Traveling the back roads for as long as we have has given us a unique perspective, a look at how much things change and how much things stay the same across our state. By stepping back and taking a wide-angle look at the things we have seen over the last half century, we are able to build our own mental image of how things used to be, what they became, and what they are today. It’s almost like one of those time-lapse videos, clicking away in double speed in our brains, showing us the evolution of various parts of Texas.
In the early seventies, we visited West Texas towns that were prospering from oil boom days, but by the mid-eighties some of those same towns were boarded up and withering away. Then, in the late nineties, wind power and fracking were once again bringing big bucks to the coffers of those towns, and they were building new schools with six-man football stadiums carpeted with Astroturf.
Things really do change. And things really do stay the same.
It was 1981 when we first visited the T. C. Lindsey & Co. General Store in Jonesville, a former cotton community that straddles the border with Louisiana. A trading post was established there in 1847, and on the day we first visited, brothers Tom and Sam Vaughan insisted that their mercantile was keeping the town alive and kicking. A mere twelve years later, we found Sam and Tom sitting on the front porch of the store with hardly a customer in sight, and they were ready to lock the door and go home.
But something called us back to Jonesville in 2019. I had heard that the T. C. Lindsey & Co. General Store did not close after the Vaughn Brothers were gone—that it had somehow managed to hang on. This was something I had to see for myself.
As I rounded the corner on the country lane that leads to the store, there she was, in all her glory—still looking like the same place I had visited on my first trip almost forty years earlier. Only the store was not a store. It was something better. Oh, sure, they sold cold drinks and old-fashioned cheeses and some other things you won’t find in your local supermarket. But what they were really selling was a look at the way things used to be, a glimpse at days gone by that you can’t find just anywhere.
And the people who were doing the selling? That was the biggest shock of all. Take a look at this classic segment from the show, and you’ll see what I mean.