I’m a Radio Reader from Canyon, Texas. This spring the HPPR Radio Reader’s Book Club is exploring the theme – a sense of place. In Gail Caldwell’s A Strong West Wind, every page took me home.
Caldwell and I share a birth year and many thoughts. Beginning with the prologue, I felt as though I was reading my own story. Caldwell was growing up in Amarillo at the same time I grew up in Muleshoe, but her experiences reflect my own as a product of the Texas plains. Her words bring back my own wonder and angst while growing up in an era of conservatism, patriotism, and faith rapidly evolving into a world of unrest, feminism, and new freedoms.
Caldwell’s memory of her grandmother’s house, as she words it, a “rambling old white house” with its rooms “bearing whispers of the past,” took me back to my grandfather’s farm and the little stucco house that formed a cocoon of love around a very large family. I relived through her words, a time of weekends spend hanging around the local drive-in burger joint and rulers measuring hemlines in school. As she recalls cars pulling aside to stop for her father’s funeral procession, I remembered a lone farmer in the middle of his fresh plowed field standing respectfully beside his tractor, hat in hand, as we made the trip from Dimmitt to Muleshoe behind the hearse that bore my brother’s body. Home is depicted in every chapter. Wide open spaces of flat land and strength sapping wind that bent trees and people to its will.