Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Back at the Ranch

Last year on the 4th of July, our neighborhood lit up like a Chinese firecracker. Living in East Austin, whether we’re being re-gentrified or not, one has to wonder whether the snap, crackle and pops are truly fireworks or someone’s .357 magnum going off. To ensure a better night’s sleep, Gene and I headed to the Double M Ranch to celebrate a quiet Independence Day.

The Double M Ranch belongs to my parents, Max and Glenda, who are vacationing in Idaho. It’s a lovely 300+ acre spread in Central Texas, near Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the world. And, this year, the weather was cooler than normal for July. That is to say, it was in the mid-80s the day we arrived.

With an unusual amount of rain during the latter part of June, the pastures and grass were bright green. Near the Low Water Crossing, families were wading and fishing in the Cow House Creek. The canopy of large oak and pecan trees shaded the road like a tunnel, inviting us to the Promised Land.

I noticed the neighbors at the turnoff in the house that used to be an old mill had lots of family or friends visiting. So did the neighbors at the Low Water Crossing. Everyone was gathered together to celebrate Independence Day, the day that symbolizes Freedom for our country.

After unpacking and resting for bit, Gene and I headed into town for dinner. I drove us by the house where my grandparents had lived while they were alive. I hadn’t been to the house in quite awhile and was amazed at how small it was.

The neighborhood was all built up, and it was hard to tell just where the dirt road circle used to be. That’s the road I took when I ran away at the ripe old age of five.

All the relatives were at Grandmother and Grandad’s house that evening. I’d probably been scolded for something I did. So, I packed a can of candy in a suitcase and announced with conviction to my sister, Cameron, and my cousin, Kimberly, that I was running away.

Cameron and Kimberly begged me not to leave. They followed behind me on the circle, and when I’d gone about 100 feet, I opened my suitcase and sat down in it. Kimberly and Cameron ran crying back to the house, telling my grandfather what I was doing. Grandad, with his twinkling blue eyes, followed the girls to my location, which was easily seen from the house.

Grandad said sweetly, “Grayson, I hear you’re running away.” Sitting inside my opened suitcase, I defiantly crossed my arms in front of my chest, set my chin and turned my head to the side, replying, “Yes, I am!” He rubbed his chin for moment and then said, “Well, if you’re gonna run away, you oughta do it on a full stomach. Your grandmother just fried up some chicken. Why don’t you come eat some dinner before you leave?” The logic was undeniable, so I got up, repacked my suitcase, and my grandfather carried it back to the house, as we all returned for some homemade fried chicken and I forgot all about my getaway.

After that precious memory flashed by, Gene and I drove over to the local dive on Main Street for a fried catfish dinner.

We talked with Barbara, the waitress who would certainly give Flo, from the old TV series “Alice”, a run for her money. Barbara knows my parents by name and once she remembered meeting me several times before, we chatted all about my folks and the neighbors before heading back to the ranch to rest and relax.

On Sunday, Gene noticed a baby mockingbird sitting in the grass. After having a little bird die in my hands recently, you might think I would’ve steered clear of this little feathered fellow, but I couldn’t. The little guy wasn’t injured, he simply wasn’t experienced enough to stay in the air. I knew that if we left him in the grass, he’d end up as some critter’s foie gras. So, I nestled the tiny bird in one of my mother’s Williams-Sonoma dish towels, which are nice and soft (don’t worry, Mom, I washed it), and put him on top of the barbeque grill on the back porch. We could see that the nest was near the roof, but we couldn’t reach it. Gene and I hoped for the best. The next morning, our little friend was gone. Hopefully, he spread his wings and flew away. I don't even want to think about the alternative.

Freedom For All, Y'all!

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