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South Texas Living


The day the lights came on at the family farm




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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
July 31, 2013 | 3,115 views | Post a comment

If you were born in the 1930’s or even the early 1940’s in South Texas on a farm somewhere you will probably remember how we didn’t have electricity and used kerosene oil lamps for light at night.

I sometimes wish for those days, because I remember how soft the lighting was in our little house, and made everything look so cozy at night. That house had three rooms, an attic, and a front porch. I think we just had one lamp, and it was in the room which we used the most ... the room with the stove and long dining room table with two chairs and benches on either side. That was the room that had the radio, too. We had a big battery for the radio since there was no electricity. Before, they had a crystal set with earphones, but Mother and Daddy were the only ones allowed to listen to it.

When we had to go to the outhouse at night, since it was a long way from the house, we usually used a lantern to light our way, unless it was a moonlit night, and we had the light of the moon. If you decided to be brave and run as fast you could there and back in the pitch dark, you found out how brave you were, when suddenly you heard a coyote howl near the house. Your heart would be in your throat and you went back in the house out of breath and scared to death, and welcomed the sight of the lamplight and friendly faces all around the dining table. Coyotes won’t attack a human but I didn’t believe that!

I asked several of my brothers and sisters what they remembered about those kerosene lamps we used, all of them remembered best how we all sat around the big dining table to do our homework at night. If you were sitting on the end, you complained that you could not see your paper, so Mother had to scoot the lamp down the table to you.

If we had to go in the bedroom for anything, Mother took the lamp to light our way, or maybe we lit the lantern to find our way in the darkened room.

When the REA (Rural Electrical Administration) came to Texas in 1937, it didn’t reach our community until several years later; we finally got electricity in the early 40s. That was so amazing to us. I remember that night when the lights came on in the Zook house! That was an exciting night. I remember it like it was yesterday.

But I also remember how the bright bare bulb that hung from the ceiling shined, revealing how drab, and colorless the room was. And you could see all the cracks in the walls, and the messy kitchen and the poverty that was really our status those days. I wanted to turn the light off and light the lamp, so I couldn’t see how poor we were. My mother always fussed at me for saying we were poor, but I had heard her say it one time to Daddy when they were talking after we went to bed.

After that, I sort of yearned for the old days of the lamp burning in the room that was so soft and comforting, and didn’t show all the imperfections of our lives. I could pretend we were rich and had beautiful furniture and clothes, and a nice car, instead of an old pickup.

I daydreamed a lot in those days. But yet those times were so simple and I felt very loved by my parents and siblings. I knew Mother and Daddy were doing the best they knew how to give us a good life. It’s not how much “stuff” you have; it is how much love you have that is important. And that love is still in the family 70 years later.

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at loiswauson@yahoo.com.
 

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