A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Walking the Trail Alone

One of the things I've wanted to do since I got to Colorado was to go hiking on a real hiking trail out in the wild. I walked along the river trail downtown one day with a couple I met through my friend and realtor Diane. I asked them about hiking in the mountains and they told me of a trail that wasn't too hard and was really pretty. After we separated I ran into a fella on the downtown trail and we got to talking. He told me about the same trail and gave me precise directions on how to get there and where to park. 

He said he'd lived in Pagosa for 19 years and you couldn't dynamite him out of here!

It's been a bit muddy with the snow melt so I've been putting it off but decided yesterday that I'd go today! The weather has been great here. We've been in the high 60s and low 70s most days. I've found since living here that temps I used to find cold where I was don't seem as cold here. They're shirtsleeve weather! 

The last couple of weeks I've been going out to one of the breweries here in town on Wednesday to meet some new friends. My hairstylist Angie, herself from Texas, has befriended me and invited me to go. She volunteers as a Visiting Angel and one thing she does is take an older gentleman out each week to hear some good country music. It's an over 50 crowd and the band starts early at 6:00 so it's before my bedtime! Ha! A group of her friends goes there so I've met a few new people. I only stay about an hour and a half. The music is good and the company is nice. 

Last night I told Angie I was going hiking on the Piedra River Trail. She said I shouldn't go alone and the bartender offered to let me take her dog! The bears are coming out from hibernation and it's always good to have a fellow hiker in case you fall. I do know this and that it's better to go with someone. But though I've met new people, I've not yet found that person that I can hang out with. Someone that is maybe also without a partner and has free time. And I may never. I'm not much of a joiner and I'm not one to wait for someone else to do something. When I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go!

There are risks involved going alone, but here's my attitude. If you think about everything that can go wrong, you'll never do anything and you'll miss out on some good adventures and experiences. There are some things I'll never do, such as mountain climbing. I know my limits. But there are things I can do. You just have to be careful, study the trail map, take water, and maybe some bear spray. Have good hiking shoes and carry a hiking pole. I read about what to do if I encounter a bear - speak calmly, wave your arms slowly, back up, and maybe sing as you walk the curves of the trail (I hummed I'm an Old Cowhand From the Rio Grande) as bears don't like to be surprised - and what to do if a cougar shows up - make yourself look bigger with your arms and jacket, yell, throw rocks, back up - and in either case, never turn and run, and in the worse case scenario, fight. And I know encounters are rare. Also let someone know where and when you went and when you return. 

Angie made me promise to text her when I left and when I returned. She was my backup lifeline! And, of course, I let the kids know, though they are far away. 

The trail was about 15 miles from the main highway. About half way there the paved road ends but the gravel road was ok. There are a few hardy ranchers that live out that way. Their views are amazing! I was humbled and almost breathless by the scenery. I went right to the trailhead with the directions I'd been given. 

I didn't make a long hike. I spent about an hour there. Clouds were moving in and the temps were dropping. The only wildlife I saw was a little chipmunk, and some ravens and bluebirds. It was beautiful and peaceful. The only sound was the river and the wind. I was the only one on the trail today, according to the sign-in log, and I never saw anyone else on the trail. 

But I wasn't really alone. I carry Rick in my heart and everything he ever taught me about the wild world. I kept thinking wow, wouldn't Rick love to see this. And maybe he does. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Adventures

Most people, when they hear I moved to Colorado, say the same thing. Oh, it's beautiful but I could never take the cold. For myself, used to 100+ weather for months on end in Texas, I haven't found it to be near as uncomfortable as the wet cold in Houston. But even the biggest doubters would have loved the warm sunny weather on the mountain last week! Some of the kids and grandkids came over during Spring Break. The week was just like I had hoped it would be, what I hoped being in Colorado would be like for our family. We aren't people that have done Winter sports before so it was a new experience. We had our gear, skiing and snowboarding lessons were signed up for, equipment was reserved, and we were ready! Well, the kids were ready. I sat out the sports part of this. It was all about the kids and grandkids. My job was to make it happen and to corral the discarded gear. My reward was to watch the faces and hear the stories the kids told.  The cold weather gear we had acquired will prove handy next winter but this week we were taking linings out of coats, then ditching the coats themselves. Base layers never made the second day. Some locals were skiing in shirts and t-shirts and three fellas in footed animal pajamas were sighted riding over a cliff on boards!  Our group only had two people that had ever done any skiing or snowboarding before. One of them came down sick and stayed behind at the cabin. The other made it up the mountain with us. Both gave us some guidance in what to expect. We were in a new environment and needed all the help we could get! Skiing lessons went well but the snowboard riders had difficulty, with the exception of one of the little guys who had a knack for it. But the others gave it their best shot and made plans next time to tackle skiing! You never know if you don't try and hey, sometimes it works out and sometimes not so much. But always it's a new experience and having them is the goal! We took a shuttle up to Wolf Creek Pass since it was our first try and I wasn't sure what to expect on the drive. Some of the kids and I went through there back in December and the road was covered in ice. This week it was clear and dry! But we had a badass driver and she kept us entertained the whole trip and gave us lots of info on the area and things to do.  I've been up and down about this move I made. Leaving everything I knew and loved to move further away from family and friends. A totally new environment than what I am used to dealing with. Alone, a stranger in a strange land so to speak! More often than I care to admit I've said to myself - what in the hell were you thinking! But when that feeling comes over me I try to think well, what would I be doing if I was still at the ranch. And the answer is I would be working and crying. So I've clung to that to get me through the doubting times.  But when I saw my granddaughter's face as she came up to us after skiing all day, her first time, every doubt about whether it was the right move was erased. Even if everyone else had hated it, seeing her reaction would have been enough. But I saw it in the others too. The laughter, the wonder at the beauty and magic of the mountains, the snow, the fearless attempts they made to learn something new and a bit scary. And when it didn't work out, such as riding the boards, they shook it off and said it didn't matter, they were glad they tried it. And that they would try something else next time.  The cabin worked out great for us all also. There were 9 of us and we only used one air mattress. There were places, different rooms, to go to when someone wanted some quiet time or to watch a different TV program in the evenings though the house itself is small at 1300 sq feet. Board games were played accompanied by much laughter. The small room under the staircase, reminiscent of Harry Potter, was dubbed the Wolf Den by the two little ones and they made it their own.  We had our first campfire there and roasted marshmallows and made s'mores. We looked at the stars, finding our favorite constellations we knew from the ranch. The little guys got the sleds out and went flying down the hill in the backyard, when they weren't running up to the tree line to explore or having snowball fights! It was a great week, a great adventure. I'm in Austin right now. I came back when the kids did to get the last things I left here and to do something about my vehicles. I'm going home tomorrow. And when I get there I'll look at it differently than I did before Spring Break. We have memories there now. It's beginning to seem like home. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Different Version of Myself

I read a quote this week that said "every next level of your life will require a different version of yourself." I've been trying to work on that version of me since my move. Between the physical demands of making a move by yourself to the emotional upheaval of leaving everything familiar behind and uprooting your life, well, it's been a month to test my strength. 

I had no illusions that I would move and be magically happy. In my heart I know I'll probably never be totally happy again, the sadness will always be there. But in spite of that I believe that there is some joy left in the world for me. As the prophet says, joy and sorrow are inseparable; when one sits with you at the table the other is alseep upon your bed. I want to wake up that joy that has been sleeping for over two years now. 

Sarah and I made the trip over for the closing on the new cabin. It's a great place and is a good swap for the ranch. It's a 30 year old house that has been added onto over the years. The previous owner was a flooring contractor, and he did most of the renovations, maybe all of them. The hardwood floors are beautiful, the kitchen cabinets are custom hickory, and the 4 car garage with workroom, all with infloor heating, are a carpenter/ranch hand/DIY gal's dream. It has 4.6 acres with it, including a ponderosa pine covered hill in the back. 

I wasn't really looking for acreage and I didn't want a well or septic again and I wanted a paved road. But I either couldn't see myself in any of the other houses I looked at or the ones in my price range needed more work than I could afford. This cabin spoke to me and the kids loved it too. So I chose it in spite of a well, septic, and gravel road!

It had been snowing for days when Sarah and I got there. It was my first experience with snow like that and with icy, snowy roads. If Sarah hadn't been with me to encourage me, I'd have never made it to Pagosa! Not that week anyway. The driving was stressful and I got stuck in the steep driveway (thankfully, the previous owners Matt and Lisa were there shoveling the walkways and Matt got me unstuck and gave me some driving hints), and slid through a red light (no one was coming and my brakes locked up but the state trooper behind me had no sympathy). 

But the people there were the best (well, maybe not the trooper who gave me a lecture and a scolding along with the ticket. But I have been trying to be extra careful, so maybe he helped too, in his own way) and welcomed me into their beautiful snowy world, telling me they had gotten stuck too, and gone into slides, and as long as I hadn't had to be pulled out of a ditch yet, I was doing ok. Everyone I met was from somewhere else and shared their experiences with me and told me I'd love it in Pagosa. Matt and Lisa were amazing; they called to check on me, brought me firewood from their supply, sent the firewood guy over (they even told me not to pay him, that Matt was bartering with him for the load, but it was just too much to ask of someone so I paid him anyway), built a snowman in the yard to welcome us, brought me flowers, had the drive plowed and hooked me up with the snowplow guy, and not only told me to call them if I got stuck and they would come pull me out but gave me other names to call in case I couldn't get them. 

Later when I started buying furniture to replace what I sold with the house, one of the furniture delivery fellas was a young man from Houston. He told me he used to do HVAC and if I had any problems to call him and he'd get the parts and come fix it, or if I had any other problems, give him a call. He also told me where to go crappie fishing, and elk hunting, and what beautiful lakes and scenic places were around. The list goes on of the people that were helpful and welcoming, but more on that later. 

Sarah and I had been staying at an Airbnb condo downtown, right next to the Riff-Raff Brewing. We walked the streets as the snow fell and went to the shops downtown and bought wool socks. We ate at a different great place every meal. We spent the first night in the new cabin. We slept on air mattresses in front of the fireplace where we tried to get a fire going with the oak we brought from the ranch. We made homemade soup and planned furniture layouts. That afternoon we had shared a bottle of bubbly with Lisa and Matt and our realtor Diane. It was an eventful first day!

Sarah left the next day to fly back to Austin. We spent the day in Durango before she left. That night, as I lay on the air mattress in a strange empty house, all alone, was hard. I admit I wondered what in the hell had I done! But as I thought back to how sad I had been at the ranch, I knew in my mind, if not my heart, that I couldn't have stayed at the ranch. The happiness there was gone with Rickie and only the work remained, and it was work for more than one person. It was the life with Rickie that I mourned and keeping the ranch wouldn't bring that back. I knew I had to suck it up and go on and I knew it would be a period of adjustment at the new place. 

So in the next days I got out and started on the process of making the cabin mine. I bought new furniture, started putting up new window coverings and replenishing the cupboard of groceries (and whiskey). I had some painting done, and I did a little myself also, before my furniture got there, and then the place started to look like it might me mine. 

My sister Kathy and her husband Derald flew over for a visit. Kathy and I tried out the new snowshoes I had bought. My first time to do anything related to snow other than build a tiny snowman from the wet infrequent snow we had in Texas and Louisiana. We trekked around the yard. I loved it and hope to do some of that in a more adventurous spot in the future. Kathy and Derald got the feel of the Pagosa area and are planning to come back this summer with kids and grandkids in tow! I look forward to that. 

It's been an eventful first month. I've had ups and downs, and I expected to. Time alone will tell if the move was the right one and if the ups outweigh the downs. With most of the stuff I brought from the ranch in place in the cabin, it's starting to look like home, even if it doesn't yet feel like home. We have to start collecting memories to make that happen. We had 28 years of memories at the ranch. We're just getting started here at the Rockin' RS, Colorado Division. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Walking The Line

We're in a holding pattern out here at the Rockin' RS, waiting on the contract to sale to be finalized. We've found a place we like in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, a cabin in keeping with what we've loved all these years here, and the only thing it's waiting on is for the ranch sale to close. I'll share more about that later. Today our daughter Sarah is writing the blog post below. The photos are hers also. When I saw them I was struck by what she chose to photograph, the tiny things that so many people overlook, the beautiful textures even in the dead days of late Fall. She is her father's daughter. She came back from her walk with her backpack and pockets loaded with all the variety of rocks on our place. Here's her thoughts on that day -  

“You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home. People talk to you a great deal about your education, but some good, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man carries many such memories with him into life, he is safe to the end of his days, and if one has only one good memory left in one's heart, even that may sometime be the means of saving us.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Yesterday I walked the line to "Shotgun Ridge," where we scattered my dad's ashes. Even in the gloom of winter there were so many beautiful textures and patterns. Here are a few.

Barring help for my mom's move, this was my last visit to the Rockin' RS Ranch, a place that's been my second home for nearly 30 years. Because of this I felt obligated to take a million pictures and pocket every bit of natural ephemera I came across, but it wasn't necessary. I have so many strongly visceral memories of this place that it will stay with me as long as I live, even if I never see it again. Anxiety disorders really jack with your memory, but my memories from here are so happy and stand out vibrantly in my mind, too many to describe, ones for all seasons, ones quickly resilient with sights, smells, and sounds.
My dad was a great naturalist, always pointing out types of plants, bird calls, easily missed signs of animal life. He taught me a lot about the Texas Hill Country, about this parcel of 54 acres in particular, but the nice thing is these skills travel well. He took them with him from the piney woods of Mississippi, shared them everywhere we went on family trips - including the Four Corners - and I plan to take them with me to Colorado, as Bixby trades the life of a ranch hand for that of a mountain man.
See you in the Rockies, dad. <3 span="">

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Business of Living

I don't cover my refrigerator with photos, notes, reminders, etc. The clutter on the fridge drives me crazy. Rickie was surprised one day when I put some Ikea magnetic spice containers on the side because he knows how I am. In a tiny cabin I figured I could live with that space saving decision.

Since Rick died I have added two things to the front of the fridge. One is a post-it note where I wrote a Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series, quote - "Stay calm, have courage, and wait for signs". I put that there the day after Rickie died and have used it as my guiding light these two years.

Another is a photo of Elizabeth Taylor that I got off someone's post on Facebook. It has a quote of hers that I have found guidance and strength in also.

"You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot in front of the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That's how I've done it. There's no other way."

After a false start, well, several false starts to be honest, I've begun the process of selling the ranch. It's not easy and I'm under no illusion that it will be easy. None of us that love this place are going to get out of here without a lot of tears shed and hearts broken. But our hearts were already broken and the ranch, though we still love it, has lost its heart with Rickie gone. I can no longer live with the daily reminder of how it's changed. 

I've done everything Rickie and I wanted to do to finish making this place the way we wanted it. I've done for him what he didn't have the opportunity to do. I've had his back, as he always had mine.

And now it needs some life, some laughter, some hunters, some gardeners, some people to walk the woods and sit by the fire and look at the stars, some activity and joy that I can't give it. It needs another Rick and Sue with the same dream we had. 

A lot of these things I still do. But they have to be shared to bring joy on a continued basis. For two years I've done them alone and at first it was a comfort. Now it's a reminder of my loss and loneliness.

So. It's time to get up, to force myself to put one foot in front of the other. To fight, to curse.

And to go about the business of living.

Here's the link to the ranch listing in case any of you are interested or know anyone who might be. The realtor took some drone photos of the place and some great interior photos also. They really show off the place.

Rockin' RS Listing

For myself, I've modified my search for a new place and changed the hunt from Durango to Pagosa Springs. I couldn't find anything in Durango that made me happy that I could afford. I'll keep y'all posted on my new adventure and as always, thank you for following the blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Mountains Are Calling, But.................

Sarah and I made a fast trip to Durango, Colorado last weekend.  It's a beautiful small town and it didn't disappoint! It was 62 during the day and 45 at night. The air was clear and clean.

The aspens were still holding some color, the spruce, the crabapples, and the ponderosa pines were beautiful. The mountains were amazing. It's a clean, neat town with a lot of history.

Durango is known for the friendliness of its people and they proved that to be true. We shopped in the little stores downtown, in the old historic buildings. They cater to hikers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. We bought shoes, a jacket, and a plush toy wolf to take back to Bixby. We ate supper at one of the breweries and that night took in a movie, The Magnificent Seven, in keeping with the cowboy history of the area.

Saturday, before we flew back home at noon, we had brunch at an amazing little restaurant downtown. They have a few tables on the sidewalk and we sat out there and ate. It happened to be Cowboy Poetry Gathering weekend and there was a parade that morning. We had a front row seat as the cowboys and cowgirls rode by, some of them singing the songs of the range and of Roy and Dale.

We took in a farmer's market where we found apples, bread, huge beautiful beets and carrots. And more singing. There was a Master Naturalists' booth which brought back my plan of becoming one when I retired, before the reality of all the work I had to do here made me realize I didn't need to add any more work to my day.

Everywhere we went and everything we did, we felt welcome and at home. I felt, as the Navajo say, that we walked in beauty, with a light heart. It was the first time since I lost Rick that I felt a glimmer of happiness and a sense of looking to the future. A joy, planting a seed of hope, that I might one day laugh more than I cry or at least as much. I had plans of hiking the many trails to replace the work I do here at the ranch. Rickie and I, and Sarah when she was at home, vacationed in this part of the country on all our vacations, and on our last trip together Rick and I went to Durango. On every trip we talked about moving that way but we couldn't work out how and we had jobs to consider.

My little town is not this kind of town. I love it and many of the people are very kind and wonderful. They have been kind to me both before and after my loss. But it's not this kind of town and I wasn't born here. That will always make me an outsider. They are steeped in ranching history and they are a solid, conservative, Christian town. I am none of those things, other than I do love ranchers and cowboys and cattle. But I'm not a real rancher; I'm a version of a city girl that loves these things and tries to find a small taste of that life and that history.

My plan for myself after selling the ranch was to move to Durango and try to find some new version of myself, to be some place where Rickie and I had also been happy, to see if I couldn't make a life on my own, to carry him with me but not to be rolled over by the memories of this place we planned to spend our last years on.

We tossed around different options for making this happen, even considering that Sarah and her family would make the move with me and we would find a place for all of us. The high cost of housing in Durango made us face the reality that that wouldn't happen. And there were other things to consider on a move of that size, such as Sarah's job. So we went to what was actually the original plan. That I would sell the ranch, buy a place in Durango for me and for the family to use, and that I would spend my time between there and Austin, staying in the tiny house I had built at Sarah's. This would keep me close to family when I wasn't in Durango. And when I was too frail and old to do this division of time, I would have the tiny house to stay in full time. This would also enable me to keep more of what I've downsized to and carry that part of the ranch with me.

It would require me to go outside my comfort zone. To try and join groups, such as the Naturalists, to be in a place new and a bit different to me. To be farther from family, though it was a short trip by plane if I needed to go quickly. And I could stay in Austin for extended periods to offset this. I probably wouldn't have many visitors, but to be honest, visitors are rare here at the ranch. It was a chance for adventure, something missing from my life these days. And, as my sister Kathy says, we're not so old we aren't up to a new adventure or two.

But added to the hard decision to leave the ranch was the burden I carry of being sure I do what is best for my family in the long run. To be clear, they don't give me this burden. They have been supportive, in varying degrees as the pain of giving up the ranch hits them also, but all clear they support my decision and it should be mine alone. They will continue to support me in whatever decision I make. But, as all you who are parents know, we consider what we leave behind in all things we do. Will they regret not having this place that has had 28 years of our history here. Or will they regret that they had the chance to have a place to go in Colorado, to do some things new to us. That's something I can only guess at and they themselves can only guess at.

My family, including extended family, is not one of those families that is open to making big moves and that's how I was raised. We are steady and we put down roots and stay where we are. I used to be like that, even preferring to stay somewhere I hated just to keep from making a change. We don't go far from where we were born and the one time we did, we all went together, all uncles and grandparents, and even some friends, making the move to Houston from Louisiana back in the 1960s. Other than a move on the part of some of us back to Louisiana, we haven't ventured away from even the area in Houston we lived. Some of us travel widely but we don't move. My grandson Jeremy shocked the family by moving to Chicago this past year to go to college and live.

So I have no family history of packing up and heading off to a whole new place. Most of my family and friends have been supportive and some even encouraging. But I've met with a few shocked responses to my decision and a few questioning why I would do this, why I would go so far from the rest of the family and especially go alone. They don't do it to be discouraging; I know they wish only happiness for me. And in their way they want me to be sure I've considered everything and don't regret it later. But it does add to the hardship of my decision. If we were a group of people that said, hell, yeah, let's do this and I may even get there before you do, naturally, it would be easier. Ha!

So it falls on me to make the decision and to hope in the end it was the right one, both for me and for the family I love so much, the family I live for. Even not considering them but only myself I am conflicted as to whether I will be uplifted by a move or destroyed by leaving the link to my life with Rickie that the ranch offers me. I think of all the many times we almost made the decision to sell and didn't. Is this simply one more of those times. Once the ranch is gone, it can't be taken back. Would the happiness I hoped to find in moving to Durango be short lived and I would be right back in the same emotional state but without this link to Rickie.

It's been a rough few months for me, in many ways worse than the first year without Rickie was. I finished the projects and the focus that kept me going. And being here so long by myself alone the last years Rick was alive, I could almost get by pretending it just wasn't his weekend to come out and he would be here soon. But after almost two years, that isn't working any more.

I am also burdened by the question of am I just hitting a rough patch, compounded by this being Rick's favorite time of year and the holidays approaching, and it will pass. I don't know. I can't answer that.

I told Sarah I wish her dad was here. He never had a problem making a decision and when he made it he never looked back. He was a doer, a person that weighed the options, decided the likely outcome, and adjusted as he went if things didn't quite go as he hoped. But he never looked back once he made a decision. I can hear him saying in his stern voice "Look, this is what we're going to do." I wish I could hear him now telling me what to do. All I hear and see is him shaking his head and being exasperated at my indecision, one way or the other.

Last night when it got time for me to actually sign the contract to sell, I could not. I thought I could, but I couldn't. The burden of the decision and the consequences overwhelmed me and I found I wasn't as brave as I thought I was. That disappoints me in a way. I like to think I'm a badass and a doer, not a whiner or a talker. If I made the decision to stay and was content with that I would be ok. But I'm not sure that is the right decision and I wonder how soon I will regret that, or in a few months will I be glad I stayed. All the reasons I had for leaving are still there. Other than the longhorns are moving to a new home in a couple of weeks, another painful but necessary decision, and I'll have freedom to get away and visit family and friends more. 

So, while I wait for some vision that may never come, some clarity that will steady my course one way or the other and make me content with my choice to either stay or go, all I can do is hope it comes soon so I can find peace and move in a direction that will be good for us all, for both me and those I cherish and live for.



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Leap of Faith

Picture this. The woman sits reading a book, alone in the quiet solitude of the cabin. She hears a truck drive up and before she can get outside the door swings open. The north wind seems to blow the man inside. He's laughing and rubbing his hands together. This is his favorite time of year. He doesn't come alone. With him comes action, fun, laughter, conversations about the events of the world and the family. With him comes life. Chili simmering on the stove, walks in the woods, fences repaired, winter vegetables planted, deer blinds checked, a campfire lit. In the beginning days before the cabin, the campfire was kept going all day on cold days so they could get warm as they worked outside and he could cook biscuits and pinto beans over the fire. The whine of the chain saw often heard, providing wood for the fire. This woman and their daughter Sarah dragging the oak tops over to be used as fire starters, and helping load the oak logs in the truck.

She gives him a hug and they go outside to unload what he's brought with him. He has hay and feed for the longhorns, some corn for the deer. Grocery bags full of things you can't buy at the small grocery in town; steaks to be grilled with fresh vegetables, maybe some salmon to be smoked or some meat for his famous fajitas. Always, a big bottle of Crown and maybe some wine and Bailey's for the upcoming cold nights. He hopes to get neighboring friends Martha and Scott over for supper and wine one night while he's here.

In a few weeks it will be hunting season. Some weekends he will slip out alone before dawn to sit quietly in his stand, watching the sun creep up over the hills, hoping that muy grande buck will let down his guard and come out of the woods. While he waits he watches the other residents either wake up or head back to their dens after a night of hunting; foxes, birds, an occasional bobcat. And some weekends other hunters will come. His son John and grandson Zac, his sister-in-law Kathy and brother-in-law Derald and their grandsons, and in the early years his best friend John C. Hunting weekends filled with family and friends are a whirlwind of activity. Lots of eating, laughing, storytelling about the ones they got and the ones that got away. He teaches the new hunters how to hunt, how to clean a deer, the ways of wild animals, and the responsibility of being a safe and ethical hunter.

During the holidays before the bunkhouse is built, the kids and grandkids will be spread all over the floor sleeping on air mattresses, the furniture pushed back and sometimes moved to the back porch. One giant slumber party, the last embers in the fireplace dying down as everyone quiets down and goes to sleep. In the mornings before everyone is up, he has the bacon frying and she's making homemade biscuits. They slip out to the front porch with their coffee as the kids all wake up. He's cut a small cedar that they've decorated and put on the porch. Lights have been hung, sometimes on the cabin porch, sometimes on the bunkhouse and pumphouse, and the one last time in the trees over the outside kitchen, help often provided by Zac and Cam.

During the hot days of summer, there are different things going on when he's here. Sometimes he'll get the canoe out and he and the woman will go floating down the Llano River, marveling at the clear blue-green water, stopping to rest and wade in the water every so often. Sometimes he and John and Zac will take the canoe and go fishing as they float down the river. A few years he's managed to get the family and extended family together for tubing trips, going to Cuidad Acuna together, and always cooking his fajitas. Sometimes just he and the woman go tubing. He was an athlete when he was younger, even a lifeguard, and she's not the best swimmer, but she always feels safe with him. 

The garden is overflowing with flowers and vegetables he's planted, his grapes to be made into wine and jelly, his peaches for jam and frozen drinks and cobbler. He's an adventurous gardener, always trying new varieties and new fruit trees. In the late afternoon, as the sun heads toward the horizon in the West, he stands by the fence, a glass of whiskey in his hand, and talks to the longhorns.

He teaches grandsons Zac, Larry Michael, and Jeremy the Texas version of horseshoes known as washer pitching. He takes the youngest grandson Bix for rides in the Mule and teaches him not to be afraid of Woodrow and Gus. It was a good life.

And then one evening it all ended. He died as he lived, going out with his boots on, as they say here in Texas. He wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

And I was left alone. 

I've learned to do a lot of the things he did, in a modified way as my abilities required. I've walked alone the trails we walked together. I've tried to find peace and comfort in being where we spent so many happy years together. I've made all the improvements to the ranch he wanted to do and didn't get the chance. I've hoped to spend my last years here where we shared our life.

But the truth is, the life has gone out of the place with Rick's passing. Yes, I have the memories. But I'll have no new memories and the old ones sometimes threaten to roll over me and crush me. I'm not sure I can survive another 10 or 12 years with only his ghost for company.

So I've made a tough decision. It's not been easy to make and it won't be easy to carry out. I've not made it lightly. I've put a lot of thought into it and I've weighed what I'll lose and what I'll gain. If you know me at all, you know my love for this land I live on. And you know my love for the man that loved it too. In my most logical moments I know that he would not have expected me to stay here after he was gone. I've stayed because I couldn't leave. But I'm now where I don't think I can stay without him. It's also hard because I have always believed the place we love and live defines us. As this place defined Rick, it also defines me.

But when Rick left, all the fun left with him. I can do the work, for now anyway, but as the years go by that will be harder to do. But I can't have the fun without Rick. This remote country life is best when you have a partner. And some of the reason I wanted to stay was to keep the place to hand down. But the truth of that is, this was our dream, mine and Rick's. It was what we wanted and what we chose. And that dream has died. The kids and grandkids will have their own dreams and that's how it should be.

I never thought a year and a half ago I would say this. But I've decided to sell the ranch. I've got a new idea and a plan that's begun to take shape that will lead me to new adventures and experiences. I wanted now to explain why I made this hard decision. I'll write about my plan later as it is more firmed up. It was decided based on the belief that life is precious and we are at fault if we waste it being sorrowful all the time. I have yet a part to play, as we all do, and I need to go see what that is.  

Rick will be where I am going as it's a place he and I often traveled to. Some memories will be there waiting for me when I arrive. I'll take what I can that was his when I leave, his deer and hog mounts, his hats and boots, the mesquite fireplace mantel he created, his tools, and his memories. 

Keep me in your hearts as I try to find my way down this new road. 

"He's one of those who knows that life is just a leap of faith, spread your arms, and hold your breath, and always trust your cape."

The Cape by Guy Clark