Join Login Search
For Electric Cooperative Members
For Electric Cooperative Members

Renewal in Blue

Bucolic summers in the Piney Woods leave an indelible mark

Illustration by James O’Brien

Every summer of my youth, I eagerly packed my bags, left the big city behind and traveled to the Piney Woods to live the life of a farm girl with my grandparents.

Those East Texas summer days were idyllic. Mornings began with the smell of bacon or ham cooking on the stove and skillet-fried toast with homemade apple or plum jelly. Lunch was always accompanied with rice, yellow and thick, made rich with butter and milk. The meal wasn’t complete without blackberry cobbler made from berries we picked ourselves, battling thorns and yellow jackets while gathering the tart, wild fruit.

Promptly at 12:30 p.m., Mema settled in to shell peas and watch her “stories” on TV while Pa took his afternoon nap. I spent those sultry afternoons outside whispering secrets to Boy, the old bird dog, and to Lady Bird, the orphaned calf we raised on a bottle, or rocking in the tractor tire swing hung under the huge pecan tree.

Mema, Pa and I spent nights in the screened-in sleeping porch, cool and bathed in moonlight. Lying in my bed, I heard the whine of diesel trucks on the distant highway and the whirring of the summer breeze through the woven, mesh screen. The night air smelled of rose blossoms and honeysuckle.

It was the scent of summer.

The memories of those summer days have not faded. Mema and Pa are gone now and so is the old farmhouse. Some years ago, on a cold night not long after midnight, the house went up in flames. Some said it was itinerants carelessly discarding a cigarette. Others said it was lightning, though no one recalls a storm that night.

I believe the old house caught ablaze all by itself. The warmth of all those memories heated to spontaneous combustion. The house saved up all those memories until one night there was nothing but glowing embers—except for what lived on in the minds and hearts of those who were sheltered and loved there.

Nothing stands now except two large pecan trees and the old tractor tire swing.

But each spring something wondrous and beautiful happens. In the place where my grandparents’ house once stood, a dense blanket of bluebonnets blooms.

Like the color of the sky or the gingham dresses little girls used to wear, the wave of flowers defines the layout of the house. No one recalls ever seeing bluebonnets in that part of town.

Maybe the heat of the fire raised dormant seeds to life. Or perhaps that little patch of earth needed something cheery and pretty to grace its sudden emptiness.

Whatever the reason, I know Mema and Pa would be pleased.