As everybody might have guessed, before there was a BeakSpeak, and a Seguin Farm, and and language classes, and T.Brady, there had to be a transition between my Focused English teaching and Master’s classes. Yes, indeed there was. It was a little town with a post office, a small church, a tiny school vacated by then and lots of down-home, people participating in quilting bees, raising cattle, growing watermelons and tending to broiler houses. That town is called Leesville, Texas, and it is located on Hwy 80 between Luling and Nixon. How I became friends with the Claude Jones who lived there is a long story with which I won’t bore you, but their kindness and willingness to let me visit them every Thanksgiving to sit in their wooded area for hours all by myself and forget school for awhile is the gist of it. The fact that I would sit there with a rifle in my hands shames me now, but truly that .243 was of little consequence since I could barely plink soda cans with a .22. I was must smitten with country life – a call from my DNA, I think. So, it came to be that I bought a mobile home from a fellow named Paul Wallis who owned four acres with peach trees, domesticated green grape vines and wonderfully loaded Damson plum trees! How can anybody not want that? How can anybody not name it the Lazy M Fruit Farm? Mrs. Jone’s is still laughing in her grave that I named it that.
Peggy, Jo Beth, Carrie and Becky lazily wallowing in the bluebonnets
Peggy could laugh all they wanted, I was eating peaches before they were ripe, grapes that were too green, but lots and lots of plums that were just right. Lots! Yes, that’s right, there was massive indigestion, but you can buy Maalox for that. Suddenly I just HAD to start picking all the wild grapes I could reach off he vines in the trees, but I had to avoid these crazy wild chickens running out from everywhere. Paul Wallis told me he had let T. Brady keep him chickens there and that I’d enjoy the eggs – if I could find them. Well, one day while I was reaching for a pretty high grape vine, I hear and rattle and chug turn into the drive. That had to be the oldest truck I’d ever seen, and it moved mighty slowly, too. Shortly, the most countrified old fellow unfolded himself from the driver’s seat and introduced himself as T. Brady.
I later realized he’d put on his Sunday clothes just for me. Anyway, T. smoked a pipe and slowly mumbled his words, but I came to love him as a genuinely good man. He said I could have all the eggs I could find, but to break them in a cup first because they could be rotten, and to watch out for rattle snakes in “all them weeds.” Well I took him at his word: found some eggs, ate the ones that weren’t rotten and avoided the only rattle snake we saw that was sunning in a bower when a friend was picking berries. As Street-Talk Walt would say, they were some “good eggs.”
So it goes, picking plums until all the vines around my four acres are gone. I needed help doing something with them because they would peel the skin right off your tongue, so I convinced my little sister Shelly to come stay with me one summer she was out of school and help me made muscadine wine. Her job was to stomp the grapes in a barrel, squishing them good with her toes, in a bag, of course. Mom would make jelly with it, too. It was soooo good. I’d put the rest of the grapes in six-gallon Carboy glass for the grapes to ferment. Forgot how long it took to become alcohol; I just remember it was too long. 🙂
Oh, and then I finally got too greedy and jumped my fence to get some grapes on another man’s property. A friend of mine hollered out not to do that ,and I said “yes, mother,” then promptly landed in a trench and broke my foot. That was the end of my grape -vine picking days. So, I resorted to things I could do that was less dangerous, like ride plug mares in the city’s trail ride. My other sister, Gail, had come to visit me by that time and my cast was already off. She had never been on a horse, either, so we joined forces on Billie Gus’s Lott’s very experienced, and calm – uh – gelding, I think. Anyway, it was as good as a plug mare to me. I trusted Billie Gus and all the Lotts that lived out there. They were very civic-minded, upstanding members of that little town. Gail loved every minute of it but refused to eat the mountain oysters they fried up afterward.
Leesville laid the groundwork for all the country-living and chicken-keeping from which BeakSpeak would come. The language skills started way before that in Alvin, Texas, but that’s the next blog.