- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"I've been on this corner for 32 years," Mama said the other day, "and all my life I never had to file an income tax return, never had no money in a bank. What little we made on the roses we spent right here. We had to take a lot of our clothes from the Salvation Army, stuff we could get for 25� or so. My kids were never crazy, though. They never refused to wear other people's old clothes. We grew all the food we needed. In the spring I'd slaughter a calf or a hog and we'd have our beef and pork for the year."
As the Campbell family grew in number, its members in size, more spacious quarters were needed. When Earl was 10 years old, the family moved a few hundred feet to another house on the same property. Mama recalls that the family completed the move just in time to celebrate Christmas of 1965 in their new house. "But the whole time we were moving, my husband was always complaining he didn't feel right," she says. "We'd only been in the new house for four months when he died of a heart attack."
The house that was so new and full of promise in 1965 now is abandoned. Perhaps because it is raised on concrete blocks, it has something of the look of an old jalopy. In fact, there is the front seat of a car on its porch.
On summer days the tar on County Road 492 blisters where it passes these two Texas monuments, and small bubbles percolate to the surface. At noon on sunny days, trees strain themselves to produce a few feet of shade. All around the Campbell house the wind holds its breath, and the sky is the purest blue. The new house is made of brick and seems to catch the full brunt of the sunlight; the old house gets the same light, but its gray, weatherbeaten pallor makes it look like the big house's shadow.
Last spring when the new house was finished, Earl Campbell's mama couldn't shed the old shack that had been like a second skin to her for 13� years, so she asked Earl to leave it standing. That is when he began to consider the idea of turning the old place into a museum.
"When they told me I could start moving everything into the new house," Mama says, "I was kind of sad about it, you know. It took me quite a while to get everything moved in, and I kept my bed in the old house for a long time. One day my daughter asked me why I did that, and I just told her I wanted to take my time. If I was moving and night was to catch me in the old house, why I'd just spend the night there. And if it caught me in the new house, I'd sleep there. I wasn't particular."
When Earl was growing up, he shared a room as well as a bed in the old plank house with his brothers Herbert and Alfred Ray. It was the first room you saw when you opened the front door.
The Campbells in residence varied from one year to the next, depending upon the intercession of natural disasters. When Ann Campbell's mother and sister lost their home in a fire, they packed up three children and moved in, temporarily swelling the ranks to 15. The air above the peeling linoleum floorboards always was close and clammy during the long Texas summers. In the winter the family sometimes used space heaters to keep warm, but the body heat of several Campbells to a bed usually provided warmth enough even on the coldest nights.
Ann Campbell always told her children, "If you want to be someplace safe, be in church." And every Sunday from the time he was christened until he went away to college, that is where Earl was, front and center at the Hopewell Baptist No. 1. For four years he sang in the church choir.
"I never paid a fine for any of my children and never bailed any of them out of jail," Mama says proudly. "We always had a lot of love, and I think that's why they all turned out so well. We worked together in the fields during the day, and we all slept together at night."