EXCERPT

I AM AN EIGHTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN, a Native American. That’s right–I am of Caucasian origin according to my birth certificate issued by the great state of Texas on June 11, 1929, registered as William Edwards Terrel. Eighty-four years doesn’t seem like such a long time when you stop to think about it; it’s roughly a third of the time our great nation has existed. Now that I’ve paused to look back over the years, I realize that our institutes of higher learning do not offer any courses that could even begin to teach what my experiences over the years have taught me. I attribute much of my early remembrance to my father and his philosophy of life. He taught my two older brothers and me what I feel is, or should be, the foundation of the American way of life. According to historical records, the Great Depression began in 1929. My father called me the Depression Kid.

MAGDALENA WAS NOT A BOOMTOWN. However, in 1941, one might have considered it such, since unemployment was practically zero. Anyone who wanted a job had no trouble getting one. The town consisted of four automobile dealerships, two hotels, two drugstores, two mercantile stores similar to today’s Walmart (but on a much smaller scale, of course), two banks, numerous smaller grocery and hardware stores, and seven or eight bars. Works Progress Administration built a grade school and gym in 1937. The high school was built several years earlier. Oh, I failed to mention that there was one theater. I have described the village in order to reflect on things I believe affected my growing. Magdalena’s population was probably 45 percent Mexican, 45 percent Caucasian (white, gringo), and 10 percent Native American, mainly Navajo. All of the things that happened because of this racial mix had and have a great deal to do with the way I feel about race.

In the New Mexico school system, I completely lost all interest. Classes in grade school were overcrowded; the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades had sixty to seventy students per grade, and there were two classes for each, with thirty to thirty-five students per room. Nothing new was covered. The curriculum included the same information I had learned two to three grades back in the Texas educational system. When we got to Magdalena, I entered the sixth grade, and two weeks later, I was bumped up into the seventh grade. A short while later, I was advanced into the eighth grade, and more of the same continued. My oldest brother, Dale, because he loved football, hated to leave Amarillo, but it seemed as if things might work out for him in Magdalena—over one hundred boys went out for spring training.

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