Poem — Small Town Homecoming

A month ago this small west Texas town
with a single crossroad and railroad track
looked empty and barren
except for Mary’s café and a small Czech bakery.

Faded letters on abandoned red brick buildings
hinted of better times long ago.
Wind tossed tumbleweeds danced along dusty
cobble stones, gone as soon as they came.
A spiny-back lizard scurried over crossties
and vanished behind a weathered log.

A little more than a year ago wildfires raged close by;
racing down from the ridge west of town.
Now a mosaic of white ash on gray scorched earth
mingles with black barren mesquite tree skeletons.
This near ghost town was almost lost to conflagration.

A few days ago I sped down the lonely road
past fields green from recent rains
to this little town with its six man football team
for a homecoming celebration.

Like butterflies from cocoons
cheering crowds lined streets while
proud parade participants jostled in queues
waiting for the grand marshal to wave them on.

Mounted riders waved to smiling faces and cheering friends.
Riders sat on saddles gleaming with silver Conchos
sitting tall and proud as hooves clip-clopped on cobble stone streets.

Out came motorcycles side-by-side,
boys on bicycles, tractors, golf carts, atvs and lawn mowers
and the procession inched on.
Along came cheerleaders in pickup trucks tossing beads
horded by bystanders who waved for more.
Next came, old cars and new cars, fire trucks and a stagecoach.
The procession inched on.

Last in line was the 1st Cavalry detachment,
its mounted soldiers riding two-by-two,
their captain led the way—
young men wearing wide brim hats,
blue shirts, gray trousers and black boots.

After the parade everyone moseyed
over to the town pavilion where
folks were meeting and greeting
recalling memories from long ago.

Barbeque, potatoes salad
and iced tea nourished those gathered
while talk returned to stories
of those who have passed on.

After hugs and handshakes
and encouraging words
the crowd dissolved
leaving a near empty town.

Mary’s Café siphoned off some
while kolaches at the Czech bakery drew away others.
Traffic trickled to an occasional passing car,
and the regular rumble of a passing train.

©2012 Richard L Weatherly


Filed under Poetry, Rail Roads, Texas

27 responses to “Poem — Small Town Homecoming

  1. Very well done. I could see this, feel it, and enjoyed the day with you!

  2. Brilliant as usual Rich! Very vivid! 🙂

  3. wellsofglory

    I commented in an email but don’t have it saved. It’s a fine poem, Richard, quite evocative and reflects the powers of your observations.

    • Hi Mary – Thank you!
      Writers learn to observe by reading from great authors. The tone in this poem was set after reading the opening pages of Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

      I think a similar review of Wells of Glory might have just as easily given me a similar inspiration.

  4. Hi, Rich!

    We always share in these hometown parades, memorials, and such with our children. I really enjoyed the vividness of this piece as it brought me back to our own local support events. Thank you for capturing the moments and the importance of small town communities!


    • Hi Laurie,
      That was my intent; to take people back to a simpler time and to maybe rekindle relationships which can be so easily be pushed aside. I hope this special day suggests and improved future for this small community.

  5. I love this! The little town boomed for a day! Kind of like Nederland when they host Frozen Dead Guy days!
    Very nice poem Rich! Loved it!

    • Hi Susie,
      I’m glad the story resonated with you. You’ve given a similar example and I’m confident events such as these are repeated throughout our country. The experience is heartwarming.

  6. I really liked this – very effective use of words to create the warmth of a community gathering. The contrast between the almost silence of the town before and after coupled with the life of the procession really showed you can’t measure the strength of a community by its buildings – it’s the hidden lives of the people that make it up.

    Nicely done, Rich. 🙂

    • Thank you T.James, you’re correct.
      All is not as it seems. Life is about the people connected to a place whether we see them or not.
      It is heartwarming when they come together in warm, healthy fellowship.

      I appreciate your kind words my friend. 🙂

  7. NIce read – I feel like I was there 🙂

  8. Very nice Rich I had to share it on twitter. This is what writing is about; make the reader feel and see. I was there for a moment. Really good!

  9. Very descriptive, I can see, smell and taste the day! Kudos 🙂

  10. Wow, Rich. I admire folks who write poetry, and you are no exception. I agree with Sandy—very descriptive. I enjoyed the last verse especially.

  11. So glad I found you and your work. It was through Cynthia. She and I “met” during the A to Z Challenge this year. Love this poem. It feels and sounds like home.

    • Thank you! I lived on a farm for several years and went to school in a small town only slightly larger than this one. That homecoming proved helpful in my wife’s quest to learn more about her dad’s family. Many assumed her dad’s boyhood home had been destroyed and last time they visited the town with him he was unable to identify his home because of advanced dementia.
      During lunch in the pavilion next to city hall, we bumped into a distant cousin. This lady knew exactly where the house was located and provided instructions on how to get there. We had 60 year old photos of the house which helped us recognize the place instantly. That was a heartwarming experience. The current residents allowed pictures inside and out; quite a treat!

  12. P. S. Thanks for visiting one of my sites. Glad you enjoyed.

  13. Mi-Leing Fong

    My 1st impression, while reading your poem, was how much it resembled the writing of John Steinbeck. Unlike many poets (including myself) who rely heavily on cryptic metaphors that can be difficult for the reader to decipher, you’ve managed to engage all the senses by capturing every detail & experience; a style that Steinbeck had also mastered. I was able to see, feel, hear, smell, taste, and BE there.

    This could have been the small town in Nevada where I spent my last two years of high school. My dad operated a small cafe, across the street from the tracks, that served the railroaders and town folks. There was also a 4th of July parade each year, that brought the community together. But a poem about Carlin, Nevada written by me would have come across as a bit of a mystery.

    • Mi-Leing, I’m humbled by your comparison to Steinbeck.
      This is a type of poetry I’ve intended to pursue for quite some time.

      I have my fair share of cryptic poems. One of the most intense is “Infamy,” which is an emotionally charged poem based on the 1994 Pulitzer prize winning photo by Kevin Carter. It is dark and relies heavily on symbols.

      In all, I found writing Small Town Homecoming to be an uplifting experience.

      Thank you!

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