A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Summer Wind is Blowing In!

It's been busy in the garden this year. Things are growing like crazy. Our potatoes are the biggest we have ever had; at least above ground! There might not be any potatoes with all this top growth. We'll just have to wait and see. 

The tomato plants are loaded and we've been eating squash for a while. One way I like to fix the squash is to saute it with some sliced onions (also from the garden) in olive oil and then serve on top of cooked pasta.

We've had a lot of bugs this year. Huge grasshoppers and lots of katydids. I got some fly traps to try and keep the flies down around the longhorns pen. We've been spraying Woodrow and Gus also. They don't much care for it and it takes patience, but they will eventually stand still while you spray them. More or less.

I saw this huge 7" walking stick bug yesterday by the pump house. I think it's the biggest one I've ever seen! 

One day there was a buzzard in the garden and I went out to investigate. He was after a dead snake that had gotten tangled in some bird netting and died. It was a western coach whip about 5 feet long.

Baby turkeys are back this year! With the drought last year there weren't any babies on our place. Three hens and their babies have been coming to the milo I throw out every day. We also had a couple of quail in the pasture. It has been almost 20 years since we had quail!

The year we bought our place my Dad gave me an old restaurant style double sink. It was on wobbly legs that were welded on. We thought at one time that we might use it as an outside sink, but plans changed on that. I wanted to keep it because it reminded me of my Dad. So one day I kicked the welds lose and removed the legs, painted it, and planted it with native deer-resistant plants. 

I have always been madly in love with old enamel top tables. If I had room I would have a dozen of them! Since I don't, I only have two. Neither is on the original base. One is on an old sewing machine base and has been on the back porch since we built the cabin. The other used to be my desk. It has lately just been stored in the woodshed. I took it out the other day and put it on the back porch to use for a plant stand.

The Spring wildflowers have given way to Summer wildflowers. One of the prettiest is a type of bee balm called Horse Mint. It grows in clumps about 2 feet tall. During a wet year a while back we gathered some seeds from some plants and scattered them on our place. We forgot all about them and this year they came up and surprised us! 

Rickie and I took a day off from gardening and cedar cutting to float down the river this week. It was beautiful and we beat the holiday crowd coming in. Life is good!

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it." Russel Baker

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Times They Are A'Changing

The world is changing and that is not always a bad thing. A generation that grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars, with a universe inhabited by strange and fabulous beings, does not bat an eye at a human that is a different color or has a different preference in a life partner than what used to be considered acceptable. Why would they? Society has evolved over the thousands of years of human life and it will continue to evolve. As it should. Who among us wants to go back and live in the dark ages, even the relatively recent dark ages? Each generation leaves their mark behind in moving us along to a greater understanding of our fellow beings. (Photo - Famous blues club Antone's and newer Frost Bank Tower behind it in Austin, Texas)

The original Star Trek series came out when I was in high school. Before that there were stories and ideas of rockets and space travel. But Star Trek brought it to life for us. It showed an acceptance of other life forms as a given, not as a bold and brave idea by a portion of the human race. As the original series was followed by the next generation of space travelers, more and more beings from other places were incorporated into the crew. All adding to the richness of an ever expanding universe. And all being accepted as “normal” and “natural” by the humans in the series and those following it.

Before Star Trek, the cowboy and the mountain man was our hero, boldly going where no “white” man had gone before. He came into contact with humans of a different color and a different lifestyle. In order for both societies to survive, they had to evolve into a common society that was different than either of the separate ones had been before. Some things were lost and some were gained. But things had to change in order for both to survive. 

(Photo - From a time gone by, a braid of hair used as a handle for a piece of ceramic vase. I found this on our property and we are still trying to find the pieces of the vase.)

As we could look back upon these times with hindsight, the character of many of these men going west, and the men they met, was rewritten in books and movies to make them seem more noble than they were. This was regrettable because we should look at things as they were and not clean them up. It was what it was, and it should be taught that way in history class. 

But in another way it showed, I think, that we wished it had been different. We wished the cultures had been more accepting of each other and not distrustful and hateful to others because they were different. By going into the future with Star Trek and Star Wars, we were able to create humans and a universe as we wanted it to be. Where our opinion of other beings was based on their behavior and we never even seemed to notice if they had a big ridged forehead or were covered with fur.

Society is now evolving, as it always has, and some people find that hard to accept. They want to hang on to a way of life as they know it and as they believe it to be right. They often say things like well, our forefathers wanted it this way. But our forefathers lived in a different world then. What worked for them doesn’t always work for us. Some of the things they did horrify us today, such as slavery, burning people at the stake, and making people of color use a different restroom. We can’t go back to that time, and most of us would surely not want to.

(Photo - Will my youngest grandchild Bixby, in the photo with me, see as many changes in his lifetime as my grandmother saw in hers?)

I look out my back window this morning and Woodrow and Gus are lying down in the sun on the side of the hill. They are about 30 yards apart facing each other and their heads nod as they nap after a night of grazing. For them, life appears unchanged from 100 years ago. As a person enthralled with the cowboy image of the 1800s, I love this picture I see of them. This glimpse of a way of life mostly gone now. But out here in the Texas Hill Country, and in other parts of the country, we can have some of the good parts of that life still, without having the bad parts of it. (This photo is of Rickie and Gus and Woodrow a couple of years back.)

And while we may mourn for a way of life lost, remembering the good and forgetting the bad, we can’t stop time. It marches on. 

“It’s your world now, use well your time, be part of something good, leave something good behind. The curtain falls, I take my bow, that’s how it’s meant to be, it’s your world now.” Eagles 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man

Thirty-one years ago today the 28 year old boy from Mississippi with no prior experience with kids married the 31 year old single mom with two half grown sons. And so their story began.

If he could have seen the life that lay ahead for him, the hardships and the heartaches, the sacrifices he would be called upon to make, he might have turned around and headed the other way the day he walked into the office and the young woman asked him what he wanted in his coffee.

But he came to love her with the kind of love that charges head-on into the fray. The kind of love that runs deep beneath the surface. The kind of love that sticks.

There were challenges from the start as with most blended families. The boys were past the age where the man raising them could have complete influence on the men they would grow up to be. He faced the usual resentment of a person that is put into a position of being a parent to kids who don’t think they need another parent. He started off trying to be a father and learned as time went by that he would have to create a new position in their lives for himself. He would not be accepted as “the father”. He would have to become “the step-father”. This acceptance hit him hard but he was always one to face reality and so he tried to rewrite what being a step-father meant and he learned on the job.

He made mistakes as he went and he grieved over them. As he grew older he wished, as most parents do, that he had done this different, or that different. But there were many things outside his control as any step-parent knows. He is in a position of responsibility with not much power. Sort of like a Vice-President.

Financially, things were hard. Overnight the young man was supporting a family of four, soon to be five. There was very little financial support from the boys’ father. He sent enough each month to feed them for two weeks. Everything else, including a home, furniture, clothes, school supplies, and out of pocket medical expenses were paid for by the step-father. He took on the role of father without the title of father.  

He worked in the oilfield. Oil prices hit rock bottom and the oilfield collapsed. One after another job was lost as companies closed. He always found another job. He faced stress over financial worries that he kept from the kids as much as he could. Sometimes they had to move and it wasn’t always an easy move or one they wanted. But he did what he had to do to support the family. He bore the burden of knowing he had to make some moves that were not popular among the kids. He felt at times that he had failed them.

A baby daughter was soon born to the struggling young couple. She was a lot like her father and a lot like her mother. He taught her to be strong and to speak up and say what she thought. He taught her to pick herself up after a fall; that there is nothing you can’t recover from; that sometimes you have to be your own hero. He taught her to think for herself and to question established beliefs. They often argued over things and the mother was the only one that realized they did this because they were so alike. When the daughter grew up and was on her own he knew the pride in how strong she had become and admitted to her that he could not have done all she did at the age she was; that he would have given up.

The boys grew up and left home almost as soon as they graduated high school. They faced challenges of their own. Through it all they were responsible and worked hard for their families. The step-father was proud of them and all they accomplished. Like him, they are family men and this guides them in all they do.

Time went by and the young man, now older, knew the love of grandchildren. The unique relationship that skips a generation and that relies more on love than responsibility. The joy of seeing a 5 year old grin with delight at pulling a carrot out of the grandfather’s garden and declare to him that she wants to be a farmer when she grows up. The lunch date with a grown-up granddaughter to celebrate her birthday and to see how the baby girl he had read to had grown up to be strong and independent. Taking a grandson hunting and teaching him about wildlife and a person’s responsibility toward it and working on the ranch with him and sitting around the campfire. Teaching young grandsons the Texas tradition of washer pitching and hearing about the technical things they do without understanding always what they are talking about but marveling at it all the same. Talking with a young great-grandson and seeing how strong and responsible the grandson is that is raising him. Holding a new baby grandson in his arms and seeing some of his and his daughter’s face reflected back at him. Hosting family gatherings with his famous fajitas and leading everyone on a shopping trip across the border and a tube float down a clear Texas river.

He taught the young mom he married to always stand up for herself and that she had much to be proud of in herself. He could look at her, a bandana keeping her hair from her face as she gardens and works outside, with dirt on her hands and knees, and see a beautiful person. He taught her that being strong and independent was to be valued more than lipstick and nice shoes. He taught her that people will not always like her, maybe not even her own children at times, but that she can only control herself, not everyone else, not even those she loves most. He taught her she has value and no matter if she stands all alone in this life, she can stand with pride in the person she is and the life she has led.

This Mississippi boy is my husband and this family is mine. Thank you for these 31 years, Rickie, and for the life we live. Happy Anniversary. I love you.