Christmas 1942

Petey Bob's Unusual Gift

Paul Marion Fleetwood

Copyright 2016 by  Paul Marion Fleetwood


Photo of school room.

    The Nation was at war and the outcome was in doubt.  So just about everyone was hard at work to help the war effort in any way they could.

    My family had recently moved from Northeast Arkansas to a small town in East Texas when I was 12 years old.  Dad had been injured working on the farm and while he was waiting for the Doctor to come back to his office; he was mugged from behind and almost killed when someone clubbed him over the head.

    After that he was unable to work and support our family.  He started playing poker with a group of local men and actually managed to win enough each week to buy some groceries.  But he knew this could not go on indefinitely so we moved to Texas where his father and brothers were in the sawmill business.  He was hoping to be able to help out in someway and make enough money to survive.

    We rented a big old run down house that was owned by a local Doctor.  It was about a mile from the small town of Gary on a narrow blacktop road.  The house was on a two or three acre lot with some big trees on it.  

    The local farmers grew tomatoes for shipment to city markets and some of them also had pecan orchards.  Normally the little town of Gary Texas was sound asleep almost all year round except when the tomatoes were being picked and brought to the tomato sheds for shipment.

    Then the Mexicans from San Benito Valley came to sort and pack the tomatoes for shipment to America's markets.  For about 6 weeks the town was going full blast for three shifts a day.  This was an exciting time for a 12 year old.  All of the new people and all of the hustle and bustle made life interesting.  Especially for a dirt poor kid who didn't have much else to look forward to.

    During this time I learned a few Spanish words and phrases, and I made friends with a couple of the Mexican workers.  Some were not much older than I.  One guy in particular, John Pena who was about 22 years old, was kind to me and we became good friends.  But when the tomato season was over they all went back to the San Benito Valley.  I tell you this because the following Christmas I received some unexpected gifts

    In the meantime my dad was trying to do something to raise some money and since he was associated with his dad's sawmill business, he got an extra allotment of World War II ration stamps for gasoline and tires.  Since we didn't have a car we didn't need gas or tires so he sold them to neighbors for cash so they could get extra gasoline or new tires.

    With this little bit of resource he undertook to build a working truck from spare parts from the junk yard.  He finally got a flat bed truck put together well enough to actually run.  But he didn't have a starter.  So he would jack up the rear wheel and turn it by hand to get the motor started.

    About that time, as it was getting close to Christmas,  the weather was getting cold.  All we had to heat the old house was fireplaces.  When a blue Norther would come through it felt awfully cold.  Well out in our lot a big old half rotted tree had died and fell over and lodged in a large tree next to it.  Dad decided to try to get it down and make some firewood.  So he got the old truck started and tied a chain around the bottom of the tree and managed to pull it down.  Bonanza!!!!  When it hit the ground it broke all apart and spilled out a tub full of pecans on the ground.  The squirrels had gathered up our Christmas for us from the local pecan orchards.  And it was really appreciated as we sat before the fireplace and ate our fill.

    Then quite unexpectedly just before Christmas a crate full of oranges and grapefruit was delivered to our house.  It seemed like a miracle at the time but it was just my old Mexican friend John Pena who sent the crate from San Benito Valley, California.  The miracle was that we had moved and he had no idea what our address was.  God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform and I will never forget the blessings our family received at Christmas that year.   

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