In search of the ancient chiletepin
It’s been a while since we sent the last update so here’s what we have been up to recently. – Jerry
Christmas of 2008, I made time to return to south Texas and enjoy “ la Navidad” (Christmas time) and “pasar el Año Nuevo” ( spending the New Year) with family and friends. It had been 1985, the last time I had spent Christmas and New Years in my hometown of Taft, Texas. That was also the year my wonderful mother had died, my father had died almost one year earlier. As I drove into the small south Texas town of Taft, I felt my spirit smile. Some changes in the small town could be seen but really too small to make a difference.
From the main highway coming into Taft, I turned right onto Davis Road, crossed the railroad tracks, traveled one mile, turned left onto Ash Street, went down half a block and our family home would be on the right side of the road. A small four room white house that had been home to nine kids, grandmother and mom and dad.
As I turned left on Ash Street, I could feel myself smiling, my whole being was happy; I felt as light as air, I was in familiar and friendly territory. I slowed down my car, being careful not to miss the small driveway to the house. As I reached the middle of the block, I remembered. Time had changed everything, for instead of my childhood four room white house, now there was a nice newer trailer home. I waited in the car, noticing that there was not a car, truck nor dog around the house. If someone was inside the trailer they should soon be looking out the door or window, but no one did.
I sat in the car, a little disillusioned for I knew the house and property had been sold, and I heard that a nice young couple had started their first home. I felt good again, for mother would have been very happy to know that the small “pedacito de tierra”, (her little piece of land as mom called her house) that once was her home was now bringing love and joy to a young family.
Photo: Gerardo Jimenez, age 6, at family home in Taft, Texas
I had waited around five minutes in the car and decided to get out, hoping the owners would not object if I took a fast “quick see”. In the back yard, I could easily remember where several of the outhouses had been. I could show you where each of the chicken coups had been set-up, where the turkeys ran free, where dad’s fig trees had been, but most of all I remember the two wild chiletepin plants.
Taking care of these two chiletepin plants, making sure that the turkeys did not eat the peppers had been my responsibility and I accepted my assignment much like a true small Indian warrior. At that time I was six years old and with my home made bow and arrow, I would shoot down those mean turkeys should they come close to the chiletepin plants. ‘Wake up, Gerardo’ I told myself. At age 66, it is still good to dream but many things have changed. All my images were erased. Still I felt a sad loss for the chiletepin plants. Why had the chiletepin plant not survived, I wondered?
Surely, people would have recognized the value of having such a treasure just outside their kitchen door. Now my winter vacation in south Texas had taken on a new purpose. I was determined to find the survivors of my chiletepin plant.
To be continued…