We left Smithwick in August of 1956. My brother, Kenny was ready to start to first grade early the next month. I turned 4 years old that month. Our dad, Cecil had just had a career altering run-in with Skinny Childers at Pure Stone, where he had been from the beginning of its existence.
I guess Skinny had seen something in Cecil and had hired him as his right hand man to get the plant built and the quarry started. He even allowed Cecil to own and operate the dump trucks that brought the rock from the quarry into the crusher in town. To the best of knowledge this all started in 1950, the year Cecil would have turned 25 year old. Cecil was always very good at figuring out how to do things and wasn’t afraid of hard work and long hours. I guess that was a winning combination that brought him and Skinny Childers together. He also had a bad tempter and didn’t take to listening to a bunch of nonsense, so that it probably what separated him and Skinny. Skinny was the boss, you know.
Once the parting of the ways happened, so did the trucking concession, so he sold off the dump truck business and headed to Austin to find work. Since it was a dirt road from Smithwick to Jonestown in those days, commuting wasn’t a great option. That’s how we found our way to Jollyville.
The small, and I mean small little house we rented was right in the middle of Jollyville. It was one room with the kitchen, dining room, living room and a single bedroom all a common area. The tiny bathroom was the only area that was separated with a door. Mother made down a pallet each night that Kenny and I slept on.
We lived there for 2 years, until it was time for me to start to first grade. That’s when we moved down off of Spicewood Springs Road up Bull Creek at piece, where we stayed until I finished 7th grade.
I guess after nine years, Skinny and Cecil had both cooled down enough for him to return and take over the trucking operation once again. That was brought on by the accidental death of Bill Wall who had operated the dump truck during that nine year span.
Back to the first two years in Jollyville; I’m sure a lot happened during that time, but three incidences are very vivid in my memory. I will tell about them in order of how well I remember them and the impact they each had on me.
The less consequential is the one where I had taken on the raising of a baby squirrel. I fed it and played with it for several weeks. Mother had gone next door to visit the neighbor lady and left me and the pet squirrel alone. I walked outside and as I looked back the baby squirrel jumped up on the screen door and was starting to crawl around to come outside. I knew enough to know that if he got out, I may never see him again. I reached and slammed the door. There lay the little fellow on the concrete quivering. The door hard struck him.
He was too small to skin and eat so mom and I dug a hole beside the house, put him in a shoebox coffin and buried him.
The next thing I remember was our neighbor from up the highway, Bobby Davis, a boy a year or two older that Kenny was at our house. Cecil had brought what I think was his last dump truck down from Smithwick to sell it. Bobby decided to take the gas cap off of one of the saddle tanks and light a match and drop it in.
The tank didn’t explode and kill half of Jollyville, but there was enough flame that erupted from that filler spout to singe his eyebrows and his crewcut hair. I guess we were really lucky.
Now to the final episode. The one that left a scar that has been a constant almost daily reminder of how tough those early years were. It took place in the dirt street in front of our house. All of the neighborhood boys came over for a baseball game. With Kenny up to bat and me catching, I got too close. When he took a swing the bat hit me right in the mouth, driving a tooth right through my upper lip. I think that brought the game to a halt. Even Kenny had a look of horror on his face at how much blood was pouring out of my mouth and was all over my face.
Nowadays a mother would jerk a kid up and rush him to the Emergency Room. Well not in those days so much. She did wash it up and made sure the pieces of tooth was all cleaned out of the wound, finished pulling the tooth and yes I’m sure it hurt her as much as it did me. Of course it would have healed better with a few stitches in it, but she carefully dressed it and taped up my mouth for a few days. She fixed me soup to drink through a straw until it got well enough I could start eating again.
In most of my elementary school pictures that bump on the left side of my upper lip was always pretty well pronounced.
I never did play that much baseball after that. If I did, I was fine with playing in the outfield.