Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two days in the country, and thoughts on life and death

I've just spent two days with my brother and sister-in-laaw at their ranch ourside Tolar. The picture on the left is the view from the front porch to the distant Paluxy River Valley (with a barely discernible German Shepherd in the foreground). The picture on the right is the view from one of the back pastures of the Brazos River Valley, much more spectacular than this picture shows. John and I went out this morning on the gasoline powered "mule" so he could check some fallen trees and some places where wild hogs had broken through the fence--now repaired, they seemed to be holding. My favorite place to be on the ranch is on the front porch. I sat there last night and this morning--the cattle are in the pasture across the road right now and I watched the egrets flitting among them. Tried to take a picture but you could hardly see the cattle even as brown spots. This morning, before the day got hot, it was a delightful place to be with a book, though I more often than not just stared out across the land--and then the type looked green when I went back to my book.

We went exploring--John and Cindy went to a meat packing plant they'd wanted to investiage--I declined to go in because it was raining and muddy, and Cindy reported it was nothing but an office where you told them what you wanted. But then we searched for and found a farm where they make their own cheese--Veldhuizen Cheese ( They make an aged cheddar that we loved, and a more mild cheddar that was almost as good. We went home laden down with cheese. Had lunch at Let's Eat, a hole-in-the-wall place in Bluffdale that has good lunches but apparently gourmet dinners. The owner once cooked at the really upscale Rough Creek Lodge. Then John wanted to show me one of if not the oldest suspension bridge in Texas, built in 1891 across the Paluxy... You. . can't drive on it, of course, but there is a more modern bridge that parallels it--still, in spite of bridge closed signs, we saw young boys walking across it with lunch boxes and fishing poles. Then John drove me by the winery at Bluffdale--an impressive building, although we didn't go in. Then home by back roads, which is always fun.

John and I spent a long evening talking about our chldhood--because he is my half-brother, some six-and-a-half-years older than I, and went off to boarding school at 16, we had very different childhoods and lots of memories to share. Cindy fixed great meals--grilled pork chops one night, roast chicken the next--and I ate, slept, read and checked emails a lot. And Cindy and I talked food and, today, fabric, until John said the conversation was way over his head. It was a wonderful and restful time--good to spend time with them and good to be away, though as always I felt I had lots of work waiting for me at home.

Today I am burdened with thoughts of life and death. The 5-week-old grand-daughter of my good friend Jan died Friday morning. She was born with congenital heart defect, and though the doctors did everything they could and she put up a valiant fight, it just wasn't to be. I grieve for all of them, for a life taken so young. At the other end of the spectrum, author Elmer Kelton died this morning--the best western novelist to ever come out of Texas. He wrote Texas history as it was, because he knew that history thoroughly, and his Texas voice and dialogue were so real, so believeable, his humor so wry, his stories so engrossing. TCU Press has reprinted many of his books, and they are our best-sellers. But that's the least of it--Elmer was a man I respected, admired, and felt privileged to call a friend. He was probably (I don't know) in his mid-eighties. So there you have it--death at the beginning of life and the end. It's sobering in both instances, and I have a heavy heart tonight.

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