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Peggy McCracken


By Peggy McCracken

Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Family photos bring back good ol' memories

My sister Gail keeps track of family and friends, notifying us by email of what's happening. She's also the family historian, recording bits and pieces of our exploits in verse.

Back in June Cathy Travland and I spent the night with Gail and her Harry at their retirement castle in the Sandia mountains of New Mexico while enroute to a Sunday School conference at Glorieta.

Gail had a new book of poetry bound and ready for me, along with some photos I'd never seen before. One of those was a rare shot of our entire family, taken when I was about 12. I didn't recognize myself (we rarely used mirrors in those days), but the skinny girl between Sister (Mary) and Tootie (Gail) had to be me. Young versions of Mama and Daddy stood behind us, with Walter on the left and Dink (Jerry Winn) on the right.

The white-trimmed window on the weathered wood house identified the location as the Turner place, where we lived and farmed one year. Of all the places we lived, that is the most memorable. Maybe age 12 is just impressionable, but I can still see clearly the rows of elm trees shading the front yard and the big desert willow in the corner that held our swing.

Swings in those days were just a rope tied to a limb, with a board for a seat. We didn't tie the board in, but cut out notches at each end to rest inside the loop of the rope. When we bailed out, the board bailed out with us, and a time or two conked someone on the head. We had contests to see who could land the farthest from the swing when we bailed out. You learn after awhile not to let the swing get too high before you jump, because it will hang you up high, then drop you straight down. The best time to jump is while your motion is still mostly forward rather than upward.

Jumping was one of our favorite past times at the Turner place. Walter was running track at school, and he duplicated the jumping pit for us to try out. Broad jumping was fun, but I liked the high jump best. We pounded finishing nails one inch apart into two 1"x2" boards for the uprights. A sucker rod served as the crossbar, resting on the nails at a specified height. If we failed to clear the crossbar in our jump, the sucker rod would slide off and hit the sand with us. Landing on top of the hard sucker rod could be a painful reminder to clear the bar next time.

Walter was always organizing us for some game or activity. One day we used two pieces of plywood to form a tent over a cot out under the trees. All five of us were inside the tent when a storm hit, and Mama yelled for us to come in the house. Walter stayed with the tent, thinking he would just hold it together and ride out the wind and hailstorm.

I guess it must have been a baby tornado, because all of a sudden the wind caught one side of the tent and blew it away. Walter huddled under the remaining half while the wind bent it over him, keeping off the hail. We all stood in the door or looked out the window to see if he would blow away or be beaten to death. But he held on. I think he wished afterward he hadn't been so brave. It was quite a storm, stripping leaves off the trees and flooding the yard.

Rain usually isolated us for a few days. We were pretty much isolated anyway, because a rise on two sides of the house blocked our view of the highway. The other two sides faced on pasture land at the foot of Flat Top Peak.

Flat Top and Sharp Top peaks are the landmarks that easily identify the area below the caprock where Flomot is located. Wherever you go in that valley, described in Lonesome Dove as the Quitaques, you can see the peaks. My grandfather, Licurgas Aurelius Gunn, homesteaded 160 acres at the foot of Sharp Top Peak, on the Floyd-Motley county line where Flomot got its name. So we weren't far from our roots when we lived on the Turner place. A short horseback ride through the pasture and over the gravel hill took us to the old homestead, where cousin "Boots" Gunn raised cotton and watermelons.

I guess the Turner place was special because it had been home for a family who raised eight or nine children there. The house was pretty big compared to most we lived in, though they reserved one bedroom for storage.

The windmill had a raised storage tank that provided piped-in water to the kitchen and bathroom (inoperative while we lived there). It had a cellar, a grape arbor and a nice barn and lot, with a watering tank big enough to "swim" in (thigh deep to a preteen).

Yellow climbing roses covered double windows in the living room. We attached an antenna to the arbor for our first radio, a battery-operated set donated by a relative. What fun we had listening to Country-Western music and soap operas on that set. Duz does everything. Dreft. Ivory. Ma Perkins. Amos `n Andy. Mr. District Attorney.

Life was simple in those days. Snuff spit sanitized wounds. Beans and cornbread filled the belly. Kids created their own entertainment. Coal-oil powered the stoves and lamps _ and also cured colds when taken with sugar.

Nobody had heard of computers or Y2K, cell phones, Nintendo, or even television. But God knew about them all the time.

" The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us." Psalm 118:37, NIV

Editor's Note: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager and webmaster. Contact her at

Our View

Should county commissioners vote themselves and the county judge a raise?

Reeves County is contemplating a number of pay raises for 2001 and area residents need to take a hard look at these increases.

The two most striking increases are for the county commissioners and the county judge.

The commissioners are considering giving themselves about a $2,000 annual raise bringing their salary to $25,000.

Since county commissioners are not forced to give up their day job when elected, the entire salary, not just this contemplated raise, seems excessive.

The increase just seems more excessive.

Serving as a county commissioner, just like being a city councilman or a school district trustee, should be a matter of statesmanship and service, not a new income source.

Our present commissioners inherited the concept of a salary from their predecessors. Considering Reeves County's economic condition, they should consider doing away with it and leaving that $100,000 in the general fund to pay county employees.

On the other side of the coin, the raise will not make our commissioners the highest paid county commissioners in West Texas.

Andrews County pays its commissioners about $3,600/month, Ward County pays about $2,900/month, and Pecos County pays about $3,400/month.

The commissioners will also be considering giving the county judge a net raise of $8,031.36, bringing his total compensation package to $50,190/year.

Currently the county judge makes $42,158.64 including a $9,600/year car allowance that will become part of his regular salary in 2001.

Maybe the increase is merited, but citizens should demand to know the reasoning behind this raise. Is this salary necessary to attract a qualified county judge? Can Reeves County afford this salary?

An approximately twenty-percent raise is no small bump in pay and will rank the Reeves county judge's salary among the top 50 county judge's salaries in the state out of 211 Texas counties that participated in a 2000 salary survey.

With this raise the county judge will make the same as the county sheriff and the county court-at-law judge.

Another big pay raise is in the works for local justices of the peace. The proposed budget raises pay for this position about $5,500/year.

Again, the increase may be merited, but citizens deserve a two-fold explanation: 1) is the raise necessary to keep qualified justices of the peace, and 2) can Reeves County afford it.

Salaries for many other county employees are also going up slightly and these raises are generally small and very much needed if qualified people are going to be hired and retained on the county's payroll.

Reeves County citizens need to show up at the coming public hearing and find out more about these proposed salary hikes and demand rational explanations.

The public hearing is scheduled for September 28th at 10:00 a.m. in the third floor courtroom of the courthouse.

When elected officials are giving themselves and other elected officials pay raises the taxpayers need to pay attention.

Editors Note: The salaries used for comparison in this opinion were taken from a voluntary survey done by the Waters Consulting Group (WCG) at the beginning of the year with 211 out of 256 Texas counties responding. Director of WCG Systems Tina Kennedy said that most information for the survey came from responses this year but that older salary data (1998,1999) was used for non-responding counties when it was available. No data for Reeves County was included in the survey.

Your View

A little kindness, goes a long way

Dear Editor:
Just about the time I am ready to throw in the proverbial towel, I am reminded of the goodness remaining in our society by those random acts of kindness that we don't hear enough about. I wanted to share one with your readers!

Last week, while wrestling with my children and purchases at the checkout of Wal-Mart, I inadvertently left my purse. In a rush to get home and"get things done," it was more than an hour before I realized that all my worldly possessions were missing. As the panic set in.. you know, that panic of knowing that I would have to file a police report, would have to cancel credit cards and checking accounts and reapply for driver's licenses, tried to make a mental check list of items in the bottom of this valueless catch-all that consumes my life. I realized I am destitute, because everything that identifes me as a person was contained within it. (Odd, that so much feeling is attached to this singular object in a woman's life.)

Well, this random act of kindness occurred when a very honest local woman, named Debra Urias, reported it missing. The Wal-Mart staff alerted us within hours and before the weekend was over, Ms. Urias had returned my purse with all belongings in place. She apologized for having to look through it to find my identification and did not even inquire as to any reward involved in its return.

In a day and time where we seem to hear so much about how bad our society has become, a little kindness goes a long way! I would like to take back all the snide remarks, all the complaints about our failing economy and dying community. I take it back and thank goodness I wasn't in one of those "other" Godforsaken towns where all the good and honest people have perished. Ms. Urias, you get my vote for Citizen of the Year and I hope I have the opportunity to pass along your Random Act. In fact, if we all would do such, it would be a nicer place to live!

Thanks again,

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