There used to be a small stream here that meandered down the hill and went over the edge of the canyon and fell into a deep dark hole below us.
The land’s owner built himself an observation platform, erected a light pole, and built a water wheel that generated electricity to power the light. The chances were good that no one would be out at night and walk over the cliff and fall into the chasm, but it was a place he could bring guests and have a beer as they watched the water wheel turn, throw rocks into the dark and listen to them splash at the bottom on hot summer nights.
There is no water coming down the hill now so the water wheel is stopped, its blades providing climbing opportunities for vines and weeds. Insect webs reach across the gap between blades and the generator is rusting. The water wheel was built with welded iron arms, bolted wood planks, and pieces cut from old tractor tires. The hub of the wheel is a rim off a car.
On a ranch, people get used to making stuff. It keeps them interested and uses junk that accumulates.
This wheel is a John Currie creation. He and Uncle Hugh always tinkered with junk piled in the corner of a barn or discarded in a pasture filled with weeds, dead brush, and cow chips.
Water wheels are old technology.
They will be resurrected at the next big reset in human history.
Drive In movies, in the fifties, were a popular family outing and also a place where teens, borrowing the family car, could get away and explore birds and bees in the back seat of station wagons.
The latest Hollywood movies were projected onto huge screens and patrons watched from their cars with sound provided by little speakers that hung on a partially rolled down car window. If you got hungry you walked down gravel, between cars, and bought Cokes and popcorn at a cinder block concession stand that had restrooms, tables to sit and eat, promos that told about coming attractions.
At night it was cool and pleasant and if you didn’t like the movie you could watch shooting stars or look for aliens on their way to Washington D.C.. The movie screen was enormous and much better than the little black and white television in your living room.
The 60th anniversary of the Sandell has arrived and the featured movie this Saturday, August 29th, is ” Love Me Tender ” with Elvis.
Deep in Jesus country, Elvis still gets air time. He is remembered as a rock and roll legend, a womanizer, a great entertainer who died middle aged and alone with a drug problem. He sang great gospel, served in the military as a regular enlisted man, and never lost his Southern roots.
Finding an operating drive in movie these days,that still shows movies, is almost as impossible as finding a roll of Kodak film, or a camera that even uses film. Technology is zipping past us more quickly than we can process its need or ethics. Humans being ruled by artificial intelligence is no longer the crazy science fiction we used to think it was. Drones are almost to our front doors delivering packages.
Clarendon is a small Texas town where my father, and his sisters, were raised and went to school. They used to ride a horse to class during the Great Depression.
When Elvis burst on the scene he must have looked, to them, like a madman.
Snapshots are all I have of the inside of the Goodnight home, taking us back to the late eighteen hundreds and early 1900’s.
Mr. Goodnight died just after the stock market crash of 1929 and he, at 93, was ready to move on, feeling he had lived in the best possible times, much more fortunate than those that went before or those that were coming after.
Rooms in his house have high ceilings, tall windows with individually cut triangular glass panes of thick glass that has ripples and reflects light oddly. It has a downstairs for business, eating, entertaining, socializing. Upstairs is for sleeping, reflection, and repose.
In its day this home was a palace and Mr. Goodnight spared no expense for the comfort of his wife who, at the start of their marriage, lived in a dirt dugout on the prairie waiting for him to make good on his promises to cherish and protect. She was,as you can tell from a short bio on a brochure created for guests, as single minded as her husband and it must have been comfort to him to have a confidante in such a rough and tumble life of men and animals.
The rooms are wallpapered. In the restoration, the woodwork, that had been painted, was stripped and refinished to the way it was when the Goodnight’s lived here. Closets are a new touch because homes of this time period typically had no closets. When the Goodnight’s lived here, they used an outhouse, water was carried in from a well house, lights were powered with whale oil.
There is an out building used by Mrs. Goodnight as a school for cowboy children and as an Infirmary when hired hands got sick.
Dishes on the kitchen table wait for hungry animated ranching people to say a prayer and ” pass biscuits and gravy, please.”
Downstairs, in Mr. Goodnight’s study, there is a fireplace, a buffalo robe on the floor, horned furniture, a couch with a quilt for cold nights.There aren’t many books.
Mr. Goodnight was a rancher.
He didn’t have to read books to know what the world was about.
Not far from Clarendon, Texas is the homestead and ranch headquarters of Charles Goodnight, a pioneer Texas rancher.
In the mid to late 1800’s, he controlled a ranch of over a million acres, had 180 cowboys on his payroll, and was an industry by himself. He was a tough man who lived to be 93, fought Indians and had Indians as long time friends. He experimented with crossbreeding buffalo and Texas longhorns and was responsible, with help from his wife Molly, for saving the short hair buffalo from extinction. He entertained Presidents and panhandlers alike in his dining room and, as a cowboy employee once said , ” when he told you to do something he expected it to be done. ”
His house is on the National Register of Historic Places and was restored with private funds, grants, and donations.
On a small horned couch in the upstairs master bedroom is an open Bible with a pair of reading glasses holding his place in Psalms.
There are temptations and lines to be drawn in accumulating a million acres of land and running men and cattle.
Mr. Goodnight was reputed to be a gruff, stern, no nonsense kind of man. Yet, he was also reputed to be kind and generous with his time, his money and attention to those who wanted to work hard and learn. If he liked you he would do most anything to help you rise on your merits.
My brother Alan tells a story of our Aunt Roberta, my father’s sister, who lived in Clarendon where an old Mr. Goodnight had his city house and spent the last few years of his life. She and a girlfriend used to play jacks on the sidewalk in front of his home and she remembered a nurse coming out with a plate of cookies and telling them they could come anytime to play.
Stern and gruff as he is in his photos and paintings, the man that sent out cookies to two little girls had a heart of gold.
This mule deer beelines to Alan’s back yard to have dessert.
There are sunflowers off Alan’s back porch and when this deer snaps one off the stem he looks like a little kid eating a piece of brightly colored candy. When I move towards a large living room window to get a better look at him, he moves away to a safe distance.
On the edge of the canyon is a new house that has compromised my brother’s view.
People here like deer but hate wild hogs. Deer get into your garden and eat your flowers but they are gentle, peaceful creatures. Hogs tear up everything.
The neighbor’s house on the edge of the canyon is large, expensive. It has a big roof, a double car garage, two porches, several stories.
Why does it take so much too keep us people happy and so little to keep a deer happy?
It would take some ranch dressing, salt and pepper, to make me even try these sunflowers.
These cattle watch me intently as I cross the road to take their group portrait.
I walk slowly, stop, give them a chance to get used to my intrusion. They are congregated by a fence line and don’t really want to give up their ground.
This is a small grouping but there are more cattle on this West Texas ranch. With lots of rain, grazing is good and these guys and girls are fit and healthy. There are new calves in the family and identification tags clipped into their ears look silly, too big for the size of their heads..
Later in the afternoon this family will lie down in the grass under the shade of mesquite trees, their tails swatting insects that torment. They will look like big brown, black and tan rocks in a landscape that is flat and monotonous and rock less.
These guys would love Uruguay but they don’t let cattle fly on planes.
Bovines take up too many seats, and trips to the lavatory are complicated.
1990 was one of the last years Toyota made these mini-motor homes.
This little baby has a 6 cylinder 3.0 EFI engine, gets sixteen miles per gallon depending on terrain and weather and road conditions. She has air conditioning, a refrigerator that runs on electric or propane, propane heat, a small bathroom and shower, a kitchen sink and counter, microwave, a dining room table and a couch. You sleep in an overhead bed over the truck engine and there is cabinet space for the few things you take with you.
Research shows Gypsies have long been in America and the gypsy soul is a part of our American experience. There is an entire culture of retired middle class couples who move back and forth across the United States living in two hundred thousand dollar diesel pushers staying in National Parks and State campgrounds. There are disabled vets and singles who live in recreational vehicles and park at a different Wal-Mart each evening to stay one step ahead of homelessness.
Living life as a RV snail has advantages because you can drive away from your problems with a turn of an ignition key.
A gypsy soul is hard to get rid of when you were born with it.
Music is a tougher taskmaster than writing, but not by much.
Laid on the bed is a 1940’s Conn ” Naked Lady ” Alto Saxophone.
Her sound is sweet, her lacquer finish is imperfect and worn, her response is excellent.
This horn was bought at Baum’s Music Store in Albuquerque and cost two thousand dollars. You read about famous violins that are hundreds of years old but are still coveted. This model was used by Charlie Parker and it is hard to question ” Bird’s” musical talent and taste even if his personal life still raises eyebrows.
Autumn will be here soon and leaves will fall from swaying branches. The leaves will tumble in space and then, before they hit the ground, will be sent back upwards by gusts of wind.
Playing a good chorus of ” Autumn Leaves “, with no music, out of your own head, is worth working for.
Popsicle’s have been with us as long as I have been on this planet.
Back when my shoes were size five, we neighborhood kids would hear music marching down our street and see a big white ice cream truck with black speakers mounted on its roof. It was playing happy music on a dreadfully hot summer afternoon.
The truck stopped in front of our house as we stood out front with coins in our little fingers. It wasn’t a glamorous job for the drivers, but, then, people worked to pay their bills.
Grown men with two day beards were paid one to two bucks an hour to drive the truck and sell us treats. They smoked Marlboros or Lucky Strikes and had anchors tattooed on their right forearms. They took our money with a smile and always gave us back the correct change. A radio hanging from the truck’s rear view mirror played Patsy Cline or Hank Williams.Some of the men had fought on the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific.Others were just drifters.
The Popsicle’s were all flavors. You could get cherry, lime, orange, banana, pineapple, and half a dozen more tastes..The ice cream in the freezers was vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chip plus lime or orange sherbet for those who didn’t like ice cream. There were also ice cream concoctions covered with chocolate that were popular – Eskimo Pies, Dilly Bars, Ice Cream Sandwiches.
When you finished your Popsicle you were left with a stick and a joke.
” What is the most musical part of a turkey? (The Drumsticks)
” What did the horse say to the angry cow? (What’s your beef?)
” What is the mouse’s least favorite weather? ( When it rains cats and dogs)
” What do you call a girl in the middle of a tennis court? ( Annette)
Popsicle’s are still sticking around though I never see the trucks in neighborhoods anymore.
What is touching is the generation of kids that bought them from a white truck in front of their home during summer vacation now have gray hair, walk with a cane, or need oxygen to keep them going.
The popsicle jokes are still funny to me even if my gray hair isn’t.
This remodel on Shirley, for Alan, is a long, twisted, dirty novel that is taking some work to get read.
There are convoluted chapters, hairpin curves, a cast of characters that belong in a Louisiana swamp.
This job is not one you want to bring a friend to, but a friend is the only one who will show up day after day and help you put a nice shade of ruby lipstick on an old tired pig. As little money as possible has been spent on this house over the decades and the guiding principle has always been too use a band aid when a tourniquet was needed.
This project is almost done. You keep showing up day after day until there is, finally, a quitting point.
For me, this might be my last rehab. Stan, one of my best friends, says he has ” another nineteen years, two hundred and five days, three hours and two seconds to go till he retires. ”
With this property turned princess finished, dressed for the King’s ball, I am going gator hunting in the bayou and eat fried fish in a tin shack restaurant with sawdust floors and a cooler full of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer by the old fashioned manual cash register.
Next week, Stan, Stan’s brother Sid , Floyd and I are playing golf.