Tag Archives: family history

Leon Hale’s take on the heat of summer…

Leon Hale is a Houston institution. His column has been running in Houston Newspapers for as long as I’ve been around (or at least as long as I’ve been aware of being around). Today he broaches a subject near and dear to my heart…Texas summer heat.

So the other afternoon I decided it was time to do the remember-the-heat column again. I took about 10 steps out the front door, and that blast of hot air off the sidewalk hit me in the chops, and I said, “Wait a minute, I don’t need to go outside to remember what life was like without AC. I can remember it just fine sitting at my desk.” So I turned around and went back inside.

While I too, grew to adulthood here in Texas without AC, I do not see anything wrong with his sentiment.

I remember August days, long ago, when we’d roam all day in the woods and along creeks, just out there messing around, waiting for school to start. The heat was fierce, but we didn’t know what the temperature was. Could have been 102. Maybe more. Probably was.


Trouble now is, we’re not allowed to ignore the discomfort. Several times a day we’re reminded that the heat is upon us, and it’s high, and it’s bad. And if 96 isn’t hot enough for us, listen to this — it feels like 103. What’s the advantage in knowing that the air feels hotter than the thermometer reading? I’m surprised the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t complain.

When we moved into our present home the AC unit outside was of an age that I felt better about living with the vagrancies of Texas summers than firing up a relic of the 1960’s and paying the power company for the privilege. Since at the time money was tight and an upgrade wasn’t in the cards, we spent most of those early summers thanking the original owners of this old country house for planting the thirteen oaks that shade the acre around this house. We also spent much of the time outside in whatever breeze there might be with a book and a 32 oz. glass of iced tea (unsweetened of course, Pablo). Meals tended to be grilled so we didn’t heat up the house before bedtime.

Vacations in those days, when we could afford them, were spent running to the Hill Country. For the non-Texans out there, that’s the part of Texas north and west of San Antonio and Austin where the typography actually goes up and down with some regularity and the humidity is almost non existent. It is also a land of rock bottomed rivers and man-made lakes of cool water where days can be spent lazing and floating in a swimsuit for weeks on end.

There are a few State Parks in the center of this state that fill the bill and still bring on fond memories…Inks Lake and the granite massive below the Ranger Station at the entrance that was the backyard of the screened shelter we always rented. Where for hours after sunset you could lay and soak up the heat as the night cooled and the Milky Way took form across the heavens in all it glory…

The beach of Lake Whitney on a moonless night when the only family in the whole park was ours. The kids playing cards at camp while the wife and I sat and stared at infinity…

The evenings in Kerrville, above the river, just out of town at another favorite shelter with a patio below with benches and table…That’s the way to live through the Texas summer heat just like our Texas ancestors who packed up the kids during the summer and hightailed it to the same hills and rivers…

This didn’t start out as a stroll down memory lane but I thank Leon for the trigger that brought on the flood of good memories…especially the memory of the miles of damn dam jokes that broke up all the kids and had the whole car laughing until the tears flowed one summer as we drove through Texas…

Y’all stay cool…

Link: Heat is hard to forget | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Wednesday – The end of week +2

Today’s emails contained this week’s copy of the “Weeknight Kitchen Newsletter” from The Splendid Table. I’ve been listening to Lynne Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table Podcast for a while now and enjoying it immensely. This week’s newsletter contained a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. I had heard Lynne speak of them before but never taken the time to follow the link. Today I did…I would like to recommend that if you like eating and cooking (or vice versa) seafood you do the same. Their website explains what they do like this:

What is Seafood Watch?

A program of Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. We recommend which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood. We’re also partners of the Seafood Choices Alliance where, along with other seafood awareness campaigns, we provide seafood purveyors with recommendations on seafood choices.

The why is just as important:

Why do seafood choices matter?
The choices we make as consumers drive the seafood market place. Your purchasing power can make a difference by supporting those fisheries and fish farms that are better for the environment, while at the same time relieving pressure on others that are not doing as well.

Some of the key problems that help us evaluate whether a fishery is sustainable include the level of bycatch observed, the fishing methods and their impact, if it is farmed—how it is farmed, and how well the fishery or aquaculture operation is managed. With nearly 75% of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, these issues are more important than ever. By using the Seafood Watch pocket guide you are making choices based on the best available information and supporting environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations.

Take a few minutes and swing over to their website. Download the printable “Seafood Watch Cards” they make available for your wallet. The cards look like a very good tool to have with you as you shop.


Fred First informed me this morning that the summer hold on Floyd County has decided (at least temporarily) to release it’s grip. I don’t know if he was bragging or just sighing with relief as he told of having to close windows and put on a long sleeve flannel shirt. So, what was Fred musing about this morning at Fragments From Floyd? Bedbugs of course

I think I need to spend some virtual time in those cooler mountains today if only to escape the heat of the real world of SE Texas. The weather prognosticators are giving warning that rain is on the way though as a tropical depression has formed in the center of the Gulf and will be coming onshore somewhere in the next few days. The rains, they say, should start sometime this evening or overnight.


While wandering the web yesterday I came across Susan Albert’s latest post at Lifescapes: and found her speaking directly to my heart…

There are so many new things to see here. It’s all still a mass of images. Oh, I don’t mean that I can’t see. Yes, of course I can. Rocks, massive rocks. Pine trees on the mountain, salt cedar and willow and sycamore along Manuelitas Creek, grasses and sages and wildflowers in the meadow, all very beautiful. But to see, really see, the landforms and the textures and colors, and the birds and mammals and insects, all the community of this land, of each different habitat, I need to learn more. And learning takes time, and close, daily acquaintance, just as it takes a long time to know a friend in all her various changing moods and seasons, to know her history and her wants and wishes. It’s taken me twenty years to learn just a little bit about MeadowKnoll, and about the Hill Country. A summer month in the Sangres, a month in the winter–it’s only long enough to tantalize me with possibilities.

I have felt that way about every “place” I have ever laid my head, if even for just a week or two. Even when on a business trip I can’t just go to and from, I have to explore…I have to see. If I am lucky, I’ll learn to know a little bit about the place I am in. In the end I have a need to feel a part of the place, if only for a bit. I invest every place I go with a bit of my…soul. I leave a bit of me behind. But it’s a fair trade because I take a bit of every place I have ever been with me.

I do not become as acquainted with most places as Susan alludes to in the quote. Most of the places I come to “know” do not call out for that from me…Ahhh, but the ones that do.

They call across the years. They call across the miles. They call across generations. These are the places I want the opportunity to become one with. To stand in those places and be enfolded by the life and soul of a place until it becomes you and you become it. Some people are given that gift, some people even recognize the gift they are given, most though don’t even see the trees for the forest they are living in.


From Susan’s Blog I wandered over to The Ranchwoman where I was reminded of all of those summertime visits with my maternal grandparents.

Looking at the stars makes my mind tick.

Away from city lights, and when there’s no moon, the sky is so full of stars that I can’t fathom how the ancients imagined them into constellations. I have trouble finding them even with a chart. With less pollution, those folks could see even more stars. How’d they do that?

Even knowing that the stars I’m seeing are so far away, I look up and feel tucked in by an enormously fluffy velvet blanket. That’s because the moon, which of course is there even when it’s not visible; the planets; the meteors; are all close, relatively speaking. And even the stars I can see, though they are almost infinitely far away, are practically next door compared to the ones I can’t see.

And that leads to thoughts about life and death, space, time, infinity — all those big questions, scientific and philosophical.

Every evening after supper we would meet out by the back of the house. Everyone would claim a folding lawnchair from the backporch. We would all settle in and Grandpa would start to “inform” us about how it was when he was young. His informative expositions were usually in the form of a really tall tale. He would talk and chuckle, we would listen and roll our eyes…The sky would darken and we would start to see the stars come out.

Once the milky way became visible the game would begin…Who would see the most shooting stars? How about spotting a satellite? If the season was right, Grandma would come up with some canning jars with hole punched lids to catch lightning bugs in. There we would be, three generations laying out under the night sky until it would be bath time for the youngest (and you always needed a bath after playing hard all day outside). By that time the heat from the kitchen would have fled the house and the cooler night air would be filtering in through all of the wide open windows.


Time to call it a muse…I have some reading to do, both online and the old fashioned kind. I have been receiving copies of the Foxfire series in the mail and I still need to finish “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”…Later

The End…Today will mark the end of my worship at the nuclear medicine shrine…

After this afternoons session, my sacrifices on the alter of the atomic spheres comes to an end…The number for the day is 35…of 35. An ending and a beginning, even though I am yet to be thru this journey I am embarked upon.

In the news today on the weather front…From NASA

EO News: Atlantic Hurricane Frequency Doubles – July 29, 2007


About twice as many Atlantic hurricanes form each year on average than a century ago, according to a new statistical analysis of hurricanes and tropical storms in the north Atlantic. The study concludes that warmer sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and altered wind patterns associated with global climate change are fueling much of the increase.

The study, by Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Peter Webster of Georgia Institute of Technology, will be published online July 30 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.

“These numbers are a strong indication that climate change is a major factor in the increasing number of Atlantic hurricanes,” says Holland.

I am sure we will shortly be told that this release was in error…But the money quote was at the end…

The 2006 hurricane season was far less active than the two preceding years, in part because of the emergence of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean. However, that year, which was not included in the study, would have ranked above average a century ago, with five hurricanes and four other named storms.

“Even a quiet year by today’s standards would be considered normal or slightly active compared to an average year in the early part of the 20th century,” Holland says.

And so it goes, we are told we can’t trust the conclusions drawn from the data by the very government making the conclusions. More truth and trust issues don’t you think…

Leon Hale speaks of the silence of the lonely country…

The things you hear in the lonely country silence | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

WINEDALE — On the front porch again at the old country house in Washington County, on a quiet and calm day that’s not as hot as the calendar says it ought to be.It’s midafternoon and the feed-store thermometer hanging on a rusty nail by the front door hasn’t reached 90 degrees yet. So it’s 88 and that’s hot, but it’s nothing against the heat we usually get as we move into August.

No wind again. This entire year of weather, so far, has seemed calm to me. Even when we were having all that rain, we didn’t get a lot of wind with it.

Right now I can’t find a leaf moving in the woods that surround this old house. In what I think of as normal times, the wind produces the predominant noise here in the country. Breezes stirring the trees. Branches scraping on the tin roof. Metal gates popping against their latches.

When those sounds are missing, their places are taken by minor ones I don’t notice on windy days. I can hear the wing clutter of a cardinal out at the bird feeder. The zoom of a hummingbird at the far end of the porch.

I think we have all heard the loudness of a silent day, I know I have. It is loudest when we  pay attention to what we don’t hear. I can remember many an afternoon on the front porch of my Grandparent’s small “ranch” in the South Texas brush country. The two hundred acres of brush, cactus, and cultivated fields were just a county or two from the border farms of my Grandfather’s childhood. The still heat of a summer afternoon whiled away on the old church pew there with a glass of iced tea and a good book while Grandpa took his after lunch siesta…The cicadas in the mesquite, the collared lizards basking under the edge of the porch, even the buzzards riding the thermals above all seemed to be awaiting the return of the wind with the afternoons winding down…There was a quietness on those long, hot, dry afternoons that seemed to shout out loud.

When the heat would begin to get the best of me, I’d take myself down to the tank and find that layer of water about three feet under the surface where the temperature seemed to stay 6o° all year round. Our south Texas place had two tanks on it, the larger about a quarter mile from the house through the brush was where I spent many an afternoon staying cool that summer and fall. The year was 1971. Life was good.

A lot of what I am today comes from that summer and fall as I helped move my Grandparents from the upper coast down to the brush country where Grandpa had acquired his dream place for deer hunting. That fall was also my introduction to deer hunting for myself. I followed that family tradition of and on for the next six or seven years before giving up the gun and using a camera to hunt with. I am sure my success rate was terrible. I only remember less than a handful of actual deer put in the freezer. Grandma herself did better, and she hunted from the front window of the ranch house…

Enough for today…Time to go get radiated…

The footsteps in my mind…people I remember…

We carry with us these footprints of vanished places: apartments we moved out of years ago, dry cleaners that went out of business, restaurants that stopped serving, neighborhoods where only the street names remain the same.

Verlyn Klinkenborg – Remembered Spaces – New York Times

Today’s number is 24…One of the oddities of these treatments is the way they burn the throat. That has led to a change in breaking the morning fast…I find that one of the things that really helps ease the soreness is having grits for breakfast. I can hear all of you northerners groaning all the way down here on the Texas coast…Grits! Yuk! I’m going to gross ya out even more…I have been eating “Instant” Grits…Yes, ground up hominy. Corn soaked in rye lye (thanks Fred…see comments) till it swells up, dried and then ground into meal, cooked then dried again…just add water or milk and microwave until dead…What a quick breakfast with absolutely no nutritional value. But it speaks to my sharecropper roots.

Email Time…

My other hobby (you know besides blogging) is genealogy. Family history research…There is nothing like thumbing through 100-200 year old, dust covered, oversized bound record books looking for something on ancestors who had a hard time even spelling their names the same over the course of their life. One of the things I always liked about doing this research is the wandering through the basements of old 19th century courthouses pulling the old deed books out and trying to decipher the ancient handwriting in the faded ink. I have a couple of favorite courthouses scattered across the nation, most in Texas but a couple in Indiana, that I try to stop in at whenever I am in the neighborhood.

One of my favorite stories relates to the Marriage License to the left, it was issued to my paternal grandparents in 1902. When I stopped by the courthouse in 1997 to see about getting a photocopy of the record in the courthouse records the clerk asked if I would like the original if they still had it. Of course I said yes and they did so now I do. It seems that in those days when the Marriage License had been recorded they held it until the couple came by to pick it up, it wasn’t mailed. Needless to say my Grandparents never went to the courthouse and picked up their copy of the official document.

Not to long ago I signed up with one of the big name genealogy sites to access their data. The easiest way to do that is by uploading your own data and letting them search it on line. Since I already have a site with my data on the internet I did not make this batch public…they still search it and if someone wants, the provider will forward a message on their behalf requesting additional info. Every time I get one of these messages I reply with a link to my genealogy site. A lot of time the person requesting the info on a name in my data is looking for someone else of the same name…sometimes they actually are cousins, far removed in time and blood. I probably average a dozen or so of these requests a month and they help to keep the interest up in a hobby that has reached a bunch of brick walls while I wait for new databases to come online.

Time to move for the day…later.