I pulled through the wooden fence entrance and parked my truck. When I stepped out something came over me that I couldn’t quite describe. I took a deep breath. Something about the grounds calmed by nerves and redirected my soul. It was a good thing to be here.
I had never been to the Stephenville Museum but had driven by at least a million times. I paused and listened and either tuned out the sounds of 2018 or was oblivious to them.
Suddenly, I had been transferred to another time. Visions from the movie “Ole Yeller” came into my head as I imagined a boy in the woods on the heels of a baying hound after hogs or maybe hunting squirrel for dinner.
“Yeller,” he screamed. “Come on back here!” I imagined him emerging from the trees near the back of the immaculately manicured property with a hound still on the scent.
I passed the Carriage House and marveled at the Surry and Covered Wagon. They were parts of our history and a heritage from which we have all sprung. I imagined trying to negotiate the rolling hills of Erath County wondering what Indian hunter might come through the trees wanting to trade or confiscate horses.
The museum grounds are a safe haven back in time. Log Cabins, a school, and a church coupled with the quiet serene sounds of singing birds and chattering squirrels calmed my nerves and eased my frustrations.
I sat on the bench at the entrance of the church with its tall pointed steeple and somewhere in the recesses of my mind heard the organ rumble as the Presbyterian congregation belted out an old time hymn thanking God for rain and a better crop. I pictured the stern look of a mom as she quieted her kids along the bench rows and prompted them to sing louder. It stirred deep memories of my own upbringing and teardrops formed on my cheeks.
Center Grove School House prompted scenes from the Walton’s. I smiled as I read the cement slab that said “Girl’s Entrance.” I wondered how that would fair in our politically correct, supposedly well-defined culture of today. I was pretty sure someone would be offended or slighted. I wished for a time when men were men and women were proud to be women and didn’t have a point to prove. In those days God prompted how to live and it was the right way and still is.
I marveled at the old tractor with it’s wire spokes and wheels and knew by looking it had overturned miles of Erath County sod to make room for corn and maize and a spot for a garden from whence came the provisions for a family during winter.
Each log cabin had a history that spoke of days gone by and the corncrib and Tarleton Ranch House spoke volumes about a history many of us will never know. I remembered in my own childhood my granddad cured hams in a corncrib and smoked meat in a hot house. It was hard work in the summer preparing for the winter months to come. Each log house was a family living on the frontier trying to raise kids, provide and get by. It was hard work where nothing comes easy. It was a daylight to dark kind of existence with hopes that Indians didn’t interfere and no one got hurt. The spirits in the Dog Trot Cabins spoke volumes and ministered to my soul. Each spoke of a family “working” to make a better way.
I paused on a bench and listened. The real world was a million miles away or nonexistent. Birds chirped and off in the distance Ole Yeller bayed again. He was obviously on a trail.
I don’t know how long I sat there. Time meant nothing and when I rose to make my way back to my truck I smiled. I longed for the simplicity of the times. I wished for a world that said “this is what we do and why.”
I visioned a cowboy loping up to “my” cabin.
“Hey girl,” he said. “Tell your daddy them cows are over on the flats near the North Bosque. I’ll need some help moving them back over here.” Then he was gone.
If you haven’t been on a walk through the grounds of the Stephenville Museum its time you went. Some things will become clearer and other things may well be a revelation. It’s called the “Basics of Life.”
Melinda Clements is an E-T community columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.