Monday, January 29, 2007

Accidental Friends

They were dropped with their mother at my house in downtown Bastrop about 12 years ago. Two scruffy little girl kittens and a mother who was part banshee. True feral cats, half wild. The mother was so evil-tempered that she was run out of the neighborhood by the other stray cats who fed at my house every day. She disappeared without a trace. Fortunately the kittens were old enough for solid food.

The stray cats came and went at that house on Jefferson Street. They would find that there was a steady food supply at the back door, but most would move along after they had fed themelves well for a few days. The "girls" stuck around, living in my back yard and wandering as far as the back yard of the neighboring house that stayed empty most of the time. There were old outbuildings in that yard that were probably full of mice and the girls would ramble around over there and poke around, but were always back for breakfast.

One of the kittens we named Pawla for her polydactyl front feet. She was a sweet-tempered cat who would hop in our laps when we were out in the yard. The only time we ever got crossways was when she would indulge her fondness for bird-hunting. Her sister was more wild and would refuse to come near us for several years. She was dubbed unimaginatively as Sister.

Sister overcame her distrust when the cold weather hit. I would let the two of them spend the coldest nights of winter in my utility room. She would ponder the idea while I held the door wide open and stood back as far as possible. Finally, she would race past me and hide behind the washing machine until I closed the door and retreated to the main part of the house. She gradually came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to kill her, but she refused to let me touch her willingly.

There came the day when she disappeared for the better part of a week. I had just about given up on her when she appeared at the back door one day, thin and dragging a broken leg. She was still just a stray cat at that point, but I let her convalesce in the utility room for several weeks until the leg had healed. We established a thin line of trust during that time and I started to think of them as my cats.

When we started making plans to move, we decided it was necessary that we make an effort to move Pawla and Sister with us. It took some manuvering, because they were aware that something was up, but I coaxed them inside one night and the next morning took them to board at the vet's until the move was completed. When they came home to the new house, they lived in the garage for a full month, more or less terrified at the sudden change that had come to their lives. Pawla was the first to venture out of the garage and make a cautious circuit of the house. A few days later Sister followed her example. Before too long they had claimed the deck as their daytime sanctuary, sunning themselves for hours at a time. Concerned about the coyote problem in the area, I would let them in to spend the nights in the utility room.

Sister, top, and Pawla.

They came to love their wooded back yard and their deck. All was bliss for a couple of years until Pawla developed an aggressive cancerous tumor in her abdomen. I truly did not know how Sister would take the loss of her only trusted friend. Surprisingly, she finally decided that she would join the family. She proved herself trustworthy enough to be allowed the run of the house and she took up residence in the guest room. Every morning she would go outside and spend her days on the deck or out under the blackberry vines in the back yard. Every evening she would be waiting for me to open the back door and invite her in for the night. She loved the dogs and would rub her head on Xana or Coco and they would snuggle into her fur. For several years she lived the rich life of a pampered house cat.

About a year ago Sister suddenly developed a health issue that the vet could not pin down. Everything checked out okay, but she became congested and the situation got steadily worse. Last week it became painfully obvious that it was time to make the last trip to the vet. Her passing was peacefully accomplished and the vet was able to confirm that her final problem was an aggressive cancer. It had probably been the root of the problem all along.

Two little feral cats caught a lucky break one day when they were dumped in my yard. They lived 10 and 12 years in comfortable yards, with good food and regular attention by a good vet. We started out strangers thrown together by fate. We ended up friends.



Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stop The Presses

For those of you who have been cheering me on in my diet, started on Labor Day 2006, here is an update. I have accomplished my initial goal of a 25 pound weight loss and a return to size 10.

I have learned to live without sugar. My sweet treats are now those that have been sweetened with Splenda. There is some really good carb-friendly ice cream out there. Sometimes that is what I have for breakfast. A few pecans and a little bit of sugar-free whipped cream on top and it does the trick for satisfying my sweet tooth.

I have learned to live without bread, cereal, rice and potatoes. This has not been easy, because I love bread, cereal, rice and potatoes. Thank goodness for Mission's low-carb tortillas. They make a good sausage wrap or hot dog bun. They are excellent for quick, microwave quesadillas. (A tortilla folded over a pile of shredded cheese and zapped for 20-30 seconds makes a good breakfast when you cannot face another egg or even another bowl of Splenda sweetened ice cream.)

I have learned to live without milk. This hasn't been so hard since you are allowed to use half-and-half, heavy cream, and tons of cheese. I can't have a bowl of cereal, but I can have a large latte laced with whipped cream. Not a bad trade.

This diet is weird. A lot of the things I would have avoided on a low-cal, low-fat diet, I can scarf up without guilt. I keep nuts on hand for snacks. I eat steak 2-3 times a week, including the fat. I eat tons of cheese. And I feel better. I am carrying around 25 pounds less of heavy fat, even though I have yet to establish an exercise program. As a friend of mine pointed out, this diet works if you can stick to the rules. It just takes wanting success enough to stick to the rules.

Now that I've reached my goal, where do I go? Nowhere different for the moment. I can allow myself the odd indulgence, so long as I'm careful not to fall back into that sugar dependency hell. When the weather warms up, I plan to set up the ab-lounger on the deck and put in 20 minutes a day and make my next goal to tighten up all over. Who knows, maybe it's not impossible that I can squeeze into a size 8 by summer's end.

Best part is that I can fit two dogs into the chair with me now. (It was getting to be a problem.)


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fat Boobert

You remember the Fat Albert story told by Bill Cosby, back when he was funny? How the neighborhood boys decided to scare each other with a Frankenstein model on a dark staircase? And how the Cos pulled the trick on Fat Albert? When the Frankenstein jumped out of the shadows he related, "Shroom, he never touch one step [on the four flights out of the building]. I forgot I was standing behind him."

Boo has been going out with me in the early morning to pick up the newspaper. He rides along in the crook of my arm, sniffing the smells and twisting his head right and left to peer into the darkness. That came to a screeching halt yesterday until the time changes and there's a little more light at that time of day.

We were already most of the way down the driveway when I realized something had spooked Boo. I couldn't see anything at all, but he was getting more and more perturbed. It was only a few more steps to the paper, so I held on and picked up the pace. Just as I reached the end of the drive, the deer that had been standing silently in the neighbor's yard decided to take off.

Shroom. Boo's hair went on end over his entire body, he ran up my chest, down my back and headed for the house. Since I had a bad experience with a scared cat about 4 years ago and still have the crooked finger to show for it, I did not hesitate to release my hold on him when he did his imitation of Sylvester facing the Jekyll Tweety in that classic cartoon. I trotted along behind him as fast as my little old lady legs can move and hoped he wouldn't head into the darkness.

I needn't have worried. He went straight for the door and was reaching for the handle, looking over his shoulder like he was wondering what in the world was taking me so long to get there. He shot into the house like the devil himself was on his tail. Or maybe Frankenstein.

He didn't even ask to go along this morning.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Recovery Room

The operations are over and the kittens are back in residence. A little confused over the whole experience, but feeling okay. When I picked them up yesterday, they proceeded to tell me for SEVENTEEN LONG MILES at the top of their lungs all about the horrible things that were done to them in that awful place. When I opened the door of their cages and they saw their own house, the purring commenced.

Boo's operation, being noninvasive and basically a "snip snip", has little evidence of the hospital stay. Scout, on the other hand, required IV fluids and ended up with two shaved upper front legs. It gives her a very odd appearance, like she's wearing a pair of socks or furry boots. Last night I finally figured out what she reminds me of, but you have to be at least 50 years old to get the reference. Remember the goons from the old Popeye cartoons? Tufts of hair around their ankles? That's Scout at the moment.

I'm supposed to be keeping them to reduced activity for 24 hours. That's a laugh.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Little Boy Dog That Cried Wolf

Little Mojo learned a lesson today. You see, the little boy has temper or hissy fits on a regular basis. If he decides he has been ignored or forgotten or just plain gets bored, he will sit back on his haunches and howl like crazy until somebody comes running to see what is wrong.

My policy lately has been to refuse to come running. I usually let him howl for a minute or two and then quietly walk up and let him slowly realize that he has an audience for his bout of histrionics. This policy hasn't been working the way I wanted it to, to be honest. He is not the least bit embarrassed at being caught and will just swing around to face me and continue to howl until I pick him up. He has a very strong will.

This afternoon he and I had gone upstairs to put something away and then I returned downstairs. He stopped for a snack from the bedside bowl. A few minutes later I heard him start his howl. I ignored him. But I suddenly realized there was a note of panic in his voice this time. Dropping everything, I ran upstairs. His voice was muffled and very definitely panicked. He was under the bed and I immediately knew what must have happened.

The heathen cats have been playing under my bed, doing their best to shred the underside of my box springs. (It's an old mattress, so I haven't been all that concerned about the situation.) Mojo had gone under the bed, gotten wrapped up in the filmy, gauzy threads, and could not budge. He was trapped like a little bug in a spider's web. It took some effort to extract him and by the time he wriggled out from under the bed he was beside himself with relief. He was still shaking from the panic, but began covering my face with kisses.

I told him about the little boy that cried wolf, but I'm not sure the moral of the story sank in. I expect sometime tomorrow he will still find an excuse to howl for someone to come check on him.

He's not spoiled. No way.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Contentious They Are

The route I take to work these days is a lot different than what I've been used to for the past 30 years commuting to Austin via Highway 71. It was immediately apparent to me that some folks out in the country around Coupland are not happy with the guvmint. Just south of Coupland is this protest of the Trans Texas Corridor. Bless his heart, I believe he's lost the fight, but I feel for him.

A little ways on down the road, between Rices and Normans Crossings are signs like this, posted in every field for about 6-8 miles.

Another house has a sign I was not able to photograph, since there always seems to be somebody around that would spot me and I don't want to get on their bad side. Those folks have a beef with the Texas Department of Transportation and have a large sign declaring that anybody with that particular agency had best KEEP OFF their property or be faced with criminal trespassing charges.

I imagine there are a lots of folks that drive past these signs and either cluck to themselves or get downright hostile about the protests. Personally I find these efforts applaudable. To stand up to the big guys takes guts these days. And that's what being an American patriot is all about. Standing up for what you think is right. Civil disobedience when it's called for. Exercising freedom of expression, our number one right.

And if it was my land that was in danger of being grabbed and defaced, I would be taking whatever steps I could to make sure everybody within hearing knew I wasn't happy about it.

More power to them.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Sometimes I Surprise Myself

Today I ran across one of those quizzes on the Internet that purports to test your ability in some esoteric subject. Today's test was on Bible knowledge. My results:

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

I must warn you that some of the questions are ridiculous and you would have to be a total moron not to get the right answer, but there were enough in there that made me stop and think that I will accept that I have a competent grasp of my Biblical history.

Some things stick with you. Or, in other words, you are a product of your raising.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Snow of Yesteryear

A visit to the archives produced the photo find above. My father and me, along about 1955, enjoying the snowfall in Manchaca. Manchaca has changed a good bit since then. The First Baptist Church building was replaced long ago. When we lived there, Manchaca was a little spot in the country, several miles from Austin.

My earliest memories involve Manchaca. We lived there until I was about three years old. I can remember falling and skinning my knee on the sidewalk in front of our house. I can remember the big cat we had, an ill-tempered beast that was not kid friendly. It came very close to clawing me across the eye on one occasion. We had a pet rabbit. We had a little Scottish terrier named Snuffy, who later succumbed to heartworms. I can remember the trellis work behind the house and I can remember long tables set up outside the church for potlucks.

Just a few spotty memories remain of Manchaca. When I was almost four, we made the move to San Gabriel. I've only been back a few times since then and I don't even know if the house we lived in is still there. But in my mind's eye I can see the sidewalk leading up to the little white house and I can see the view from the front window. It was the second place I lived and gave me my first experience with the rarity of snow in Texas.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


This is one of the best things about living where I do on the edge of the forest. I do love being able to wander for 5 minutes and leave civilization behind.

There wasn't much traffic moving on the gravel road that runs beside my lot today. Wonder why?

A little frosting on a pine tree:

And a little icing on the tall grass:

All is calm.


Three too Cute for Words

I finallylocated the bag of dog sweaters. Xana doesn't particularly like wearing sweaters, but she accepted the idea with grace. Coco has been preening and switching her little butt around and acting like she's the cutest thing to hit town. Mojo thinks it's some kind of weird, kinky torture that Mom has come up with. But ain't they cute as little bugs in a rug?


Ice, Heathens and a Deer Story

The great ice storm of 2007 continues on. Word came at 8:30 last night that the office would be closed another day. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-30-year occurrence. Never before in the 30 years I've worked for the law office have we gotten so much unexpected time off. In addition to the scheduled extra day of Christmas vacation to accommodate the movers, we got 2 extra days off due to office move complications. No sooner than we got settled in the new office, we've gotten an unexpected 2 extra days for ice. One could get used to this, but at the very least I intend to enjoy every minute, since it is unlikely to ever happen again during my tenure.

First item of business today is an update on the heathen cats. I've not been able to catch Scout still enough to get a new photo, but Boo was more cooperative. They are scheduled to go in for their "fixes" on Tuesday, which I hope will cause an attitude adjustment, but I'm not holding my breath. They've been intrigued by all this ice business, but are content to nap the day away on their kitty tower until it's all over.

My brilliant idea for a temporary greenhouse was working until late yesterday. It's still working, but is crippled. The cupola on the arbor collapsed under the weight of ice and it's too cold for me to figure out how to cure the problem. I peeked inside to be sure the plants were not crushed, but I've decided to let it be until all this cold and ice is over.

The other arbor is holding its own. So far.

The red-tipped photina in the front yard is bowed over with ice and the water hose that I decided to leave out may never recover.

While I am enjoying the time off, I'm about ready for things to dry up already. I still haven't finished putting away Christmas stuff because it's been too cold to work in the garage. I still have several boxes out there that need to be taken to the thrift store. Until it warms up I'm stuck with extra clutter.

Finally, a story that I haven't thought about for years and can't say why it suddenly sprang to mind. Except that I got to wondering how the deer are faring through all this cold and ice.

Back when I was about 5 years old and we were living in San Gabriel, we were headed out to the house of one of our church members for dinner. This was out in the country back then and most of the roads were your basic washboard gravel. Along the way, a young deer sprang out in front of the car and the collision knocked him unconscious. Thanks to the rough road, I guess our speed was slow enough to keep from doing him any serious damage.

The deer was young - not a fawn, but definitely a youngster. My parents pondered the situation and decided that they would carry him along to our destination. The children of the family we were to visit had raised other young strays and would probably welcome the chance to rehabilitate a deer. (I believe this may have been the same family that took on a nest of orphaned baby skunks, one of which we adopted. But that's another story.)

So my mother moved into the back seat with me and my father loaded the unconscious deer into the front seat. Just about the time he had him in the car and was getting ready to close the doors and get on our way, the deer woke up. Totally disoriented, he immediately panicked and started looking for an escape route. This involved jumping over the seat into the back with me (mother was still outside the car at that point), then jumping back over into the front seat and out the door. And poof, he was gone into the night.

Sometimes you get proof that the Lord protects fools and little children. My parents, both of whom grew up in the country, should have had better sense than to try such a stunt. But having come from a long line of folks who revere animals, it was probably inevitable that they would try to rescue an injured one, even though it was wild. I would probably have done the same thing when I was their age (about 27 years). So the Lord protected two fools. And then, during the mad scramble to find an exit, the deer could have done me serious damage with a misplaced hoof. So the Lord protected a child. I don't think we even sustained any damage to the car.

I will always be thankful that my early years gave me exposure to such things. I may not have been a true country child, like my aunts and uncles, but I had some unique experiences because my father took on small churches in little towns bordering the country and my grandparents lived on a real farm where I visited regularly. I got to milk a cow, churn butter, watch a real cream separator at work, walk through fields of watermelons and peanuts, adopt a skunk, and share a ride with a deer. Not everybody can say that.


Monday, January 15, 2007

You Have to Wonder Some More

Here I sit, surrounded by napping puppies and anticipating another day of holiday thanks to the ice storm of 2007. A few more things have set me wondering this evening.

1) All the spam that I delete several times a day that purport to be easy access for any drug you might feel the need to ingest - are there idiots that really respond to these things? The ungrammatical and pitiful presentations inspire such confidence of quality assurance. Of course there are people who will buy unknown drugs from slezoids on the street, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

2) See #1. With all the brilliant hackers and programmers out there, why hasn't somebody created something that will zap that stupid sh*t out of existence instead of letting it mutate and multiply?

3) Don't you think that whoever is behind Oxy Clean, Hercules Hooks, etc., could find a better spokesperson than Billy Mays, whose voice is somewhat akin to fingernails on a chalkboard? I automatically hit the mute button when his annoying voice begins. Is this really the reaction they want from their viewers? Or does he own the company and nobody will sit him down and tell him the truth?

4) My dogs recognize a surprising number of words. Every now and then I catch them unexpectedly responding to a word that I wasn't aware they know. This week Mojo began perking his ears and giving me an alert and quizzical look when I say the word "wonderful". I can't figure out why he is showing such a marked interest in this particular word. He must either think he is, or it sounds like something he likes. Still puzzling over that one.

5) What on earth was I thinking when I said "why don't you bring me two kittens?".



What a way to spend a 3-day weekend. Locked inside with all the window shades down to conserve heat. Intermittent dashes outside with the 3 dogs, who squat as fast as they can and then bolt back to the house shaking off the cold rain.

Boo cat has been helping me go outside and get the morning paper. (It's not so much for him as for me, to keep him from dashing out under my feet when I come back in.) This morning he ran to the door, eager for his morning chore, but when the first spray of cold mist hit him he was more than ready to head back inside. He was a squirming, panicky little bundle of fur on the walk back from the end of the driveway.

So far Bastrop is being spared the worst. We have a lot of cold rain, but the temperature has been well above freezing. That may change along about 2PM today, when we expect to drop into the 20s. I doubt there is much chance I will be going in to the office tomorrow. I learned a long time ago that even if I can't connect to the office from the home computer, nothing on my desk is worth risking my neck or my car. This little old lady has no intention of ever driving in icy conditions again, unless the destination is the emergency room. And, conveniently enough, an emergency room has opened up just around the corner from the subdivision entrance, so even that would not be a major problem.

So, the word from our healthcare worker is that she doesn't think she wants to venture out today (and probably tomorrow). Can't say that I blame her. I think I will tuck Mother in with a couple of dog warmers and then settle down with the cats and enjoy a day of enforced inactivity.

And maybe I might just have to have a toddy a little later on to warm my insides.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

You Have to Wonder

When you are driving along behind someone who has a big sticker in their back window that declares "I love MY HUSBAND", don't you find yourself thinking "Methinks thou doth protest too much"?

What really gets me is when you are behind some male driver who is declaring "I love MY WIFE". Do you really know any man in this universe who would be moved to stick one of those things on his car? You know there's a suspicious or jealous wife behind that sticker, trying (probably in vain) to shield her property.

Cynicism appears to be the mood du jour.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Musing on Myself

Don't you ever wonder just why it is you are the way you are?

Driving in the country makes me contented. I love passing freshly plowed fields that are waiting for their next crop to take root. I loved that period of time on Tuesday when I was driving through the thickest part of the State Park on a road where light was only barely finding its way through the canopy of trees. I love getting my hands in dirt. I love the feel of tree bark under my fingers. I love to listen to a mockingbird running rapidly through his repertoire, even though he's been keeping me awake.

I like being alone. I'm not so comfortable being in a crowd, but I do enjoy mingling with people who share the same interests I do. Part of me would love to be a hermit, living in a mountaintop cabin and only coming down to town for provisions once in awhile. Part of me loves to get out and see new places and meet new people. I hate being with close-minded people. I love being with people who can discuss any topic at a moment's notice and be open to the opinions of others even if they don't necessarily agree with them.

I dislike politics and politicians. (Let's be more precise. I hate liars.) I dislike people whose only concern is the feathering of their own financial nest regardless of how many lives may be adversely affected by their actions. I dislike snobs, though I must confess that there is a bit of snob in me as regards education. (And I don't mean book learning - I mean continuing to educate oneself with copious reading and through life experience. Some of the smartest people I know have limited formal education. Some of the dumbest people I know have degrees running out their ears.) I hate phonies. I like non-conformists who can stand their ground and be themselves regardless of peer pressure, even if I find their life style peculiar as all get out.

I'm a tactile person. I love to knit and crochet, even though I have limited time to do so. It has little to do with the creation aspect and a lot to do with the feel of the yarn gliding through my fingers and the rhythm of the clicking needles. I like the feel of natural fibers and recoil at the feel of (most) synthetics. ( I do love rayon.) I love to sit on the edge of Black Canyon in Colorado and feel the breeze lifting my hair and the sun warming my face.

I love animals. They never lie to you and they never stab you in the back and they never treat you like crap just for the fun of feeling superior.

I'm religious, but I don't like going to church. I'm generous, but I don't like being taken advantage of. I'm loyal to a fault, but if I find you've been disloyal to me I will never trust you again. I'm honest. I'm sensitive to slights. I find it very difficult to let anyone know the inner me. I'd sooner die than lick anyone's boots. But I also play by the rules.

So I'm this weird combination of open and closed. I can look to some of my antecedents and spot where some of the traits may have been passed down to me. Multiple ancestors were weavers or did embroidery or crocheted. Many many of my forefathers were farmers. Many were teachers. There is a strong vein of Scot-Irish in my blood that may account for my reserve and inability to trust easily. There are numerous preachers in my family tree. I'm about three-quarters Southern, which may account for my liberal politics.

This is a big reason why I'm a genealogist. I find it amazing how all those who have gone before me have had a factor in the person I am just as much as the environment I was raised in. It's a complicated thing, how we come to be the person we are. I can look at myself and see my grandmothers and grandfathers and from stories I've heard from them I can see their parents and their grandparents in me.

Bottom line, I like me. I may drive some folks crazy with my fierce independence and refusal to conform, but that's just the way I am. Like it or lump it. I can be happy being with you or being on my own.

One last word on the subject. My grandmother once heard me relate a story about some difficulty or other and remarked, "The thing is, you can lead us all right off a cliff, but we don't push worth a damn." Hear, hear.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What a Treat

Today I rediscovered an old favorite book. There are several books on my all time favorites list, including Little Women, Gone With the Wind, A Wrinkle in Time and To Kill a Mockingbird. Over the course of the last year or so, I've indulged myself in purchasing and listening to Little Women and A Wrinkle in Time audiobooks. I'm waiting for Gone With the Wind to be issued on CD (it's 28 cassettes and I just don't have the necessary patience to deal with 28 cassettes). Until a couple of months ago To Kill a Mockingbird was not available on any format. But just before Thanksgiving, a version narrated by Sissy Spacek was released.

I knew I had to have it. I loved the book and I love Sissy Spacek. But I hesitated to buy it before Christmas for fear someone would think to get it as a Christmas present. It was hard to wait, but when the possibility had passed I immediately got on EBAY and found myself a copy at a good price. Today I listened to the first two hours.

I am in love with the book all over again. You know how it is. Once upon a time you read a book, and in subsequent readings you skip to the good parts and don't waste your time with the descriptive narrative. As the years go by, you begin to forget all the subtle foundation that the author built and only remember the highlights. While the movie was an excellent adaption and I've seen it many times, that subtlety is lost in the interest of condensation to fit into a 2-1/2 hour time frame. Listening to a book, you rediscover all the delicate shading of atmosphere. Harper Lee may have written only one book in her career, but with a book like this there was no way to go but down. She wisely quit while she was ahead.

What a perfect book to listen to while driving through the lazy farm land between Bastrop and Round Rock. I have 9 more CDs to savor and then I may just plan on listening to it at least once a year. Now that I've rediscovered it, I don't want to lose it again.

A little side note about that commute. I realized after a week that I'm getting to work in a much better mood these days. It may be 12 minutes longer to get to the office, but I have very little traffic to contend with. I haven't been pushed to utter profanity at another driver once since I stopped driving through Austin. I'm thinking the increased time may be well paid back in the lack of wear and tear on my nerves.

Another little side note about the book. When we named the kittens, we chose Boo and Scout for two characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. I knew it felt right at the time, but after today's trip into depression-era Alabama, it feels exactly right.

How wonderful to rediscover an old friend and find that you still feel the same about it all these years later.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I'm sorry I can't make the letters of the title float in with supernatural sounds, because those folks on the island had nothing on me in the early hours of this morning. I did not really think I could get lost in Bastrop County, but it can be done.

It all started innocently with a request from someone on Findagrave for a photo from a cemetery I had never before visited. I checked my stock of Bastrop books and discovered that the cemetery was out in the Alum Creek area and I estimated that it would take maybe 30-45 minutes to dash out there, get the photo, and get back home and to work. I took a quick look at my Roads of Texas mapbook, verified that the cemetery was where it was supposed to be and took off.

Lesson learned #1. Always put the map book in the car and take it with you. Things may not be as straightforward as you think.

I made the turn off Highway 71 onto Cottletown Road and thoroughly enjoyed the ride out on a twisty little country road. My idea of a good way to start the day. So far, so good.

And then I came to the fork in the road. My goal was the Antioch Cemetery. The left fork said Antioch Road. The right fork said Old Antioch Road. I tried to remember the map in the book back at home. Nothing came to me but a vague memory of County Road 153. Nothing said County Road 153.

Ah, I thought. This is an old cemetery and it will probably be on Old Antioch Road. I veered right and started driving. I remembered that I was supposed to come to a crossroad and the cemetery was supposed to be right at the crossroad. Quite a bit later down the road I did come to a crossroad, but no cemetery. I decided I might have made a mistake and should probably find my way back to Highway 71 and try it again. About that time I came upon Park Road 3.

I know the Park Roads. I've driven them many times. The bad thing about the Park Roads is that they twist and they double back and they loop and if you don't know where you came in, you can get disoriented in a big hurry. But, hey, sooner or later the dang thing has to come out at the Bastrop Park or Buescher Park entrance. So I drove. And drove. Passed two deer strolling in the road. Got behind a confused squirrel who was trotting down the center of the road, looking over his shoulder at me like it would be really nice if I would scram. And finally I got dumped outside Buescher's entrance.

Now here is where I really had a spasm or something, but the end result is that I zigged when I should have zagged. I decided to turn left, head for Paige and try the directions to the cemetery from the starting point of Highway 21 instead of 71. A short way down the road I saw a sign that said FM 153. That's the road that is supposed to lead to the cemetery, I thought to myself. I even stopped and verified that in the local history book I had brought along. Merrily I rolled along down FM 153.

About 20 minutes later, it finally occurred to me that County Road 153 and FM 153 were two separate and distinct locations. FM153 wasn't never gonna take me to that blasted cemetery. I think the light finally dawned when the sign told me I had crossed over into Fayette County. That's two counties over from where I had started.

At this point I had absolutely no idea where I was. I barely knew what direction I was traveling. I was contemplating which way to go when another sign announced the way to Giddings. I clung to this small ray of hope and headed down yet another unfamiliar road. A mere 14 miles took me to Highway 290 in Giddings where my internal GPS finally kicked in. I sped back to Bastrop and arrived 20 minutes after I should have clocked in on the office computer.

By the way, I kept my eyes peeled for the turnoff to Antioch Cemetery from Highway 21 and never saw anything that remotely resembled the directions in the history book.

So, I put in a few hours of work and then took Mother off to see the doctor in Austin. I asked her if she wanted to take a ride in the country when we got back to Bastrop. Poor, misguided woman said "sure". I did take the precaution of putting the map book in the car this time.

So about 2:30 this afternoon, I headed back down Cottletown Road. And this time when I got to the fork in the road, I took the left fork. And the damned cemetery was not more than a half-mile down that road, sitting squarely at the crossroads.

Lesson learned #2. Don't embark on a mission that requires a clear mind at 8:00 a.m. when you know you don't fully wake up until 10:00 a.m. I should have known to turn back and try the other fork as soon as I got to the point where I realized there was no cemetery where I thought it should be.

But, in my contrary way, I had a hell of a good time this morning. It's not the first time I've had a good time getting thoroughly lost and then figuring my way out.

Just wish gasoline was a little cheaper.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Get Out!

This evening I was poking around for something to watch and decided to check the Encore Western cable channel. Turns out they are running a 24 hour marathon of The Rifleman. It's been a very long time since I watched any of those old tv episodes, so I left it running while I folded clothes and cooked supper. Along about the third episode, I was surprised to see a parental warning flash across the screen. "Rated PG for violence, parental discretion is advised."

Well blow me down. The Rifleman? I mean how tame can you get? I had just watched one episode, amused at the high moral tone of the story about a former Johnny Reb soldier who was working for Lucas McCain and suddenly faced with Yankee General Sheridan, the man who had wounded him in battle and who was responsible for his ending up a cripple. General Sheridan ended up sending the man, with an honor guard, to a special hospital in Galveston to repair the botched surgery that had been performed.

Having researched a lot about this time period and knowing full well the animosity that continued between the post-war north and the south, I found the whole thing extremely hard to swallow. But, hey, it made a good fictional story, so who am I to throw stones.

And then a warning of the next episode containing violence. I found myself wondering just how I managed to get through my childhood unscarred by the television I watched. Forget that the bad guys always lost and the good guys always won and there was always a moral to the story. Somebody throws a punch in the next episode, so watch out!

Good Lord. Nowadays kids are pelted with sexual innuendo right and left and most see more violence walking the halls of school one semester than I saw watching all five seasons of The Rifleman and the countless reruns that followed.

Jeez. Think I'll take a dose of Geritol and head up to bed.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Ringing in the New Year

Happy 2007!

It occurred to me this morning that this is the first time in many years that I have not felt any need to resolve to lose weight. Not that I ever make real resolutions (who needs to feel like a failure first thing in the year?). But it's something I can feel good about right off the bat. Down 23 pounds since Labor Day. My goal for the holidays (i.e., Thanksgiving through Christmas) was not to gain any weight and not to stew about not losing any. I've maintained well and now that the holidays are over, I can see about dropping those last few pounds. Definitely a goal that is within reach.

The hard goal for the moment is to get busy and get all the family history data I've gathered over the last year put into the computer in time for my Salt Lake City trip in April. It's a daunting task and I've just barely scratched the surface. One good thing about making that regular pilgrimage is that I am forced to get my records updated before each trip so I don't waste time redoing research.

Goal number two is to get to work on my miniatures hobby. I spent the last day of 2006 prowling through my mountain of "stash" to remind myself what is on hand for the long list of projects that I've been collecting toward, in some cases for years.

Goal number three is to get back out in the garage and tackle another round of de-junking. Seems like every time I get a foothold on the situation, another batch of someone else's treasures gets dumped in there and I'm back to re-sorting and re-organizing. My motivation at present is to get enough space cleared out that my ab-lounger can live out there and I can get back to a little bit of toning exercise when the weather warms up a bit.

Goal number three-B is to do the same sorting and disposing and clearing of space in the closets.

Goal number four is to add another level of personal care to my current regimen of twice monthly massages and reflexology sessions. I think a monthly pedicure, perhaps. Some indulgences are just flat out necessary.

Goal number five is to get the income tax data gathered before the end of February. I finally made the decision to have my returns done by a CPA, but I still hate that gathering of data that is necessary. I wonder if death by paper drowning is possible? I spend a lot of time treading paper.

I think that's probably enough to tackle at the beginning of the year. My ultimate goal is just to learn to let somebody else fight the dragons. I plan to spend as much time as possible this year enjoying myself. Life is short. Don't sweat the small stuff.