Archive for April, 2007

Ol’ Blue

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Ol’ Blue was a hog. Ol’ Blue was a wild hog that roamed the Morgan Creek country of western Burnet County. To know Ol’ Blue you must know the land of Morgan Creek. Morgan Creek may be the last clear unfenced, untamed creek in the county. It is a stream that runs through rough rock canyons, leaping down falls into sandy pools lined with willows and sycamore. Up the side canyons that feed Morgan creek are numerous caves and ledges just right for wild hogs to bed and hide in. The verdant, aromatic, cedar line the edges of the cannons, peaking over the rim to watch the free flowing crystal stream making its way down the canyon floor.
As the creek makes its way out of the last canyon walls it makes a slow wide ark embracing the ranch house of Uncle Luthers home. There are the gardens, pens and chicken house of the ranch. And that is the center of Ol’ Blues world.
Ol’Blue regards the garden having been planted just for him. The tomatoes, squash, melons and beans are his
grazing range. A hole in the fence is a personal invitation for him to enter and shop. And if no opening is available he will root and make one.
Like a Methodist preacher, next to a cute shoat Ol’Blue liked chicken best. He could steal a hen and be gone quicker than the flash of lighting on a stormy night.

Uncle Luther had nailed an apple box to the side of the chicken house and set his favorite dominecker hen on a dozen eggs. It did not take the chicken stealer long to find her and make away with the prize. When Luther discovered the loss he called the dogs and the chase was on. The blue devil’s trail headed up the roughest canyon on Morgan creek. Soon the dogs began their incessant barking and we knew we were on the thief’s trail. We ran trying to keep the sound of the barking dogs in earshot, climbing, stumbling, frantic to keep up. As the dogs came closer Ol’Blue used ever trick in the book. He doubled back, crossed over the creek and ran in circles to confuse the dogs. Finally the trail headed up the mountain and onto the flat Mesa of the glade. What a relief to run on even ground again. Then the rascal fell off the ridge into the next canyon.
The sound of the dogs pulled us on even though exhaustion dragged us down. Once we glimpsed him through the brush, easily keeping the dogs at a distance and from cornering him. He used these moments to plan his next devious move and was gone like a ghost. We chased him up a gorge, and down the mountainside. We tumbled down more that ran. Blind tired it seemed we ran all day with little evidence of gaining on the culprit.
Finally with an assist of nature Ol’Blue was cornered at a bluff on the mountainside. I had the ropes ready for the capture and Luther was poised to make the catch.
Then Uncle did a strange thing. He called off the dogs. Ol’Blue seeing his chance made a break for freedom.
Why did you do that? We had that thieving devil for sure!!
Uncle Luther looked off across the hills by now bathed in golden light from the setting sun and the shadows already filling the cannons. We could hear the brush popping as Ol’Blue raced for freedom. “Son, Luther said, when God creates a free, brave animal like Ol’Blue, no man has the right to put him in a pen.
And I suppose Ol’Blue is still up Morgan Creek, rooting up gardens and stealing chickens today.

Easter and Mr. Mesquite

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

One month ago you and I talked here about Mr. Mesquite and his ability to predict the coming of spring. Man, did he ever miss the boat this year. Two weeks ago I went back to the west side of our place, upon the hill and He was all leafed out. I asked as politely as I knew how, you really think spring has arrived? He bowed his limbs, flouted his bright green new leaves and answered with a resounding YES. I went back to the house and planted the tomatoes I had in pots into the garden. I planted two Celebrates, two Better Boys, an Early Girl and a few Merceds. Not only that but I retrieved my Impatients, and various Ivyes from the green house and scattered them around the yard. Then came Easter Eve. Rain, sleet, and snow fell separately as well as all together. With a hurried blast of energy I was able to cover the tomatoes and all the ivyes. The Impatients went back to the green house where I trust they will be happy until spring really does arrive here in central Texas. I haven’t had the nerve to speak to Mr. Mesquite since the wild weather debacle. I secretly kinda hope he got his feathers….leaves scorched. He is an old man, and I respect him, but he needs to pay a little closer attention to the weather.
Alice reminded me of previous Easter Sundays when our children were young and scooting around the house. My bride worked for weeks making our daughter a pretty, pink and blue Easter dress. It had ruffles and puffs and buttons and bows about every where one can have them. She even cut a little rabbit out and sewed it on as a pocket for the dress. Our daughter was indeed a lovely sight for the Easter pageant we were to have. You want to guess what happened? Right. It came a raging norther that curled our toes. My daughter had to get into my coat to keep from freezing. To bad about that beautiful dress. No one got to see it. And come to think of it, many Easter Sundays seem to fall into that pattern. All the girls and moms dress up real pretty in bright spring colors and march off to church. Half the way there, in comes old man norther for one last blast of winter. I think we need a government grant to study the problem. While studying the weather problem we might look into the loss of Easter bonnets. I kinda liked the way they looked on our girls. Have you seen an Easter bonnet lately? Me neither.
One thing is for sure, once Easter has had its fling you can feel safe that spring has, at last, come again. I fear Mr. Mesquite has lost his testimony where it comes to knowing when spring is here. Next year I am going to wait until after Easter to plant.

April The First

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

This time of the year can get a little trying for some of us. I remember a few years ago when Alice and I were newly weds we moved into a little house up on the side of Mount Franklin in El Paso. What a lovely house to live in. The view eastward across the dessert floor is Ysleta, the oldest town in Texas. Ysleta was established by the Church in 1680 in Mexico. The river in meandering around caused Ysleta to become a part of the United States in the 1830′s. As the sun crept across the scrub mesquite the village came to life in full color as we sipped our breakfast coffee. Toward the west lay the sleeping giant Mount Franklin. We felt like puppies nestled at natures breast embraced by that great mountain, as it changed colors and moods as the sun raced across the sky.
Out back I found what was left of a garden, abandoned long ago by the previous tenants. The only color showing this early spring morning were a few strawberry plants. My heart did a quick beat, for strawberries were a plant I always wanted to grow, but never before had the sandy soil to try. If El Paso is nothing else it is sandy. I quickly transplanted the strawberries into a new bed of rich soil. A trip into the wide expanse of desert furnished ancient compost to nourish my new found plants. And they flourished. Each evening, home from work, I hurried out to inspect the plants progress. New leaves quickly came to collect the warm rays of the spring sun. I hardly kissed my bride before inspecting my strawberries each day. No blossoms. No green fruit. The ritual of homecoming, plant inspection, disappointment became a drag. I began to ignore the garden, in secret hoping this flouting of not caring would spur them on to victory. This charade of not caring turned quickly into forgetfulness. They were on their own.
Then came April. I hurried home from a long day to be met at the front door by my excited bride with great news. ” Come quickly and see your garden,”she said. I hurried out back to the strawberry patch to find around each plant an abundance of bright red strawberries just ready for picking. Wow, my careful plan of ignoring the prima donna’s must have worked after all. I reached down and picked the best one as a reward for my bride. I noted that it came loose from the plant easily. As I handed it to Alice I noted a mischievous gleam in her eye. I picked another plump red orb and it also came off the plant easily. Something was amiss. All the fruit was loose of the plants. All of the beautiful cardinal red strawberries were just lying loosely beneath the green leaves. With a sudden rush I realized someone had placed the strawberries there. I had been taken. I looked up into the face of my bride to see a great smile of glee. “April fools”, she shouted.
Dinner was delicious that night. Strawberry short cake for dessert tasted great served with a big dollop of laughter. However, each April the first I still get a little cagey.

Gone Fishing

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

You remember my friend, John Steel, that lives out on county road 200? He called me the other day wanting to go fishing. He said we could go down on the Gabriel and seine some perch for bait. We could then stop by Parkers and pick up a pound of bacon, dozen eggs and a can of coffee and head for the river.
A lot of guys used to go fishing like that. Didn’t matter what day of the week or what month it was if the notion struck, they went fishing. Some times they dug a can of worms or made a batch of dough bait. But if they were serious they would seine bait. What they really wanted was a bunch of sun perch about finger long to hook onto their trot line. That was the bait of choice when fishing for catfish. Some believed the size of the perch dictated the size of the catch. John told me that was not so. He said a big catfish will bite a little sun perch but a little catfish can’t bite a big sun perch.
I didn’t sound to eager when John called so he began with a stronger sales pitch. ” We will take along a quilt or two to nap on between running the lines ,”he said.
Fishermen that took pride in their trade looked down on a string of little channel cats. They felt any one could catch those fish. Blue catfish stood a little higher in their estimation but the prize went to the man who caught yellow catfish. He was a man to be admired. Most of the yellow catfish men would share with you how to catch yellows, but they were a little shy about telling you where they fished to catch the big ones. In private they called their special fishing place their “honey holes”, “sweet spots” or sometimes “never fail”.
I still didn’t rise to the bait of going fishing just now. John tried again, playing what he hoped was his ace in the hole. “The moon is in the second quarter, and that is the best time to catch the big yellow cats.” he declared.
While John waited for my answer I got to thinking about the pleasure I would miss if I turned him down. One, this is the middle of March. One day will be the ideal spring day. Then in the middle of the night a flash of light and a rumble of thunder and you whole fishing trip is a soggy mess. And another thing I wasn’t to keen on doing in March was wading the Gabriel to seine sun perch for bait. The temperature of the water must be just above freezing. Cooking on the river bank never appealed to me. I have gotten used to my bride’s cooking , served at a table, while I sit in my special chair. Sleeping wrapped in a quilt, lying on a sandy river bank has little charm in it for me. I guess some of us get a little soft as we grow older and wiser. Seasoned is the word I like to use
I got to thinking what that twenty five pound yellow catfish would look like in the back of my old pickup parked in front of Troy’s place. All the men gathered ‘round asking where, what, and how. And me and old John just standing there grinning and saying nothing. By dang, if I am not here next Wednesday about this time, you will know we are up on the Llano having a great time.