A Lyrical Description of Christmas in the Texas Hill Country
This Texas Quote is a lovely paean to Christmas and family in The Hill Country:
"When I return home during the Christmas season, I usually spend the first day just standing around in rooms. I peel tangerines while my mother talks about the hometown goings-on; I stare at the same family photographs I have been looking at in the bedroom for the past thirty years; I lean against the fireplace mantel and shell pecans. After dark I stand in the kitchen talking to my father, home from work at his feed store, and having perhaps my sixth or seventh cup of coffee of the day as I listen to my father's often-told tales. But on the second day I excuse myself from the house about noon and get into the car and take my traditional half-day drive: my simple-minded but satisfying tour through hills and trees and river places. I prepare myself, of course: I select a paperback or two from the grocery bag of books I had put in the trunk for Christmas reading; I stop at a 7-Eleven for a Lone Star and Fritos; and then I ease on down the road toward Medina, the first of the small hill country towns on my itinerary.
It is a rewarding thing to do, this slow driving along the highway. I munch a Frito, gaze benevolently at the barbed wire of a rancher's fence, thinking of .... damn .... just about everything. My thoughts freewheel nicely on that curving farm-to-market road. I notice, I welcome, the steady yellow lines down the center, the silvery shine of metal sign poles, the continuous fence-line posts, the white caliche roads that lead off to hunting cabins and farms. I coast through the mellow browns of winter grasses, pastures, hills while the sun covers the land like the bright fur of a hibernating animal. Cedars stand along the roadside like friendly country cousins. Midday shadows lie intimately across the road: beguiling, weightless pools. I feel almost sinfully pleased by such an agreeable home territory. I turn each curve knowing that I can come again in any season and drive along these same roads, gaze into these same fields. I look out my window and I smile: this is my place of worship, my personal museum of art.
In Bandera I go into Hilbrunner's Drug Store and head for the snug little Christmas corner behind the pharmacy's small counter: three tables, men drinking coffee. I sit at the counter and have hot tea. A rancher sitting next to me is wearing a new leather jacket, new Stetson, thick glasses. I drink my tea and look secretly at the mystery of his large old rancher ears, the red broke veins in the rancher nose.
In Camp Verde I buy a bag of peanuts and another beer and stop for a look at Verde Creek. I get out, walk beneath the trees. Birds are moving slowly through the cypresses, not singing, flapping their wings heavily: cardinals, woodpeckers, robins down south for the winter. There is no wind, just sunlight coming strongly in an afternoon slant, the clean smell of the creek. Back in the car I pick up Brighton Rock and read a little. In Center Point, just about dusk, in clear Wyeth-light, I park beside an unplanted field. Beyond the field, several children are still out, idling away the last moments before dark.
But the light, the light. It is ordinary for The Hill Country, for December, yet as I stand there beside the wire fence, with a windmill rising behind the field, with red and green Christmas bulbs strung around the side windows of nearby houses, with unpaved streets wandering off into the countryside, such light is almost like a voice, a soundless, continuous speaking from the sun-haloed oaks. Darkness comes; the land shuts down. I drive back toward home, sated, having feasted on cattle guards, creeks, pecan trees, earth."
----- Elroy Bode, "This Favored Place," 1983. This book is a sensitive meditation on life and values and The Hill Country and comes highly recommended.
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.