Backroads

The Glory Before the Heat…

It never stopped raining, but it never rained. The specter of droughts past never leaves you. Blowing dust, hollow-eyed cattle and the fear and uncertainty of watching an unyielding hot and hazy sky day after day looms in your mind just on the other side of every rain cloud. This winter never could make its mind up. It brought day after day of cold damp days. The kind of damp that melts the flesh off shivering livestock, but doesn’t replace it by growing any nourishing winter feed. Early freezes burned off the remaining summer grazing before Thanksgiving and no moisture followed it to spark off wild rye or anyone’s winter small grain crops. The specter was lurking…

Then one solid, wet, cold front blew through in late February followed by several warm days and like a pack of runners released by the starters pistol-shot, every creeping, hopping, growing thing was racing to the equinox.

I love when you sit on the ground in a winter pasture and see the silvery-green loops of bluebonnet leaves clinging to the dirt under the dried grass. It’s like when you were a kid and you knew mom and dad had hidden Christmas gifts in the closet that weren’t wrapped yet; hidden, waiting, but you knew it was there.

First the dandelions bolt, right along with every cruciferous winter vegetable in your garden. Maybe they are like early Texas settlers alert for spring raids by Comanches, because about the time the garden bolts, Indian Paintbrush appear. Not the hordes of it that bloom later, but isolated flowers blooming alone like advance scouts for the raiding party that’s coming.

I wish I knew the history of the Latin American Cemetery north of Nixon, but I do know phlox blooms there first, and the phlox that grows on that hill is a slightly more intensely red-pink than the phlox elsewhere. I don’t know whatever put it in my head, but it’s phlox that makes me think of Texas history and especially the Runaway Scrape. Every single spring when the phlox begins to bloom around the time of the fall of the Alamo, I think of the terrible news of the Alamo and Goliad massacres reaching Gonzales and the people in Gonzales burning their homes and fleeing east. What a heart-breaking time it must have been. It must have been cold at night in those camps of fleeing Texians…but there would have been phlox on the ground.

Plenty of other early comers are in the vanguard with the phlox. The five-petaled white blossoms of wild dewberries begin to fill the fence-lines and plum thickets along the draws look like foamy pale pink quinceanera decorations.
Baby calves seem to pop out of the ground like little blooms themselves, all shiny and new.

Still to come are the bluebonnets. The hurricane dumped nearly twenty inches of water on us right at bluebonnet-rain time, so this year’s bluebonnets should be spectacular. With them will come winecups, star aster, spiderwort, primrose and verbena-Spring’s pink and blue phase. When the heat comes, Texas will put on its yellow spring dress; black-eyed Susans, indian blanket, sunflowers and a zillion yellow composite flowers.
What aalll that means is…it’s picnic time! I love to set a pretty table under the oak tree in the pasture, complete with wine glasses and candles and feed friends and family while the breeze ruffles the wildflowers all around us. I’m thinking of recipes…

Picnic time!

 

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