All the Christmas lights were up when I drove through Llano last night. Llano is definitely a west Texas Town. That means it is not all that pretty, and miles and miles from another town that's not all that pretty either. West Texas towns are heavy on the asphalt and weak on big trees. The main attraction is the all night convenience store. But, because of their rarity, the small town's modest visual attractions do offer some cheer for the weary night traveler. And the modest Christmas lights are a pleasant bit of cheer during the darker, bleaker months. Part of the darkness and bleakness I feel is probably just being pushed out of a season I was comfortable with and enjoying, into another season I don't have so much in common. Frostweed and maximillian sunflower are gone, duranta and camphorweed blooms are just about done, goldeneye is starting to wane, and even the winter brave copper canyon is probably past peak. Even so, I don't ever remember so many butterflies this time of year. It seems every dry norther brings more in. The butterflies are mostly skippers. Not nearly so big, bright and brilliant as the swallowtails. But they do bring some visual cheer with their happy dances. I feel bad that their is so little to offer them in the way of blooms. Just like a woman who has distant, but dear friends show up and there is little or nothing to offer them. I silently promise myself that I will plant more copper canyon, duranta and lantana as soon as possible. I am grateful for the two inches total of rain we had the end of August and the first part of September and all the bloom and butterfly experiences this autumn has held. Had a stiff little dry norther blow in last Wednesday. Remember when I was a kid, Dad and I were outside one clear night when sudden gusts out of the north interrupted our conversation. Dad looked up at the stars and commented, "A dry norther," in the reverent tone that it was one more uncommon occurence that he had been blessed to witness. Nowadays, with all the 'end times' talk, I reckon if we were to have some rain with a norther it would be worrisome to young families. Those gusts were bouncing pretty hard against the houses and the trees. The gusts jerked the chain out of the slot on the swinging gate and when I awoke Thursday morning, the sheep were dining on young fruit trees. When I drove in late Wednesday night I met a county water truck, and later the sheriff's deputy on my county road. When I got on the half-mile straight stretch in front of my place, it looked like a carnival was in full swing over at Brett and Dee's place, which borders mine on the north. Unfortunately, there were too many red and blue lights. Seems that an ember fell through a crack between the floor and the fireplace. Brett thinks the wind gusts shifted the house slightly. Whatever, it caught the piers and beams under the house on fire. Fortunately, a loud crack woke Dee up and she sent Brett down to check it out. The place was full of smoke coming in on each side of the fireplace. Brett could see the fire flickering underneath. While Brett woke Sam and got her outside, Dee called 9-1-1. Bless Sam's little heart. What do you figure that 13 year old grabbed to save from the fire? She grabbed her school books and school work. Man, those teachers in Cherokee must be pretty rough when a kid don't turn in homework. Brett's house has rock work around the bottom, so he had to bust out the rock with his sledge hammer so he could get under there with the water hose. That stopped the fire just before it started going up the side. Eventually, the Cherokee and Valley Spring volunteer fire departments should up and they cut a three foot by three foot square in the floor next to the fire place so they could put out the smoldering piers and floor joists. There was a pretty good turn-out from southern San Saba County and northern Llano County. I parked a good hundred yards from the house. All of Sam's teachers from Cherokee came out to see if everything was allright, so I guess they are not so bad. Brett and Dee stated that they would stay at the house because they would not sleep any more that night anyway. Felt sorry for them having to sniff that sickenly sweet burn smell. I am quite sure that I am not man enough to stand much of that. Dee took off Thursday to start cleaning the place. (She teaches math at the San Saba Middle School). Sam preferred going to school as to staying home. Brett, who is a stone mason, got started repairing the whole he broke in the skirting and was going on to turn half of his living room floor into an extended fireplace. Took them some brisket and sides from Inman's and offered to help. They appreciated the food but had recovery going fine. They were just happy that it hadn't been any worse. Guess that is what a lot of life is about, be it your home catching on fire, or going through a drought, or some other hardship; if you have your health, and if you have a little help from your friends, and a little love from family, you might as well just be happy things aren't worse. Even in winter their are tiny wild violets and prairie verbeana. The brave bluebonnets have already emerged and are hugging the ground until the longer and warmer days of spring. The shiny blond grass will contrast nicely with live oaks or pine trees. Perhaps more than I want, the sky will be clean and blue during the day and bright and sparkling at night. But these things often get pushed aside with all bare trees and shrubs, dead weeds and dirt, dreary, gray skies, cold winter winds, and hopefully some muddy, messy earth. Even so, there will be enough to bring some visual cheer to a weary traveler and to encourage him along his way.