Monday, April 17, 2017

A Gathering of Friends

We have had a wonderful week with good friends and family.  Last Tuesday, Jimmy Joe and Danine Jacks, who hosted us in their home in Cambodia a few years ago, arrived to spend a few days with us.  The four of us had a relaxing couple of days in Volente, then packed up for a trip to the farm.  

While here, we have had a good visit, lots of porch-sitting time, and more than a few chilled beverages. 

Jimmy Joe and I also took a little time for photos of the bluebonnets and other flowers blooming in the pastures.  

The antelope horn milkweed blossoms were covered with honeybees and other interesting insects, as were the other wildflowers.

Since it has been several years since Jimmy and Nine have spent time in Texas, we organized a get-together with some of our high school classmates in town at Asher Cafe. Joining the four of us were Patty and John Howarth, Waylan and Darla Loyd, Jane Cartwright, Sue Kopp, Jimmy Don Thompson and Hardy Morgan.

While the gathering was filled with laughter, reminiscing, and catching up on each others’ news, we also sadly marked the passing of one of our classmates on Wednesday, April 12, after a long and courageous bout with cancer.  

Tommy Shelton moved to Hamilton from Pecos, Texas, during our freshman year and quickly became and important part of our growing-up years.  He was active in FFA, serving as an officer several times, and was one of the managers of our Bulldog football team.  He was voted "Friendliest" among other honors during our senior year, and led us as Senior Class President.   More recently, Tommy coordinated class get-togethers and distributed information about classmates until he became too ill to continue.

Tommy and I dated during our senior year, and made many good memories in the process.  We mourn his passing.  With the loss of each of our classmates we realize with increasing poignancy how much those growing-up years and the friends we made continue to mean to us.  I wish all our classmates had been able to join us, but we look forward to the next opportunity we have to reconnect.  I just hope it is at a class reunion and not to mark another loss.  

There never seems to be enough time to do everything we would like to when we're at the farm.  Thursday evening, we made a start by introducing Jimmy Joe and Nine to one of our local favorites, the Horny Toad Cafe and Grill in nearby Cranfills Gap.

It's a favorite hangout for not only locals and motorcycle riders passing through town, but also for these pool-sharks-in-training.

The Thursday night fajita special was nothing to write home about, but John's cheeseburger was a real winner.  And the company was even better.

We had family at the farm as well.  My brother and his wife as well as one of their daughters and family were staying down the hill at the little house.  After Jimmy and Nine left to visit with their relatives, the rest of us took a long walk to look for new plants that had emerged from seeds we sewed after the prescribed burn several weeks ago.

Noah and Rachel were convinced the newly-cleared ground would yield a mastodon tooth, but none were found this trip.

Allan made time for some brush-stacking with the tractor and a chilled beverage or two on their back porch.

And Noah demonstrated his skill with one of his several Nerf guns.

Not all our friends during this trip to the farm were the two-legged variety.  On my way to the pump house, I almost stepped on this beautiful eastern hognose snake that was hiding in the grass.  When I asked John to put down his hand so I could have a visual reference point, the snake puffed out its neck, cobra-like.  It’s easy to see why our parents often referred to this harmless Texas resident as a “spreading adder.”  (Actually you should say “spreddinadder” if you want to get the pronunciation right.)

This gives new meaning to the term "white-knuckled!"

This handsome fellow eyed me with his beady snake eyes, hissing loudly but never threatening to bite.  He also explored my scent with his flickering forked tongue to see if I was friend or foe…or maybe dinner.  When I looked up information about the hognose snake, I found that their favorite food is toads, so I guess I was never a candidate for dinner.

After getting a few photos, we backed away to give him a chance to slither away into the tall grass.

Later, when John was weed-eating in the yard, he came upon this pretty little prairie ringneck snake.  Just 10 or so inches long and smaller around than my little finger, they live under leaves or in crevices in the soil.  Earth worms and smaller snakes are some of their favorite foods.  

It was another great time at the farm.

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