A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Shaving Kit

All the years I have known Rickie he has always kept a shaving kit stocked with everything you would find in your home bathroom. He had to go on trips for work occasionally, and family visits, and of course, hunting trips. He never wanted to pack the things he would need each time and forget something, so he just kept it up to date. Shaving stuff, Advil, shampoo, toothbrush, the usual stuff everyone needs.

Years ago, he would always try the latest men's high priced fragrance, often ones the kids and I got him for Christmas. But 10 or 15 years ago he gave up on those and stuck with Aqua Velva Ice Blue. Cheap and available at the grocery store. When he was here at the ranch he never shaved unless we were going to a friends' house for dinner or maybe to the Odeon Theater in Mason to hear Jimmie Dale Gilmore or Ruthie Foster sing. He always said when he retired he was going to grow a beard and a ponytail. A little bit redneck, a little bit hippie, the yin and yang of him.

He bought a new shaving kit a while back, camo patterned. I keep in in the closet. It has his hairbrush with the gray strands of his hair in it. The whole thing smells of Aqua Velva. Sometimes I open it and get a whiff of his fragrance; the only physical manifestation of him I have left. It makes me feel like I've been kicked in the stomach and I can't breathe. But still I do it anyway, seized, as Seth Walker says, by exquisite hurt. 

And I wonder will all the rest of my days be like this, moments of happiness but always offset by these moments of intense pain. Will that be the yin and yang of me.

It's been almost four months and I've not made it through a day without tears yet, but maybe that's not a long time in dealing with loss. Rickie had this song on his iPod and played it for me a while back; said it was a good song.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Winter Visitors

The Three Amigos have been hanging out at the milo feeder for the last couple of hours. Every once in a while one of the gobblers stops eating long enough to display but it's a half-hearted attempt. It's just too cold! It's in the 20's and not expected to get above freezing today. 

The turkeys have been showing up off and on the last few weeks. A group of about 16 hens, one of 9 or 10 jakes, and today these 3 gobblers. Sometimes a group of 5 gobblers stops by. So far the gobblers don't seem to show up when the ladies are here. 

For about 3 weeks now, a beautiful 10-point buck has been at the deer feeder every afternoon at 5:00 when it goes off. He returns every day. I've not seen a buck his size hang around as much as he has. I know the rut's over and apparently he knows hunting season is over. But still it's unusual for one that size to be as visible. Or that's been my experience out here of watching them all these years.

One of his tines is broken off on the end. The does were bothered by his presence a little at first but now they mostly ignore him and he ignores them. It's the corn he's after. We haven't had any rain this month, only a trace of moisture from some ice last week. There's not a lot to eat.  Most of the hunters only feed during hunting season so our feeder is in high demand. We feed year round.

While the does respect him, the bossy doe, and there's always one or two around, give the spikes and 4-pointers hell.  I watched one yesterday jump and paw at the 4-pointer and run him off again and again. 

Tougher Than Leather has survived the season. She's gotten a bit more sure of herself and the does don't try to run her off so much. One afternoon the 10-pointer was on one side of the feeder eating and she was on the other. They stood there 2 feet apart, each respecting the other's right to be there. For some reason, it made me happy seeing her there next to him, being accepted by the group. 

Rickie had warned me if she came into heat a buck would cause her pain; they can be brutal and with her only having one back leg to stand on, she would be hurt. But if she was, she's survived it. Time will tell if she is pregnant. I've no doubt that she's got the kind of bloodline that needs to be passed on. The survival gene is strong in her. 
(This photo is an 8-pointer that stopped by in December.)

The bucks will soon be dropping their antlers and since he's hanging around here, I'm hoping my daily visitor will drop his where I can find one of them. I've only found one dropped antler in all the walks I've taken out here. They don't last too long with squirrels and mice nibbling on them and they're hard to find. 

I had a very unusual visitor drop by a couple of weeks ago. We are a long way from a river, pond, or marsh so imagine my surprise when I saw this heron in the driveway! He hopped over the garden fence and onto the little tank that has a water lily and a couple of small goldfish. All the tanks have goldfish and they've been hibernating down at the bottom and in some concrete blocks we have for them. I watched this guy for about 30 minutes, waiting for him to make a move, then I gave up. I don't know if he got the fish or not. I'll know when the weather warms and they resurface. Or not.

One morning walking to the front gate last week a fox ran across the driveway in front of me. He stopped to stare at me, and I at him, then slipped quietly through the cross fence. Last night the buck stopped and met my eyes when he saw me at the window. There is something that passes between you and a wild animal at that moment when you stand still and look into each other's eyes. There's an equality about it that has no owner/pet, master/servant, stronger/weaker component to it. These are not my animals, nor am I theirs. They share this land with me and I with them. They don't depend on me to live, but they accept the corn and milo I put out for them. In return, they visit me and sometimes they stop and acknowledge me. Quid pro quo, country style.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Like a Coat From the Cold

I don't mean to turn the blog into a sad chronicle of my loss, but one of the reasons I started it was to write things to share with my family. So indulge me today, please, as I talk of grandfathers, grandmothers, and uncles long gone.

Great-grandfather Roberts, a former Justice of the Peace in Illinois, wrote a letter to his daughter Hattie when her 24 year old son Gene was killed in Korea at Heartbreak Ridge. I don't find the majority of it comforting as he mostly just says, don't cry, it's worse when you lose a spouse, god's will, etc. If I ever lost a child, especially to violence, and someone told me it was god's will, they better duck because I'm fixing to punch them in the face. And I mean that sincerely.

But it has a sadness when he talks about losing his wife that I can now understand. He says "you stand alone, your life shattered, with the wreck all around you and you do not know which way to turn. I have had that experience and only I know the loneliness. She is in heaven and there Gene finds her and is gathered with those who have gone before....
I am writing you this sitting by the fire in the kitchen this cold, rainy Sunday, and living over the past 60 years since I first met our Mama. I am an old man, and I have left the rest of my life in the hands of my god, knowing that when I have finished my mission, I will receive my reward, and there is entire peace between us."

While my beliefs on the ways of the universe are different than his, today I find his comments like a big hug from a grandfather that I knew only vaguely when I was a very young girl and he was a very old man.

And as I write this sitting by the fire in my kitchen this cold, icy Monday, and living over the past 34 years since I first met Rickie, I feel a connection with Grandpa Roberts. And it comforts me, as much as I can be comforted today. This "blog post" of his from 1953.

And I marvel at how I've saved this letter all these years since Grandma Hattie gave it to me back in the 1960s. A letter written on his J.P. stationery, with his office phone number of 474 and home phone number of 1008 in the top corners. It's survived every downsizing and move I've made to surface this morning.

Some things can't be explained and people need to stop trying to make up stories to explain them; it's not necessary. Some things just are. I've walked with sadness this morning and Grandpa Roberts has come to walk with me. And it warms and comforts me, as Guy Clark says, like a coat from the cold.

Like A Coat From the Cold by Guy Clark

Friday, February 13, 2015

Prickly Pear - the Good, the Bad, and the Heart of It

People not familiar with the kind of country we live in used to always ask what we were going to do when we retired. I always told them Rickie was going to cut cedar and I was going to dig up prickly pear.

I decided today was a good day to work on my end of that. We have some open areas between the cabin and the road and the prickly pear is out of control there. I like prickly pear. It has beautiful flowers and my favorite jelly is made with the fruit, although you have to work hard for it. It provides food for wildlife and Woodrow and Gus will nibble on it in a pinch. But it's one of those things that if you give it an inch it takes a mile.

I was having a day of rough moments. I really don't have days that are rough; I have moments. I learned many years ago to appreciate the little things and I can have moments of happiness in all but the darkest of days. If you can't find peace and joy in the world around you - in a little crippled doe that keeps on going, the tiny yellow bloom on an indescript cactus, an early morning snowfall, the way the late afternoon sun lights up the hills - then it might be harder for you to find that peace. But it's always there for me. I just have to get out in it.

It got up to 81 degrees today. Perfect for digging prickly pear. I started outside the yard gate and worked for about 3 hours. The boys had nibbled the grass as close to the pear as they could. When pickin's are slim like now they show up with cactus spines in their faces. I freed up some grass where I dug the pear out and they headed straight to that when I left. Then they moved over to the area where I dump the pear out and examined that. Curiosity is a character trait of theirs and they notice anything different in their world.

There's a little bug called a cochineal that lives on prickly pear. You can tell it's there when you see white cottony clumps on the pads. If you smash the bug you'll end up with a bright red color on your fingertips. This is used to make a red dye and it colors food and makeup. It was used by indigenous people in Mexico and by the Spaniards to dye clothes. I like seeing it and knowing its story. I like knowing that people long dead found uses for it in their lives and that it's still around. It's a survivor and I like survivors.

This heart shaped pad was lying on the ground where I was working. The boys had chomped it off recently and left it right where I happened to be today. Their Valentine to me.

I wonder sometimes if they miss Rickie. I'm not sure what they comprehend. They are smart observant animals very aware of their surroundings. If they notice a few prickly pear dug up and moved surely they notice the absence of their friend. The one who stood at the fence and rubbed their noses and horns, speaking softly to them. They know their names and they know their routines and they come when you ring the bell on the shed.

And apparently they know Valentine's Day is this week.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Rickie

Today is Rickie's birthday; he would have been 62. Once again I'm letting him write the post for me. Here's what he had to say about hunting the family home place in Mississippi:

"When I hunted behind our home I would usually sit at the base of the same tree every time in different areas. Over the years I became attached to these trees and areas. I knew them so well; I could walk in and out in the dark with very little help from a flash light. After I left home and was living in Lafayette Louisiana I returned to hunt one season. It had been last year since I had been in the woods. I got in on a Friday night and got up the next morning to walk into the woods before sunrise. I walked through the fields of dew laden ragweed and through the grown up forest and fields. The whole time I was walking, smelling the familiar smells, I couldn't help but think how I should have come a few weekends earlier to scout the property. I finally reached the first rise in the land indicating the beginning of a hill. Then I located the old run down fence; turning left I followed it up the hill looking for one of my favorite trees to sit under. This was a White Oak tree in one of my favorite hunting spots. These old trees over many hunts become your friends. You get attached to them over time. They keep the demands in your mind from approaching you from your back. They shelter you from a soft rain and give your back much needed support. And sometimes you can get a feeling of being attached to the earth through these trees.This is a feeling I can't explain but it exists. When you find these trees walking through the woods at night they are like a lighthouse in the middle of a dark ocean. As I followed the fence line up the hill my heart seemed to stop. The old tree had blown over and was dead. It was if I had lost a friend. The spot was not the same; the feeling of despair was almost indescribable. I never hunted that spot again, sadly the days of hunting the home place were coming to an end.
Before I left home for good, I became quite accomplished at still hunting. I always felt I could take a gun and walk on to a piece of property and find a deer to kill. I felt I was a hunter and not shooters like so many people are today."

Rickie still liked to go to the woods and sit with his back to a tree.  There is a big cedar back on Shotgun Ridge behind the cabin. Under it are some gray boulders just made for sitting and he would often go back there and sit a while. That's were we spread his ashes last Saturday, as family and friends gathered around to honor him and toast him with his beverage of choice, Crown Royal. My brother Andy sang Blue Shadows on the Trail, a song Rickie turned on every time we got on our road, back when we used to drive out together with Sarah on Friday evenings. The big draw is below and when we get a heavy rain water rushes down it past the ridge. There are walnuts, elms, oaks, and cedars there. The wind blows softly and in the Spring birds shelter in the cool branches and sing their love songs and in the Fall the leaves turn red and yellow.

I can't think of a better place or one that would have suited him better. 

Rest in peace, Rickie, and wait for me down the trail.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Where the Women are Strong and the Men are Good Looking

If you piled up all the hardship this group of women has faced, it would make a mountain. We've lost husbands, moms, dads, babies, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, and friends. We've dealt with Alzheimer's, physical and mental abuse, war, lost jobs, lost homes, bad marriages, divorce, broken hearts, and broken bodies. We've started over more times than we care to admit.

If Bixby could see down the road for us all with those binoculars he's looking through, I shudder to think what he might see ahead for us.

We've survived it all by standing side by side, just as we are in the photo. One leaning on the other. When we need help, all we have to do is place a call to one and all coming running. As they did this weekend, and the past weeks, for me and my kids. Along with a whole group of others that didn't make the photo and a group of men that love strong women.

This group is strong. Rickie knew he could count on them to get us down the road. He was right. He knew a bunch of badasses when he saw them.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Things I Like

Rick was writing what I called "his book" and he called his "observations". He said if anyone ever wanted to know what he really thought they could read it when he was gone. He never shared it with me, just let me know where it was. I'm still going through it and some of it I won't ever share and some will offend some people, I imagine, since he was often more honest than people like. Today he is my guest blogger with the following words he wrote.

Things I like:

I have always liked the evening more than the morning. It is my favorite time of day because it has represented to me relief from the events of the day. The sunrise is a sign that work is about to begin.

I like to smell and taste a fresh peach in the summer. 

I like the taste of a home grown tomato in the summer.

I like to see my children and grandchildren smile.

I like to sip good whiskey at the end of a long day.

I like to get out of my vehicle after a very long drive.

I like to smell the air in the Texas Hill Country.

I like to look at the stars on a cool night at our ranch.  

I like a garden.

I like sitting around a camp fire with good company. 

I like being inside our cabin on a cold and wet winter night.

I like a Texas Hill Country river. 

I like the anticipation of and the beginning of fall and spring.  

I like observing nature.

I like doing things with Sue.

I like looking into Sue’s eyes.

And the following he wrote about our daughter, who has her birthday today. Happy birthday, Sari, with love, from Dad.

She is strong willed, a reader and writer thanks to her mother. She is now a mother as well. She is a lot stronger than she thinks she is. I wish I had spent more time with her. I’m proud of her!

So tonight if you're able, go sit around a campfire or by the fireplace and sip some whiskey. And think about those both here still and those gone from us, the ones you love and the ones that love you, the smiles of your children and grandchildren. It's gonna be a cold and wet winter night here so I'll be inside our cabin. Sipping whiskey and hoping that 2015 is kinder to us than 2014 was.