By Cody Thompson
GRAPELAND – Former Grapeland resident and author Michael Owens returned to his hometown to promote his new book “Grapeland: Home of the Peanut Festival” at the Grapeland Public Library on Wednesday, April 12 in celebration of National Poetry Month.
“Grapeland: Home of the Peanut Festival” is Owens’ first published book and features several anecdotal poems from his early life and subsequent summers spent in Grapeland.
“All writing is is a description,” Owens said, “And that’s what these poems are: description of my time here in Grapeland.”
Owens’ family moved to Grapeland when he was 2-years-old, but moved away when he was 6-years-old.
“My dad was born in Grapeland and all of his brothers and sisters lived here,” Owens said. “I came and spent six weeks here in Grapeland every summer.”
Local residents and students from Grapeland Elementary School gathered at the library to listen to Owens read passages from his book.
The event opened with Owens being introduced to the audience by his granddaughter Ida Owens.
Owens first selection was titled “Box Purse.” The selection chronicled a time when Owens and two of his cousins discovered a garden snake, placed it in a purse and left it on the side of the road where it was picked up by a car filled with six local teenagers. The teenagers picked up the purse and started driving off, but quickly stopped and fled from the vehicle after discovering the snake hidden within.
“The moral of that story is don’t pick up stuff off the side of the road,” Owens told the audience on Wednesday. “You never know what you might find.”
Others selections that Owens read include “Riding with the Lawless,” “Rodeo Roundup” and “Darsey’s,” which tells the tale of Darsey’s Dry Goods Store in the 1950’s.
The book also features a detailed map of Grapeland and the surrounding areas, as well as a genealogy of the Owens family.
“These things are to give people a reference for the stories, because people that aren’t from Grapeland would be clueless about where these things take place,” Owens told the Messenger on Wednesday. “When the editors got the book they were saying, ‘Where did you do this? Where was the hole to China and so on?’ The point is just to give people a reference.”
His interest in writing started when he was in fifth grade and his aunt Reba Ivey wrote an article for the Grapeland Messenger back in 1953, Owens said.
“I came down to visit one day and my aunt Reba had written an article that got put in the Messenger,” Owens said. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, if aunt Reba can write, then I can write too.’”
Owens offered a tip for anyone who wishes to become a writer.
“The standard is is always write about what you know,” Owens said. “You may say, ‘Where I live isn’t interesting,’ but it really is. All you have to do is take little details and be descriptive about them, to show what’s special about them. The stories are there, you just have to find them.”
Owens previously served as an assistant superintendent for various public schools across Texas, as well as a professor at Texas A&M University in College Station from 1980-1990. After retiring, Owens started his career as a writer.
“I wrote a lot when I was younger, but it was hard to make a living at it at the time,” Owens said. “After I retired, I committed myself and started writing every day.”
Owens currently lives in Cypress with his wife, Peggy-Sue. They have two sons, Mark and Matthew.
Cody Thompson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.