The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, and in this case it really was greener.
I took a trip to Mason this week to check out the antique shops there. I am in love with metal advertising signs and wanted to see what they had. I also need some old turned table legs because one day I am going to turn an old door my dad gave me into a table.
Mason County has fields piled with gigantic pink granite boulders. In these places it looks as if you landed on another planet. It is also the only county in Texas where blue topaz, the state gemstone, is found. Most importantly, it is home to Old Yeller, whose creator Fred Gipson, grew up there.
I made an unexpected discovery while on the square downtown. My neighbors had told me The Square Plate Café had great food. We’ve always gone to another café there and so I thought I would check out the Square Plate. I was happily surprised when I found out this is the old Engel’s Deli from Fredericksburg. It closed a few years ago and I was sad to see it go. That was the first place Sarah and I ever went to eat in Fredericksburg many years ago and it was always my favorite. A friend from Ingram took us there and it is part of that memory in my heart of “first trip to Fredericksburg ”.
I didn’t go to the Texas Hill Country growing up. My family came from Louisiana and we lived in the Houston area always after we moved to Texas. My family felt no draw to the dry country I love. We were from a state of wetlands, swamps, deep piney woods, and an abundance of green. The Houston area provided all these things.
That trip to Fredericksburg was part of my first visit to the Hill Country and I have not been the same since then. There was a time when I would have moved to Mississippi or to Toledo Bend Lake on the Louisiana-Texas border or any number of places closer to my roots. But once I went to the Hill Country all that changed.
Rickie brought us here when Sarah was 4 years old. He was going on a hog hunt on the famous YO Ranch with a guide he had become friends with through his job. We stayed at their house on a hill overlooking the town of Ingram. I was in love immediately. The trip to Fredericksburg solidified my love affair with the hills and the dry climate and the old stone buildings the early German settlers built.
The twisted live oaks, low humidity, the early fall breezes, the abundance of wildlife, the big sky, the hills, the rocks, and the clear waters all drew me in.
The morning we got up to head back home to Lafayette, where we were living at the time, it was a crisp clear 55 degrees. Before we even made it to Houston it was 92 and humid. I knew then I was never going to be happy living in a wet humid climate. We set our goal to have a place here one day. That was in 1986. In 1989 we purchased our place. Because of our jobs we have not been able to live here full time. But every chance we got, every holiday weekend, almost every vacation we have spent here.
Of my generation in my family, I am the only one that feels this draw to a dry climate, this focus on being here no matter what. And yet even I have been longing for some greenery. Last year’s drought took its toll on everything, including me. We’ve had more rainfall this year, but when you start with dirt, it takes a long time for the land to recover. Experts say it takes at least two years. And they’re being overly optimistic, in my opinion.
Mason has had more rainfall than we have and I was pleasantly surprised to see how green it was there. The temperature was a little cooler that day and it was beautiful. The antique shops close down for lunch and as I waited for them to reopen I walked down the sidewalk on the square.
One house was in town. It was a rock house and the outside walls were amazing! They were stone, big fossils, and petrified wood. It had a guest house and was on an acre with room for a garden and even goats or chickens. It was within walking distance of the square with antique shops, cafes, and an old theater that offers not only movies but entertainment from the likes of Asleep At The Wheel and Marcia Ball. It is perfect for my sister if only she would agree and buy it! Then we could stay with her when we go to Mason to see Marcia Ball.
The other house was full-blown, pure-dee Texas history. It was built in 1870. Mr. Favor and Rowdy were driving longhorns up the trail then. The original two rooms were thick stone walls with window wells a foot deep and high ceilings. There was a separate stone guest house and stone steps leading to a cellar. (The photo is of the guest house and cellar.) There were old outbuildings. It was a piece of Texas history from when Germans settled in the area. It was on three acres a mile from town and I was in love with it. There were big pecan trees and the grass was green. The current owners had a sprinkler going to keep it that way and apparently a well strong enough to do that.
Rickie and I actually tossed around the idea of moving to this house. Or more accurately, I tossed it around and he tossed it around because he knows I love old houses and he knows it is sometimes lonely out here in the Wild West with him working out of town, even for a gal who likes to be alone. But there were some drawbacks. There was no caliche there and we both love caliche, even the smell of it. (When I worked in Houston I kept a jar of it on my desk to smell when I was homesick for the ranch.) There was no place to cut firewood. There were no woods to go for walks in. No rocks, fossils, and Clovis points to find. No twisted live oaks. No cedar. No cliff overlooking the draw. No place to study nature and the history of the land. There were no families of wild turkeys in the yard (although they did have a chicken house and hens!). There were no does and fawns at the water tanks. No close place to go tubing with the grandkids. No place to hunt; no Shotgun Ridge and no Ten-Point Gap. There was no cabin that we had helped build with our own hands. No swing from Sarah’s childhood. No places for Bixby to follow in Sarah’s footsteps. No memories.
In the end, I realized that it is not only going to take two years for the land to recover from the drought, it is going to take me two years to recover. It’ll rain again and we’ll see grass green here. Rickie will retire and together we’ll cut some cedar and on some Saturday nights we’ll drive to Mason and Marcia Ball will play the hell out of her piano and Ray Benson will drive his Daddy to drinking because of that hotrod Lincoln. And if Kathy has bought that house, we’ll spend the night with her. And if she hasn’t, we’ll drive back under the stars big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Back home, where the grass is always greener. Even when it’s brown.