When people ask me how I get my unique perspective on things I always tell them I’m just a simple ol’ boy from Austin, but really there’s another level that remains hidden. I’m poor white trash. Moreover, I’m TEXAS poor white trash, and that’s the whitest, trashiest trash there is! I actually grew up in a little village called Simmonsville. Old drunken Harry Simmons bought the old Killeen city dump, and built his Texas version of Shangri La right on top of it. Of course he had the biggest house in town, and even had a handy man, Bob White. When Harry mysteriously died, Bob married his widow and assumed the estate.
Surprisingly there weren’t any trailers in Simmonsville, but there sure as heck were claptrap shacks and adobe huts everywhere. Now, the Ellises actually had land down along Nolan Creek. The Ellises were crazy, but the Mitchells, a little farther down the draw, were crazy-ER! Before you get this iconic image in your head of Nolan Creek being a babbling brook with beautiful trees hanging lazily over the water, we hadn’t invented sewer systems yet, get my drift? The water was oily green, so full of soap that suds towered over our heads, and instead of quick sand we had something along the banks of a slightly different consistency, and smell. And we SWAM in it . . . naked!
On the east side of Simmonsville was a sprawling cattle ranch called “Springer’s” because a man named Springer owned it, and about five miles down the highway on the west was the metropolis of Killeen! Of course Fort Hood was on the other side of that, but we didn’t know anything about them fellers. They were too far away and they were Yankees, anyway.
Race was real simple in Simmonsville. There were us white folk, of course, and just across the highway was a place called Marlboro Heights, named after the cigarette I suppose, where the black folk lived. Uh, we didn’t mix a whole lot. About the only time we mingled was when they stuck us all on a school bus and sent us off in a vain attempt to teach us to read. I never saw an Asian, except on TV, and EVERY brown person was a Mexican. Now Mexicans back then were different than what we have now. There was a certain pride to being a wetback. A Mexican who was actually an American citizen was a dehydrated Mexican, and a Mexican national was a Mexican with a pedigree. That’s why I refer to Muslims as Mexicans to this day, and it filtered down to my kids. My son, the Chief, when I expressed concern as to his many tours of the Middle East, told me, “Shucks dad, ain’t nobody over there but the help!”
And we had law enforcement on the form of officer Jackson. Now, officer Jackson didn’t have a Taser, or mace, or any knowledge of the law. What he did have was a Colt Police Special, and a big ol’ can of “WhoopAss!” We NEVER considered shooting at Officer Jackson. We might hit him, and that would just make him mad! By and by, when Simmonsville was incorporated into Killeen, they sent cops to arrest all of us kids for some kind of “investigation.” They had it in their heads that we were some kind of “organized crime.” They brow beat us all for hours, and to be honest, none of us crackers had any idea what they were talking about, but then they made a critical error . . . they FED us! We didn’t know anything about the Mafia, or any of that Yankee nonsense, but we knew what bail was, and we didn’t want any part of it! There was beds, and food, and DOMINOS! They finally threw us out of the jail house, and we stumbled back to Simmonsville, and Officer Jackson’s waiting arms.
There’s this mythical image of the beautiful Texas girl in jeans, blonde hair, beautiful curves, breath smells like Carnation milk. Verily, verily I say unto thee that such a creature never existed. That girl in the pool in the picture, “The Last Picture Show” was a California actress! Real Texas girls wore sack dresses and all looked like Olive Oyl. They never wore jeans because jeans didn’t come with legs that skinny. If you wanted a girl who looked like a girl you had to find yourself a Mexican. It wasn’t until Monsanto came along and screwed up the food that white Texas girls had any kind of shape at all. But MEXICAN chicks? They were ready to be married at fourteen, and ready for Social Security by twenty! And some of the rules still stick, I met Crystal Lee Laramore down in Austin recently. Beautiful woman! Poised, educated, got some money, breath smelled like Carnation milk. I still caught myself looking behind her ears, because a girl with clean ears is the mark of a lady!
Nobody had any kind of education. Most of us eventually learned to read, I say most because reading was not required in order to run a still, or make beer, and yeah we did that, deal with it. I don’t know to this day how I learned to read, I just know that somewhere along the eighth grade or so I no longer had to look at the pictures on the cans to know what I was about to eat. And we could eat rotten meat. In a place filled with tortillas and beans meat was a delicacy, fresh or otherwise. There have been times when people would be throwing up the soles of their feet after dinner and I’d just be going for seconds.
When I reflect back on my youth I’d like to tell you I wouldn’t want it any other way, only I’m not crazy! I have a timer set so as to take my blood pressure medicine on time every day, whereas in Simmonsville, if you stepped on a rusty nail, and your jaws didn’t lock up in ten days you were good to go. I crappith thee NOT!
Simple Ol’ Boy From Austin