Poppie’s Girl

Categories A Story

On one September morning, in 1977, my mother gave birth to me in a hospital in the middle of the woods of Lufkin, Texas. I was a stark bald baby girl. From her recollection, as well as my grandmother’s, all they can remember is that it was really thick fog the previous night driving to the hospital. Well, that fog carried on for years because I can’t remember anything before the age of about three. I do know during those years I was mainly with three important people, my mother, my grandmother and my Poppie.

All three loved me and took great care of me. In particular, though, I spent countless hours with my Poppie. My grandfather was known by the grandkids as Poppie, and he was the center of the entire family. As far as I know, I was always Poppie’s girl. He was not only my grandfather; Poppie was my mentor and father figure. He also provided me much of my childhood entertainment. It helped that I did live with the man. It didn’t hurt that he loved children, too. In a sense, he was a child. He had a childish love of things. His eyes would light up in excitement. His smile was honest. He held a love in his heart that was precious. This love is the type that has endured throughout my life.

He was huge, tall in stature and big round belly, but there was such gentleness to him. He had a childlike delicateness, too. Not his hands, though, they were always covered in Mercurochrome from cuts. Of course, I easily fit in with him like a glove wherever we would go, but that’s how everyone who knew him felt.

He was very observant. He made sure you were comfortable. All who knew him loved him. All respected him. He was not only big in the literal sense; he was a big presence in our little town. In fact, if you had any children, or were a child, he knew you, because he was the school superintendent. In our little town, that was about as powerful position as you could hold, because you held the whole town’s future in your hands. The future was all we had. He was a great leader and believed that a small town could thrive from great leadership. That was all fine and well with me. However, he was my grandfather first and foremost. It didn’t matter to me if he was the President or a ditch digger.

Poppie was my world. No, he was the axis to my very globe, my one and only father figure. He was the dominating presence in my life. He was this distinction to many. After the separation of my parents before my birth, my mother and I lived with my grandparents until I was twelve years old. Those first years of my life had the most impact on me. I have such happy childhood memories. Most were of my loving family. Some were of the area in which we lived in East Texas.

My family was small and close-knit. It seemed my relatives all looked out for one another. Many members of my family had moved on to the city, either Houston or Dallas, for career advancement or extended family reasons. They always returned on holidays where we would feast on “home-cookin’” at Memaw’s house until our stomachs were full and beyond. Memaw was Poppie’s mother, my great-grandmother. Poppie was always at the center of these events as well.

We lived in a little town called Corrigan in southeast Texas among the pine trees. People lovingly referred to it as the Highway 59 speed trap. The pine needles accented the view in every direction. East Texas is one of those “survival” places, filled with extremes, such as love and hate, friendly and unwelcoming, poor and poorer. There are “survival of the fittest” places, like cities, where life is really competitive. On the other hand, a regular “survival” place was one where if you survived at all, you were going to be a success. To clarify, if you got out of East Texas, that was considered success.

This was an unsaid code, but we all as members of this society of East Texans knew it was a hard place on the psyche. For one thing, the woods were all around you. It was as if you were an isolated entity. Everybody knew everybody else. They knew all your business. So, that made any kind of deviation from the town’s sense of who you were very difficult. You were who your family was, and that was it. I later resented the townspeople for it. The only redemption the town had in my eyes was the sheer beauty of the area where pinecones were as abundant as blades of grass. Really, what I later thought East Texas needed was a good patron saint, a reason for deliverance.
My earliest memory was of the golden sunlight shining through the tops of those giant green Southern pines. The bends of light accented the dark green foliage. Those childhood memories I hold so dear almost always include my Poppie, as the grandkids called him.

In Kindergarten, I would ride the school bus to the high school. Honey, as he was called, my Poppie’s cousin, drove the bus to the high school where he worked. He always bear-hugged me when I got on the bus. Before I walked through the doors of the high school, all of the intimidating high schoolers were waiting on the outside steps for the bus. I walked down the big, long sparkly Formica hallway to the pine door that read tax office. The secretaries saw the top of my little blonde head over the counter going toward Poppie’s office in back. I quietly sat in there across from him in a vinyl chair until it was time to go home, unless I went to the teachers’ lounge. There, I would snack on Gold-N-Chees from the ancient Lance snack machine and coffee I poured myself. In half of the coffee, I mixed in the powdery creamer stuff and equal parts sugar. It must have looked pretty funny for a 6 year old in the teachers’ lounge with a “cup o’Joe.” Around Second grade, and before that probably, my elementary was bussed to the family’s own pastureland for an Easter egg hunt. I felt like royalty because that was our land the whole school was scavenging for treasures. It was so much fun that day.

There were eggs filled with coins, chocolates, gum and other delights. Schools weren’t as politically correct back then, but we did get to go on great field trips! We didn’t care about all of the cow patties. Cow patties were status quo around town. Luckily, the stinging “bull” nettle had been mowed down. I didn’t have a worry in the world back then.
He was glorious to my squinty eyes. I learned eyes are always the first thing people notice about you. So, I tried not to ever look at anyone. I was shy because of my lazy eye. One kid in school called me “goat.” I guess I am lucky though- I was legally blind before the first doctor got a hold of me, and now I can see. Poppie’s best friend had bad eyes like me, so I thought I was extra-special to him. At the very least, he never treated me like I had any more differences that anybody else.

I didn’t spend time learning to gossip with my mom and her sisters. Which I was glad, I certainly missed the boat on receiving the gift of gab, as I was shy because of my lazy eye and I didn’t learn many girly type things. However, my nickname was “girl” which I never thought was very inventive. But, to an East Texan if you had a nickname, that was good, it meant you had some sort of personality. I was always sent to go with Poppie out to the cows. This was fine with me. I did not argue. In East Texas, you respected your elders. Plus, I was so petrified of disappointing my Poppie that I hardly spoke. He was that influential. This fear of speaking has always hindered my life. I owe that to shyness. I, too, was always sick as a child. My mother never fails to remind me of this fact, but there was never a shortage of love. This love has always kept me going strong.

Poppie had cows that were pets. His cows were an expensive hobby to him. Since I can remember he and I went out every afternoon to feed and water the cows. We would drive to his pasture that was a block of the land owned by the entire Cockrell family. The pasture was a measured out and cleared green square that had been surrounded by rusty barbed wire. I knew every ounce of that place. That time with the cows became my communion with nature. Every outing I inhaled a breath of energy from the sun.

“Possum,” he’d yell out at me while we drove in his truck.
“Do you know what an opossum is?”
No, I’d say, and giggled at the word.
“They hang down on trees and have pockets to hold their babies.

They run across the road and play dead. When you catch them playing dead, you yell “possum!””

Possum! I’d always yell when we would pass that place where he first told me, opossum or not. He’d laugh.
I’d love going out to that family pastureland. I knew where every tiny blade of grass grew, every dewberry bush climbed. And, I knew the cows and all of their distinct personalities. I don’t remember how many there were at a given time, but always less than twenty. There was a high turnover rate on some of them. Some of them were always out there, though. Cotton Head was black with a white forehead. She was always skittish of humans. Chili was my cousin’s calf. She was all different shades of brown specks. She truly looked like a bowl of chili. Scarlett was a grand cow, “the mother of all the cows”. Now, I would know the word to describe her as bitch. She definitely ruled the pasture. She was pushy. Scarlett had great pointed horns a white face, and dark lined eyes. She was made up of a red color scheme that ranged from light amber at her tail, to dark mahogany at her head.

Lavender was my bull. Poppie gave him to me. He was the greatest cow that ever lived. So I gave him the name of my favorite color. He was a grayish lavender with fat horns that hung down like inverted pork chop sideburns. Scarlett was Lavender’s mother. She never let any people too close to her “baby”, including me. I thought she did that because she was proud of him.

Sometimes when we went out to the pasture, we gave them cubes, which were the cow equivalent of dog bones. They were cylinder shaped nugget cow treats made up of some type of meal. The cows would come right up to you and eat cubes out of your hand. I had to stand on the storage box on the back of Poppie’s Silverado pick up or they’d knock me down with their sloppy long twisting tongues. Those tongues were scary, like Medusa’s snake hair coming toward me.

Poppie’s love of animals spilled beyond the cow hobby. As a person of the land, he respected the fact that animals provide us with all kinds of things we need. Hunting and fishing were important to him Being the tomboy I was, I would bring various turtles, frogs, kittens, puppies, chickens, etc… into his house.
“Git those varmints out” he yelled.

I never did. He never got mad at me either, he just always told me to leave the varmints outside.
When I was in fourth grade, I had to bring something to show and tell. Being that it was East Texas, you had to have an unusual animal of some kind. I am sure it broke all kinds of public health violations. I told Poppie and he took me out to the pasture about nine o’clock at night to catch a rabbit. He said he heard some baby rabbits in his brother A.W.’s garden and we should go and catch one.
“They scream like a human”, he said.

Sure enough I heard a scream when he caught it that sounded like a shrill woman’s voice. It was a little brown bunny. We kept it in a cage outside, but it ran off before the next day. It was fun going to the pasture at night on a school night, anyway.

I wanted to do something special for Poppie. I decided to wash his truck for him. I got out our big yellow popcorn bowl and put a lot of dishwashing soap in there. I filled it with hot water and brought out a dishcloth. Well, I soaped up his truck and then rinsed it off with a water hose. I was so proud of myself for doing that, and thought Poppie would be grateful for his clean truck. Mom called for me after she got home from work that afternoon. She had been outside by his truck.

“What did you do to Poppie’s truck?” she asked.
I guess the soap didn’t get all washed off because there was a tan film all over the windows and body of it. Poppie thought that was hilarious and we took it to the car wash for a pressure rinse with the sprayer.
Another unfortunate incident with Poppie’s truck came when we were all out at Memaw’s house on the pastureland. A.W. had driven his old bug-eyed red Ford tractor up to the house. Poppie let me sit on the seat of the tractor.

“Can I drive it?” I asked.
He showed me where the brake was and got out of the way. I was having a grand time until I couldn’t turn the steering wheel.
“Turn the steering wheel!” They yelled.
Their arms motioned huge circles as they screamed.
“Put on the brake!”
“Girl, push the brake!” They pleaded with me.
I couldn’t get it out that my feet would not reach the brake. Boom! I hit his truck. The weird thing was there was not a dent on the side. The roof had bubbled up to a dome shape. If it weren’t such a funny story for Poppie to tell people about the bubble roof, I’d have really gotten into big trouble.
“Dammit.” He said.

That is all he ever said to me if I made him extremely mad.
In springtime, we would plant a garden on a part of the land separate from the cows. It was near my great-grandmother’s old house. Poppie used a tiller and made rows and he would take me out there to plant the seeds. After sprinkling very tiny seeds on those big dirt rows, he watered them with a yellow yard sprinkler that rotated back and forth. Then, around May or June, there was corn, beans, tomatoes, new potatoes, squash, cucumbers, peas, and if I was lucky, Zippers. However, Zippers were hard to find seeds for at the local hardware stores. We only planted them ourselves once. We used big galvanized buckets to pick with and gave most of the crop away to everybody else in town and family members. I never understood why he did that. Most of the people gave their vegetables away.

Now I know that was what the neighbors had to do in the depression to survive. They all shared everything and helping each other out was the status quo. Some family and friends in return gave Poppie food like tomatoes, watermelons, and catfish to fry. One time he gave my old sitter buckets of cucumbers and beans. The rest of the vegetables were given to my grandmother to clean, soak, freeze and sooner or later, cook and eat. There wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be anything that tasted as good to me as those vegetables we ate together.

When it turned May, the dewberries were ripening. The little black beads would pepper the bushes along barbed fence lines. They were so delicious and I loved to pick them. Every year patches of the berries showed there shiny fruits in the pasture. Off we went, the three of us including my grandmother scouring the thorn bushes. After we collected all our bowlfuls of berries, my grandmother would wash, freeze, and start the cobbler. It usually took two or three trips because I ate so many on the way back home. If I was lucky she made me a bowl of berries with milk and sugar on top of that.

The Zippers had a story of their own. Zippers were culinary masterpieces wrapped up into one single cream pea. They were nearly impossible to come by. I think some wondered if they were a legend, the way I talked about them. They weren’t urban legend, though. No one in the city had ever heard of them for sure. In fact, not many in the country had heard of them either.

One day I told Poppie I really wished we had some Zippers to cook, and to my surprise he said, “Let’s go find some.”
So, off we went on a pea finding adventure. On the road, we started up Highway 59 North toward Lufkin, the big city. In the summertime, there were always roadside stands, or truck beds, with various ripened fruits and vegetables. In the fall, mayhaw jelly was usually sold in those stands. Mayhaws were berries that fell off of trees. They were sweet and tart and made the best jelly. The grounds of the woods would be peppered with these berries when they fell. All the way up to Lufkin, we could not find a sign on the side of the road that said “zippers”, which was how you knew. Then Poppie said there was a farmer’s market in San Augustine, which was another half hour away. We passed many little towns on the way. I knew all the little towns because we played them in football.
Football was the resident entertainer for the area. Poppie was football incarnate because he lived and breathed it, played it, coached it, even walked on a pro football team. I didn’t learn that fact until I was an adult, and neither did my mom. I guess he didn’t want us to think he had any regrets. Anyway, if you loved to watch hometown football, East Texas was the place to live.

East Texas was not like the city where you rushed around. Local law enforcement wouldn’t allow it. Tractors were often on the roads. The two of us did have to get along, though, because a lot of times theses markets close early in the afternoon. When we got there, it was a maroon converted horse stable-looking place. I saw purple hulls, black eyes, little white creams, but no zipper creams, the big greenish cream peas. There was a tall gangly man in the back. The gangly man with a farmer’s tan said they had them, but they were shelled. They had been put in a mechanical sheller. This meant the peas had been removed from their pods. This posed a problem. The shelled peas could spoil. Poppie told the man we lived an hour away and he asked if we had an ice chest. No. So, we had to go to Wal-Mart for an ice chest and some ice. The farmer man told us the peas would last about that one hour long before they spoiled. Again, we rode toward home. Off we went in that Chevy pick up truck playing beat the clock. That Silverado never would go over sixty. Although, I tried when I was much older. We patiently endured the long ride home, and all but some of the ice had melted out. But, we forged on and tossed to my grandmother those green-eyed beauties. There they were in all their glory, ready to cook. I said a silent prayer and waited. It was the best supper I’d ever had made of Zippers, cornbread and sliced red tomatoes.

Poppie always cooked for his friends and family. Cooking was yet another expression of his love. He loved to cook chicken and dumplings. Despite the traditional holiday hams and turkeys, my family members would always opt for Poppie’s dumplings. Chicken, flour, grease and water were the only ingredients as far as I know. It was the love that made them taste so good. The same went for his catfish and French fries and hushpuppies he’d make. He’d make these especially for me sometimes, and that was my manna from the sky.

He had lots of friends. In his later years, most of them had passed away, but there were times when I remember Wednesday nights. Wednesday night was reserved for Poppie to go out to the “camp house” and play dominoes and cook with his friends. He did this for many years, even before I was born. He would always cook for them. Many of his friends were affiliated with the school, probably because he gave them their jobs. They depended on Poppie for help, which he always provided. He was an advisor and mentor to many of them.

Since Poppie was well known in our town, people knew where he lived. Thus, sometimes things under his ownership at home were stolen or vandalized. The school car was one of those items that happened to be stolen once. The fact the car was stolen just gave my grandfather an excuse for another escapade. He was going to hunt down that car. This time we went to track the car down in Colorado. The car was one of the school’s long line of Crown Victorias. Poppie loved it. It was a tank of a car.

Poppie had decided to make a family vacation out of the deal. He, my grandmother, mother, and me drove the “long way” through the mountains to our destination. We were on our way to the impound lot where the car had eventually been tracked down.
It was the first time I had seen the mountains. They were gargantuan rocks that were cloud mirages. I could not get over these brain-bending natural formations. It made the whole trip very surreal. It didn’t help that I wore neon yellow jelly shoes that looked like I came in on some sort of flying saucer. We came in on another Crown Victoria on clouds of cigarette smoke, because they all smoked like chimneys. The fresh mountain air was refreshing indeed. Unfortunately, once we reached the car, we found it had been stripped completely. We left it there after all. It was fun getting there, though.

Another time in school, my class incubated chicken eggs. Mine didn’t hatch, but a boy I liked, who happened to be Poppie’s best friend’s grandson had two chicks that hatched. I begged him to give me one of the chicks. He finally did and I named him Mr. Peepers. Mr. Peepers was my rooster. He was black and white and pretty scrawny for a rooster, but he was also pretty mean. I also raised him from a chick, not around other chickens, so he didn’t know when to crow. It was often at odd times. When I say he was mean, he pecked at people’s feet until they bled. He was always sweet to me though. Chickens are messy, too. They aren’t meant to be house pets, as I tried to do with Mr. Peepers. My Poppie gave it a shot for me though. One day he told me Mr. Peepers needed to go somewhere he could live happier and our feet wouldn’t bleed anymore.

I was so afraid he would take Mr. Peepers to a place where they would fry him for dinner. Poppie said he found somebody that would take him and I could go with him to drop off Peepers. We went to a place way out of town, which was about five miles. There was this road called Rainbow’s End. We stopped at this house and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was virtually a zoo. There were birdcages I had only seen at zoos, and they were so big. And all kinds of birds inhabited the place. With parrots and peacocks roaming around, it was a bird’s paradise. I thought if any bird wanted to live in a certain place, it would be here. As we departed, the man gave me some peacock feathers and I couldn’t have been happier. Poppie made sure my Mr. Peepers had a home. That was an example his level of sincerity.

If I would ask for one, I’d get a bedtime story each night. It was always Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I guess my blonde hair reminded him of the Goldilocks character out in the woods. I would go into his room if I couldn’t sleep, he’d tell the story and I would fall asleep much easier back in bed with mom. He slept in a different room than Maw, but it seemed like that was all the older people did.

Poppie and Maw’s house had four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The pink tiled one was for all of the girls. The blue one was for Poppie. There was a den, and living room, a kitchen a breakfast room and a dining room. There was a huge brick patio, a carport and a yard on all sides of the house. There was a big wisteria tree, a sweet-smelling mimosa tree, pines galore and sweet gums with sweet gum balls falling all over the ground. It was one of the grandest houses in our town.

I always had something to do in the yard. I could spend all day out in its vastness. There was plenty of shade because of the trees. Plus, I had crawdad mounds to kick, because the yard was covered in them. Stray dogs and cats always showed up, which I abruptly named and adopted as playthings. There were always balls to throw up and get stuck on the roof where I usually managed to climb and sit on most of the day.

There were various other things we did that ended up being adventures, like, fishing trips, hunting trips, family vacations to Galveston Island. Another trip was the school business trip he took me on to Austin. It was during the summer when school was out, he got about two weeks off. In my mind, Lufkin was far away; Austin seemed like a decade away. It was an exotic far away land to an East Texan. The terrain was completely different than ours. It had jagged rocks and shades of brown that replaced the soft padding of green leaves and grass. But, Poppie told me he liked Austin very much. That meant a lot to a four year old. It would later steer my life in that direction. I don’t know what the business was about, something with the TEA. I knew that was known then as the Texas Education Agency. School was a business, too, I learned.

The trip to Austin seemed like a last minute trip and it was summer. This meant I was with Poppie. Wherever he went, I went. I don’t even know if anybody even realized we went to Austin that day. It wasn’t the only time my family went to Austin. We went on various school sport related trips. It just happened to be the one that seems to be the most meaningful.

I could barely see over the enormous dashboard of the school’s Crown Victoria. We saw oil wells and pumps. They looked like race horses in the bare fields in which they dwelled. I recognized those from the pump that Lufkin Industries painted into a glowing red Rudolph that was put out in the Lufkin Mall parking lot at Christmastime. There were fields of nothing but dry grass and those pumps. Then we came to the big hill in Bastrop. You could experience all of Austin from that hill.

Once you arrived at Austin, all the big hills that looked like the most fun things to ride your bike up and down. It was even intriguing driving up and down those hills. I wished I had a house on one of those big hills. I didn’t understand how they stayed up there. We went into the city, billboard by billboard. We cruised along downtown by the big capitol, all I could see were tops of buildings.

We arrived at a parking lot in the middle of all those buildings. Inside one of them, I remember big marble floors and the clonk-clonk of people’s heels hitting them. I remember thinking only really important people must live here. Poppie conducted his school business with his big manila folders, and I sat in a waiting chair outside. I was probably napping in that chair, because that was my second favorite thing to do next to hanging out with Poppie.

When he was done, we drove down a main street. It must have been around Lamar and Sixth when I think back. We stopped at a steak and eggs diner. I called it that because that is what we ate there. I thought it was really neat because it was such a skinny building, but had so many people in it. Poppie ordered us both steak and eggs and coffee. It must have looked pretty funny, a little blonde girl with a big steak and sunny eggs on top. As for the coffee, it was given to me practically out of the bottle as an infant. Looks abounded. I didn’t care. I never felt so comfortable in my own skin.

It was dark outside. Clouds enveloped the city. It didn’t make any difference to the vividness of my memory of the city of Austin. The gray just seemed to add beauty to the composition I stepped into that day.
We didn’t stay long, because we had to take that hard, four-hour trek back through those oil well fields. Even though the sky had opened up for me riding through those fields, I couldn’t wait to get back under the protective canopy of trees. That memory of driving to Austin with Poppie, burning in me still, ultimately decided my future as an Austinite.

Austin was not just a destination; it was a goal. I headed that direction after high school and have not tried to look back since. But, I do look back and think of how much that trip to Austin impacted me. I always tried to drink in Poppie’s wise words whenever possible. I wish I had recorded every conversation I had with him. Now, that I have a family, at least I know his name will live forever.

Getting on to the age of around twelve, Poppie took me hunting. The was a rite of passage for every adolescent boy in East Texas. Unfortunately, Poppie never had any sons or grandsons of that age at the time, so I was it. I was honored, though. This was something that many families did together. Many depended on the meat for winter. I killed a deer. I loved animals, but I loved to please my grandfather more. It is the feeling that you would kill for this person you loved so much. I was not a hypocrite though. I ate the venison. I’d only eat it soaked in milk, then, fried with gravy. It was less wild tasting that way. When we brought the deer home, it looked horrible. Its tongue was sticking out and blood was all spilled. We skinned the deer hanging on a tree limb.

Poppie saw my face and a sort of initiation ritual came over him and he wiped the blood on both of my cheeks. I felt like I was tainted now, grown up. A few years passed, and the newness of childhood faded into a dark cloud of adolescence for me. I was an ugly duckling for many of my junior high and high school years. Poppie retired and I felt disconnected with the school I loved so much. Until much later, I was to not have that feeling of “fitting in somewhere” as I did with him. Luckily for me I could immediately go to Poppie’s house after school and feel much better.

“Learn anything today?” he asked methodically.
“A little bit” or, “nope” was always my reply.

I always regretted not giving a better answer to that question. Perhaps he had been questioning not my learning of books, per se, but of my sense of self. I had not yet matured to that level of understanding, and I wished later he could have seen me take more pride in myself.

Poppie held me by the heartstrings. Whenever I think back to my childhood, I was always by his side. Much of those times, I was riding in his truck with him. In times of distress, I’d go sit in his truck only because it held so much happiness in there for me. His truck was my sanctuary.

Poppie hardly ever listened to music on the radio in his truck. I never understood why. I thought that because music is such a gift of the heart, he would love to listen and sing. Much later, a spiritual moment occurred in my life when I was about ten. We never went to church. We attended a special Memorial Day church service at the little white church by the town cemetery, Union Springs. That is the cemetery in which he is now buried. There was much gospel music that day. I was singing away at a hymn beside Poppie and I looked up at him. He smiled and started singing, too. That was the only time I ever saw him sing. It was indeed a divine moment for me. For me, it took awhile to find God. But, I believe that moment a spark that began my own spiritual journey that has ended over here in Austin.

Now, my son is named Jasper. For one, this is important because he is my grandfather’s namesake. I feel lucky to have being able to do this. Pride does not begin to describe how I feel for the opportunity to give him that distinguished designation. Of course, I had to ask my grandmother’s permission. She gladly approved. She knew it was a laid- out plan of a dream that I hoped to acquire without even knowing such a thing. I had him give me away along with my mother at my wedding. She must have put two and two together. My grandmother knows me better than I know myself.

Unfortunately, Jasper is also the name of a town that evil things occurred. Being from East Texas, you can’t really talk about the place if you don’t mention the fact that racism does exist there. East Texas is more like the Deep South than any other part of Texas. At first, I was afraid to name my son Jasper for fear that people might affiliate his name with the town, being that I am from East Texas, not even an hour away from that town. Because of not too distant racial killing that occurred there, I did not want to give any power to that name. Then, I thought, I am not naming him for that—it is my grandfather’s first name. If anyone ever asks me, I will proudly say Jasper is named after my grandfather, Jasper Reagan Cockrell. At last, here he is in my arms, my pride and joy, named for the man known as, Jasper Reagan Cockrell, or Poppie. Relatives tell me he looks just like his great-grandfather.

Now, it is hard to return to a place that is so emotionally conflicting for me. However, returning to the woods of East Texas sets in me a sort of tranquility. Maybe it is the slower pace, the shade and gentle rustle of the trees that harbor that feeling. I never saw any bears there, but plenty of snakes. The wildlife was just a part of the living arrangements. As a child, I could always find solace in the natural state of the piney woods. That same solace my later years there left me with a sense of stagnation that was inescapable.

The missing light of tranquility was my grandfather. He seemed to brighten every aspect of my life in East Texas. A true person to the end was he, and made no qualms about dying. If anything he had a sort of acceptance of death. He had accepted it before any of my family even considered death of Poppie a possibility. He even showed me how to die. He was truly a Grand Father.

My grandfather is passed on for about seven years now. Spirituality is something I intensely craved at the time of his death, at 72 years old. Time cannot erase the most impressive memories I have with him. I learned he was the center to many peoples’ lives. He was a true leader to each one. He lives on in my life. Poppie’s spirit dwells in my heart and through to my own son. He is right there, driving me to the pasture, communing with nature, taking delight in all the things the world has to offer. I want to share all these joyous gifts with my son. He lives on forever through our love. I was just happy to be included in his world.

A great portion of my life was spent with my grandfather. My living in Austin, my morals, my depth and breadth, all come from him. He may never have known the depth of my admiration of him. Until we meet again, I will strive to live out his legacy of love.

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