Bowen: Here’s a book we could use today

Published 9:17 pm Friday, October 13, 2017

A decade ago a publisher from North Carolina stumbled across some of our “front-porch” talks here in the LaGrange Daily News. She must’ve been jealous that you and I got to meet this way every Saturday morning, as we did back then.

She wrote and asked me if I’d be interested in writing a book and sharing my memories about the city and people of LaGrange.

Of course, I was interested, and, as time permitted, I began putting together a few stories and columns. But you know how busy life gets, and I never got around to getting her the book.
But make no mistake: The book was then, and is now, hidden somewhere in the recesses of my heart — “Way down there,” — as ol’ Doocy said one time regarding a whole different topic — “way down in ya heart, down all these backroads, weavin’ its way ‘til all you see is deep woods and tall grass.”

And that quote’s no exaggeration from my big bricklaying friend from long ago, the one with the huge webbed right hand, missing teeth and a severe attitude problem.

As I think on it, he was one of the ones in that book, and deservedly so. He sure taught me a great deal about attitude back when I was 16, such as which ones to mess with and which ones not to. That big fella broke me in to bricklaying and manhood at the same time, all with one huge swoop of his webbed hand.

LaGrange’s Doocy had plenty more talents than telling a young fella to do this, get that, and “Pup, see if you can keep ya mind on ya work and not on that lil’ dark-haired girl.” He knew a bit about romance, too. And he used that knowledge, spending a good portion of his time trying to keep my love life afloat, especially with that “dark-haired” girl from Roanoke.

Ah, yes, I learned a good many things on that bricklaying job that didn’t show up on my paycheck, including never to underestimate a man based on what my eyes could see on the outside. Who would’ve thought Doocy had a single drop of romantic blood in his whole body just to look at the big, rugged-looking fella with those webbed hands stained an indelible, mortar-colored white. Hands that probably hadn’t seen its natural brown color since he was a boy!

But when he would raise that hand up, smile really big and show that valley of missing teeth, then start his “What girls these days are lookin’ for in a man” speech, I knew I was in the presence of one of the South’s truest romantics.
Something else about Doocy you need to know, something he taught me on those backroads of Georgia and Alabama: There were no racial barriers to be had there. As soon as we jumped in Red’s battered red pickup truck and head out to the job — some of us boys leaning against the wheelbarrows in the bed and some squashed in the cab — all racial boundaries faded away, like fog getting wiped out by the sun on any given bricklaying morning.

It didn’t matter who lived in what part of town, or who wore what, or who drove the best car, or who made the most money. What mattered was that we had a house to get bricked, and — if we were the least bit interested in getting paid on Friday — we’d better be hopping off that truck before the tires stopped moving and get the day started on the run.

There was no economic status, no race, no high-falutin attitude, no “look at me” mentality, no putting on airs — except for Red and Doocy, maybe, the two “superiors” directly above me.

And there sure was no disrespect. We would work on million-dollar homes, and the owners would drive out in fancy cars but still say “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” to Red, Brian and Doocy as they raved about how good that brick job was looking.

You know, I think we could use a little more of that attitude today.

Miss North Carolina Publishing lady, are you still wantin’ that book?

Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.