Here in Bovine we have a lot of folks. I think Bovine now has nearly 350 people. Now that ain’t like Austin or Dallas, but in Bovine, a group of more than about ten folks gets us worried. I don’t know why that is, but we ain’t big city folk. I suppose that is why were are here in Bovine.
This morning I headed out to get the mail and I was reminded of one of my favorite stories from my pa and grandpa. I seen this damn mailbox every day and I usually get to thinking about my pa when I do. I miss him.
Back before the flood of 57 the house was in a different spot on the river. Of course, no one could have known that it was not such a great spot, but you know how disasters are, everything seems really great right before them and then, well, everything falls apart.
Dad had completed the ditch and like I said, he owned some acres along the river. Well, in the spring of 53 he got some neighbors. He always said they were Finnish. I was just a kid and I always imagined that he said they were “finished” and for a while I wondered if somehow we were not? Like some folks just got done better than others. Kinda like bread that don’t get baked all the way, some folks were doughier inside than others and you know what that can be like. Pretty awful.
They were from somewhere far away anyway and I imagined that maybe folks from places other than Bovine or Texas were just cooked better. As it turns out, folks in Bovine are cooked just fine. Thank goodness.
So the new neighbors also had the last name of Bergeron. Dad could not figure it out. “How the hell can they have our name and we don’t even know where they hell they come from,” dad would ask the coffee cup some days. No one had an answer. I remember thinking that it was a real cool coincidence that we had the same last name and that we might even be related to them somehow and maybe we had come from some exotic far away land where people were cooked a little longer and more finished.
Well, it did not take long for the trouble to start. Dad was a couple of years away from losing his home and his mind and the new neighbors, and the damn postman as dad would remind us, were about to cause some trouble.
As dad told it, the mailboxes and our same last name caused all kinds of trouble with the Internal Revenue Service and the local chapter of the American Legion.
Here in Bovine we never had actual address numbers. We were just the “Bergerons” in Bovine. If you wanted to send us mail that was all you needed to write. Ol’ Tom the mailman for the last 20 years knew everyone and where they lived. We didn’t need no stinking numbers.
Well, I guess the neighbors had some tax troubles and when they moved in dad started getting their mail. Dad put the mail addressed to them in their mailbox and they denied that the mail was for them. They said they had never had any tax trouble. So there dad was with this mail addressed to him and the letters said he owed a lot of money he did not have. Well, dad knew it was not his and the neighbors refused to take the mail and ol’ Tom was stuck in the middle. Tom was also a member of the Foreign Legion in town and he told the members dad was evading taxes. Well, as you can imagine, they kicked pa out of the legion. That helped a bit with his drinking later on, but initially he was devastated. All three of his friends hung out there all day and night and all of a sudden he couldn’t hang out with them.
It was Tom’s idea to get us number on our mailboxes. He said in the big cites everyone had a number. I remember thinking how important all those folks must be to have their own numbers!
Well, dad kept getting the mail for the Bergerons, of course, and ol’ Tom had to really pay attention because the mail to both places usually just said, The Bergerons. After a couple of years of continually getting the wrong mail, and just before the flood, dad had finally had enough and went down to the county courthouse in Laredo and changed our name to Burgeron. Why he only chose to change one letter I don’t know.
That was long ago but I still remember seeing the mailboxes as a kid and it always reminded me of people who cooked long enough and had been finished.