Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tex and Jim

My mother's side of the family hails from the little East Texas town of Carthage. She was raised there, and coincidentally, my dad lived there as a young boy when his dad worked in the Champlin Oil facility on the outskirts, before moving away to South Texas and then Fort Worth. As a young man, he returned one summer to work in the same Champlin camp, met my mother, and the rest is history.

View Larger Map

Carthage was home to two country music legends, to both of whom my family had some connections: Tex Ritter and Jim Reeves.

Tex Ritter came from Murvaul, just down the road, and his brother married one of my great grandmother's sisters. In the early '70s, when we were living in New Haven, Connecticut, my father won a contest held by Country Music magazine, the prize for which was an all-expenses-paid trip to Nashville, including a backstage pass at the Grand Ole Opry (then still at the historic Ryman Auditorium) and the chance to hang out with Tex Ritter. The fact that the winner of the prize was a distant relative must have made for a very interesting meeting. I remember my dad being very excited about it for a long time after. He was full of praise for Tex Ritter, who was something of an intellectual and apparently made a lot of prescient statements about the future of the music industry.

Jim Reeves was from Galloway, and as a small boy during the Great Depression, he was a pupil at the school where my paternal grandfather, U.B. Goolsby, taught. (Papa Goolsby has made two previous appearances in these pages.)

Times have never been easy in this part of Texas, but they were particularly tough then, and my sweet grandpa, who had known poverty himself as a child, was frustrated enough at the lack of diversions for the dirt-poor children in his charge that he dipped into his own pocket and bought some baseball kit so they would have some source of exercise and entertainment. Jim Reeves took to it like a duck to water, and probably would have had an epic career as a pro if injury had not prematurely ended it. Lucky for him that he also had a winning way, good looks and a voice to fall back on.

No comments: