Haley, Texas 1959: Two Novellas
It's East Texas in the 1950's, somewhere between the sand hills of that region and the black gumbo soil of Central Texas, a place where the disparate faces of rural America live and breathe-the solid ethics of work and religion are set over and against the open wounds of prejudice and bigotry.
Haley, Texas 1959 is about that place and time. It contains two novellas: imaginative shapings and interweavings of events, both invented and actual, that occurred when Donley Watt was growing up.
In the novella Seven Days Working, an older man recalls his own childhood and an impossible task he was given by his father when he was 14-to clear out 70 acres of mesquite, using an axe. The way the boy sees it, he'll never finish. He has only seven days and during that time-camping out alone in the pasture with a dozen brindle cows, some lizards, frogs, rabbits and a lot of flies for company-he strikes at the trunks of those thorny, unyielding trees even as he hacks through the rough places in his own understanding. The boy has the task of clearing mesquite, while the man, recalling, uses the memory to get at the root of who he is. God, death, women, his family, why he is always restless, always hungry to move on-these are the issues the man wrestles with as he meditates on and sifts through each one of those long boyhood days, one day at a time.
In the title novella-Haley, Texas 1959-Watt uses the intense racial prejudices of a small town in East Texas to paint the backdrop for the murder of a black man. A young teenage boy-the "preacher's boy" as he is referred to-is an unwitting accomplice. He's bored. His older cousin lets him tag along as he and two rowdy friends cruise the back roads in a '55 Chevy. What starts out as a joy ride-a chance to have a little fun and teach a black man a "much-deserved" lesson-quickly turns deadly. The boy's father, Reverend Wallace Wilson, is called in after the murder to help bring about a softening of hearts between the white and black community, little suspecting that his own son is involved. When the boy finally confesses to the truth, his father looks desperately for a solution that will fall outside the bounds of punishment and ruined lives-yet finds himself