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Photo by REHudson

Original Photo by RE Hudson

Driving up Texas Highway 77 from Victoria late one Sunday afternoon in July, the old house and windmill caught my eye. The sun was way over in the western sky and cast a mellow light across the Texas terrain making it just right for this photograph.

Unfortunately, I could not squeeze the entire windmill into the Header picture due to the limitation of space. So I’ve posted the original photograph here. It’s a typically vintage Texas image. The late afternoon sun casts a magical spell over the landscape.

To get the picture I used a Nikon D300 on a tripod. The lense was a Sigma 18-125mm zoom, f/3.8-5.6 DC OS HSM. I took multiple braketed shots using cable release, but I did not record the ASA , f-stops, or shutter speed. A real photographer records data like that. With a digital camera I tend to let that slide.

I played around with photoshop and produced the image you see. And though I like the effect – almost like a Monet painting – I like the original photograph, too, which I have also posted.

For me, the photo of the vintage Texas scene is visually poetic. In time I may reproduce the visual poetry in words where it can be read aloud.

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Here we are in a La Quinta Inn in San Antonio for the second straight night. And Sunday is Father’s day.

My dear” better half” informed me of this returning from an interview to our hotel off I-37 and Goliad Road on the south side of the city.

We pulled into a Starbucks to satisfy a need for some dark roast in a grande cup. I bought her a moist pumpkin bread slice. It seemed the appropriate thing after a hard day chasing down mysteries and arranging interviews with a San Antonio Express-News reporter. The story, we were assured, should run next weekend.

Then I ran into a Subway and got a footlong club with all the fixin’s. Lost 80 pounds once eating those things for eight months. Half for me, half for her, without the tomatoes, of course, on her side. For me, a sandwich is not a sandwich without tomatoes. It would be our dinner back at the hotel.

“There’s Walmart,” she said, pinching off a small bite of pumpkin bread. “We need to get a card for dad’s Father’s Day.” She called my father “dad.”

“Not now,” I moaned, placing the grande in the cup holder on the consol between us. “Got to get back to the hotel. I’m bushed and don’t want to shop now.”

“Father’s Day is Sunday,” she insisted. “We need a card for him with a twenty in it. Hmmm, thank you for the pumpkin bread. It’s very good.”

“A twenty! How about just a card. Money’s too hard to get and too easy to fly. Besides, you can’t find a simple card for less than three dollars. And postage is near half a dollar.” But she wasn’t convinced.

“We’ve got to mail it tomorrow,” the Good Wife insisted.

“Ok! Ok!” I said. “But lets relax abit. Let me eat this Subway club and sip my grande, then I’ll go get a card.”

The son called as I pointed the Escape between parking lines and bumped to a stop against the curb. “O, hello,” the Good Wife replied. Mother’s are like that. Makes no difference how many times their son or daughter calls. To them it’s like the first time and are they ever so thrilled to hear from them. I had to beat it to a urinal. I was about to wet my pants. She sat in the car with the door open to the 98 degree summer heat. I ran to the hotel room with my Subway in one hand and grande in the other.

I took the last bite of the Subway club and sipped from the grande when the good wife walked cherrily through the door.

“It was just wonderful talking with Doug,” she said. “Do you know he wants to bring the family to visit next week?”

“The family?” I said. “That will be nice when he gets back.”

“Yes,” she replied. “I just thought it was so sweet how Sarah helped her boys buy their dad gifts for Father’s Day. And with so little money to spare, mind you. He’ll never forget that.”

I slathered a vanilla waffer with peanut butter and popped it into my mouth.

“By the way,” said the Good Wife as she leaned down to kiss my cheek. “Doug wanted to tell you happy Father’s Day, but you weren’t there.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well let me call him back,” I said feeling a bit guilty.

“You can’t,” the Good Wife replied.

My puzzled look said more to her than I had intended.

“He called from a satellite phone from a remote base in Afghanistan,” she said. “We can’t call him. But, he said he’d call again Sunday. Wants to tell you happy Father’s Day himself.”

“The Walmart is just across the street,” I said after a minute of silence. “Be back in twenty minutes or so.”

“Don’t forget to put a twenty in it,” the Good Wife said as I closed the door on the way out.

In the muggy darknesss beneath the cloudless moonlit sky, I walked across the street to the Walmart. No I did not have my hands stuffed deep into my pockets as if in deep thought. But I knew I’d better get that card for my dad and stuff it with a twenty. It was the least I could do for my son and the Good Wife.

Photo by Hud

There is nothing better than Southern fried chicken Sunday afternoon after church, except maybe chicken fried steak. No one could fry up chicken better than Auntie either.

She sang gospel songs while she fried up the chicken. We all thought God blessed the chicken because of Auntie’s singing.

Golden, crispy, and hot. Fried to perfection and stacked succulently on a big platter in the center of the table. Surrounded by mashed potatoes in a big old bowl, beside which sat another bowl of white gravy, a platter of real biscuits! Not the frozen kind we get from Wal-Mart today.

Some real hand-churned butter, and the South Texas version of a tossed salad with iceberg lettuce, green peas, little yellow cubes of chedder cheese, and Miracle Whip for dressing.

And the tea. Sun tea morphed into “sweettea,” said quickly all in one syllable.

Auntie put Lipton tea bags in a gallon jar filled with cistern water. Sat the jar on the back porch and let the sun shine on it until the water turned a golden brown. This could take nearly all day. But, boy! Made with rain water. Mixed with lots of white sugar it became sweettea, a heavenly drink fit for sweltering South Texas afternoons.

The circuit preacher came home with Uncle, who deaconed the all denominational church in Simmons, Texas. It was the custom. Everybody knew it, for the preacher loved Auntie’s fried chicken and all that country cooking that went with it. And her impromptu gospel singing in her high nasal voice. He looked forward to dinner at Uncle’s when he came to preach in the little white community church.

Because Uncle’s family was so big, we sat at two tables – one for the adults and adult children and the other for the rest of us younger ones. David sat at our table. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like sitting with “children,” he said. He belonged with older folks on such occasions.

Sweet little Liz always understood. But the rest of us boys, and Uncle had plenty, were not quite so sympathetic. Of course, our snide comments were usually repaid with a thumb on the head or a well placed frog in the fleshy part of the bicep when we were least expecting it.

Then there were the well timed and nefarious epithets David delivered with squinted eyes that made us laugh, but stuck forever like a tick on a dog’s back. Of course, it wasn’t anything I said this time, it was what I did that got me tagged with a new moniker by David’s flagitious wit.

After the preacher “God blessed” the chicken and praised Auntie’s kitchen with all its savory, smacking good country cooking aromas, we sat and hands flew into the platter of fried chicken.

Between David and I remained the last piece of fried chicken in the platter. We’d each consumed several pieces already and were eye-balling that last piece. About the time David finished up the thigh he’d been working on, I had finished a drumstick. We reach simultaneously and I came up with the prized last piece while David glowered at me.

“Got’da be faster,” I quipped, fully satisfied at having beat my older cousin to the draw.I bit into the chicken with more gusto than usual. David continued to glower.

Into my last bite, the epithet formed on David’s lips, fell preponderously upon the table, bounced around among the dishes, and ricocheted off walls into the ears of all gathered around the table. Then an explosion of laughter!

That’s how I got labeled, “Old One Horn.”

And much to David’s chagrin, I did try to live up to that epithet. It was the least I could do for the old bull that ruled the pasture across the creek in Uncle’s back forty.

My uncle had this old bull. Big, old, rangy and mottled brown and black on white. It had one horn. Hence its name.

Old One Horn stayed out at the far end of the pasture beyond the gulley that cut the pasture in two. Even the cows didn’t like him. He was a loner. He did not like to share the pasture. The grass was his and when a cow got too near, he’d chase her off shaking his wooly head and bellering.

My uncle kept the old bull because despite his obnoxious conduct, the cows always seemed to get pregnant. He was a good bull in that sense. Uncle had ten cows. They were always pregnant. And best, they never failed to deliver a big, healthy calf. There were always plenty of calves to market at the county auction and old One Horn did his job of keeping Uncle in good supply.

The cows always came in to the barn behind the house every afternoon at three o’clock. Lined up with their calves beside them, they came sauntering from the pasture along the fence line. Old One Horn remained beyond the gully as the cows came. It was the only time he did not graze. His head would be up watching the cows.

Uncle would have us kids in the barn throwing bales of hay onto the ground. He would clip the wires holding the bales together and spread the hay for the cows. Lowing, calves bellering, the cows entered the barnyard and began munching the hay. But this peaceful scene lasted for but a minute or two.

No sooner had the cows begun eating old One Horn burst into the yard bawling like a mad demon and shaking his monstrous one horned head. How he got up from the far end of the pasture so quickly after the cows came in has always been a mystery, even to Uncle.

The cows seemed to know his arrival was imminent, for they ate fast and within seconds of old One Horn’s arrival had moved away from the hay. Any unfortunate cow that had not moved fast enough got wacked by the bull’s one horn and a healthy bawling. Even Uncle had to find a safe place on the top rail of the wood fence.

One Horn stood spraddle-legged staring down the cows and calves, Uncle and us kids for a minute or two. Then he would eat the hay. All of it! The old bull would not leave even a straw. And when he had finished, he would return to the far end of the pasture where he would continue grazing into the night. Next day it would all happen again. Same way!

Uncle tried every way to feed those cows before One Horn would burst onto the scene. He even put all the cows and calves in a wood corral one day, but old One Horn broke down the wood rails and chased all the cows out. He seemed unstoppable. And the cows didn’t like it, but they kept getting pregnant.

Good hay management is important when feeding cows. Uncle knew this. But old One Horn, Uncle said, was sort of like the government, he didn’t know when to stop eating. In fact he just didn’t care. He wanted it all and he took it.

One day while Uncle was contemplating ways to feed the cows, old One Horn did something he had not done before. For right in the middle of eating the hay, he began bawling painfully. In minutes he was lying upon the ground and bellering even louder. His belly had bloated considerably. His legs would not hold him up.

The cows watched cautiously from the perimeter and gradually meandered around old One Horn and ate all the hay while he lay bellering. Then the cows left, in single file with their calves beside them, and went back into the pasture.

Uncle looked at old One Horn in disgust.

“You old glutton,” he said. “Serves you right. If you didn’t do such a good job of keeping those cows pregnant, I’d have you auctioned. But, hell, you’re your worst own enemy! And you ain’t no good to me like that.”

Old One Horn’s eyes bulged and he bellered louder. He couldn’t get up. He was full of gas from overeating hay. Uncle just let him lie and went into the house. We kids followed wondering what was wrong with old One Horn. Would he live?

“He’ll be ok,” said Uncle, “soon’s he’s digested all that fodder he’s been guzzling. But it won’t stop him from doing it again. I’ll just have to build a stronger fence for the cows, I guess.”

But the fence didn’t stop him. The cows finally did because they needed hay to make milk to nourish their calves. They stood up to him.

Old One Horn stays at the far end of the pasture across the gulley that cuts it in two. The cows still don’t go there, but they still get pregnant. When the cows come home for hay, old One Horn still watches, but he stays remembering the day the cows angrily chased him from the feed lot. It hurt his feelings. It scared him right proper.

Uncle and us kids remember, too, the day the cows got tired of old One Horn’s gluttonous ways. We stared in disbelief. Now the cows have plenty to eat and they share it among themselves.

And, surprisingly, they leave enough on the barnyard ground for old One Horn to eat a little late at night when he comes in when the cows have gone.

Uncle says old One Horn’s still a worthy bull, for he keeps the cows pregnant and him in calves to sell at the auction barn on Saturdays. “He ain’t eating us out of house and home now,” says Uncle, “now that the cows have stood him in his place. He makes a better bull when he’s lean.”

Driving home last evening the discussion in our car turned to Washngton, D.C. Not the town, but the politics.

And, of course, the healthcare rumpus, jobs, social services, our schools, immigration,  the portentous direction of our economy, the war…then a dark and heavy silence.

Over the radio played Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” accompanied by the low hum of the car’s engine. We had just pulled onto Airport Freeway among the honking cars and trucks like bumper cars cutting in and out on their mad scramble to nowhere in particular.

“Should conversatons end with solutions?” my spouse ventured.

“Should,” I replied.

“Well this one hasn’t.”

“The problem is not the subject,” I countered. “It’s the place.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” I started hesitantly, “Washington has polarized because we only have two parties. The Dems give everything away to the poor and the Republicans give all the tax breaks to the rich.”

I paused to dodge a car that virtually clipped our front end as it cut between us and the car we were behind.

“When the Dems fail us we vote Republican to punish them. And when the Republicans fail us, we vote in the Dems to punish the Republicans. There’s no alternative parties! It’s a hell of a mess, if you ask me.”

“It is,” my spouse said solemnly. “Extremely volatile!”

“Well, think about it!”  I replied. “The poor have representation and the rich have representation. The middle class has virtually no representation, but gets tapped for the taxes to pay for all this bureaucratic pork!”

The dark silence again as we dodged streaking and careening cars rushing madly down the freeway.

“Wish I could return to the ’50s back on the farm in South Texas,” I muttered.

“It would be simpler,” she said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Washington’s just got too close to Texas. There don’t appear to be no good end in sight, either.”

“I understand,” she said.

Dodging an eighteen wheeler cutting across two lanes to make an exit, I whipped the car into the left hand lane and hit the gas peddle to stay with the traffic flow.

“Really!” I said. “So do I. We’re like served a burger on two buns with no beef…and no beef in the foreseeable future, except promises bloated with rhetorical air.”

“Remember when we used to look at the world through the hole in our granny’s screen door when we were kids.”

“You’re memaw had one too?” she said.

“Yep,” I replied. “I used to look at the world through it.”

“And?”

“Then I grew up,” I said. “Yep. I grew up.”

Pointing the car at the exit ramp, I shot through the melee of jockying drivers for the safety of the service road. A streetlamp blinked out. Others stood like emaciated sentries casting their feeble blueish light upon each intersection we passed as we negotiated a maze of streets on our way home.

If only Washington was as simple, I thought. We pulled off the street through the open garage door to our home. It closed.