The summer of 1956 was an interesting one for me. I was out of classes from Baylor University for the summer. I had purchased my first car, a 1950 Chevrolet two-door sedan. My future wife and I were courting pretty often, and I found a much-needed job. The only problem with this picture was that the job was in Houston, Texas.
A job had opened up for me with Anderson-Clayton Cotton Company paying $350.00 per month. This was good money for a nineteen year old naive kid from East Texas. I needed the money badly enough to accept the job, and rent one room in an elderly couple’s house on Pease street in Houston.
The job was located in a large warehouse on the docks of the ship channel. No heat or air conditioning made for an uncomfortable shift. I had never seen so many bales of cotton in my life as were stored in this warehouse, and several more warehouses along the docks. I soon learned that each and every bale of cotton received by the company had to be rated, weighed, and classified. This is where I came in.
Situated at a long table with several other men, a bale of cotton would be brought to the table. One man took three samples from the top to bottom of the bale. Another man would grade the color, another the texture, and finally a third man the length of the fibers of the samples. My job was to write down all these ratings on a tally sheet. I did not know much about cotton, but I sure could tally.
One week we were instructed to take inventory of the bales of cotton contained in these warehouses, which were stacked from floor to ceiling. I and another man would start at either end of the cotton bales and start counting until the end of the row. If we both came up with the same number, we could go to the next one. Not only were there bales of cotton in those warehouses, there were also rats, spiders, lizards and other unidentified critters. Needless to say, I hated taking inventory.
Each Friday afternoon we were paid by check. I would come to work Friday morning with my Chevrolet packed, then speed out of Houston at the end of the work day, stopping briefly in Cleveland to cash my check at a bank.
Once back in San Augustine on Friday night, I would call Clara and set up dates for Saturday and Sunday nights. This worked well for us all summer.
One Sunday night while driving back to Houston after our date, my Chevrolet began to act up. On highway 190 between Woodville and Livingston, the engine died and I coasted to the shoulder of the road. I realized that I was stranded right in the middle of the Alabama and Coushatta Indian Reservation. My only knowledge of Indians was reading about Geronimo and Sitting Bull, and they did not seem to be very hospitable. I was more than a little nervous. After locking my car doors, I dozed off to sleep.
The first car along the road after dawn contained an older couple, yes, an Indian couple. Their car stopped, backed up even with mine. The woman peered at me through the window. I rolled down my window and told them I was stranded and needed help. These nice folk drove me all the way to Livingston to the Chevrolet dealership. The movies never showed this side of the Indians.
Well, all’s well that ends well. I saved up enough money to buy Clara an engagement ring. And the rest is history.