Published in the Rains County Leader on January 16, 2018:
The first couple of time I submitted an article to the Leader, my musings were published as Letters to the Editor. When I persisted in sharing my thoughts, Earl Hill gave me a column; and when I continued to complain about bugs, poison ivy, and other country-related hazards, he christened me “City Girl.” It was a fitting name since, until seven years ago, I had spent the majority of my life in metropolitan areas. My roots, however, were definitely not in the city.
Mom and Dad were both raised on farms in West Texas. Before you begin picturing
gentlemen farmers, let me explain that both my grandfathers were tenant farmers, following rumors of the best crops and working the fields on the halves. By the time I came along, Mom and Dad had moved to Merkel, Texas, about sixteen miles west of Abilene. The town was approximately two square miles and had a population of around 2,000. It was so small that Dad used to tell me he got me at the hardware store. I was really born in the Sadler Clinic which was upstairs above the local hardware store, so his tale wasn’t far from the truth.
We left Merkel when I was three years old and moved sixty-three miles further west to Snyder where we stayed until I was seven. Then, we moved to the big city of Mesquite which had approximately 1,500 residents at the time. It grew quickly, though, and as a suburb of Dallas, it soon lost the reputation as simply a rodeo town – and my country roots began to fade.
History has never been my favorite subject, but David is fascinated with it, especially more recent history. On our frequent visit to Louisiana to visit his mother, we have taken many day trips to see where he grew up, where he went to school, where his grandparents lived, and other places that were important in his personal past. On the other hand, he often asked questions about my background that I couldn’t answer, so one weekend early in our marriage he suggested we hop on the motorcycle and go exploring. It sounded like fun, so we packed the saddlebags and headed west.
It was a Friday afternoon, and we planned to ride as far as Weatherford, spend the night there, and continue on to Merkel on Saturday. We found a nice-looking motel around sundown, and after we unpacked our few belongings and washed the road grime off our faces, we had dinner at a cat fish café recommended by the desk clerk. It was a perfect start to the weekend, and then Saturday dawned with a serious rain that looked as if it might last all day. We had breakfast and waited to see if the weather would clear. When it didn’t, we donned our rain gear and headed out anyway. Before we were halfway to our destination, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
By the time we arrived in Merkel, the roads were dry and the weather was perfect for a tour. We didn’t really know what to look for. Mom and Dad were far enough into their respective dementias at that point that they didn’t remember the address where we lived. I thought I might remember the house we rented, but nothing looked familiar. We stopped at a convenience store for gas and directions, but the clerk wasn’t much help. He was a college student in Abilene and worked in Merkel on the weekend. He was, however, able to point us toward downtown which we had somehow missed, but that was all.
The small downtown square was virtually deserted, and my hope of finding the clinic
seemed unlikely – until I realized there was only one two-story building in town. It looked vacant, but on the lower story, it had a faded sign that read “(Illegible) & Sons Hardware.” The name had faded beyond recognition. There was nothing on the second story, but it had to be the right building. I posed for a picture, and then I saw movement. I ran over and found a man and a woman doing some kind of work that looked like the beginning of a remodel. I introduced myself, explained my interest, and asked about the clinic.
The woman confirmed that the Sadler Clinic had occupied the space upstairs until Dr. Sadler died some years before. She said she would take me on a tour, but it was a mess. In the fall, the volunteer fire department used it for a haunted house, and the rest of the year it was used for a store room.
That pretty much ended my Going Home Tour, so we mounted up and headed east. We hadn’t seen much, but we had found my roots. Dad really did get me in a hardware store, and now the place was haunted. That’s a pretty interesting history for a country girl or a city girl.