Archive for December, 2007

Celebrating New Year’s Day

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

I drove out to John Steel’s place off county road 200 to ask him a question.
I found him sitting in a rocker on the front porch soaking up the morning sun. “ John” I asked, “Why do we celebrate New Year’s Day?” He stopped rocking and gazed off across the pasture to the far grove of sycamore trees that grow along the San Gabriel River as if he were looking for the answer. The sycamore’s bare white limbs fairly glowed in the sun, perhaps sending him the answer.

Then John began rocking again, creating a gentle beat as the chair creaked back and forth across the rough boards of the porch. “Well,” John began, “Many, many years ago, out west of Llano or Mason or perhaps even Menard, Og Rekab lived with his clan in a cave high on a hill. From the mouth of the cave one could see for miles and miles to the west; all the way to the distant horizon. At the entrance to the cave grew a small, skinny sycamore sapling. One fall evening, as the sun approached sun down, he noticed the shadow of the sapling trunk was projected on the back wall of the cave. He made a mark on the rock wall with a charcoal stick. A few days later as the sun set, he noticed the shadow had moved over a bit. But Og also noticed a frightening thing was also happening to all the trees, the leaves turned brown and fell to the ground. And the grass had turned brown. But worst of all, the game was all gone. The next day as the sun sunk low and the shadow was on the wall, it was further over still. Was the sun, the giver of life, going away? Fear gripped the clan. And the shadow moved further. The clan sang their most pleading chants, and danced their most persuasive dances, asking for the sun to return. But the shadow kept moving.” John continued, “Then one day Og noted the movement of the shadow on the cave wall stopped moving! Soon it moved back the other way! And the shadow of the sycamore sapling on the back of the cave wall continued to move back from where it had come. The sun was returning! Og Rekab shouted to the clan that all was going to be well again. Og declared a holiday. They cooked the last of the black-eyed peas with ham hock, and a big pan of cornbread and had a feast in honor of the returning sun. Og declared that this day, hence forth would be known as ‘New Year’s Day’.”

John Steel stopped rocking. All was still. He looked up at me with that mischievous grin of his, but said nothing.

“You expect me to believe that?”, I asked.
“No” John said, “But if I told you the truth, you wouldn’t believe that either.”
“Well John, get you coat and hat”, I said, “I‘ll buy you a Starbucks at the Exxon station and we will celebrate New Year’s Day.”

Christmas Cards

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

I bet you are getting a lot of Christmas Cards this year. Aren’t they just great? Alice always lines them up on a dinning room table so we can admire them till way past New Year’s Day. I like them all, especially the ones with the senders family picture. Through the years we have seen our friends and family children grow from babies to full grown men and women. In some cases we have witnessed these babies grow into adults and have children of their own. Kinda gives one a fuzzy, warm feeling doesn’t it?

Some cards are the printed ones with baby Jesus or scenes of snow, holly and remembered mental pictures of long ago Christmases. Inside, someone has taken a lot of time and effort to inscribe a fitting greeting of the season. I really like the ones with personal written messages from the sender. He cared enough to write the very best.

Remember the cards from a few years ago that, when they were opened, somehow played a Christmas carol or a spoken greeting? I never understood how that happened but they were great. I haven’t seen any of those in some time. With the newer, smaller computer chips they should work better and less expensively.

A newer Christmas greeting method is the Christmas Letter. I know you must have gotten some of these. I trust you are enjoying knowing what has happened to your friends over the past year. Most of these Christmas Letters paint quite a glowing past year, with all things coming up roses. The success of these greetings depend on the writing skills of the senders and most do a good job. We have gotten one of these letters, for many years, from a friend who has a knack of making it humorous as well as informative. We eagerly look for his letter each Christmas. In fact if he lets us down this Holiday Season, I am going to call him up and demand he send one.

One Christmas Letter I would like to write is one with tongue in cheek. I fear I haven’t the skill, or creative ability to do it justice. How about telling the world, through the letter, how dad fell from the roof installing the Christmas lights? We hope he gets out of the hospital in time to trim the tree. Or how about the line, “This will be a wonderful holiday after winning the lottery.” I think you get the idea. One must be careful, however, not to stray to far from the meaning of this wonderful time of the year. Perhaps you would like to give this task a try. Just send it me, and I will not tell a soul. Just you and I can have a private laugh and know we love this Christmas Season, each other, and all the world.

It’s That Lovely Time of the Year

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Notice how fast Christmas Holidays get here these days? I was just thinking recently; when I was a kid it seemed to never get here. Christmas, in those days, came about every 3 years. Now it is here every six months. And you know, I am glad. Not for me but for the children, and all the family. It is a time when you can say, “I love you,” and no one thinks you are up to something. It is an opportunity to go shopping and spend a little money on those we love. Or even better, you can make a gift to give someone special on your list. Alice is good at making cookies, pies, cakes and bread for gifts. I am pleased to be on that list.

I remember her sewing special Christmas clothes for our children when they were young. Her greatest success came one year when we were a little short of money. She had this great idea and sent me looking for a burlap bag. I had my doubts, but I did as she had asked. Alice took the bag and made a vest and cowboy chaps for the boys and a Dale Evans dress for our daughter. I got into the sprit of the season and made three stick horses for them to ride. That may have been the best Christmas gifts our kids ever had. They were the envy of the neighborhood. Then came the grandchildren, and now one great-grandchild. I trust Alice will come through with flying colors. It is just a matter of love and a little ingenuity.

Another activity that adds to the sprit of the season is cutting a Christmas tree. Alice, I, and our kids would all pile into the pickup and find a pasture full of cedars. That is not hard to do here in central Texas. We would walk through the forest of fragrant cedars looking for just the right size and shape. That was great fun for the kids. As the children grew I began letting them have a chance to chop one down. We seemed always to end up with a pickup full of trees. Each of them knew some kid that didn’t have an opportunity to get a tree; so they spread cheer by giving them away. A cedar Christmas tree in the house gives it a special smell…..the smell of Christmas. Then cane the thrill of decorating the tree. We had plenty of glass balls to hang from the branches. We had to pull up a chair for the little ones to reach the higher branches. One year they got busy with a secret activity, which they didn’t want us to see. Laughter, giggling and whispered words drifted up the hallway as they worked. Soon they came to the tree with a cardboard star covered with Alice’s kitchen aluminum foil to attach to the very top. We still treasure that star. And you know it still shines brightly from the tiptop of our tree each year.

Christmas eve at church, with candles and carols completed the wonderful feeling of this time of year. It really doesn’t matter what is beneath the tree…it is what is in our hearts.
I know, with this fast approaching Holiday, you will find many Christmas memories to hang from next year’s tree.

On Choosing a Birthday

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Most of us have birthdays scattered through out the year. I don’t know anyone who really forgets his birthday. Most of us think it is such a great day, the whole world should remember. Many of us, if we fear our birthday is being forgotten, find ways to drop neat little hints. This usually works well. However some I know have birthdays on important, historical dates. Like my nephew; his birthday falls on the 4th of July. He really thinks all those fireworks are for him. I am not going to tell him and no one forgets his birthday.

There are dangers being born on some one else’s birthday. How would you like to share your day with the likes of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? No way you can over come that kind of competition. Thanksgiving and Christmas are days to be avoided when planning your own personal birthday. I have a brother-in-law whose birthday comes on the 29th of February. Poor guy; he has had only 19 big days even though he is really 76 years old. He has tried to sneak in the back door on the 28th of February, but we refuse to let him. I have known some guys who get married on their brides birthday so he will not forget her big day nor their big day. Some of them even muff both in one fell swoop. They tend to not live long; well not calm lives anyway.

Even having a birthday close to a famous date can be challenging. Troy Joseph was born the 8th of December. His first 21 years around Liberty Hill were easy enough. Then came December the 7th, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Talk about fire works! Within a month he was in the Navy. A few more weeks and he was on the USS Grant headed for the far East. Those were wild days and they weren’t spent thinking about celebrating birthdays. Troy helped in removing General MacArthur from the Philippines, to fight another day. Action was a daily encounter. Troy and the men and officers of the USS Grant completed their assignment with honor.

Troy Joseph has celebrated many birthdays since that one. He claims he will be 88 years old the 8th of December. My math is a little fuzzy these days, however Troy is not one to challenge. I know for the last several years he has worked hard at making Liberty Hill known as “The Friendly City”. He mans the Liberty Hill Information center and can be counted on to see that the job needing to be done gets done. He also has a heart warming smile and wave to all that pass the center.

Drive by the Information Center Saturday the 8th, honk and giver Troy a big birthday wave. He will thank you for it.

Thank You

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

I trust you had a great holiday. We all did. All the family and all the stuffings were properly stuffed. All of our teams won, especially here in Liberty Hill. A new catch word is swirling around town these days…..”How about them Panthers?” I believe everyone has a smile on their face these days, and properly so. I think they will go all the way, again. I would say to the players, coaches, staff, school body, teachers and the hosts of fans, thank you.

Speaking of thank you, I ran into John Steel down at the Exxon the other day and he asked how my holiday went. I replied, just fine. He asked if I had learned anything during the festive days? Well, I couldn’t think of anything. Did you I asked? I knew when I asked I had stepped into the trap he had been setting for me. “Yes”, John said. “I learned what should have been learned many Thanksgivings ago”. “I learned the value of perhaps the two most important words in the English language”. “And what are they?” I wondered. I knew I was in for a long, drawn out explanation when I asked. John never misses a chance to ‘hold court’ when he has an opportunity. “We have set aside the biggest portion of a week to celebrate a great harvest, and rightly so.” Continuing John said, “We give thanks to a higher being for the plentiful fruit of the farm, and I am all for that.” “How about a ‘Thank You’ for the farmer and rancher?” “And a ‘thank you’ for the trucking industry, processors, grocery stories, clerks, checkers, and the kids that sack all the stuff we buy.” John went on to name the men and women that work in all the many facets of our society that makes it so pleasant to live and work in. He did, finally say, “Thank You” were the two most important words in the English language.

You know, I think he may have hit onto something. I hurried home, burst through the door, and yelled, “Thank You Alice.” You should have seen her face. What a surprised look she had. First she smelled my breath, checked the fenders on the car, smiled that great smile of her’s and kissed me big time. I then explained the revelation I had received from John Steel; a thank you for every one. Little kids get one, old men at the whittler’s bench get one, and if I run into you, you can bet you will get one also. Some times I explain that that “Thank You” is for just you being you, but most of the time they reply with a lovely grin that tells me I just hit the bull’s eye.
Now, how about a great big “THANK YOU” for “OUR TEAM”. “How about them Panthers?”