2021

Back In The 1840s Again

AUSTIN — I am taking another deep dive into the 1840s, inside the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library, a handsome structure located on the east side of the Capitol grounds. I was last here in late March, perusing through printed copies of the San Augustine Red-Lander for a book project. I had planned to return much sooner, but life intervened — selling one house, buying another, tackling the task of taming 57 acres of mainly timber but still with plenty to mow. The grass is at last fallow, so I booked my usual hotel by Lady Bird Lake and planned with the good folks in the archives...

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A Lunar Eclipse and Retrieving Lumber

I am working in a nearly deserted library this evening, my last shift of the semester. I won’t return until Jan. 3, the start of a new year. As I have for at least the past 15 years, I marvel how quickly time passes these days and also how events that were only a few months ago seem a distant memory. Time is both compressed and elongated. It seems as if we have lived in this house out in the country forever, but it has been barely four months. And it seems as if just yesterday we watched a new president inaugurated a scant two weeks after an insurrection threatened to overturn the results of the election....

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Pancho The Donkey Arrives

There’s a new four-legged member of the family. Pancho the Donkey is on long-term loan from Jim, the youngest brother of my Beautiful Mystery Companion. Pancho is now safely ensconced in the pasture behind our house — with its fences repaired, a shed in which to get out of the rain (a rare event, lately), a fresh round bale of hay, and a plastic barrel cut in half to hold a bucket of sweet feed. My BMC stopped at the Big Box Store before Pancho arrived and bought two large boxes of granola bars. That is one of his favorite treats. Pancho eats out of her hand like a very large dog — roughly...

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More Tales From the Farm

More tales from the farm, which is a project with no perceived end. I am slowly learning how useful a tractor can be, not just for mowing but for hauling limbs to the burn pile and pulling up downed fence line. Our medium-sized machine has a bucket as well as the bushhog and a separate box blade. Last Friday, I paid a fellow to build new fence on the piece of land behind our house. Glade Creek, which cuts through the east side, overflows its banks on occasion and took down a wide swath of fence before we bought the place. Several hundred feet of fence remain in disrepair. Fixing up this place...

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This Machine Eats Trees, Spits Them Out

The tree mulcher arrived at our place on Saturday morning. This beast was a Barko 930B with tires that are 5 feet tall, a 9-foot-wide set of blades in the front, an enclosed cab on top. It weighs more than 30,000 pounds and can turn a full-sized sweetgum tree into mulch in about a minute. A family out of Daingerfield runs a land-clearing company, which includes forestry mulching. We hired the owner’s operator to spend a dozen hours clearing as much of our 57 acres as possible of the trash trees – willow and sweetgum, mainly – that came to dominate the property in front, since it was not maintained...

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Hanging Out At The Yamboree Parade

It was beginning to look as if we would not be able to escape from the Gilmer square last Saturday morning. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I had driven up to watch the East Texas Yamboree Queen’s parade because our nephew, Connor, was marching with the Harmony High School Band. He plays trombone and is also a talented pianist. However, it’s not practical to march while playing a piano. The Yamboree began in 1935. Like most everything else, last year’s was canceled, and there was a three-year hiatus during World War II. Other than those years, the Yamboree has been a Northeast Texas...

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Baseball Has Been Very Good To Me

My beloved Red Sox and the nearly-as-beloved-but-not-quite Houston Astros are locked in a tight series for the American League pennant, with Game Six coming up tonight. The Astros whacked the Red Sox in the last two games at Fenway. We had hoped to be at Minute Maid Park along with son-in-law Matt and daughter Mere, who are leaving for Germany for a year or so in a few weeks on a work-related project. Alas, a sick kitty waylaid those plans, so once again I’ll listen to the game through satellite radio and magically streamed through my hearing aids. I don’t have access through television, since...

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A Toybox For Mollie

I began my first woodworking project in several years this week, while enjoying a rare weekday off from both the library and teaching a photography class. I am building a toybox for Mollie the Maltese, who has quite the collection of dog toys and seems to enjoy every one of them. Like an ambulatory toddler, she leaves them scattered throughout the house. One of my jobs is to pick up after her and stuff them into the dog bed she no longer uses, now that she has discovered the joys of sleeping on a couch. We enjoy watching her prance over to the toy pile, stick her nose into it, and pull out one to run about...

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A Widespread Aversion to Facts

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” — The late Sen. Patrick Daniel Moynihan |———| Facts are under attack from many quarters these days. This was brought home to me personally when I called a gentleman who wanted to talk about something in Capital Highlights, the weekly column I write for Texas Press Association. It runs in about 100 papers across the state, mostly in weeklies and twice-weeklies still bringing the news to their small-town readers. In Capital Highlights, I aggregate news out of Austin by culling from state agency email newsletters,...

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A Pleasant Walk in the Woods

The fog rolled in not long after sunrise, enveloping the trees, floating lightly above the front pasture. The air was cool, though not for long. Soon the sun would burn off the fog, and summer lingers in the afternoon. It feels like autumn in the mornings, temperatures close but not quite to sweater weather when I first step outside. It’s coming, though. This year, for the first time I can recall, it actually felt like autumn on the first official day, at least that morning. I was outside on this early morning because a convoy of trucks and tractors had pulled in behind our house, parking...

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