Family History

Moments in time.

Walker family farm house circa 1960, Headrick, Oklahoma

Walker family farm house circa 1960, Headrick, Oklahoma

I spent a great many sweltered and swollen summer days on the land with my grandfather. The house was an old Air Force barracks moved to the farm from the nearby base. Our work consisted of watering and tending to the cattle, maintaining equipment, and keeping the land healthy. In the mornings before the heat set in, we’d gather from the fields our cantaloupe, watermelon, black eyed peas, plums, tomatoes, squash, and corn to sell to local markets and from the bed of the truck beneath the abandoned gas station awning in town. I negotiated a twenty percent take of what we made from the groceries and passersby, storing the bills in an old Prince Albert pipe tobacco container where I saved up enough paper to buy my first pair of Nikes (Cortez).

After the chores were done, my grandfather would sometimes take soap down to a cattle trough fed by our well and bathe there. I was free to run wild. I’d head up the mountain with my pellet gun, following after the dogs, Ace and Duce, to dodge sunning rattlesnakes and try to find a skunk we could harass. When we could only turn up grasshoppers in lieu of vermin, the dogs and I would run together down the mountain, across the sand pit, through the shelter belt, and down to the sandy salt fork of the Red River that wound its way through our place where I could swim naked in the red and muddy brine. I once made the mistake of wearing white underwear into that slow river to the consequence of permanent stain, like rusted steel. The nude was the better alternative.

The nights on that land were so dark, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face when the moon waned. I remember when my great-grandfather passed into death in the front bedroom (where I typically slept when I was there) and all the cows sauntered up to the house as if they knew their friend had left for a party they couldn’t attend. That night was particularly dark as the taxidermy bobcat in the living room stared back in wild surprise at us in mourning and in misunderstanding.

Cherished and even difficult memories always feel softer as the patina of time shows its patterning.