Monday, June 30, 2008

Pure Texas

A few weeks back I spotted a pasture full of horned cattle, including some babies, not far from downtown Round Rock. I wanted to get photos, but there was no place to pull off the divided road. And it seemed like every time I was dressed in shoes that would have allowed me to hike down to the spot, the cows were elsewhere. They only turned up in that pasture on the days I was in heels.

A few days ago I noticed the same kind of cattle were now grazing in a different pasture a little closer to the office and in a spot that was a little more accessible, so I've been keeping an eye out. Today was the day. As I approached the field, about a dozen of the beauties were right up next to the fence and just across the road from a cross street where I could park.

It turned out these guys are as skittish as Mojo. They were watching me from the instant I stepped out of the car across the road. The first step I took their direction, they turned around and headed for the other side of the pasture. I slowed down and wandered over at a leisurely pace and they stopped, turned, and started checking me out.

These guys looked like they were doing a Robert DeNiro imitation. "Are you talking to me?"

This reminded me of a Longhorn defensive line. Or, maybe the OK Corral with these guys in the roles of either the Clanton gang or the Earps. "Draw!"

Finally, I wish this Mother and her baby had been in a better spot. He had been having a great time bellying up to the bar when I first spotted him. When I got out of the car, Momma cow gave him a rude shove and headed for cover. The minute she stopped, however, he was attached again.

I have a real affinity for cattle. According to psychic Sylvia Browne, everyone has an animal totem. I think mine must be a spotted cow.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

H.E.B. on a Sunday Evening

You have to be prepared when you decide to do your grocery shopping late on Sunday. Along about 3PM, all the clerks are exhausted from the weekend hordes. They become glassy-eyed and their work takes on a don't-give-a-darn air. When you get home, you find your groceries seem to have been packed by something using less than normal human reasoning.

For instance, I got home today to find one sack contained my ice cream - and the dog's Milk Bones. Another sack had my canned goods - and an avocado. One large sack held only a small package of coffee - while another sack was crammed to the gills with what should have been 2-3 sacks worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. Less the cantaloupe which had escaped whatever sack it was originally put in and was rolling around merrily on the floor of the car.

I try to be relatively calm when I've put off my trip to the grocery store until late on Sunday afternoon. Those people are shell-shocked and can't really be held responsible for their actions.

I wonder if you can iron bread.


Calling the Berry Family

I've mentioned before that I occasionally rescue ancestor pictures that I find in local antique stores when there is identifying information on the reverse. Once in awhile I find a real treasure that some family historian would love to have. Friday's trip to the Antique Mall in Round Rock produced one of those treasures - a three generational portrait that I would love to be able to reunite with someone in the Berry family.

From left to right is John Sharp Berry, John Sharp Berry II, and Dr. Franklin King Berry. From what I can gather with some idle searches on, this Berry family has its roots in Kentucky. It's a great picture and I hope someone comes along that can claim it.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Better Them Than Me

While stopped at the red light in Elgin where I turn left on Highway 290, I glanced over at the construction site for the new bank.

The thermometer in my car said the external heat was 99 degrees. I'm betting it was a darned sight hotter on that shiny roof.


Things are Quiet

This week has just zoomed by. The last week before the next deluge of work and it's gone with the wind. The high points of the week:

1) Lunch with old friend Marianna and catching up on things in each other's lives.

2) Lunch with friend Lana and a trip to a collectors' mall in Georgetown where I spotted a retro metal porch glider much like the one that belonged to my grandparents when I was a little girl. (I put my name on a list to be notified when they had enough folks signed up to make a minimum order. I hope to have a bright red glider on my porch soon.)

3) Learning of the death of a lady who was the old-timer at the law office when I came on board 32 years ago. This was the third loss of a present or former co-worker in about 6 months. I guess I'm getting old.

4) Watching my Siamese Beta Fighting Fish weaken and die over a two-day period. I wasn't emotionally attached, but I miss that flash of color on the end of the kitchen cabinet. I just may have to get a couple of goldfish or a half-dozen neon tetras and start over with my tiny aquarium.

5) Spending today's lunch hour (and a half) prowling the Round Rock Antique Mall. Next to book stores, I dearly love to wander in a quiet antique store. I managed to get out for under $21, which was remarkable.

6) Cautiously watching a sore jaw and hoping against hope that it doesn't turn out to be an impending toothache. So far, so good.

7) Recovering an antique chair in a deep red fabric to match the color palette in my newly redecorated office. (I am greatly enjoying my new office arrangment. That is, when I'm not running cats off. They are highly suspicious of any change in their environment and have been making extensive explorations into every nook and cranny. My every moment in the office has a background of rustle, rustle, thump, crash.)

8) Repainting and recovering an antique wrought iron bench that has been in dire need of repair. Thanks to a co-worker, the repair work was done and the bench is almost ready to go back into service.

Now that I think about it, maybe it wasn't such a quiet week after all. I have errands to run on Saturday and residual clutter from the started cleaning of my bathroom to deal with, but come Sunday I plan to sit in my study and work on my family notebooks. And maybe work in a nap on the chaise with my best two helpers.

And, of course, do some cat chasing.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Bruised and Battered

I just never know when to quit. Saturday's cleaning extended far into the evening and it was about 11PM that I finally fell into bed, utterly exhausted. At the time it was my intention to spend Sunday in a vegetative state.

But, when Sunday dawned, I found myself tackling more cleaning. My bookshelves were stacked and piled and looked really bad as a background for my newly straightened office. This is an entire wall of shelves, floor to ceiling. Before the day was over, about 3/4ths of the books contained therein had been shuffled to a new location. This involved a lot of stooping low and stretching high. For the topmost level where I keep the seldom touched books that I still can't bear to part with, it was required to bring in the 6-foot stepladder. Then it was up the ladder and down the ladder for the better part of an hour.

About 3PM it sank into my brain that the process was beginning to involve pain. And this did not count the deep cut in my right ring finger that caught the top edge of a notebook binder as I was replacing it on the shelf. (If you think a paper cut hurts, try the sharp edge of a vinyl notebook.) The ongoing motions up and down had finally resulted in painful muscle spasms in my legs and back.

There was no quitting, because at this point the floor was full of books and I had not even addressed cleaning the fish tank and spraying the kitchen for invading ants. And no way were the dogs going to let me off the nightly walk, especially since they had been virtually ignored all weekend. They were welcome to keep me company in the office as I worked, but neither one trusts me not to drop something on them when I'm in whirlwind mode, so they stayed in other parts of the house, getting more and more pouty as the day progressed.

Eventually the books were all reshelved, the fish tank cleaned, the ants dispatched to ant heaven and the dogs walked. While they snoozed happily, I began folding a pile of laundry. And then insanity struck again. As I was putting away laundry, I began sorting and reorganizing the bathroom closet. I finally gave out and got to bed about midnight. The bathroom is still in a chaotic mess, so I'm betting I will be at it again tonight.

Needless to say, when the alarm went off this morning, I did not bound out of bed ready to face the day. I dragged my complaining body into an upright position and have limped and groaned ever since.

I guess it's a good thing we get the cleaning fever every now and again. Surely the satisfaction of an orderly house is worth the price of a few aching muscles and a finger that is so sore I can barely type. I'll let you know when the haze of pain passes.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Inspiration, Perspiration, Aggravation

Being newly inspired after last weekend's trip to get my office in better shape, I started out early this morning rearranging everything. Before I moved all the furniture, I emptied out my file cabinet and decided to flip through all the folders of old research before they went back in. I was amazed at how much garbage I was holding onto. I filled a Hefty bag with old census searches, mailing list messages and odds and ends that I had dealt with long ago and no longer needed. I fixed the balky bottom drawer of my antique file cabinet. I polished my desk, the file cabinet, and the work table. In short, I worked myself down and I'm not quite done yet. At least I got all the research material that I felt needed a new study segregated into one box to go through slowly, with the intention of either filing it in the appropriate family notebook or trashing it. It does not go back into the file cabinet.

In the midst of all this hustle and bustle, I removed a full load of old sheets and blankets that have been stacked in the corner of the office to the thrift store. Another day like this one and I will be in good shape to hit the research again.

After the trip to the thrift store, I went in search of some take out that would tide Mother over for the day and keep me from having to cook. But, before that, I made a swing through the HEB drive in to pick up some prescription refills.

Hence the aggravation. I was informed that 3 of the 4 I had called in were not eligible to be filled until mid-July. Hogwash, I said. I checked all those dates and knew they were due to be filled. The little girl who was waiting on me was so new she was eager to "check on it" for me. To make a long story short, I had just about the entire pharmacy looking into the computer with confused looks on their faces. Dash, dash they went all over the place for about ten minutes. The pharmacist herself came over to tell me that something was odd and they were checking on it. Ten more minutes and they had the story. A computer crash that had happend at the insurance company in the midst of posting our account.

They scrambled and got me two of my prescriptions, but the rest they did not have available. So I get to go back tomorrow.

To add insult to injury, the rain cloud I watched approaching in the distance while I was waiting had the gall to bypass Bastrop.

I have an almost organized office, a tired body and half my prescriptions. I guess that's not too bad for a Saturday. The dogs think it's time we head to bed.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Day to Play

I took the afternoon off today with the intention of finding a new car. I visited the Honda and Toyota dealerships that are just down the street from the office and fell in love 3 times. The only problem is that all 3 of the vehicles are on backorder. For several months. It seems I am not the only one who is looking to find a more fuel-efficient method of transportation. Who would have suspected?

I am intending to venture into the world of hybrids with my next car, but none were available to test drive. The Honda folks had one, but it had just sold and was off limits except for viewing from the outside. The Toyota folks were sold out of hybrids, too. I had to satisfy myself with sitting in the non-hybrid counterparts to get an idea of what is available.

Except that I did get to sit in an honest-to-God Prius, but it was a used car and with the mileage I put on cars, I prefer to start from new and wear them out myself. It was the one that whispered sweet nothings in my ear. I have a strong feeling that I will be ordering one for myself in the near future. The salesman estimated it would take 6-9 months for delivery. Sort of like having a baby. This was a new experience. Usually I go looking and come home committed to take delivery in 2 or 3 days.

Even with getting a thorough visit with two very nice salespeople, I was done with my afternoon shopping plans in under two hours. No way was I going to go back to work, so I started a slow ramble back home. I decided to stop in Elgin and pick up a new history book that was just released by the Elgin Historical Association. It turned out that 4 more years worth of the Elgin Courier were available on cd, so I picked those up as well. The book is a collection of memories written by a multitude of people who grew up in Elgin and I've already read several enjoyable stories about Camp Swift, growing up in the Depression and various childhood experiences. The newspaper cds are always a lot of fun, since I generally find references to some of my Mobley kin in the personals columns from Oak Hill, McDade and Pleasant Grove that appear in every issue.

I ended my day of play with a stop at Fairview Cemetery to take a volunteer photo for Find a Grave before heading home. When I entered the house, I was hit with the wonderful smell of a roast I had left in the slow cooker this morning. No having to think about what to do about supper tonight.

Sometimes you just have to take a day off. It's good for the soul.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I Have a Dream

My aunt and I spent the past weekend in Friendswood, visiting Mobley cousin Maxine. Maxine is a fellow genealogist and also spent many years as head of a major genealogical library. She and I share many interests and both chose the path of career over marriage and children. After enjoying the comforts of her home for a couple of days, I am newly inspired with regards to the kind of retirement I would like to have.

Her 4-bedroom home is big enough to house her living comforts as well as her hobby of genealogy. She has a large master suite where she sleeps. One bedroom is her guest room and is filled with family antiques and Victorian ambience. The two smallest bedrooms are devoted to her research, with the walls lined in bookshelves and file cabinets. She has a work table in one room, where the majority of her reference books are housed in floor to ceiling shelves. Her desk and computer are in the other, along with more shelves that hold her family notebooks. The walls of the hall are filled with family pictures and her certificates of membership in various lineage societies.

I felt completely at home. I considered curling up on the floor of the research room when my eyes got too heavy to keep open, about midnight. I wisely decided to enjoy the comforts of her guest room. But I was back in the research room at 6:30 am and had located several items of interest before I heard sounds of life from the others. (I'm normally up at that time of day, so it's not as weird as it sounds.)

I admire Maxine for making her home a retirement haven for herself. It has given me ideas for my own retirement years. I'm going to stop feeling guilty about the amount of space in my home that is devoted to my research. I'm going to stop feeling guilty about the amount of miniatures and dollhouse kits that are taking up space in my home and my garage. I'm going to go ahead with my idea of turning one of my smaller bedrooms over to my dollhouses. (It's practically there already, anyway.) I'm going to go ahead with my idea to add more bookshelves to my house. I'm going to keep purging my house of furniture I don't really like and concentrate on showcasing my antiques and family heirlooms. I'm going to fill my living space with comfortable chairs for reading.

Because what is retirement for anyway? It's your reward for working your youth away. You should be able to spend your retirement years doing what you like to do. Which, in my case, involves family history and dollhouses. And little dogs. I might even knit a little in one of those comfy chairs.

I have a dream. And it's getting clearer.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time Flies

Where does the time go? I sat down last night and scanned a few "rescued ancestor" pictures and added them to my website. When I updated my "what's new" link, I was reminded that I had made no updates to the site since January. I had no idea it had been that long.

That reminded me that I have a ton of stuff that I need to get posted on my Hodge lines, a lot of it sent to me by Cousin Marty and some of it shortly after I returned from Kentucky. That's when it hit me that it's been 2 months since I returned from Kentucky. Even counting the blur that is my usual May, I was surprised. Time has flown by. I have a lot of catching up to do.

That is not to say that I've been idle. The de-clutter project continues. My home office is a hideous mess at the moment, with piles everywhere. It should all be gone by the end of the month, but right now I'm praying that I don't receive any unexpected company.

I was interested in an article in this past week's issue of Time. It seems that the de-clutter bug has bitten a lot of us. They claim that it is partially a reaction to our national economic woes and the need to regain a semblance of control in our lives. Some folks are taking it to extremes and reducing their burden of possession to 100 things. Some are taking that literally - that they will own no more than 100 individual things. Others take it to mean 100 groups of things (that is, all your shoes count for one thing).

I'm not going to be that fanatical about it, but I sure will be glad when I can see my floor again. Once the big clutter is out of the way, then I can get back to the small clutter. Photos and documents to be filed and website work to be done.

But, wouldn't you know, this week the LDS folks went and put the Texas Death Certificate images online for the years 1903 thru 1976. I've only been searching it for a little over a day and I've already got a whole new stack of paper added to the "to be filed" pile. There's no way I'll ever get caught up, but I'm having a lot of fun.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

UMHB Then and Later

I'm not the only nut out there. For some time I have been purchasing items on EBAY that pertain to the early history of my alma mater, Mary Hardin-Baylor College (now University). I have a nice collection of early 1920s-1930s yearbooks, a scrapbook that belonged to a student in the 1920s, and assorted ephemera dating to the same general era.

Earlier this week a postcard came on the auction block - a photo of the ruins of the female dormitory at the original site of Baylor at Independence. (For those who have not grown in the collegiate family, Baylor originated at Independence with the boys college on one hill and the girls college on another. Baylor moved to Waco and Baylor Female College moved to Belton, later to become Mary Hardin-Baylor College.) My monetary limit on historic postcards was surpassed almost immediately, so I resigned myself to losing out on this piece of history. I was fortunate that the seller had not watermarked the picture, so I grabbed a copy for my records and then watched the bidding war progress.

The auction ended last night and the winner paid $100 for this postcard.

What is unique and desirable about this postcard is that the building itself no longer exists. You can tell that even at the time of this photo the building was in ruins. Now only the columns have remained to mark the spot and have been stabilized so that we children of Mary Hardin-Baylor can make the pilgrimage to have our photos taken there. This photo of me was taken in the mid-1980s on a trip my mother and I made to the hallowed grounds. (Notice the ubiquitous dog in my lap. This was Missy, about the third of our long line of little dog dictators.)

Back when I was a student at MHB, the college would organize a trip every fall for the freshmen to make the journey to Independence to visit the birthplace of our school. Independence also happens to have historic connections to Sam Houston, so a program would be given at the church where Sam Houston was a member, we would visit the museum and we would have a picnic on the grounds near the college ruins. It was common for the upperclassmen and some of the teachers to join the freshmen on this annual jaunt. We all felt a real connection to this pile of stones.

The person who won the auction has a buying history that indicates his or her interest is in the history of the Brenham area. I hope the person also has a connection to Baylor, because he/she beat out about 6 other interested folks and who knows how many of us who never had a chance to participate. I'm not the only one who cares about the history of Baylor Female College.

So far as the personal family history goes, in addition to myself, Mary Hardin-Baylor was the college home to my mother Nettie, my aunt Bettye, my great-aunt Fay, my 1st cousin once-removed Jo, my 4th cousin Maxine, and assorted Huddleston kinfolk. My Baylor connections run deep. Long live MHB.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Land Lost

A few days ago I became aware that a new historical marker had been placed on Highway 95 between Bastrop and Elgin. Today I finally stopped to find out what it's about. (See end for transcription of sign.)

When the government confiscated land to form Camp Swift, our Mobley family was one of those who lost their land. George Rice Mobley and his father Joseph owned property between Paige and McDade where they farmed, growing sweet potatoes among other things. It was due to them that the Old Potato Road was so named.

Joseph's brother Hezekiah and their Dunkin relatives also lived in the Oak Hill area, most of which was swallowed up by Camp Swift for the duration of the war. As the sign relates, after the war the opportunity was given to some to repurchase their property but most could not afford to do so.

Joseph and Mary Caroline Mobley ended up moving to McDade and living with their youngest daughter, my great-grandmother Cora. Many years later my parents bought 8 acres not too far from where the Mobley homestead had been. I can remember my grandparents driving with us out the winding Old Potato Road and pointing out where my grandfather had been born. It was beautiful land and it must have hurt terribly to be forced to move away and leave a place where they had invested so much blood, sweat and tears. This was the same family that left Georgia because the Civil War had caused them so much loss. Who would have guessed that the next generation would lose their land to another war?

It's only right their sacrifice should be remembered.


*Sign transcription:
Rural Farms and Communities Before Camp Swift

As the United States prepared for the possibility of war in 1940, the government selected this area for establishment of what would be Camp Swift, a training and shipment facility. The federal goverment quickly acquired property, giving landowners 30 days to leave and to move structures. The displacement resulted not only in the loss of farms but also early rural communities, some dating to 19th-century settlement. Outlying areas of larger communities, including Sayersville, Elgin, McDade, Oak Hill and Wayside, were affected, as were dispersed rural settlements within the camp area, including Duck Pond, Piney, Spring Branch and Dogwood.

Most of the displaced residents were farmers, although some worked in other occupations. Antoine Aussiloux, born in France, began operating a local winery in the late 19th century that prospered until refrigerated railroad cars began to deliver beer in the 1890s and later anti-saloon leagues and prohibition eliminated legalized alcohol production. Another area resident, Frank Dennison, constructed nearby facilities for lignite mining, part of the Sayers Mine. He built a village to house miners, and it was associated with a graveyard known as the Mexican Cemetery. Other area burial grounds located within present Camp Swift included Chandler Cemetery, New Hope Cemetery and a single gravesite.

After World War II, the War Assets Administration began to sell some of the land, but many residents were unable to repurchase their former properties. The government eventually retained about 11,500 acres of the approximately 25,000-acre Camp Swift for use by the National Guard. Today, many residents continue to live in this area, and visible reminders throughout Camp Swift chronicle the history of the settlements displaced by wartime activities.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Justifiable Exercise

Back in the early days of personal computing I spent no few hours engrossed in the game of Zork, an adventure game where you prowled around the bowels of an underground world, killing troll-like beings and gathering treasures. No graphics. Just text. It was great fun. After that came the game Myst, which was very similar but your prowling was done visually. Imagine, if you have never played it, an enviroment very similar to the TV world of Lost, except you are alone and discovering abandoned machinery and ancient texts that hint at a lost civilization of some sort. You move settings on the machinery and your reality shifts. Again, great fun and very time consuming.

I eventually tired of the games and left them behind me. I also was somewhat concerned at the amount of time that was eaten away while I sat and puzzled my next move. I fully understand how addictive personalities can lose themselves in such an activity.

Awhile back I discovered some free arcade style games on and would stop in and play a few minutes here and there when I needed to take a break from the genealogy or work arenas. The nice thing about the games at MSN is that unless you pay for the full version, you can only play so far until you've maxed out the levels available to you, so it would not take long for me to reach the top and get bored replaying the same level of difficulty. And I would move on.

Then I found some of those old favorites at Half-Price Books, publisher's closeout copies, for a fraction of the download price. I bought a copy of Luxor, a copy of Diner Dash, and a copy of Pirate Poppers. Each of these took about a month or so of advancing slowly to the top level, with each level becoming more and more difficult to master, before I would hit that last level. That last level could take weeks to finally master, but with every loss I would be more determined that no computer was going to get the best of me. To win the top levels called for quick reflexes and strategy to beat the clock. Over and over I would tackle that last level until that magic day when I could chortle with victory.

I have now worked my way through three different editions of Diner Dash (I can't help it, I love that game). Currently I am embattled with Atlantis and Super Granny 3. I find I can sit down "for a few minutes" after supper and the next thing I know the evening news is coming on.

But, speaking of the news, as of today I no longer feel too guilty about the time spent on computer games. This morning I watched a segment on how mental exercises can help stave off dementia and Alzheimer's. They recommend activities that cause your brain to react in new ways, such as brushing your teeth with your less-dominant hand and trying to do normal routine activities with your eyes closed so that your brain has to deal with sensory loss.

I have become aware that during the months I have been playing these games, my reflexes are getting sharper and I'm spotting patterns in the playing field that escaped me in the beginning. Now when I go back and repeat some of the lower levels that once gave me trouble, I breeze through them without effort.

When I was going through and disposing of my father's papers, I found a crossword puzzle book that had been virtually untouched. As soon as I tried to do one of the puzzles, I knew why. The clues were bizarre and the answers were sometimes so weird as to be unfathomable. I'm a long-time crossword puzzle solver and I was at a loss how they came up with some of the words. I kept at it, though, through sheer cussedness. And a weird thing happened. I started getting more and more of the puzzle blanks filled in before I would have to resort to checking the answers. I was learning to think in the same bass-ackwards way the editors of the puzzles thought.

I believe there's a lot to this mental exercise thing. I'm going to stop feeling guilty for playing my computer games and for cussing that crossword book. Both have helped me keep my brain sharpened. Time spent exercising the brain is not time wasted.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Friday, June 06, 2008


Despite my best intentions, I just can't resist dragging in more clutter.

I'm beginning work on a miniature version of "The Swamp" from my favorite television show of all time, M*A*S*H. I'm having to revert to my early days of dollhouse construction, because there just aren't that many military items readily available in 1/12th scale. It's back to looking at full-sized items that can be substituted for the proper effect.

For instance, I spent about a week puzzling over how I was going to recreate the oil-drum heater that sits in the middle. All the miniature barrels I could locate were not big enough. Hobby Lobby has a good supply of wood craft, but nothing that could be pressed into service. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed a tin can that was skinny, taller than single serving and shorter than a standard 303 can. A juice can maybe, but not quite. When I was preparing supper last night, I discovered the perfect thing in the pantry - a tomato paste can. I just have to come up with something to cook that requires tomato paste so I can empty that can.

Now I'm puzzling over footlockers. I just need them to sit there, not to be open, so I'm thinking some kind of wood block painted olive drab. Again, Hobby Lobby failed me and I decided to check Michael's today at lunch.

That's where I made my mistake. Michael's doesn't have anything that would work for footlockers either, but I lost it in the paint aisle. There are two paints that I just love and can never find when I need them. One is designed to create a stucco effect and makes great dollhouse floors and walls. The other is a stone texture you spray on that really does a great adobe imitation. A few years back Hobby Lobby quit carrying the stucco paint and I bought up everything they had left on the shelf when it hit clearance status. I can still find Fleck-Stone, but never in the color I want.

Michael's has the full range of both. I quickly grabbed a jar of the heirloom rose stucco, the paint I am using for the interior of my Mexican food restaurant and that I very nearly did not have enough to complete the job. (Now I can go back and do some touch-ups.) I grabbed a jar or two of other colors and then realized that all of it - the stucco, the Fleck-Stone, and another sandstone paint I'm a little partial to - was on clearance. Which means that just as I find a source, it may be about to dry up on me. I will be doing an inventory this weekend to find out just what I need and probably be back at Michael's sometime next week to stock up.

It's just hopeless. Even when I'm not really looking, I find stuff I can't help but buy and drag home.

I really need a bigger house.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

The 8PM Panic

This just hasn't been a particularly good week. I'm still in recovery mode from the work crush in May and I really do not suffer fools gladly while that is in progress. If I were still commuting into Austin, this would undoubtedly be the time when my middle finger would be getting sufficient exercise. Thankfully my commute is presently helping to calm me down with views of grazing cows and, this morning, a napping pinto horse curled up like a kitten in the tall grass. When I'm this tired, I am thankful for such distractions that bring a smile amidst all the aggravations that make me want to scream and hurl things.

So, anyway, last night at 8PM we headed out for our nightly walk. Contrary to what would be the sensible thing to do, I have remained on our usual route and am being careful to look way ahead on the block where the bouncey Pogo might be so I can scoop up the wee ones before we get there. Last night I had just spotted Pogo and was calculating at what point I needed to grab the dogs, when out of left field came an animated ball of fluff barking furiously, with its owner running behind yelling for it to come back.

Mojo took one look, said "screw this" and hit the end of the leash headed the opposite direction - toward a very busy street - and popped his collar off. Away he ran, with me and Coco in panicked pursuit, and us being followed by the fur ball and the pudgy owner. (I really don't know what the neighborhood would do without us for late evening entertainment.)

Well, if it had been Coco I might still be running after her yelling "stop!". But Mojo is my little scaredy-cat and after looking behind to make sure the fur ball had been taken into custody, slowed down and made for the safe haven of Mommy.

Of course by this time Pogo had caught on that she was missing out on the fun and was lying in wait for her chance. But Coco and Mojo were perfectly willing to be carried at that point and we passed without further incident, with Pogo's owners still trying to catch her.

The wee ones had recovered their equilibrium by the time we got home, but it took me awhile to get over the scare of how close he had come to dashing out in traffic. It amazes me that these same two little dogs had been eager to make the acquaintance of a little dacshund on another block, had dared two mean dogs through a fence and had strained to smell two passing boxers, but are terrified when a fur ball heads their way, unrestrained and yapping. Logical, they ain't.

Tonight we walk another way. Far be it from me to be so stingy and prohibit another street from laughing their collective ass off at my expense. It should not be long before I have a reputation in the neighborhood. If I don't already.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On Being Texan, Continued

A couple of recent finds at Half-Price Books have also reminded me of some of the nice things about being Texan. One was an audiobook, The Tao of Willie, part memoir and part wisdom of our own Willie Nelson. Too bad we can't get Willie into the governor's office. It would be a great improvement.

One of the little gems in his book was a quotation at the beginning of a chapter. It was new to me, but probably not to folks older than me who had the privilege of listening to Will Rogers on the radio back in the old days. "Never miss a good chance to shut up". Amen.

Yesterday I found a Lyle Lovett CD I didn't have and the first cut is worth the price. It deals with a man who has observed someone coveting his precious possession. The response? "Take the girl, but don't touch my hat". Good Texas swing music and a great message. What more could you ask?

Well, a good plate of Tex-Mex. Just got back from a truly awesome lunch at La Cabana. I am in a blissful state of mind.


Summer Has Arrived

It's a little early this year. The heat, that is. My car thermometer has read 100 degrees several times during the afternoon commute home. I fear we are in for one hot August. You will never hear me complain about the spring rains, because I have 50+ years experience with August in Texas.

But--despite the heat--you have to appreciate the wonderful blue Texas skies in weather like this. I feel a real satisfaction driving through the countryside with those azure skies and puffy white clouds as far as you can see. I am a Texan and the heat and the blue skies are a part of me I wouldn't give up.

Now for Cemetery Update 2. I made a quick trip out to the Oak Hill Cemetery near McDade on Saturday to pick up a newly updated burial listing from the cemetery association. They were having their annual picnic and business meeting and folks were busy visiting and setting up the food tables. Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the meal, but I did stay long enough to check out the improvements they've made to the cemetery since last year. The primary accomplishment for the year was removing the fencing that has long separated the "white" and "black" sections and clearing the black section for the first time since I've been going out there. I had no idea how many more graves were there until now.

Oak Hill is one of my favorite examples of a scraped grave cemetery, where all the graves are mounded dirt and the only plants are trees and bushes. No grass to be mowed, which makes maintenance much easier. Not to mention that the snakes are easier to spot.

With the work done to incorporate the long neglected graves into the main cemetery, and it had to have been a lot of work, the cemetery has almost doubled in area.

The community of Oak Hill died when the government confiscated the land for the creation of Camp Swift in WWII. The descendants of those who lived there are still around and they have done a great job taking care of their ancestors who rest here.

Our own Uncle "Mac", Hezekiah Madison Mobley, and his wife Sarah and several of their children and grandchildren are buried at Oak Hill. We also have many Dunkin relatives at rest here. True Texas pioneers, they came to Bastrop County in the 1870s to leave behind the losses they suffered in Georgia during the Civil War. Thanks to Uncle Mac and his brother, my gg-grandfather Joseph, I am privileged to live in Texas. And it is a privilege. Even in August.

Uncle Mac's & Sarah's graves


Monday, June 02, 2008

Weekend in Review

The ongoing war with clutter is still raging. The house was quiet this weekend and I did not feel like sitting at my desk or working on dollhouses, so I ended up tackling the next closetful of clutter. About a half-dozen boxes of assorted knick-knacks, some of which had not seen the light of day since THE MOVE, were hauled out into the middle of the family room and their contents unwrapped and put through the first sort. Pile for me, pile for little brother, pile for possible transfer to friends, pile for charity fundraiser, pile for thrift store, pile for the trash bin. The last did make it to its destination, but the remainder were put into individual boxes in my office to await the proper connections to be made.

The cats were in cat heaven. As I shucked newspaper off owls, cows and miscellaneous bric-a-brac, I threw it into a big heap in the middle of the floor. They dove into the middle, jumped around in it, tackled each other and carried pieces off to shred. By the time they tired of that game, there were empty boxes to explore. Late in the day I found them on the top two tiers of their cat tower, dead to the world. Best they've been in weeks.

The next day I got back in the closet and hauled out sheets for the thrift store and assorted blankets for the vet clinic. The cats were back in action, happy for another day of unexpected entertainment. Despite them, I made progress. You can't really miss what I took out, but every little bit helps. I now have a mess of stuff in the office, but the anticipation that it will soon be wending its way elsewhere and no longer taking up room in my house.

The dogs were happy to assist me in moving the outside pot plants into more shady areas and setting up water baths for those with clay pots. Mojo dearly loves to work outside, eager for the chance to battle the water hose. Coco stands well away for fear she will get wet and mess up her coiffure, but she wouldn't miss being a part of things.

The one cloud on their weekend was our walk last night at 8PM. We had covered about three-fourths of our route when we ran into their old nemesis Pogo, the Jack Russell terrier that lives just around the corner. Normally her owners grab her when they see us coming, but this time they were busy and here she came. She's not a mean dog, but she has more bounce than sense. Sort of like Tigger in the Walt Disney Pooh movies. Mojo and Coco can't stand her and before I could grab them up, were spinning around me and effectively tying me up with their leash, getting more and more panicked as they could not figure out how to get away from her.

I finally, in desperation, loosened my grip on the leash enough to bend down to get Coco, who was pressing up against my legs. Mojo, in the meantime, was dancing at the end of his leash like a fish out of water. The instant I touched Coco, she knew that she was about to die at the teeth of her enemy and let out a shriek that sounded like she was being murdered. It took some effort to get a good grip on her and haul her up out of harm's way and she was screaming the entire time. It was only when she was finally tucked against my shoulder that she realized she was safe and ceased sounding like a stuck pig.

This of course had a bad effect on Mojo and tickled Pogo no end. Her owners were trying to herd her away from us, but she was having too much fun and kept running big circles around our little 3-ring circus. I was finally able to reel Mojo in with his leash and get him hauled up, too. I was afraid he might be stressed into one of his seizures, but he calmed down pretty quick when he found himself above the action. Pogo's owners apologized profusely and we went on our way, two little dogs peering anxiously over my shoulder to be sure the threat was left behind.

Quiet, country living at its best. I'm surprised we didn't have somebody call the cops. All's well this morning, but I think we may just leave that street out of our route for awhile. I'm getting too old for that kind of excitement.