Deep in the heart of Texasville
What storyteller Donald Davis said made a good bit of sense to me.
When you get up in the morning and your day goes exactly as planned, you don’t have a story. But, when your day is turned upside down — that’s when you have a story.
My day was turned upside down …and I have a story.
The plan was to go to a late afternoon gathering at Perote and then make a beeline along the back roads to another gathering at Texasville. The plan included eating a mannerly amount of barbecue at the first stop while saving room for a catfish and a couple of hushpuppies over at the crossroads. Utmost in the plan was to make sure that dark didn’t catch me before I got to Texasville.
As the sun began to sink, the day began to tilt.
Now I need to say, there’s not a store or a house on the backroads between Perote and Texasville. There’s not even a wide spot in the road.
“If the car stops, we just need to set it on fire and hope a helicopter comes along and sees it,” said my friend Bannie who was along for the promise of a catfish supper. “Nobody would ever find us out here.”
At long last, the caution light at the Texasville crossroads signaled the return to civilization. All we had to do was follow our noses to the catfish cookin’.
It is not true that when you lose one sense another is enhanced. The nose does not take over when the eyes fail you.
Up and down the main road we went, hoping to spot the side road that led to the pig trail that led to the catfish cookin’.
Three house calls and an hour later, we found the gated pig trial. Bannie opened the gate and we went honking down through the vast darkness. A faint light was on inside the cabin.
The host and hostess appeared on the porch. All the other folks had gone on home and had taken the catfish along with them.
We sat on the porch for a while listening to the frogs and crickets in concert. Then we said our goodbyes and headed out into the dark Texasville night. If you’ve never been in a hollow outside of Texasville on a moonless night, then you have no idea how dark the night can be.
Bannie got out of the car to close the gate and it seemed like it was taking her much too long. But I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw her wrapping the chain around the post. I tuned back in to the nighttime serenade, which was interrupted by an unnatural sound – “Ohaaah!”
I cocked my ear toward the open window but heard nothing more. I looked around behind me but didn’t see Bannie and she didn’t answer. “Bannie!” Slience.
I bailed out of the car, calling her name but still no answer.
My instantaneous thoughts were that Bannie had fallen or had a seizure or a stroke or something even worse and nobody was around to help me.
When I rounded the back bumper of the car, I expected to see Bannie lying flat on the ground, hurt or worse.
But there was no sight of Bannie. She was gone. Disappeared. Vanished.
The frogs and crickets had hushed. The stars stopped twinkling. My own heart gave pause.
The rapture? Had Bannie been raptured? Was she caught up in the clouds? Had I been left behind?
“Bannie?” I said in a hopeful whisper. “Bannie, where are you?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. A head – like a gopher’s sticking up out of the ground. The dead rising up?
Before I fell to my knees, the head spoke in Bannie’s voice.
“Don’t come over here,” she hollered and waved her arms wildly. “Don’t come! I’m in a hole.”
I went closer, creeping.
“Stay back,” she said. “It’s a deep hole and you’ll fall in.”
I didn’t say so but it appeared to me that the hole was well occupied.
No, she wasn’t hurt and, yes, she could get out of the hole by herself.
I watched as Bannie came crawling out of the hole on all-fours, like a turtle clawing its way up a slippery bank.
And I saw then that I had a story.
Jaine Treadwell is features editor of The Messenger. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org