to my Grandmother

Clarcie Paralee Slaughter Wilson

Lee Wilson was born in 1864 to Francis and Nancy Ann Slaughter. She and her husband Sam, a for real cowboy who drove cattle on the Chisholm trail, built a home in Burnet, county Texas, a home now located underneath Lake Inks, near Kingsland. She worked as a “bone woman” collecting the desiccated bones of bison and other critters to be ground as fertilizer while Sam rode the long hard trail north to the railroads in Kansas. There on the Colorado river, they raised a large family.

An Intro of Sorts

I have multiple homes. Who was it that said you can only have one anyway? I can have as many as I want, and they can be as varied as ever I want… so there. I guess the concept “home” defines us on such a primal level most folks can only handle one.

I have three, two are geographical and one is a person. Thus I am home when I am in either of those places, or with her in whatever place that we may be. I can do that.

One Home is Texas, Central Region, North-ish of Austin. When I say “I am a Texan” that is for real, as in members of multiple branches of the family tree moved there when, if you wanted property in Tejas, you asked the Spanish real nice like, and if they were in the mood, they would say… “Sure, have that bit right over there… oh yeah… might be Indians.”

So I am a Texan, by birth and over a century and a half of heritage.

Bringing us to Clarcie Paralee Slaughter Wilson, my Great-Great-Grand Mother.

I could write several paragraphs about her life, origin of her name and more, but will refrain to keep this brief-ish.

I began composing this letter while visiting the cemetery where she and Sam are interred. Hoover’s Valley Cemetery, near a ghost town of the same name, near Kingsland, Texas. Hoover’s Valley is also the resting place of the Whitlock family, unfortunate victims of an Indian attack in 1870, which I intend to cover in a separate post

The Wilson homestead, underneath Lake Inks since 1938 when the Inks Dam was completed. This print was from a photo, the original drawn on commission by well-know Texas artist Ira Kennedy. My great grandmother Hallmark was a little girl holding a doll in the photo, she insisted on being left out of the drawing. Check out Grandpa, that dude is THE COWBOY . Awesomeness.

The Letter

Dear Grandmother,

You left this world 23 years before I discovered it, I can only say that I would like to have known you. I have no doubt that you were a woman of strength and character. Even though only a short span separates our lives, you grew up in a vastly different world than the one I have experienced these two-score and fourteen years of my pilgrimage, as it were. You grew up in the shadow of the Civil war, daughter of a veteran of a lost cause. You experienced life on a frontier, where life was hard and uncertain, It was the edge, where a misstep or snake bite could mean death, where two cultures were still clashing with sudden, often unexpected, violence. A life few people of the tame lands of the east understood.

If only I could speak to you, what would I say? Would I try to explain the world in which I dwell? Or would I simply wish to sit and hear of your life?

To hear of the dangers and hardships you faced, but also the joys and happinesses you had as a child, a favorite doll, the favorite meal that your mother made. How you felt when holding your first child for the first time. I would hear from what well you drew strength on the long, lonely nights when Sam was hundreds of miles and weeks away and the days ahead seemingly endless.

I would ask about what you thought about on those long, hot days, as a young woman, gathering bones to to be ground as fertilizer to earn a subsistence. Earning a hard living pulling the fuel for the fires of life from a  land that gave away nothing, but requireds the blood, sweat and soul of every living thing that has ever called it home. But a land each day offers vistas of such raw beauty as to be breathtaking.

I could ask you how you felt near the end of your life, knowing that the land upon which you had labored and built a home and life was swallowed by the waters of progress. What did you think, seeing the walls of steel reinforced concrete rising to block the valleys of the Colorado, to power and provide a constant supply of water to the growing towns

I know that you would likely find that eyesore of a castle off Park Road 4 just as appalling and ludicrous as I do, and maybe we could share a laugh about it.

Perhaps I would simply thank you, for without your life mine would not be. And I would ask if you are proud of me, this odd descendant among your uncountable descendants, most of whom, I suppose have never heard of or even pondered you, because this is the way of the world, the past and it’s people remembered briefly, then forgotten as the river of time flows onto the sea of eternity.

I am grateful, for what I know of you, and for the opportunity of knowing what I know of your life.