Friday, December 16, 2011

Last few days of the Eastern Trip!!

After Louisianna, I whizzed through the eastern part of Texas to Austin to visit an old friend. Our relationship was that of acquaintances who go back a very long distance. After high school, I lived with Becky, and after I moved out, Marcy moved in. Becky's little house, behind the pharmacy where she worked was the hang-out for all our high school friends who still lived at home while attending CU in Boulder. John, now Marcy's husband, was one of those hang-out buddies. He was the acknowledged genius of our school, and went on to invent a very cool hearing aid, as well as many electronic devices having to do with audio. He even has an Oscar for tech work in the movies. Needless to say, he's done well, and they have a home in Colorado, and a condo in Austin.

John was gone so I visited Marcy by myself. We used her I-phone to call Becky and do "face time". It was great for the three of us to hang out like we did 40 years ago. And Becky hadn't seen Marcy's condo so we gave her a visual tour, she gave us a tour of her dogs wrestling and her hubby rummaging in the closet.  We went for a short dog-walk down 6th street where there was at least one bar with a live band on every block. And good bands too! The next day we took a bus tour of Austin and ate lunch at the world's largest Whole Foods. In fact, though it's been remodeled and enlarged, I do believe it is the first Whole Foods too. What an experience. It's somewhere between a health food joint, a food court, and a grocery.

Austin was just lovely, breezy, warming up, full of walking trails and a river that is damed up into several lakes where people were out boating, running along the paths, where bats live under the bridge, and there are lots of dogs on leashes. I was sorry I'd only scheduled one day to hang out with Marcy. We had a great time together, and there is so much more to see. I would have loved to be there over a weekend and really experience the Austin night life.

On to Bandera where my aunt and uncle, Judy and Bob, have parked their RV for the winter. It claims to be the cowboy capital of Texas, if such a place might be said to exist. A cute little town with charming shops and a good Mexican restaurant where I got the first enchilada I'd had in months. Soul Food. It made my belly's heart pitter with happiness.....

RV park near Bandera, TX
I spent two days with my relatives. We drove around the area, it really is gorgeous countryside. A limestone uplift, there are ridges full of fossils, valleys, steep hills, tight curves, and small towns where the root business is apparently ranching as there is no top soil for farming. Quite a number of second home mansions dot the hilltops, but in the little towns people live in modest frame homes on quiet streets. Towns where churches seem more numerous than businesses. There are feral wild pigs that uproot gardens, dig in ponds, and terrorize the population. Years ago an entrepreneur let some African Black Antelope lose, and now the countryside is awash in those. The males are black with interesting horns that look somewhat like small moose antlers, the females are buff colored with smaller racks. Larger ranches have fenced in the beasties and they let city slickers come out and shoot them for the trophy heads (and meat too, I hope!) A few ranches also raise buffalo, kept inside with electrified fences. A concept that reminds me of Jurassic Park. I think the buffalo stay there because there's not much to eat anywhere else.

Poor Texas. It has suffered such a terrible drought. It was so dry most of the grass had crumbled and blown away. Usually they get 14 -18 inches of rain per year, and last year, only one inch fell. Much of the state has burned up. What ought to have been the brown and gold landscape of winter was instead dusty gray.

A collection of Christmas bears.
On Friday night we drove to a nearby town to a cowboy jam session. There were about 20 players and 50 audience members. It was in the bottom floor of the Masonic hall, a large rectangular room with a bathroom and "kitchen" along the back wall and metal support poles down the center. They'd set up tables with white paper covers and Christmas decor, and more tables along the edge of the room for the potluck. We got there a bit late and there wasn't much left to eat except turkey and some carrots with dip. However, the dessert table was still overflowing. My aunt Judy has a reputation for making pies and her coconut cream pie was obscured momentarily by bodies crowded round it, then vanished entirely.

The jam session was a riotous and fun affair. Most in the audience were over 50, some in their eighties, including a couple who also played. The musicians were all good, except for one poor man who has apparently been trying to play the fiddle for the last five years and is almost as good as when he started. He squeaked and squawked his way through Little Town of Bethlehem. The only way I knew which song he was playing is that the other guys played the actual notes and kept the rhythm. But, God bless him, he was up there trying and everybody clapped when he was done. (Was the cheering from those grateful he'd stopped?)  Some of the tunes were traditional Christmas carols, but most of them was just good ol' Country/Western songs with lyrics like this:

But my tears have washed I Love You
From the Blackboard of My Heart
It's too late to clean the slate
And make another start
I'm satisfied the way things are
Although we're far a-part
My tears have washed I Love You from
The Blackboard of My Heart.

On Saturday I drove forever. You know, Texas is a big state. People know that, but you don't really know it till you've driven the breadth of it. All in all, I drove for two whole days to get across. Spent Saturday night with my cousin Bryon and his wife LuAnne in Farwell, TX. We had a great time catching up since we've not seen each other much in the last thirty years.

Then, another five hour drive across New Mexico to arrive home mid afternoon on Sunday. Whew.

Aunt Judy and Sachs.
It sure was nice to get into countryside I recognized and didn't need a GPS or a map to traverse. I sure know how Dorothy felt after visiting OZ. There's just nothing like home.

This is the last entry for the Eastern Trip. Over 4,000 miles in two months.....

Stay tuned for a new series of Mexican blogs that should start showing up mid January. Nos vemos!

Los Alamos, New Mexico. So beautiful in early winter.