I don’t remember ever driving through Delta County, and I know I’ve never been to Cooper, Texas, that is, until yesterday. My intent was to attend the annual meeting of the Red River Valley Baptist Association, an assignment that proved to be unexpectedly eventful due to failure of my mobile GPS to locate the host church. I first realized I was lost when the computer generated voice from my phone led me to the middle of a cotton field, with no one but a few boll weevils for company. Apart from compassion and directions of a road crew flag man, I might still be wandering aimlessly in the land of cotton. When I finally found East Delta Baptist Church, the peanut butter toast I’d eaten for breakfast was a distant memory, so I opted to search for food before going in. That’s when I discovered Cooper.
In ways that matter to people who keep track of such things, Cooper is a disappointment. Founded circa 1870, Cooper grew rapidly, and In the mid-1890s, a railroad line was built through the city, assisting in Cooper’s growth. The city continued to grow until the region’s cotton crop failed in 1926; her economy didn’t recover and likely never will. To add insult to injury, Cooper has no sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and evidently, not much of historic significance takes place there, except at meal time. I drove around the square (is it possible to drive around a square?), attempting to spot one of the few restaurants listed on my ‘Around Me’ app. The first was closed, so I continued and settled for the next one on the app–“Big Jon’s Burgers.” Holding the front door slightly ajar, I sniffed before going in, a practice learned from entering other dens of deep fried iniquity where one emerges smelling more like an onion ring than a human being. Big Jon’s passed the nasal test, so I entered and was greeted by the owner/ hostess/ cashier Kathy, who is married to Big Jon (he was away playing golf–evidently a common occurrence). The two of them and their daughter have owned the place for seven years, and once I tasted the food, I understood the reason they were still in business. Their patty melt and fries melted in my mouth, and I washed it all down with fresh sweet tea–very satisfying. I also enjoyed some lighthearted conversation with Kathy as well as Bubba, the local farrier, and by the time I finished lunch I felt like I belonged. I am grateful for this unexpected reminder that what matters most in life is that people matter most.
The Delta County Chamber of Commerce proudly declares: “We are a small county in northeast Texas and we can live with that. We are in the green belt section of Texas and we enjoy our fertile land, good neighbor values, and country living. Our visitors are always welcome and we invite you to come see us.” That’s an attitude that I can live with.