This article was first published in January 2018.
By Trent Rosser
I have talked about my Grandpa and Grandma and the little town of Rogers, Texas before. My brother and I spent the summers there when we were kids. At the time, it was the most boring times of our lives. There was nothing to do whatsoever! For fun we would walk to the convenience store and hope a train would come by so we could put a quarter on the tracks and then try to find the quarter after the train squashed it. Of course we would show grandma and I think she kept them all. Probably it was about $20 worth of quarters.
Grandma loved iron. She would love to cook and she would cook for an army. But the only skillets in the house were the old cast iron skillets. She would cook pancakes in one, sausage in another. She had a cast iron skillet for everything. She used them not only as skillets but for baking also. Grandpa loved cornbread and buttermilk, and cornbread must be made in a cast iron skillet. It was one of these skillets that almost burned the house to the ground! One of the things that she cooked was chicken nuggets from the Schwan’s truck. I could eat those things all day long. She did not put them in the oven, no; she would fill a cast iron skillet full of oil and deep fry the nuggets. One day a friend came over and Grandma and Grandpa went out of town for a funeral. It was a very hot and humid day so we decided to stay in and watch TV in the air condition house. When we got hungry, I decided that it would not be too hard to fry some nuggets. He sat at the bar and I cooked a whole mess of chicken nuggets. When we were done, we took the nuggets in the living room, laid down on the floor and sat there and watched reruns of “The A Team”. When we were done eating we stood up and could not see each other. The entire house was filled with smoke! I left the grease on the stove top with the burner on. We ran into the kitchen and the old iron skillet was pouring out smoke! I instantly grabbed a pot holder and told our friend to open the back door. He yelled back, “No, you’re gonna burn me!!” “No I’m not! Just open the damn door! Hurry!!” this banter went back and forth a couple of times. Finally he opened the door and as I grabbed the skillet it burst into flames. My friend ran out the door and I was right behind him with a flaming cast iron skillet! We threw it in the yard and put the fire out with the water hose. We spent the next 4 hours with every fan on and every window open trying to get the smoke out of the house. Of course the moment when Grandma and Grandpa walked in the first thing Grandma said was “What did you burn?” I thought Grandpa would be mad, but he wasn’t. He kind of laughed it off. He was upset about all the flies that came into the house. There were hundreds of them. We were going to need to call the “A-Team” to kill all the flies. Grandpa did take me to town a couple of days later to buy Grandma a new Iron Skillet. She really loved her Irons.
I also talked about how Grandpa would go out on the old dusty dirt road and pick wild green grape from the side of the road. One of his favorite spots (and ours as kids) was right past the old iron bridge. Right outside of Rogers was a small river, called Little River and on the old dirt roads, you had to go across a certain bridge. It was like the old bridges that you see in the movies, with the tall steel beams rising high above and the old rotted wood, as the roadway. Yes, it was scary traveling across the bridge. It was alright when you were walking or climbing on the rails. But driving in a car across was a little nerve wracking. The creaking of the rusty steel, the popping of the loose timber flooring as the car slowly crept across. It was like time stood still. But, when we arrived on the other side that is when the fun began. Grandpa would park on the other side of the bridge and give all of us, (we had our friends with us also) a small paper bag and we would all start to pick wild green grapes. We would all have to fill our bags before we could go swimming in the river under the old iron bridge. We would all play, swim and have fun while Grandpa would watch from the river bank. He would yell at us to get back closer to him if we started to stray too far away from him. Fathers took their kids and grandkids there from miles around. We would meet new people sometimes and sometimes it would just be us. We would all ride in the back of the truck on the way back with the wind in our hair to dry us off. Of course, riding in the back of a pickup truck back then was legal. We would get back into town and steal some of his beech nut chew and then jump on a trampoline. We all ended up being sick. And of course Grandpa would laugh at all of us.
In the mid to late 1990's, central Texas became a flood zone. The rains came and would not stop. Little River flooded and destruction was everywhere. Trees and debris littered the banks of the rivers. Homes washed away and lives were lost. The old iron bridge survived. It still stood with a resilience that could not be matched. The bank of the river holding the bridge in place did not survive. It gave way to the force of nature and the bridge was deemed unsafe. The road was blocked and for year you had to backtrack to get to the other side. There is now a new bridge not too far from the old iron bridge. You cannot use the iron bridge any longer, but it still stands. It stands as a testament to how things were, and a reminder of simpler times. I have also been told, that if you park right past the old bridge on a moonlit summer night, you can sometimes still hear the sound of splashing and playing kids, and when the moon is full, sometimes, if you are lucky, you can still hear the popping of the wood timbers of the iron bridge like a car was slowly creeping across it.