On the morning of February 7, 1931, I made a wailing appearance at 3:20 AM in a one-room house owned by Forrest Stephenson on O’Leary Street in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Mrs. Stephenson assisted Dr. S.M. Broadstreet in my delivery. I was the second child of Sam and Mattie Austin and an early birthday present for my dad. I had a brother, born early in their marriage, but he died soon after birth. My parents waited ten years to have me, their only living child. I recall very little details of my early life. There are flashes of incidents, but nothing continuous. I recall sticking my finger into an open electrical socket that knocked me across the room. I recall jumping up-and-down in a baby bed when my Aunt Honey and Cousin Chrarlie came to visit. I recall playing ‘cowboy’ with Tracey Traylor and falling on a paint bucket when a rope swing broke. I recall stepping on a garden rake and requiring a visit from Dr. Broadstreet and a tetanus shot. I also recall screaming when I thought the big scissors he was going to use to cut the gauze bandage, was for the purpose of amputating my foot. I recall my first and last puff on a grape vine and gathering catalpa worms for fishing. I recall a baby-sitter who had a neighbor girl and I “play Doctor”. I recall a maid who had friends drop over to have me suckle their shriveled breasts. I recall an aunt coming into the bathroom to use the facility while I was taking a bath. I recall singing a solo at the age of five at the “Tom Thumb Wedding” at the Titus County Fair. I remember trips to Idabel, Oklahoma in my Aunt Honey’s Chrysler convertible for our ten week summer visit. I remember ‘flying junebugs on thread; trapping fireflies in fruit jars; riding Uncle Richard’s sorrel horse, Salem, bareback on moonlit summer nights; drinking ice cold water from their spring; gigging carp in a nearby swamp and digging potatoes all week for a nickle and triple-dip ice cream cone every Saturday. I remember sleeping on pallets and taking baths in a horse trough on the back porch. I remember Aunt Myrtle’s biscuits, eggs and ham with red-eye gravy. I remember an Indian Chief named Sam Austin, driving his new convertible into a ditch, about every Saturday night, too drunk to care. I remember my last summer there when I rode a Tennessee Walking horse, bareback, even though firmly warned not to by my uncle. I remember Big George breaking horses and showing us how to use a pitchfork to gig the carp. I remember him allowing any who wished, to ride behind him when he took the broken horse around the pen. We thought that to be the ultimate act of courage and bravery. I remember my Aunt Ruth telling ghost stories and scaring the wax out of all my cousins and when we returned home from a ‘Dracula’ movie. I remember six of my cousins all celebrating birthdays in February. Dickie and Ann Jones were the only exceptions. As far as I know, only Ann is still alive and she just celebrated her 90th. I remember visting Charlie and Honey in Sweetwater for a time. Charlie was a few years older and had a job renting boats on Lake Sweetwater. I would go with him to work in their old Plymouth. He would set me up with fishing gear, a boat and a cooler of cold drinks and a pimento cheese sandwich. The boat had a five-horsepower motor and I tooled all over the lake, fishing for whatever would hit a worm. I had a ball. I would stay out on that lake for most of the day. Whenever I would come in for a restroom break, I would sometimes see Charlie drive away in a big nice sedan. I asked him about it and he always had some answer like, “It’s the bosses car” or “Running errands for the marina”. He always had money and there were more folks visiting his ‘boat house’ for something other than renting boats. Later I discovered the truth. My cousin was a ‘bootlegger’! He was driving over to a ‘wet’ county, buying liquor and selling it to customers, right out there at the lake. He later got his pilot’s license and began flying across the border, buying dope in Mexico. My favorite cousin was a ‘pusher’ and a ‘criminal’. My favorite cousin also disappeared one Saturday and his remains were found twelve years later at the bottom of Lake Buchanan in a barrel of cement. Charlie had everything going for him, but walked the dark path. This is a painful remembrance, but more importantly, this is a strong lesson on the tragic mistake of taking those wrong steps. I used to think that my cousin couldn’t help himself and now I know we’re all in that same shape without JESUS and the power of walking obediently by FAITH, always on HIS path. Without HIM, all is naught.
That’s what I get from My Box of Chocolates. AMEN