Monday, February 10, 2014

The Beating Heart of Texas, a short story, parts one and two

Lampasas County, Texas, 1875

“Where are you goin’ Daddy?”
“I’m goin’ to a meeting, Sissy.”
“That meeting like the one you go to late at night?”
“How you know about that, girl?”
“Oh, Daddy, I lay in bed awake when the dogs carry on, and I hear you leavin’.”
“How you know it’s me then?”
“Oh, Daddy you think Mama’s goin’ sneakin’ out? Or Bubba and “Charley? You sayin’ that?”
“No, honey they wouldn’t sneak out. Your Mama’s too good a woman and your brothers know I’d tan their hides and hang ‘em in the smokehouse with the other hams.”
“Oh, Daddy, go on.”
“I’m goin’. And honey, I won’t be goin’ to those late meetings any more. They got too silly for me. Anyway, this meeting’s way more important. We farmers are going to ban together into one great Union.”
“But we’re Rebels, Daddy.”
“ ‘Course we are. No, all us white farmers are goin’ to fight the big boys who don’t work, but sit around all day thinkin’ a ways to steal our money.”
“You mean the banks, Daddy?”
“That’s good Sissy. Yes, banks, railroads, combinations, and those ranchers with their gun-totin’ killers they pretend are cowboys.”
“I know, Daddy. I’m more scared a them than I am your n…ers.”
“Sissy, I’ve done changed my mind about them boys and I’m through usin’ that word and you are too.”
“Why, Daddy?”
“There’s no use in stirrin’ up the hornet’s nest, Sissy. We lost the damn war. Old Sam Houston warned us and we didn’t listen. Now the Republicans and their government paid boot-lickers are the enemy.”
“I heard you say the other night you’d vote for a yaller dog before you’d vote for a Republican.”
“That’s right, honey. They don’t work. They just use our taxes to pay for the army and railroads and banks. They let the ranchers use thousands of acres of land that ain’t theirs. And the damn ranchers own the water. Water put on this earth by God Himself! And they think they can own in and kill us for bein’ thirsty. I’d like to take their big war hero General Grant and stick him down here in Texas on a dry land farm.”
“He’d try to grow tobacco for his cigars. Cigars make people sick.”
“I hope they make him sick, Sissy. I surely do.”

And Daddy went out into the clean air of Texas, the beating heart of Texas where people work for their money and stand by their beliefs. And, by God, did not their beliefs make eternal sense? That night he and his neighbors formed the Texas Alliance, the first of the Southern Alliances, the precursors of the National Farmers’ and Laborers’ Union of America. In 1889 a convention in St. Louis formed that one great Union which, in turn, evolved into the Populist Party.
The present day, Austin, Texas

“What are you readin’, Daddy?”
“Why, Sissy, I’m reading the Cross of Gold Speech.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s a famous speech in American history, Sissy. We studied it in high school back in my day, but it’s probably illegal to teach it now in Texas.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Only a little. You don’t know it, probably, but Texas has outlawed a lot of history. At least the teaching of that history. It’s like they passed laws against ideas the damn Republicans don’t believe in. It’s not just like that; that’s exactly what they did. They passed laws against the teaching of the truth!”
“Oh, yes. The truth. Just like in China or the old Soviet Union or Cambodia. Texas is not the same place I grew up in. It’s not a free country anymore.”
“My teacher says Texas should be a country again. Could we drop out of the United States?”
“It feels like we already have. But, seriously, no Texas would be crazy to try it. This country fought a Civil War the last time. And Texas lost that war just like Sam Houston warned we would.”
Sam Houston was against the Civil War?”
“Oh yeah. Your granddaddy taught me that.”
“The one who named his daughter Sissy?”
“Yep, you know. That’s why we call you Sissy.”
“You loved your granddaddy.”
“You better believe it. Why I grew up thinking all old Texans were like him. There’s so many things he believed in that have changed since George W. was governor. The old Texas died is what it feels like. You know, Granddaddy was against carrying guns around. He didn’t like gun racks in pickups and he’d never believe that a Democrat, a woman, a mother, no less wants to bring back the Wild West days and let people walk around with guns.”
“You mean Wendy Davis?”
“Yep. She is for something that your granddaddy once bragged was a sign of Texas’ growin’ up – that a man could walk anywhere in the state without facing down some gun-toting thug.”
“But I thought she was the great hope of Democrats winning back the state.”
“Honey, if that’s what Democrats want to do, I’m through voting for Democrats.”
“Who would you vote for?”
“Hell, I guess I’ll have to write in names, probably Jim Hightower.”
He’s funny.”
“Yeah, and he’s right on, too. No, it’s another thing your granddaddy wouldn’t believe. That I could not bring myself to vote for a Democrat. He was a yellow-dog Democrat.”
“What’s that?”
“Someone who would vote for a yellow dog before even thinking about voting for a damn Republican.”
“That’s pretty funny.”
“Thing of the past. There ain’t a dimes bit of difference between a damn Republican and a Democrat like Wendy Davis. Sure she’ll get votes from some folks because of some things she says she's for, but she’ll sell us all down the river just to win an election.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment