Went home to Texas for a wedding last weekend. I’ve been married to my husband since 1992 & never showed him the house where I grew up.
It was too embarrassing – a two-story half-built house, never finished, way out in the woods. But we were right there at the turn-off to the old place and I asked Mike if he’d like to see it. He was game.
The house is 10 miles east of Manor, Texas (population 443) in an area called the “Post Oaks.” A post oak is a kind of low, scrubby tree, but in this context it’s a derogatory term referring to uncleared woodland. The Post Oaks of Manor was a synonym for “out where the poor folks live, back in the woods in shacks & trailers.”
We found the old turn-off, and I was happy to see a paved road. Had the Post Oaks become gentrified, I wondered? Nah.
At the next bend it became a dirt road. Looked exactly the same as it did in high school. And there was the little one-room shack where old man Blake used to live. My Dad used to stop there to drink beer & smoke cigarettes with him. Like Dad, I’m sure he died a long time ago. Too many beers and cigarettes, probably.
I could see my husband growing more freaked out with the poverty he was witnessing. We passed some piles of brush on fire (someone was clearing land), and a bunch of mangy dogs barked as they followed the car. We were on a tiny dirt road that got smaller and smaller. The dogs fell back. My husband started singing the banjo tune from “Deliverance.”
Then we came to the stock tank right near the old house. There were giant mudhole-craters in the road, some places still wet with swamp water & 8 inches deep in green mud. I offered to walk, but hubby was all, no, we can make it. Hey rental car, it was nice to know you!
BOOM BOOM we tore down that pothole-raked stinking mud track like Ricky Bobby in Talladega nights. I bounced & yelled “GUN IT you’re gonna get stuck!”
We hit the dry land, finally, next to my old driveway. There was a loud grating noise from under the car. I got out to try and get through the gate. My husband yelled, “Is something wrong with the car?” I didn’t look back, just said “No, it’s the sound of the wheels on gravel.” But I was wrong.
We had torn the entire skid plate off the bottom front of the car. It was dropping down under the bumper so the car couldn’t move without scooping mud & gravel like some kind of a wierd car-mouth. The plate was still attached to the car mid-way back, under the front doors. Holy shit. We couldn’t drive the car like this.
My husband got down on the ground and put his legs under the car….then started kicking the plastic skid plate off the bolts where it was still attached under the doors. He was laying in the mud. I said, “You are so hot right now!” Honestly I’ve never loved him more.
I lay down in the mud too, and kicked at the other side but of course, it took his tree-trunk man-legs to kick the skid plate the rest of the way free. There were only snakes and squirrels watching us as we tossed the defunct part into the ditch along with beer cans, an abandoned styrofoam cooler from HEB & some other garbage already sitting there. I couldn’t see my old house, but I could see dozens of “no trespassing” signs posted everywhere I looked.
In Texas, this far in the woods, you’re likely to be met with a shotgun if you walk up to someone’s house and it’s posted, and they don’t know you. So that’s as far as we went. But as we left, my husband looked at me and said “Hey I really understand you a lot better now.”
Then we both yelled YEE HAW and got the hell out of there. We didn’t stop until we got to Wal-Mart.
I know I’m not that poor little girl from the Post-Oaks any more, but I’m tough and unafraid because I used to be her. I’ll take that!
I told my Texas friend we’d gone back and I was shocked at how bad it was. She said “Girl, it was bad back in the day too. I couldn’t believe y’all lived out there even then.” YEE HAW!