Thursday, November 25, 2010


A Thanksgiving Memory From An East Texas Childhood

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This rare farm scene from the early 1940s is one of the few in existence from the Old Tinney Home Place of Ambrose Tinney, as few of his descendants who continued to farm there had cameras at the ready for such opportunities. In the picture above, from left: Jackie Nell Tinney, Tommy Boyd, Sue Tinney, Joe Dan Boyd & our Uncle Connie Kay Cater, husband of Maude Tinney. Uncle Kay & Aunt Maude sharecropped the farm (from my grandmother, Elizabeth Tinney, widow of Ambrose), and Uncle Kay kindly allowed all of us to pose for the unrecorded photographer, who was likely Lois Tinney, mother of Jackie and Sue Tinney.

An East Texas Childhood memory:

When President Obama ceremoniously pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys yesterday, I watched the news coverage with a combination of seasonal nostalgia and seasoned amusement, flavored by memories of Thanksgivings past and colored by the patina of a childhood spent in the Tinneytown corner of Depression-era East Texas, a place and time when turkeys, if they existed at all, lived secure in their cultural and economic mandate of perennial pardon from the tables of hardscrabble farming folk such as my family, proud descendants of Ambrose Tinney, who arrived here in the late 1800s seeking both economic and political relief from his family’s Alabama heritage.

Tinneytown was at once certainly a surreal, but just as certainly real, geographic and demographic designation within the northern bounds of Wood County, even if it escaped notice by cartographers and historians. It was well known by cultural chroniclers of the ethos, era and element essentially framed between the election of Calvin Coolidge and the fireside chats of Franklin D. Roosevelt. For a discussion of Tinneytown, which eventually morphed into the Tinney Chapel Community, see Allison Nelson’s essay, “William Ambrose Tinney, Founder of Tinneytown,” at

There, Thanksgiving dinners, like all special meals, no matter how distinguished, boasted tables laden only with main dishes produced from the bounty of the farm itself: livestock, fauna or fowl, which never included turkey, although occasionally might include duck, goose, guinea or even quail, given the zest for hunting among those reared in Ambrose Tinney’s Old Home Place, located near the intersection of what is now FM 312 and County Road 4620.

Strange as it seems today, my entire boyhood, from birth in the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, was spent without ever tasting turkey in any form while living at the place designated by the Winnsboro Post Office only as a stop on Mister Evans’ Rural Route # 3, where we received first class letters, farm news and mail-order supplies from Sears and Wards. At age 19, I ate my first Thanksgiving Dinner with other cadets at Texas A&M, where the main dish included my first taste of an unpardoned, but fondly remembered, turkey!

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