The cedar clearing was finished up today. Juan, the cedar fella, came back to do a little bit of hand clearing by the back walk-through gate that leads to the ridge. I left all that untouched except where the gate is.
I went back to Shotgun Ridge to talk to Rickie after Juan left. I wanted to tell him why I cleared more cedar than he would have wanted. I didn't really need to. He would know my options are limited. I couldn't do it myself; it was going to take some years of hard work for Rick and I to get it done together. And when you turn a guy loose on your place with a tractor, you're gonna get more his vision than yours. He left me buffers like I asked him to on the sides and back and across the front. And he left some big cedars just because it seemed like the thing to do. He even trimmed some up for me. So I think I got a contractor that had a feel for the land, if not just like Rickie's idea, at least not a total slash and burn guy.
I think Rickie would be happy with everything else I've done but I worried what he would think about this. I've tried to honor him by doing things the way he would have wanted. So that if he was to drive up, as I see him doing in my mind's eye many times, he would look around and say "I like what you've done to the place." My friend and neighbor Scott reminded me that 30 years ago all this wasn't here and what was here was small. So I got the photos out of the first 3 years we were here, 27 years ago. Most of the cedar here then, except the really old ones, was only a few feet high. Now, except for the few areas we were able to keep clear, it had gotten so grown up you could hardly walk over most of the place. After looking at it that way, I felt that Rickie would understand. And I appreciated Scott's kindness in reminding me of that.
Rickie never would have blamed me for not doing anything the exact way he wanted it anyway. He was realistic and he also knew that he could trust me to do the best I could. That I might not get it done exactly like he would have but I would give it my all.
But I wanted to talk it over with him so I sat a while back at Shotgun Ridge. I keep a tiny bottle of Crown back there so I can have a sip with him when I visit there. Like Augustus McCrae, he liked to sit a spell and drink some whiskey and mull over the day. The weather's been beautiful and today was no exception.
Just before Juan left I asked him to trim a couple of cedars on the fence line at the road. I'm having a gate put in there. That half of the property can only be accessed by going through the longhorns' pen and we always wanted to add a gate. The fence guy promises to be out next week.
Juan trimmed up the cedars there and he and I tossed them over the fence. After he left I drug the cut cedar out of the way. Cedar cutting by hand is hard work but Rickie and I loved to do it. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and the smells and the sunshine and the breeze - well, it's just a good way to spend the day!
This week Juan cleared a sendero for me from the new gate area all the way back to where the land starts to drop, back across from the boys' pen. It's a nice walk among tall live oaks. There is a huge live oak nearby that Rickie found many years ago. And most of the perimeter is clear now and I can drive the Mule around it. That was one thing Rickie had on his to do list so I can mark that off.
I've been working on some xeriscaping to tie the new with the old on the cabin. I put cardboard down and top it with the decomposed granite gravel. I ran out of cardboard and feed sacks so I'll have to go to town to get some.
Yesterday I cleared the dead plants from the garden. It will soon be time to plant. The new fence is supposed to be in this week, complete with two hot wires to try and keep the raccoons out.
That will complete Rickie's list of unfinished tasks as far as his little ranch goes. It's taken me a little over a year of steady hard work. When it's done I plan to sit a while on the porch and sip whiskey. And look down the twisting drive that is now cleared of cedar, wishing that Rick would show up, hay and feed piled high in the back of his pickup, big grin on his face, coming home to stay.