A Fire Within
In the summer of 1956, I could be found most anywhere in the neighborhood as long as I was within my mother’s voice range. I was not into sports much, and being only eleven had so far escaped the grip of puberty. Being the sweet little holy terror that I was, I spent a great deal of time prowling around, trusty Benjamin pellet gun in arms and sidekick dog Stinky at my side. I combed the yards and pastures in search of sparrows and meadowlarks…and any bank robber that needed blasting. Late afternoons often found me wearing down and resting two houses down the street in the front porch swing of Mr. and Mrs. King.
Summer afternoons in the swing normally had little melodrama; however, this particular year there was new excitement in this tiny rural northeast Texas town. A lot of interest was being stirred by the appearance of strange vehicles along FM Highway 909 that ran through my neighborhood. Seems there was a motion picture crew shooting scenes in Clarksville and various locations off 909 near the communities of Cuthand, Annona, and Boxelder. With all the rumors of the different movie stars involved, it became quite a mystery as to who was in those big buses transporting cast and crew from lodging in Paris. Who was sitting next to the window today? Some might hope it was their heartthrob Robert Mitchum, George Hamilton, George Peppard, or Eleanor Parker. There was even talk of director Vincente Minnelli’s cute little daughter Lizza being on the set.
The movie was Home From The Hills, from the novel of same title by author and Red River County’s own, William Humphrey. A story of a young boy’s (George Hamilton) struggles to become a man in his father’s (Robert Mitchum) eyes; all while experiencing a wide array of family difficulties in the setting of the post-depression forties. Mrs. Parker co-starred as the mother, and Mr. Peppard was a faithful friend and estranged brother.
For a child such as myself, the vehicles themselves were more amusing to see than the wonder as to who was in them. However, there was some concern as to what they were doing in Sulphur Bottom. This dense river bottom was a place from which came haunting tales of sulfur fumes, quicksand, panthers, bears, wild boars and other perils.
One day while being my usual unruly self at my father’s drug store, I got the message to come up the street to Gibson’s Grocery and Locker Plant to see what was in the locker (freezer room).