Friday, July 16, 2010



By (c) Russ Barnes.  All rights reserved: text and photos
July 10, 2008, Wednesday.  I wake up in the morning about 7:30 on the couch in the “hood,” East Austin.  Slept straight through without a stir. Karen fixes me eggs and salmon; and coffee. Then she takes me on a tour of the old places of Austin.  And many of the new places which are awful. America corporate retailing.  It’s good to be with my old friend zooming around in her Miata.  Joe arrives home around 11 am and he begins readying “Wall Mart” for the move to the ranch.

He says,”Make a list, Russ.  Make a list.” His outdoors guide kicking in.

We get to the ranch, on a hill altitude 1700 feet. 360 degree panorama of the Texas Hill Country and you can see Lake Travis and the horseshow bend. Tallest hill in Central Texas.  3500 acres adjacent to the Golden Cheek Warbler Wildlife Preserve operated by the Park Service.  There is a largish, well-furnished, but modest, by Texas standards, ranch-house.  I occupy a two-story guest house.  And there is another guest house, called the bunkhouse, on the hilltop property, plus a habitable log cabin.  Because of the altitude, there is a pleasant breeze at all times.

I unpack myself and begin to set up for living and work.  Joe brings in the stuff: butane stove, paper plates, plastic flatware, detergent, flashlight, towels, radio to listen to KUT, mountain bike equipped with a gun-rack, home-made salsa, home-made barbecue sauce, a case of beans, freshly cooked rice, binoculars, garbage bags, a cell phone, camp-like folding chairs, corn to feed the deer, medicine in case of snake or wasp bites, and more

Joe also sells me two knives for a penny.  One is a nice, useful buck knife.  Single blade penknife, really sharp.  The other is a multipurpose penknife with many tools including a can opener, two saws, a church key, and a cork screw.


Joe and I survey the immediate land.  At sunset, he pours himself a vodka cocktail and we watch the lights of Austin, far in the distance come on.  Then we talk in the house till about 11 about adventures, including the adventures of our children and our attitude toward them.  

In the evening, Joe and I get into a big discussion.  We talk about you don’t condescend to women, and you don’t try to dictate the lifestyle of your children.  (He says he despises guys who make off-color remarks to women about them being women.  He says they usually take it, but they are thinking, “What an asshole.“  This is another reason Joe and I are friends.)  He talks about the Episcopal School and how he has to lug around altars, etc.  He says, “They gave me full benefits right off.  Gave me three weeks vacation; now I’m tellin’ you, not at the end of year, anytime I want it starting on the first day!  When I was in the hospital with a hernia, they gave me full pay, and when I came out of the hospital, they gave me a check for $500.00.”


We discussed age.   Joe said he has a hard time now doing computations in his head.  “I’m mean I couldn’t do long division in my head and I used to be able to do it as easy as a saddle on a horse.  Maybe it’s just computers do all the work for you and your forget how to do it, or maybe it’s age.”  I told him about my mushroom hunt in the Rockies, and how Peggy Godfrey, the Moffit, Colorado shepherdess and cowboy poet said, “Real intelligence is what you notice.  There’s where quality of life comes from, what you choose to observe.”  And I said, “Joe, you observe things; you look at quality things.  That hasn’t diminished with age; it’s improving all the time. Let the computers do computation.”  We turn in about 11 p.m..  Not a sound outside.

To be continued
Go to sequel #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8

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