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Onto the Bold Prairie--A New Short Story

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  • Susan Rektorik Henley
    Hello Friends, I am doing something today that I have not done in a very long time. I am having fun. I am writing a short story. And, as usual, I want to share
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2003
      Hello Friends,
      I am doing something today that I have not done in a very long time. I am having fun. I am writing a short story. And, as usual, I want to share it with you as I do.
      Onto the Bold Prairie -- a New Short Story by
      Susan Rektorik Henley
      “They came on the address of people named Hrdlicka who were their sponsors and lived on the edge of Brazos, one mile from College Station. They arrived to College Station by train and were unloaded before dawn. Grandmother and Mother were sitting on the trunks crying, and saying what are we going to do here on this bold prairie…”
      Ever since first reading this passage from the account of the immigration of her family to Texas from Moravia in 1880 written by  Antonia (Turek) Hayek of Baytown, Texas, in 1955, I have been haunted by the image of those two ladies sitting on the trunks that surely held all their worldly goods at the edge of what was then the frontier of Texas facing a strange and unknown future. In the dreary months of this past January, I drove out of the Coastal Bend of Texas across what was once the coastal prairie on up through Central Texas to the area of Waco, Texas. As I left the oak savannahs and reach the vast open lands near Waco, thoughts of the Hayek-Turek women came to mind as well as a sense of camaraderie. I am looking at the possibility of relocating somewhere between Waco and, most likely Denton, Texas. As a looked out at that sere prairie and thought of trying to reestablish my farming life there, I too thought, “What am I to do out here on this bold prairie.” And, there was a pain deep within.
      In truth, there is not that much difference between the prairie land of the Coastal Bend and that of North Central Texas. It is mostly deep, dark, and waxy black clay soil anchoring vast acres of land in agriculture production--either farming or ranching. Winds tend to howl from either the north or the south depending on the season and there are times of great drought or deluge. But, down here, it is a prairie known to me. I have grown up here. I know where the watershed of the Oso Creek begins, where the swale land is, where the “hills” are, and most all of my neighbors. To this day, there are bonds between folks who only have limited contact. I am friends with the postman, the UPS deliverymen, and the propane truck driver. How long has it been for you since a UPS driver went several places trying to find you to deliver a package? They still do that for me down here.
      It has been over four years since my children and I moved from the urban sprawl that Austin had become to the family farm in rural Nueces County in South Texas. We came here to be with my Dad during his last few years of life and to handle his business as well as that of his brother, my Uncle Frank. What a startling change it was to no longer be a civil servant, a bureaucrat, but rather simply a daughter and a business manager. The change for my children was even more abrupt. They were pulled from Gifted and Talented Programs in a city well known for its liberal leanings and plopped down in a rural school district where Vocational Agriculture is still a mainstay of the curriculum and the politics are rigidly Republican.
      So why do I write about this all now? Because, since first reading the Hayek-Turek account of coming to Texas, I have been noting similarities between what they faced then and what individuals who choose a farming way of life still face today. Technology has changed the methods employed and the face of Texas has certainly been altered greatly; but, there are still elements of the struggle between humans and the natural world that continue as they have since man first set foot on this planet. As I live amid a large rural Texas Czech farming community, I will share accounts written by some of early Moravian immigrants and compare them to events that still occur today.
      When one flies from Houston down to Corpus Christi or the Valley, you can look out of the windows of the plane and see a great and colorful patchwork quilt. The land in crop production, pasture, brush, and industrial use all have different designs and hues. It is difficult to discern the greater image when one drives though the area; however, from above, it can be breathtakingly obvious. What I hope to do is present for you a perspective of the past and present lives of the Texas Czechs who chose to be farmers and ranchers. Although other ethnic groups have similar histories and experiences, our patchwork is unique as one quilt is to another. Perhaps it is the quiet determination and/or the sense of stoicism that has been developed and carried on by our people since they first came together in small settlements along the basin of the Central Danube that creates the differences. Or, perhaps, it is that intense and passionate inner flame that still re-ignites when one listens to the gypsy violins in the Moravian and Silesian folk melodies captured in the works of Janacek that gives rise to the unique pattern. But, whatever the cause, there is still a singularity about that which is still Texas Czech.
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