I’m going to take a break from this week’s news and tell y’all a Texas love story.
My grandmother, Annie Lee Burnett, was raised on a farm in Pilgrim, Texas, near Gonzales. The youngest of 10 children, she somehow got enough money to go to the University of Texas and obtain her teaching degree. Her big sister helped financially, and she worked at her dorm’s telephone switchboard to help pay for school.
In 1936, she was working as a teacher in West Texas and living in a boarding house.
Another resident in the house was my grandfather, Lowelle Brister, also a farm boy from Electra. He was working as a roughneck on the area’s oil rigs. My grandfather was a tall, handsome man with a deep voice, my grandmother was a striking, petite brunette with big brown eyes. I’m sure they noticed each other coming and going at the boarding house.
An attraction at the time was a temporary roller rink that would come to town, set up, and people would roller skate. They were both naturally athletic, but I don’t imagine my grandmother had much opportunity to roller skate in Pilgrim. She fell down, and my grandfather helped her back up.
For all of my life, he told me that she was a pick-up. Ha ha.
Anyway, they started talking. She was teaching high school, and my Pappy realized he wasn’t much older than her students. He was 19, she was 23. So being a smart young man, he lied about his age, knowing that she wouldn’t date him if she knew how old he actually was.
By the time a friend accidentally revealed the truth, it was too late. My grandmother was smitten. But she said before she would marry him, he had to get his college degree, and he had to be 21.
Two years later, on Feb. 15, he turned 21. She was still teaching, he was going to school at Texas Tech to get his geology degree. On Feb. 18, she caught a bus to Lubbock, and the snow started falling. I’m sure it pulled into the bus station late. She said she was wearing a pretty suit and high-heeled sandals. He met her at the bus station, snatched her up, and rushed her down the street to the minister’s house. I imagine the minister was ready to lock up and call it a night as the snow and ice were accumulating, but I know my Pappy could be a persuasive man. They were married, and after he graduated, they spent most of their married life together.
During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, then was serving on a ship on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. My grandmother followed him from port to port, living in more boarding houses and finding secretarial or whatever work she could to support herself. My mom arrived at the end of the war, and the rest is history. He was a geologist for Gulf Oil, and my grandmother continued teaching throughout West Texas. They settled in Odessa. They loved dancing and golf, and as their only grandchild, I could do no wrong.
They were married for 62 years and died five months apart in 2006. I think of their funny love story every Valentine’s Day, then I remember my Pappy on his birthday, and their anniversary on Feb. 18. I hope all couples can share in the love they had.
Thanks for reading.