I've just had one of those weekends that make me realize what an interesting life I lead. Saturday night I stood on a large brick patio in a beautifully landscaped backyard in Albany, Texas, and thought, "Who would believe I'm here, having a drink with all these ranch people I've never met before." Well, I knew a few of them but not a lot. Jeannie and I had gone to Albany for a book signing, and I spent three hours at the Lynch Line, a small but charming bookstore where I sold 12 books and signed another 84 for future use. The book is John Barclay Armstrong, Texas Ranger, and also present for some of the signing--and to sign all those 84 books--were John Barclay Armstrong III (great-grandson) and JBA IV (great-great grandson, age ten, who diligently signed the books alongside his father). The publisher, my friend Rue Judd of Bright Sky Books, had arranged it all. Jeannie spent the signing time touring the world-famous Old Jail Art Gallery and Museum and then going to an organ concert at the gem of a small Presbyterian church they have in Albany (I envied her that particularly). Before the signing, we'd done some serious Christmas shopping. Albany has lovely stores, fun to browse in, particularly stores with kitchen stuff.
Albany may be small, but it's a picturesque town--and not all Texas small towns fit that category. Whereas many have boarded-up storefronts and rundown homes, Albany is full of neatly kept, attractive homes--some quite sizeable--and tastefully redone buildings on the square. I'm sure we missed a lot of it, like the place that's supposed to have the best meringue pies ever (something Hico residents would debate!).
From the signing, we went by our borrowed quarters--the home of Rue's neighbors who were out of town--changed into jeans, and went to Rue's for the patio cocktail hour. Then off to the courthouse lawn for beans & barbecue. We ran into the former chancellor of TCU and his wife, for whom Jeannie had worked and both of whom I had always liked a lot. Hugs and greetings of surprise were exchanged--small world, although we knew that they have a home near Albany. Then we were off to Fandangle, the outdoor pageant detailing the history of Fort Griffin and really all of West Texas. The pageant was closing its 69th season last night, and it's amazing that this tiny town--pop. 1,961--can gather the enormous cast and elaborate staging (including a train and a herd of Longhorns) that it does every year. And the show changes every year, so that you can't say, "Been there, done that." We want to go back next year--and I'm glad I have another book in the works with Rue. Got to bed at 12:30, bone-tired--way past my bedtime.
This morning we were at Rue's house by a little after 7:30, for a quiet, leisurely and delicious breakfast on the patio, and then home to Fort Worth by 11 a.m.
Rue and I did do a little "shop talking" during the weekend, and I did a quick inventory check at the bookstore to see what TCU Press titles they had and which ones they should have, so it was a true combination of work and pleasure--and that, I guess, is the story of my life.
We had wonderful weather for the trip, though we could see creeks and rivers--the Brazos particularly--out of their banks and in places, side or access roads under water. The rain held off and we sailed home under blue skies on an empty highway. But now, early afternoon, it's thundering again.
As always I'm glad to be home. I always am in a state of anxiety as I begin a trip, even a short one, and then come home feeling exhilarated--which is exactly what happened this time. Jeannie is a great traveling companion, and I always enjoy trips with her. As I said to her, we've had some interesting experiences--Albany, King Ranch, etc. But my trip to San Angelo for the Keltons' anniversary is apparently off--Fran's knee is not up to another long drive. Maybe one trip, even short, is all I need in a week, but already I'm wondering how to fill the holiday. Then again, knowing how my life goes, I'll find something.
Now to work. I ran by the office this morning after I got home and picked up a file I need to work on. But I do have that mystery to finish. And Jordan and Christian are coming for supper.