It’s a very rainy day here, perfect for daydreaming and reminiscing. There’s inside work to be done, however a link to a several week old MSN news article about an accident at an airport near McKinney, TX [history of McKinney] led me to a Google Maps search for its location since it is one I’m not familiar with. I grew up in that area but “things” have changed considerably since I lived there. It’s no wonder I’m not familiar with the airport mentioned, it was farmland when I cruised around those parts.
This search started me thinking about the tiny community where I spent a substantial portion of my youth, the little town of Altoga, located in the gentle rolling hills of northeast Texas, only a few miles from the airport mentioned in the news article.
When I was there the community consisted of 2 general stores – 1 in operation and 1 closed long ago (it is my understanding the closed one also housed/served as both a bank and a pharmacy), a doctor, a church building, a cemetery where several relatives I never knew are buried plus one I knew very well back in the day, an old yellow school bus where some of the senior residents played checkers to wile away their time, a handful of houses, and thousands of acres of farmland. I’m told there was also a public school which I don’t recall ever seeing, and several other businesses.
The Ray family, who also has family ties to Altoga, was generous enough to allow me to post a couple of pictures of the Altoga high school class from several decades ago. One is posted here and the other can be found on my Old School Cycling Facebook page along with several other article-related photos. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate any photos of the school building itself. Looking at this photo made me think… the youngest person in this photo would now be around 85 years old. That’s amazing! I can’t even begin to imagine the memories they would have of their youth. How the world has changed since that time.
For quite a few years the closed store still had a variety of items on its shelves, as well as a very heavily built “manual-style” cash register that still worked, and a rusted pot belly stove. Memory tells me the cash register was gold-colored, but it was probably brass or something similar. The picture here is exactly what I remember the register looking like. The store also had a couple of places in the back where you could sneak in if you were small enough, I was, or daring enough, ditto, to play with the cash register while imagining you were selling the dusty old bottles and boxes of goods to imaginary customers. I was sorely disappointed the day I found the access had been secured, and really crushed when I looked through a window some time later and saw most of the “play things” and the cash register had been removed. I don’t know if these things were stolen or taken away by whoever owned the property, but those are two days I’ll always remember.
My dad lived in Altoga as a youth, his girlfriend who later became his wife, lived on the far side of McKinney near Celina. His nickname at the time was “daddy-long-legs”. Seems appropriate since he stood about 6’6″ tall. If the stories he used to tell me about his days there were true, and I do believe they were, he was quite the rascal and I’m a chip off the old block. lol I’m particularly fond of one involving him, a neighbor and friend called “Poley”, a Model-A Ford truck (probably similar to the one pictured on my Old School Cycling Facebook page), a rope, and an outhouse. Need I say more? For those who are unfamiliar with the term “outhouse”… it’s a wooden (usually) outdoor restroom with no running water and only one or two seats.
There was also one about an old abandoned house used as sort-of a community theater, a drunk, and a Cold 45… the Peacemaker revolver, not the drink. Seems my dad “shot” the drunk during a performance he (my dad) was in. Actually the drunk just thought he’d been shot, but it was enough to temporarily sober him up. I guess his getting hung up in a barbed wire fence didn’t hurt the sobering up process any either. I made my own memories with that house in the mid to late 70’s. You might call it a haunting experience. I also remember my dad telling me about a tornado that hit just outside the nearby town of Blue Ridge causing substantial damage and killing almost an entire family of 9 or 10 members, and how the citizens of Altoga went to not only feed but to help the affected neighboring residents. They rebuilt a few houses and a couple of barns, re-strung barbed wire fences, and cleaned up debris, all for no pay of course, because it was the thing to do. That was a time when communities helped other communities, and neighbors helped neighbors.
One of her stories was about the time a neighbor hired some workers to bring in their crops. One of the workers decided he’d come into her house and “take advantage” of the women who lived there. Mama Sis was only in her early teens when she shot him dead with a Colt Navy pistol, a pistol she showed me, and kept, until the day she died despite my continued efforts to persuade her to let me buy it. She said it had belonged to her father during the Civil War and she could not part with it. Her family was terrified about the repercussions they were sure she would receive for the shooting, but after the sheriff heard the story he told them the worker had been trouble since he began working in the county, he believed the women’s story, and that nobody would cause any problems over her actions. I can’t imagine the relief they must have felt. Also, knowing Mama Sis, she had to have been really upset over taking a human life.
I’m going to shift gears here, then continue these recollections in another post. While I was looking up the information on the airport that started all these memories flowing I noticed a link to an announcement of a cycling trip that took place in mid 2011. It took cyclists through the rural areas mentioned above, then into McKinney. While reading that announcement I found myself wishing I had somehow known about the event and would have been able to participate. It would have been great fun to experience. Even with all the times I was in Altoga I never once rode a bicycle there. What was wrong with me? I rode almost everywhere else! Oh well, that’s in the past. What I do with the future is up to me. Hope some of you will be able to join me for some of my upcoming cycling adventures. I’ll be setting up a list of rides and locations before long so please check back for that occasionally.
Please check out the full-size pictures, and some additional ones, on the Old School Cycling Facebook page. I am also in the process of moving the pics from the old Facebook page that never worked properly to the new one as time permits, so please check back periodically for those.