The house in Irving Texas I lived in as boy was at the top of a hill. My dad built a two-car garage in back of the house and dug a well in the back yard. For this he had skills that he didn’t pass on to me; that was a pattern. But I could never match my father’s mechanical skills, his ability for fixing anything, and the pleasure he gained from working with his hands, in his workshop, with his coffee cans of bolts and screws, the hours he spent inventing parts when he didn’t have the right-something for fixing something.
There was a mom-and-pop grocery store at the bottom of our hill. The neighborhood, still etched in my brain, segregated in those days, just sprung up on what was the edge of town then; and I knew it better than most of my friends because from a very early age I had a paper route. After I started earning my own money, I liked going into the mom-and-pop grocery store. My mother liked to say money burnt a hole in my pocket. I guess she was right, as she was right about many things. Along our street there were a few houses with huge lawns, and I could earn extra money mowing, if I were so incline. In our family’s lore there is the story of my intentionally running over the cord of our mower so that I could get out of mowing.
Behind our backyard we owned an L-shaped acre. Behind that and obstructed by a barbwire fence, Dead Man Canyon, with its steep bank of loose dirt, gave Bobby, Dennis, and me not only a fertile place for our imaginations (Arizona and old Tucson smack in the middle of North Texas) but also a haven away from our sisters. And I could see myself riding a horse (until I fell off one) and chasing outlaws and injuns; seriously we prospected for gold and I thought about making a movie about it. Later with my buddies Don and Ted, this ambition was realized, though the plot had nary an injun or outlaw in it.
Here you have been given a glimpse of the landscape that as a writer consciously or unconsciously feeds my creativity. It was where I went back to most often and where I felt most comfortable (and oddly enough it was what I rejected the most). I was introduced to life here. So the challenge for me in the future is to go back there and look under the covers to see what I can find. Perhaps I’ll write about what I find, perhaps not; perhaps it will take me some place else. As writers, I think we all have our landscapes.
See the October issue of AMERICAN THEATRE and an article by Alexis Greene called NO PLACE LIKE HOME for a good essay on this subject. Discover Lanford Wilson’s landscape.
Good day, Randy Ford