Back when I was about 5 or 6 years old, we moved to a rather remote farm quite a distance from the nearest civilization. Dad always tried to find a place with lilacs growing in the yard. It was a good sign that somebody had been there before us and had survived long enough to plant lilacs.
The old house was built in two sections with a dog-run between the kitchen and the rest of it. Since Dad kept a bunch of hounds, it suited him fine, having shelter for the hounds in the winter and shade in the summer.
The place suited me and my brother fine as there was plenty of room to hunt and two stock tanks to fish in.
We had a teenage sister though who didn’t like it much.
She had no social life at all except attending school. When she got off the school bus in the afternoon and walked two miles, it all ended. Nobody ever came calling. As Martha Stewart might say, “It was not a good thing.” Martha, of course, was not around to advise anybody.
I knew my sister wanted to be somewhere else by the song she sang. After 75 years, I can’t remember all the words but I still can hear her sing it.
“Somewhere in the west,
I’ll build a little nest,
And let the rest
Of the world go by.”
“I’ll find peace and rest,
Somewhere in the west,
And let the rest of the world go by.”
At the time, none of us knew exactly where “The West” might be. Mama always told me and my brother not to go too far west. “Always hunt toward the house,” she said. “We don’t know what’s back there.”
One day, I was determined to find out. I took my dog and our old single shot .22 rifle with a nail for a firing pen and headed west. I walked far beyond where our cows grazed, crawled over two fences and kept going.
Around noon, I came upon a pretty sparkling stream with large cottonwood trees growing along the banks. In each cottonwood tree, Red Tail hawks had built their nests.
They were not happy to see me, the dog, or the old rifle.
I knew, beyond a doubt, that I had found the place my sister sung about. It was about as far west as I could go without crossing another fence. Obviously, it was a good place to build a nest or the hawks wouldn’t have built there.
If the world was going by, I didn’t notice it. If fact, nobody was going by. There wasn’t a road within 5 miles. I decided then that I did not understand teenage girls and I don’t think I ever did.
Eventually, as usual, we moved closer to town where the lilacs still grew in the yard, as always and my sister found a social life and grew up as normal as anybody.
All this happened in the middle of the Great Depression and somehow, we all grew up in spite of our hardships and became known as “The Greatest Generation.” Maybe we were because we had to be.
Somewhere northwest of Blanket, Texas, the Red Tail hawks are still building nests in the tall cottonwood trees on the banks of a sparkling stream as they did then.
Like the song my sister sung those many years ago, “Somewhere in the West.”
Harry Marlin’s column is featured every Tuesday on the Brownwood Bulletin’s Viewpoint page. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This orginally was published in 2005.