PREFACE TO CROSS CUT HISTORICAL RESEARCH
By John Limmer
The air was clear and brittle - the wind, light, fresh, and from the north. The sky overhead was azure blue. A cold red orb rose almost reluctantly from the distant eastern horizon, struggling in vain to maintain its accustomed dominance in the face of a steadily strengthening fall season. Unlike the sun, the land itself had acquiesced quietly, even thankfully - it lay brown and lifeless, a willing victim to the first hard freeze of the coming winter: For now, it slumbered peacefully. Resting, biding its time until the spring awaking it knew full well would come. I turned my gaze from the quiet expanse of fallow fields and skeletal mesquites beyond the little wire fence to the silent forest of cold stone markers within its boundaries. The comparison between the two scenes was immediate, inevitable, and warmly comforting.
With the exception of the man beneath the marker on which my wife was carefully arranging colorful silk flowers, and the four other Chambers interred to his left -Papa, Mama, Clifton, and Kenneth, I was a stranger in the little graveyard: an "outsider". Carla backed off a bit, cocked her head to one side, and critically appraised her work. I knew the look. I also knew this was her quiet time with her recently departed, and sorely missed father, so I drifted away and strolled through the maze of granite, marble, and even sandstone markers behind Carl's front row plot. As I wandered aimlessly, I read the inscriptions. Immediately behind Carl lay "Charles A. Jackson, 1891 -1969". Good old Charlie, I thought. Carl had related more than one story about the activities in and around Jackson's Drug Store during Cross Cut's heyday. Further west I read, "Pentecost, Richard W., 1857 -1949." The image of "Old Dick" sitting on the porch of the drug store, smoking his pipe and waiting for the occasional legal document to notarize, or jumping from his seat on the toolbox at Tom's garage in response to a charge of high voltage from the infamous "shocking machine" came to mind, and I had to muffle a chuckle.
I moved on. While I couldn't place many of the individuals, often heard family names brought more vivid images to mind. Each one the result of a story told over morning coffee, across the dinner table, or while running a 'trotline" on the Clear Fork of the Brazos, over Albany way, by one of the Chambers boys. By the time I completed my circuit, the little town of Cross Cut was alive and well again, bustling with Byrds and Newtons, Clarks and Gaines, if only in my mind.
Carla was finally satisfied with the flower arrangement and we walked carefully between the occupied plots back to the car .Beyond the road bisecting the cemetery on which I had parked was a bare expanse of open ground, patiently awaiting its future residents. As we backed through the gate, Carla took one last look, shook her head and said, wistfully, "1 only wish we had recorded some of Daddy's stories while we had the chance."
I turned the car south, toward our home in Lake Brownwood, but my mind wandered north, toward the place Carl once called home. And I pictured a small frame house which sits today where it has for a century, defiantly resisting the infamous ravages of West Texas wind and weather -and human indifference: the fatal combination of elements which have long since felled greater structures in what was once a vibrant, thriving community. Like the granite markers growing smaller in my rear view mirror, that stubborn little house faces east, toward the rising sun, and views the silent, open space beyond its little wooden porch through the eyes and soul of its single inhabitant. Lawrence Byrd and the house have melded over the years into a single entity .One without the other would seem something less than a whole. To my mind. their long standing relationship, each caring in equal measure for the other over time maintains a spark of communal life on the little hilltop where a strong flame of human interaction burned ever so brightly for more than 50 years.
We drove in silence for a time, Carla and I. She, reminiscing, I, troubled by a nagging question. When Lawrence and his few remaining peers finally move south to join their former neighbors-in-waiting, as they eventually must, will the spirit of cross Cut die with them? Will their descendants be robbed of a rich heritage simply for lack of voices from the past? As we crossed the bridge over the bayou I thought - how infinitely sad that would be.