5 Memories of Growing Up in West Texas

by Treehouse Editors

from Karan Parrack, author of Keeping Mum

1. Swimming holes. Tanks or stock ponds. Simply called ponds back East. Mud-colored water that offered no visibility. Respite from the summer heat. We couldn’t ride past them on some granddaddy’s cattle ranch or drive past in a public park without finding a reason to strip off shoes and socks and wade in, at times unable to reach the bottom no matter how deeply we dove into the dark, cool depths, ignoring fleeting thoughts of what might lurk beneath.

2. Halloween and trick-or-treating. Running from house to house, sweating behind cheap plastic masks and flimsy store-bought costumes because the heat hadn’t yet loosened its grip and allowed in the fall. Accepting homemade candy apples and popcorn balls untainted by rumors of malice hidden in their goodness. Knowing the rare households inhabited by rich people because of the full-sized candy bars they handed out.

3. Friday night lights. Pep rallies and homecoming mums and parades. Cross-town rivalries. White shoe polish boasting victory on car windows. Proudly wearing your boyfriend’s football jersey bearing his number. Adhering to the coach’s strict rules: 1) Exhibit good sportsmanship at all times. 2) No PDA (Public Displays of Affection) in the halls at school. Yellow school buses traveling hours to away games and returning to school parking lots at two in the morning with hoarse, sleepy passengers stumbling off. Playoff games all the way into December…if you were lucky.

4. The West Texas State Fair and Rodeo. A night or two of the week-long event sometimes gifting “sweater-weather,” the first break from the brutal summer heat. Livestock exhibits accompanied by the warm earthy smells of hay and dust and manure, the crunch of shavings and gravel underfoot. Sweet, ethereal cotton candy and mustard-dipped corny dogs. Brightly colored lights blinking along with loud, raucous music. Thrilling carnival rides. Screams of fear or excitement. Ritual of fall.

5. Life with horses. Wearing shorts and tennis shoes while riding bareback in the
summertime, backs of legs covered in horse hair and sweat. Parading on horseback through the streets of downtown Abilene. Shopping for Wranglers at Luskey’s Western Wear but buying saddles at Sears. Competing in Play Days: barrel racing, pole bending, Western pleasure classes. Winding and circling in the Grand Entry at the Hardin Simmons Rodeo. Falling off in cactus or on dirt roads yet purposefully sliding off crossing a creek before the horse dropped to his knees and rolled. Riding through the drive-thru window at Dairy Queen or tying up at a gas station, buying an ice-cold bottle drink out of the machine, and sharing it with your horse.


Karan Parrack is a native Texan who has taught high school English and English as a Second Language for more than 30 years.