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Remembering Eddie
January 30, 2020 Publication: Denton Record-Chronicle (TX) Page: 4 Word
Count: 562
It was a quiet time, a peaceful time, a time to rejoice and a time
to move forward, those years just following the Big War.
Houston, Texas, McGregor Park area, near Brays Bayou, Riverside Terrace Addition,
summer 1947. I was 6 years of age and a "cowboy" who loved to gallop in the summer
sun. I suppose Houston was unbearably hot, but we didn't know it. The windows in our
home were open, and at night, unlocked screen doors let in the air of evening coolness.
We knew our neighbors for four or five houses on each side and the same across the
street. Same-sex couples owned several homes near us. Looking back, perhaps they
were gay, but no fuss was made. It was a live-and-let-live time. Yes, it was a different
time, a time when America was great - but not for Eddie.
All the lawns on our street were sod in St. Augustine and well manicured. Eddie was
our semimonthly yardman. Eddie was tall, a 7-foot giant in the eyes of a 6-year-old
and also somewhat of a curiosity, for Eddie was very black, the black of an unfaded
heritage. And he was gaunt with a large skull holding headlight-sized eyes, and he
always wore blue overalls with a long—sleeved red shirt and a stocking cap. Drops of
water cascaded from his face with each shove of the lawn mower, a clattering reel on
black rubber tires.
I would hide behind a gardenia bush near the front porch and watch this threatening
black outlaw riding his lawn mower-horse. Then I would saunter by with my Hopalong
Cassidy six-shooter holstered and swinging by my side. Eddie would glare at me, and
his humongous eyes would shrink to the size of 45-caliber bullets. Hate from others
was not yet the understood emotions of a child; he just didn't want to play Cowboy-
n-Indians. One morning he growled, "Get away from me. Go back inside." And
quickly, I did. I never played with Eddie again.
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About halfway through his efforts, Eddie would knock loudly on the back screen door.
Mom would give him a quart-sized Mason jar of water with a few ice cubes. Then she
would say, "Just leave the jar on the porch when you are through." She said it sternly
like she would correct me sometimes.
Eddie would grumble, "Yesum." Strange, he had the same look on his face as when he
told me to vamoose. I asked why Eddie had a special jar, and the answer I received was
incomprehensible: "What, you want him to drink from one of our glasses? And catch
who knows what sort of disease?"
Then to the horror of everyone around, the Negroes were moving near us, along with
our neighbor's concerned predictions of "there goes the neighborhood." I heard them
say that it was the fault of that liberal University of Houston a few miles away. White
flight took off for North Houston, and as I grew older, I understood why Eddie hated
my mother and me - and with good reason to do so.
But soon Eddie became a childhood memory. For a while during the 1980s, the color
bather seemed to be dissolving. The races appeared to be coming together. Eddie could
rest in peace.
Today, 2019, I see an even more peaceful blending, much more progress, but it is
overshadowed - for Eddie, in all his repressed anger, has returned, and I see him often -
again and again and again - on television and in the newspaper.
Why? Why has Eddie returned?
JOHN T. THORNGREN is a resident of Shady Shores.
Denton Record-Chronicle (TX)
Date: January 30, 2020
Page: 4
© Copyright 2020 Denton Record-Chronicle, 3555 Duchess Denton, TX.
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