By Edward A. Forbes
I got in my 1996 motorhome and took a trip back to the past.
It’s strange to be back in a town in which I spent many of my formative years and realize that I know few of the people from the past. I’m not sure I would even recognize most of those I knew from those days.
I arrived in Luling Thursday afternoon. I walked Davis Street through the old business district on Friday. The store fronts face Davis Street. A railroad right-of-way is used for parking during the Watermelon Thump and is an area for vendors of products and food (two rows deep) and, of course, the train tracks.
I watched a train blow through at speed, horn blowing as the vendors tried to finish setting up.
I then met a gentleman who asked my name. I told him, and he responded, “My name is Billie Davis. I have two brothers, but they have both died, and I’m all alone.”
He then asked my name again. “I’m ready to go home,” he told me. “Could you call the nursing home and ask them to get me? What is your name?” I asked Billy if he knew the number for the nursing home, and he produced a carefully folded piece of paper that had about eight names and phone numbers.
Number one on the list was the nursing home. I called and went through the number directory. I punched in number five for the nurse’s station. When they answered, I relayed the request and Billy’s name. She asked where he would wait, and he told her. She said she would get him picked up. I left Billy to wait for the transport and continued on my way, thinking how fortunate I am to not be alone and lost.
I made the pilgrimage in a different motor home this year. I have recently acquired a 1996 Dodge Xplorer. This vintage motor home, complete with rust, minor mechanical issues, and an operational learning curve is my new traveling companion.
It has a full bath in the sense that it has a toilet, sink, and shower. Unless my diet is wildly successful, I will be able to bathe one arm and one leg at a time. It also has a built-in generator, air conditioner, microwave, stove top, three-way refrigerator, heat and a yet untested propane system. The current climate makes hot water nonessential.
I saw seven or eight former classmates and an equal number of graduates from the year before and after my year of destiny, 1964. The heat, age, health and other issues seem to have taken a toll on many.
The odd thing is that I see more people, like me, who live elsewhere and make the Pilgrimage to The Watermelon Thump from different points on the compass.
On Sunday, a small group of classmates and I meet at Mom’s Front Porch - a coffee, ice cream and gift shop - to chat and reminisce. We made vague promises to stay in touch with each other and to try to plan a 60-year reunion. I visited friends at Sunday’s car show and took photos.
I have discovered by trial and error, with error taking precedence, that the refrigerator in the motor home can run on the 12-volt system only when driving.
I left it on while visiting Mom’s Front Porch at the Thump. Those four hours on the 12-volt system had devastating results.
It killed the battery that started the engine and the battery that started the generator. I was ready to go home and needed a jump start. I called AARP and found out that I don’t have their Roadside Assistance Program. (I later remembered that I had taken AT&T’s version.) I called around, but no service was available.
And then, a gentleman, who spoke little English, and his young daughter pulled into the empty parking place by me. This is a free admission day to the Thump’s kiddie carnival. Luckily, he was willing to help.
“You have cables?” he asked.
Fortunately, I do indeed have jumper cables. He backed out of his parking place, and we hooked the batteries together. A train arrived, making its 40-mph journey through the heart of Luling about 30 feet from where we were trying to start the motor home.
He wanted me to try and start the engine. I finally made him understand that I wouldn’t be able to hear what was happening until the train had passed.
We waited, and meanwhile the battery continued to charge. Then the motor home started.
I wanted to give him some money for his time and effort, but he refused.
I shook his hand, kneeled and asked his young daughter to please give her dad a hug for me.
She smiled and waved as they left for the kiddie carnival.
The beauty of small towns is always in the people.
(Email Edward at email@example.com or send comments by mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)