These basic cultural precepts could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.
Oh, you don’t need to call me ma’m, just Jane is fine,” says the visitor from out of state.
“Sit here with me on the porch awhile, Miss Jane, and I will tell you why we speak that way in Texas. Do you take sugar in your iced tea?” I reply, and once again, I began to invest an afternoon explaining to an urbanite how our culture of respect and something known throughout the South as “raisin’,” spreads outwards from households into our communities and influences how we value the lives around us and how our communities reflect our respect and care for each other.
On the weekend of February 15, my son, a shot gun competitor, was entered in the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Junior Shoot-out. Attending a youth shooting event the day after Nikolas Cruz chose to fatally shoot seventeen of his former classmates in a Florida high school meant opportunity for a lot of reflection on mass murder and guns in our culture.
In the grey light of a foggy February morning, I sat on a metal bench with the dew soaking through the seat of my blue jeans waiting for an orientation meeting to began and pondering what drives children to kill each other and how to stop it.
The American flag rose from mourning the massacre at half-staff to salute the anthem as a pair of teenaged sisters began to sing
Oh Say, can you see
By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming?
and I thought back on those front porch explanations of why rural Texas holds certain elements of formal etiquette dear. I looked around at over 800 committed young shooters and thought, “This is the answer; guns and “yes ma’m” can go a long way towards solving our violence issues.”
Yes. I’m talking about more guns in schools. Hang on. Stop your head from exploding until I have explained why I think more school-sponsored shooting programs reduce violence. Let me walk you through how the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo Junior Shoot-out is conducted and how the procedure used in this particular competition is a salute to the broader gun culture in Texas and the values and life-preparation it represents to our kids.
Safety begins at home at every club practice. American kids don’t ride bikes without helmets these days. Safety measures are in place in every facet of their lives. It insulates them from mortality. But place a gun in a child’s hands and they are most decidedly not insulated from mortality by anything except their own discipline and judgement. The daily reminders of safety protocols do two things: it constantly reinforces that a mistake has terrible and irrevocable consequences and we trust them to be capable guardians of that power. Understanding that this activity is very different from a video game and that the consequences are very real and yet adults have confidence in their abilities to make correct and appropriate choices is both chilling and empowering. As parents and leaders we are reminded of the gravity of providing them the correct education to shoulder that responsibility. The message reaches far beyond eye and ear protection.
Message: life is both fragile and valuable and I trust you to make choices that value life.
Shooters need to have joined their FFA or 4-H club and have their entries submitted by December 1 of the previous year to shoot in mid-February, not to mention weekly skill practice and preparing presentations to potential sponsors to help them with the financial burdens of the sport. Organizational skills are learned. Social skills are learned.
Message: plan ahead to achieve your goals.
Orientation and safety meetings begin at eight am. Not 15 seconds past eight. Eight am. Be there or don’t shoot.
Message: plan to be responsible for your destination.
The shooting day begins with students performing the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, a prayer, the 4H pledge which reads
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
and the Future Farmers of America motto,
Learning to Do,
Doing to Learn,
Earning to Live,
Living to Serve.
Message: you are fulfilled as an individual by service to a Higher Power and a greater community. Focus on what brings us together and reject what divides us.
Life is Invaluable
Life is invaluable. Death is irrevocable. Keep your muzzle pointed down-range. The value of life is obliquely present in safety protocols on the range. There is no room for error.
Message: Act with gravity and discerning judgment.
From courteously expressing gratitude to range judges to signing banners and writing thank-you notes to sponsors, expressions of gratitude are encouraged.
Message: remember to be humble and to appreciate the people who help you.
Effort is rewarded
This shoot is well-sponsored. From $10,000 dollar scholarships to expensive guns and ammo prizes, winners are rewarded for their efforts.
Message: Hard work is rewarded.
I have seen parents grow in these programs, myself included. There just isn’t much room for uncommitted participation. Because of the inherent danger, the responsibility of this sport is hard to foist off on nannies, coaches or grandparents. If you are dropping the ball, someone is probably going to let you know. On the other hand, a kid with desire and no family is likely to find a patron to help them excel failing the presence of a parent.
The sum total of these values is what we refer to as “raisin’”, or displaying the characteristics of character and manners resulting from committed parenting and consistent training in morals, etiquette and responsibility. This is what gun culture is, not the fanatic blood-lust depicted by the anti-gun crowd. Gun culture is a culture of respect and etiquette.
Reports abound on the factors that trigger kids to shoot up schools; video games, desire for power and attention, no value for life, depression, in short the common element in these shooters is they lack “raisin’”. Why is it so hard to think the solution to a tool being used the wrong way is to teach the proper use of that tool?
I am so grateful for the school administrators who have had the courage to support school-sponsored shooting sports and I hope they understand the fantastic results in youth leadership they are producing with their bravery to swim upstream against anti-gun sentiment. I am grateful to people like Bill Ethridge, who conceived the idea for this competition in 2013 and has worked every year since to bring in great sponsors from the firearms industry and the local community to grow the prizes and participation. I am grateful to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for its promotion of youth shooting sports. I am grateful to untold high school agriculture teachers and 4-H leaders all around the state, who organize practices and entries, hotels, uniforms and countless other chores. I am grateful to all the great companies like Fiocchi and Blaser and countless others who have generously supported youth shooting. Thanks for helping us with “raisin’” them right!
I woke this morning with a throbbing headache. I was up until the wee hours of the morning wrestling with technology that is mostly beyond my grasp.
For months I have been designing Rural Redoubt more or less under cover. I have shared posts with only a few friends, sworn to secrecy, so that an under-construction blog site did not get views on the internet. Yesterday, Rural Redoubt debuted on Facebook. By mid-morning I had discovered a bug in the theme. By early afternoon I had the entire site upside down. Pretty much, it was the equivalent of inviting company over for a big dinner party and having the hot water heater explode during appetizers. Sigh…
I rubbed my eyes, rolled over and fumbled for my iPad to take stock of the current state of damage. My disgust deepened. What a mess. Then I remembered there was a bright spot in my blogging life-Short Round Photography!
Being a barrel racer is like being a member of a large family of girls. They are constantly competing with each other, critiquing each other, squabbling and pecking at each other, but they are the first to step up when you need a hand. There is always someone there to hold a horse for you when you need it, help you change a trailer tire or send you photos for your crashing blog site.
Somewhere in the midst of pulling my hair out with widgets and menus, I received a message full of gorgeous photos from my barrel racing gal, Janine Watson at Short Round Photography and had pretty much forgotten them. Ta-Da! Silver lining in my cloud! I’ll get this mess lined out eventually. In the meantime I have some beautiful new photos to post.
So here is to bumps in the road on the way to new horizons and friends to help you over them!
It’s good. Not fitting in a box. Or at least I think it is, but I’ve never actually had much experience with the alternative. I mean the kind of box that you find on a paper form, not like a container. I know I definitely would not like being in a container…
Growing up and through college, every conversation involving some bureaucrat and a piece of paper went something like this:
“Rural Route 1
Alpine, Texas 79830”
“I’m sorry. We only accept physical addresses.”
“That is my physical address.”
“You live in Alpine?”
“No. Alpine is 70 miles from my house.”
“What town is closest to your house?”
“What street do you live on in Marathon?”
“Marathon is 35 miles from my house. I don’t live in Marathon.”
“Well, what is the name of the street you live on in Marathon?”
“I don’t live on a street. I live on a gravel road with no name on private property.”
“Well, what is the closest street address to you?”
“Rural Route 1
Alpine, Texas 79830”
BUREAUCRAT (eyes rolling):
“Just fill this form out the best you can….”
And moving on…
“What high school did you graduate from?”
“University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska”
“I’m sorry, we need your high school, not college.”
“That’s where my high school diploma is issued from. I was homeschooled. It was a correspondence program. I did not live close enough to a school to attend.”
” Someone call 911- I think I’m having a heart attack!”
No fooling. That is the way it has always been. I slay bureaucrats by my mere existence. It’s not intentional. It’s not even my fault! I guess the culpability for the problem lies with my grandfather.
Sometime around 1960 he loaned a fella some money. The collateral was just under 40, 000 acres of rocks 18 miles north of the Rio Grande River in the Big Bend of Texas. The fella skated on the debt and my family ended up with a pile of rocks and greasewood. That’s where I grew up.
My parents devised various versions of education for us until we matriculated and exasperated the bureaucrats into allowing us college entrance. In high school I excelled at starting colts, fixing leaking pipelines and was a star on the mountain lion trapping team. Try putting that on a scholarship application…NOT!
I did manage to get a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Communications from Texas Tech University with only two box-defying transfers-one involving dual credit hours from high school and the other a case of sophomore wanderlust and a Rocky Mountain sabbatical at the University of Montana.
After Tech, I moved to Alpine and actually lived on a street with a street address while I completed a Master’s degree with research in equine locomotion, equine nutrition and histology of the equine digital cushion.
I’ve had a few “in-the-box jobs. I worked in the Texas House of Representatives clerking for a committee and as a legislative aide. I worked in a vet clinic. I designed equine textiles for a private label company manufacturing horse products in the Pacific Rim. I taught ninth and tenth grade science in our local high school and managed a welding company, but mostly I’ve made an “out-of-the-box” living of some kind or another with horses.
Jumping horses, eventing horses, dressage horses, ranch horses, polo horses, endurance horses…Chris Ledoux described my thoughts on them pretty well when he sang:
Well I owe everything that I’ve got the the Lord he’s delt me a mighty good hand
And I owe a lotta people in a lot of different ways for making me what I am
But the one thing that I’m most thankful for I guess it was a stroke of good luck
Is when the Lord looked down on this great big world and made those horses that buck
That phrase always makes me think of the Cosby, Stills and Nash song:
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard…
Except our house isn’t a fine house. In truth, it’s sort of a dump. Or it was. Now it’s more like the canvas our lives are painted upon; ideas attempted and embraced or rejected and painted over with a new idea taking its place with Fate’s ever-present hand sending us in directions we never intended. Maybe it’s not a masterpiece, but it is so woven into our family fabric, I’m not sure where we stop and the house begins.
We bought our farm in the spring 2005. Our son was six months old. My husband was still a professional polo player with a three-goal handicap playing in very competitive polo in and around Dallas, Texas. We had nearly thirty horses at the time and the farm was almost a five-hour drive away. Polo would continue five to six days a week through June and then break until September. With an infant, a demanding job, a large herd of horses and a narrow window of time to establish a new home, it was going to be a difficult move compounded by the fact the farm had no water, septic, electricity, fences and certainly no HOUSE-just rolling acres of South Texas mesquite, hack-berry and huisache. How on earth were we going to pull this off?
Building a house was out of the question. I just couldn’t see how I could work with a builder given the distance and time frame. The remaining ideas were an RV, throw up a quick barn and enclose an apartment to camp in for a while, or move in a trailer house. “No, no and maybe, just because I can’t think of anything else” were my answers.
The purchase of this farm was the end result of the dissolution of some family property in West Texas. We went in with my mother and bought this property together and divided it between us. It has been a sometimes trying and always rewarding arrangement. Someday, I’ll tell you about her house, well, errr, houses? But not today.
Most of my early recollections of the farm involve my mom. I found the real estate ad in the San Antonio Star Telegram and emailed it to my mom, who was a realtor in San Antonio at the time, specializing in farm and ranch properties.
“What about this place?” I asked.
“Oh, I’ve seen it. It’s not what we want at all. In fact, I’ve shown it to some buyers, but only from the road. There are no roads on it so you really can’t see it, and besides, it’s way off the highway.”
I talked her into looking again.
Rolling sandy hills dotted with oak trees, a wet-weather creek, some old peanut and watermelon fields with fifteen years of re-growth mesquite over them, native grasses and some virgin South Texas mesquite brush with mesquites twice as thick as my waist. It was exactly what we wanted.
It’s funny. I still remember clicking on the photos in that ad and thinking “this is where we will live…
That spring that we first moved on the farm was exceptionally beautiful. The blackberries were everywhere. Huge, shiny black orbs of sweetness distracting us from our purpose on every visit. The grass was thick and green and the wildflowers were doing their thing with extra gusto. Love bugs were everywhere; coating car grills with their squashed little bodies, sitting together on any idle surface and flying conjoined through the air. I’ve never seen so many love bugs before or since.
Mom and I did most of the initial projects because Jeff couldn’t leave North Texas and polo. Our first order of business was to find a house site. Mom and I hemmed and hawed and looked and walked and drove and argued about how to divide the property between us. One afternoon we turned off the path we were pounding into a road and made our way through the brush just to see what we could see. Low and behold, there in the midst of a mesquite thicket was a beautiful, giant, ancient oak. Home-site discovered. That tree had seen General Santa Anna come by on his way to the Alamo. It had seen buffalo and Comanches and maybe even a Spanish conquistador and now we were going to live in it’s shade.
Mom had rented a bobcat that spring and the next weekend she and I cleared and burned the brush around that oak. I ordered installation of the power poles. I got on the well guy’s waiting list. The creation of a horse farm was under way.
We had thought maybe we could buy a double-wide mobile home in foreclosure on the cheap and discard it in a year or so and build a house. Have you ever walked into one of those? I wanted a shower. Like NOW! Forget that plan. No way, Jose’!
Ultimately, I designed a house with Palm Harbor, who happened to have a factory about a mile from where we were living in Fort Worth. That proved challenging enough with an energetic kid that was getting pretty mobile on my hip-or more accurately-crawling under an office desk trying to stick his fingers in an electrical outlet or some other leprechaun-like mischief. I made some design mistakes. I got some things right. We got a brand new home, free of cooties.
July 10, 2005 with a hurricane blowing into the Gulf and a ten-month old red-headed kid in the back seat, we loaded our furniture into the horse trailer and pulled onto I-35 headed south to meet our new home under the oak tree. The day before the well guy had called to say he would be a few days late. An old client had called him in a panic. His well was out. His horses needed water, it had to be dealt with.
“His horses need water??? Mine, however, are camels, I suppose, and will do just fine until you decide to show up.” I thought.
He did show up, though. I will never forget watching the first water pump up out of that well and how cool and sweet it tasted. It isn’t far down the list of pivotal moments in my life; our wedding, the birth of our son and water flowing from that well. The flood of emotions that overwhelmed me belied the terror I had tried to ignore that there would be no water. I grew up in the desert. One thing I know is that water is a life-giving, life-affirming substance that has complete control of where and how we live-and we had it! By the time the hurricane dumped ten inches of rain on us, we were soundly sleeping on our first night in our new house with running water on tap. Water and rain-we were blessed from the start.
I have both hated and loved this house. Our plans to discard it never materialized. Instead, when I thought I could not bear living in it one more day, I waited until Jeff was gone and ripped the carpet out of a room. He came home and groaned.
“Then build me a new house.” I said.
“What color do you want to paint the walls in here?” he replied.
That’s how it began. Room by room we built our house within what we had. Our first attempts were not very good, but we learned and got better tools and the product improved. Walls came down. Walls went up. Cabinets went out. Shelves came in. Pinterest and I had a love affair that impregnated me with all sorts of ideas Jeff took on and raised like bastard children; at first with annoyance and later, as they became his, with affection.
In case we were to become over-confident in our control over our house and our lives, God would remind us how powerless we truly are. It had taken us three years, but we had recreated every room in the house. I had just embarked on a major landscaping facelift in the front yard and all that remained between us and a “new” house was to paint the exterior and convert the porch from carpenter’s shed back to a porch.
We worked on a ranch near Gonzales that day in May, on the east side of the Guadalupe River. Rains had been heavy for over a week and the river was flooded when we crossed it that morning and it was forecast to crest far out of its banks later in the day. It was hot and humid. The wind blew hard all day. The sky had an ugly, unusual, yellow overcast. It made me anxious.
We had just returned home, crossing back over the river, which by then was as high as I had ever seen it, when my mom called to tell us she could see circulation in the clouds over our house. I leaned against the sliding glass door in the bedroom to peer out at the weather and the entire sheet of glass ballooned away from the frame. I ran to the front door to call in the dogs and saw a tree flying sideways.
We had just installed an antique cast-iron claw-foot tub in the back bathroom, which is in the center of the house. I threw the kid in it and laid down on top of him. The storm roared. Jeff stood under the door frame.
Quinten wailed, “Mom, I don’t want to die!”. I’m still not sure if it was the storm he found life-threatening or the weight of his mother laying on top of him in a very small bath tub. Then, like a train moving away down the tracks, the roaring faded off to the east and was gone.
The oak tree was standing, though sorely wounded with giant branches near its heart broken away. The house was standing. The porches were gone. The roof was gone. The mesquite thicket we had lived in for ten years was flattened. Life was different. Tornadoes do that.
Our lives could have ended the day of the tornado, or could have taken a drastic turn for the worse. Thanks to our sturdy little hated and loved and re-made house, we were safe. Thanks to a wonderful insurance agency and our dear friend, Martin Saldivar and his SK Construction company, our house evolved from the drab cabin in the woods to a Coastal Plains beauty, full of character and Southern charm.
The oak re-grew it’s branches and still stands tall and shady. The thicket is gone and not missed. Wildflowers grow in its place and the horses graze in front of the house now.
Martin devised an ingenious way to replace the porches and roof with a gorgeous standing-seam metal roof that secured the house to the earth more firmly than any site-built home. Two years later, when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, our house not only stood strong against hurricane force winds as the eye of the storm came within twenty miles of us before turning back on its tracks then slowly northward to inundate Houston, it was the refuge for our neighbors as well, who took shelter with us for the duration. It shuddered against the winds occasionally when a particularly hard gust would hit, but it sort of felt like the house was laughing and playing with the wind. This house was going nowhere.
Thanks to Martin’s ingenuity and skill, this house cannot and will now never leave this farm, and I’m okay with that.
Perhaps Graham Nash did have it right…
Our house is a very, very, very fine house
Some power is collected like a squirrel gathering nuts, some power is as innate as the color of your eyes.
Oil prices define most Texans in some way or another. At $65 a barrel a dear old friend of mine went to the oilfield. By the time it hit $85 a barrel he was running a company and tapping friends for talent. One day he sent a private plane for me, trying to insert people he trusted around him as oil rocketed to a $115 peak.
We never did make that deal work, but it was a memorable trip and an experience I think back on often when I think of the Mexican border or of natural leadership.
The first morning of that trip, he and I sat in the pickup outside a little West Texas cafe reminiscing about old times while we waited in the pitch blackness for the kitchen to open for breakfast. It was still dark by the time we had fueled up on coffee and headed over to what was sufficing as an equipment yard for a rapidly growing frac tank company- a strip of cleared pasture surrounded by greasewood with a little tin shed in the corner behind a collection of typical oilfield detritus-pipe racks, big hunks of metal I couldn’t even identify in the dark, and a random flattened Lone Star beer can kicked across the gravel.
In the shed, a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling revealed about ten young men. All Hispanic. All bright-eyed and clean-cut. I immediately liked every single one of them. They were the best of what the blended cultures of the Texas-Chihuahua border breeds. Spanish commitment to God, honor and duty paired with American industrial ingenuity.
The outsider and the only woman in the room, I hunkered down into the collar of my denim jacket in the darkest corner and tried to study the situation without influencing it as they worked out the logistics of delivering frac tanks across West Texas and New Mexico for the day. My friend was a naval officer. Not only born to command but trained to command. I had worked for him, drank entirely too much wine with him, known him at his best and at his worst and sort of took for granted his ability to own the command in a room, but as I sat in the dark listening, I realized there was another dynamic force in the room.
There was really nothing in his physical appearance that set this man apart from the rest. Perhaps his dress spoke a little more strongly of Mexico; the cut of his boots, the embroidery on his belt, but nothing overtly set his appearance apart. He stood at the right of the circle of men and a step outside the group, ever so slightly aloof. He spoke very little, yet every eye went to him for approval when a decision was reached. I couldn’t stop watching him. There was real, innate, leadership in this man.
That morning was nearly a decade ago and I’ve since learned that man’s story and realized he and I each looked across that tin shack and saw the other for exactly what we were.
When I was a young girl, living in the shadows of Santiago Peak in the Big Bend of Texas, Mexican drug cartels were just discovering how lucrative and powerful drug trade could be. A three hundred mile stretch of the Texas border had come under the influence of a particularly ingenious and crafty drug lord whose business acumen gave pause to even the powerful Medallin cartel as far away as Columbia. I knew who he was. I rushed past the gas station in town where much of his trade flowed through. Hell, I knew pretty much where he lived on the southern banks of the Rio Grande because it just wasn’t all that far from my house. Most of all, I remember the day he died in a shoot-out with a joint task force of US and Mexican law enforcement because a friend working for the border patrol stopped by our ranch after the raid to tell us about it.
In the 1980s, as the drug trade heated up along the Rio Grande, it was common for families involved to send their children to live at least a hundred miles north of the border in the safety of small Texas towns. The man that so impressed me that cold, dark morning in a little tin shack was one of those children. His father was the second in command of the most powerful drug cartel in northern Mexico when he and I were teenagers on opposite sides of that muddy stretch of water that separated our nations.
As oil prices ebbed and flowed since that morning, his intelligence and natural command have stood him well and he has helped guide several start-up service companies to success with the innate ability to command I saw that morning. I’m not sure if he even graduated high school. He was simply born to be a leader of men. Although his father was an outlaw, he understood respect, honor and dignity and conveyed those traits to his son. His son used them to lead countless Mexican families to financial success in the Texas oilfields. Some power is gathered, some power is born…
He and I have a strong albeit remote, relationship. We’ve probably never shared three hundred words, but we have kept tabs on each other through intermediaries over the years, occasionally sending salutations to each other. He once called me some clever phrase that I can’t quite remember, but the gist was I was his sister from the other side of the Rio Grande and we both had brown river water for blood in our veins.
Someone recently mentioned to me still being befuddled by why rural America voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. I rolled my eyes and chuckled, then considered the statement again with more seriousness. It is a valuable question. Valuable because if we are to avoid dissolving this nation into sovereign regions by political affiliation, or worse, erupting into a civil war, somehow we HAVE to find some way to consolidate our rural and urban views. For a rural American, the question has a laundry list of answers.
I have spent a great amount of time in remote conditions and could tell countless stories where firearms were a tool changing the balance in life-or-death situations ranging from wildlife threat to the lack of law enforcement in rural areas. Anything Donald Trump could possibly offer after defense of the Second Amendment was simply gravy (that means extra goodie on top of the substance, for readers who don’t understand Southern colloquialisms).
Given the balance of power in the Supreme Court and the potential advances against the Second Amendment, I would have gladly voted for a wild Texas boar hog if I felt the porcine in question would preserve our uninfringed Constitutional ability to defend hearth and home and endured any other unsavory policy choices that might accompany that vote for the next four years. The choice between Clinton and Trump on the topic of gun control could not have been more clear to rural women. Were I an incurious sort, I would have pursued the examination of presidential candidates no further than this single issue, cast a vote for Trump and gone on with my life.
It was a clear, single-issue choice. No. Strike that. It COULD have been a single-issue choice, except there were so many more factors weighing in Trump’s favor.
2). Jerry Springer and the 90’s
I’m old enough to remember when you couldn’t tell the difference between Jerry Springer’s salacious afternoon TV show and the news:
Hillary’s questionable cattle trades, Mena Arkansas, Troopergate, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Vince Foster, Whitewater, travelgate, Costco, Nukes and the Chinese, Waco and one Janet Reno fiasco after another, Monica Lewinski, the stolen White House china, sniper-fire lies just for the fun of lying, on and on it went through-out the ’90’s.
Later, I was not asleep during Benghazi and the ensuing questions about Middle Eastern gun-running through the Department of State, I didn’t miss the severity of Hillary’s criminal negligence with classified material, I didn’t miss right-hand-woman Huma Abadeen’s connections to a sexual deviant nor to the Muslim Brotherhood. I took in so many ugly facts and rumors about Clinton over the years, I lost track of some of them.
There IS one thing I missed…why in God’s Sweet Heaven did the Democratic Party think this rotten, corrupt hag with such a long and detailed resume of misdeeds and self-dealing was a viable presidential candidate? The choice indicates a complete disdain for the intelligence and integrity of the American populace.
3). The Republican Establishment
I am an American child of the Cold War. I was taught the Constitution of the United States of America in school and there is little political ideology I despise more than socialism; however, self-dealing, pseudo-conservative, establishment, Republican, American politicians run a very close second on my political shit-list. What an incredible gift to find a presidential candidate who was beholden neither to the Soros socialists in the Democratic Party nor to the spineless wonders of self-promotion on the right. I’d walk through burning coals to find such a man…
4). Buck up, Buttercup
I’m a powerful woman. I LIKE men more powerful than me. I will intimidate a thousand-pound bronc into submission with a dirty look, educate a child at the kitchen table, fix a leaking pipe, kill a rattlesnake and cook dinner in the course of an average day. The last thing I have any interest in is a pasty-white, beautifully coifed, skinny-jean-wearing she-male simpering and negotiating favor. Sycophancy revolts me. I expect national leadership just as I expect family leadership; from a testosterone-laden, success-driven male creature, and should that creature succumb to human fallibility or innate male in-opportunity, I have not the LEAST doubt or confidence in myself (or the American people) to correct him promptly and decisively. I am not frightened of strength-I DEMAND it. Trump was the first decisive male leadership I’ve seen cross a TV screen since John Wayne.
5). Make America Great…Again
The only question most rural citizens have about that statement is “How in the world has our leadership failed to KEEP America great in the first place?”
The solution is to weed out the failed leadership. That is no small job to be corrected with a check of a pencil in the voting booth. The failure has seeped in to the pores of American government. Judicial appointments, agency heads, staff, lobbyists and think tanks with too much pull…a daunting list of sated ticks slurping on tax payer’s blood. It seemed a pretty impossible task to rid the country of them. Then Donald J. Trump blustered on to the scene, a complete disrupter that everyone knew could say “You’re fired”.
6). A hundred years is a long time not to control a border…
Pancho Villa crossed the border in the year of ought sixteen
The people of Columbus still hear him riding through their dreams
He killed seventeen civilians you could hear the women scream
Blackjack Pershing on a dancing horse was waiting in the wings
I’ve lived most my life along the Texas border. It exists somewhere between a special blended culture and a bloodbath with the pendulum constantly swaying to and fro. When American politicians decide their best self-service is in erasing the rule of law along the border, those of us who have lived our lives here know they are peeling back the thin veil of civility and it will be our blood that will be shed on the other side of the curtain. Build the damn wall and return some sanity and balance to both sides before it is too late.
In truth, I don’t like the idea of a physical barrier, but I distrust the whims of our leadership so greatly that I think a physical barrier is more difficult to remove than the will of a politician who has already flirted with selling out American sovereignty. It isn’t the Mexican government it controls…it is American fickleness.
All politics are local. The more remote the representation, the less caring and understanding it becomes. Private land ownership and maintenance of local governance and resource control is imperative. Rural America understands this. Trump understands this.
8). It’s the economy, Stupid
That was a Democratic slogan; how did the Dems forget this?
9). Media, Propaganda and Modern Communications
The media has become over-confident in its ability to sway opinions and consequentially power. In 280 characters or less, Trump has deftly swept that unconstitutional power away from the Fourth Estate. I wake up and turn on the TV first thing every morning just so I can chuckle at some pundit spluttering in rage at Trump’s most recent heavy-handed yanking of the bit through the media’s errant teeth and toast my morning coffee to @realDonalTrump.
What I don’t understand is how could intelligent Americans have so immersed themselves in echo chambers of socialistic identity politics that they now reject simple, pro-American, pro-Constitutional policies?
I would gladly have settled for a centrist Supreme Court nomination that would have bought us time to fight back this tide of socialism eroding our Constitution. Gorsuch exceeded my wildest dreams. This booming economy and exposure of the writhing swamp creature that is the Deep State is so far beyond gravy it seems surreal. Thomas Jefferson often alluded to the wisdom of farmers as a steadying force stabilizing the eclectic ideas of their urban brethren. Jefferson was right.
We recently were treated to a quail hunting weekend on a family property in far South Texas. It’s amazing how a little travel always gives you a fresh perspective, even if you are still in your own backyard. Our family gatherings usually involve some spontaneous adventures and this one followed true to form when some of the family decided the conditions were good for a prescribed burn. Now, country cell and data service can be fickle, and in this instance it managed to disguise an impending change in wind direction and velocity in the forecast that the fire-setters failed to add into their calculations and by the time we arrived on the scene, there was a rollicking range fire on, tensions were rising a bit and quick arrangements were being made for back-up equipment to set a wider fire-break around the perimeter. We were just in time to set off a few back-burns to help calm the beast. Always an adventure, I tell ya!
By the time the expected portion of the weather forecast arrived and it began to rain, the fire had exceeded expectations by perhaps a thirty percent increase in acreage, but was altogether a rousing success and sparked a lot of conversation about the management benefits of fire. Just as sure as we are likely to get into some excitement when my family gets together, it is just as inevitable that there will be lively discussions of the policies guiding our state and nation. No small wonder that fire policies in western states came under review, and in the course of the discourse, I connected some ideas differently than I had before.
Texans have long practiced controlled burning to eliminate dead grass thatch promoting new growth, open brushy areas to livestock and wildlife traffic, and prevent large accumulations of dead biomass fueling wildfires. The philosophy that the lushest pasture and most vibrant wildlife habitat is found in the path of a fire is universal in most Texas grazing communities, but that ideology is not necessarily shared by those managing public lands in states to our west.
While the campfire glowed and the wine flowed, our little controlled burn sparked conversations on the topics of fire suppression, the listing of the northern spotted owl under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 and the resulting devastation of the logging industry, the horrible wildfires in California this fall and the general decline of American families and communities, it occurred to me these were in fact NOT unrelated topics, but instead spelled the ties between land management and the quality of life on that land.
I came home and did a little reading and found a study done in 1998 predicting the decline in logging caused by protection of the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest would result in “up to 28,000 jobs could be lost leading to increased rates of domestic disputes, divorce, acts of violence, delinquency, vandalism, suicide, alcoholism, and other problems” (Gonzalez-Caban). I was in Northern California not long ago, in a once-bustling logging and ranching community. The only two industries supporting the community today is the state prison system and the local gambling casino. A more resounding realization of the 20-year-old Gonzalez-Caban prediction I could not imagine. Not only was the economy struggling, the surrounding forests were choked as a result of anti-fire and anti-logging policies and suffering mightily from beetle infestations exacerbated by overcrowding. Ironically, the latest victim of the spotted owl protection craze are the barred owls, who are being eradicated to relieve competition for the spotted owl. The irony extends to the fire suppression policies that have allowed the accumulation of rank undergrowth that fueled the California mega-fires of 2017.
I am not opposed to the protection of a species, but I firmly believe we cannot protect either domestic nor wildlife species effectively without a robust human economy. I thank my lucky stars every day to be a landowner in the state of Texas where public lands are limited and private ownership flourishes and each landowner is free to experiment with his own management ideas and wildlife is free to migrate where those ideas have been the most fruitful. Nothing is more frightening than when land management is tied to intransigent political stances. There is a difference between a controlled burn and burning down the house!
González-Cabán, A. (González-Cabán) (1998). A willingness-to-pay function for protecting acres of spotted owl habitat from fire. Ecological Economics, 25(3), 315-322.
I couldn’t live with the demon anymore, something had to give. Our laundry room was sort of an awkward hallway with machines on one side, coat racks on the other and random junk stacked everywhere. It was a good place to try out a ceiling idea because of its small size and I could redo the whole, dysfunctional and hideous room at the same time. Pinterest is full of great shiplap and faux shiplap ideas. Plywood strips hung as faux shiplap is an easy and inexpensive solution. I won’t bore you by re-creating the wheel with step-by-step DIY instructions, just show you the outcome.
We have a table saw, so ripping plywood into six or eight inch strips isn’t a big deal. Well, except for the part where, without a serious saw, 8’ strips out of a plywood sheet are going to have some inconsistencies.
That goes to one of those marriage-making, (or dissolving) high-volume conversations about how to guide 32 square feet of material by a saw blade in an exactly straight line together. It’s probably not a job for newly-weds! Be forewarned…
If your marriage survives but your cuts are slightly off, don’t panic. We found that the little flaws increased the gap between boards and lent more charm to the appearance.
Our laundry room is now one of my favorite rooms in the house (yes, I realize there is something inherently indicative of mental instability in that remark) and one of the cheapest and easiest projects we ever did. Bottom line, 3 sheets of cheap plywood and a gallon of paint and we went from “please don’t look there” to this.
Part 1: The Demon and the Dastardly Delima
Once upon a time, a particularly evil and mischievous demon slipped from the bowels of the earth and possessed a home builder. The demon impregnated the builder’s mind with an idea that would cut cost and dampen noise in the houses he built. This idea took hold as post-war industrial America began to move to the suburbs. I wish a pox on this demon that brought forth the concept of popcorn ceilings. A pox I tell ya!
The thing with popcorn is….well there is just a lot of things. Under the best of conditions, the texture creates shadows and those shadows make the ceiling look dirty. At the end of a dirt road, where dust is part of life and upwardly mobile spiders are always looking looking for a new neighborhood to move into is most definitely not the best of conditions for this devil’s spawn to look it’s “best” in, if there is such a thing. Woe betide the housewife who thinks she can improve the appearance of her ceiling by cleaning it with a broom. She will spend the rest of her day cleaning the shower of white popcorn flakes that fell down on her neck and into every crevice in the room.
Several of our beautiful popcorn ceilings were enhanced with water damage resulting from the tornado. You can read about Our House and the tornado here.
The Popcorn Debacle has drug on for years in our house. How does a DIY-er solve the problem in a mobile home? Scrape, texture and paint? Dear Lord, I hate to texture when I DON’T have to do it above my head! No, please.
Cover it with something? Maybe. But what? Tin? Too industrial. Tongue and groove? Too expensive. The debate has literally gone on for about five years.
We needed a concept that was affordable and could be done in a weekend or two without resulting in any shoulder injuries. I wanted something that would add character to the house but that would not overwhelm the room.
I love that my day is never scripted. Today we had a quick little call outside Nixon to shoe two ranch horses. I expected to see no one, but it so happened they were working cattle and half the neighborhood was there. I got a huge kick out of stalking my friend, Jeff Harvey, with my camera trying to capture his cowboy handsomeness as he tried to duck behind the chute. I finally succeeded in ambushing him from behind a building. Jeff’s wife, Jennifer, has supported and encouraged my writing and I am grateful for their friendship.
South of my day’s circle,
Part of my blood’s country,
Rises that tableland . . . clean, lean,
Hungry country . . . .
I know it dark against the stars,
The high lean country,
Full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep.
from South of My Days
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, but Mexican Texas remained wild and uninhabited and few were willing to face both the natural dangers and those posed by the outlaws and native tribes who did inhabit the region. The General Colonization Law was enacted in 1824 by the Mexican government enabling heads of households to obtain lands in Texas. By that time Stephen F. Austin had already obtained a land grant and brought three hundred families to Texas as the first Texas empresario. These families are commonly referred to in Texas as The Old Three Hundred.
I am Old Three Hundred. I am a direct descendant on my mother’s side of John Borden. He and his brother, Gail, came to Texas with Austin and in 1835 established the Telegraph and Texas Register, one of the first printing presses in Texas. On my father’s side, I am a direct descendant of William Becknell, who is credited with forging the Santa Fe Trail. Captain Becknell heard of the trouble in Texas and having ties to Texians, he came south over the Red River as fast as his horse could travel. He was trying to join the Texan forces but was just behind them as they fled toward the Texas coast, finally joining them in the aftermath of the battle of San Felipe. He was asked by General Sam Houston to guard the captive General Santa Anna and his subordinates as Houston feared his own men, in their rage over the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, would kill them before a treaty could be signed.
Many of my friends and neighbors are also Old Three Hundred descendants. It’s rather awe-inspiring to think that our families have been loving and building Texas together for two hundred years. Living half-way between what was once known as San Antonio de Bexar and the Dewitt colony settlement of Gonzales, the tangible tracks of our ancestors are everywhere; from the names of roads to the ruins of a cabin. Sometimes when I stand and look over a horse’s back at the horizon, I think about those early Texans and their lives and my imagination takes hold. Today, I was thinking of spring and the Runaway Scrape and this thought about the lasting power of Texas women came to my mind.
She stood on the porch
Empty rifle in her hand
Listening quietly for a soft hoof beat stirring in the sand
A feathered arrow could steal her breath
It wasn’t that she feared it, she just lived every day with Death
No threat of Comanches, wolves or hunger
Could force her to resign the beauty of a storm full of thunder
Oh Eliza, you lived your time on the edge of the bluff, on the edge of the river, at the edge of life
No moment certain, no tomorrow sure
No greater calling than a daughter, a mother and a wife
South of the Arkansas, South of the Red
Clear to the Rio Bravo, her horizons led
A brother dead on the riverbank in Bexar
Another fled from the Bahia nightmare
Oh Eliza, you lived your time on the edge of the bluff, on the edge of a river, at the edge of life
No moment certain, no tomorrow sure
No greater calling than a daughter, a mother and a wife
Catkins dance through the burning embers
“Leave de Cos no standing timbers”
“Oh Bill, my boys are hot with blood-lust.
Guard those prisoners well or all we’ll have is dust.”
Oh Eliza, you lived your time on the edge of the bluff, at the edge of a river, at the edge of life
No moment certain, no tomorrow sure
No greater calling than a daughter, a mother and a wife
Blood on the wagon floor, a daughter borne
Pretty little Rose without a thorn
In the corner of the graveyard where the catkins play
Sags a crooked stone from another day
Oh Eliza, you lived your time on the edge of the bluff, on the edge of a river, at the edge of life
No moment certain, no tomorrow sure
No greater calling than a daughter, a mother and a wife
Ruth Ann Mero never leaves the backyard without invitation, in spite of the fact she jumps the back gate with alacrity and ease. Or at least she thinks we think that. We do occasionally come home to find that she has sojourned abroad, but the instant she hears tires on the drive she beats a hasty retreat to the back gate, jumps in, rushes around the house to meet us at the front gate; a complete picture of innocence. We chuckle. Her tail wags.
Today we came home to find Miss Ruth on the front porch (our back yard decidedly does not encompass the front porch) with a cat food bag stuck over her head. She began to convulse in horror when she heard our return, eventually flinging off the evidence of her gluttony and fleeing post haste to the back gate and trying to compose her best innocent face as she rounded the corner to meet us at the front gate, where her pretense of innocence was greeted by disapproving looks. She is currently self-punishing by forgoing her comfy bed and laying at my feet on the cold, hard floor begging forgiveness. Sadly, I did not obtain videographic documentation of her misdeeds-because it was so freakin hilarious all I could do was watch and laugh and pray she wouldn’t fling herself into the pool thus requiring a frigid rescue.
Sent from my iPhone
My brother made a profound remark to me recently. He is the head farrier for an international Thoroughbred stud and racing stable based in Ireland. Farriery has led his life around the globe, while it has allowed me to remain firmly planted in rural Texas. On a holiday trip home he said “I hate shoeing horses, but I love being a horse shoer.” I knew immediately what he meant.
I have no love for stinking, muddy feet, tugging against a bored creature ten times my size or hard physical labor in oppressive South Texas summer heat. But there is a moment in every day that I stand and press my face into a horse’s shoulder, close my eyes and breathe in their dusty horse smell and listen to the sounds around me. A horse snorting the dirt out of it’s nose, a cow calling back an errant calf and always somewhere in the distance the conversations of crows. I think the soundtrack of my life is a soft “caw, caw” on the humming of the wind. It plays in the background every day and goes mostly unnoticed except for a few moments when I bother to be quiet and listen.
I never take money from someone I don’t like. I never take orders from anyone. I work on days of my choosing and arrive at the time of my preference. A rafter of wild turkeys lazily crossing a gravel road is about as close as I come to sitting in traffic. And every day I breathe in horsehair and listen to the music of cows and crows. I hate shoeing horses, but I love being a horse shoer.