X Marks the Spot

Last week I found a journal that I wrote in February, 1992, twenty-three years ago next month.  This is how it began:

I have always wanted to be an artist.  You know, the kind that paints beautiful pictures with oils or pastels or watercolors.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I totally agree.

Alas, I have never managed to connect eye to hand to brush properly.  So here we are – with a thousand words.  Give or take a few.

You see, I wanted to paint a picture of a particular person in a certain place at a given time. I wanted to capture a feeling in an expression or gesture.  I wanted to fix a point and say, here it is.  “X” marks the spot.  However, that is not to be.

I must do the best I can with what I have.  And words are what I know.  I have written introductions to tons of unfinished books!   This may be, yet, another one.

Be patient.  Be understanding.  Be kind.  I don’t take criticism well.

It just occurs to me I spent my formative years in a rather insignificant period of history.  I grew up in the fifties, part of the post-war Baby Boom in this country.  My parents were married in May, 1945.  I was born promptly eleven months later.  Oldest, middle, and baby rolled into only.

The town where I grew up was a small town in East Texas.  How small is small?  Johnny Carson fans ask.  Population 500 – counting dogs and chickens we would laughingly say.  Or proudly say…depending on who asked.

Richards, Texas, didn’t rate a dot on most maps of Texas.  I found that out later when I moved away and tried to show my friends where I came from.  We had one general store where my mother’s mother worked as a clerk.  We had two filling stations: Batey’s Phillp 66 and Lenorman’s Mobil.  Each was at one end of Main Street.

Main Street was our only paved street.  No traffic light, of course.  We had Mr. McAfee’s drug store, my granddad’s barber shop and laundry, and a post office.  The Haynies had a grocery store and feed store.  We had a depot, but no trains stopped there anymore.  One passenger train went by every day – the Zephyr.  Periodically we had a cafe that was owned and operated by various townspeople at various times.  Mr. Bookman had a bank in Richards – briefly.  He died.  The bank folded.  I can’t remember which happened first.

We had one school down the hill from our house.  Red brick.  Two-story.  Metal fire escapes from the second story, complete with bell.  I loved the bell – reminded me of pictures of the Liberty Bell.  Two grades per room and teacher.  Nine kids in my class.  My dad was school superintendent.  More about that later.

Of course, there was another school: the “colored” school in the quarters.  I never went there.  

We had two churches in town, the Baptist Church and the Methodist Church.  My family was Baptist for the most part, although there was little to distinguish the two.  The important thing was that we were not Catholic, as so many of my Polish friends at school were.  They all lived on farms and had to drive ten miles to a neighboring town for church.  As far as I knew, they never missed church.

And fifteen years later, Deep in the Heart was finished…finally.  I took a few more than a thousand words, but once the dam broke, the words spilled out and over and continue to flow.

“X” marks the spot.

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, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to X Marks the Spot

  1. boblamb says:

    I sense that you have in you another book about that time in your life, a story that casts a broader net than did Deep in the Heart, one that peoples that little town and brings it back to life. In reading your post, I was reminded of Willa Cather, a great American writer. If you haven’t read her, you ought to; if you do, you’re in for a special treat. I was smitten when first I read My Antonia, and not long ago I reviewed for the New York Journal of Books the anniversary edition of O Pioneers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think you would enjoy reading the review: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/o-pioneers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bob,
      I just read your review, and I know Willa Cather would have been very thrilled to read your take on her works. I love what you said about the people who want to read beyond vampires and cardboard characters – tell it, brother!
      I have read Willa Cather, but it’s been a while. Teresa has all of her books, of course. I will mention this anniversary edition to her, too – and we will have it before I can say jackrabbit…
      Thanks for whispering my name in the same breath with Willa Cather- you may be right about another book from Grimes County, but if it takes fifteen years, I might have to leave that to a younger writer…we’ll see.


  2. But you did paint a portrait as colorfully vivid as any produced by my brushes. I see and hear it all. And in your books all my other senses are engaged as well.

    Sheila, I have an old journal too, the only one I felt worth saving. In it a miserable 19 year old, confused about what path to take, agonizd over wanting to write as a profession but knew she had no talent.

    Years later we are where we are. Somehow we land on our feet and share our gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ann – that’s too funny I wanted to be a painter and you wanted to be a professional writer…and now here we are…maybe with a chance for a combo!!
      I appreciate your comparison of my words to your brushes – that’s an honor.


    • boblamb says:

      Wayside Artist,
      Allow me, please: Talent in writing is not nearly as important as people assume. Remember the saying “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration?” Same goes for talent. Much more important than raw talent in writing is a good work ethic and a determination to see things through. I taught creative writing to college students for 20 years. I could not count the number who told me, “Professor Lamb, I can’t do this!” but who pushed on to find, to their great satisfaction, that indeed they could do it, and do it well. The secret is as simple as that in the old witticism: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice, brother, practice.”


  3. Pingback: X Marks the Spot | I'll Call It Like I See It

  4. Love this description and love Deep in the Heart. I can’t remember now if you mentioned in the book where the African American kids who went to the “other” school went to church?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luanne,
      That is really an excellent question and no, I didn’t mention it in the book because I actually don’t know. I can’t remember an African American church in “downtown” Richards – I believe I did mention Preacher Garfield who came into town on Saturdays in a horse and wagon to sell fresh vegetables with his wife. The church must have been out in the country somewhere, but I don’t know where. I will ask my friends who are still in Richards and get back to you. Thanks for the question!


    • P.S. Thanks also for the kind words about my writing. I can’t believe I started the book before…I was stunned to read the journal.


  5. Anne Boriing says:

    Sheila, Your talent is not just words. It is also vision. You can walk down a street and see small things that most people overlook. Than you make them large and important and noteworthy. Your style has always reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my very favorites. So hang in there and keep them coming.


    • Happy New Year, Anne
      To have my style compared to Harper Lee’s Mockingbird is an incredible compliment, and I thank you very much for even mentioning my name in the same paragraph with her. To Kill a Mockingbird is also one of my very favorite books. Teresa and I made the trek to Monroeville, Alabama on one of our drives between South Carolina and Texas. The town guards her privacy closely, but the courthouse and town square is exactly as she described it in her book. Truman Capote was her good friend, and he visited family in Monroeville every summer so it’s quite the literary small town. There are little statues for them in the downtown area. Amazing.
      I hope 2015 will be a good year for you and your family…I hear from Nita regularly and Wayne and Billie occasionally.
      I appreciate your steadfast support – I know C.H. would, too.


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