WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Telling our stories

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

I can’t say that my family was a big part of history. Nothing noteworthy in the big picture has happened to us. Sure, my mother watched the Kennedy motorcade pass by from a stop sign as she was on the way to a prenatal doctor’s appointment that morning. That was moments before it entered downtown Dallas.

President Kennedy was dead a few minutes later.

But that’s about as close as my family gets. And that’s okay. You live the life that’s in front of you.

As Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” In the grand scheme of things, there is little significant activity that affects millions of people or changes civilization. The arrival of extraterrestrials to earth would be significant to us, for example. 

But ,most of the everyday mundane activity of life isn’t the stuff of history books.

Yet, that doesn’t mean it is insignificant either. Your life, the lives of your family members and your ancestors are important to you and your family. We all should be informed and revel in the great things that our lineage has done to get our society where it is today. And even if it doesn’t rise to the level of significant, it can still be important to the people it did affect at the time.

This is why it is important to know and write down your family history; at least, the highlights. Who came from where? Who married into what family? Who owned a business or ran a large scale operation in your hometown? Did anyone affect the citizens of a city? What did people do for a living in your family? These are questions that should be known and understood, if for no other reason than to pass the knowledge onto future generations of your family.

As with many things, I slack off in this department; and it makes me mad when I think about it. I have had so many chances to simply write down what happened to my aunt’s uncles when they were children or teens attempting to make it in rural Texas some hundred years ago. Did you realize that – from what little I do know – that cars were unheard of in parts of Texas in 1920? Sure, there were cars in Dallas and Houston, for example, but in central and west Texas, you would see more horses and buggies than cars only 100 years ago.

Of course, those aunt’s uncles were my mother’s uncles, too. And I do remember stories she used to tell about those men who were bootleggers and other slightly lawless endeavor-doers. They were simply trying to make a living! And yes, some of those activities were outside the scope of the law. One of them even did time in a Texas prison – for killing his wife’s lover as the story goes – where he met Pretty Boy Floyd,’a famous criminal from the time.

The poverty and dirty conditions of central Texas were evident in those stories. In fact, my own uncle once told me that it wasn’t until he was an adult when he finally learned that biscuits and gravy wasn’t a meat dish. He had grown up on that classic food as his main daily intake because that’s all the family had to eat most days. There are so many stories I could tell about my own grandfather – this uncle’s father – and how he provided for his family of five kids and wife. The most incredible story – at least to me – was when he went downtown on Saturday nights to fight other men for money on a regular basis!

Fight Club has nothing on my family.

And that’s just my mother’s side of the family; my father’s side wasn’t as ‘colorful,’ but they worked hard and made something for themselves. My paternal grandfather came with his family to North Texas from Tennessee in the early 1900s when he was a teenager. They met another covered wagon family from Illinois on the way south who happened to have a young daughter in tow. Granddad married the girl soon after the families got to Texas; she was 10 years younger, but she gave him 10 children and they set up a farm in Fannin County, where they lived much of the next half century.

Of course, none of this is the ‘landing of a flying saucer’ significant, but it is important to the family. These are the types of stories that should be told to young ones and handed down to each generation. These are the types of stories that Jerry Lincecum wants us to write down and "Tell our Stories," a great program that he and his wife, Peggy Redshaw, run through Austin College; and have been for almost 30 years.

If you write them down, there is a better chance of them being passed on. And in the grand scheme of things, this is important in the small corners of our world where you and me live our lives to the best of our abilities—all day every day.

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.