Between Hell And Hackeydam

Seems like I’ve been off on some “heavy” topics for a good while, and I needed a breath of fresh air.  I remembered this post I had about Bubba Sage and saw that I wrote it almost exactly two years ago on October 17, 2012.  I loved reading it again and thought you all might, too.  Enjoy.


Once upon a time not long ago and certainly not far away a great Texas storyteller held forth on a Sunday afternoon as his audience gathered around a small dining room table, and it  was my good luck to be there for the performance.  He was the last guest to arrive for the barbecue luncheon and proved to be quite the addition to a little band of friends and family who gathered for a traditional birthday celebration for my cousin Martin.  I should’ve known I was in for a treat when Carroll “Bubba” Sage announced his presence with an entrance worthy of royalty.  This very large man with a closely trimmed grey beard moved into the kitchen as the screen door slammed behind him.  He balanced a homemade German chocolate cake in a single layer aluminum cake  pan as he came in, and the energy in the little house went up a notch.  When he retrieved a package of coffee he’d brought and declared he never went anywhere without his own Dunkin’ Donuts coffee because he couldn’t possibly drink anything else with his cake, my antenna was up and ready for the ride.

And what a ride it was…Bubba grew up as the younger child of parents who owned and operated what was affectionately known by its patrons in the 1950s as a “beer joint.”  He was born and raised in Navasota which was, and is sixty years later, a small town in Grimes County, Texas, a county that was dry back in those days so his folks opened their establishment across the Brazos River in Washington County which was wet.   Dry county equals no adult beverages allowed.  Wet county means go for it.  In addition to serving beer, the best barbecue and hamburgers in the state made the place standing room only for a long time, according to Bubba’s stories.  I know that barbecue from years of chasing brisket in Texas hole-in-the-wall restaurants and could visualize the scene as Bubba’s daddy cooked the barbecue outside behind the tavern on a long open pit built out of bricks with a crusty black grill to put the meat on.  I swear I could smell the aroma, or maybe that was my cousin’s chickens and sausage cooking outside in a smoker for our lunch.

And my, oh my, talk about entertainment.  The Sage Place had music on the weekends and Bubba’s daddy played fiddle in the band.  As Alabama sings, if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddler in the band.  The women’s petticoats swirled to the fast music and then swayed to the slow tunes as they danced the Two-Step.  The female patrons particularly liked the little boy who was always there and let him wear their costume jewelry sometimes when they saw him eyeing it with lust in his eyes.   He was in heaven.

The young boy grew up and became one of the teenagers that puffed the Magic Dragon in the middle of the Brazos River at a place he and his friends appropriately dubbed Smokey Point.  They also created a theater of sorts at Smokey Point and Bubba developed a reputation as the Star of the Brazos.  I was mesmerized by this big man’s recitations at our dining table.  He took me totally by surprise when he began quoting a section of Young Goodman Brown, an obscure short story by the nineteenth century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.   I could picture him at Smokey Point as the Brazos River flowed past the dramatics.

As all good storytellers do, Bubba threw in a few words and phrases to grab his listeners’ attention and he grabbed mine when he said, “I’ve had  close calls and been caught between hell and hackeydam more times than I like to remember.”   Excuse me I said as I interrupted him.  But what does that mean and how do you spell it?   Bubba laughed and said it was like being between a rock and a hard place and a phrase his family used but that he had no idea how to spell it so I’ve spelled it phonetically and will now use it as if I’d thought it up myself.

The lunch was delicious.  Bubba’s German chocolate cake was the best I ever tasted and that includes both of my grandmothers’ efforts so that’s high praise.  I stayed to play dominos after we ate and then began to say my goodbyes and thanks for the day when the game was over.  As I cut a piece of cake to take with me, Bubba made one final rendition in the kitchen.  He recited portions of “The Hill”  from Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology which ends with the line, “… all, all are sleeping on the hill…”

Honestly, does it get any better than that?

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
This entry was posted in Humor, Life, Personal, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Between Hell And Hackeydam

  1. Pingback: Between Hell And Hackeydam | I'll Call It Like I See It

  2. boblamb says:

    Wonderful story, Sheila. And that’s high praise indeed that you heaped on Bubba. I hope he knows now or has been informed by others that your own storytelling talent is right up there with the best of them.

    Liked by 1 person

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