My Aunt's First Teaching Job in the Great Depression
James W. Corder wrote:
"I meant to tell you about a house ... The walls still stand, and part of a rotting roof, from which protrudes part of a rusty stovepipe. Even if I offered explicit directions, many of you would not find it. You have to go west from Fort Worth about 225 miles, through Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Breckenridge, Albany, Stanford, Aspermont, Swenson, to Jayton. By now, you'd be into territory from which it costs about fourteen dollars to send a letter to the world, but you'd still not be there yet. Jayton, with a population of about 750, is the last big city before you get there. You drive four or five miles out into what people in the area call the Cotton Breaks for seven or eight miles, and after a while you'd come to the little community known as Golden Pond. It's not close to anything. Nobody ever goes there. It's no longer recognized as a community. The only inhabitannts are ghosts, and the southwest wind keens and moans through rotting plannks of an occasional ruined shack.
Not far from Golden Pond ... is the house I mentioned. It is a little house mde of native stone. It measures about ten feet by twelve feet, and there is a small wooden lean-to on the back. You can see through the walls.
My aunt lived in that house with a family during the school year of 1933-34 ... It was her first teaching job, and she made 12 dollars a month, with room and board thrown in.
She was far miles from home. There were no telephones in Golden Pond, and she had no transportation save what her feet offered. She was among strangers in a barren, twisty land. That area, the Cotton Breaks, is broken, eroded country; dry creeks, ravines, gullies, and canyons break the terrain for thirty miles and maybe more. Even in 1933 it ws nearly forgotten country.
There were no telephones, no electricity, no running water, no way to wash except in a pan or round metal washtub. And the wind whistled and moaned through the rocks.
If you stand on the little rise between ravines where the rock house is, if you stand there even in bright daylight, in every direction you look the distance is blue and far and melancholy. It is the lonesomest country I know. If you stand there at night, imagine what the dark is like when you're far from home and there's only one dingy. smoky kerosene lamp which, for the sake of economy, you can't burn for long.
Imagine lying in a narow bed with the wind coming in between the rocks and across you. How could you possibly imagine a bright future?"
----- James W. Corder, "Lost in West Texas," 1988
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.