Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Keepsakes from the Past


Monday after Christmas I received a box from Mother and Daddy’s longtime neighbor, Marge Beard. Tucked neatly into the box were six crocheted glass cozies and a letter. She wrote:

“You won’t receive this before Christmas as I am enclosing it in a box I have been meaning to send to you for some time.

Your mother made these glass covers for me many years ago. She gave me a set of 12, but I never have more than 6 people in my small apt. –so I want you or your family to have the other six. She was always making something for me. Your Daddy asked her to embroidery my name on an apron (long time worn out) as I always had an apron on. Remembering all those good days on Timberlane –good friends, etc. I’m the only one, except Thelma Callendar, who is still alive.”

This is not the first time  something Mother made for someone else found  its way back to me. Situations change; Marge’s husband Leldon died, and she had to move from the house on Timberlane and downsize. Zella Parham, another old friend, went through a similar situation and returned to me a painting Mother had done for her many years ago. I get photographs occasionally from old family  friends who have come across them and felt I needed to have them.

Just as most people do, I have a house full of things connected to my mother, and to Daddy, too, for that matter.  We are embarking on a remodeling of our house, which requires me to empty closets, drawers, and shelves to pack things away until the work is finished. I keep finding little mementoes  as I do the packing that are really not used  anymore, but have connections to Mother and Daddy and other older family members.  How does one dispose of things that bring back memories and affirmations of childhood? Things that are part of the family legacy, but don’t always serve a purpose other than being part of the family legacy?

Most of those things have already been packed away safely for the remodeling, or I would take a picture of them and share their stories with  you.  So I will save that for another time, perhaps after we unpack and move back in to the refreshed house. I suspect I will find that I still can’t bring myself to get rid of them and instead find a way to incorporate them into the personal touches that make a house a home.

But in the meantime I will just be thankful that my life and the lives of many others were touched in thoughtful and caring ways by my parents. To borrow from that often-copied MasterCard ad: trinkets from the past-useless; memories they carry-priceless.

So maybe serving no purpose other than being part of the family legacy is enough reason to keep them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fancy Christmas Balls


There was a time in the recent past, defined here as my teenage years, when elaborate sequin and bead-decorated Styrofoam balls were all the rage for Christmas ornaments. Mother and I thought they were pretty and decided to make some. She dug out remnants of pretty material, tag ends of ribbons and decorative trim, odds and ends of discarded and broken costume jewelry, to which we added newly purchased sequins, beads, pins, and balls, and we were all set. I don’t remember the exact year we started or how many we came up with that first Christmas, but it was fun, and we enjoyed adding to them each Christmas after that.  Later Grandm0ther got into the act and so between the three of us, we came up with decidedly different designs, which made the tree interesting.


Grandmother was quite the seamstress, as was Mother, and Mother was also very artistic, so their creations were more intricate and elaborate than mine, but over the years I have come up with some pretty nice designs myself. I don’t know what other people would call these decorations, handmade Christmas ornaments, I suppose. In my house they have always been referred to as the fancy Christmas balls. 


Using these balls is trip down memory lane. Several are covered with the brocade material Mother used to make my wedding dress. The material was brought back from India by Eloise’s father, Bill’s grandfather, who worked overseas as an engineer. There are a couple made with my bridesmaids’ dresses material, a shiny burnt orange satiny stuff. I assure you burnt orange would not have been the color of choice had we already been at A&M-we had a fall wedding and the dark russet color seemed appropriate then. Then there are the three red satin-covered, already decorated Christmas ornaments that I carried in the bridesmaid’s bouquet when I was in Sharon Vacek  Guest’s Christmas wedding. I added a few decorative  flourishes, and they fit right in on the tree. And looking at some of the balls puts me back in the location where I remember making them: Mother’s kitchen; our little trailer house in College Station; the house in Edna, in front of the computer/TV here in Muleshoe.




The tree is really full enough now; I don’t really need to make any more balls, but I can’t stop myself. I have this rather old-fashioned sewing kit full of  the  material, ribbon, beads, sequins, unstrung pearls, everything necessary, and I can’t stop myself.  I I keep making more balls. Yes, my OCD is showing up again, but it’s fun, and it keeps me off the streets.


I do have one helpful hint just in case you might be inspired to try some of these yourself. I found out the hard way when balls would fall apart, that those little short sequin pins are pointless-hah! Mr. Gulley, I made a pun without even trying-they don’t stay in over the long haul. Use regular dressmaker’s pins and use extra long pins when pinning on larger beads. They just stay better.  They are a little trouble when making little balls, as they tend to run into each other in the middle of the Styrofoam, but on those just use as much fabric as possible. And wrap them individually in pieces of flimsy drycleaner plastic when storing. It protects the balls from each other and sequins and things don’t pull out.


I would blather on some more with tips for making these things, but I don’t have time. Christmas is coming up, and I have silver sequins and pins staring me in the face as we speak…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Vitamind


I taught a high school leadership class for several years, and every day I posted what Zig Ziglar called a vitamind, a positive saying that served as a vitamin for the mind, if you will.  We of the older generation grew up with these maxims, proverbs, and such, things like The hardest lesson in life to learn is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn; What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Seven times down; eight times up, as well as old standards like A penny saved is a penny earned. Or even pithy sayings pulled from song lyrics, like when Bonnie Raitt sings  Life gets precious when there’s less of it to waste. Today’s students aren’t well versed in these sayings. I had a file full of them and the kids would bring them in from time to time to share with me. One day this one appeared on my desk: ONLY PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW  WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO DIE HAVING LEFT UNDONE.

Hmmm, a blunt and precisely worded vitamind, but one that cut right to the heart of the matter. Only put off what you are willing to die and leave unfinished, because, as you have heard before, probably in some form of a vitamind, we really don’t know what tomorrow-or the next minute-will bring.

I don’t know about you , but I can think of a few projects that I really wouldn’t mind leaving undone, things like dusting, cleaning out that hall closet, balancing the checkbook-no, wait, that one I think I probably should do. But others deserve immediate attention, the ones like calling the friend drifted away from and missed, writing a sympathy card to the family who lost a loved one, congratulating a former student on an accomplishment, actually going to visit an old friend instead of just talking about it, writing down the family history so the kids will have it when no one is around to tell them about it, identifying the relatives in old family pictures, visiting someone who is alone, taking a long dreamed-about trip, telling people they are loved and valued, hugging children and grandchildren and anyone in need of a hug, fulfilling a dream once desired  but put on the back burner. Fill in the blank with all those things you intended to do that have paved that road to Hell. You know the ones.

So think about it. Leave no unfinished important business; have no regrets.  Or to paraphrase another vitamind, Seize the opportunity.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Oldest Wildlife Refuge in Texas


One of Muleshoe’s sometimes  overlooked claims to fame is the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1935  to provide a wintering area for migratory waterfowl  and sandhill cranes. The refuge, located 20 miles south of town on highway 214,  celebrated its 75th anniversary this past Saturday  with activities to entertain and enlighten visitors about the history, purpose, and successes of the refuge.




The morning started with coffee, doughnuts, and a sandhill crane- counting contest. Jamie Grey from Littlefield won with an estimate of 15,500 cranes; the official estimate was 17,500. Many more cranes will winter here as the season progresses. Guest lecturers presented information on local history including the Buffalo Soldiers who traveled this area, grassland management and weed control, prairie chickens, and even refuge-inspired ceramics.


I arrived in time for a two-hour tour of the refuge and rode with Jude Smith, a wildlife biologist who has been with the refuge for  ten years, first as resident biologist and now as manager. His affection for the place was evident as he named the lakes and pointed out all the things they have done to control the salt cedar and mesquite and to encourage the native grasses for the benefit of the wildlife that call the refuge home: 350 species of birds; 50 kinds of reptiles and  amphibians, and 25 different mammals.

Smith was encouraged by the response to the open house. After counting those who registered plus the people who showed up later in the afternoon to drive around and watch the cranes come in to roost, about 300 visitors enjoyed seeing what the refuge has to offer. He says they plan to establish a yearly event starting with a similar open house in January of 2012.

Let me share with you some of the things I saw on my tour that day and encourage you to visit. It is your national refuge, after all. Not everybody has one, you know.

White Lake, like the other two larger lakes, is a saline lake. The water comes from underground springs and may start out the day dry, and by the middle of the afternoon will have standing water. And of course, when we finally have rain, the lakes also fill up with rain water.


Prairie dogs were out and about that day,  graciously posing for pictures as they are wont to do.  The prairie dog town is very popular and sees lots of traffic from people coming to see them as well as the cranes, as their town is located on the road that leads to the crane viewing area.

Controlled burns, which try to mimic natural fires,  are used to renew ungrazed land and to reduce, but not  eliminate,  mesquite.

Salt cedar is not native to the area and takes water and moisture away from native grasses, making it an undesirable plant. The refuge managers are also using controlled burns in the battle against it. Here you see blackened trunks of the salt cedar.

This levee, built from 1938-42 by hand by the WPA separates the Upper and Lower Pauls Lake. On occasions water has been high enough to spill over the causeway (not shown)  from one lake to the other.

The viewing stand and public restroom are located on Lower Pauls Lake where many of the cranes come in to roost.

Note the salt build-up on the tree stumps and in the dry lake bed, typical of the water areas in the refuge.

Taking pictures of the cranes is somewhat addictive-I’m always thinking the next shot will be even better than the last, but I picked this one for a last glimpse of the big birds who spend their winters with us in Bailey County.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Deer Hunt

Our Thanksgiving was a day filled with family, food, and football, which is as it should be and how it has been all my life. Caroline and all her new family celebrated with us and after enjoying our traditional turkey and dressing, ham, green bean casserole, gravy, cranberry sauce,  sweet potato soufflĂ©,  macaroni and cheese,  fruit salad, lemon and chocolate meringue  and pumpkin  pies, we  spent the day in front of a warm fire  talking, munching, and watching football, especially when A&M beat the hell out of t.u. 

The family: Ken Kron, Caroline, AJ, Callie, Neil, Colten, Janell Kron, Alice, Korben. Ty is somewhere, but not in the picture!

The food.

The football fans.

The hunters.

Our son AJ added a new twist this year by going on  a deer hunt. He came by himself to focus on the hunt, and he was amply rewarded. Colten went along to help  him bag a beautiful ten -point mule deer buck. 

AJ's Pictures 11.26.10 004

IMG_2976The trophy.

My daddy was a deer hunter, and come to think of it, he left a few times the day after Thanksgiving for a deer hunt himself. Hunting was a way of life for him; hunting provided much of the food on the family table when he was growing up. He continued to enjoy the  challenge of the hunt, the beauty of nature, the companionship of fellow hunters, along with  providing food for the family, even when food for the family was the least of it.

Bill told AJ that Grandaddy, the man for whom AJ is named, would be proud of him and would have loved to have taken him hunting himself.  We all decided Daddy was there for the whole thing, as my AJ was using his grandaddy AJ’s Remington GameMaster 760 30-06 pump action rifle to bring down the deer with one clean, decisive kill shot.

AJ's Pictures 11.26.10 006 
Oh, yes. His grandfather would have been pleased.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Season Ends

Friday night in Seminole the Mules met their match, losing to the Wall Hawks 39-28. It was a game of determination and frustration on our part and determination and execution on their part.

We elected to kick first and forced Wall to punt and were then able to score first on a 36 yard run by Cooper Washington. The kick by Saul Elizalde, whose PATs were good all night,  was good and the score was 7-0. And unfortunately, we were never ahead the rest of the game. After a chop block penalty against them, accompanied by an interesting and unusual crowd silence, followed by a roughing the passer call against us, they strike back with a touchdown and two-point conversion, going ahead 8-7.

Early in the second quarter Wall scores again and it is 15-7. We keep the ball for seems like forever but can’t turn it into any points. With 1:05 left in the quarter, Wall runs in another one and the score is 22-7 going into the half. Things are not looking good.

The third quarter starts with what some might have seen as a bad omen when we have trouble breaking through the tunnel to come onto the field. But then Jr. Baca breaks loose on the kick-off for a 40-yard run and we go straight down and score, so now it is 22-14. Unfortunately, Wall came right back and scored themselves in a nine-play drive and bumped the score up to 29-14.  We drive hard but Cooper fumbles and they recover.

The fourth quarter is no fun at all. Wall still has possession of the ball and we fight hard, make them punt, and have a good series ourselves until we fumble, they recover and score, so now it is 36-14. Later Ryan DeLeon runs in a touchdown, the kick is good, and the score looks better, 36-21, but still not good enough. We tried an onside kick that did nothing but give Wall good field position and that pretty much signaled the end of the game. For about the last five minutes or more of the game they took their time setting up running plays, and it was obvious they were trying to let the clock run out. With 1:04 left in the game  they kick a field goal to make the score 39-21. But with 10 seconds left Ryan manages to get in one more time and the score is 39-28, and that’s the way it ends.

Too many of our fans started leaving after Wall’s last touchdown and then the Wall fans started chanting the nah-nah-nah nah good bye song, and that hurt. But it has been a thrilling 10-2 season and the Mules have much to be proud of. And never doubt that the community is proud of them; they did a fine job.  We have next year to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The West Texas Drive and Eat Tour


My friend Elaine and I finally managed to take our  long talked-about but often postponed trip down to deep West Texas. We saw lots of country, enjoyed two lovely historic hotels, and found several good places to eat.

Lots of country. Boy, that’s an understatement; we were in West Texas, for crying out loud. If you aren’t familiar with Texas geography, consult your  map while you read this. I drove from Muleshoe to the Midland airport where Elaine had flown in from Houston. We backtracked to Andrews to eat a pile of steak fingers at Buddy’s, known far and wide around here for great chicken fried steak and huge portions.


Then it was through Kermit, Wink, Pyote-cool names, huh?-Pecos, Balmorhea, Ft. Davis, ending in Marfa where we were to stay for two nights at the Hotel Paisano, established in 1930, but put on the map when the cast and crew from Giant stayed there while filming the movie. We shared the hotel with a group of Germans who had come to town  to appreciate examples of the minimalist art which seems to have put Marfa on the art appreciation map. We overheard them asking where the lift (elevator) was, and of course, there wasn’t one, so I don’t know how impressed they were with West Texas. 



That night we ate in the hotel restaurant and drove four miles out to the Marfa Lights Viewing Center, something else Marfa is known for. We didn't see any of the mysterious bouncy unpredictable and unexplained lights, but to be fair, we weren’t really dedicated to the cause and left pretty soon after we got there. It was cold and windy!



Sunday morning we were up early to see all the sights. Turned out nothing was open, so there wasn’t much to see. The hotel didn’t serve breakfast, so we wandered around and finally found a place open, Cochineal, except they didn’t serve me any breakfast. I asked for oatmeal, and they were out. I asked for a croissant and was told they wouldn’t be ready before ten. So I had a cup of hot tea. Elaine had huevos rancheros. The food situation didn’t impress us, but they had a pretty outdoor courtyard area.


We drove to Marathon with the intent of eating at the historic old Gage Hotel, only to discover they only serve dinner. So we walked down the street to a hamburger joint, Johnny B’s and watched a few interesting locals come and go.



From there we went to Alpine, admired the campus of Sul Ross University and still couldn’t find any place open for shopping. Then we stumbled on a man working on the front of his store, and he graciously opened for us.

Back to Marfa, where still not much was open, but we managed to find the Q Cafe and Wine Bar and struck up a conversation with owners Pat Quin and Thomas Schmidt who came to Marfa from Houston, which gave us much to talk about, and we wound up spending about three hours there eating and talking. And Elaine actually drank a glass or two of wine.


Our goal for Monday was to make the scenic drive that follows the Rio Grande from Presidio to Lajitas. We checked out of the hotel and took off south on highway 67, passing through the tiny ghost town of Shafter on the way to Presidio.



We then followed highway 170 driving parallel to the river. Texas Monthly claims this drive to be one of the most scenic in the United States, and it was a lovely drive. But in the spring and early summer I imagine it is even more spectacular. About the only other people we saw on this drive was one or two Border Patrol people. It was just us and roadrunners and javelinas.

Look closely and you can find a javelina in the middle of the picture.


Lajitas is pretty simple: a yellow-brown cemetery that blends into the hill; a golf course; a shopping area called the Lajitas Boardwalk which also has a nice hotel and restaurant, and the Candelaria, which overlooks the golf course, where we ate lunch.



We drove through Terlingua without stopping, no chili cookoff at the time, and did more shopping in Alpine, since now things were open. After missing our turn and making a few circles in Alpine, we managed to find our way to Ft. Davis, which, if you are looking at your map, you can tell  should have been a no-brainer. I swear the arrow on the road sign pointed straight ahead and it should have pointed to the right. But we finally got there, checked into the Hotel Limpia, founded in 1884, and ate Mexican food at Cueva deLeon.





Where the Hotel Paisano was somewhat  Mediterranean/Spanish, the Hotel Limpia was Victorian/Grandmother’s house. And they had a great big cat, Tuxedo, who didn’t seem particularly worried about welcoming guests, as cats are wont to do, but hung around, just in case.


Tuesday was the end of the trip, but we had one more eating stop to make, breakfast at Mary Lou’s, where we were told was a favorite of the locals. And it was.


I took Elaine back to the Midland airport and made my way home, this time by way of Lamesa so I could stop in Lubbock for a few errands before going home.  That was a nice change from the Andrews route because, alas, the Andrews part of West Texas is not known for its scenic appeal. Oil well pump jacks  and steak fingers, yes; scenic beauty, no.


That’s Elaine in front; I am in back.

So that was the West Texas tour. I highly recommend it. Traffic is non-existent-well, there was a little in Alpine- shopping is interesting, and the landscape is beautiful. The area is different from anywhere else in Texas because it is so isolated and laid-back. Be prepared to drive great distances and eat lots of good food.