Friday, September 19, 2014
Sunday, September 14, 2014
We made it to Junction at 2 a.m. We didn't want to take it out to our place in the dark so we pulled into the parking lot of a little cafe on the interstate and waited until daylight. The temp was in the 30's so every so often Rick started the Bronco and ran the heater. Sarah was 7 years old and she slept on the back seat, covered with blankets and stuffed animals. Rick and I reclined our seats and snoozed off and on. There were a few truckers stopped to rest in the big caliche lot and they came and went all night.
Finally, the first weak light of morning appeared. We walked across the parking lot to the cafe and ordered some biscuits and gravy. Then we headed out to our place with our travel trailer!
The camper needed more work than we could ever give it but we started immediately making it something we could stay in. Rick patched the holes in the floor, walls, and ceiling. I painted some of the walls, gave up on that idea, and cleaned the rest of the walls and the ceilings with bleach. The camper had come from a humid environment and there was a lot of mildew.
We pulled the screens out and stapled new ones in. I painted the cabinets, we put in a hot water heater and air conditioning window unit. We furnished it and supplied it. It had some Old West themed curtains in some of the windows. I lined them to help keep out the heat and cold and made curtains for the windows that didn't have any.
We never imagined we would be using the camper as living quarters out here for 15 years but it ended up that way. Over the years Rick probably put 55 gallons of sealant on the roof, or so it seemed! He rewired the whole trailer, did some plumbing work, and we made many a trip to town each time we came out because something always needed fixing. Duck tape became part of our decor.
Some things were never fixed and I kept the bottom kitchen cabinets closed against the scary things I imagined I would find there! But it enabled us to stay at our place where before we had to stay at a motel in town.
We could have campfires, watch the stars for hours, spy on the animals that came up to the water trough after dark, get in out of the weather, snuggle under the blankets as we listened to cassette tapes of Louis L'Amour books, and plan for the day when we would have a little cabin.
And as soon as we had the cabin completed enough to stay in, we gave the little 1968 travel trailer, our refuge for 15 years, to the cabin contractor for his hunting camp.
But the old camper inspired in us a love for tiny travel trailers, ones that could actually be traveled in, that would let us go see some of the wild places we wanted to explore and some places not so wild. A little place we could feel at home in, with some of our own things, a place to make coffee in the morning, and sit by a fire at night. A tiny tiny home on wheels that we could take on adventures.
And so a few weeks ago the tiny 15' Starcraft camper with the off-road package made its way to the tiny ranch with the tiny cabin and the tiny bunkhouse.
We're unsure of a name for the her yet, but for the time being I'm calling her Bernie Ann, a combo of our middle names.
We've cozied her up with some pillows and throws and some old travel postcards from the 1940's and 1970's. I attached some old camping photos of our families to a cane pole Rick brought from Mississippi.
And so we've come full circle; where we once sat in the camper planning the cabin, we now sit in the cabin, planning our first trip in the little camper.
"The mountains are calling and I must go." John Muir
Friday, July 11, 2014
When the little yearling walks it's almost painful to watch. Her injured back leg gives her a strange rolling gait. We don't know what happened to break the tendons in that leg so that she can't use it. We suspect she got it caught in a fence, a fate too common out here.
She stays by herself now. Most of the deer do this time of year except for the moms and babies. At the feeder when the corn is thrown out in the evening one of the bigger bossy does runs her off. She's learned to make the rounds looking for some supplement to what nature offers. From deer corn feeder to turkey milo feeder to the longhorns' pen looking for leftover feed and alfalfa, she moves in a circle outside the yard.
I've named her Tougher Than Leather after a Willie Nelson song about a gunslinger. Things are dry again out here so it's getting harder to find something to eat. But she perseveres. And when she has to she runs. Unlike her walk, her run is smooth and fluid and she's not diminished by her imperfections.
My brother David is the only sibling older than me. Being the older siblings we were the first ones to drive, the first ones to leave home, the first ones to fall and the first ones to learn to pick ourselves up after that fall.
David joined the Navy after high school. After his discharge he married and raised a family. He worked as a carpenter, moving from doing trim work on houses to working on massive concrete buildings. He spent his spare time working on his home and yard. His vacations were spent at the beach where he and his family joined friends and spent a week each summer. He loved to fish with our dad, brothers, and cousins. Life was good.
And then came the fall. He started having grand mal seizures. He suffered from short term memory loss. He would get in the truck and not remember where he worked or lived. He had to quit working and driving. Eventually he moved in with my parents and lived there for years until our mom went into a nursing home.
Scared but determined to carry on, he then moved into an apartment near his family. We went by to take him to the store, out to eat, bring him things he couldn't go out and get on his own. We took him to visit our Mama and to family fish fries and to the beach.
His ways of coping weren't always conducive to improved health. But we saw the fear and confusion in his eyes as he more and more lost control of his life, of his memory, of his ability to get by without help. But he lived the time he had in the fullest way he was able to and that is all any of us can do.
Gradually his health went from bad to worse. He suffered injuries from falls taken when he had the seizures. Always slim, he became frail and weak. Diagnosed a couple of months ago with bladder cancer he entered the hospital and a couple of weeks ago he went home to his son's house and into hospice care. His daughter returned from overseas with her little son to join her brother and his sons in caring for their father and grandfather.
No one knows what happens to us when we pass from this life. Sure, preachers and others claim to but they don't. All I'm sure of is it isn't like I learned in Sunday School as a child, however comforting that idea may be.
But I'm pretty sure wherever David is now, he has persevered. And his run is smooth and fluid and he's not diminished by his imperfections.
He too is tougher than leather.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
There were two babies in the nest but a few days ago I noticed a third tiny head appear. The one born later, the last egg to hatch.
He almost fell off a couple of times. Not quite ready to let go of his safety net, he flapped his wings and held on, reminding me of when I was a kid learning to swim and didn't want to let go of the side of the pool. Eventually he made the leap! He flew straight to a window screen, held there for a couple of minutes, then took off! It got awful quiet on the porch.
A little bit later I heard the craziest racket outside so I went to go see what everyone was in an uproar about. A squirrel, some titmouses, the Oriole parents, a Scrub Jay, and some cowbirds were all squawking at the top of their lungs, flying in and out toward the cenizo bushes. I went over and they all moved back and got quiet. At least one of the baby birds was in the cenizo.
I wanted to scoop him up and take him back to the nest. Squirrels and jays sometimes kill baby birds. He needed a few more days in the nest. He's so small and the world is so big.
I've watched the little family's progress for weeks and I've got a lot invested in them. How does something so fragile survive in such a big and scary world.
But I don't take him. And I can't kill all the things that might do him harm. I back away and leave him where he is. I have to trust the system even though it fails as often as not.
It's been several hours now since the two orioles flew off into the world. I went out and checked a couple of times and I don't see any sign of them or their parents. I hope they are safe. I hope the parents don't desert the last baby in trying to keep the older two safe.
There needs to be a halfway house for baby birds!
Here's a little video of the firstborn.
The Firstborn and Dad just before he left
"A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange sun's rays
and dares to claim the sky."
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
In the little cabin there is only room for two TV-watching chairs. A Papa Bear chair and a Mama Bear chair. (The Baby Bears have to crash on the bed, the floor, or sit at the island.) Naturally, these two chairs have to be comfy. Neither of them are.
The seat in the rocker needs to be totally remade and I've talked to an upholsterer about this. He said to get some material and bring it to him (turn at the corner store, go 6 miles, turn right, go 3 miles until you get to the green dumpster, turn left) and he'll fix 'er right up. In my area there doesn't appear to be an upholsterer who handles the material part also; you are on your own for that.
The chair is old, the little cabin is cedar, my ranching county is on the edge of West Texas, and I need to honor all these things in the choice of materials. Plus the chair belongs to Rick and it has to be somewhat manly. I drove into Kerrville today to pick out material from the interior design shop. This seems to be the only place in town with a big choice of material. So big, it's almost overwhelming.
But I've got in mind what I want, at least for the seat. I had recovered it in a vinyl that looks like tooled leather and we like that and you can sit on it if you're a little dusty. I told the young designer that I wanted tooled leather for the seat and a different material for the back. She kind of sighed and went to the closet. She pulled out some fabric with a tooled leather print. I told her that wasn't sturdy enough and asked her if she could order some leather for me. She said no.
She said it's a regional thing and the manufacturers don't carry it. I told her I was sure it was at least a western thing, not just Texas, and it would seem like someone would carry it.
In Montana and Wyoming and probably Colorado I'm guessing there are some people sitting on tooled leather at this very moment.
She sighed again and began to look through a couple of her books to see what else she had. No leathers, tooled or untooled.
Shaking her head sadly and not wanting to look at me, she said the problem is "it's a trend and it's not trending right now."
With that statement she pretty much summed up the tooled leather, the old rocker, and me. She said I should try to find someone with a cow hide and get someone to tool it for me. I had been dismissed and so I left.
I headed to the feed store where milo and Beefmaker are always trending. The man that waited on me had on a cowboy hat and boots. The kid that loaded the feed had on a gimme cap and boots. Pickup trucks were in the parking lot and the hay barn was full of the smell of fresh coastal bales.
I took the back roads home, past the RV park where a dozen full size Texas flags fly along the fence line. I passed several working windmills and some pastures with horses and cattle in them. More than one stone house over 100 years old was on my route. The creeks I crossed flowed along limestone eons old. The hills and Spanish Skirt formations that overlooked the road showed no sign of being new to the area.
I figured the last trendy thing my county had seen was when goat wire replaced barbed wire. We are old out here, the land, the rocks, the animals, the people. There is a sense that what you see today someone else saw 100, even 1000 years ago. It's a land that endures. It endures drought, fires, and occasionally a flood along the rivers and creeks.
We don't do trends.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Before two years were up the economy would collapse and we would be called back to Houston. I was to live the last 4 months before I retired in a little stone motel on the main street in Boerne, trying to finish out my job. Two weeks after I got back to Houston my mom entered the hospital, then a nursing home where she lived with Alzheimer's for a year and a half.
But we didn't know any of that at the time and we were happy to be together, eating chili by the fire at Floore's Country Store in Helotes, Texas. Life was good.
Rick, Sarah, and I had seen Raul at the Backyard in Austin some years ago. Before it moved to another location so there would be room for a shopping center. (What's up with that, Austin?) I've seen lots of musicians over my lifetime, including the Beatles twice, and I can't say anyone surpassed Raul in putting on a great show. I keep Willie, who I've seen 3 times over the years, in a separate class all his own and I never consider him in comparing entertainment value. He's like going to a retreat where you replenish your soul, much as the Beatles going to see the Maharishi.
Well, of course, after the concert, I had to download a couple of Maverick songs I didn't already have. I was listening to Better Off in Texas, with its Tejano beat, and was transported to another place and time. I hope music does that for you sometimes; I think it does for most people. Like the slamming of the screen door, the smell of freshly mowed grass, or an old black and white photo. The song mentions Floore's Country Store in Helotes.
And right back there I was, smelling the wood fire and chowing down on the chili. The great thing about it was the peaceful happy feeling I had at the time also returned. There is some kind of miracle in that. The mind making things so real you almost need a Pepcid AC for the chili burn.
The night we returned from Austin we went to drink some wine and eat some good food with our neighbors. We sat out on their porch overlooking the hills and valleys; it's a beautiful place they have. The moon was full as we drove home on the Mule, the four wheeled kind, not the four legged kind.
The caliche on the driveway reflected the moonlight back and it was as bright as day. I pulled up Dance in the Moonlight by The Mavericks on my iPhone and Rickie and I danced in the drive.
" While the whole world is sleeping, we can start anew, I want to dance in the moonlight, only with you......"
I think we'll keep this tradition up, so if you come visit while the moon is full bring your dancin' boots!
John T Floore Country Store
Monday, March 24, 2014
An added bonus to the gravel is that it makes it harder for a rattlesnake to sneak up on me!
So I got the pick and shovel out and dug some holes. I ordered a dump truck load of the same gravel we used for the outdoor kitchen area and the walkway to the bunkhouse. I moved the plants, mixing some leaf mulch in with the dirt. I removed most of the rocks that surrounded my planting beds, leaving only a few for accents.
I had enough of the gravel to cover the area in front of the bunkhouse and to make a walkway on the side of it. I was even able to put a little up under the bunkhouse porch! I also surrounded the yuccas and rosemary plants in the middle of the driveway with the gravel. By the cabin where the plants are I put cardboard under the gravel and it's several inches deep so I shouldn't have a problem with weeds. Under the cardboard I have leaf mulch, hoping this and the cardboard will improve and cool the soil.
The small birds love this little star cut into this stone. I fill it with water when I water the plants and they come take a bath in it, though they barely fit! Every thing loves a bath, especially out here in dry country. I scooped up some native horsemint that was coming up by the steps and put it in the bucket. It's a beautiful wildflower and I hope it grows.
The weather forecast for the upcoming year shows the drought across the western US only continuing. We are off to a bad start here. I'm trying to resign myself to living with that. As we say all the time, "it is what it is." Some day, but not in my lifetime, our country may wake up to the fact that we need more water in the west and less in the east, and devise a method to move it. If we want to continue to grow our own food, both plant and animal, we need to do something. No matter what you think the cause of climate change is, we need to address it and see if we can improve things.
Over time, nature makes her own adjustments. It may be that all the trees out here, both cedar and oak, need to be killed by drought in order to make the land fit the resources. A hundred years ago that was the case, with trees mostly along the draws, creeks, and rivers. It's not likely that all the landowners will be able to manage land to fit the water. People don't always have the time or money needed, and often not the knowledge. We may one day look like the high desert country around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, without the nearby mountains to provide some relief.
I love how it turned out! And even though the rainfall has been a disappointment this Spring, the birds have not been. We've had so many cardinals, finches, cedar waxwings, titmouses, rufus sparrows, flycatchers, wrens, and a beautiful vermilion flycatcher. The birdhouses have birds going in and out feeding the babies. The turkeys are back and the gobblers are showing off. A few peach blooms have survived, the potatoes are up, and the poppies and larkspurs are growing.
"We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to." Climate Silence