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I'm watching the Brigham Young University 2002 Spectacular this evening. I flat out don't believe members of any Christian religion dance as well as the Mormons. I'm pretty sure no other denomination or non-denomination enjoys dancing so much. Some of those white boys can definitely jump.

While living in Arizona I got involved in a Mormon singles group. There were more females than males and things were looking promising. Then they found out I couldn't dance. Which is different from won't dance. Suddenly, I possessed all the attractiveness of a flat tire. I have been told by those observing when I did try to dance that my feet reminded them of siblings fighting a death match.

Not only can't I dance, my ability to walk has been challenged. One of my friends in high school referred to me as "The Famous Shuffle". It has been disappointing to me that with all the diversity one finds among women, evidently none of them think shuffling is cool.

I had to do double barbeque duty today. Fortunately, I am capable of meeting such challenges head-on, without so much as a flinch. The first was a birthday dinner at Cooper's. Cooper's is a somewhat unique place that enables people to enact individual barbeque fantasies. People from out of town look forward to stopping at Coopers. They do things at Cooper's that they would be inhibited to do where they are known.

My cousin Elaine and her her husband JW came down from Midland last weekend. The official reason was to see me. The real reason was to go to Cooper's. Nothing quite seems to bring excitement back to a post 50 couple's marriage like a drive through the Hill Country and eating at Cooper's.

Today's celebratrix, Charlene, was now 81 years old. Her father was born at Lone Grove in the northeast part of the county. At age 16, she fell in love with, and married a dark eyed, dark haired soldier. It was in the middle of World War II. She had five boys. I am not a biological child, but there is a gap between the first and second boy that I fill nicely. I showed up for meals demanding to be fed, sort of like a cat. Later, there was a time that they believed in me, when I needed someone to believe in me. Sometimes, loyalty among species rests on something so simple as eating together.

Charlene's oldest son, Bobby Joe, and her youngest son, Kirk, were there as well. I met Bobby Joe's wife, Linda. Linda teaches English at Baylor. I get along fairly well with literature teachers. Grammar teachers I can live without. Linda reminds me of my cousin Elaine. One must exert the greatest effort to get either one to make any comment. Not.

Bobby Joe's yougest child, Will, graduated from Baylor in May. Will had been part of previous Cooper excursions. Will is now in Marine Officer Candidate School. You could tell that Bobby Joe and Linda thought about him often.

When Charlene was a child in the Great Depression, just a trip to town was a treat. Every trip had gifts for the eyes and ears. Today's visits, conversations, journey and feast were sufficient joy not only unto this day, but the days that follow. I would that today's generations could find such happiness in such common and simple things.

We left, going different directions. The humid, still afternoons are all the same. They get more and more unbearable until a rain drenches the countryside. The mud discourages most activities afterwards. Except maybe to clean mud tracked in. Bonnie my dog, stinks. No doubt she is of the same opinion about me. Not much point in giving her a bath when she is going to roll in mud as soon as I finish. I continue to watch the summer pass, somewhat like watching the hands of a clock move while listening to a sermon.

Talked with my mom this afternoon. She informed me that my cousin Mike, who has lung cancer, has started receiving morphine for pain. I am older than Mike. Mike was always good, somewhat naive, and kind of quiet. He never smoked. I think about the times when I pulled some mean tricks on him. I want to take them all back. But I can't.

Tonight was the Castell Volunteer Fire Department annual barbeque. Castell is on the south side of the Llano river in western Llano county close to the Mason county line. Originally it was on the north side of the river. It is the oldest community in the county. Emil von Kreiwitz led young German men searching for equality and opportunity there in 1847.

Kreiwitz was a fascinating and heroic figure. He was born in Potsdam, Germany in 1822. Because of overpopulation, there was a lot of poverty and not much opportunity in Germany in the 1840's. Perhaps Emil was inspired by one of the speeches by Baron von Braunsfels, who was sponsoring emmigration to Texas. Whatever, Emil survived winter passage on the north Atlantic and arrived in Texas in 1843. In 1846, Emil enlisted in the United States Army as a sergeant in the Mexican-American War.

IIn 1847, John Meusebach, the leader of the German emmigrants concluded a peace treaty with the Comanches. The Comanches were rightfully distrustful of the vast immigration that was taking place. Some of the immigrants were criminal, and many others, to the Comanches way of thinking, were uncivilized. The Comanches wanted an agent of the German emmigrants to live among them. The Comanches wanted their new neighbors to know their language, to learn their struggles, and to see how they faced their struggles. They wanted someone to sit at their fires, to share their roasted meat, and to listen to their dreams of a good future. Emil was the lone volunteer.

What really ended Emil's stay with the Comanches was his good looks. The young Comanche girls were always flirting with Emil. This didn't set well at all with the young Comanche braves. Eventually, the daughter of Santa Ana, the Comanche Chief, tried to get her father to fix her up as Emil's squaw. One's opportunities are always limited when one rejects overtures from the boss's daughter.

VFD barbeques are significant social events. They are the most democratic of all gatherings. Everyone is welcome. Everyone stands in line. Everyone enjoys the same fare. There are no speeches to bore or offend. There's no alcohol. A good time can be had without it. The music is local and not intrusive.

Bret my north neighbor was there. As was Nicole from the Super S, and Lee Evans, my barber. As well as others I knew and many more that I didn't. Since Bret and I both work in Austin, we are more likely to meet at a barbeque than across our fence.

Bret is still trying to get over Dee who left him and Samantha eight months ago. Love often outlives relationships. Dee is still trying to find sobriety. Maybe the mountains in North Carolina will give her strength she could not find here.
 

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There are reasons enough to find any excuse to go to Castell. One of the most important is so I can drive along County Road 405. In fact, if one listens carefully, pretty much everything the Hill Country has to say can be learned by going from Castell to Valley Spring via CR 405.

You head north out of Castell and cross a low water bridge over the Llano River. The water is up to the bridge and really rushing now. If you are in a low riding car, the sensation is nifty. It's three miles to Highway 29. You cross a couple of small creeks in that stretch.

You cross Highway 29, which runs between Llano and Mason and keep going north. Not far, on the right, is an old orchard. Mainly, it is the pear trees that have survived. I wonder if the person who planted them lived long enough to see the trees in full production. Now, the people who live there, just let the fruit fall on the ground. Maybe the moral of this old orchard is that the past always has a greater appreciation of the future than the future has of the past.

There are some fields full of round hay bales. These round bales make me think of imaginary giant children playing some game similar to marbles.

A little farther, on the left, is Emil Kreiwitz's 125 year old, two-story rock house. In the 1872 Emil gave up his jobs as postmaster and Justice of the Peace. Emil acquired large flocks of sheep. But Grover Cleveland and the Democrats did away with the wool tariff. Emil died destitute in 1902. Maybe the moral of his story is never give up a day job to raise sheep.

I cross Elm Creek not far from Emil's house. The road dams up the creek until it spills over the road. The clear water, large granite rocks, pink sand, oaks and occasional pecan trees make the creek quite inviting. When I die I know I will regret all the times I failed to stop and follow a creek for a ways or climb a hill to see the world in a different and more breath-taking way.

CR 405 has other old houses. One white two-story has pine trees planted around the house. It is not just the pine tree itself, but its scent and sound that allows immigrants to this area to replay memories of past times and places. Maybe the moral of the pine trees is to just bring those things from the past that give you strength and hope.

The woods and wildlife along CR 405 are abundant and have an almost magical quality. There are lots of deer and doves along the way. Usually roadrunners, rabbits and often wild turkeys. You are watching a movie that Mother Nature has been showing for thousands of years. Flora and fauna are the ones to whom the land truly belongs. Maybe the moral is to make sure the generations to come get to see the same movie you saw.

There's a small family cemetary off the road to the right. Among the three dozen or so graves, one belongs to a man who fought for the Confederacy and one belong to a man who fought for the Union. Maybe the moral of this story is that the things that unify us are much more enduring than the things that divide us.

I wind among Kings Mountain and Briscoe Mountain, sheltered by post oak trees. Occasionally, in the distance, there are glimpses of the San Fernando valley and even more distant hills. There is a turn, and fields and pastures are maybe a mile straight beyond the thining woods. One begins to pass windmills. Maybe the moral of the windmills is that wind is much more faithful than water.

San Fernando Creek runs briskly across the road. Cattle are in the pastures. The fields are full of round bales of hay. The wild pecos sunflowers along the road are little bigger and a little brighter this year. The sky is overcast but in the west the setting sun has left an orange and peach colored glow in the sky. I am listening to Boots Randolph playing Just a Closer Walk with Thee from his Sunday Sax album. I cross Cold Creek. My world is rich and beautiful. Maybe the moral is that the more something is appreciated, the greater it seems to become.

I turn onto Highway 71. I drive up the pass that runs between Smoothing Iron Mountain and Lone Oak Mountain. The old, abandoned, Alfred Baumann rock house built in 1872 is off to the right. A few miles further I turn off the highway onto Valley Spring's single paved street. I pass reverently between the Methodist Church and the Church of Christ. The thing that I so enjoy about these churches is that they are directly across the road from each other. Every Sunday for a hundred years or so, these people face each other emerging from worship. There is no doubt about who the neighbor Christ was talking about is. Maybe the moral is that God is everywhere and Christ may be in anyone.

Further along, a yellow labrador retreiver lying in the middle of the road attests to the little town's inactivity and insignificance. He gets up and stands aside, staring respectfully as I slowly drive by. The full moon is rising in front of me. The moral? Be it ever so humble, there no place like home.
 

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It's a Wonderful, Wonderful Story!

Thank you.
 

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Thank you for this. Used to live north of you (Fort Hood) and drive along/through your neighborhood once in a while. I miss those views, and more. While stationed in Germany before moving to TX we had the opportunity to visit the Braunfels castle a number of times.
 

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I love your writing. I grew up in TX and spent time in the hill country. Every time I read your work it brings memories of home flooding back.

Thank you!

Suzi
 
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