Shit Fire And Save Matches

Today I’m wandering through my notebook. Memories of living two months in Archer City, Texas. Uh huh. Told you I’d go back. Sitting high up in my attic in the late afternoon sun, toy boy next door receding in importance to my Texas tunes. The lawn mowers, the desultory sounds of life in this small Canadian town, kids kicking home from school, all background to Archer City. Archer City again. Lucinda Williams and James McMurtry will help me cross the border to all things Southern. Turn ’em up. Flippin’ through the pages.


January 3rd, 2009. 32 degrees.
This is my sojourn. I will soak it up. Universe, Creator, God of mine who wants me to be me. Throw it at me, lead me, give me, show me. Try me, challenge me, teach me, gift me. I will accept. I will watch for. I will lay myself open to whatever comes to me and enfolds me.


Mary and I settle into a routine at The Inn. I loved to go out first thing in the morning and cross the yard, searching for the Wichita Falls newspaper. Could have been thrown on either side of the fence. Some mornings were nippy indeed, a thin sheet of ice on the back porch, had to watch my step. Always reveling in the clean air. Sometimes the chimes hung from the porch roof rang night and day, and that meant a biting north wind. Mary liked her fire. I loved to bring in the wood and get it going in the fireplace. If there were guests there’d be a table to set and breakfast plates to prepare. Mary is the consummate Southern hostess; laid back and welcoming, sly wit and a wickedly funny gift for story telling. Her guests love her.


January 5th, 2009. 50 degrees.
Lay in the bath daydreaming. Gazing at the shampoo and conditioner bottles on the side of the tub. With a start I realize I’ve brought Dove to The Lonesome Dove Inn. What’s next, Willie Nelson in the bath bubbles?


Christmas had been taken down and packed away. The days spread before us. Mary would get engrossed in her crosswords and I would gear up to shape my day. In Archer City there are three eateries – The Sonic, The Dairy Queen and The Wildcat Cafe. For other sustenance there is the Archer City Library and Booked Up. A day would not go by that I didn’t walk through one or all of them. Cheryl the librarian became a friend and shining star in my day. The library was also the town video store and it took going to Texas to get me to relax and watch a movie. What a fantastic opportunity to catch up with fine films that had passed us by. Mary and I luxuriated in a movie a night for most of my stay. (Psst, for Southern – A Texas Funeral, and A Love Song For Bobby Long.)


January 6th, 2009.
Four hunters arrive from Alabama at 1:00 in the morning. They tie their dogs to the poles in the yard.


I found the state of decline in town shocking. There were all types of structures, from board to brick to trailer, but on each and every street there were four or five houses that had been abandoned and left to the elements. Mary told me that some of them had out of state owners that had left and eventually the county has an auction and sells them for the cost of the back taxes. Sometimes as little as five thousand dollars. Oh, never tell me that. I’m not attracted to pretty, and as I roamed the tree-named streets I’d daydream over which house (hovel really) I would pick. Which one mine? My dreams didn’t extend past where I would earn my keep, but I loved the thought of experiencing the extremities of Texas weather. A Texas storm. I could picture myself sleepless and scared, laying in the middle of a big bed in a little old inadequate house. (Auntie Em! Auntie Em!) But thrilling to some fury outside, trembling at the wind hurling across the flat plain. I’d creep to the window and watch lightning crack open the magnificent empire of Big Sky. The heat I don’t know yet how I’ll cope with. So far I have spent a September, October, January and February in Texas. There were some days even in those winter months when I saw the air ahead of me shimmering in heat waves in the distance. Often people stopped, friendly, and offered me rides, concerned about my pedestrian state. But I was fine out walking, walking. In the summer though I think they’d be hauling my crumpled ember off the side of the road.


January 7th, 2009. 58 degrees.

…trashed out little town, some areas better than others but not unusual to see many houses within a mile caved in boarded up piled high with metal junk heaps rusted out messes broken window Venetian blinds still broken down in a V-shape, picture some lard-bellied redneck peering through it, scratchin’, scratchin’…


Wooing Archer City, one dog at a time. Heading up Oak Street, causing quite a furor. Going to the Dollar General, the friendly eyesore on the edge of town. We need lunch fixin’s.

Sm. can of chili
Line bowl with fritos
Layer of chili
Layer of shredded cheese
Chopped up onions

I’ll be having seconds.

Good Life

This post is lovingly dedicated to Ellen Cox who never swears. She will be horrified at her contribution of the title.

6 Responses to “Shit Fire And Save Matches”

  1. Valerie Wolf says:

    I am there again, what a picture you paint, more people need to read this!
    Love you,

  2. Ellen says:

    Diane! I can’t believe you! When are you coming back to A.C.? It is really kinda pretty now, but we have our share of storms to “watch” every other night. I am still going to Physical Therapy with the elbow/arm and as of last week have a splint to sleep in . Mary is doing so WELL. You’d be so proud of her. NO SMOKING! Miss you and come back!

  3. Ellen says:

    You should be here now! Everyone is getting ready for 4th of July cookouts for tomorrow. When I open my front door in the morning there will be a beautiful American flan standing at the end of my driveway, fluttering in the breeze right at the end of the sidewalk. They will be all up and down the street. The Boy Scouts put them up every American holiday and they are quite a sight to see. They put them up at 6:00 A.M. and take them down before dark. Wish you were here to see them and be with us! I’ll have a hamburger for you!

  4. Ellen says:

    Guess you figured out it will be an American flag and not flan standing at the end of my driveway! It is 2:28 am. and I have too many typing mistakes. The “writing goddess” at the Inn will get me. Love,
    EC It is the thought that counts, isn’t it?

  5. Cylia says:

    Love these stories where friendship and community are so thick. This is what truly matters. love, cyl

  6. Dale says:

    I so enjoy your writings Diane, I return many times to reread the past and look forward to some gem that might have made it’s way into the pages that I have missed somehow………… please keep writing, we are all waiting for the next page to turn.
    love and hugs. d

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