Monday, January 11, 2010



By (c) Joe Heidlemeier

My friend called me up Thursday. "Joe, it's gonna freeze, and I need help on the ranch. Can you come?"  Of course. My friend is 76, and we have been "podners" for over 30 years. Friday it's 20 degrees and I prepare to leave my warm house for the trip to Goliad. Old truck "Silver" idles in the driveway, waiting for another road trip. Full of all our things. Tools. Nails, screws, wire, and rope. My old rifle. Good whiskey for the cold evenings.

Friday is cold and gloomy. We check all the buildings, shutting off water, and getting ready for the next day. We are going to the other ranch to repair some hunting blinds for a February hunt sold to a group from Florida. Friday night is freezing. I'm staying in the old camp-house, sleeping on the couch. I have an electric heater and an old wool blanket that was my father's. Sleep with my clothes on. I can see my breath in the house.

Saturday morning we gather our things and drive a few miles to the other ranch. Takes about four hours to put everything in place. Cold. Windy. We get back to camp, and JoRae has eggs, biscuits, bacon and gravy ready. We have whiskey in our coffee. The rest of the day we spend putting out feed for the wildlife and checking equipment. That evening we have hot beans, rice and sausage.

Cold and tired, we go to sleep again.

Sunday is even colder. I get up at first light, make coffee, and feed the feral cats who gather at the door.  My friend shows up shortly and we make the rounds, breaking water in the troughs so the cattle can get a drink. We get back to the little house and JoRae again has breakfast ready.

We eat, plan our next adventure, and I go back out to my faithful Silver for the ride home. Halfway out of the ranch, gravel crunching under Silver's big tires, I stop, get out in the still frosty air, and say “Goodbye” to my beloved brush.

Still Loco Joe after all these years.


I was writing a kind of book in my head on the way back to Austin. Thinking about what I have done.  What I will do. The miracle of this weekend.  Me spending time with my 76 year old friend, and us acting the same as we were 30 years ago.

I'm young again.

Driving the old Ford, trying to figure out what my cold, tired self is going to make for dinner for my sweet wife this evening.

Going back again Friday. I wouldn't trade what I have done in my life for anything. I have trouble paying the bills, but I am rich.

Oh, dinner?  That’ll be wild boar tenderloin, beans, and salad. How Texas is that?


Years ago, I stopped in a barbecue place somewhere around Junction. I was guiding on a ranch in Sonora and was on my way home. The truck next to mine looked like it had never been cleaned out, and the guy who got out was grizzled and worn. My truck was neatly organized, and I had on my nice Camo that we guides were supposed to wear. I wondered -- where is this guy from? Now I know. He was what I was going to become. Now I know what all his piles of stuff were for. I have a first aid kit that would serve well in a small war. Spare everything. The other guides started calling my truck, Silver, "The Wal-Mart truck" because I carried so much stuff.

Wish I could see that guy again. Now I know he was a guide, and either on his way home, or to another ranch.

Now I am that guy.

NOTE:  The guest writer is Joe Heidlemeier.  He is an outdoorsman, a guide to hunting and the Texas wilderness, and assistant to the facilities manager for Trinity Episcopal School in Austin, Texas.  He lives with his “bride,” Karen Alexander, and their wonder-pup, Buddy, in Austin.  Joe often uses a phrase sometimes found in these posts: “Life is good in the brush.TM”  Joe owns the trademark to that phrase.  He also owns the copyright to the photo in this post.  Joe may be reached at and also on Facebook. -- RB

1 comment:

Julia said...

Hey, Joe -- Julia Smith here. Google found this post because it mentions the school, down there at the very bottom. It was a very excellent way to start the week. And I think neatness -- of vehicles, desks, homes, brains -- is way overrated.