When Pa lets me go with him in the truck, it's always a good time. I like the truck a lot, and sometimes he lets me drive a ways too. This time, he planned on goin' further than Hereford. We were goin' to go to Amarillo, which is about a fifty-mile trip. It would take us most of one day to get there and do what we needed to do, so we'd get to stay overnight somewhere along the way.
Amarillo is a pretty big city as cities go up here in the panhandle. The only other big town is Lubbock, which is south of us and about a hundred miles away.
The droughts were just beginning in 1932, but the town was already sufferin' for it. For one thing, a lot of folks from Oklahoma began to move south into Texas 'cause it wasn't as bad down here. It was so dry all the good soil just started blowin' away ever' time the wind came up. The worst was the black blizzards, which come up so sudden that nobody has a chance to do anything about it. The storm would rise up like a long wall of muddy water maybe seven or eight thousand feet high and come in a big wave across the prairie. It was worse'n the tornadoes that sometimes came along right after. The dust would cover everything and even strangle the livestock right out in the field. When they couldn't farm anymore. Since there was no water and only dust as far as the eye could see, these people would pack up what they could and head west and sometimes south.
Those that came south didn't choose very well, 'cause the droughts were beginnin' to come down our way too. The people came for the oil wells, but there weren't enough jobs for everyone. Most of 'em went on the dole and just traveled around lookin' for work wherever they could. Pa had hired a couple of men last season, but he couldn't keep them on. We just had enough for ourselves he said. It did break his heart to turn them away, but there wasn't nothin' he could
do about it.
We was lucky so far, but Pa did think that things would get worse before they got better. Still, we had put in good crops, the pig business was doin' fine, and Pa did a lot of veterinary work as he
had that skill from the army.
So, we came into Amarillo to do some shoppin'. Ma sent orders to get a new iron skillet so we went to the Woolworth’s Five and Dime store for that. Pa picked up some heavy gloves and some other odds and ends. We went to the fountain for an ice cream sundae. I got to sit at the counter and watch while the soda jerk dished out two whole scoops of vanilla, a whole ladle of chocolate sauce, and a mess of whipped cream. He even topped it with a cherry. It was almost too pretty to eat, but I did anyway. That was somethin' we didn't get very often.
We packed what we bought in the truck and had some time to look around before headin' back home. It was late in the day, so we'd be stoppin' somewhere overnight. In the meantime, we took a little tour of the big city and got supper from a man sellin' hotdogs right on the street. I was too stuffed to eat any more, so we got in the truck and headed back to home.
We drove out of town and stopped in an oak grove as the sun was goin' down. It was clear that people stayed here often, 'cause there were stone circles where campfires go. Pa built a little fire. Ma had packed some cornbread for us, but we were still too full to eat it. We'd brought along blankets and we spent the night comfortable enough under the big oak trees. Late in the night, I woke up to hear some more folks comin' in the grove. They was quiet enough and I soon went back to sleep.
Just before dawn, though, I got woke up again. I saw somebody creepin' around by the truck. I looked to Pa, but he was snorin' away. I thought maybe the person was just goin' by, but then I could see they was openin' the truck door real slow. Now, I knew he were lookin' to steal something. I didn't think there was anything of value in the truck, but it's the principle as Pa says.
I jumped up and ran over to the truck. The thief was on the far side and didn't see me yet. I stopped and snuck around the front of the truck quiet as I could. When I got closer, I could see that the thief was rummagin' through the truck lookin' for whatever he could steal. The door was open between him and me, so I just jumped forward real fast and slammed the truck door right on him.
A scream so loud they could hear it back in town came out of him. I was taken aback some as it was real high and sounded a whole lot like my sister when she was yellin' about somethin' I did.
I was holdin' the door shut on him and he was strugglin' to get out from the trap. I leaned up against the door and pushed in with my heels hard as I could.
I could see Pa jump up from his bedding and come runnin' over. He went round the back of the truck so he could grab the thief. He nodded his head once he got hold of his arm and I let go of the door. Pa pulled him out and threw him right on the ground.