A couple of years ago I was visiting Larry, my best friend in high school and 1967 participant in the Greater Southeast Asia War Games, 9th Infantry Division. Larry was born in Alabama and spent his first 12 years there. During the visit, Larry said, “Did I ever tell you why we came to Texas?” I said he had not.
Preface to story: Larry’s father, Grady, and my father worked at the steel mill in Lone Star. Grady previously worked at a steel mill in Alabama.
Story: One day at the mill in Lone Star, two men came up to Grady. One said, “We were just wondering. What’d you get run out of Alabama for?” Grady said, “What? What’re you talking about?” The other man said, “Well, everybody we know here from Alabama got run out for something or the other. We just wondered why you got run out.”
At the Alabama mill, Grady ran the overhead crane in the blast furnace, moving the big bucket up or down the mill as required. When the bucket was in its proper place, Grady moved the crane out of the way. For some reason, Grady’s foreman had it in for him. He would say to Grady, “I know what’s going on. You’re sleeping in that crane. One of these days I’m going to crawl out there and catch you sleeping.” Grady reminded the foreman that it would be a dangerous thing, crawling along a beam, and who knows what might happen.
One night at dinner the foreman was really on Grady, again saying he knew Grady was sleeping in the crane and he would catch Grady and have him fired. After shift was over, the foreman followed Grady into the change house, again repeating his intentions. He was behind Grady at one point, and Grady turned around and gave the foreman a knuckle sandwich -- laid him out. Grady then got in his car and went home. When he got there, he told his wife, “You know, some people used to work here been writing, telling me I ought to go work at that mill in Texas.” Mrs. Grady was an un-Reconstructed Southerner of the highest degree, and she had no plans to live outside Alabama, which was the pride of the South and keeper of things anti-Yankee.
Then Grady said, “In the morning there’s liable to be people looking for me. You tell them I said I was going Up North to De-troit, see could I get a job in a car factory.” Mrs. Grady said she would do as her husband said. Grady then packed a few clothes and left.
Next morning, two deputy sheriffs showed up, with a warrant for Grady’s arrest for assault. Mrs. Grady told them what Grady had said. The deputies left.
Three days later, Grady returned, and that night the family packed what they could in the car – Mr. and Mrs. Grady and four boys -- and headed for Texas.
Way back when, this kind of story was repeated over and over, people leaving wherever they were, often with cause, and heading for Texas. They still are.