In 1965, I was living the white bread, “Leave it to Beaver” dream in Irving, Texas. What today is almost a rent house ghetto was all shiny and new back then. Mom, dad, two brothers and myself made up an old fashioned family. We had all we could imagine or needed. It was a happy home.
One day a big yellow Tomcat came around and I gave him a bowl of milk. That made him our family cat because he just moved in on us. You know how it is when you feed a stray. James Bond was the rage in the 60’s and so we called our new pet Goldfinger. If he had been a she, we’d have name her Pussy Galore, for certain.
Goldfinger was a big cat, half again the size of most cats. He whipped every cat and half the dogs in the neighborhood but he was really gentle and snuggly around the family. When anyone scratched his ears, he would purr so loudly he sounded like a blender on low speed.
I remember those “other world” noises Goldfinger made when he got lucky. That tended to be in the hedges, right below the window by my bed. Man, that was something to wake up to. A few times, I saw him courting and I must say he would get a heck of a scratching to get to home base. I thought that was strange but now married for forty-one years, I sorta understand. Anyways, there were a lot of yellow kittens for blocks and blocks.
My two brothers and I had the run of the neighborhood back then. It was safe in 1965. The only rule was to be home for dinner. There were about 15 acres of oaks and elms right behind our house. It was heaven behind Glen Loch Dr. We boys climbed those trees and walked every inch of the 15 acres. There were big crawdads in the shallow ditch that ran through it. You could tie a small chunk of bacon to a piece of string and they would latch on and not let go until you yanked them off to drop them in a mason jar. We took them home to play with. We caught a lot of crawdads that summer of ’65. I didn’t catch any girls that summer. Wasn’t interested.
Old Goldfinger liked those woods, as well. He would often disappear for a half day, going on the hunt for baby cottontails and the huge rats that lived in that patch of wilderness behind our house. He always brought his catch back home to us, chewed a bit, but still alive. He would bring it to the back yard where he would play with it, sometimes for an hour. If it was a baby rabbit, he would release it to let it run five feet or so and pounce on it. He did this over and over. If it was a rat, he would toss it in the air about 2 feet and catch it on the way down. He would play with these critters until they gave up the ghost and then he would deposit them on the doorstep. I figure in his cat-brain he was paying his board and keep.
In the fall of ’66 we brothers noticed a lot of surveyor’s stakes on our playground. Mother read in the local paper that a big discount store and a retail strip was going to be built in our woods. Despite the fact that somebody kicked down every stake, the dozers and the graders had their way. They quickly stripped the land clear of every tree and blade of grass except one giant oak that was right behind our house. They saved that one for last and I thought maybe they would leave it. Then, on a summer afternoon, I watched over the back fence as the dozer operator tried to take the mammoth tree down. The four foot thick trunk wouldn’t budge at all. To my dismay, the dozer attacked a huge limb about 6 feet in the air. As the giant machine strained against the limb, huge plumes of diesel smoke billowed into the hot, still air. After a minute or so, there was a loud crack and the limb split away down the middle of the trunk of the tree. It didn’t take long, after that. I went inside the house and pouted for the rest of the day.
A few months later, we got a flyer in the mail saying Treasure City (that was its real name) would be having a grand opening. I wasn’t interested at all. I was still in mourning. Somebody had laid my trees low to build the shops high. Shoppers called the place paradise. I couldn’t understand why (apologies, Don Henley).
The big store opened to huge crowds. The acres of asphalt filled with cars from miles around. Treasure City was the first big discount store to come to Irving, although K-Mart wasn’t too far behind. Right away I renamed the place “Trash City”, a name that stuck and became used all over the neighborhood.
I hated it, my paradise lost. Now we had a lot of asphalt behind the house, radiating a lot of heat. We had the cars and the noise too. Teenagers used the back part of the lot to do donuts and work on their night moves. Old Goldfinger wasn’t happy with the turn of events either. Not long after Treasure City opened, Goldfinger went away.
I’m 60 years old now and I’ve learned a lot of what we love the most goes away, in time. It happens with our friends, our family members, our lovers and our animals. Not always, but too often we bring these break-ups on ourselves. This is the high price of our imperfection, of too much “me”.
Right now I am really worried about the country I love. I don’t want it to go away. It is the one hurt I can not bear because if it happens, while the blame will be mine, the judgment will fall most heavily on those dearest to me.