Monday, May 31, 2010

To those who have sacrificed...

On this Memorial Day, as we remember the sacrifices of soldiers on our behalf, I want to remember and thank another group who have made sacrifices.  I want to thank my wife who followed me everywhere without question; and my three beautiful daughters who were repeatedly pulled out of school and away from friends to move across oceans and continents. They went to bed each night knowing of the packed bag sitting in the corner, never sure if Daddy would be there in the morning.  Thank you all for your love and support...I could not have made it without you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Naruna Update

  Anyone who complains of Texas weather being boring, obviously isn't paying very good attention.  It is an often stated "fact" that Texas has only two seasons...Summer and Not Summer.  This is close to being true many years, but there are always those bumps in the graphs which make our lives interesting.
  Last summer passed with records being set for the number of days over 100 degrees, and many of those days set records on their own, with temps of 105-107 and above becoming commonplace.  Surface water dried up, wells faltered, and what grass was left turned to powder and blew away.  As with most hot, dry spells, the summer eventually came to an end.  Instead of the more common deluges and floods we see here in the Hill Country, it ended with a series of small, repeated rounds of rain throughout the fall and into the winter.  Stock tanks filled, low water crossings actually were, and everything took on a greenish hue(often associated with mildew!)   Then, unusually cold weather caused a lot of record utility bills throughout the winter!
  Warm weather came early in the spring, with lots of fruit trees setting buds sooner than most of us wanted to see.  Fortunately, we escaped any late hard freezes which would have affected the fruit.  Now it is the middle of May, and we are enjoying an unseasonably cool spell, with temps in the mid 60s.  Today dawned cool, gray and drippy and is only now beginning to get into the low 70s.  If you still don't believe that our weather affects us all, just drop by Naruna and we can compare electric bills...the one I paid yesterday was almost $350.00 less than what we were seeing in January & February.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Family (re)Connections

In years gone by, families stayed close together. Sons grew up working the land, and either stayed on the home place helping out their parents, or moved onto a piece of property not far removed as they started their own family.  Extended family might be scattered over a couple of counties, but generally weren't too far apart.  With the demands imposed by an agricultural lifestyle (long before there was such a word!), those extended family groups didn't have many opportunities to gather.  Family reunions provided a chance for the family to come together, visit and catch up on the happenings in each other's households, cousins to play together & become reacquainted, and for everyone to sample the special dishes that each housewife was proudest of.

My own family was no different.  Most of the different branches of our clan moved from the Carolinas to Texas sometime in the second half of the 19th century.  It was not one smooth movement, and there were obstacles to overcome along the way.  One such impediment was the War of Northern Aggression which found relatives scattered from Alabama to Louisiana, and on into Texas.  As the family groups trickled into Texas, they settled in the area around Brenham, Chappel Hill, Kenney, and Waller County.  As the families grew and spread, annual reunions, scheduled around the planting and harvesting of crops, were a way to keep up with how everybody was doing.

Fast forwarding to today, much of the world has changed.  For many of us, we are no longer bound to the soil, and have left behind that relative comfort & safety we once experienced when living close to kin.  We have spread, sometimes across continents, and in our high speed world, the idea of "going home" for the purpose of "catching up" and renewing relationships is foreign to us.  We connect instantly via our many electronic toys, and fail to see the need to sit down with each other.  If you don't believe this, corner a teenager and try to have a conversation.

This past weekend, I began the process of trying to undo the last 45 or so years I had neglected those family ties.  College, marriage, children, the army & work had all provided excuses for not being able to attend reunions.  I appeared in Brenham at Fireman's Park with my Lovely Bride in tow, with a cooler full of lemonade, pasta salad & buttermilk pie.  The turn out was light, with most present my age or older, but we were made to feel welcome, especially since we were the first actual "Haleys" to attend the Haley Reunion in many years.  Old photo albums were scrutinized, genealogy charts were reviewed and updated, and friendships begun or renewed.  A sense of excitement could be felt as plans were put in place for next year's gathering.

Sunday morning found us driving out to the rural section of Waller County where I was born and raised.  This was a different group, with most of the attendees still living in the same region.  We were the ones driving the farthest, from our home in the Hill Country, to attend this gathering of a different branch of the family, the Bells.  It was a much more diverse group age wise than we found on Saturday.  Here were the groups of kids playing together, older relatives holding court from their lawn chairs and those in-betweeners circulating from one picnic table to the next, catching up on each other's lives.  I found cousins I went to school with back in the dark ages.  Back then, all we knew was we were related somehow.  With the assemblage of historical knowledge and a couple of books of family trees, we were able to plot out more exactly what is our kinship.

As I sat and listened to these cousins talking, I felt immediately comfortable and at home.  The conversation, whenever we weren't discussing relatives, kept going back to agriculture and their relationship with the land.  Only after listening for awhile was I struck by the difference that a couple hundred miles can make.  In Naruna, everyone has been very thankful for our wet winter and most are very happy with our water status...stock tanks are full, no wells are going dry, and the pastures are green with forage.  In Monaville, the total annual rainfall is much greater, but with corn planted and up, everybody was worried about "the drought" and how it would affect those crops which were in the ground if rain didn't come soon.  When you depend on the land for your livelihood, it's all about timing. 

I'm already making plans for next year, and my kids don't know it yet, but they are included in those plans.  I realized that this was something I missed over the years without knowing it, and enjoyed the chance to rebuild those all important connections with family.  My children have never had the opportunity to form those bonds or to even realize they have an extended family out there waiting to meet and welcome them.