Tour Blog: Vivi Inn
First let me tell you what the Vivi Inn is. My cousin recently bought her grandmother’s house in Gruver, Texas, and completely remodeled it honoring family heritage in beautiful ways. If you know anything about the Common Ground album, you know that it is all about my Texas cattle ranching family, with the ironic last name of Cluck, who built a small, yet mighty cattle empire right outside of Gruver.
On the tour, I decided to stay at the Vivi Inn for a two day stop off in Gruver. This house belonged to Gene Cluck, and his wife Vivian. If you’ve heard the song Pearl, you know that Pearl was my great grandmother, and that she and Homer Cluck raised 10 kids out on the high plains surviving both the Dirty Thirties and The Great Depression. In the chorus of the song, I sing the names of the second generation in birth order “Voncille, and Durward, and Sam, and Eldon, and Gene, and Pete, and May … and Effie, and Pike, and Mary Rachel too.”
So Tesh (pronounced “Tish”), now owner of the remodeled home turned private rental, is my second cousin. (Here’s a helpful cousin calculator I have to use sometimes) She and her husband did an amazing job of bringing new life to old history in this sweet little place. Heritage is gold in my mind. I don’t think there is a more precious commodity on earth that we can hold on to. Especially in these convoluted and confusing times.
What I feel in my heart to talk about in this blog is my Granny, Velma Lee, who like Vivian, married into the Cluck family. Vivian and Velma were good friends and I can sense why the two would have such kindred spirits as I look into pictures of Vivian all around the quaint little cottage. Tesh was sure to place a “kitchen corner booth” in the updated version of her grandmother’s home, and while I don’t know if it’s the exact size or location of the original, still I can just picture Velma and Vivian having coffee, telling the latest stories, and laughing together there.
Everyone in those days had a kitchen corner booth, and I sat at just about all of them within my family. Someone once said “I know that the story of the Common Ground album is mostly about the men of your family, but these women are fantastic too.” I couldn’t agree more. The women of that generation were so wonderful. They constantly visited each others’ homes, had coffee together, walked together, and organized social gatherings, and community events. They had music clubs, card clubs, and community involvement projects. They stayed truly connected, and I feel this country could use more of that kind of thing these days.
Joe Davidson “Pike” Cluck, my grandfather dated Velma Lee all through high school. After she passed away, I discovered her five-year journal which told, on a day to day basis, of the basketball practices they both had, the movies they went to see together, the car rides they took, and it “told me the story of the simple life out on the plains.” Gene and Vivian had a daughter named Glenda, and Pike and Velma Lee had my mother, Donna Sue. Glenda and Donna Sue were the best of friends throughout high school, and on and on it went with the generations. Gold! Precious Gold! I call Glenda my “Great Cousin” even though technically, there is no such thing. But she is most definitely my GREAT cousin! I have found that I am a true blend of these two spectacular women, Glenda and Donna Sue, and that warms my soul to no end!
It burdens me how disconnected we’ve become in America, and how these great American families have somewhat dismantled, sometimes due to relational issues, but more often than not, just due to the nature of how things evolved over time in this country. People moved away to different cities, and as we all know, the more technology advanced, the more disconnected from each other we have become.
As I’ve moved from the living room, and am now sitting in the kitchen corner booth so that I could plug in my technology, I am having my last cup of coffee for the morning. The house is directly across the street from the elementary school I attended. I once, for a very short period of time, lived in a tiny house across the other street. I can see both out of the kitchen corner windows. I got my one and only “spanking” from PawPaw “Pike” for driving my Barbie car across that street to come visit Vivian one day. He “spanked” me with a folded newspaper. The “what ifs” had gotten to him and he had to make his point somehow.
I took a walk earlier and saw Barbara Cluck driving down the street. We waved big, and blew kisses. There is a female family member that has intrigued the women of my audiences for a while now because when they see this picture, they immediately zero in on the only female among the cowboy hats. I was told that female was Barbara, but I was corrected this morning by a cousin. This female is yet another amazing woman, Edna Cluck, wife of Durward. She was an investor in one of the first cattle feed yards in the area. We all want to know how she learned to hold her own, and as a lyric from Wagon Wheel goes, "get her cowgirl boots and set of spurs, and toughen her up her skin for the cockleburs," so to speak.
As I sit here looking out the windows back at my own history, I'm reminded that the power of recalling the stories can’t be underestimated. It fills me with hope for the future. I encourage you today, wherever you might be, to take a minute to look back and get in touch with your roots through your family history and heritage. It’s gold I tell ya!
Love to all,