The word poured out in Odessa as easily as the torrents of rain that ran down the streets after an occasional storm, as common a part of the vernacular as "ol' boy" or "bless his 'ittl' biddy heart" or "awl bidness" or "I sure did enjoy visitin' with you" or "God dang."
Dumb ol' nigger. Cocky nigger. New Jersey nigger. Smartaleck nigger. Talk nigger. Blame it on the niggers. Afraid of the niggers. Nigger lady. Let the nigger girl do it. Nigger ball. Run, you nigger.
Like household cleanser, the term had a dozen different uses in Odessa. People said it in casual conversation. They also said it publicly, as just another descriptive adjective. Some people looked tall, some looked short, and some looked nigger.
An elderly man making a complaint to the city council one day in September said he had given documents to a city employee to copy for presentation to the council. He didn't remember the name of the person. But he did recall what she looked like. "The nigger lady," he said at the podium. That's who he had given the papers to. The Nigger Lady.
Certain members of the council raised their eyebrows. Some looked to the side a little as if embarrassed. But that was the extent of the protest. The man continued prattling on, and