Small Town, America: Self-Reliance and Independence

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living in a small town

Small Town, America: Self-Reliance and Independence

One of the benefits of growing up in a small town is that . . . it’s a small town.  Now, one might be of the mind, in this age of urbanization, that living in a small town is a disadvantage.  Well, I suppose it’s all about perspective.  So, let me lend you some.

I grew up on a road that was four miles long. We, fortunately, lived at exactly the two mile mark. I’m not sure if this was planned, and I have no reason to think that it was, but it was certainly serendipitous. Pin Oak Road had highway 105 at one end and highway 59 at the other end. Being at the two mile mark meant that we could head in either direction and have two miles before hitting an official dead-end. The highways were in effect the end of the road because we, my brother Randy and I, were forbidden from getting on or otherwise crossing them.

Pin Oak Road was a tar and rock county road. Skateboards and roller skates just didn’t work. Bicycles were our mode of transportation. Given that dad worked shift work and we were miles away from town, if a bicycle broke, well, we had to be creative to get it fixed and working. I don’t recall how or why we wound up with so many bicycles behind the shop (what we called dad’s wood/mechanic/fix it all workshop). I suppose one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I know we acquired a few broken ones from other kids around, though there weren’t many, when they got new ones. Anyway, that’s where we went shopping for spare parts. And somehow we acquired the skills to tear a bike down to its bare frame and put it all back together in under 30 minutes. This all around the age of eight. So, fixing a bicycle usually meant having to disassemble two bicycles. The donor and the recipient.

Now, this wasn’t some fancy “Corner Market”. No, it was an old building, dimly lit, dusty, with a single gas pump . . . been there since the dawn of time as far as we knew.


Randy and I were running buddies, so we always had to have two working bicycles. With bicycles ready, we hit the open road. Everything was an adventure. There was always someplace new to explore or something unexpected to find. Several creeks crossed Pin Oak Road and about 1 mile down the “River Road” was the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. There were dams to be built. Polished rocks to be found. Minnows to catch. Animal trails to follow.  Modern day Lewis and Clark.

One of the highlights of any day was permission from mom, which didn’t often officially occur, to ride down to Crossroads (that’s what we called it because it was where two roads crossed) to go to Breaushears. I’m not even sure that was the name or how it was spelled or even pronounced. But, that’s what we called it. Breaushears was an old convenience store that sat on one corner of the Crossroads. Now, this wasn’t some fancy “Corner Market”. No, it was an old building, dimly lit, dusty, with a single gas pump . . . been there since the dawn of time as far as we knew. The proprietor of the establishment was an older lady. She drove an old, really old, Oldsmobile or Cadillac. Cars weren’t really my specialty. She always remembered us when we came in.

But, before I go any farther, I’ll have to explain how we actually got to Breaushears.  The easy route was to ride down to the end of our road  at US 59 (stay off the highway), ride past the auction barn and turn right to go down one of the roads that was part of Crossroads. We did this occasionally, but there was no fun in that really. At the last corner of Pin Road, before getting to US 59, you keep going straight through the ditch, over the rusted out barbed wire fence, wrestle with the trees and bushes, and there was a trail through the woods. (Remember, it was all about exploring.) We found that this trail went all the way to Splendora Woods. Yep, that was the name of the “subdivision”.  Splendora Woods was mostly dirt or limestone roads, but its main entrance was pretty much right at Crossroads. We would follow the trail, ride through Splendora Woods, and be right at Breaushears.

Trip probably took one hour . . . one way.  But, it was worth it to get an ice-cold refreshing Coke and a candy bar.

And that reminds me of the old hardware store right in the middle of town. Cleveland Hardware. This place just smelled like hardware when you walked in. And they sold nails by the pound. It pretty much had anything you needed. Not lawnmowers as I recall. You had to get those at Western Auto. But, lawnmowers aren’t really hardware, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t have any. The man that owned the place played the piano. He had one right there in the back corner. You might come in to get a roll of barbed wire and he was there playing the piano. I liked to walk down the aisles and admire the brand new shiny shovels and post hole diggers. Man, a new one of those might just make the job a whole lot easier than using that old dull one. And, look, the handles don’t even clank together so you won’t bust your knuckles.

Years later when the Home Depots and McCoys arrived, I imagine the store was struggling a bit. It burned down one day. I never heard the real reason. Speculation about a rogue rat and electricity was in the air, but that was only hear say. The establishment was never rebuilt. The carcass was soon leveled and they erected an Eckerds drug store there. It wasn’t a real pharmacy. It didn’t even have a soda fountain.

So, there it is.  The benefits of living in a small town.  We learned self-reliance and independence.  And the stores were just a lot cooler.

Continuing from Growing Up In Cleveland, Texas.

Clint Williams

Clint Williams

Clint is just an average person that throughout his life has yearned for peace and simplicity. He is a freelance writer, photographer, and thinker. He currently lives aboard a sailboat with his high school sweetheart and wife where he is close to the ocean. He plans to travel the seas in search of uncommon and wonderful places and experiences.

1 Comment

  • Erika

    Cleveland hardware sounds like the store my mom and I used to go to to find odds and ends for the garden. It’s still open today – I’m very surprised! How did Home Depot take over Cleveland and not Wilmette?

    May 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm