Mother and Daddy loved each other,
though they disagreed about a number
She was a loving mother to me and my
sister, though as in most families our
very closeness made it easy to get on
each other's nerves.
Every time I think about what she was
like, I realize that I was just the opposite,
It was a constant source of tension
between us. She was ladylike where I
was brutally honest. She was neat
where I was scattered. She was a
homebody where I wanted a career.
She was almost too good. She had
strict standards, some about things that
just didn't seem important to me.
My sister Barbara was six years younger
than I was, so she was still a child when
I was in high school, and after I went
away to college, we weren't able to
spend much time together.
I just discovered that my parents had a
miscarriage between us. I probably
should have realized, but it wasn't the
kind of thing you talked about back then.
Our family had a lot of fun
together--singing in the car and at the
shop, camping out in Palo Duro Canyon
or the mountains of Colorado or New
In my senior year of high school,
1960-61, I was Worthy Advisor of the
Order of the Rainbow for Girls. My dad
had been a Mason, and my mother was
in Eastern Star. Rainbows was about
the only thing for girls to do in Happy
besides school and sports and work.
I've never liked sports.
"Hope: The Key to Happiness" was the
theme of my term. My colors were brown
and gold, colors I still like.
I wrote a little poem, actually doggeral,
for the occasion:
Hope, yes hope eternal,
To happiness the key,
The power to turn our darkest nights
To bright tranquility.
For my inauguration, I wore a short white
formal with brown and gold threads
through it and a gold cummerbund.
The 1940s silhouette had wide
shoulders, but in the '50s, the shape
was hourglass, with a full bodice, small
waistline, full skirt and higher heels).
The poster above the serving table was
brown with gold lettering and a key
shape, and the table was covered with a
One of my best friends at Happy was
Bonnie Kay Harman. We were friends
from second grade through high school
graduation. Both of us worshipped with
the Happy Church of Christ. Her parents
owned Harman's Hardware,
catercornered across Main Street from
Kay (now Bonnie Leitch) was in L.A. for
our 50th wedding anniversary August 25,
2013. It was a real treat to have a
near-lifelong friend there. Kay's sister
Lynn and I won the debate contest in
Interscholastic League my senior year.
My favorite teacher was Lella Foster
Moudy, who taught my English classes
all four years of high school. She went
to church with us as well, and she
inspired me with a love of literature as
surely as my father did with a love of
In this photo of me in our front yard,
you can see one of the grain elevators
that formed the skyline of Happy.
My Dad took this photo of Dwight
David Eisenhower in New Mexico
while he was a candidate.
Our house across from the school in Happy, Texas.
There really is a Happy, Texas. I know,
because I grew up there. There were 642
people in the town at the time. I used to joke
that, when I left to go to college, there were
The movie by that name had nothing to do
with the real town. I guess they just liked the
sound of it.
Happy is located on Highway 87, which runs
through the middle of the Texas Panhandle.
From the north, first comes Amarillo, then
Canyon--home of two of my favorite places,
the Panhandle Plains Historical Society
Museum and Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Happy is just 15 miles south of Canyon, and
Tulia, 15 miles further south of that. Then
come Kress, Plainview and Lubbock.
When my father got out of the military, we
moved back to the Panhandle, where my
First we lived in Tulia, in a little house near
the highway. There are pictures of me at age
5, riding a large, brown tricycle down the
sidewalk in front of it.
My Aunt Katie and Uncle Loyd Morris had
lived on a farm a mile outside of town, and for
a while, Daddy worked for Granddaddy at his
store, Huxford’s Dry Goods. He was
particularly good at selling high-end cowboy
But Uncle Loyd was more suited to regular
storekeeping—working day in, day out, for his
father-in-law—so we traded houses. We
became farmers for the first year and a half
that I was in school, and Uncle Loyd worked
at the store.
In the middle of second grade, we moved to
Happy, where Granny lived and where
Granddaddy helped us build a house across
the street from the school.
He also helped us buy the little weekly
newspaper, the Happy Herald. It was in
pretty bad shape, and I can remember
working hard to clean up the paper and dirt
and ink that were piled in mounds all over the
Daddy ran the big newspaper press, Mother
set type on the Linotype, and I set type by
hand, folded newspapers and ran the job
press. I wrote my first article, about a school
event, when I was 10.
We lived in a modern-style house across
from the school. It had a picture window in
the living room, glass bricks beside the front
door and a carport on the side.
My parents designed it. Daddy planned the
outside and Mother, the inside. The only
problem was the windows. Were they inside
or outside? and were the prices quoted for
individual windows or the sets of three they
wanted on two walls of each of the two
The set on the left were in my parents' room,
with my sister Barbara's and my room behind
When I reached an age when it was no
longer fun to room with my little sister, I
moved out to the storage room (the single
window behind the carport). Daddy made
closets and cabinets from grey sand-blasted
pine, and I painted the walls yellow. Mother
made a green and gold bedspread and
curtains. I loved my little getaway.
The inside of the house was always my
mother’s domain. She had gone to West
Texas State University to study home
economics, and the big disappointment of
her life was that she wasn’t able to complete
her degree because of ill health.
She was a good housekeeper. Our house
was always clean and attractively furnished,
with carefully coordinated colors (mostly from
what’s considered the fall section of the color
wheel--browns, oranges and greens--colors
I've decorated with and worn all my life) with
carefully chosen and arranged art on the
walls and objets d’art on the glistening
Ever hospitable, Mother enjoyed good
conversations with friends. Loving,
emotionally expressive and kind, she served
her meals from a perfectly-set table with
glistening and carefully aligned china, crystal
The daughter of a department store owner,
she was always well dressed and was
considered a real lady. She knew and
followed the rules of etiquette, and her
handbags always matched her shoes.
My dad was the son of a mother widowed
when he was two. He always relied on his
charm. Mother was his ticket to the middle
class. She loved to dance, but he wouldn’t
let her, because he didn’t know how and
didn't want her to dance with anybody else.
A shopkeeper’s daughter, she was
concerned about money and kept good
accounts—both at home and at the shop.
I thought Mother was materialistic, but as I've
learned about her family, I understand better.
When you've gone from selling bones picked
up from battlegrounds to owning a chain of
dry-goods stores, it's probably hard to be
cavalier about money.
Mother was a skilled Linotype operator,
working with Daddy on the paper even
though she hated printer’s ink. It was so
messy! Still, she always did what needed to
be done, a trait I pride myself on.
Bonnie Leitch (above) at our 50th
Map of Happy (above) on Highway 87, and me on
tricycle in front of house in Tulia (below).