I took a trip out to Omaha today to look at the site where the old house burned. Well, it's gone for sure. Burned all right, burned slap up and down to the ground. There's nothing left... no trace of anything except part of the brick foundation, some crumbled concrete, a few bits of porcelain, and some broken glass.
Turns out it's been burned for about a year, although when Leah and I drove down here last spring to visit and do some sight seeing, the house was still standing. I forgot what month that was... probably about this time last year. So, the house was still standing last May, and it probably burned down some time very soon after that. All I could find in the ashes that I recognized was a charred doorknob. And that's really all that remains of the house, so I took it.
About a quarter mile down the road is my grandma's old house, which I decided to check out next. My mom and brother and sister moved to Leesburg when my mom got married in the middle of my 8th grade year, and I didn't want to leave in the middle of the school year so I lived with grandma and grandpa in that house until the summer of '85. Then I moved to Leesburg that fall and had to start high school as a new kid. It really sucked, having to leave all of my friends who I had grown up with, and being super shy made it even worse. I wound up making some good friends there, though, and the Pittsburg High School Band was really good; we actually made it to the state marching contests three times while I was in high school. What made that particularly awesome for me was that I was the 'highlight' of the marching drill at the state marching competition. I got to stand on the sidelines while playing a really complicated, cool euphonium solo with all of the cute majorettes posing in front of me, on either side, and behind me, forming this sparkly halo of sequined bodies, rays of silver batons thrust outward in all directions to accentuate the star attraction, ME! That kind of treatment worked wonders for a 16 year old ego, let me tell ya. Anyway, I really digressed there for a minute... where was I? Oh yeah. Here are some pictures of grandmas house.
Here's the living room, where I took my piano lessons. The piano is still there, as well as grandma's organ, but I lifted the key cover to play something and was disappointed to see that it's all stuffed with what looks like some kind of animal nest.
Here's the kitchen. The microwave and toaster ovens are still there, which kind of surprised me. Somebody had stolen the air conditioners a few years ago.
Grandma's front room. This was my bedroom when I lived here.
So that's a tour of the family land in East Texas. Lots of memories there, but I think it's over now. I wonder what will happen next?
No trip to East Texas is complete without visiting the old Methodist church. This is the church I attended when I was a little boy, and my dad was the choir director there until about 1980, I think, and my grandma played the organ for years. My brother and I were the 'candle boys' or something, I forgot the official title. We lit the candles at the beginning of the service and put them out after. I have good memories of that church, which I think is the reason why I never completely gave up on the idea of God. My idea of church was always pews, stained glass, a choir, an organ, and candles in a real, bona fide church, not some civic center or warehouse with a stage and a rock band and folding chairs for the congregation. I didn't like those 'new wave' churches with rock bands and stomping and clapping. Something about the lack of order didn't seem right to me. I always knew that if I ever had a church again, then my kind of church would have to be conservative. This church, the Methodist church in Omaha, is the type of church I always pictured myself attending if I ever 'got right with God'. Taking that into consideration, it makes perfect sense that the Orthodox church appealed to me so much, almost instantly. So anyway, yup. Here's the Methodist church.
Now we have some pictures of the drive from Omaha to Pittsburg, going the 'Cason-way'. That's the scenic route. Observe the sign that says 'Cason'. See? I'm giving an authentic tour.
More scenery between Cason and Pittsburg.
And finally, right turn on Highway 11 towards Pittsburg.
After I got into Pittsburg, I hit an oil road and took this picture. I used to like driving on oil roads just for the hell of it in the spring. It's always prettiest in the spring. I feel painful nostalgia for East Texas when I'm there at this time of year.
So, moving on. Next on the tour is a railroad crossing where I was almost killed late one night when I was about 22. What happened was this: I was heartbroken over some girl (a recurring phenomenon for me throughout my life, you'd think I would learn, right?) and I was driving very slowly out in the country with Pearl Jam's 'Black' playing at full volume (that's the perfect song for indulging in self pity that comes with a freshly broken heart). I was so absorbed in my weeping and drinking (I had a quart of Busch beer between my legs) that I didn't hear the train at all, or even notice that one was coming. So, about - lets say, half a second, to be safe - after I crossed those tracks, a train blew past right behind me. There was probably about a foot of clearance between the rear end of my car and the train as it whizzed by, and let me tell you, that jolted me right out of that little episode of 'poor me' I had been indulging in. I can imagine the article in the newspaper describing how I bought the farm:
"Local man ends own life over unrequitted love by driving in front of a train."
Yeesh! And it wouldn't have even been true! But that's how I would have gone down in history, as some schmuck who parked his car in front of a speeding train because some chick didn't have the same googley eyes for him as he did for her.
By the way, the reason why it's all half upside-down and weirdly is because I took two photos, one from each direction, and didn't know what to do with them, so I just connected them there in the middle.
So, anyway... lastly I stopped by the prayer tower in Pittsburg. The prayer tower was built in the early 90's by Bo Pilgrim, the chicken guy. You know, Pilgrim's Pride chicken. Anyway, it's his prayer tower, and I always felt a certain amount of contempt for it through the years because Bo built it, and if you were young and non-comformist in East Texas in the early 90's, you were obligated to hate Bo Pilgrim because he represented 'the man'. So, anyway... yeah, kind of an idiotic reason to hate a prayer tower.
There's a statue outside and I'm assuming it's of Jesus washing somebody's feet. I don't know my New Testament well enough to know who's feet are getting washed, but maybe somebody reading this knows and can comment about it. Here's the statue.
I went inside and somebody was prostrated on the floor, praying. He was a Catholic Mexican, and of course I disturbed him when I entered. He jumped up and smiled, waving goodbye to me as if we were long lost friends who would never see each other again after this brief reunion, saying "See you later," over and over with a stilted accent, almost apologetic. I guess maybe I embarrassed him when I walked in on him obviously in deep prayer about something. Anyway, here's the inside.
I approached the altar and opened the bible to my favorite passage, Psalm 102...
...and was surprised to see that Psalm 103 is the one we sing every Sunday at the beginning of Liturgy. I'm still a noob at church I guess. I know I've finally found where I belong, and there has always been somebody by my side since I started down this new and wonderful path, sharing it with me. I just assumed it would always be that way... I never thought I'd have to go it alone.