Friday, November 13, 2009


Visiting East Texas twice for extended periods in the past two months has had me all charged up about East Texas again. So many of my friends have moved there in recent years, and interestingly, many of the friends who permanantly relocated there had no prior ties to the area, or marginal ones at best.

Most of these friends are settling in the Tyler and Longview, Palestine and even Upshur areas. Those with kids tend to be toward Tyler and Longview, although one couple has landed in Upshur after a long stint in Longview. The economy is doing well for their professions for the most part. Most of my Palestine friends are retired or semi-retired, finally moving to the "place" (as in "home place" or country place or farm or ranch).

I've spent much time in East Texas over my past near half century on earth. So many relatives of mine lived and still live in those areas, as well as other areas of the state as far as Uvalde and other Central, Hill Country and West Texas locales. We're spread all over. But the big concentration of both of my parent's families is all from around 100 miles of Tyler.

My folks left Tyler upon graduating high school and marrying, my father enlisting for a stint in the Air Force. After that, they moved to Houston, still then a reasonably sized city full of hard working people and lots of opportunity. And my parents found opportunity and fell in love with Houston.

So for all of my childhood, there were frequent trips to the Tyler area. Time spent in the Tyler area.

As I grew older, I spent weeks and sometimes months at a time at Billy Ray's Grandfather's farm in Panola County, sort of in between Henderson and Carthage. I had accumulated a large amount of comp time in about 1983, and was forced by my employer to use it, and took about a month and a half off to hang out at Billy Ray's Ggrandfather's most excellent farm. Comprised of over a thousand acres, it had been farmed and ranched and was then mostly leased for cattle to neighboring farmers and ranchers.

It had three ponds on it, but only one that were was worth fishing out of. There were plenty of hollows and gullys to shoot into and it was really quite a spread. It had a nice brick house with a large wraparound porch that had a commanding view not only of their family lands but of the terrain and forests and trees for miles away.

Billy Ray's Grandfather had just entered into a resthome and the house needed some straightening up and the barns and warehouse and smokehouse all needed some cleaning and rearranging. We spent quite a bit of time over the course of several years and several summers working on that place, and doing a lot of fishing and East Texas exploring and some music making.

Likewise, Billy Ray and I have friends who live on a nice ranch at Lake Fork. On Lake Fork. The owners are actually old Dallas friends of Ricky Ray, a close friend and bandmate of me and Billy Ray. In the early part of this decade, on about a half dozen occasions, we would gather at the Lake Fork locale for something we called "ForkFest".

We had a great extra house and warehouse on the property to set up on, and it was miles from anyone. There was a deluxe apartment built into the warehouse, which was large yet musically conducive to good musical acoustics due to a large amount of wood being stored inside the metal building, which absorbed just the perfect amount of sound to make it sound great.

The three of us, Billy Ray, Ricky Ray and I have a musical outfit we've been playing with now for over twenty years. Until Ricky Ray moved out of state a couple of years ago for a lucrative college professorship on the East Coast, we met several times a year in various East and Central Texas locales for recording sessions and fishing expeditions.

Billy and I have been carrying on in Ricky Ray's absence, and we've had a variety of players sit in with us both with and without Ricky Ray. I'll write more about this longtime group of friends of mine with whom I write and perform original songs and we also play cover tunes we like.

But many of our gatherings have been in East Texas locales since the 1990's. For a long while, we would gather at Billy Ray's place just outside of Carthage. Then Ricky Ray moved from Dallas to Houston and then to his longtime family farm near Lane, Texas, up towards Greenville way. For the mid to latter part of the nineties, we often held jams at Ricky Ray's place in the country. Ricky Ray had about 500 acres, a nice spread, and built himself a modern house after living in the old family place for a few years.

The real attraction to the Lane Farms jam locale was the lake there. It was full of two and three pound largemouth bass that were HONGRY. They were HONGRY all the time. The fishing there was just fabulous.

So I've spent a lot of time in East Texas in my life, and lately with so many friends moving there I'm spending a lot more time there.

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