In 1950, Aunt Lennie bought me a pair of jeans and a straw hat at Harry’s Store in San Saba, Texas, a dry goods store near the corner of East Wallace and Highway 16. As I was growing up, I visited Aunt Lennie and Uncle Floyd many times, spending weeks at their Cherokee, Texas, ranch near San Saba.
purveyed hats, boots, shirts, Levis, jackets, coats and all associated accouterments to farm and ranch living in central Texas. The smell of leather, felt, and Levis surrounded a customer as they shopped. The dry goods were new and unbroken by weather and work. Trading at was serious shopping, not browsing or spending time checking out the newest fashions, rubbing the fabric for quality. You bought jeans that withstood brush and barbed wire; hats that shielded you from a sun that blistered the fair-skinned into pain; coats that were warm and gave enough room to twist, turn and lift sacks of feed and drag cedar posts; and boots that had high-heels enough to keep the foot from plunging through the stirrup in a tight turn or a moment of fright.
I wasn’t riding horses or lifting cedar posts into holes in the ground. I was eight or nine-years-old and tagging along with my uncle into the pastures and fields, making a nuisance of myself, asking too many questions. Nonetheless, I had jeans and a hat fromafter that trading day in San Saba. The possession of country dry goods to protect myself from brush and sun signified a boy’s development into life on farm and ranch. I dressed the part and looked like my uncle and cousin. Not a poser. You are not a poser when you buy from Harry’s and work on your uncle’s ranch.
Now in 2010,has expanded into several adjacent stores, including the old San Saba Hardware store. Four buildings comprise Harry’s, not the one or two rooms I remembered. The expansion into the hardware store revealed a weather history. A clerk had recorded San Saba’s weather patterns, writing data on the wall for remembrance, prediction, or both. Today, the tin ceiling remains intact. The hat area is on the second floor. Silk western shirts are now sold with short-sleeved cotton work shirts and Levis.
still evokes the same scent as years gone by. As my wife and I toured on Highway 16 to Fredericksburg this week, we went into to purchase jeans and shirts. Opening the door to the new entryway, the smell of leather and new jeans surrounded us and I felt comforted that life may be, for a short time, comprehensible and integrated. I bought a pair of Wrangler jeans — a change from the past — that the sales girl said were pre-washed and less stiff to begin with. My wife looked at the shirt section and selected one for me: a Ryan brand, silk type that I would never wear in the field, but under my field jacket in winter it would give me flexibility in the barn as I fed the horses.
As I stood in the middle ofbreathing a history, a friend and colleague came up to me. Surprise! He had seen me and and Brenda enter the store and had parked his car to come in and say, Hello — he was on the way to Austin down Highway 16 to visit his son on spring break. We talked and chatted about politics and the weather, the recent death of a colleague and her funeral.
I need to buy you a shirt, I said.
Oh, no, he said.
Oh yes, a work shirt. Come over here. Which one do you like? This one?
Then, it’s yours.
I paid for it and told him the story of my first visit to. I fetched him a business card from the sales clerk. Then, he looked down at the shirt and store label was attached to the lower flap.
Oh, I’ll remember Harry’s, from the label on the shirt, he said, as he walked out the door.
So will I.