Archive for October, 2006

Zinnia and Friend

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Thought you might enjoy this past summers visitors.

Paw, A Man of Steel

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

I’m glad Paw can’t see my hands today. They are small, soft and worst of all sitting at a desk the calluses form other places. I remember paws hands most of all. They were big, muscled, sinewy, hard hands, used to working far beyond what I can now imagine. Paw was a cedar chopper, and the double bit ax swung daily from dawn until dark promoted a layer of tough horn like calluses across the palms of his hands.
Paw was the best cedar chopper on Morgan Creek. Most ever one agreed to that and especially me. I remember after supper sitting on the porch listening to paw and mother talk in low soft tones that kept time with the crickets and twinkling stars. I sat there smelling the cool night air and whiffs of cedar wax from dads impregnated work clothes. I felt the world was just right.
Best of all was when Paw would tousle my hair with those rough hands in a most gentle way and say something to me directly. I hope I responded in a way to make him as proud of me as I was of him.
My world was shaken only once that I could remember. One night we heard a wagon coming up the road from town and there was Leon Fry, the biggest cedar post buyer in the area. I never cared much for him. He was fat and his eyes bugged out just like the hogs in our pen. He always smelled like the barbershop. You could tell right off he made his living from the sweat of other men and especially Paws.

Well Paw and Mr. Fry howded and he was invited to get down and have a chair. You could tell he was not there to do any socializing. He had some idea hatching under that black derby he always wore. “ Homer, he said, I know you are the best chopper in these parts and we all admire you for it.” I agreed under my breath but wondered why he came all the way out here to tell us something we all already knew. The answer was not long in coming.
Mr. Fry continued, “I have heard of a fellow, John, over in the Llano brakes who says he can out chop any man alive and I think there may be something to his brag. “Any way he says he will bet any man $25.00 who could out chop him in a day. Would you be willing to take him on?”
My stomach did a couple flops and Mr. Fry moved up a notch on my dislike scale. But Paw answered in his soft, gentle way, “Now Leon it just may be so. I have never heard of this fellow- but maybe we can arrange to let this man see if he can.”
As they began making plans for the contest I could stand it no longer and ran into the darkness of the night. I ended up down by the hog pen, chunking cobs a Mr. Fry’s twin and feeling that first twinge of doubt creep into the very depths of my young soul.
The day of the contest came in early summer. The air was warm but without the oppressive heat that would soon fill the brakes. The cedar where the contest was to be held was high on the side of Spider Mountain. From the summit you could see the whole world and all that was in it.

Paw and Llano John flipped a coin to see which got which strip of cedar. They were equally good and bad. Some large virgin trees and some small second growth with under brush. As the sun peeked over the hills they began work. It was soon apparent that John was indeed a man of steel and attacked the cedar with the vengeance of a man possessed. The chopping sounds rang through the canyon of green aromatic cedar and spilled out into the valley with a cacophony of sound.
Word of the contest had spread throughout the creek bottomland and men came to watch the contestants in their struggle. That black feeling of doubt crept back by ten o’clock for the Llano man had Paw down by 5 posts. I could see him shoot a glance toward Paw as he swung the silver blade into yet another green cedar. But Paw never slackened his swinging, but played a constant staccato of chops as his ax bit into a post.
By noon, when the women brought dinner to the brakes Paw was down 6 post and had a bad strip of underbrush ahead. John and Paw sat and talked during lunch as if they were old friends. They discussed good and bad cedar. They discussed which ax was better and how best to cut for maximum efficiency.
Then at 1:00 sharp the battle began again. But now I could see that Paw had shifted into another gate and was slaying the trees without moving around the trunk. He would shift from left to right hand cutting and back again, and another post lay upon the battlefield. I scarcely breathed as I counted. Paw had moved up to within 3 of the Llano man.

Then Paw did a strange thing. He stopped, leaned on his ax handle and shouted, “Come on John, lets show these folks how to make the chips fly.” John only grinned and swung again. He knew the stretch was upon them. The sun had sunk to where the shadows stretched out across the valley and began to crawl up the far mountainside.
Two down and Paw was humming softly. One down and I thought I heard him laugh out loud. I peeked at John and saw he was stretched to the limit and didn’t find much to laugh about.
Sun down. Leon Fry called a halt and the official count began. Racing down the mountainside was pure delight. It was more of a flight than a run to announce to the waiting folks the winner. “Paw won by one post I yelled triumphly.”
Here came Paw and John, followed by Leon Fry, all laughing and kidding each other. These 2 men were truly giants of the cedar brakes, Paw number one and Llano John number 2. The cedar is all gone now and the battles done. But I can still see Paw, 10 feet tall and a man of steel.

A Bit of Texas

Sunday, October 1st, 2006
On a recent trip to Big Bend
I was impressed at the
Magnificent view
of the Chisos Mountains