Thursday, February 9, 2012

Texas State Capitol Memories

Where Brian Donelson and
George McCullough Walked
A novel is fiction. It's not true. Pure imagination. Right? Well, yes, but... I suspect every novel contains some little something from the author's past. Where Love Once Lived is no exception. While I didn't make the same mistakes Brian did, there are events in my life I wish hadn't happened. But I trust God lead me to where I am today.

In the following excerpt, I describe a scene at the Texas state capitol that I had with my mother and dad and sisters when I was a child. Photos reminded me of the event for years after it happened. My dad tricked me into drinking the sulfur tasting water that day cementing the memory forever. I also remember a time when I wondered if people were staring at me and a fellow marine who happened to be black as we traveled from California to Texas.

When we finally reached my parent's house in Austin, I was concerned about their reaction since, as far as I knew, Bill would be the first black person in our home. However, he was accepted graciously. My dad even drove us the rest of the way to Houston, saying we were probably too tired to drive further.

In this excerpt, Brian had asked to meet with Mr. McCullough, the 78-year-old father of Brian's best friend Phil, because Brian wanted advice on being close to God. You'll have to read the book to find out more. I only included enough here to describe the setting.

“You know,” Mr. McCullough said as he and Brian walked through the capitol grounds, “a few years back, ever’one would be staring at us.”

Brian was six foot two, and Phil’s dad was five two or three at the most. Mr. McCullough had just gotten off work at the Driskill and still had on his white shirt and bowtie. Brian wore shorts and Birkenstocks. Still, Brian knew Mr. McCullough was talking about race, not stature or clothing. Mr. McCullough was from a time in history Brian could never fully understand, but he’d read about how blacks suffered. It was a time of segregation.

The Water Fountain and Bench
Mr. McCullough looked around. “When I was jus’ a kid, nine or ten I’d say, my parents brought me here.” He motioned toward the spot where they sat. “My daddy told me to drink from a sulfur fountain that was here. Said it’d be good for me and make me healthy. But there was a problem. Back then, you see, we had separate drinking fountains. One marked ‘white’ and one marked ‘colored.’”

He paused, but Brian waited for him to continue. “There was only one sulfur fountain and it wasn’t marked one way or ‘nother, colored or white.” He laughed. “Didn’t matter. We sneaked a sip when no one was about. Only once, though.” He shook his head and made a face. “Terrible stuff. Smelled like rotten eggs.”

I would love to hear from you. Do you have family memories about visiting places like the state capitol? What caused the memory to stick in your mind? Have you experienced racial segregation? Have you ever felt people were staring at you because you did something out of the norm? Please comment below or email me:

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