As magical and wonder-filled as Winnie the Pooh, I grew up in a hundred-acre wood. The roots of my faith and importance of family grew deep in the rich gumbo soil, as did the live oak trees from southeast coast of Texas my grandfather PawPaw planted there in 1930. The white sprawling Cape Cod-style home he built for his bride, Jennie, formed the heart—the center of the shelter and love—that is such a crucial birthright for me. That home became the place for birthday celebrations, weddings, annual Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts – forever a place for me to return for stability and support.
PawPaw gave each of his nine children a wedding gift of five acres on which to build their homes. As a result, I grew up among 45 cousins (40 of whom lived on the land), cows, including a Long Horn steer, pigs, horses, goats, guineas, chickens, Old Tom Turkey, Old Donk, countless dogs, and my own special dog, Brownie.
Soon after Grandmother’s dream house was built in 1937, oil was discovered in Emmottville. Oil made possible a one-acre pond to be filled with crystal clear blue water from the wells near White Oak Bayou, and bountiful perch, catfish, and bass. Oil allowed PawPaw to retire at age 50 and tend to me, to kids and grandkids, just like he cared for his garden of vegetables, corn, watermelon, strawberry plants, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and okra. Oil provided the excitement of watching five producing wells being drilled, creating slush pits ripe with frogs to catch and eat
Today, Emmottville is engulfed by greater Houston. But the spirit of my grandparents lives on in the relatives who continue their traditions. My father, Jack Emmott Jr., once said, “We don’t care about the present trend of families to scatter. Our philosophy is to stay together. Basically, the land holds us together. Yes, it’s the land. It gives a person identity, strength, and security, and helps solve problems.”