May in Hopkins County


by: Bobby McDonald




As I sat at graduation, on Saturday night and heard the valedictorian and salutatorian reflect on their four years of high school, I was sitting behind a lady that graduated with me, way back when! Thus, I couldn't help but do a little bit of reflection of my own, as to the naive person I was, when I turned that tassel and completed my own high school graduation. Certainly, the advice that a veteran educator had given me, was true. He said, "You're a big fish in a little pond now, but you're headed to a major university and you will be the little fish in a big pond!"

How true, how true! But, like everyone else you make those adjustments and soon you find your own way in life, however distorted it might be, and soon you're off on another journey. And, sometime along the way, you "wake up" and realize that the journey is the fun part!

But, in reflection, I couldn't help but go back and look at the time of my own graduation and the graduations of numerous other classes before and after me..... May in Hopkins County.

May in Hopkins County represents an assortment of happenings, an assortment of feelings, and a sense of freedom, that has undertones in many of the traditions we enjoy, living in this place!




How many of you can still remember the excitement of getting out of school for the summer? It was a freedom that you'll likely never match in your life! A summer filled with going to your grandparent's house, where the simplest things turned to magic! Lazy days of eating the first fresh produce from the garden or the orchard (no produce today, has that taste).

Having to be quiet when your granddaddy's favorite radio program came on the old radio, that sat on the kitchen table. And, the listening of the "farm report" that told the price of cattle, cotton, and other farm commodities.

A trip to the fishing hole, as you made your way through the pasture, stepping in a "fresh" pile of cow manure and being bare footed, on your way to the creek, and fun, even if you didn't get a bite! Maybe a handful of Black-eyed Susans for your grandmother as they waved in the breeze all along the path, as you came back home with a perch or two, that she helped you clean and fry for supper. Fish never tasted so good!



In year's past, May in Hopkins County was when we celebrated Dairy Festival, in the county that held the record of the number of milk cows and produced the most milk in the entire state of Texas. Local farmers were experiencing some of the best production of their herds, before the summer heat reduced production, and some of the finest dairy cows in the entire Southwest, were paraded before us, in the Old Show Barn in Buford Park.





Local farmers had replaced "wore out" cotton land, with bermudagrass and top quality Jersey cows, creating a prosperity here in Hopkins County, unequaled in most rural areas of the state. Does anyone still remember the introduction of the first Holstein dairy cows, here in Hopkins County, back in the late 1960's?



As one got older, the end of May represented a time when as a high school boy, you could make "loads of money," toward that first car or truck. It was the beginning of hay hauling season, some of the hottest work on this earth, but you were young and didn't mind doing it, because you were doing it with your friends and you had dreams of that first "set of wheels!"




Most of us have hauled hay for as little as 10 cents a bale and thought we were getting rich! And, that was when you could buy a gallon of gasoline for less than 50 cents. And, yes, many of us have "fond" memories of stacking bales of hay in an old chicken coop, in small barns where there was no air, or possibly in a tall new barn, where the stack fell and you had to go back and re-stack it!






Many, many of those classic 1960's and 1970's cars were purchased with 10 cent hay bales, and many trips up and down Gilmer Street were afforded with hay hauling money! But, the experiences taught us valuable lessons in life, and made us appreciate the "wheels" that we drove!













The long hot days of summer, began at the end of May, and represented a time when you had "camp outs" on the creek, following a day of hard work. A time to enjoy associations with friends, and a sense of community and excitement.






How many of you can remember swimming in the creek? Yes, we were all warned about the dreaded water moccasin, but do you ever remember anyone getting bit?

And, how many of you can remember all the trips to Lake Quitman? It was just far enough away, to be a true adventure and the lazy days spent swimming with friends were some of the best!




The end of May also marked a "change in the diet" from those old school lunchroom menus! It was a summer of bologna sandwiches, slathered with mayonnaise, and every imaginable combination of cheeses, meats, and condiments. Does anyone remember eating liver loaf sandwiches, with the "ring of fat" around the outside? Do you remember "pickle-pimento loaf" and a "thousand-island type spread" that you ate with it? How about summer sausage, and crackers, or a can of sardines? No wonder, our arteries are "clogged" and heart surgeries are required?

And, did that stuff really taste that good, or was it just the association with friends, and the chance to prove you could eat anything?

Then, there were the Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Payday, and Butternut candy bars......peanut patties, SweetTarts, Dixie Straws, and a host of other candies!









And, of course, any new "fad" soda pop, that came out, had to be tried......Nehi Strawberries and Cream Sodas, Mountain Dew,
Fanta Oranges, Big Reds, Chocolate Soldiers, Sprite, Fresca, and any number of others! Variety never tasted so good, at 10 cents each and a 3 or 5 cent deposit on the bottles. Do you remember "picking up" soda pop bottles, beside the road, and taking them to "trade-in" for another drink?






When the doors closed on the schoolhouse in late May, it was certainly a time of celebration! It was a "carefree" summer of freedom, to experience life in Hopkins County!

Do you remember going to the Drive-In theater? I still remember going to see Summer of 42, and being under 17, and just knowing they were going to come "get me" and "drag me out!"

Can you remember going to the Drive-In, sitting in lawn chairs in the back of a pick-up and enjoying the movie with friends?




The end of May still brings a joy and an excitement of the summer months that are ahead! No, none of us can enjoy the freedoms that we once enjoyed, and yes, the summers seem to be much, much hotter, than they "use to be," when you can't "strip down" and take a dip in the muddy water of the creek, even if you wanted to! However, there's still an excitement to enjoying a few weeks, that might not be so busy, and are a bit more carefree!

"No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem!"

Have a great, great summer and reflect on your own great memories!!!!