It is a little town like any other little town, but unlike all others in another way. Sidney is a small community in Comanche County Texas, my family home. While my father, like most young men of his generation, left the family ranch and farm community for college, he soon was carried much farther away by the Second World War. Serving his time in the Pacific Theater, he was never to return to Sidney to live, even though he always planned to do so. Answering the call of a young president to go to the moon in this generation, he, along with his aerospace engineer peers, dreamed larger dreams than a small community could hold. But at every break, whenever time could be made, Sidney was the longing.
Because my grandparents were there and because Santa delivered to Sidney the Saturday before Christmas, along with all reunions that were in Sidney, and summers spent there, I had names that were familiar to me, but seemed strange to the ears of others. Uncle Ottie, Aunt Gussie, Uncle Bige, Uncle Eldon, Miss McIntyre, the Caffeys, the Cheathams and many others that I’ve forgotten. A little boy’s memory fades over time, but my childhood was shaped by them. L.D. Cox, J.A. Cox, Jack Ferrill were men who were my father’s peers and my childhood heroes.
Perhaps it was this boyhood dream that was passed on to me, but Sidney somehow became my hometown as well. I spent summers on the Feril place, living with my grandparents and their remaining daughter, Carolyn Feril Lockridge, 12 years my senior. I became a living baby doll that she carried from place to place or pushed in the tire swing as I begged that she “run under”.
Before I began my school years in Grand Prairie, when I would be home in Sidney, I would be allowed to attend high school alongside Aunt Carolyn and her best friend Paula Cheatham Kiser, including my little brother, Steve. I can’t really imagine a school that allowed two preschool children to sit in chairs beside these high school girls, coloring and practicing their “letters”. Feril boys were not known for being especially quiet or well behaved, and we were surely a distraction.
Being allowed to go to the Sidney store was a rare treat in my youth. My grandad, Ormal Feril, would rarely allow me to buy a chocolate pop from the chest type pop machine in the store, with the tracks that one had to maneuver the bottles around and finally position the proper one to pull up through the “gate”. It was an especially fond memory, along with older men playing dominoes outside, and the community spirit that was welcoming and comfortable. I always felt at home, while being introduced as “Little Carlton Feril, Carlton’s boy.” The others would knowingly nod and I felt accepted.
Almost all of the names are gone now. Aunt Carolyn passing word to me today that Paula Cheatham Kiser faces a battle with cancer that looks quite grim. Each time I reflect back, my eyes close and I remember a little store with gas pumps out front, a grey painted wooden floor and shelves stacked high with treasures. The feed store next door looks far larger in my memories than the photos that I’ve seen of it.
As these names fade in memory, as their acts of kindness, compassion, and tenderness are lost in history, it is the influence that remains. The smiles, the nods, the index finger waving, acknowledging the approaching car over the steering wheel… the small acts of consideration that reveal the nature of a community. Sidney remains a treasured place in my memory because of these things.
Where you are from contributes to who you become. Where are you from?