Hanks: Growing up in West Texas | TheFencePost.com

Hanks: Growing up in West Texas

I suppose, gentle readers, that we are all products of our environment. That’s what I have come to believe over the years.

As a child, I lived in an oilfield camp until I turned 18 and left home. It was customary for kids to either go to college, join the family business if there was one or leave home and make your own way.

My brother being a year older had gone off to college with a little help from the folks.

Me, I was weary of school, had less ambition than my brother and headed off to the oil patch to make my way. My bro and I had always worked helping mother around the house, dad in the garden or working with a crew of “roustabouts” (oilfield hands) from the time I was 14.

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Of course, an a.m. radio, television at 14, one car for the two of us that we paid for from our wages was it in the 50s. The old car with no air, a.m. radio and had a putrid green color was our pride and joy and our ride to school.

When I moved away, I lived in a run-down hotel in Kermit, Texas, for a short while. I had a room with a wash basin and a bath down the hall, with toilets to share with other oilfield men. It was drab, lonely, and a little scary for a kid’s first launch off the pad.

On the other hand I was on my own, a FREE man to do as I pleased. No more running the vacuum for my mom or doing dishes and chopping weeds out of the garden. I did miss my friends, football, all the sports and dating on Saturday night.

I had an aunt and uncle that lived there and when they discovered I had moved there they offered me a cot in their garage as their daughter-in-law and new baby were living in the house with them. I took them up on their offer immediately.

My first month on the job in the oil patch I managed to cut the end of one of my little fingers off. It hung on by a small sliver of skin. I was taken to the hospital some 40 miles away and 6 hours later they sewed it on hoping it would live. It did.

You just don’t get any more manly than that when you almost lose a finger working with a group of grown men, who a few had a hard time watching me run around the job site holding my hand shouting, “I CUT OFF MY FINGER, I CUT OFF MY FINGER!”

The boss gathered me up, told me to settle down and he would take care of it. That’s all I needed to get calm and know that all was going to be okay, he said so.

Looking back on my time trying to find a place in the world it appeared to be a rough go. It would be by today’s standards but that was then. I know my dad and his dad had rougher and tougher times than I ever had so every generation seems to have it a little easier.

There are kids on farms and ranches that stay right there and help to keep the business above water. Many go on to college and improve their knowledge and skills that eventually help when and if they return to the farm or ranch.

They are used to chores since they were little. They have been putting in long hours helping during the summer months and when they do leave they have a pretty solid foundation to stand on.

This generation we are in now is addicted to their “smart” phones, iPads and what not. They are going to lose some valuable skills in communication, verbalization and one-on-one involvement or so I learned watching 60 Minutes recently.

I believe what I saw and heard it is coming to pass. It worries me. Each generation will find their own way and if I lived another 40 years I most likely would be totally lost in time and place as I looked around me.

Time marches on, folks change their mind about things in the past and find new ideas to accommodate their future. I have to end this and get ready for all my kids and grandkids who will arrive shorty. I hope they put their “smart” phones away while they are here so I don’t have to have a paper bag over my head to keep from hyperventilating!

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and look up every now and then to see if you are still relevant. I’ll c. y’all, all y’all. ❖

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Mad Jack Hanks

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