Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The beautiful Coco is now 4 years old and getting prettier by the day. That funny little grey spot on her hip notwithstanding. I guess she had to have a small blemish to keep her humble. She's a treasure.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
With Spring comes the desire to plant things. It's been way too long since I've participated in the care of a real garden, but I hope that someday I will get to till up a patch of land and plant long rows of black-eyes peas, tomatoes and peppers once again.
The last few years I've been too tired to even contemplate patio gardening, but this year I decided I would get a couple of Sweet 100 tomato plants and see how they do in pots. I also wanted a sweet basil plant and have had the dickens of a time finding one this year. I found my Sweet 100s at the first place I looked about two weeks ago and they are coming along nicely. After checking all the obvious places that stock herbs and garden seedlings, I finally found a bedraggled little basil plant at the local Wal-Mart, of all places. It has taken its place on the patio.
I hope that along about the end of May I will be able to make spaghetti sauce with fresh basil and have fresh tomatoes in my salad. The odds of having a dewberry cobbler for dessert look slim, though. Not much happening with the wild dewberry vines this year.
My farmer genes just love to watch the crops grow.
Friday, March 27, 2009
But, Big Red has demonstrated on several occasions that it considers itself smarter than me. If a door isn't closed exactly right and I press the button to lock things up, I get a long and mournful warning signal to let me know that all is not right. The same warning issues if I try to lock up when one of the remotes is still inside the car.
If I, God forbid, should decide to open the door while the engine is running and without putting it in park first, I get a big flashing red alert symbol on the dash. "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!"
And the thing gets downright hysterical if you or your passenger disengages the seat belt before you've powered down. (This not having a key leads to the necessity of different terminology. I just realized that I "power down" the car.)
The dash has an impressive array of lights and symbols that I seldom see except during the "power up". I've seen the low tire pressure light once. I see the maintenance light when it's time for an oil change. I've seen the door ajar light once or twice.
But this week it pulled a new trick. After the big hail and thunderstorm that went through Round Rock the other day (when Big Red was safely inside the garage at home, thank goodness), the ground was littered with leaves and branches the next morning. As I drove into the parking lot at work, I drove over something that produced a very slight skid for about a half-second and I saw a yellow light flicker and then go out on the dash before I could tell what it was.
I'm still a little nervous about the ultra-electronics that drive Big Red, so my immediate concern was whether something was about to go wrong. I was careful to check the location of that light when I next started the car.
I was being warned that the road was slippery.
Uh-huh. Just what I need on the occasion that I really go into a skid - a sensor in my car telling me the road is slippery. I think I can probably figure that one out without help.
Darned smart-alecky car.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
When I told him it was time for Mom to get to work, he gave me that "let's don't and say you did" look. Bad influence he is. Coco is no better. They've both offered to sign affidavits that I slaved long and hard today - provided I agree to all their furry demands for the next 8 hours.
Tempting, but then there are the heathen cats who would turn me in just for the fun of it.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
They dredged up an old Roger Miller song while I was listening. The man was a genius with lyrics. I sang along at the top of my voice, not missing one word of a song I have not listened to in several years.
So, this morning I pulled out my Roger Miller CD set. I love those old songs and I sang along all the way to work. Feel good music. Great way to start a Tuesday.
Sunday I finally hauled the ladder out and cleaned off the gutters. I have screens on them, but the pine needles collect on top and it was beginning to look to the casual passersby that I had a thatched roof. I cleared the resultant mess off the decks and rearranged the plants that had been huddled against the wall against the late cold snap of last week.
I went to the grocery store and when I got back, cleared the jumble out of the pantry and restored it to order. I plopped a brisket into the Crock Pot so I wouldn't have to cook every night this week.
I walked dogs, and then we did something extraordinary. We took a nap. I never take naps anymore. It was delicious. We all piled into the big red chair, started a movie on the tv, pulled an afghan over us and dozed for almost two hours.
My aunt, uncle and cousin stopped by on their way home and we had a nice visit and then I puttered for the rest of the evening.
I figured that Monday evening I would be back to normal. I'm always tired after commuting 110 miles round trip and putting up with lawyers all day. But, I surprised myself. I got home and went into phase III.
After enjoying my Crock Pot brisket, I swept and mopped the kitchen, the dining room, the guest bathroom and the front hall. It's a miracle. Has to be to get me to willingly pick up a mop. I folded the last of the laundry I had done on Sunday evening.
I sat down to visit with the dogs and took another nap.
Crossing my fingers this lasts for awhile.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
First I changed the sheets, one of those jobs I hate doing, so I decided to get it over with early.
Next I started on the cabinet in the utility room which has been a horror ever since we moved in. I worked on it an hour, putting questionably hazardous things in a box to drop off somewhere next week. (How is it that every can of ant poison I buy ends up with a tablespoon left in the bottom and pushed to the back of the cabinet?) I changed the litter box. I did two loads of laundry. I finally decided I had had enough of that room and will tackle the second cabinet next time.
I cleaned the guest bathroom. I detest cleaning bathrooms, which is the third most hated household chore on my list right after changing the sheets and mopping the floors.
Unfortunately I can't have any guests right now to appreciate my efforts because before I knew what I was doing, I was working on THE CLOSET. This is the walk-in closet in Mother's bedroom that has been the dumping ground for all things that have no other place to reside and that I have not yet made up my mind whether to eject from the house.
I have dragged out furniture, computer components, my old spinning wheel (I am going to get that thing put back together or know the reason why), all the photograph albums, and piles and piles of blankets and pillows. All of it is piled around the bedroom in various stages of sorting and it may sit there until next weekend before I work up enough steam to tackle the next stage of deciding what to do with it.
Before I totally collapsed, I rounded up the dogs and gave them baths because they both found something deliciously smelly in the yard this morning and joyfully rolled in it until they were pee-yew stinky. No way was I letting them in my freshly made bed without a thorough cleaning.
In amongst all this, we spent the better part of two hours knitting on my Noro scarf while dogs napped beside me.
Most weekends I get absolutely nothing done. Then Spring arrives and gives me inspiration. Which leads to perspiration and exhaustion.
I think it's time for a nice bubble bath, a little liquid refreshment, and an evening in front of the television with my knitting in my lap and my dogs snoozing beside me.
Better rest now because heaven only knows what I'll get into tomorrow.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Be that as it may, I did have a pleasant surprise this morning. Last year about this time I made a foray out to an abandoned cemetery and dug up some irises that had spread like crazy. I brought home about a dozen bulbs and plopped them in the ground and have been watching them ever since. I am not new to the phenomena that are bulbs. I know they sometimes take a season or two or three to finally make up their minds to bloom.
At my previous home, I had planted a mess of narcissus bulbs that I had gotten from my grandmother's flower bed and that had never bloomed for her. They sat in my flower bed for another several years before they started blooming their heads off and spreading until I had quite a showy display every year. I am still kicking myself for not moving those bulbs with me. I also had a thick growth of iris bulbs -- purple, white and yellow -- and I failed to move any of those either. Time ran out and I had to leave them all behind.
So, when I found that huge lot of irises in the cemetery, I decided to get myself a new start of bulbs. I was a little doubtful they would make it in the rocky soil where I am now, but they never faltered, never wilted and never froze back.
And this morning I found that one of the dozen or so plants was in full bloom.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The bad news is that shortly after I arrived home Monday evening my hip slipped out of alignment as it is wont to do from time to time and I've been in pain ever since. I can't sit, stand or lie down without hurting. I already had a chiropractic appointment set for today, so I've been gritting my teeth and counting the hours until I can get the thing put back into place. T-minus two hours and 12 minutes to go.
The furry kids are beginning to settle down and get back into routine. They are still a little put out with me, but one of the four will crawl into my lap every time I sit down and give me that "please don't leave me again" look. I haven't got the heart to tell them that I have another brief trip coming up in about a month. They might stuff me into a closet and refuse to let me out.
Is there any doubt who is running the show around here?
Monday, March 16, 2009
The way to Buster's house was down a rutted caliche road with many a bump and puddle. By the time we had driven in and out, Big Red looked like Big Muddy. The house sits on the edge of a large tank and before the drought dried most of it up, there was quite a bit of fishing done there. Buster is still living on his own (with nearby family) and tends his few head of cattle and tells some good stories. He's quite a guy.
After a good visit and some good vittles, we went on to a little cemetery where many of the kinfolk are buried. After two days of rain and temperature in the 40s, the afternoon turned warm and sunny and the nearby hills were blue and beautiful and we enjoyed our drive, even if we did have to make a stop when we got back to Kerrville to hose the mud off the car.
My favorite photo of the day was this portion of an old chimney, the only remaining evidence of the original house that stood on Buster's land.
I love that solitary little sprig of Spanish moss that clings to the rock. The chimney reminded me of the whole process of genealogy. You build your family tree piece by piece, with every piece relying on the pieces beneath it. The little rocks fill in the gaps and give character to the family history. And, just when you least expect it, a little surprise springs out of the records and gives you a whole new perspective on the family story you thought you knew.
Yesterday a surprise sprang out of the family story I thought I knew. We were planning to visit the Hondo cemetery and get photos of the graves of my Aunt Fannie Rucker and her two sons and some of her grandchildren. The cemetery listing I found online listed a Rucker I did not have in my records. In pursuing the connection, I stumbled over a startling piece of family history that I had never known. I ended up putting in a call to my aunt to see if she knew any of the details. She had forgotten about the incident, but was able to explain the troubling records I had found from stories she had heard from my grandmother. That story will be told in detail over on Building Blocks in the not too distant future.
While I had her on the telephone, I asked her about whether it was true Aunt Fannie had broken her back. No, she had no idea where I had gotten that idea. Aunt Fannie had never been incapacitated by anything other than old age. When I added a few more details I had heard, she was able to set me straight that there was an aunt who had had an unsettling experience while turning somersaults, but that nothing was broken. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter that aunt had died from complications of a stroke at a very early age and some speculation had been made at the time that the two incidents might have been related. All my childhood memories of that story had apparently been scrambled with my memory of Aunt Fannie who was confined to her bed in her last years. And this is how family rumors get started, I guess.
When we got to Hondo this morning, we stopped at the library to see if there was any published map of the cemetery and, while the staff was very helpful, they had no records to help us. They suggested that we go across the street to the funeral home where they were sure we would get the information we needed. Indeed we did get a map and an approximate location of the graves from a gentlemen who reminded me of the quintessential funeral director you see in tv shows and movies. I got the distinct impression that helping a family historian was not his idea of a good time, but he nonetheless saved us an enormous amount of time considering how large the cemetery was. We were able to pay our respects and get the photos I wanted.
Having completed our last genealogy task for this trip, we headed east to San Antonio and then on to home.
I was not greeted with open arms from the kids. I have been informed in no uncertain terms that I am in the doghouse but good. Mojo is alternately clinging to me and growling at me. Coco is pretending I don't exist. Boo is jumping in my lap, purring, and then biting me. Scout is walking around with her lips pursed (I kid you not). I'm hoping a good night's sleep tucked in against Mom will help get their world back on its axis.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I was the first one in the door when they opened. It was cold and misty, but I had to stop to examine several large bronze statues outside. This one was entitled "Wind and Rain", which was appropriate for the day.
I was met inside by an enthusiastic bunch and given a thorough introduction by one of the docents before I was turned loose in the galleries to explore on my own. Most of the collection currently on display is on loan from a private collection and all I can say is the Sims couple has great taste in western art. There were bronzes, alabaster sculptures, wood sculptures, and a multitude of oil and watercolor paintings. The collection is fabulous and I was enthralled for a full hour as I examined three large rooms full of western themed art.
I've always loved western art, so this was right down my alley. I did come to the realization that, while I like all of it, I am partial to the depictions of cowboys at work and at rest. I can appreciate a scene with an Indian village, but I melt when I see a picture of a cowboy on his horse, wading through a stream and being followed by the faithful dog. I like the pictures of old western towns with their rustic buildings, but I love the cowboy sitting with his tin plate balanced on his lap while he eats. I like the Texas hill country scenes with bluebonnets and Indian paint brushes splashing color from corner to corner, but I love the pictures where the cowboy sits on his horse atop a bluff, watching over the herd of cattle.
I just love cowboys. I loved the display of well-worn saddles that lined the hall down to the restrooms. I loved the leather chaps thrown across one of those saddles. I always think of my great-grandfather Burl Mason, probably the only authentic cowboy in my ancestry, when I see these tools of the American cowboy. I am so glad I can claim an honest to goodness cowboy in my family tree.
In addition to the wonderful art, one room was devoted to a childrens' exhibit that was great fun. Interspersed with large reproductions of the diary entries of a pioneer child, the story was told of a family's move west by Conestoga wagon. The exhibit encouraged kids to touch and feel, to calculate and weigh the supplies to be packed in the chest, to climb inside a wagon and crawl inside a teepee. It told the story from the departure at Independence, Missouri, to a temporary layover at a fort where supplies could be replenished, to an encounter with Indians and finally to their new home on the west coast of California. It was very well done.
I had to go back and re-examine my favorite pictures and sculptures before I left. By far, my favorite of the sculptures spoke to my love of miniatures. It was a bronze, but the mood was comical instead of serious. On the left of the piece sat an old tin lizzy, with the hood up. Spread all around it were various parts and tools where someone had in vain tried to repair it, but it was obvious there was no fixing it this time. On the right side stood a sorrowful cowboy shielding his eyes and stretching out his hand with a pistol pointed at the ailing vehicle as he prepared to put it out of its misery. I would love to have tucked that piece under my coat and taken it home. I may just have to use the idea in a vignette.
From the museum, I made my way to the local history center where I spent a couple of hours exploring their stacks and I found a few items to make the stop worthwhile.
Kerrville has been a surprise. I've always pictured it as a sleepy little hill country town, but it is a bustling place. The traffic is constant and they have every convenience of a large town, including two of most fast-food joints and one of every well-known restaurant chain. They have a full retinue of the required HEB, WalMart, Lowe's, Home Depot, McCoy's and even a Big Lots!. There is a college, a hospital or two, and all in all it appears to be a very self-sufficient little town.
We were both tired at the end of our respective days, and we decided that we needed a good margarita to help us unwind, so we headed to a little Mexican food place we had spotted when we arrived. We had no idea that we were headed to what must be one of the most popular restaurants in town. The parking lot was packed and there was a 20-minute wait for a table. We headed for the bar and took care of the margarita issue while we were waiting.
The restaurant was wonderful. The interior is lined with the facades of a small Mexican town - specifically San Antonio in its early days. The focal point was a wonderful reproduction of the Alamo. My cell phone did not do it justice, but maybe this will give you the idea.
The ceiling was full of twinkling lights and everyone was enjoying themselves. The food was wonderful. We are tired but happy. A great second day to our most excellent hill country adventure.
In reviewing the death certificate, I was reminded that she was supposed to have been buried in San Bernardino at Montecito Memorial Park. Back when I first gathered that information, there was no FindaGrave website. This time I decided to create a memorial for her in that cemetery and then request a photo from the FindaGrave volunteer network. I really did not expect to get a response, because the cemetery had more than 1500 entries and several outstanding photo requests that were months old.
Today when I got back to the hotel and checked my email, there was the notification that my request had been fulfilled. To see the memorial for Mary Frances, click on the photo below:
Now I have to get busy and find out where I might find her daughter Rosa's grave.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Being completely worn out at the moment, I am planning to be a slug on this trip. Last year's venture was a mixture of visiting old friends and meeting face to face with some of my distant relatives I had theretofore only known via the Internet. We had a wonderful time. This year is Lana's turn. Tomorrow she is involved in a meeting and I am being turned loose on an unsuspecting community and then Sunday we are headed to meet up with some distant cousins that she has met through the Internet. Isn't the Internet a grand invention? It has enabled us to make contacts we never dreamed existed.
We will, of course, be visiting cemeteries and libraries. We could not possibly go on a road trip without visiting cemeteries and libraries. I hope to visit the graves of my great-grand aunt Fannie Lentz Rucker and her husband and their children. I can dimly remember visiting Aunt Fannie when I was a wee child. She was bed-ridden, having broken her back at some point. This incident had a lasting impact on the grand nieces and nephews. My father was dead against my getting involved with any gymnastics activities when I was a child, because Aunt Fannie had broken her back doing somersaults. At least that is the story I remember and I am planning to get the lowdown on that history at the next family reunion.
Frances Louise Lentz Rucker
Aunt Fannie, about the time I met her
This year's genealogy road tripping is being confined to Texas, so we did not have airport problems or rental car issues or me taking the wrong exit opportunities. Instead we drove Big Red and were at our destination in a little over two hours and even managed to stop in Fredericksburg for a great lunch and small bit of shopping. (I now have yarn for the next scarf ready to go as soon as the needles are free of the current scarf in progress.)
It turned out that our trip coincided with a late cold front, so it has been rainy and chilly all day. But I am not about to complain about the rain. The cold I could do without, but I welcome all the wet stuff we can get. It may create some adventures in the cemeteries we visit, but I have my old grungy tennis shoes in the car and I will slog out in the mud as happy as a pig in slop. Neither rain nor cold nor sleet nor snow shall stay these genealogists from their appointed rounds.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
This was my first time to drive past the burned area since last Sunday. I made a few brief stops to get photos to try and show how awful it all was.
The house in the background in this photo burned to the ground, leaving only the steps and some concrete pillars.
Some of the roads are still closed while the cleanup takes place and we still have a few fire crews on hand monitoring potential flare ups. The local paper reported yesterday that people who violate the burn ban are no longer getting warnings, but instead are receiving tickets with big fines. Thank heavens. We are all really jumpy around here and I even had a momentary heart flutter when I arrived home from my little jaunt and smelled something burning that turned out to be the neighbor's grill at work.
The afternoon was spent potting my two tomato plants and my two pots of marigolds and begonias and filling all the bird feeders and water bowls. I had lots of help, as you can probably imagine. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in March than by burying my hands in a big pot of soil and plopping in a tomato plant.
I really never expected anybody else to want to read my little essays and diatribes. I wasn't too surprised when the kinfolks found me, but I was surprised that they kept coming back for more. A few friends joined the group and then an amazing thing happened. Folks I didn't know began to visit. I would get a stray email or comment from someone on the other side of the country. At first it is a little disconcerting to realize that people are reading your words that aren't there out of some sense of obligation but actually want to hear what you have to say. Mercy.
Today I was tagged with an award from MiniKat, who found me through shared interests of knitting, miniatures and love of animals. I feel honored to be on her list of favorite blogs. The award (see graphic above) comes with the requirement that you list your own 15 favorite blogs. Let's see now....
1) I've been reading Notes from an Eclectic Mind for several years now. I originally found the blog by virtue of Google, looking up some information on an old kiddie TV show that ran in San Antonio when I was a kid. I stayed because the blogger not only shared a lot of common growing up in small town Texas memories, but she is also a caregiver like I am and it has been something of a support group for me.
2) Victoria Pearl's Daily Adventures is written from the viewpoint of a 2-year-old of my acquaintance. She's a pistol, her mother has a unique way of relating the day's events, and I enjoy the heck out of her daily adventures.
3) Yarn Harlot is written by master knitter and writer Stephanie Pearl-Macphee and I've learned a lot about knitting and laughed my arse off, as she would say, at her comic misadventures being a mom, a wife, and a knitter.
4) The Pioneer Woman I learned about from my aunt and it's another fun place to spend time. Ree is a transplanted city girl, who married a Marlboro Man and moved to a ranch in Oklahoma. She's a good writer (funny as all get out), takes great photos, loves animals and likes to cook. Always some fun to be had here.
5) Mini Modern is a place I found to feed my joy of miniatures. This blogger specializes in modern miniatures, an area in which I've not done much work. I am pulled toward stores, shops and vignettes, but thanks to this blog I may have to try my hand at some modern scenes. I particularly love the ongoing saga of Mike and Sheila.
6) Induljence is a blog written by a former co-worker. Jen comes and goes with her blogging, but when she posts, she always has a really thought-provoking photo and some thought-provoking thoughts.
7) Rambling Thoughts is written by a new friend I met recently. Brenda is a super genealogist and helped me round up some records in Kentucky while I rooted from the distant sidelines in Texas. She also writes a history blog about the records she unearths in western Kentucky, which would be blog number 8.
9) Forgotten Passages is another blog about the history of Crittenden County, Kentucky. Brenda Underdown has a connection to the local newspaper and finds some really great tidbits in its archives to share with us researchers who connect to Crittenden County.
10) The Flyer is little brother's blog and he has been taking a hiatus from blogging recently. I trust he will be back one of these days and will be spitting venom at the Republicans again. I hope so anyway.
Hmm, I'm bottoming out at 10 blogs I read faithfully. There are several I read intermittently and a few that are restricted by invitation only and quite a few I keep an eye on. I'll keep thinking...
Friday, March 06, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
She and I are almost the same age and she remembers a lot of the same things I do. This morning the topic of discussion was dress codes of the 1970s and she reminded me how times have changed.
Nowadays the kids would not believe that back in the dark ages of the late 60s and early 70s, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school. Up until I was in High School, it was dresses only, and the rule was relaxed only with the advent of polyester pant suits. Under fashion pressure, pant suits were deemed acceptable for some weird reason, but heaven forbid that you wear a combination of pants and a blouse that weren't of the same material and obviously intended to be a set.
Women my age will remember the continuous fight between the administration and the teen aged girls over the length of skirts during the miniskirt era. You were not permitted to have your dress more than 4 inches from the middle of your knee and, if there was a doubt you were in compliance, you had to kneel on the floor and have the distance from your skirt to the floor measured. I remember when we were Seniors and the class favorites photos were to be taken, the girls would wait until just before time for the photos to be made and then slip quickly into the restroom to change into their shorter skirts, dash back for the photo, and then return to change again before the principal spotted them. No one was the wiser until the yearbooks came out the next summer and by that time we were graduates and beyond the reach of the law.
I went on to a strict Baptist college where the rules were just as rigid. You dared not be seen on the front campus in shorts. Shorts were allowed only on the back campus where the athletic fields were located. If you were to relate that to the students there now, they would probably not believe you.
Jill includes a long discussion about girdles and had me remembering the days when you weren't properly dressed for church until you had your rigid girdle on, with the attached garters holding up your stockings and digging into your flesh. When you got home and broke free of your lycra prison, the garter marks in your thighs would last until you put the dratted thing back on for the evening service. It did not matter if you were thin as a rail, you wore the girdle or you weren't fully dressed. Girls today should thank their lucky stars that girdles have gone the way of the dodo. A more uncomfortable garment I can't imagine.
Times have certainly changed. Now kids wear shorts to class in warm weather. No one looks disapproving when folks show up at church in blue jeans. Nobody wears girdles and nobody misses them.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Mojo and Coco aren't having any of it. They view the car with suspicion. Things are somewhat improved if I put them in their carriers - I guess they feel a little more secure that way - but even then they will pant and shake and pant and shake until the whole car trembles.
I would like to begin taking them on small overnight trips, so I'm trying again to convince them that riding with Mom is a fun thing and not a punishment. Today I needed to run a few errands around town and decided it was time for the next lesson. I scooped them up and put them in the car and away we went.
Coco settled down, more or less, in the passenger seat and while she wasn't exactly hopping up and down with joyful excitement, she conveyed the sentiment that it's better to be with Mom than be left behind. Mojo, on the other hand, was in a complete state of panic. I had hoped that the quieter engine of Big Red might alleviate some of his aversion to riding, but it doesn't seem to make any difference at all. I kept up a constant chatter, telling them how good they were and how much fun this is. "Yeah, right," they responded.
We stopped at the bank, where I knew the drive-in teller would give them each a milk bone. They were unimpressed. A far cry from the attitude that Bebop and Xana had about the bank. They both came to the conclusion that they had a milk bone balance there and were royally miffed on the rare occasion that the teller happened to be out of milk bones.
We stopped to fill up with gas. They really didn't like Mom leaving them in the car for the process, even though she was right outside the window the whole time.
We went to a hamburger joint and showed them that people would hand food right out the window to them. They turned their little noses up in disdain. Eat junk food? Not them, thank you very much.
So we went home, our lesson over for the day. Mojo almost fell to his knees and kissed the ground, he was so happy to be home. Coco, I think, is going to catch on and decide that going with Mom can be a good thing and won't necessarily include a needle in the posterior.
Mojo? I don't know. It may be a long, hard process to convince him. A harder head I've never encountered in a little dog.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
The firemen and law enforcement are still very much on the scene. A little convenience store just down the way had been set up as the command center and it was wall to wall emergency vehicles far down the gravel road beside it. Hot spots still smoulder out in the fields and helicopters are still criss-crossing above the area.
The Alum Creek Antique Center is a pile of smoking rubble. Only two buildings survive of the dozen or so that were there. If you are familiar with the place, everything on the hill to the right of the driveway is gone. The two surviving buildings were along the left side of the parking area. Everything behind them is gone. I'm not sure the buildings left are more than a shell.
The cemetery doesn't look as bad as I thought it might. In the way that fires and tornadoes behave, the damage skips around. The western half of the cemetery and the entire ground surface are blackened, but the trees on the eastern half don't appear to be badly damaged. Big patches of blackened earth come right up to the front yards of houses that survived pretty much intact. And then, you see the remains of a house you've driven by for 30 years. Nothing but the stone steps and the fireplace left.
The model log buildings that sit in a pasture are fine, while the pastures around them are totally burnt. Across the road from the Alum Creek Antique Center sits a small building that houses a realty company and it survived. Acreage around it is scorched. A long stretch of green will lull you into thinking you've reached the perimeter and then the big black splotches appear again.
The evidence of the destruction extends far up the hills and down the gravel roads that are blocked off by Sheriff's cars. I saw people who still have houses standing in their yards and studying their surroundings, looking stunned.
I saw a lot of drivers behind their wheels looking stunned. I felt sick when I left.
The Alum Creek cemetery is really unique. It is thickly wooded and while it is still an active cemetery, there is not all that much available space for new graves. There are at least 100 graves that are marked with petrified wood and sandstone chunks and no other markings. Traffic whips by on adjacent Highway 71, but deep in the trees it is a peaceful place. Normally.
Yesterday I made my last trip of the week to Smithville, passing the Alum Creek area about 10:00 in the morning. From Smithville I made a huge loop to Paige, Elgin and on to Austin. I returned home late in the afternoon by way of Webberville, a twisty little road that I love to take on occasion. When I topped the last hill and could see Bastrop below me, I also saw the smoke.
I've lived in the thick of a pine forest for ten years now and the thought of fire is ever-present during droughts, every long, hot summer and on New Year's Eve. I knew the billowing smoke was coming from somewhere very near my subdivision. To make things more scary, we were having monster winds yesterday, all day, in the neighborhood of 40 mph gusts. I dropped my plans for a quick stop at the grocery store and made a beeline for home. As I turned onto the highway, I fell in behind the Austin news vans. I knew they weren't in Bastrop for anything but a big fire.
I was relieved when I reached the turn into the subdivision and the smoke clouds were still ahead, but they weren't that far off. When I got home, the first thing I did was check that I knew where all the pets and all the pet carriers were. Then I started looking for a news report that might tell me just how close the danger was. I learned the fire was centered in Alum Creek, about 5-7 miles from my house.
Normally I would have relaxed a little to know it was that far away, but with the horrible winds and the solid forest on the east side of Bastrop, I couldn't rest easy. I kept one ear on the news reports, one ear to the door in case the evacuators arrived and set about gathering the family photos and my few pieces of good jewelry and essential papers together so that I could scoop everything into the car if the need arose. I located several boxes and loaded my genealogy notebooks into those. (The dogs at this point had decided Mommy was completely nuts. She's gone all day, comes in panicked, takes them for a walk, and then dumps a bunch of notebooks into boxes. Loony tunes, indeed.)
By the time I fell asleep, it seemed the fire was moving in the opposite direction. During the course of the evening, it was reported that a cemetery was on fire and even the stones were burning. I knew it had to be the Alum Creek Cemetery I had just visited. As soon as the smoke clears and the fireman are gone, I will go and see just how much damage the tombstones suffered. I know the thick stand of trees are surely reduced to stubs.
Just a few yards down from the cemetery a cluster of old buildings have long housed the Alum Creek Antique Center. Mother and I used to go there regularly, but the stores we had frequented closed and the stores that replaced them were not to our liking, so we stopped going there in favor of the antique stores in Elgin and Smithville. The last time I went out there, I spent most of my time in a building lined with old, musty books and a proprietor who would see you pick up a book on, say the history of something, and then start pulling books from every corner of the building that had the slightest connection to the subject. Drove this confirmed browser crazy, so I never went back.
From the reports I've heard the cluster of buildings burned to the ground last night. My first thought was all those books gone. My second thought was for the few stores that carried really fine antiques and all that history that was gone in the blink of an eye.
But when it gets right down to it, the 9 businesses that burned were a sad loss, but much worse was the loss of 23 homes that also burned, not to mention all of the livestock and wildlife that were affected. There was considerable effort made to evacuate as much of the livestock as possible, but those woods are full of deer, rabbits, birds, raccoons and countless other species who lost their homes and I'm sure many of them lost their lives.
One spark of a power line torn down by high winds. Continued high winds to whip that spark into a frenzy. 600 acres burned. Lush woods at 10:00 in the morning when I last saw them. Cinders and ash less than 24 hours later.