How I Remember Normangee Texas

 

Antagonism and Resonance with Populism

 

Recently I was watching the news in which the “caravan” in Mexico was moving north towards the United States with thousands of homeless people too include women and children. Someone commented that maybe an airstrike would solve the problem.  I have seen women degraded on national television by elected leaders of this country. “Grab them by the P*#$^”  And from  Leon County Texas I have become aware of suspicious deaths and missing persons. An elected official beating and choking his wife then having the other elected officials to include Law Enforcement, sweep it under the rug. Or at least it appears they are trying too.  All the while conservative evangelicalism permeates. 

 

I have witnessed several people around the state each tell me the same thing. “It did not used to be this way…”   I disagree.  It used to be very much this way.  All day and everyday.  Let me explain my position and share an experience I had in Leon County over 30 years ago.  I need to give the reader a short background first.

 

My Experience in Leon County Texas was primarily in Normangee.  I spent many summers on my Grandparents farm there.  As a young woman, I ran into a bit of trouble, I was a teenager and  I was impetuous. My mother had remarried and my new step father when alone with me he made unwanted advances. My mother blamed me.  It was a horrible situation and one of the worse times of my life.  My Grandmother offered me a haven in her home.  So I moved in.  Shortly thereafter I found a job at a little truck-stop/motel at the edge of town.  It is no longer there and has been gone for many years. I worked from the afternoon until closing time.   I was a terrible waitress, overly visiting with the patrons, forgetting to bring silverware, they were patient and I got better, tea, coffee and water always full…our Cook was a stunning African American woman named Frankie, I don’t think she had any idea how beautiful she was, inside and out. She had two infant twins, maybe 6 months old.

 

 After the Truck Stop cafe closed in the evening (around 11p) she would walk home, her car had petered out. She lived across the tracks and I worried about her walking late at night because of the young white men that cruised for trouble. To be fair, it is a small, small town and there isn’t much to do but drink, but I worried they would catch Frankie out on the way home. I offered her a ride home after work, at first, she refused but, I persisted and eventually she accepted. I drove this woman home from work almost every night crossing over the railroad tracks and then going home to my grandmother’s house.

 

 Two or three weeks go by and I am suddenly let go by the cafe, no explanation. The next day I went to Westmoreland’s (the local grocer it is now a Brookshires) collected some groceries and went to check out, the cashier closed her lane, I went to the next open lane, waited and when I got to the front, that cashier closed too…I asked what was going on and the manager stepped in, I was asked to leave the store.  I wanted to know why and was told that my car was seen crossing the tracks late at night and that my money was no good there, one of the patrons (a woman) hissed at me that everyone knew that I was going to turn up with a black baby. All this because of an act of kindness, people were seriously mean in that place

 

I had for the most part grown up in an upper middle-class suburban neighborhood in the Houston area. I came from a well educated semi liberal environment to live in Normangee Texas in 1982.  It was very much backwater.  People there still used the N-word. The idea I would take someone who was African American home in my personal vehicle at night was clearly unacceptable.  The rumors swirled for maybe a year. 

 

It was not the end for me however, just a small obstacle in my journey. There would be more.  I healed in my grandmothers’ home and leaving went to college and built a better life.  I have been working and raising a family for many years and often play a pivotal role in my own community.  My children will be attending college soon and can drive or ride with anyone of any race or gender in any  vehicle and all of them can shop at any store without any discrimination.

 

  • Lisa