My wife prevailed upon me yesterday to put up an American flag. [Read the notes at the end of this post about Norman Rockwell and his American Ideal paintings.] I installed a pole caddy on the front porch, dusted off the flag pole, unfolded Old Glory, used twine to tie the lower end of the flag to the mast and hung it. Like so many other small projects on the ranch, flag pole installation had been put off for years. At our previous home in Mingus, we had hung a flag for several weeks after 9/11, but since moving to the ranch, we had left the flag carefully folded in the cedar chest that we use as a coffee table in the grand room.
As I was growing up in Texas, the Fourth of July was nearly always hotter than the hub of hell. Many jokes came from the heat in Texas: If I had a choice between hell and Texas, I’d live in hell. And so on. But enough about Hades. For several years, my parents and I would go to Brady, Texas, about fifty miles from our home in Brownwood and attend the Brady Jubilee. That was its name: jubilee. I always associated stifling heat, horse racing and yellow watermelon (salted, of course) with jubilee. It never made much sense to me to travel in a hot, non-air-conditioned pickup or old Ford sedan whose rough felt seats were smelly and lounge under trees and watch horse racing from a distance. Come the first of July, the dreaded Brady Jubilee jaunt lay in front of me like a sauna with no water. There must of been something character building about the event, but I never could figure it out.
This Fourth of July, the weather is cloudy in west-central Texas from the effects of a gulf hurricane and the temperature is a tolerable middle 80 deg. F. We’ve had about two inches of rain this past week and the grass has greened slightly — not a typical Fourth. Where were these days back in my boyhood?
Given this age of internet technology, the town of Brady, Texas, has a website. As a link within the website, there is the Brady Jubilee. I’m somewhat disappointed, however, as I read over the list of activities. There are none for July 4th and no horse racing. All of the Brady Jubilee activities take place July 1-3: Heart of Texas Ford Parade with a “Hats Off To Our Heroes” accent, washer and horseshoe pitching tournaments, fireworks the nights of July 1-3, and a dance Saturday night featuring Brian Burk, Kristen Kelly and the Modern Day Drifters.
Suddenly, I realize that July 4th this year is on a Sunday! That’s why the Brady Jubilee has nothing planned for the Fourth. It’s a church day and normal activities cease and there’s no exception to that rule.
The horse racing, however, is probably a thing of the past — they were short races for quarter horses and not many were booked because of the July heat.
On this day, with no Brady Jubilee scheduled, our plans are to attend a fireworks display at either Possum Kingdom Lake or go into Fort Worth for dinner and watch the display over the Trinity River. Either way there will be no horse racing or jubilee today.
I have to go now and feed the horses and, just by chance, they may race around the arena. To my list of morning chores I will hang the flag. On this Fourth of July, I will think of the Brady Jubilee with its heat, melon and horses and quietly yearn for another day there. Yes, I know, the heat.
The New York Times today ran an article on Norman Rockwell. A quote about him: “These are qualities one wants to retain as a society, and it is a credit to Rockwell’s subtle, story-weaving imagination that he captured the values we celebrate on Independence Day without ever having done a painting of American flags waving from porches or July skies bursting with fireworks.”
That’s correct, never made a painting with American flags waving from porches. He painted America in the people he painted.