On our recent trip to La Grange in the Texas hill country, I noticed the quirkily painted fire hydrants. I love this one because it is surrounded by our most famous wildflower, the Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis, an indigenous wild lupin. In Spring the fallow fields in central Texas become Monet paintings – sometimes just bluebonnets but also swathes of red, yellow and orange wildflowers. They took my breath away as we drove past them; one of nature’s wonders.
This one was less flowery but full of art – even on the pavement… I did wonder if local children helped decorate them. It made me smile. In our forest retreat hydrants and signs are painted brown or green so as to blend with the trees. It helps keep burglaries down because no one can figure out where they are, especially at night with the low lighting!
This post is an excuse to tell you some random stories and wish everyone Happy Easter, Passover, Pagan spring thing or whatever. I hope you enjoy scampering naked through a field of wildflowers, eating too much chocolate or going to your church.
Katniss has Help…
As most of you know, we have a feral cat who visits twice a day for dinner. We named her Katniss and have a collection of little plates just for her. Rabies is quite common in Texas so I am very careful to separate Katniss’s plates from Toffee’s (our indoors cat from Egypt). I am also lazy and end up with a pile of dirty dishes after a few days. Then I will put them in a bucket of soapy, bleachy water to soak and then will clean them. A week ago, I forgot to finish my task and left the bucket outside overnight. I sleep with industrial ear plugs because Teddy really snores like a bear. He commented in the morning that he wondered what the raccoons had been doing in the night (how could he hear anything over the snoring?) He said that it sounded like they were breaking something and were chittering noisily. Later on, I remembered my bucket and went out to do the dishes but someone had beaten me to it. I looked at the bucket quizzically because the saucers were all placed tidily alongside. I burst out laughing when I realized that the raccoons had ‘washed’ the dishes for me. They are very smart little critters who love playing with water. They will dip toys in the water as well as their food. Our neighbor found them swimming in her pool one night, chittering happily. I wondered if I should get them a toy kitchen.
The back-handed insult
St Mary’s Catholic Church Brenham
I will be volunteering on Easter Sunday, as usual, and my doctor refers to it as my church service. I love that idea and the next time a rude customer asks me if I have nothing better to do on a Sunday, I will say I am at my church doing something more useful than singing hymns. Last week a pleasant older lady asked me where I was born (Scottish accent). I told her the long story short – Californian Irish Mexican hybrid. She looked at me carefully and then said, “You are a beautiful woman” “You don’t look a bit Mexican”. I really didn’t know how to respond to that ‘compliment quickly followed by insult’.
The real compliment
Bluebonnets by the side of the highway
On my recent trip to the Texas countryside, I was driving along the major route between Houston and Austin. The speed limit is 75 miles per hour but in Texas we read that as 85 or more; it is some kind of state dyslexia… I noticed a group of cars had stopped on the side of the road and then saw the reason – BLUEBONNETS!! To my own astonishment, I slowed down and did exactly the same. Every Texan gets excited about our wildflower season but bluebonnets are an indigenous little blue Lupine that sets our hearts aflame. Here is a link to a previous funny post about Bluebonnets. After acting like an idiot on the road, I noticed a field of them next to my hotel which was near a super Walmart and, even better, A THRIFT STORE! Kerry was in heaven, both with bluebonnets and cheap clothes. It was a treasure trove with rich ranchers’ cast offs. One top still had the ticket on it – $50 for $5. At the desk, the young girl tentatively asked me if I was over 55 (30% senior discount) and I brought out my driving license (yes, they really gave me one). She said that I didn’t look 55. As I related this story to my colleagues later they expressed surprise at my real age and willingness to admit it in this age obsessed society. Again I burst out laughing – I just told them I shopped at thrift stores so why hide my age. Dang it, I would do pretty much anything for a 30% discount…
All the Texans will immediately know what bluebonnets are but for the rest of the world they are a small, indigenous Texan wildflower that grows prolifically on verges or prairie in the springtime. My first thought was that they looked like little Lupines (and they are). When we moved into our brand new house, 11 years ago, we were delighted that our township planted the verges along the walking paths with thousands of bluebonnets. I think the first year everything was fine – we loved looking at them. By the second year, locals and outsiders alike had discovered that they could take the annual Bluebonnet shot (grandchildren sitting in bluebonnets) just north of Houston instead of going into the hill country.
Our street was outraged because if you sit on them, you kill them and they won’t come up the following year. All you could see were sad little broken stems. In a large area, they seed easily so there is not such a problem. Not only that, we had PAID for them in our outrageously high rates! One quick thinking neighbor put out an adorable little sign that said –
PLEASE DON’T SIT ON US. BLUEBONNETS ARE VERY DELICATE AND WILL NOT GROW NEXT YEAR. THANK YOU FOR BEING CONSIDERATE.
My sign would have been more like this –
GET YOUR RED NECKED IGNORANT ASSES OFF MY BLUEBONNETS – REVENGE WILL BE MINE. F*** OFF BACK TO YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD OR I WILL GET MY GUN.
On the lighter side, my friend and I hatched so many nefarious plots to get rid of them that it kept DESPICABLE US amused during the slow murder of our bluebonnets. Her plan was the most achievable – we dig up a nest of fire ants and put them in the middle of the verge. I wondered about getting some snakes from my reserve but they might have killed them too. Blow darts are always a consideration in my mind (native ancestry, perhaps?) but I don’t know how to get the poison delivered. Do you think Amazon delivers that kind of thing? I think what incensed me the most that they actually blocked our street with their stupid red neck family vehicles.
This is not a Disney story – there is no happy ending. Over a period of years they systematically killed our bluebonnets. Finally, to our relief, the township decided that it was more sensible to seed a variety of wildflowers which change every year. As much as I loved the bluebonnets, I am just as happy with poppies, Indian Blankets, Indian Paintbrushes and the ubiquitous but cheery pink and red poppies.
What do you think about when you hear the name Waco? For most of us, we are taken back to the Waco Siege between a religious group, the Branch Davidians, and the FBI. This followed a gun battle between the group and the ATF. The compound was located outside the city of Waco, Texas. The tranquil scene above reflects my view of what I found in Waco. This is the Brazos River which intersects downtown Waco which is a quiet little university town undeserving of the unfortunate association with the Branch Davidians. Baylor University has a huge campus and there is a strange but fun mix of affluent, gifted students and regular Texan folks – all very friendly and warm. All my friends asked me why I was going on a road trip to Waco, out of all the places you could visit in Texas, but it had always intrigued me. The back road to Waco from Houston is a lovely route with so many beautiful wildflowers and polite drivers! I stopped at a pretty little town named Calvert that was perfect for antiquing and photography. Waco is home to the Texas Rangers museum which was astonishingly interesting and also the Dr. Pepper Museum. Cameron Park Zoo had some very obliging residents who posed so nicely for me. Click on the link to learn more about Waco and see some cute critters. POSTCARD FROM WACO – click here