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James R. Stout

A Moment In Eternal Time

            Sometime in the mid-30’s my grandparents added on to their house a bedroom that became known as “the sleeping porch”. It was a real bedroom, but three of the walls were mostly windows. I have some of the old windows now with plans to mate them with my photography. The bedroom was shared by my mother and my aunt from about 1935 through 1945. My aunt lived most of the year from 1944 through 1947 in an apartment in Huntsville, Texas while attending Sam Houston State University. My mother had the room mostly to herself until she moved to Houston in 1947 for her first job. By that time, my aunt was living in Houston and they shared a garage apartment in the Canal and Navigation area of East Houston.

            Skip ahead to the 60’s. When I spent weekends and summer weeks with my grandparents, I stayed in the sleeping porch. I loved it. Especially the early afternoons and the nights. Everyone was required to either take a nap or be quiet for an hour after lunch. There was no air conditioning in the house, so there were fans throughout. On the sleeping porch there was a bedside table with an oscillating fan. This was when they made fans out of metal. It had three speeds and on hot summer days I had it set on high. I would lay there and read with that fan blowing air on me. All the windows would be open too. There were screens on them to keep out the bugs. The sheer joy of laying there and reading “Laughter, The Best Medicine” or “Humor in Uniform” from back issues of Reader’s Digest was so peaceful and I have never felt safer than those days. An occasional car or truck would drive by and I would watch as the plumes of dust billowed out behind the passing vehicle. Despite the sound of the fan, I could hear cows out in the field and the hum of the pump on the water well. I knew when I heard my grandfather leaving the house and starting up the work truck to go work in the fields it meant it was time to get moving.

            The nights were even better. This was during a time when there was no light pollution at all. Unless the moon was up, the skies were a canvas of a billion pins of light. Everyone would get quiet and start to fall asleep, but it was my time to enjoy the simple things that over the years have mostly vanished. I would lay there, with all the lights in the house turned out, and wait for my eyes to adjust. But they never really adjusted. You could put your hand in front of your face and barely make it out. I would sometimes pull a chair up by one of the windows and look for shooting stars. There were always several for my eyes to feast on. I could watch some of the early satellites as they swept overhead from one side of the sky to the other. And then there were the night sounds. Tree frogs or crickets harmonized with the nightingales, cows would murmur and low in the pasture behind the house, in the distance coyotes would have conversations amongst themselves, and the lonely sound of a train horn 8 miles away in Lovelady, Texas that highlighted the doppler effect all conjoined in a cacophony that lulled me to sleep. Once or twice I would be startled by the screeching of an owl from the eaves of the barn. It was kind of spooky, but I loved it the way you love to hear a scary story.

            So, why tell you all of this? Because I wanted to share what The Eagles would have called a “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. The only thing is it was really more than that. It was actually a moment in eternal time when things were special. I wish for my grandchildren to experience life without all of the insanity that our nation seems to be infested with today. I for one will do my best to provide them with as much of the feelings and emotions that I had as a child. But in the end, they’ll have to deal with the world that they inherit the best that they can. If nothing else, when I’m gone, they’ll know that they were loved by me. That’s gotta count for something.

The picture below is from 1959. The southern wall of "the sleeping porch" is behind us. The western and eastern wall were the same. The picture is of my grandfather taking us all on a ride in his homemade utility trailer with his tractor. A "blue northern" came through that morning and we really weren't prepared for it with appropriate clothing. Thus, four of the cousins had to wear a diaper on their head to keep their heads warm! I'm wearing a cap and I'm in the very front in the middle next to my cousin David and my sister Debbie.

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