One morning in January 1977 I went to school at Steele Junior High School in North Dakota. After lunch hour I was called to the principal’s office. Forty-eight hours later I was in the back seat of our car as we pulled into Mineola, Texas. Yep, in the drilling business, moves happen that fast.
So here we were, in the city where my mother grew up – I got to meet a lot of my cousins for the first time – and I find myself enrolled at Mineola Junior High, which had been the original Mineola High School that she graduated from. As for the school, I really didn’t enjoy my time there. The kids were okay. The teachers? Not so much, aside from Coach Davis, who was a pretty cool guy.
As Texas towns go, it was a small town. One of the roads in the downtown area was still cobblestone instead of asphalt.
Our house was directly behind the Dairy Queen, so ice cream was easily at hand. Oddly enough, right next door to DQ was a small cafe that made the best hamburgers. You even got to go into the kitchen when your meat was cooked and assemble your own burger.
The movie theater was an old classic that I kind of miss today. It was there that I took my baby sister to a movie with me for the first time. It was also the last time I did so. We saw King Kong and she was crying because Kong dies at the end (look, the movie has been out for 44 years, I don’t want to hear about spoilers) and as we walked out everyone saw her crying and thought I’d hit her. I swear, that kid was trying to get me killed most of the time.
We went to Tyler whenever we needed something big. Tyler has an amazing Rose Garden and it was in Tyler I met Ed “Too Tall” Jones in person. He was a really nice guy. I attended my first MLB game that I can fully recall in Arlington. A double-header between the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers. I got to see both Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry pitch. That was a treat. And old Arlington Stadium had just debuted a new snack item, a strange combination of flat, round corn chips and hot, gooey cheese. Nachos they called them. No one thought they’d last to the following season. Had we stayed a few more months, my first game at Texas Stadium to see the Dallas Cowboys play in person would have happened in 1977 instead of 1983.
But we ended up only spending seven months in Mineola and left in late July. The drilling business dictated a return to Turlock as drought and a housing boom was calling for as many water well drillers as possible.
I’ve been back to Mineola twice since then for brief visits. In the mid-1980s, a company truck was stolen and ended up in Mineola. We were sent to retrieve it and tow it back – the idiot blew the engine – to Odessa, Texas. In 2009 my wife and I flew to DFW and drove over so I could show her Mineola and Tyler while we were close and introduce her to my aunt and uncle. Tyler has changed. Mineola hasn’t at all – aside from the Junior High building being demolished.
That’s actually not such a bad thing.