacco, and another of my treasured memories of life's lessons learned from the gentle hands of my father. My Dad went home to glory the following year, in 1954. and is buried beside my Mother in Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas.



~ © 2001 Dave Griffith~
"This page is written for you on the pallet of my heart!!!"

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