pile in the car and head across town.
there's the waterpark, we're getting close.
finally, we pull into a shaded dirt driveway.
barbwire fence bordered with iris and draped with climbing vines
past the magnolia tree up to the white-washed house of My great Uncle Roy and Aunt Heitti.
Visiting them was like walking into another world, stepping into a history book, traveling into the past and all of it set in a garden, vast and intimate. unending and private.
They would come out to meet us and we would find our way inside to the historic house, set with rich cherry wood and elegant white furniture, the inside as immaculate as the garden outside. My sister and I would be offered candy from their crystal candy jar. butterscotch and starlight mints. Adults simply don't know the joy of unexpected candy, fortunately grandparents and great-aunts do.
Uncle Roy would look through sky blue eyes back on a time when he rode cattle from the pasture out back, to the stockyard in town. He would tell of old San Antonio and working in his father's meat market. fist-fights with neighbors and sweet picnics with his lovely bride. At ninety, our visits were necessary. If we didn't make our Saturday visit, Uncle Roy would take out his push mower and mow their tremendous yard. Not out of anger or pride, but simply because it needed to be done and his life had never been shirked or lived in helplessness.
Soon, it was time to explore.
A stop at the fig tree, swipe a few figs before Aunt Heitti could holler out the screen door. Chase the chickens pecking around in the coop. Run through the pasture, picturing myself riding cattle into to town with my Uncle Roy. Climb the Magnolia tree up... up...up. Visit all of the secret spots scattered through-out the yard. Shaded corners found only by me.
My parents would call and it was time for the crowning touch of the visit. Dr. Pepper floats around the picnic table. Life was simple and the soda came in small glass bottles.
I saw him years later, frail and weak in his hospital bed. His bride had already left him and you could see the longing look in his eye. His desire to join his love for one more picnic, to leave this shell behind. to ride the trails again.
He is the only cowboy I have every known.