Preface

 

 

As near as I can tell from the examples I have seen, the preface of a book is supposed to be the place where the author does his best to explain stuff that the reader might otherwise misunderstand.

I suppose it is intended to be sort of like the caption for a picture or a photograph. Its purpose is to tell you, very precisely and concisely, what it is that you are supposed to see when you look at the image.

With that in mind, I have spent a goodly amount of time and effort deciding whether or not this little book really needs a preface. After all, once you have read it, I think you will agree that is pretty straightforward. But, just in case you are one of those people who wonít read a book if it doesnít have a preface, here is one. I hope you are happy.

What follows is a sort of grab bag of stories which are drawn from actual life experiences. They are, by in large, the stories I have told my children when they asked : "Daddy, what was it like when you were my age?"

For better or worse, I am a baby-boomer. I didnít have any choice about it. It just worked out that way. I was born in late 1953 to good parents who were fairly typical hard-working rural Americans. They started out with very little, struggled and scratched most of their lives and, in the final analysis, did exactly what they set out to do. They provided a better life for their children - which was indisputably the underlying goal, spoken or not, of most decent post-World War II parents.

My father wasnít Ward Cleaver and my mother certainly wasnít Harriet Nelson. Nor did they ever pretend to be. They were who they were and they never forgot themselves. They believed in God and cleanliness and paying their bills when they were due. They bought things on credit but never lived beyond their means - even if that meant they had to wait until they could afford things they needed or wanted.

They had their shortcomings and character flaws and moments of poor judgment. They were human. They tried their best to instill in my brother and I the best morals and ethics and the value of going to bed each night with a clear conscience. On that account, someone else will have to be the judge of their success. Neither Johnny nor I are qualified. We lack the necessary objectivity.

If you are beginning to wonder exactly what all this has to do with the contents of the pages which follow, let me make it clear. The stories you are about to read are not really about a 1948 Chevrolet pickup truck which we nicknamed the "Cowboy Cadillac".

This book is about a way of life in a world which has passed away.

Oh yes, the truck did exist and you will find it in the stories. But, even in the context of the pages ahead, that old pickup is exactly what it always was - a vehicle - nothing more. I have used the truck to haul these stories from one place to another, arranging and rearranging them into a chain of thought which, hopefully, is readable and understandable.

The cargo is the real substance, not the truck.

Although the main characters are my brother Johnny, our father and myself, the stories are mostly about how we lived, how we coped, and generally what small-time ranch life was like in South Texas during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The tales are unpolished and crude. In other words, they are real and true and as honest as I dare. Thatís why I think it is important that anyone who reads them should have some concept about what sort of people our parents were. They, after all, they built the world in which these stories took place. My brother and I and our generation only inherited it.

Looking back from today, the world they made for us was simple and honest and innocent. It held promise and hope and good fortune for those who were willing to work for their dreams and goals. But, most of all, it had a conscience.

God, sometimes I really miss it.

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