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Tuesday, January 14, 2014


If you’re a native of West Texas, it never leaves your soul. It’s haunting, isolated, ugly, beautiful and alluring all at the same time. Some people call it the Big Empty. I grew up there and my life there is not only the most powerful memory I have, it influences me to this day. I was a “country” kid. My family were farmers and ranchers.

Besides drilling rigs everywhere we looked, one of the things I remember is that the only drinking water we had was what fell from the sky. Every home had gutters attached to the eaves of the house that fed into a cistern when it rained. During droughts that often occur in West Texas, everyone worried. Since I’ve been an adult and away from there, I look back on those days and ponder what we would have done if the cisterns had gone dry. There was no such thing as bottled water then.

Our cistern was tall, made of thick concrete and had a large reservoir. One good thunderstorm could keep us going most of a summer. When it rained, besides the sound of rain on the roof, the pleasant echoing sound of water falling into the cistern filled our house. In fact, that sound still lives with me.

We *never* used the rainwater from the cistern for anything but drinking, cooking and washing our hair. In my great-grandpa’s house, he didn’t even like to see us use the cistern water for hair-washing.

We had windmills that pumped water from wells, but only livestock drank it. We called is gyp water. It was cloudy and tasted salty. The only person I can recall drinking it was one of my wild aunts who lived in the city and would show up for an occasional visit. She always put a jug of gyp water to chill in the refrigerator for her to drink during her visit. My grandmother thought she was crazy.

The gyp water ate up plumbing so rapidly, it was almost easier to do without it. It wasn’t that good for doing the laundry either. When we gathered the dry clothes off the clothesline, the pants and towels in particular would be stiff as planks. We didn’t have white blouses because after a few washings, they would be tan. Gyp water wasn’t great for watering grass or plants either, but there was no other choice.

Occasionally, we would draw a bucket of water out of the cistern and a dead bird or animal would be in the bucket. I can’t remember if my grandmother boiled the water. I just remember that we thought nothing of it. We had to drink it.

Even now, West Texas is challenged by a lack of good water.

No doubt all of you have childhood memories that are indelibly attached to your memories. Which ones do you think about the most? Which ones influence your life, even now.

This memory of life in West Texas takes me to the latest e-publication I’ve uploaded. It’s a 3-book set called The West Texas Series.

These three books, SWEET WATER, SALVATION, TEXAS and SWEET RETURN are all set in fictitious towns sort of in the middle of West Texas, somewhere between Dalhart and Alpine. It was fun writing about locales I know so well. The stories are romances, but I tried to weave the setting into them so the readers can experience it.


  1. An interesting post! Having lived in West Texas, I can relate to what you said about the water. I have read Sweet Return and thoroughly enjoyed the book. I will definitely check out the other two books of your series.

  2. Thank you, Karren. Glad you enjoyed getting to know Joanna and Dalton. Hope you came away from the book confident that in their happy-ever-after, Joanna will straighten him out. LOL ..... Yep, West Texas. A part of me will always want to return, but I never have and I never will. All of my old relatives are now passed away or have left and the little town my grandparents lived near has almost disappeared.The cemetery is still there though and no matter how far we have all roamed, everyone seems to come back together there. Interesting, huh? ..... Thank you for posting.
    Anna Jeffrey

  3. My dad lived in Texas as a teenager and he remembers when they were out riding checking the cattle, they'd use their hands to clear a spot on the water tanks and drink the nasty water because it was all they had.

    The dead bird in the cistern is kind of like, for years our household water was pumped straight out of a ditch, we didn't have a well. Our city relatives always commented on how sweet and icy cold our water was. It was snow run-off from the mountains. We had an aunt visiting and she just couldn't get enough of the water and bragged and bragged about it. One my brothers and I were out wandering around and discovered a dead sheep in the ditch above where the water was pumped out. We told Dad but never told the aunt.

    Great remembrances, Anna! I've only been to El Paso and Killeen/San Antonio. But my dad has stories about the Wichita Falls area.

  4. Anna, I loved those books. You did a wonderful job of putting readers in the setting. Brought back memories of growing up in and around Lubbock. You are so right--that land gets in your soul and won't let go. And as for windmill water, we had okay water, but in one place the tank was open and birds bathed in it. My brother once said he didn't think anything about the various things in the water when he was growing up, but it would probably kill him now that he had been away from it so long. LOL I prefer city water, thank you.


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