Mike the letter-carrier left a hefty package on my front porch on Saturday. I smiled when I found it there, for I knew what was in it: eight beautiful, mint volumes of the Library of America, snapped up for a song (roughly five bucks apiece) in an eBay auction. So cheap were they that I could absorb the inconvenience that I already owned two of them, which will now grace the growing libraries of one of my children or friends. Sometimes you gain so much on the straightaways that you can easily absorb the delays occasioned by the roundabouts.
Mount Pleasant is the seat of Titus County, Sulphur Springs of Hopkins County. About fifty miles northwest of Sulphur Springs is Bonham, seat of Fannin County, the third point in these triangulated memories. Fannin County was the birthplace of one Great Man (Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the House); one Bad Man (John Wesley Hardin, the legendary outlaw); and at least one very Good Woman (Cora Louise Nelson Davidson, my maternal grandmother). Born in 1873, she spent her earliest years on the Red River, the border between Texas and the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). She was orphaned early, and sent back east to an Episcopal school in Terre Haute, Indiana, long since defunct, to prepare to be a teacher. By the age of twenty or twenty-one she was half of the “school system” in Salida, Colorado.
Indeed I had always supposed her to be a native of Colorado. She revealed to me her Texan origins, which she seemed to regard as slightly shameful, only when I myself moved there. We have a few things from her, now transferred in trusteeship to her great-great granddaughter Cora Louise Fleming-Benite (born 2004), including her baptismal spoon. Since little Cora has had all her schooling in France, she probably has not needed another of her ancestor’s relics, an elementary French grammar, which begins with a lesson on how to engage a fiacre (a horse-drawn carriage) at a Paris train station.