Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm a Man of West Dallas

I got to admit, that guy has me steamed but good. And for the next half hour or so, the whole time I’m leadfooting it up the road, bellowing curses at heaven, hell and the whole goddamn world besides. To even suggest I fink out my own cousin! I mean the nerve of that guy!

Okay, I reckon since I’ve gotten to this point, I should explain something about myself in case you all haven’t already figured it out. Sure, I may dress and act like a big- city sophisticate, but when all is said and done, what I am, sir, is a man of West Dallas.


West Dallas isn’t the same as Dallas proper. In fact, they’re about as different as you can get. Dallas has skyscrapers with elevators, hot and cold running water and an avenue downtown lined with air-conditioned movie houses. You want water in West Dallas, you best dig yourself a well or pay fifty cents a barrel when the city truck comes by every other week. Yes, West Dallas is its white trash underbelly at the other side of the Trinity River Aqueduct. We aren’t rich or modern or respectable, but damn it, we got our code. We don’t squeal, we don’t steal from each other, and we don’t betray our kin to the laws, no matter what.

I suspect right now, my Uncle Henry Barrow is back home at Eagle Ford, head bent with sorrow, because his eldest son, Buck, has been killed, and because he knows Clyde will soon also be dead. When that day comes, he’ll hold no grudge against the lawmen that killed him because he knows his boy done wrong and had to pay the price for it and that’s just the way things are. But, at the same time, Uncle Henry ain’t going to help them get Clyde. Neither will anyone else. In Eagle Ford and the rest of West Dallas, people don’t do that. They like to put us down and call us the criminal element, but fact is, most of the folks there is perfectly law-abiding. But the folks that ain’t, well, they all conduct their business somewhere else. In shantytowns like Eagle Ford, folks have a saying that all they got is each other. So no matter what anyone does, we all keep our mouths shut and don’t tell on each other the way better folks might. As a result, the cops hate us and the good folks with money and houses and nice churches to go to all look down their noses at us. But we don’t care, because we know who we are and we’re proud.

It’s funny saying all this, being as I am someone who’s spent his whole life trying like hell to get the taint of Eagle Ford and West Dallas off him. Jazz was my ticket out and soon as I could, I taught myself to speak and dress and carry myself so that folks wouldn’t see the West Dallas in me. Heck, I got so good at it, they didn’t even know I was from Texas. I was just this well-dressed, sophisticated jazzman who knew his way around Harlem and Fifth Avenue equally.

Of course, all it took was five seconds in front of Hamer and I’m back to that same mangy, old West Dallas mutt I swore I’d stopped being. And now to have that goddamn sandwich-eater showing up offering me the crumb of redemption, all I got to do for it is help bring down my cousin Clyde. And maybe if I was one of those churchafying, respectability-craving bastards, I’d have told myself, ‘well, hell, old Clyde’s as good as dead anyway, no harm using it to improve my situation a little.’

Well, thank you, but I’m still a West Dallas man and we don’t play them games, don’t sing them songs, so goddamn all of them to hell and Oklahoma for even asking!
(Excerpt from "Friend of the Devil," by Brendan McNally)

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