Textures and Hues
by Merrill Farnsworth
I did not choose the texture and hues
or build the loom
I simply entered the world.
Fate chose the fabric
spun from tumbleweeds and tornadoes,
carbon black creeping under windowsills
burnt orange flames licking the sky
like tongues of thirsty dragons
reaching from the belly of the oil refinery
where my father staked his claim
on a bright future at age twenty-two
with his chemical engineering degree,
and his new wife, both hearts brimming
with post-war optimism.
My young mother gifted me
with hues of sun-bleached cow skulls,
dirt brown horned toads
amber fire ants and soft gray tones
of mockingbird feathers gathered from the land
where she learned to rope wayward calves
and pin squealing bodies tight to the ground
as the red-hot shape of the family brand
burned deep into their hides.
My tapestry began spinning one harsh December morning
near Amarillo where I would see
the bright yellow yolk of an egg
frying on the sidewalk in summer,
the halcyon blue of translucent icicles
hanging from cottonwoods in winter,
the gathering storm in my mother’s eyes,
the flashing sunshine in my father’s smile
as he walked through the door
somewhere past five to rescue us all:
my mother with a kiss and a cocktail,
me with a playful toss in the air,
my sister with a nuzzle to neck,
my unborn brother with an open hand
spread full on my mother’s belly,
my soon-to-be conceived brother
with a twinkle in his eyes,
himself with a hope the American Dream
would out-spin the six o’clock news.
PHOTO: Oil refinery, winter, Borger, Texas. Photo by PreppySG, all rights reserved.
NOTE: Borger is located in the Texas Panhandle, about 50 miles north of Amarillo. On May 2, 1921, the first Panhandle oil well was drilled in the Borger area on on the Four Sixes Ranch of S.B. Burnett. Later wells in Borger and nearby Pampa spurred the petroleum boom. After a major oil strike in 1926, real estate promoter “Ace” Borger purchased land, advertised the area as full of “black gold,” and created the town whose population, in just ninety days, soared from zero to 30,000. Artist Thomas Hart Benton depicted this period of Borger in his painting Boomtown.
IMAGE: Boomtown by Thomas Hart Benton (1928).
NOTE ON THE PAINTING: Boomtown by Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was the result of a summer sketching trip that took the artist to Borger, Texas. Benton wrote of Borger, Texas: Out on the open plain beyond the town a great thick column of black smoke rose as in a volcanic eruption from the earth to the middle of the sky. There was a carbon mill out there that burnt thousands of cubic feet of gas every minute, a great, wasteful, extravagant burning of resources for momentary profit. All the mighty anarchic carelessness of our country was revealed in Borger. But it was revealed with a breadth, with an expansive grandeur, that was as effective emotionally as are the tremendous spatial reaches of the plains country where the town was set. One did not get the feeling, in spite of the rough shacks and dirty tents in which the people lived, of that narrow cruelty and bitter misery that hovers around eastern industrial centers. There was a belief, written in men’s faces, that all would find a share in the gifts of this mushroom town…. Borger on the boom was a big party…where capital…joined hands with everybody in a great democratic dance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Merrill Farnsworth was born on December 13, 1956 in Borger, Texas. Following a career in Nashville’s music industry, she completed her Masters in Developmental Psychology at Vanderbilt University. After starting a private practice, she created Writing Circles, a therapeutic practice that inspired writers of all skill levels to find their voices and discover community through weekly creative writing groups. Merrill is also known for her work as a writer and artist. Her published works include Jezebel’s Got the Blues and Kissing My Shadow. She passed away on September 14, 2017. Merrill inspired all those around her to write honestly, dance frequently, and live life passionately.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Happy birthday, dear friend. You have left a beautiful legacy in your work, your spirit, and your family. Your light shines on.