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Tangent: Texas Liquor Laws (Texas for Writers, #4.5)

Okay, so I’m reading a book set in Texas, and as often happens, I’m trying to figure out where in Texas this book is supposedly set. I mean, it’s a made-up town, but usually, one can figure out what part of Texas these made-up towns are placed. So far, I’m not having any luck, because–first off, the story says flat out “east Texas” for the location of this “ranch country” town.

Which, if you’ve been reading my blog, you would know that East Texas and Ranch Country are mutually exclusive. Right? Right.

Then, a bakery where the heroine works gets an order to deliver bread for a party in San Marcos. And while the story says something to the effect of “Wow, that’s a long way,” San Marcos is nowhere near East Texas.

If you will take a gander at this handy map of The Big City Triangle here to the left, you will find San Marcos between Austin and San Antonio, just below the sign (non-functioning, I’m pretty sure) that says “Zoom to San Antonio map.” Remember the map of East Texas, and what I said about the boundaries of East Texas? It’s east of I-45. I don’t really know anybody who would get bread delivered from 172 miles away (San Marcos to Huntsville). And if this ranch country town is close enough for a bread delivery to San Marcos –well then, that IS ranch country. So okay. But it’s NOT East Texas.

But that really wasn’t what brought on my tangent. The story also had restaurants with wine and a bar and grill in the downtown of this little town. And Texas has really weird liquor laws. See, historically, the big religions in Texas (as through most of the South) are the Baptists, the Methodists and the Presbyterians. And all those folks tend to be fairly strict teetotalers. They don’t drink alcohol and they don’t want anybody else doing it. And the Texas State Legislature, being the traditional mess that it is, did their usual pass-the-buck job and left a lot of the laws about liquor up to the smaller governmental entities. Our experiences in the various rural counties where we have lived ought to be illuminating.

When I lived in Hill County (county seat Hillsboro, where I-35 splits to go to Dallas and Fort Worth), Hillsboro didn’t want any bars or restaurants selling “liquor by the drink.” Meaning that you couldn’t get a beer or margarita to go with your Mexican food. In fact, you couldn’t even buy beer or wine–in the grocery store or anywhere else–for the first 10 or so years we lived there (we lived in Whitney, on the western edge of the county, from 1978 through 1999).

(My kids grew up jumping off those bluffs on Lake Whitney, or some like them)

Now Whitney is on the banks of Lake Whitney, which is one of the first lakes built in the early ’60s on the Brazos River for flood control. (Before it was built, Waco flooded pretty much every year.) And lots of folks from Waco and Dallas-Fort Worth came down to Lake Whitney and built
houses on the lake, and they wanted to be able to buy beer and maybe go out to a bar and have a drink. But Hill County was a dry county. So the folks in Whitney got a local option election on the ballot to sell alcohol–not by the drink, just beer and wine in a store. And it got voted down. The county-wide election got voted down. The commissioner’s precinct election got voted down. The justice of the peace precinct election got voted down. Finally, they got up a local option election in the constable’s precinct–and it passed. So somebody built a little wooden shack-like store halfway between Whitney and Hillsboro, and that’s where all the good folks in Hillsboro had to go to buy their beer. Those of us who lived in Whitney could go down to the one grocery store in town, or any of the mini-marts, and buy our beer there.

Several years later, Hillsboro passed its own alcohol sales election, and the little store in the middle of nowhere went out of business, because the grocery stores in Hillsboro could sell beer and nobody had to drive 10 miles out into the country. I’m not sure Whitney ever got a liquor-by-the-drink election passed. It might have by now. I haven’t lived there in 15 years, but when we left, most of the places where you could go get a drink were “private clubs.” A lot of the people in Whitney (and Hillsboro) drove down to West, (Yes, the West that had the fertilizer factory explosion.) because West is full of Czech Catholics, rather than Baptists, and –well, they had a bar. Wolf’s in West is where I saw/was in my first bar fight. (These two women got into it and crashed into our table, knocked one of my friends out of her chair and shoved us all around. Pretty mild for a bar fight, but still…)

Hillsboro eventually did pass a liquor-by-the-drink law before we moved away, and now you can buy a margarita with your lunch at El Conquistador. But I don’t think there’s an actual bar in town.

When we moved to Clarendon, in the Texas Panhandle, we moved to a town that was established by Methodists. The cowboys at the early ranches around there called it Saint’s Roost, and if you google Saint’s Roost, you’ll get sites in Clarendon. The story goes that the cowboys would go to Old Mobeetie for women, to Atascosa (now known as Amarillo) for liquor, and then down to Saint’s Roost on Sunday after tying one on all weekend, to get saved after. Clarendon is a great little town, but if you want to buy beer–or any other kind of liquor–you have to drive at least 7 miles out of town to the town of Howardwick (again, on the edge of a lake) to find a store. I had to make a special trip to get tequila to make marinated chicken.

Most small towns in Texas are still dry to some extent or other. In fact, our daughter was attending college in Texas Tech (in 1998 and ’99) when Lubbock–one of those tier 2 (200,000 people) cities–finally passed a law allowing liquor to be sold in stores. When she first got there, the frat boys had to drive to Post, Texas–or at least outside the Lubbock city limits–to buy their beer. And in Amarillo (pop. 190,000+), you have to be in the Randall County part of town to buy a drink at your restaurant. (Most of Amarillo is in Potter County, but part of it is in the next county to the south, and all the nice restaurants are on the south side of town…)(Of course, it’s been 6 years since we lived anywhere near Amarillo, so the rule may have changed. Potter County might have voted in liquor by the drink.)

So, unless the town is majority Catholic–and most small Texas towns outside of South Texas aren’t–it’s not going to have a bar downtown. It’s just not. A lot of the time, there will be a bar nearby, but it’s going to be a few miles outside of town. Even if the restaurants around are able to sell drinks with dinner–and that’s pretty unusual, depending on the size of the town–the town will have written its local option so that the bar has to be X number of feet from a residence, from a school, from a church. Even Houston has rules like that. Even Galveston has rules like that, and Galveston’s never had many rules about much of anything… It’s famous for being rowdy. (They don’t seem to be real strict about it here. There’s a bar on the corner of 53rd St. and Ave. S that backs right up to somebody’s house…) But in those small towns, they tend to have rules that an actual bar–something that sells more liquor than food–has to be outside the city limits. Often they’ll be right smack on the city limits. But they’re not downtown. Except in West. Which has all those Czech Catholics.

Why is this important to a writer? Because you need to be aware of the screwy stuff like this. Just like you should know that in Pennsylvania, you have to go to a Beer Store to buy beer, and you have to buy it by the case, and you can’t buy any less than a case, but you can’t buy liquor there, you have to go to a different store–you should know that in Texas, because of local option, and because of all the Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians (I’m a Baptist myself, but not so strict), liquor stores tend to be either outside town, in the resort areas, or on the fringes of town, if it’s a small town. If it’s one of the big cities, pretty much anything goes, except a bar near a church or school.

So stick your small-town bars and honky-tonks out in the boonies, okay? People have to DRIVE to get to them.

This is definitely not intended to be an academic study of Texas liquor laws. It’s just a down and dirty anectodal tale of how things are. And all that local option stuff? Means you can make it up how you want it. But it might be kind of fun to throw in something about how the bar just opened because they finally got the law passed…

East Texas Piney Woods (Texas for Writers #4)

I’ve been thinking and thinking about what I might like to discuss next, and decided I’d go on with what I originally planned, which was to talk about the various regions of Texas in a little more detail, rather than skipping off to talk about–oh, weather or wildflowers or something.

So, I’m going to start east, in the Piney Woods, and head west from there. Or maybe south. Dunno.

East Texas is a little different from the Piney Woods. Some folks define East Texas–which is a distinct region of the state–as everything east of Interstate 45. However, the territory along the coast, around “The Golden Triangle” (Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, right by the Louisiana border) is distinctly different from the Piney Woods area. It rightly belongs to the Coastal Bend region. Some people deny that Houston has any part of the Piney Woods, but those pine trees come down through Huntsville, Conroe and The Woodlands right into Houston. I put up this map because it helps to show the disputed definition of East Texas. Those stripey counties are the disputed area. I don’t think East Texas goes that far west. In my not-so-humble opinion, East Texas runs along that red area line, and then cuts south to Galveston Bay (that big blue indent). Everything east of that is East Texas. But only the red counties are the Piney Woods.

I’m trying to write this blogpost for writers, including things that writers need to know to set their books in Texas and to choose the types of setting they want to use. So. The thing about the Piney Woods region is that it’s full of those small towns that “hearth and home” authors like to write about. Tyler and Longview are the two largest cities in the Piney Woods, both sitting on I-20, each one a little under 100,000 people. Tyler is just under 100 miles east of Dallas and Longview is right at 40 miles farther along. There’s considerable countryside between Dallas and Tyler, not so much between Tyler and Longview.

A lot of cows are raised in the Piney Woods, amongst the trees. Just not generally on what you would think of as ranches. Most East Texans agriculturists would consider themselves farmers rather than ranchers, historically raising cotton. Around Tyler, they grow roses. The lumber industry has also been important in the Piney Woods–all those pine trees… Up until the discovery of the East Texas oil field in 1930, cotton, cattle and lumber were the main businesses in the region. Oil and natural gas are the biggest industries now, but the others are still important.

Caddo Lake bald cypress, lily pads and Spanish moss

The Piney Woods was historically a lawless part of the state. When Texas was ruled by Spain and later, by Mexico, settlement in the area was forbidden. So of course, people settled there anyway. Because of the Big Thicket undergrowth making it hard for law enforcement to get through the forest, a lot of outlaws from the U.S. settled there for a lot of years.  East Texas is considered the westernmost outpost of Southern culture. It’s more South than West, so a lot of those folks hiding in the thicket were moonshiners.

Underneath the tall pines, dogwood trees and Texas redbud trees bloom, along with Louisiana iris, and of course, bluebonnets in the open areas. Redbuds are early signs of spring, exploding in purple in February. Texas spring begins early.

One of the latest landmarks in the Piney Woods is the giant statue of Sam Houston on the side of I-45 just south of Huntsville. Oh, and on a tangent, I’ve heard New Yorkers complain that “Houston” should be pronounced “House-ton,” like the street in NYC. Thing is–the city of Houston was named after the man Sam Houston by people who knew Mr. Sam. They knew how he pronounced his name. You can’t tell a man how to pronounce his own name. So maybe “House Ton” is the way to say the street in New York. But “Hyoos-ton” is the way to say the city in Texas. Just sayin’.

Huntsville claims Sam because he lived there when he died. Sam Houston State University is in Huntsville. It’s always referred to as Sam Houston, as in “I go to Sam Houston,” or maybe “Sam Houston State.” Never one or the other.

Stephen F. Austin University is in Nacogdoches (pronounced Nacka-DOE-chess) in Deep East Texas, and is often shortened to “Stephen F.” as in “Joe just enrolled at Stephen F.” For those of you unfamiliar with Texas history, Stephen F. Austin was the man who organized the first Anglo-American colony in Texas. His first colonies were along the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, neither of which flows through East Texas, and he died in Brazoria County, which is the next county south of where I live, in Galveston County, so I’m not sure why the university is in Nacogdoches…

Texas redbud

What else do you need to know about the Piney Woods? Not sure. Except that it’s basically a duplication of what you will find in northern Louisiana.  Lots of trees. Lots of cotton fields. Smaller farms. A fair number of oil and gas wells. And more trees. Some parts have some nice rolling hills. Some parts don’t. The southern part of the Piney Woods is an hour or two from Houston. The northern part isn’t far from Dallas. But when you’re driving east from Dallas on I-20, you don’t really hit rural countryside until you get past the turnoff to Commerce (which is where East Texas A&M University is). Commerce is right on the edge of the Piney Woods. Just remember–you’re not really going to find a ranch in the Piney Woods, which takes up most of East Texas. Cattle, yes. But not a “ranch.” The land was just divided too small.  So if you want to set your book on a ranch, go west of Dallas. Or north or south. Just not east.

Questions?

Forests, Prairies, Swamps and Deserts (Texas for Writers #3)

Most peoples’ impression of what the Texas landscape looks like comes from California.

Think about it. Most people get their ideas of Texas from television and the movies, from Westerns set in Texas and filmed in California. So most people tend to think of Texas as, well, dirt. Desert.

And there is desert in Texas. Just not the whole of the state. It’s a big place, remember.

The movie Happy, Texas was filmed in California. I have not actually driven down the main street in Happy–yes, there is a town in Texas named Happy–but I have driven within a mile of it. Happy is in the Texas Panhandle, about 15 miles from the city of Canyon, which is about 30 miles south of Amarillo.

Palo Duro Canyon, Texas Panhandle

In the movie, there are orange groves and picturesque mountains surrounding the California setting. One of the times I drove by Happy, there was a blizzard howling and I was driving very slowly to get through the blowing snowfall without running off the road. Orange trees would freeze to death.

The terrain around Happy is flat as a pancake, except for the big hole in the ground nearby that is the Palo Duro Canyon, and the main row crops there are cotton, peanuts and grain sorghum. Lots and lots of each. But according to the movies…

So. According to the little map I put up above, there are seven main regions in Texas. In this blog, I’m going to try to give a bit of an overview–orient the Big Six cities in the regions where they belong, hopefully without going off on too many tangents.

East Texas road, through the Piney Woods

The East Texas Piney Woods also includes the Big Thicket. This is an area where the growth under the trees is so dense, you pretty much need a machete to get through it. Not exactly desert. You do not cross the Sabine River between Louisiana and Texas and automatically run into desert. The terrain in East Texas is pretty much the same as you get in Louisiana. Swamps in the south near the coast, pine tree forest north of that. As you drive from Houston to Dallas, you will gradually leave the Piney Woods behind for the “Prairies and Lakes” region.

Houston is big enough, it runs from the Coastal Plain into the Piney Woods. (And yes, it is always called “Piney” which rhymes with whiny. Deal.) The Memorial section of Houston is definitely in the Piney Woods. South Houston is definitely coastal.

Dallas and Fort Worth are both in the “Prairies and Lakes” region. I am using quotation marks because there is only one (maybe) natural lake in the state of Texas. Every single lake, except maybe Caddo Lake in East Texas, is man-made from a dammed-up river, and I’m not absolutely positive about Caddo. The traditional name for this region is Cross-timber Prairie or the Crosstimbers, because it’s prairie–rolling hills that are mostly meadow–but those meadows are crossed with big stands of timber. Trees. In bands that probably correspond with underground water. These trees are not pines, for the most part. They are primarily oaks with hackberry, elm, juniper and other trees mixed in. Except for the Lost Pines region in Bastrop County, just outside of Austin, pine trees do not readily grow anywhere in Texas outside of the Piney Woods. So you really can’t have a “Pine Ridge” anywhere in West Texas. Just sayin’. I’ll try to remember to say a little more about Lost Pines when I’m talking more about the flora of Texas.

Hill Country River–non-drought year

Austin is at the edge of the Hill Country. The Hill Country (which is different from Hill County, just north of Waco and smack in the middle of the blackland prairie) was formed millennia  ago from the Balcones Escarpment and the Edwards Plateau. But don’t ask me how. I just know that the rocks are mostly limestone, the trees are almost exclusively live oak, mesquite and juniper with some cedar elm thrown in, and there are hills. Really beautiful hills. It’s dry, but there are a lot of springs. You get some beautiful views from the tops of some of those hills.

San Antonio has traditionally been considered the gateway to South Texas. It’s just past the edge of the Hill Country–it’s closer to Fredericksburg, Kerrville and Boerne (pronounced Burney) (three of the main Hill Country towns) than Austin is–at the top of the South Texas Plains. The only trees I remember seeing in that area are mesquites. Nothing tall. Probably yaupon holly, which will grow about as tall as a mesquite. Maybe some juniper. And cottonwoods along the rivers. “Alamo” is Spanish for “cottonwood.”

El Paso is part of the Big Bend Country. The Big Bend is where you get actual desert, real mountains and some more canyons. The Palo Duro, in the Panhandle, is the biggest canyon in the state. In fact, it’s the second biggest in the country. But there are some nice canyons along the Rio Grande. Mesquites still grow, but they look more like shrubs in this part of the country. Giant yucca are the bigger “trees.”

There are no huge cities in either the Panhandle Plains or the Piney Woods. Well, Houston is sort of in the Piney Woods. It’s just at the very southern edge of it… Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, and Wichita Falls are the biggest cities in the Panhandle Plains region, all over 100,000 population, and San Angelo comes close. In the Piney Woods, Tyler and Longview are each just under 100,000, and they’re close enough to each other that they share their metropolitan area. But all the other cities are smaller. Plenty of small towns for authors to write about small-town Texas. It’s just that–for writers, East Texas isn’t very “Texas-y.” Too many trees, not enough cows.

Stay tuned. More tangents ahead.

Spring advances

And spring is rolling right over me. Time just keeps passing and I cannot keep up with it.

So, yeah, I vanished right after that last post, because my dad didn’t recover from his skull fracture. He went back into the hospital a second time and we had to call in hospice after that stay. He passed on Feb. 20, a few months before he and Mama would have had their 60th anniversary. She came and stayed with me while he was in hospice care, and it was good to have her here. I’m a little sad, but happy at the same time, because I know he’s in a better place–somewhere he can remember who he was and do the things he could do before the Alzheimer’s hit and see his family again.

Let’s see–that kept me busy through the first of March. April and the grandbaby came for the funeral, as did both the boys and the Dallas grandboys and lots and lots of other relations. And when April and Rocket Girl went back to Georgia, the little toot left me with her flu/earache. Only it attacked my inner ear and vestibular nerve, so I spent a month or so being seasick on dry land. Did you know there’s physical therapy you can do for dizziness? Makes you sick as anything when they do it, but it sure cured my dizziness. The positional kind, anyway. I had to wait for the nerve to get well on its own.

Which brings us up to my 37th anniversary. The fella sent flowers. Aren’t they pretty? The flash washed the purple of the roses out a little, but they matched the shirt I just happened to wear that day. Oh–and the flowers in the picture above? They’re from an orchid that Rob gave me for Mother’s Day one year. An orchid which has now bloomed for the second year! It has six blooms open now, so it looks even more impressive. Only–I turned the pot several times as the flower stem was growing, so the stem grew in a big, loose spiral…you can kind of see how it curves around. I didn’t know it would do that. It’s kind of cool looking, actually–and I would have had to pin the flower stem to a stick for support anyway, so…

We went out to dinner on our actual anniversary, which was on a Wednesday, at a restaurant we’ve been to before–Saltwater Grill– which is usually really good. This time, the shrimp and fish were not so fresh. It was kind of disappointing–but I guess when you order the special on a Wednesday… Oh well. Early in April, we had a really busy Saturday, with work and church stuff in the morning, then the Galveston Food & Wine Festival in the afternoon, and Art Walk in the evening. We went to eat at Bistro LeCroy, which has been one of our favorites in the past, but closed down for a move from The Strand to a new location on 21st St. around the corner from The Grand 1894 Opera House. It’s been open a little while, and it was really good. We ate crab cakes and shrimp and grits–very yummy. Their shrimp & grits sauce had bacon in it. I love trying different recipes of that stuff. They all do it different. (My recipe–which came from a junior college in South Carolina–has andouille sausage in the sauce.)

I’ve been cooking a lot. Trying new things–mostly gluten-free, of course. Reading a lot. (Check out my GoodReads page— I’m already to 207 books for 2013! Good grief.) I edited a book for a friend. I need to do some writing of my own, but haven’t. (I know, shame on me. But I’m dealing with a lot of crap–and mostly, it’s the being sick stuff that’s kept me from doing much.) I have been thinking about it. Thinking is good. I probably need to think about different stuff –like the book I need to revise, or the one I need to post on the self-pub stuff–but I am thinking about new stuff. Maybe that will kickstart me out of the “I Don’t Wanna” stage.

So. Well, I guess that’s all for now. I really will try to get back here next week. Unless something new blows up. Or whatever.

New year, new post

Yeah, I know. I need to be better about making posts on my blog. I suck. Sorry. I think I had a pretty good reason, though.

See, I had a work-related injury. Sometime last fall–late October, maybe–I felt something pop in my upper back while I was working on my computer. By early November I had a full-blown pinched nerve with agonizing shooting pain down my right arm. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t sleep, I pretty much couldn’t do anything, but especially anything relating to work.So the fella made me go to the doctor, who prescribed lovely drugs–er, meds. He also sent me to physical therapy, but I couldn’t get in there for several weeks, so I called my friend with the chiropractor husband and they got me in a couple of days later. Between the drugs, the chiropractor, and the PT, I am just now getting back to where I can do very much on the computer. (I still need to go shop for a new desk chair, and find where my track ball got put…) I am happy. Still in some mild pain, but much, much, much better.

So, I was getting ready to go back to work, and even work on my taxes (I didn’t enter a blessed thing on expenses OR income last year) this week… and the nursing home called because they were sending my dad to the hospital. He fell–into the wall or something, not down on the ground–and fractured his skull around his temple. We were really worried for a few days, but he seems to be recovering, almost back to his normal.

I have been at the hospital four days this week, but two of those days, I remembered to take my laptop with me and have done some work. I probably ought to lighten up a little–my arm is sore–and go do some exercises, but I’m so thrilled just to be able to use the computer!

So, once more, I set my goals. I am going to do my very best to get here and post some blogs on a more regular basis. So there.

October in Review

Yes, October was very busy. See? It’s November now.

Boston was fabulous. As was New England. We pretty much ate our way through Boston and New England. Loved it. :) It rained on us several days, but we went out in the rain and saw the city anyway. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boston, that’s the clock tower on the left.) (Please do not ask me what clock tower… It’s downtown.)

We ate lobster. Lobster is good, but it’s rather labor-intensive, if you just have a boiled/steamed lobster. Personally, I want somebody else to crack the thing open and pick all the meat out for me. I feel the same way about crabs and crawfish. I will consent to peel shrimp, but only if they’re boiled without heads. Those heads have to come off before I sit down to eat.

(I will de-head shrimp to freeze, or to prepare them for cooking, but I do not like it. Shrimp heads are pokey–meaning they will poke you with their sharp pokey things. They are also hairy. Not like a bear, but they have those long feeler things that are like coarse hairs. Ick. It’s a good thing shrimps are so tasty.)

Anyway, I ate lobster bisque, lobster mac & cheese, lobster roll, and something else lobstery. The fella did the boiled lobster eating. It was a lovely division of labor. Or whatever.

I also went to Valley Mills for the annual Heart of Texas RWA chapter fall retreat and wrote for several days. And now I have posted a new/old book–I wrote it a while back, but I still like it… It’s the sequel to one of my old Silhouette Desire books, Her Convenient Millionaire, which was published back in ’03. Poor Little Rich Girl was never published until now. It’s another marriage of convenience story set in Palm Beach, about the sister of the heroine in the first book. It should be up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble tomorrow or the next day, so take a look.

What else? Daddy wound up not having any surgery–we decided it would just upset him for very little result. And besides, we had to move him out of the nursing home where he’s been for the past year & three-quarters. They couldn’t handle him any more. So we moved him down here near me to a place that specializes in assisted living for Alzheimer’s patients and other folks with dementia. It’s a really nice place, and he seems to be responding really well.

We kind of hate having him where Mama can’t visit when she wants, but he can’t really carry on a conversation any more and it upsets her to see him so bad. And then she can’t remember going. Or thinks she did when she didn’t. But it’s been good for him, so we’re okay with it. I took some pictures of him with my tablet, but haven’t figured out how to do the upload thing from it, yet.

The daughter wants her dad to come see their new house in Georgia, so we’re going there sometime this month. And since he occasionally has meetings in Georgia, we’ll get to go visit more often. That’s happy-making.

Well, it’s election day (I voted early), so I guess I’ll go see what Jon Stewart has to say about it all…

Making it fun again

I’ve got a very busy month coming up. Between having to drive up to take my dad to his cataract surgery appointments and other stuff going on, I’m not sure I’ll have time to get my clothes washed. And the month will be capped off with a lovely colonoscopy on the 30th. Joy.

So, I’ve been thinking about things like coping with being tired, and trying to get the writing done along with all the regular stuff, and about having fun too, because some of the things I have on my schedule are fun. And then I’m thinking about writing and thinking “That should be fun, too.”

It’s really hard for me to write when I’m not having fun. And the stuff I write is no better than pedestrian. It’s not good writing, it’s just kinda going-through-the-motions writing.You may motivate yourself through a fear of failure, or a drive for success, and that’s great. For you. Me? Not so much.

So it’s important for me to figure out how to grab hold of the joy that writing was for me back when I first started writing. I’m one of those people who wrote her first story when I was still in elementary school. I was reading a lot of animal stories back then and the one I wrote was about a cat, I think. It was about playing make-believe, but a more intense kind of make-believe. One with more detail. And it was all about the story.

I was having fun when I wrote those stories. Once, when I was telling my fella (who is in the community college business) about a novel-writing class I was teaching, and about the writing exercises I had the students do, he said, “And they do them? They write? Voluntarily?”

Well, yes. Because it’s fun.

Apparently, there are a lot of community college students who don’t see writing as fun. It’s more of a chore, to them. But to me, it’s fun. Really. It is.

I just have to remember that. And maybe rest up when I get tired. It’s hard to have fun when you’re falling asleep over the keyboard/paper.

And just so you know– I plan to collapse once November gets here…

Rainy Days and Wednesdays

It did rain today. I thought I’d miss my walk this morning, but the rain was over in a couple of minutes–on my end of the island, anyway–so I got out and walked. It rained after lunch too–really hard, for longer. Maybe half an hour. And then it moved on, and I went to the grocery store without getting wet. I was out of cereal. 😉

This is a great time of year here on the Gulf coast. It’s still hot–though it was down below 80F/26.7C early this week, which can feel darn cold when you’ve been at 90F (32C) or hotter since May! The magnolias in the front and back of the house are getting lots of ripe cones on them. Our yard magnolias bloomed like crazy this year, so lots and lots of cones. The picture I found had a squirrel in it–squirrels and birds love the seeds on the cones. They also like the –I guess they’re dates on a neighbor’s palm tree, but they’re not the kind of dates people eat. They look like little fibrous dates, though, and they grow on a palm, so they must be related. It’s high living for the birds this time of year.

All the seabird babies are getting big enough to go out and find their own food. I saw an actual Vee of pelicans this morning when I was walking. Usually pelicans don’t fly in vees. They seem to be always in straight lines–unless there are lots and lots of them flying together, and this group had 30 birds. Usually, they’re in lines of a dozen or less, but 30!! Might have been more–I was counting really fast. I saw a baby laughing gull this morning too. The babies are as big as their parents this time of year, but their feathers are still brown, rather than gray and black. The white’s coming in, but not the gray.

I went to see the parents at the end of last week. Daddy’s cataracts are apparently pretty bad–he’s very uncertain in his walking, especially going up and down steps, because he just can’t see where he’s going. He sticks close to the wall and holds onto the handrail for guidance–which is better than just blithely strolling down the middle of the hallway. If the doctor thinks he’ll leave his eye alone after the surgery, we’ll probably have at least one eye operated on. He just can’t be picking at it afterward, and since he won’t be able to remember he had surgery, it’s an issue. Still, he hasn’t been picking at his face lately, so maybe he won’t. Mother’s about the same…she’s starting to read her books over again because she can’t remember what was in them. But I read books over too, so– I do it because I can’t remember if I’ve read them before or not, and then I read them and realize–yes, I’ve read this. Oh well.

I’ve been writing a little bit. I’m kind of in a “what do I want to work on now” situation. I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to write–and unfortunately, right now, I seem to have to be in the mood, or nothing gets done. So I’ll think a little and get out files and re-read a little and see what strikes me. Maybe I’ll clean up my desk too.

The Scary Tumble

Okay, so I spent the first week and a half of August helping the daughter and son-in-law move from Pennsylvania to Georgia. I was the grandkid wrangler and the relief driver.

The wild child–aka Mowgli–is 9 years old now, and doing pretty well with his autism, as long as you keep him busy. His parents prepared him really well for the move–by the time we were packing things up, he was mostly worried that we might not get the basement television in a box. We found him trying to pull it up the stairs by its electric cord…

Rocket Girl is 18 months old, and very busy too. When the movers came and we were desperately throwing things in boxes as fast as we could go, she got her own little shoe-box-sized cardboard box and carefully put Bob the Tomato, a book and a stroller toy in it. She was packing too.

So, we drove to Georgia–a day late because one of the cars broke down and had to spend a day in the shop. Then the same car wouldn’t start after our overnight stop in Virginia–but after we jumped it off, it started every time after that. (Turned out, the connectors were bad, not the battery.) The daughter didn’t make orientation for her new job, because of all the car issues, but we got there before school started.

The bridge–with boy

The new house is down a slope from the street–a fairly shallow slope with a straight driveway, and a parking area at the bottom. Then the lot drops steeply down to a really cool creek behind the house, with a curb at the edge of the parking area to keep cars in place. There’s a bridge over the creek, and wild child spotted it immediately. He loves that creek, and that bridge. When she was house shopping, the daughter described this house to me as “The Calvin & Hobbes house” because it’s the kind of house C&H would have loved–the back yard slope is one of those Calvin would go sledding down, complete with “terraces of death.”

When the movers arrived, Mowgli was anxious to get “his” television out immediately, and so climbed up in the cab of the truck. Three times in 30 minutes. His mom took him bicycle riding around the neighborhood to distract him. When they got back, she watched him pedal around the moving van, watching the car coming down the street, to make sure he was careful. Then when she got around to the end of the van, she saw him riding his bicycle down the driveway. And apparently he forgot about brakes.

Mom’s hollering “Brakes! Brakes!” He’s going faster and faster. The movers are yelling. And Mowgli speeds across the parking pad, hits the curb and goes airborne. He landed about five or six yards down the hill.

Do you see the tire tracks???

He got a bad bruise in his crotch, and tire tracks across his forehead. The bicycle fork got bent. Other than that, he was fine. And the next day, as we went out the garage to the scene of all the excitement, he informed us that we needed to be careful of “the scary tumble.” That may now be the name of the hill…

I stayed in Georgia a few more days, long enough to get Mowgli registered for school and go out to meet his teacher. And now life goes on.

I’m going to be doing some traveling this next month, getting Daddy’s cataracts seen to. He apparently doesn’t remember how he’s supposed to see, so he doesn’t realize that he can’t see now. But I do have time for writing, between trips to Austin. I’ve been very good and written every day this week. Even when we had our fire adventure.

I took a half day (after writing) and went shopping yesterday. I am now outfitted from the skin out, head to toe. I bought a new hat, shoes, draws, jeans and shirts. I bought a present for my niece’s wedding shower–but the shower is on my birthday, so while I’m going up there sometime next week, I may not stay through Saturday, because the shower is so late in the day. If I come home, the fella will take me out. We went out to Benno’s on the Beach for his birthday today. For the next week, the fella will be older than me. 😉

Which reminds me. I need to go get my driver’s license renewed. At least they’ve reopened the DPS office on the island, after our last hurricane.

Surf’s up this weekend because of Isaac, but fortunately, that’s all we’ve gotten from it. Y’all take care.

Where there’s smoke…

I’m a little embarrassed, it’s been so long since I posted a blog, but we had some excitement at the house this a.m., and I can’t settle down until I talk to somebody about it, and I can’t get to my office where the e-mail is, and I’ve already talked to everybody around here about it…

We had smoke, but we didn’t actually have a fire.

We’ve been fighting with an air conditioner that doesn’t want to stay fixed for almost two months now (of course, in the hottest part of the summer–and it hasn’t been that hot of a summer…). The fella turned it off last night, because it had apparently frozen up, and when I turned it back on this a.m. (When are the dang hot flashes supposed to stop??), I smelled a little burnt smell, like dirt burning off maybe. Went on to eat breakfast, and about an hour after I turned it on, I smelled a serious, big burnt smell. And it looked kind of hazy, like maybe there was smoke. So I texted the fella that I was turning the a/c back off, and that it smelled bad. He called me back and asked about smoke, but I just wasn’t sure. Sometimes my glasses get hazy… So I walked around and looked, asked him to come home…and when I went to see if it was any worse at the attic access (where the a/c is), there was smoke all in that back hall. That’s when I called 911.

They sent two rescue units, four police cars, three or four fire engines (don’t know if the picture is actually one of “our” trucks, but it is GPD), and the battalion chief. They could smell the smoke. They could see the smoke. They couldn’t find the fire.

The first two policemen to arrive went in the house–I assume to make sure I was the only one home. (I was already out on the front lawn.) Then 6 or 7 fully turned-out firemen went in. I think they did finally decided it was something in the a/c that burned up. They opened up both units (we have one for the bedrooms and one for the front of the house), turned them off, turned off the breaker, turned off the gas lines running by–pretty much turned off everything a/c related that they could turn off. Three of the four trucks stayed until they’d checked everything and decided it was the a/c.

The firemen were so nice. They appreciated that I called them to come check it out, rather than trying to do it myself. They’d rather come out on a nice cool-ish, breezy day–and then not have to fight a fire… (Cool is a relative term in Texas, in August. It doesn’t start cooling off until October, here. But it might be 88F (31C) instead of 98…)

The repairman, Phil, came by and said it was the blower motor that burned up, plus the insulation inside the unit. They’re going to replace the whole thing.

In other news, the summer has pretty much been a bust, writing-wise. I figured out that from the third week in July through the third week in August, I either had company or was out of town (mostly wrangling grandkids) except for about four days. In which I pretty much lay around and ate bonbons. Or Cheetos. Whichever.

I discovered the e-book lending at the local public library. I’ve also been doing some freelance editing, and between the two of them, I’ve been inspired to get back to work, however. I’ve written one whole day in a row. I’m going to try to keep it going. Wish me luck. I’ve got a lot of work to do. And now that I’ve vented to the world–I shall remind myself to write a blog about the grandboy Mowgli’s “scary tumble,” and then get to that work. The windows are open and there’s a fan going, and I’ve kind of gotten used to working in 80F temperatures. It should be good.