His “Secret Road”

 

    For Michael Busby, a great grandson of  J. F. and Bettie Hall, the steel-framed bridge on Caney Creek recalled cherished memories of family history on the land, and he wrote:


    Bridges Home, an Essay of the Heart: For anyone who claims to know Texas there is a curious love-hate relationship with the land and usually a private monument. My own personal shrine lies twenty-five miles northeast of Bonham (the country of Sam Rayburn and John Wesley Hardin) on the banks of the Red River. My great Grandfather came from Tennessee by wagon to that region in the 1890s. Accompanying him were his wife and son, my Grandfather, R. A. Hall (Robert Allie). The rural community of Mulberry remains, to this day, an enclave of Halls. Their humor, tastes, feuds, and kindness bear the marks of the land, which has shaped the family for five generations of autumn, spring, summer and winter. The shrine which gives validity to my personal awareness of what Texas is, and who it is, revolves, then around the rural community of Mulberry. Bridges Home is a sliver of time spent there.

    The Caney Creek bridge lies on a dirt road called “the short cut,” a secret road to outsiders, which leads to Mulberry, the Hall clan, and my Grandparents’ “Cornerstone.” The Cornerstone lies between my Great Uncle Clayton’s place and a deserted general store turned hay barn. The Caney Creek bridge is made of heavy oak, and has thus far, in my life, allowed me safe passage whether on foot, horse or car.

    My earliest memories of the Caney Creek bridge revolve around my weekly journeys home with my Mother in a 1957 Chevy. The bridge with its resounding clop-clop-clop-clop always cheered Mom and me as we barreled through the bottom at dusk, after a long week in Dallas. The bridge announced our arrival to the land of our family.

    At the Cornerstone, R. A. and Edna would have dinner waiting and would usually scold Mom for coming through the Caney bottom so near dark. The scolding, like the bridge which announced our arrival, was ceremonial. After Mom’s news of Dallas and my usual bold bid for what I thought was attention (actually annoyance), my Grandfather would excuse himself from the dinner table. He would kiss “Miss Edna” and Mom good night and admonish us all to follow him shortly to bed. After Grandpa bedded down, Mom and Grandma would wash the dishes and talk about family things. On such occasions, I would playfully slap Grandma’s arms, always taking delight in the jello-like response. Grandma would laugh and scold me, announcing a one-dog dare to repeat my assault. Naturally I called her dare, though I never managed to invoke the infamous double-dog dare for such playful jest. We were friends and home at the Cornerstone.

    Grandma, “Miss Edna,” was an energetic woman who delighted in the company of children. She was always busy cooking or sewing, shelling peas, or cleaning Mulberry Methodist Church. She was the busiest woman I ever knew, though she always seemed to have time to listen. Miss Edna had perfected that art, having raised thirteen children.


Thanksgiving

two poems by Michael Busby


Today, there are places I must go alone.

My childhood woodland calls,

A land of many colored fields and great harvests,

A place I can hold in my hands, rich to all my senses.


I pull this place around me like Grandmother’s quilt,

a place of warmth in morning’s early chill.

Today, there are places I must go alone.


In these quiet woods, kneeling as in prayer

by an ancient spring, I drink.

The waters fill my hands, cool and clean,

essential and life sustaining.

At this primal place my senses awaken.


Awareness is a gray beard bridge I cross on foot.

I listen to that which I cannot see.

As the sound of my heavy boots resounds from sturdy

board to sleepy creek, to mighty oak, to the river

and across this fall farm land.


I explore the old farm house,

quiet as the cemetery where my ancestors lie.

At home with the memories, awakened to the woodlands,

I turn South once more.


Flight of the Quetzal


Life will be better when I’m ten, then I can

really understand.

Life will be better when I get my own car, then I can

go where I want when I want....

Life will be better when I go on vacation,

I’m really going to do it up fine....

Life will be better when I become intellectual.

Life will be great when I’m clearly the best.

Life will be better life will be life will be.

Life will never be.

Life is, there lies the terror and the beauty.

Life is like the stone sailed high towards the sea.

Shall I weep because I must sink heavily to the bottom of the depths?

It seems far more generous to rejoice in the throw,

Embracing the flight, and yes, oddly enough the impact.



    This side of Caney Bridge. Around the corner, up a gentle hill. “His Story in the Poems...” On July 20, 1990, Michael Busby died in Dallas. Remnant of a picket fence, the clearing, site of my first home.


Road at the corner a sand bed.

Aged four I came with my mother and all her pots and pans

to clean their bottoms of accumulated coal oil black

by rubbing them in the sand.


My grandfather built this house

for tenant farmers at the edge of woods.

Sixty years ago at least my parents moved it here,

and we didn’t call it the “Red House” any more.

“I am Gregory.”


           

Mike Busby