My dad's parents arrived in Clay County Texas and bought property in the Mid-Cities area between Buffalo Springs and Vashti in 1889. My mother's side of the family was here before that, so I guess you could say that I'm about as Clay County as you can get. Americans are proud to be American, Texans are proud of being Texan, and for Clay Countians, that holds true for our county too.
Our family was always there for the Clay County Pioneer Reunion and certainly never missed a ball game. The rivalry between Petrolia, Bellevue, Midway, and Byers basketball teams was real, and playing the district tournament in the Henrietta Gym was grueling, coming from our little cracker box size gyms. Being active in 4H allowed us to get to know our neighbors from throughout the county.
But it never really occurred to me how special it was to be from Clay County until I left the county to go off to college.Granted, Tarleton State University in Stephenville was not that far from home, but moving from a small school of around 150 K-12 to a school with around 5,000 strangers was challenging. I did have my neighbor Butch Fuller with me for the transition, but it sure was good to see Linda Ham and Peggy Short from the north end of the county in front of the student center soon after we checked in. I knew them from 4H and Basketball over the years, and it didn't take long to compare notes and realize that on the Friday of Pioneer Reunion, TSU was having classes like nothing was going on. That was quite a shock to those of use who for twelve years had never had school on the Friday of CCPR. So we took it upon ourselves to cancel (skip) class and come on home. We knew they would understand; they didn't.
I met my bride Tricia at Tarleton. She grew up in Corpus Christi with a graduating class of over 500; mine was 10. She has noted the difference and remarked about how great it is to have that kind of warm feeling when you have a place you can truly call home, even if that home is around 25 miles from east to west and 50 miles from north to south.
Growing up Clay County is something I bet many of you from small rural areas can relate. There's something special about knowing your neighbors, even if they live 50 miles away. If you can call the same county home, then you have a commonality that is very important. It's been my observation that rural folks are patriotic, law abiding people that hold each other accountable and when one is down, they all pitch-in. I kinda think we need more of that.