Tuesday, June 4, 2013

the motherland...

this weekend i'll be headed to points south, spending some time with my aunt lou in the place i call my home town...  o'donnell, tx.  just the thought starts me down memory lane taking me back to life on that postage stamp of a dry land cotton farm i grew up on. 

shortly after school let out for the summer, the work began. dressed for winter, but really just to ward off the sun, in long sleeves and gloves, long pants and a hat of some sort-- but no sunglasses, no sunblock, no mp3 player, nothing to distract from the miserable heat of mid-afternoon, the task of chopping cotton.  day in and day out, plodding down and back on row after row cotton searching out curl lace, blue, white and milk weeds.  anything that wasn't cotton had to go and be danged careful not to chop up a precious stalk of cotton in the process.

that was my lot until daddy deemed me old enough to drive a tractor. being higher up in the heat was no better than being down on the ground plus there was the added heat coming from the engine, the metal cowling and fenders with the added bonus and never ending siege on the ears by the "popping johnny".  ("G" model John Deere). (huh? what did you say?)  sun up to sun down, all the summer long. i still feel for my sis who must have walked a jillion miles up and down those rows while big brother rode in style.  

come saturday there was a break for a trip into town to do laundryand  buy groceries;  to maybe take in a movie if for nothing more than a delicious couple of hours in the chill of the air conditioning.  for 10 cents you could get a rainbow snow cone from the stand on the corner across from the chevrolet house.  for us kids it was a treat.  for our mom, it was just another day of work.  doing laundry today is still a chore. laundry in the time of the ringer washing machine left her frail frame even more exhausted when piled on top of a week in the field, cooking meals and all that came with seeing to our humble home.

sunday, was a day of rest. praise the lord and pass the biscuits.

of course we planted a garden ee-v-ery year.  there's nothing better than fresh veggies picked that day or the sweet chill of a vine ripened watermelon or cantaloupe. but there's work involved there too. "putting up" the beans, and black eyed peas, cucumbers for pickling, squash, corn, whatever could be grown was canned or frozen to ease the burden of the grocery bill through the coming fall winter and spring.

it'll be good to see my aunt lou, my sis, cousin ava and any others that happen to show for the scheduled family meeting of the mcmillan estate llp.  but the big bonus?  there's no telling what will be dug out of one lou's many freezers to be whipped up into some lou lou deliciousness.

my mouth is watering just thinking about the possibilities.

to work alongside my family, to make another round, to labor toward getting the crops "laid by", to harvest after a summer of concerted effort toward the common good.  those days in the summer heat forged me into the man i am today. i learned hard work never killed anybody.  i learned the satisfaction of seeing how many rows, how much ground got covered by days ends.  i learned the reward of a days honest exertion.

my kids don't have a clue.  the truth is, life on the farm was all we knew.  the truth is, had my kids been put in that circumstance they would have carried on just as we did because we do whatever is needed.  truth is, had they been, they likely would have been better for it on the other end.



Monday, June 3, 2013

june 3, 1920...

i like to imagine it was a day much like today, a day with a hint of cool in the air, still-- with the heavy promise of  early summer on this day in 1920 when my sweet mama made her debut into this cold cruel world.  she was a twin, her sister the more dominant, the heartier of the two. it is said that they weighed just over 2 pounds each.  even in 2013, with all the advances available, a baby born that small is in a fight to survive those first days and weeks, to live to see all that life might have in store.

my mom and her sister were the last of 11 born to parents who had come to dawson county in texas in a covered wagon.  grandmother was not well after the births, the babies were tended by their older sister who it is said kept them in a box set on the oven door to keep them warm.  a crude incubator of sorts, if you will, but it worked.  the girls went on to happy and productive lives.

after dad died, mom was diagnosed with failure to thrive so we moved her to little a-town to be closer to family.  after my younger sister was born she had a rough spell and spent some time in the state hospital.  looking back she probably had postpartum depression and not a true psychosis. after her release the spark just wasn't there like before.

shortly after she moved up here, she went into vivian's nursing home where she spent her last years in relative happiness.  it was perfect for her.  not one of the taj mahal places, there she came into her own a bit.  she had people to help her.  some one to cook and clean up after, someone to say 'today is bath day, let's get you washed up' and all those other residents bidness to to get up into.  it became her home.

i visited the night before she died.  nothing seemed amiss. whatever happened during the night, she simply wouldn't wake the next morning.  by that afternoon, she had gone on to be with her lord,
all her trespasses and travails done, a quiet passing on to her eternal reward. 

so on this day, which marks the day of her birth 93 years ago, i'm thinking of my mama and knowing that today is a good day, for it is a day the lord has made. she is in good hands.

i miss you mama.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

quiet sunday morning...

a few weeks back, i'd written about how low the water level had become at the local oasis, aka, med-park lake. walking along the path around the lake this morning with my friend of 30 odd years, one johnny mc, it was good to see that runoff from tuesday nights storm continues to flow into the lake at a pretty good  volume.  the lake is full again to the point of overflow running out the north end under west 9th st. and into the dry creek bed on the other side.

the park was a scene of calm, of quiet serenity in the light of early morning. the ducks and geese are happy.  the lakes' surface a mirror, undisturbed but for an occasional duck floating alone and one fat mallard drake steaming his way toward the shore. the wake he left behind him was the only hint of what was going beneath the surface.

seeing them set me to thinking.  where did the ducks and geese go during the hell of a hail storm that strafed the park on tuesday night?  why wasn't the population of abandoned easter ducks, mallards, teal and canadian geese simply wiped out?  on casual observation, their numbers seem about the same.

it would seem these "dumb animals" are not so dumb after all.  it would seem they do have the sense to come in out of the rain, or to at least to seek cover from a killer hail storm. at least it looks like they did on tuesday night.

god is said to watch over creatures great and small.  he was watching over 7420 that night just as it would seem he was looking after the ducks and geese at the medi-park.  for his tender mercies we are grateful.


Saturday, June 1, 2013


yesterday i noted old glory just hangin' around not doing much to display her beauteous majesty. last night, as i went about my bedtime ritual, mariah was howling again as the promised cool front blew in.  as if to say, "you thought i'd left and weren't ever coming back? HAH! fooled you, didn't i?  truth is, i knew better.

around 3.a.m my knees woke me up yet again.  making a tour of the newly installed hardwoods i could hear the wind still blowing, northern clipper style.  the flag (yes, it is lighted at night) was standing straight out in all its stars and stripes glory.  i went back to bed praying my knees would let me sleep just a bit more.

looking out the front door early this morning, the front has passed, the flag is at rest again after a very busy night.

mariah, you are typical, changing speed and direction on a whim.  i wouldn't want  it any other way.