Fairy isn’t a very Texas name for a town, a state that likes to think of itself as everything big and rough and rugged and fairies certainly aren’t those things.
Not that all its’ neighbors seem that tough either, being a short Texas drive from Welcome, where the sign entering town is doubly hospitable and half that distance to Ding Dong. Poetry is a little farther down the road.
Battle Fort, – a man destined for war, and the Civil came around to oblige – moved to the little town of Martin’s Gap and promptly renamed it for his baby daughter.
Possibly the smallest Texan ever, Fairy Fort is said to have grown to 2’7”, which didn’t stop her from being a big Texan. Born at the end of the war, Civil being a misnomer, she married twice, divorced twice and lived 73 years, after which she could be found under the alliterative headstone: “Fairy Fort Phelps” in the local cemetery.
While the population once swelled to 150, there are now only 23 based on the 2000 census and that’s ten down from the decade before. It’s a small place in a big state and deductive reasoning suggests there are fewer Fairians now.
Travel a few miles out of town and it disappears like a ghost. Meagan, the Holiday Inn desk clerk in Stephenville, 30 miles away, had no idea where Fairy was and Rochelle at the nearby Comfort Inn didn’t have a clue. Krystal, at the Circle Motel in Meridian, a few miles closer, knew exactly where it was. “It’s out in the middle of nowhere, there’s nothing.”
The fabled Fairy comes to life when her great nephew Charles Allumbaugh remembers a story his mother told him: “She was a school teacher and was very well liked by the students and once she had to paddle one of the boys and she was having trouble reaching him so the boy lifted her up on a chair so she could paddle him.”
Commerce has moved out of Fairy and the closest store is an eight mile ride to Cranfills Gap, where Marvin Payne at Tommy’s store says Prudence Jones is the woman to call for information on the tiny town.
Prudence, having lived into her name, is 83 and has spent over sixty-five of those in the same house in Lanham, twelve miles from Fairy. Raised in a family of nine, that area of Texas is all Mrs. Jones has ever known, although she went to Arkansas once. She had her first date with Raymond Jones when she was twelve and he was fourteen. “He never did have another date with another girl and I never did have a date with another boy. He was just the love of my life and that’s the way it always was.”
He took Prudence to Fairy when the Methodist revival came to town. “Raymond was leading the singing and they took up a love offering for him and he wouldn’t accept it and said: ‘Give it to the preacher!” The preacher considered this and told Raymond when he was ready to get married the cost was covered, or as Prudence relates: “That’s how Raymond paid for me!”
They raised oats, wheat, barley, corn, cotton and four kids, each of whom graduated from Fairy High. The kids are gone and Raymond died of cancer over fifteen years ago. Now she sits alone in her house, waiting for a visitor or a call. She’s quite happy for conversation.
Says Prudence of Fairy: “ There used to be a school and they had a general store and a café and a garage and you know all of that’s in the past.”
Dust to dust went Fairy Fort and so goes Fairy, Texas, decomposing a person at a time but hanging on to life in a hardscrabble landscape the way an independent Texan would.