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Published on April 13, 2021

Memories are made of this

Leon Hale remembered by a student

By Jan Edwards
The Bulletin

There are very few people I have known outside my immediate family who have influenced my entire life - one of those was Leon Hale. I was saddened to learn that I lost my mentor. He died on March 27 at age 99.

Had he lived another two months, he would have made it to 100. I was born in 1953; Leon’s first column appeared in The Houston Post in 1954.

Our paths crossed when I was an impressionable kid. My family especially benefited from his columns in the springtime. His stories about short trips inspired my Mom and Dad. We took trips looking for dogwood in bloom and wildflowers along the wayside and had picnics at roadside parks.

On one trip, we went looking for Leon’s ghost road – and found it. It was really a long, straight logging road in East Texas, but if you caught the day just right with the sun shining and an oncoming car, you would see the ghost orb coming down the road toward you.

It was really sunshine reflecting on the oncoming car’s windshield that disappeared as you approached, but I was a little kid and seeing the light was spooky. Leon could make you believe – he spun great tales.

Our paths crossed again when I was a “kid” in college taking the Feature Writing 101 and 102 classes he taught at Sam Houston State University. I’m still writing in “retirement.”

If you were one of his regular customers, you knew that he could interview anyone with respect and describe characters in detail like no other. No one elevated the common man better than Leon.

And who can forget his trips with Old Friend Morgan to the south each year to find the spring? After much debate, I think they finally decided that mesquite buds were the most dependable harbinger of spring. For years, they traveled South Texas looking for the first sign of spring in the buds.

His columns ran around 800 words week after week, and he typed them all on a manual typewriter (hunt-and-peck method) for years. Leon had conversations with all kinds of people. I think there were more conversations than interviews.

He had them with Madame Z, an old Brazos bottom fortune teller, to conversations with mules and everything in between. He also wrote several books.

The stories he told us always made us smile, or we learned a lesson. His tales lifted us up. I called him after I published my first story with Image magazine to thank him. He didn’t remember me. I was one of many college students in his class. I think he was glad to hear that he helped me to keep writing - that he inspired me. I’m so glad we made that connection again.

I can see God calling Leon home just in time to catch springtime in Heaven. I can see Leon walking through the Pearly Gates and gazing at the spring in full bloom, as I’m sure it is like that now.

Next year, though, I wonder if Old Friend Morgan and Leon will be going in some direction searching for spring? I wonder if there are mesquite buds in heaven? I’d guess there probably are. If not, God will put some there just for them.

Leon departed, but he left his customers with a final book, “See You Down the Road,” just published by Winedale Publishing.

I knew there was a reason my sister gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card – this must have been it.
Keep the coffee hot and store up some good tales, Leon, for when I see you down the road.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)