December 12, 2011 – Because I am a 4th Generation Texan
It doesn’t help my tendency to talk Texan that my sisters and I go visit my aunt and uncle in the country. One of my Colorado friends always said, “You say ‘y’all’ a lot more after you visit your family.” I’ve only been here a week and already the Y’all is replacing You Guys, You All, and Ustedes. My vowels are also rounding out and elongating. Heck, before I leave the States I’ll be talkin’ like a real live, bless your heart, southern gal, y’all.I call up my younger sister. “What day do you have off work? You wanna go out to the country with me to visit David and Kathy?”
My aunt and uncle live out in East Texas on the farm my grandparents bought some time in the 1970s. I spent a good portion of my childhood dusting my socks, jeans and the top of my shoes with sulfur to avoid chigger bites, high-walking in the grass to scare off rattlers, casting minnowed lines into the tank to fish, and walking the foot trails with my Mammaw looking at animal tracks. I haven’t been out to the farm in years. And certainly not since David and Kathy moved there at the beginning of this year. It’s high time I go for a visit.“Saturday is my only day off,” Michaela says. “We could go then.”
I text my aunt to ask if she’d mind us coming out on Saturday.Plan to stay for dinner, she texts me back.
Later on, when my older sister is over I throw out an invitation to her as well, forgetting that Michaela’s car doesn’t have backseat room since it serves as her closet. After all she does live on a boat.“Oops,” I say to my mom after Jesse leaves. “Now what do I do?”
“You can take my car,” Mom says. “Maybe Kim will want to go too.” Kim is my sis-by-engagement-to-my-brother.
“You don’t mind?” I ask.
|Kim and David|
Saturday arrives and Jesse and I go pick up Michaela and then Kim. I drive. Jesse DJs the jams and knits. Michaela provides the personalized GPS service and Kim updates us on our second to youngest brother’s commercial truck driving interstate progress.
|Jesse and Me|
“You shouldn’t speed down this road in Mom’s car,” Michaela chastises me after I swerve to avoid a pothole.
I’m only going twenty miles per hour, but I slow down a little more. Then I turn left through the gates, past the sign that says Epps--our maternal side surname-- down the path past the tank (a tank is a man-dug water reservoir similar to a pond or lake) through the copse and then pull into the carport next to the house.Uncle David greets us with Paco in hand. Paco may be just a Chihuahua about the size of a zucchini, but he’s got delusions of grandeur that I can totally relate to. He lets us know in no uncertain terms that this is his property and he’s pretty much in charge.
|Kathy, David, Paco|
After the hellos are made we all go up to the tank to check out the new dock that David and his brother-in-law put in. Paco leads the way then doubles back to bark at our heels.Uncle David tosses some fish food into the water. Jesse and I watch the perch come up to nibble their dinner while Michaela and Kim try out the fishing poles with no catching success. We discuss water levels, rain accumulation, fish size, wood staining, post strength , deer sightings, hog sightings, and turtles. After a while Aunt Kathy heads back to the house to start some appetizers.
When the air starts to gather a chill in its arms we follow after Kathy and head indoors.
They’re delicious and craving-satisfying. We make short work of them.“When do you girls want dinner?” Aunt Kathy asks.
The four of us exchange glances and convey that we’re all up to the challenge of making short work of dinner too whenever it’s ready. Then we all try to help and stay out of the way at the same time. Uncle David pulls the trash bag out of the can and starts for the door. Kim takes my camera and follows him out while he goes to burn the trash.When they come back inside Kim says, “You should go get some pictures of the cows.”
The recent rains have made the crossing of the creek both possible and enticing to some of the neighbor cows. David and Kathy and Paco have been occupied with chasing them off the property for the past couple of weeks, but the cattle are still coming over. They’d come in and eaten the bales of hay Uncle David had set up to use for target practice, made clomping tracks up to the tank, “planted” cow patties across the pasture and created gaping holes in the mud with their heavy hooves.Michaela has Paco in her arms while we try to get in picture taking distance of the cows. Once the pictures are captured he’ll be released to chase the cows and demonstrate his super speed. He can hardly handle waiting.
|Michaela and Paco|
I only get one picture before the cows trot off into the brush out of our sight. They’ve been chased off so many times now they know the drill. Paco barks, “And stay out!” then darts all around looking just like a land-bound version of Mighty Mouse.Since we’re there, we tour the old west town a guy named Tony had built in the ‘70s or 80s’. He’d been a journalist for the Dallas Morning News and came out to the country on the weekends. As kids, that place had seemed so huge and so fantastic. Tony had named one building The Sheriff’s Office. Another The Opry House. The Outhouse had been down the path a ways. When we were kids we’d always wanted to play there, but Mammaw kept us in check. We could go over to visit and peer through the windows but that was about it.
“It seems so small,” I tell Jesse.
“I know,” she says.
We look for the Outhouse but don’t find it.“Uncle Vic tore it down,” David tells us when we find him. My Great Uncle Vic and Great Aunt Glenna had bought the property from Tony at some point and had lived there until my Uncle Vic passed away and Aunt Glenna went to live nearer to her kids.
“Tony used to work for the Dallas Morning News and he did a piece in Austin for Austin City Limits or some show like that where Waylon Jennings played and Tony got to take the Opry House sign with him which he put on one of the buildings.”Maybe David said it was Willie Nelson not Waylon Jennings. I can’t remember. The place has some Country and Western history at any event.
Meanwhile back at the house, Kathy’s done stuffing the tomatoes and prepping the potatoes.
While the grill is heating up I try my hand again at making Pisco Sours. When we’re all served they say, “Welcome home,” we clink glasses and drink.
“Is this a dry Pisco Sour?” David asks.“It’s right in the middle,” I reply. “Not overly sweet but not completely dry.” They’re not half bad. At least no one spits them out or goes to wash their mouths out with soap and water.
While the potatoes bake, we tour the house, watch a Hallmark special, play with Paco, don Christmas scarves and then dinner is served. Sure, we’re eating potatoes and tomatoes, but these are no ordinary tubers. These are gourmeted up. Fancified and delicious!When my plate is clean Kathy asks if I’d like more.
“I’m so full,” I tell her. “That was really good.”“You won’t go home hungry?” she asks.
“Not a chance.”
Especially not after she serves us gluten-free brownies. Kim and I split a second brownie just to be polite. At least that’s how I justify myself to my full belly. We sit around the table visiting for a bit longer then ease up from the table. After we say our thanks yous and get some Y’all come back nows, we head ‘em up and move ‘em out.
Uncle David rides up to the front with us to close the gate. We wave goodbye and drive away.Michaela GPSes us back to the Dallas area. I drop her off at the marina, Kim at her apartment and take Jesse home. I drive myself to my parents’ house, get greeted at the front door by the dogs and then steer myself off to bed.
Hoo doggies, what a day, y’all!