Monday, July 13, 2009

There and back again...a Texan's tale

It's hard being away from Texas. I think my natural state is to sit around baking. Tennessee is not that cold, but I sure do miss the sun when it gets winter around here. We flew into Greg County Airport, the dark green of the pines thick below us, and the red earth, where it has been newly dug for crops or a road, bright like a wound in the land. The older the cut, the more goldish pink it turns and I know the earth there has grown sandy, with the hard packed, iron ore tinged clay settling down low or being washed away in rainstorms that Texas is famous for, the gully-washer.

The bitter-sweet twang of East Texas creeps back into my speech without any effort. The way they talk is not the soft genteel southern twang of Alabama. It's not spicy like the Cajun flavored accent of Shreveport that is an hour from my home town, and it's not the hard edge of the southwest, or even Dallas. It's its own thing. Flavored like a dish with too many cooks and it's nice.

Evenings, the week after camp, I go walking with my nephew Jacob, down the hill or down the road to pet the horses, with Cora in the front pouch. The air is hot and still, and it feels like hitting a wall when I walked out the door and for a moment, by brain sends the panicked message, 'I can't breathe!' Then my brain remembers this is Texas and gives in to breathing 100 degree air. Even at 8pm, the sweat pours down my back in a rivulet.

The sky is tinged pink, and the road lined with bright Black-Eyed Susans, growing up near the fence line. The rusty, dusty ground is littered with iron ore stones and the smell of the tar-top road still lingering from a day of baking under the hot sun, an earthy, oily smell, as our feet walk in time to the rhythm of the Pump-Jacks (the things that pump the oil out of the ground after the drilling rig is gone). The cultivated lands and pretty yards are a miracle in themselves, because you know that land was hard won. Without constant effort, it returns to its natural scrubby state of dirt, sticker bushes (thorns. We called them sticker bushes when we were kids) and weeds.

The chorus of tree frogs is so loud we have to nearly shout to make ourselves heard. Cora gets her first look at a horse up close and I'm not sure she knows what to make of it. I keep her pink chubby hands clear of those teeth while Jacob and I feed the horses some grass, our hands flat so just their thick fuzzy lips touch our palms. We walk back home in the dusky blue heat of twilight, hoping for that breath of cool evening air that never comes.

When parking in a lot to join my family for Sunday lunch I thought to myself 'it's nearly indecent not to put trees in parking lots here', but they don't ever do it. I don't think they'd live. A car in the sun must be thoroughly aired out before children are allowed in it and I remembered the old ways of making the hot air get out before putting the baby in there. A friend told me that she had accidentally locked her kids in the car while loading them up and by the time the locksmith got her in, only 15 minutes had passed but the children were red-faced and sweaty. That's how hot it got in there, that fast.

There was a lovely dinner with friends, while the children did the only respectable past-time allowed in the summer; they played in the water. Now, I grew up in, around, and on the water. There is really no other way to make it through the summer. I noticed as we flew over Dallas that in all those sprawling housing developments, it was the minority of homes that did not have a pool. Not to mention the giant Olympic sized pool that was in each neighborhood. Perhaps one per every 200 houses or so. So let me tell ya, Cora and I logged a lot of hours at the pool. So much so that with all that swimming, plus 100+ degree weather, we had to add juice, water, and pedia-lite to her diet.

Our family had a reunion with just my Papa's side of the family. His dad, brothers and their children. Not everyone could attend and still there were 27 people. I have a big family. We ate, sat around and talked, and swam, of course. Cora discovered watermelon, nursing the juice out of it until there was just a wet, red pulp left.

One short flight and one hellacious, delayed, packed in like sardines, screaming baby one later, we are home. Tired, loving the 'cool' weather (relatively speaking), and happy to be home with the Papa Bear.

1 comment:

jmholloway said...

I love how you describe everything. It really helps to feel what you experienced. Beautifully written.

Mindi :)

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