Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat (or so I've been told—I've never met anyone who claims to have skinned one), there is more than one way to kill a chicken. This is but one of the many fascinating pieces of trivia that I learned from reading the memoir, Growing Up in the Texas Panhandle by Pat Flathouse, who also writes Pat's Place, a Blogspot blog. Pat describes the way her grandmother wrung chickens' necks. This added a third alternative to the two decapitation methods I knew from my family.
Many other tender memories are included in this collection of stories intended primarily for Pat's family about the years she spent growing up in Pampa and Amarillo. She tells of roller skating on uneven sidewalks, walking alone to the grocery store when she was only seven or eight, and the family's electric train project. We read of family vacations all over the west, and visits to grandparents in Amherst. We follow her progress from grade school through junior high and high school. She tells of her early jobs and earning money.
Most women who grew up in the fifties will relate to Pat's stories of making craft items with her mother, playing tag, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians and spending long summer afternoons at the swimming pool with friends. We'll remember learning to drive and old clunky first cars.
Stories that introduce her parents and grandparents lend depth and richness to their names, breathing life into what may otherwise become just names on the family tree. Pictures of family members are interspersed with pictures of significant buildings and items all through the text to make it easy to visualize her stories as you read.
Pat had a double challenge with this book. First she wrote the stories, then she compiled them and did the layout and formatting to prepare it for publication on Lulu.com, which she used to self-publish it. Switching to a non-standard page size, inserting all the photos, and ensuring all the header formatting and other layout elements were consistent throughout was a new challenge for her, and she came through with flying colors. The book looks professional from the front cover—sporting a picture of young Pat on her tricycle—to the back.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this compact collection of stories about what seems to be a relatively happy and ordinary girlhood. It's a great example of how fine story telling can make the ordinary seem extraordinary and fascinating. It's also a great example of someone using modern Internet technology to generate personal books of stories for family members in a way that also makes them available to friends, distant family members, and interested strangers. Bravo Pat!
Reprinted with permission of the author from The Heart and Craft of Life Writing.
Pat Flathouse was born and reared in the Texas panhandle. She attended the University of Texas at Austin where she earned a degree in elementary education and did a year of graduate work in deaf education. She later earned a Masters in Religious Studies and a PhD in educational psychology with a focus on wellness and stress management. Her professional background includes a career of teaching and counseling. She is a wife and the mother of four sons, and the grandmother of seven. She enjoys a variety of hobbies and facilitates classes in writing. Visit Pat's blog.
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