Tag Archives: 506th PIR

Spring with Effie and Gywn


Effie Vernon Morris Parks (1900-1966)

I have written about my grandmother, Effie Parks, many times on the blog.  Here is a photograph of her in 1919, near Bend, Texas.  She cooked for chuck wagons on several ranches along with her husband, Jake, who managed cattle on horseback.  During the Great Depression, she sewed for the Works Progress Administration.  In her last years, she worked as a telephone operator in Lometa and Bend, Texas.  She taught me the rudiments of dominoes, playing guitar and hitting a baseball.  She and her husband were married by a parson in an onion field near the Colorado River in central Texas.  In her will, she divided her property among her two children and me.

Gywn Matthews Hollingshead (1920-2003)

This is my mother, Gywn.  This photograph was taken about 1938 when she was living with her mother, Effie, at Bend, Texas.  She married my father, Jack, in 1942, shortly before he volunteered to become a parachutist with the 506th P.I.R.  He was a member of Easy Company, made famous by Stephen Ambrose and Tom Hanks.  Gywn worked for over thirty years for the Southwestern States Telephone Company and General Telephone.  She helped pay for my college education and gave Brenda and me the money for a down payment for a $35,000 house in Mingus, Texas in 2000.  She would come to Mingus and visit us, sitting in the kitchen and looking out on the vineyard I had planted.  She always had a quote of some sort to throw out for the occasion.  One I remember is: Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.  She was Irish mainly, and proud of it.

I have posted these photographs and short commentary of Effie and Gywn because it is April and Spring is upon us and I never can go through this month without thinking of how Effie and Gywn and I traveled the backroads to Bend, Texas, and San Saba to visit relatives at Easter.  The flowers of April and May emitted the most beautiful perfumes imaginable in nature.  They talked quietly about plants and cattle and loved ones that we saw and loved ones that had departed.  I sat in the back seat of the car and listened to their talk and inhaled the scent of bluebonnets and paintbrushes all around.

Today, Brenda and I can travel the same road to Bend, Texas, and flowers spring up again.  We can go down that road and crisscross the same roads I traveled as a boy with Effie and Gywn.


Filed under Bend Texas, Life in Balance

St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Tri-color Flag

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.  My father sent a postcard to my mother in 1942, from a Georgia paratroop training camp, urging my mother, “Keep flying that Irish green, Blondie!”  She flew the Irish green, converted to Catholicism before marriage to my father and basically accentuated her Irish heritage for as long as she lived.  My mother always introduced me as, “Little Jack, the first and only heir to my property!”  Later, I found out that the introduction was as Irish as the shamrock.

So, in remembrance of St. Patrick, let us fly the Irish green for a time.  ‘Twould be good.


Filed under Recollections 1942-1966

Beginning: Bend Ford

Jack F. Matthews, Sr., Winter 1941-42, Texas

As posted in “Beginning: Red Ants,” there is first a setting out, a beginning of all things.  Nations and tribes record their origins and seed their narratives with great events and heroes.  Beginnings do not stop with national revolution or constitutions, but are present in the family, the circle of kin.  Not stopping there, the setting out goes even farther down into each sentient, solitary being.  Corporeal narratives, we each are.

The beginning is that earliest moment of consciousness, not self-consciousness because that comes later under the mesquite tree in Texas when the wind blows (at least for me, it was).  It may be a song, a face, an automobile, truly anything under the sky that sticks first in the mind, imprinting a memory.  At that moment the setting out begins and does not end till death.  It may never be written, never told; but it is embedded in the flesh.

Mother’s setting out, she tells me, was when she and her father, Jake, were crossing the Bend Ford on the Colorado River near her Uncle Nathan’s home on horseback, riding double, when the horse slipped and fell on her.  The river bottom, only one or two feet below the surface at the ford, is solid granite like the face of Round Rock near Fredericksburg, Texas, and mother, Jake, and horse entangled, thrashing in water.  Her leg broke and they sent for Dr. Doss who set the leg as her father fashioned a small crutch for his two-year old to walk.  The river became a constant theme in her life: the flood, the boundary, the swimming.  Gywn crossed the river at Bend Ford many times after the fall, but the accident was her setting out, with horse and water above her and a father to save her.

My cousin and I were sitting on the ground outside the one-room trailer house on Austin Avenue in Brownwood, Texas, looking down at a clock.  The year was either 1943 or 1944.  The bedside clock was a throwaway timepiece, the face removed, the case gone, but the wheels and spring intact.  In our play, the clock had been wound tight, the wing nuts stuck in the ground.  The alarm went off and the clock spun around and around.  My cousin and I gazed as only children can, intently focused on the exposed wheels and clock turning in the dirt.  Wheels clicked within wheels turning.  I looked away from the spinning clock and saw green bamboo stalks beside the trailer.  I looked down, my cousin stared at the spinning clock until it stopped, turned again, then finally stopped.  She looked at me.  We giggled.  My beginning was an old clock stuck in dirt, spinning round.

Two-and-a-half miles away from the spinning clock and trailer house, Camp Bowie trained soldiers for the war.  My father, Jack Matthews, had left the camp, left us, and was jumping out of planes for extra money, urging Gywn to keep flying the Irish green.  He was parachuting with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, destined for Europe and every major combat operation from Normandy to Berchestgarten.  The Band of Brothers, Easy Company.  Since Gywn and Jack had divorced shortly after the war, I knew few details about him.  I found a cache of letters in her things following her death and I did not open them until the summer of 2009.  When I found out he was a foot soldier in Easy Company, I ordered books overnight from Amazon.com and read his story, his name in print.

In Gywn’s cache of correspondence, I read the letters and documents dated until 1946.  There was a story beyond the narrative my mother had told me and its plot lines were different from what I had been told as a boy.  I stopped reading and put the letters back in the Bigso Boxes of Sweden I bought from Container Store to preserve them.  I have put them aside for now because there’s a story to be told.  An old, old story, along the banks of the Colorado River in Texas, before the spinning clock, before my beginning, but in the flesh of my family.


Filed under Bend Texas, Colony Road, Recollections 1942-1966