Posts Tagged ‘Texas Zephyr’

Blackberry Memories

The neatly wrapped packages of deep purple blackberries in my local grocery store tantalized my taste buds – and took me three-quarters of a century back in time to the 1940s and my grandmother’s home in the community of Fruitdale on the outskirts of Dallas, Texas   

The home was a square, white frame two-bedroom dwelling with a large backyard, behind which was a fenced off area for the rabbits, pigs and chickens my grandmother raised for the dinner table. My parents and I moved in with my grandmother after her husband died when I was just three-years old. Two younger brothers soon were added to the household, but as I remember, the small house never felt crowded, even though I shared my grandmother’s bed or was put to sleep on the living room couch.

On one side of the house was a large garden, mostly tended by my mother, in which each year was grown potatoes, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, okra, onions, beets, green peppers, carrots and corn.  My short. petite mother, whose weight never exceeded a hundred pounds, and my grandmother, a tall, plump woman, spent hours in the kitchen canning the garden’s bounty.

Images of these two women whose genes I inherited were suddenly as clear in my mind as the blackberries stacked in front of me. As was the dark dirt-floor cellar where the canned goods and things like potatoes and onions were stored. The cellar was assessed only by an outside entrance next to the steep cement steps leading from the kitchen down to the backyard. I hated being sent down there for something, but quickly learned it was useless to resist. I grew up when children did as they were told, and if they complained, they usually were given additional tasks.

When we first moved into my grandmother’s home, our ice box was just that. A man driving a horse cart came around twice a week with big blocks of ice for it. I was usually given slivers of the frozen water to suck on, a treat during Texas’ hot summers. The icebox, however, was soon replaced by an electric refrigerator. I missed the iceman, but enjoyed the frozen Cool Aid pops my grandmother made for me when she thought I had been good.

Good to her meant things like bringing home a bucket full of the blackberries she had sent me to gather. The huge wild patch lay behind my grandmother’s animal enclosure and the railroad tracks. Knowing what I know now about such places, I’m surprised I didn’t get bit by a rattlesnake hiding out in the thicket, especially since such snakes were occasionally found in our backyard. But that thought never entered my mind.

I knew that if I picked enough my grandmother would give me a bowl of blackberries sprinkled with sugar and milk before she made pies from the rest. The berries always turned the milk purple.

Another bonus of picking blackberries was that sometimes I used to get a good look at the Texas Zephyr, which roared just beyond the blackberry patch once a day. I always waved at the train, wishing I was on it going off on an adventure. I think that might have been the beginning of the wanderlust that has kept me on the move for much of my life.

All these memories flooded through my head in the few seconds I stared at that package of blackberries – before I added it to my grocery cart.

Pat Bean is a retired award-winning journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion, Scamp. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited), and is always searching for life’s silver lining.

Read Full Post »

The Texas Zephyr, left, and the Sam Houston Zephyr in Dallas in 1955. Photo from Portal to Texas History

 “Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, while proudly rising o’er the azure realm in gallant trim the gilded vessel goes. Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm.” Thomas Gray


Zephyr is a wind from the west. It was also a train that blew past my grandmother’s home every day around noon.

I recalled it yesterday when I wrote about picking blackberries in an empty field on the outskirts of Dallas. Seems my journey into the past, much as my journey on the road today, is full of interesting detours.

While I never did get to ride a Zephyr, I did eventually ride on a train from Ogden, Utah, to Las Vegas through the Virgin River Gorge. Shown above is the Virgin River in Zion National Park before it enters the gorge. -- Photo by David Scarbrough

I always wanted to know where that silver bullet, as my grandmother called it, was going. Over half a century later, I finally know the answer – thanks to the ease of internet research.

There were more than one streamlined silver zephyrs operating out of Dallas. One, the Texas Zephyr, went between Dallas and Denver, stopping in Ogden, Utah, where I ended up living for 25 years. Ogden was a big railroad town, still is although today it’s mostly freight trains that pull through its Union Station terminal.

But it was here, some 30 years ago, that I boarded my first train – an Amtrak traveling from Ogden to Las Vegas through the awesome Virgin River Gorge between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona. I’ve ridden a number of trains since, but I couldn’t have asked for a better initiation to riding the rails.

The second silver train operating out of Dallas, from 1936 to 1966, was the Sam Houston Zephyr that traveled back and forth daily between Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston. It was probably this train I watched for with my young impressionable eyes.

I suspect that speeding zephyr, as it roared past my grandmother’s home, might have nurtured my wanderlust as much as the travel adventure books I was addicted to reading as a child.

I was never cured of my travel-book reading addiction – and I also still get a little chill in my soul at the sound of a train whistle.

Read Full Post »