Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fun in the Heartland

It's spring time, and that means we're fixin' to take a trip to the HOT, HOT Heart of Texas, folks!

Greg and I have had our fill of Texas summers, what with the triple-digit heat and the ice tea sold by the gallon. We prefer spring-time visits: everything's all green and pretty, we miss the 4/20 celebration in our hometown, and the visit coincides with my mom's birthday. It could only be better if it also coincided with peach season, but you can't have everything.

But, you can have a much-needed break from work—no Internet access assures us of that—to see family, get all the way through a couple of books and a handful of magazines, and have some down-home fun.

First up on the Fun-o-Meter was Waco. Yes, Waco! Home to my brother and sister-in-law, the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University, and the brand-spanking new Waco Mammoth Center.

Mom contemplating the mammoth bones...a treacherous bend in an old river caught several groups of mammoths off-guard, drowning them. And there the bones lay until some guys looking for arrowheads found them sticking out of that old river bank. Some bones were removed to the Mayborn; others were left in situ and a protective shed build around and over them.

While my mom, my cousin, and I looked at the bones, Greg talked to the guide (in the blue shirt) and Mr. Schwartz, a retired biology professor touring the center with his wife. They'd seen the bones before any of this was built, while everyone was waiting for funding to come together.

Another day, we got to tour some of Waco's finest medical facilities while I got the retina of my right eye examined, but that's another story.

Really, the big deal in the Heart of Texas during spring are the blue bonnets. It's the state flower, and they are all over the place in April, especially with all the rain they got this year.

Indian Paintbrush and Blue Bonnet, the wildflowers of Texas.

During the Blue Bonnet bloom, people take their babies and toddlers out and plunk them down in the flowers for a photo. Good ones end up being shown on the TV news. So on the drive back from Waco we pulled over and plunked ourselves down in the flowers for our own classic pose.

Museums, fruit cake, trips to procure barbeque and local charcuterie, drives to see the flowers...what else does a body need? That's right, some time on a real Texas ranch! Off to my cousin's property in Mexia to see the animals.

Loading up the Gator! Where's the beer?
In other posts I've bemoaned the fact that I often don't blend in at these down-home events, a fact I blame on my headwear. So this year my cousin Steve was prepared with a real, bona-fide down-home cap for all of us. (Thanks, dude!) There's my mom, Greg, and Steve loading up the Gator with feed for the horses; we loaded up Brownie, the farm truck, with a couple of bags of pellets for the cows, too.

When the cows see Steve, they come running. I admit, it's a little frightening to see a couple dozen cows running straight for you, lowing and jostling for position...good thing they're friendly!


Last year, the neighbor's stallion broke through the fencing and got onto my cousin's property. He was only there for the day, but it was long enough for them to inquire about child support...their mare, Star, a roan Quarter Horse, gave birth the day after we got there to this little pinto filly, as yet unnamed but cute as a bug.

After feeding the animals and playing on the semi-dangerous farm equipment, we sat down to dinner. After we ate, we loaded up again and went out to burn stuff:

The burning begins...Steve saves brush piles for us to torch. And yes, that is a bottle of Shiner Bock! We bring Budweiser for my cousin.

After the brush piles got going, we moved on to fireworks.

It looked better in person.

No Californians were harmed in the making of this bonfire. (That's my cousin JoAnna peeking over Greg's shoulder.) And check out that cool new redneck hat!

The next morning we were up at 3:30am to make our flight back to Humboldt Co. That Saturday in Mexia it was in the low 80s with a light breeze and clear skies. When we got off the plane in McKinleyville, it was in the 40s and blowing like crazy. We returned our shorts to the deepest recesses of our closet. Today, it's pouring rain and we've turned the heater back on.

Welcome home!

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