Art and Life Say “Howdy” and Shake

I hadn’t meant to linger, but when Hazel caught me just outside the post office doors, there was nothing for it but to say good morning and fold up the to-do list.  Like everyone in town, I knew the truth Hazel freely confessed. She came to the post office as much for the socializing as for stamps, and when she bumped into you, she expected to be humored.

That day, it was my turn.  We covered her loss at the weekly domino party (“they cheated”), the small size of her figs (“not near enough rain”) and the relative merits of oilcloth versus paper table coverings at a picnic. She’d just begun dissecting the virtues and faults of her grand-daughter’s new boyfriend (“polite enough, but not much use on a tractor”) when a fellow I recognized but didn’t know by name parked his truck and ambled up the sidewalk.

Hazel fairly beamed. “Harlan!” she said. “Why aren’t you out with them cows?” Harlan just grinned. “Now, why would I be spendin’ time with a bunch of old cows when I can come here and spend time with you?” Turning my direction, Harlan touched the brim of his hat with a finger. “Mornin’, ma’am.”

Hazel always remembered her manners. “Have you met this young lady?” “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure,” Harlan said. “I sure haven’t. We’ve howdied, but we ain’t shook yet. Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” The introductions made, we proceeded to shake hands, right then and there.

A pleasant “howdy” and a firm handshake are as much a part of Texas as bluebonnets and longhorns. There’s the hat-tipping “howdy” of respect, the friendly, fingers-still-attached-to-the-steering-wheel  waved “howdy” and the bellowed-with-pleasure from the porch “howdy” when unexpected company arrives. The ladies, more genteel, sometimes content themselves with a “how do”, but the intent is the same – a gracious, welcoming acceptance of friend and stranger alike.

Handshakes are a little more formal, but they’re just as friendly. Introduced to someone you’ve only seen coming and going at the school? It’s time to shake hands. Invited to join a table of folks at lunchtime? Handshakes all around. Handshakes never are out of place, whether you’ve run into an acquaintance on the street, come into the feed store for alfalfa or are taking leave of your doctor.

In Texas, more business deals than you might imagine still are sealed with a handshake. In a world where a person’s word is their bond, a handshake is all that’s needed to signify that promises made will be promises kept.

As I grew accustomed to seeing agreements reached with no more than a handshake, I took up the practice myself, slowly accepting the gesture as a natural part of life and giving it little thought. Then, I bumped into those stone cabins in Oklahoma. Just outside Coalgate, they might have been built as housing for miners or railroad workers.  It’s possible they were vacation cabins for the nearby lake, or an early version of a motel. Today, they seem to be providing affordable housing in an area where there’s not much housing to be had.

Whatever their provenance or present use, they were delightful. The smallest cabin, set apart just slightly from the others, clearly wasn’t ready for move-in. It had some advantages – a good roof to counterbalance the missing windows and some great vines twining over the stone walls – but I found its appealing aura of comfort and welcome focused in the carving above the door. It was a handshake, after all – a perfect representation of all I’d come to experience as “home”.

Completely entranced, I couldn’t help expressing my feelings about the little cabin once I’d come home.

Above the battered door, a carved stone lintel betokened human presence: friendship and welcome, affection, familial bonds.  Beautiful and unexpected, it brought tears to my eyes and unexpected longing to my heart. I wanted that cabin.
Granted, it might not be the best place to live, with a highway running only fifty feet from the front door. Certainly it lacked a few amenities – window glass and a floor, just for starters.  But the roof looked good and the thick, compacted vines running along the sides and back of the place would help keep the stones in place as the mortar crumbled away. Walking around the building, I pondered.
No, I thought, not a home. But maybe a fine place to write. Under the spell of those clasped hands I imagined table and chairs, a coffee pot.  In the silence I dreamed the burble of vine-wrens and the soughing of tires on pavement. Sniffing the air, I caught not merely the dust and dessication of early autumn drought but the fragrance of leather-bound books purchased at farm sales, and the scent of fresh-mown hay.

In the days that followed, I imagined myself to death about my discovery.  I imagined what it would take to fix the windows. I imagined where I would cook. I imagined where I’d plant the tomatoes and which flowers I’d choose. Eventually, I found myself imagining Dixie Rose prowling the place in terror, or taking off down the road. At that point, reason took over and shooed imagination out the door.  In the end it was just as well, because I never could have imagined what came next.

While I was traveling north through Oklahoma, a blogging friend named June was living the good life, ranching on the Texas plains. Her blog was filled with things I enjoy: cattle, the daily routines of rural life, the beauty of the natural world around her. In Texas terms, we’d “howdied” – exchanged blog visits, commented back and forth and generally enjoyed reading about the similarities and differences in our lives – even though we’d never met.

Through the worst of last year’s drought, as she grieved over her dying trees and struggled to keep the herd healthy, I watched cattle leave, watched new cattle arrive and watched the rhythms of ranch life bend to the forces of nature. In the process, my admiration for the remarkable people we call farmers and ranchers grew substantially.

I learned a good bit about June through those months, including the fact that she likes to paint. One day, an email arrived. She’d enjoyed my post about the trip through Oklahoma, and was herself quite taken with the cabin.  She wondered if I’d mind sending along a larger version of the photo, so she could paint it. The thought of someone painting from one of my photos was delightful, and I sent it along with pleasure.

Time passed, and I forgot about June’s project until another email arrived. Would I mind very much, she wondered, if she were to take the “For Rent” sign out of the painting? That caught my attention. Of course I didn’t mind, but in an email, I expressed my curiosity. Why should it make a difference to me whether the sign remained in the painting?

The answer was simple. Since I couldn’t move into the cabin, the cabin was moving in with me. Having said I wanted that cabin, I was to have it. June intended to send me the completed painting.  Astonished as I was, I couldn’t help laughing at this latest example of an old Texas truth. As we like to say, “what goes around, comes around”.  In this case, my experience of the cabin, expressed in words and photographs, was coming back around, transformed into canvas and paint by another Texas artist. 

Now, the painting is here, hanging in a place of honor. Eventually, wood from an old, cherished Texas barn will become its frame. Then, since I still have the phone number from the “For Rent” sign, I’ll send a photo of the painting and a copy of my blog entries to the owner of the cabin, and the circle will be complete.

Looking at the painting now, I have to smile. June and I have howdied, but we ain’t shook yet – that day has yet to come. But in my road trip with its photos and words, in her painting and her canvas, in the giving and receiving, art and life have howdied and shook. Those clasped hands above the door say as much, and I’ll never doubt them.

No, ma’am. Nossir. Not once.

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Published in: on April 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm  Comments (89)  
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89 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I remember that post so well. I believe the image of that one photograph brings me back. Such an eloquent relief over such a(n) humble abode. How lovely and wonderful that someone was inspired to paint it.

    You conjure up memories of that Aggie handshake. Never forgotten by the one who received it.
    Yes, I’m still so glad I live in TX.

    • georgette,

      The love of beauty and the need for self-expression show up in some amazing places. I’ve loved thinking about the people who placed that lintel stone above the door – what meaning it had for them, and how much pleasure it must have given. Wouldn’t they be amazed to know people around the world have seen their work?

      When I first moved to Texas, one of my first social occasions included a woman who was a rancher. She had one of the strongest handshakes I’d ever experienced, and she noticed mine. “You always shake hands like that?” she asked. A little sheepishly, I said I did. “Good,” she said. “You’ll do fine here.” And I have.

      Linda

  2. Linda, I have to admit I have a few tears at the moment. Maybe they come from knowing someone else understands Texas as I see it. Texas life is not necessarily easy, but the foundation is based on one of the most important values I hold dear, and that is a person’s respected word. We have been blessed. When an old timer is asked for a reference of someone, the most valuable one is, “He’s a good man.” That says it all. Thank you with all my heart.

    • June,

      Out of curiosity, I did the calculations and discovered I’ve lived in Texas over half my life – 34 years! I’ve lived in different places around the state and I’ve done different things. In the process, I’ve become convinced that, transplant or native, a Texan’s a special breed.

      I don’t think Texans are better than other people. On the other hand, I don’t think we’re worse. We get out of step with the rest of the country now and then, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In any event, many of the values I hold dear are deeply embedded in the cultures of the state, and I’m comfortable here. It’s home.

      I knew you’d like the post. I hope you like it as much as I like your painting. ;)

      Linda

  3. In my father’s time a long, long ago, the deals were also formalized with a handshake. You could die, but you could never go back on your word after it had been sealed with a handshake. Days gone by. Currently you need an army of lawyers and a truckful of contracts to fulfill your word.

    Thank you for such a tasteful post about life in Texas. Yes ma’am, I really enjoyed it, as well as all your previous writings.

    I tip my hat to you ma’am,

    God Bless,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      Your father and my father were honorable men, living in a time when a man’s word and his honor meant something. Of course there were scoundrels and crooks, people who cheated and people who lied – even my own family had an example or two of bad behavior.

      But the simplicity and straightforwardness of an honorable life was in many ways its own reward – and still is, though fewer recognize it.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and that’s a fine hat tip you gave. I’m much obliged. ;)

      Linda

  4. Linda,

    I have never forgotten that little cabin and the story you wrote. I never forgot the photo and it has been in my brain ever since. I wanted to make it a art studio!

    Can you image my delight when I read this story! I got goosebumps and tears of joy. I love all your stories but I think I love this one the best so far!

    What goes around comes around and the handshake can seal the deal. What is there not to love?

    Thank you so much and I will share your joy in that painting. As a painter myself, you can see the love that went into that piece of Art.
    Love it, love it, love it.

    Patti

    • Patti,

      See? You’re helping to prove that the values are what matter, not the place. I love Texas because I found the same values here that I grew up with in Iowa – expressed differently, but still recognizable. You know the same values from Arkansas, and now you’re living them out in Florida. What goes around, comes around, indeed.

      I remember you saying how much you’d love the cottage as a painting studio. A friend here in Houston took one look and wanted it as a playhouse for her grandchildren. She said it felt to her like a fairy-tale house. Of course it does – what’s more fairy-tale like than a house in the middle of nowhere, stumbled across by accident and then taking on a life of its own through photography, writing and paint? We couldn’t have done so well if we’d had a magic wand!

      On the other hand – maybe that love you mentioned is the magic wand.

      Linda

  5. I, too, was reaching for a tissue as I read this. You have a special knack for bringing forth that which is true, good, beautiful, solid, worthwhile, etc.

    • NumberWise,

      Your comment reminds me of a bit of advice offered centuries ago by St. Paul. He was writing to the church in Philippi, and at the end of his letter he suggested, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

      A person doesn’t have to be Christian to recognize the wisdom in those words. Given the state of our politics and culture right now, there are plenty of opportunities for tongue-clucking and criticism, not to mention hatchet-jobs and polarizing rhetoric.

      Me? I’d rather focus on the good and the beautiful. If anyone wants more of the scandal du jour, it ought to be easy enough to find.

      Besides, I just had to find a way to say a proper thank you to June. It’s not everyone who’s blessed with such a gift!

      Linda

  6. I remember that post, and I remember, too, thinking afterwards how irresistible that cabin was. What a fine “next chapter” this is in the story of the cabin (I was going to say happy ending, but I’m suspecting there will be more to come).

    • Susan,

      More to come? Perhaps. Who knows? The trick, I’ve discovered, is to let things unfold as they will. There’s a wonderful quotation from the Tao Te Ching to the effect that, “In Springtime, the grass grows by itself”.

      As indeed it has.

      Linda

      • You are so right about this (as is the Tao Te Ching)!

  7. I enjoyed your story very much! It’s good to know that there are still folks about who think that things as simple a tiny cabin and a handshake are important.

    • montucky,

      Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate two qualities in life: the ordinary, and what I call the “human scale”. Now, I can’t quite tell you what I mean by those terms, although I can identify them when they show up. In this case, that cabin and those handshakes both qualify.

      The irony, of course, is that the cabin’s become quite extraordinary, and its handshake’s quite a grand gesture. I’ll be smiling about that for a long time to come.

      Linda

  8. Who could forget that post? Not me. This is just the best kind of story. What a wonderful gift. It seems you did get that cabin after all.

    • Bella Rum,

      I surely did get that cabin – in the most wonderful way possible. I was sitting here looking at the painting this morning and thought about all the elements that played into this: Mom’s death, Princess coming into my life, the decision to go to Iowa the “long way around” on unknown roads.

      Even the paying attention and the willingness to stop were important. Yesterday, I was talking to a woman who lives in the area of Nash Prairie. She drives the road that fronts it on a regular basis. I understand how she could miss the prairie, but she said she’s never seen the goat. Amazing.

      I’ll bet that goat would like the cabin, too. ;)

      Linda

  9. Oh what a fantastic story! I do so love this one!!!

    • Bayou Woman,

      I’m not surprised you like it, BW. Change a few details – cypress wood instead of red stone, a bayou out front instead of a highway, a slightly different dialect – and you could find the very same kind of story playing out in your neighborhood.

      Good folks are good folks wherever we find them – and thank goodness for that!

      Linda

  10. What a lovely trip I got to take with you! Your descriptions and the photos made me long to be there. Those cabins are lovely. They look perfectly set in nature as though they’ll be there forever. And what a lovely gift to receive as a remembrance!

    • Snoring Dog Studio,

      “Remembrance” is the perfect word. “Memento” certainly wouldn’t do, nor “souvenir”. When I look at the painting of the cabin, it evokes the whole sweep of the experience, rather than a “thing”, and I’ve never doubted that the best memories are of experiences. (The worst, too, of course – but that’s a whole different post!)

      I do wish now I’d checked to see if the utensil drawer’s stuck!

      Linda

  11. What a fantabulous story, Linda, from beginning to end, from the first post to this one, and from what is to come. Surely you will update us when that happens. You and June will definitely meet one day!

    • Ginnie,

      Slowly, slowly I’m learning the lesson: time and money don’t necessarily the best travel make. Like you, I have a sense this journey isn’t quite over, but I’m willing to just hang around and see what happens. I’ve even got a soundtrack for the waiting – it’s been on my mind since all this started, and I might as well roll it out for your pleasure now. Those old folks do tend to be right about things!

      Linda

  12. Howdy from Cowtown! We were the host city of the 1988 Winter Olympics, and our two mascots were Hidy and Howdy. As much as we love our Western greetings though, they’re only limited to Stampede time… the first two weeks of July. Mind you, business takes over cowboy culture, so a handshake is best as always.

    Now, that’s an amazing rendition of the cabin. I do remember your post of that trip. While it’s life-like and most skillfully done, but shh… I miss that ‘For Sale’ sign, the interesting focal point of your (Norman) Rockwellian photo. ;)

    • Arti,

      Those mascots are more than cute. I’m not quite able to imagine them actually saying “Howdy”, but I think I’d be willing to shake their hand no matter what they said.

      I really don’t know – does cowboy culture still exist there, or has everyone moved out to the oil patch? I suspect there aren’t many handshake deals being made out there these days.

      I do love the photo with the “for sale” sign. On the other hand, I have an explanation for why it disappeared from the painting. Whether June intended this, I can’t say, but it makes sense she wouldn’t include it – not after I’ve so firmly moved in! ;)

      Linda

  13. Great story – you captured the feeling: of cabin, people, and area. I also remember when handshakes meant an agreement that would be honored. The handshake design over the door is wonderful. That itself would be a nice piece to have hanging around. Nice read

    • phil,

      I suspect that stone over the door is “found art” – found in an old stonecarver’s yard, or a cemetery, or who knows where. On that same trip north, I stopped at a couple of cemeteries just because I’m fond of the things, and noticed in one there were portions of old stones in a small pile. If I’d find that stone in a pile, I’d take it home.

      Buried in the comments to the previous post is some discussion about what that handshake meant. It’s the symbol for the International Order of Odd Fellows, for one thing – perhaps it was meant originally for a member’s grave. Hard to say.

      Glad you enjoyed the story – I’ve certainly enjoyed living it!

      Linda

  14. Oh Linda! You had me holding my breath for a bit till the end… I thought for just a moment or two that you were going to tell me they bulldozed the place in favor of a strip mall or something!

    The final reveal was very heartwarming and brought a sigh of relief, as well as tears to my eyes. What a lovely gift!

    ~ Lynda

    • Lynda,

      If I ever discover that cabin’s been bulldozed for any reason, I don’t think I could bring myself to write about it. I’m not worried about strip malls, though – trust me on that. The cabins are living on a true bend in the road, a good ways from anywhere.

      Now that I think about it, that makes me laugh. On my About page, under “favorites”, I’ve noted that my favorite place to be is “a hundred miles from anywhere”. That cabin comes pretty close to fitting the category, if you’re willing to define “anywhere” pretty loosely.

      “Heartwarming” is a good word, and the gift is marvelous. Maybe it’s truth and beauty shaking hands, up above that doorway.

      Linda

  15. I don’t understand Texas, neither do I know anything about it that would give it a soul for me here, an old European in old Europe (never mind that I live in the UK which is hardly Europe to my mind) but I do know about the value of a handshake and the value of a ‘welcome and sit you down awhile’.

    You wrote a gorgeous and deeply sincere essay about the warmth one human has for another and how we can be friends across time and space.

    Talking of handshakes: I once stuck my hand out in warm welcome to a member of my husband’s family – an Englishman living in New England. He stared at it for what seemed a long time, before ignoring it altogether and saying hello. Can you imagine what that felt like?

    • friko,

      If you come to Texas, you’ll find places and experiences that would make you think you’re back in Germany! There’s quite a German heritage in the state – a living heritage, I might add.

      One of my favorite Texans, years ago, was a woman in her 90s whose parents came to Texas by ship. They landed at Indianola before the hurricanes wiped it off the map and Galveston became the primary port. They walked across the prairie with an ox-cart, and as a very young child, she went to town every Saturday to sell eggs, learning the English language along the way.

      Even today, a lot of Texans mean German/English when they say “bi-lingual”. There are churches around the state that still conduct worship in German. One that takes it seriously is in Houston – you can read about it here. They like a little Germanic influence in their music programs, too – they’re home to Houston’s Bach Society.

      The story of the Wends in Texas is equally fascinating. When they assimilated here, it was into the German community!

      I tell you what – if you ever come over here, I’ll take you to Oma’s Haus for dinner, and then we’ll go around and let you shake hands with a whole passle of folks. I can guarantee you that no one will stand there and look at you like that fellow did. That wouldn’t be neighborly, at all.

      Linda

      • I had no idea that Texas is part of the great emigration trail from Germany and German speakers. Thank you so much for this elucidation and your very warm-hearted and welcoming words. I looked up the article on the Wends; a German writer, a Sorb from the Lausitz, wrote a semi-autobiographical trilogy on life in the area since the WWI, which has become famous in Germany as a TV series with the title “Der Laden”. Some of his family emigrated to the States, i remember.

        I’d love to visit Texas and many other parts of the States; this blogworld has opened, and is opening so many eyes to the lives of people all over the world. We are making friends in places we never expected.

        What does Oma serve? I must go and have a look at your link.

        • Oma’s Haus would be a very bad idea for me! I see that there are plenty of German dishes with stars, denoting original recipes, but not a single one with a heart for healthier dishes.

          Sauerkraut und Eisbein! Schnitzels galore, potato cakes (Reibekuchen), now we’re talking!

          • Actually, Oma’s Haus is a bit of a let’s-cater-to-the-tourist place. For real history and much better food, Fredericksburg is the place to go. Check out the menu at Der Lindenbaum. It’s interesting, too, that the ancient Germanic custom of Easter fires was a part of Fredericksburg life.

        • I’m so accustomed to the German influence on life here, I hardly think of it. In Kerrville, I shopped at the Schreiner department store. One of my favorite dishes, King Ranch casserole, is named after the enormous cattle ranch that spreads over Kleberg (and other) Counties. I have a fondness for Shiner beer, including Shiner bock, and have a German immigrant brewmaster named Kosmas Spoetzl to thank for it.

          I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just give you one more link, to the history of Germans in Texas. When you have an extra ten minutes, I think you’ll enjoy it!

          Linda

  16. Has it been five months already? When you began to ease meaning out of your magical little cabin, we were only beginning to ease out of the horrid drought. In this greener season your new essay reminds me of a movie fantasy called “The Enchanted Cottage,” starring Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young, which was released in the significant year of 1945. If you’re not familiar with the film, you can find information about it here and here.

    But back to your new take on the story you began spinning in November. Your emphasis on the significance of the handshake in Texas (which I see I moved to two years before you did) prompted me to do some more delving into the symbolism of clasped hands carved on tombstones. The best Internet site I found this time is:

    http://genealogyjourno.wordpress.com/headstone-symbolism/headstone-symbolism-clasped-hands/

    At another site I came across a poem by Robert Frost, “In a Disused Graveyard,” that plays upon the way in which the living clasp the dead, and the dead the living. The poem, which was new to me and perhaps will be to you and your readers as well, is short enough to quote here:

    The living come with grassy tread
    To read the gravestones on the hill;
    The graveyard draws the living still,
    But never anymore the dead.
    The verses in it say and say:
    “The ones who living come today
    To read the stones and go away
    Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
    So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
    Yet can’t help marking all the time
    How no one dead will seem to come.
    What is it men are shrinking from?
    It would be easy to be clever
    And tell the stones:
    Men hate to die
    And have stopped dying now forever.
    I think they would believe the lie.

    • Steve,

      So much new here to appreciate! I’d not heard of the film – I very much enjoyed the reviews I found, and the trailer. One of the nicest videos I discovered is a fan tribute which makes the film seem well worth watching.

      I have a vague memory of the Frost poem – perhaps I heard it quoted elsewhere, or came across it in an anthology. It certainly captures well the multiple mysteries floating about in graveyards, particularly with that beautifully ambiguous, final “they”. The title’s intriguing, too – when does a graveyard cease being “used”?

      The juxtaposition of enchantment and graves reminds me of a strange and remarkable experience I had years ago, long after a good friend’s death. I believe I’ll put telling that story on my to-do list – “The Enchanted Grave” would be the perfect title.

      Linda

      • Here’s a coincidence: Turner Classic Movies is showing The Enchanted Cottage at 11:45 Central Time tonight.

        • Oh, whoops. Missed that! On the other hand, I would have missed it anyway, since I tossed out the television some time ago.
          But all’s not lost – I happen to have checked with my library, and they have a copy just waiting for me.

          • I thought I remembered that you don’t have a television, but I went ahead and mentioned the movie on the cable network in order to point out the synchronicity, and in case a reader with cable television happened to notice.

            • And I thank you for that! ;)

  17. You make me want to pack up now and move to Texas ;-)

    • nikkipolani,

      We’ve got a phrase for that, too – “Ya’ll come!” And if you don’t move here (which would be a wise move) but only come to visit, we’ll say, “Ya’ll come back now, y’hear?”

      Just remember – Tyler, Texas, is famous for roses.

      Linda

      • Yes, it most definitely is! I visited friends in San Antonio and San Marcos a couple years ago. Some of the nicest people ever.

  18. This post is like a soft old quilt around my heart. A magical cabin, a beautiful painting, an incredible friend. I just have to sit and bask in this one for a while. Thank you, Linda.

    • Moonbeam,

      Aren’t we lucky, to have such experiences? I’d do lunch at the Algonquin with you and Dorothy any day, of course – but I do believe if I were forced to chose, the cottage would be “it”. Who knows? Maybe she’d enjoy it, too.

      Pull that quilt a little tighter and bask in your new fame!

      Linda

  19. A note to other readers: Because Linda isn’t active in the art marketing world, there’s one thing she may not understand at the moment. I specifically asked permission to do an oil painting from her personal photograph, and she graciously allowed me to do that. She did not restrict how I could use the painting. I chose to gift the painting to her, without withholding copyright. It is signed.

    Therefore, Linda, you own the exclusive copyright free and clear. Your knowledge and words have enriched my life in a priceless way, and I’m positive I’m not the only reader that feels this way. It’s my way of saying thank you for being you.

    • June,

      I was talking this afternoon with another artist, and she expanded on what you’ve said here. It certainly is true there’s much I don’t know about the complexities of copyright in the art world! Another friend has worked from a photo site specifically developed for artists – very interesting, indeed.

      My only decision now is the frame. I’d thought to use the old barnwood, but a woodworking friend up in the Hill Country has some cherry left over from a tree I knew personally, so that’s a possibility, too. It will be fun to ponder for a bit.

      Just remember what Oscar Wilde said: “Be yourself. Everyone else already is taken.”

      Linda

  20. I have finally gotten around to reading your two latest entries here and most of the comments. There are so many interesting ideas and pictures that I had to skip to the ending.

    Regarding the last two comments I read before i started pecking at the keyboard: I know nothing about copyright but I think it hardly applies now that we use internet so much. I can view movies, videos, pictures and read well written articles at this terminal and never scratch the surface of what is available. That’s why I come back here and to WU to get the information that has passed through the “interesting” filter by folks I’ve seen to be capable.

    On my WU blog I will post a picture of a painting (Is that infinite regression or just alliteration?) of a painting the daughters commissioned of this house while we were working overseas.

    • Ken,

      Actually, copyright does apply. It’s true that it’s difficult/impossible to keep people from swiping stuff, but people who do it with no ill intent generally are willing to just remove it from their sites. People who are “scraping” from others in order to make money are a little harder to deal with, but it can be done.

      Sad to say, the rule is “if you don’t want it stolen, don’t post it on the internet”. I’ve thought long and hard about that a couple of times – and the day may come when I choose not to post something in order to publish it elsewhere. But we’re not there yet.

      I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase “infinite regression”. It sounds math-ish. Despite that, I’ll look forward to seeing the photo!

      Linda

      • I tried to post some photos of “Infinite Regression” on my blog but Wu photo people would not go along. You need(at least) two mirrors and an eye or camera in between. When you get the two mirrors near parallel you can see repeated images retreating into the middle distance. I’ll email you the pictures I sent to the grandkids I used to hold up in the bathroom sink and swing the wing mirrors so they could see themselves regressing

        • The photos showed what I’d envisioned, although not so clearly. It really is an interesting phenomenon. There’s a video of Fred Astaire dancing that shows the same thing. I’ll try and find it again – it was tucked into some strange nook or cranny over at youtube.

          • I remember that kind of infinite regression from my childhood: the local barber shop had mirrors on opposite walls, so when I was sitting in one of the barber’s chairs I could see receding copies of myself.

            • Look at this, from Berlin. I get vertiginous looking at the photo. It’s from the Reichstag dome – the context is here.

            • Thanks. I’d have played with those mirrors if I’d been there.

  21. What a lovely story! I can see why the cabin inspired you!

    We don’t say Howdy over here but we do shake hands!

    • Juliet,

      The nature of “polite greetings” is really quite interesting. When I was in Liberia, the handshake was the greeting of choice, but it’s a complex handshake that involves much finger-snapping. It was hard to learn! There’s a pretty good video here.

      I imagine I could get by in your country without quite so much effort!

      Linda

  22. What a great story!! I love the painting – & the handshake. Another example of blogging bringing people together instead of isolating them…

    • Bug,

      When you get right down to it, the internet is just another tool, and every tool in the world can be used for good or for ill. A hammer can pound a nail, smash through a shop window, defend against threat or serve as a paperweight – it all depends on whose hand controls that hammer!

      Linda

  23. Hi from Ecuador!
    What a great story! I look forward to exploring more of your blog!
    Lisa/Z

    • zeebradesigns,

      Welcome! I’m so glad you liked the story. I’m fascinated by people, their lives and the creative process – I hope you’ll find more here to enjoy, and of course you’re always welcome.

      Now that I think of it, that statue I’ve pictured at the top probably would be recognizable to your chagras. A cowboy’s a cowboy, after all, whatever the differences!

      Linda

  24. hey! yes, a cowboy’s a cowboy, and here in ecuador the pace of life reminds me of my early years in the mississippi delta! my path to ecuador was a long and meandering one! i grew up along the river in bolivar county, so reading your ‘muddy waters’ post was like a trip back home!
    i am presently losing a small battle with the local municipality over the loss of some mangroves, and i wish that i could force those folks to read ‘rising tide.’
    reading your posts is a balm. thanks! z

    • zeebradesigns,

      My goodness, it really is true that “you never can tell”. I loved Mississippi nearly as much as I love Texas and Louisiana, and the “nearly as much” is due only to a lack of knowledge and experience. I expect to rectify that lack some day.

      Bolivar County is terrifically interesting – there’s the flood and the music, of course, but also the history of the plantations, the daily life of the river and the marvelous people still there who are the living links to the past. One of my favorite photos from that trip to Clarksdale shows me with a homeowner I stopped to visit with – he was out tending his roses, and was more than willing to share stories of the levee break. When I go back, I might even take him a rose bush.

      That fight you speak of is going on everywhere – the need to save wetlands, woodlands, water. Even if we lose, the fight needs to go on!

      Linda

      • hey, thanks linda! my oldest sister grew tearful a dozen years ago when i announced my intention to move full time to costa rica. she asked wouldn’t i ever consider ‘coming home’ again. i smiled and said that an artist had little future in rural bolivar county, and i could take my memories with me wherever i lived. i don’t regret my choices, though i do miss the people that i love.
        for a few years i lived in clarksdale, and i am glad you had an enriching visit there. sounds like natchez!
        thanks again for your feedback! looks like you have a great life, as do i. we’re lucky; who could ask for more?!
        z

        • Who could ask for more? Not me!

  25. so nice to read of her kindness and see her talent. oh, how i wish i could sketch. i have so many talented relatives, including our daughter and matthew who can draw nearly anything with no effort.

    i smiled while reading of the gentleman at the beginning and his southern charm. his kind of graciousness is a talent like displayed by gregory peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. (i also remembered how i used to love to sit for hours listening to the recounting of life gone by from elderly people. it’s been too long since i’ve had one of them spin me a yarn). enjoyed this so much.

    • sherri,

      We all have our talents – clearly, one of yours is photography. But like you, I often wish I could sketch. It seems like magic to me when I watch an artist at work. Classes might help, but I have my doubts. Flashcards and assorted tricks with fingers and toes were supposed to make arithmetic easy for me, too. It didn’t happen.

      People sometimes imagine southern charm, gentlemanliness, to be an affectation. It isn’t. There are customs, conventions – a kind of “social dance” if you will – but everyone enjoys it as much as a Saturday night at the dance hall. I was uncomfortable at first, being addressed as “ma’am”. I got over it, to the point that I’ll say “Thank you, ma’am” to the checker at the grocery without a thought. Likewise, “sir”.

      In some circles, even “please” and “thank you” still are acceptable, and I thank you for stopping by!

      Linda

  26. My, what a delightful post all in all to read and savor and enjoy the fine images. Our howdys are a one-finger salute above the steering wheel (uh, the index finger), and nod of the head, and sometimes handshakes. There aren’t many handshakes around here.

    “How’s the weather your way?” is the most common salutation. I sure enjoyed the descriptive howdys you wrote about. Fine storytelling. I just love the landscape and cow munching photos! And oh, what a lovely cabin painting! I am so charmed and I just love it. :)

    • Anna,

      I laughed at your “clarification” of your salute. There are plenty of those other kind on the Houston freeways – unfortunately.

      I’ve bumped into some posts recently that were expressing various degrees of irritation with folks who insist on talking about the weather. This amazes me – I love the variabililty of the weather, and love talking about it. There are common weather salutations here, too. “Think it’ll rain?” is a good one, as is “Hot enough for you?” There are a lot of folk expressions that can bring a smile, too – like “So dry the trees are begging the dogs to stop by”. ;)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Combining photography and paint – what could be more fun?

      Linda

  27. There are those travel ads that promote Texas as “a whole nother country,” which is neither an idle boast nor hyperbole, but firmly rooted in historical fact. Not surprisingly, we have our own rites and customs.

    You have a good ear for spoken language, and the dialect of our “Nother Country” truly has to be heard to be appreciated. Don’t know if “fixin’ to” (meaning “about to commence to begin to start doing) is limited to the Panhandle or is state wide. A fine example of this usage would be in the expression “I’m fixin’ to goat th’ house,” One of my favorite figures of speech had to do with a man’s wife who was incensed about the exfoliation of her flower beds by a neighbor’s dog. Her husband described her as “spitting shingles and dragging fence.”

    Up here in the flatlands, we don’t get so much “how” in our “howdy.” We pronounce it “haddy” to rhyme with “daddy.” Last week, it got up to 101 F here, which made it officially, “Hotter’n a $2 pistol firin’ uphill.” I fear we are in for a long, hot summer.

    • WOL,

      “Fixin’ to” shows up in the Hill Country area and certainly south and west of San Antonio. I’ve heard it in East Texas, too, although not so much. It’s much less common around here, but of course in urban settings there’s quite a mix of folks from other parts of the country, so its relative absence makes sense. It took me a few years and time spent in the country to begin “fixin’ to do” anything!

      I’ve not spent much time in the panhandle, but I’ve been there enough to remember the difference between “howdy” and “haddy”, just as soon as you said it. There are things I don’t pay enough attention to, and automated responses from WordPress are included in that – but I surely did laugh when I discovered the standard greeting they offer to folks subscribing to posts by email is ‘Howdy”. How that happened I’ll never know, but I love it.

      We’ve been without rain here for a week, and you can see people getting twitchy. Last summer imprinted “drought” pretty firmly on the collective psyche. I hope we don’t have to experience that again.

      Linda

    • When I taught in a couple of high schools in Austin from 1976–82, I became aware that in the black English of some of my students the word was phonetically compressed even further, from fixin’ to what sounded to me like fin. The already simplified gonna got even more reduced, so that “I’m gonna tell you” came out sounding like “Ahm uh tell yuh.”

      • I’m just laughing – you’ve raised the ghost of my mother. I usually am “going to the store”, but often I’ll say I’m “gonna” do this or that. She hated it – every time I’d say it, she wouldn’t even look up. She’s just say, “Linda?” and I’d correct myself.

        I can be sloppy with “engine”, too, turning it into “injun”. I can hear her now. “Do you mean Pocahontas, dear?”

        • It’s the nature of language to change, and of words to erode phonetically. We can no more stop the process than we can keep the sand from washing out under our feet when waves come in and out as we stand on the shore. We all say gonna some of the time. We also shorten probably to probly, and I’ve even noticed the increasing presence of prolly.

          In any case, happy laughter to you as you remember your mother’s admonitions.

          • I’m gonna try to be more attentive, too. After all, I wanna talk good!

  28. What a wonderful friend! What a wonderful gift!

    A few weeks before I moved from NC, I received a call from a photographer who, many years earlier, had taken a picture of our barn and the giant flag that hung from the top opening. He relayed the following to me:

    Before he was aware of what was happening that horrible Tuesday morning, he called a fellow photographer about routine business. His friend picked up the phone and said, “I can’t talk. My brother is in the North Tower.”

    Unfortunately, his friend’s brother did not survive the tragedy, and the photographer who phoned me wanted to honor him. He remembered the picture of our barn, and created a composite of it with a young boy in overalls saluting the giant flag to convey to his colleague that his friends from the South were grieving with him.

    Over the years, the photographer gave prints away for charity events. He phoned me for permission to use the picture taken of our property to market cards made from the print, and of course I gave him the OK. I told him of my ties to the NJ/NY area and that my brother had a friend who also died in the Trade Center.

    He sent both my ex and me a beautiful, signed print.

    • Claudia,

      What a touching story. it’s wonderful that you were able to help enable that kind of remembrance – art, in this case, helping to heal life.

      I suppose as long as any of us have our memory we’ll never forget that morning – where we were, what we were doing. We need to remember – and we need to keep saluting those who gave their lives, saved lives and had their lives irrevocably changed by those events.

      I had an aunt living on West 16th at the time. She was a widow and older, and eventually, as things began to settle down a bit, people began trying to convince her to move – back to Iowa, back to her family, and so on. She just laughed. She’d say, “This is a rent controlled apartment I have. No terrorist is going to make me give it up.” And she didn’t.

      Linda

  29. I love this. There is an amazing amount of art traveling around the blogosphere! I have seen it exchanged on quite a few blogs and have bought some myself. The painting is lovely.
    Red.

    • Red,

      When I think of the internet – and the blogosphere which developed here – I can’t help but think of Silverstein’s “Oh, the places you’ll go!” I suspect everyone who’s spent time here has been mightily surprised, and not only by the amount of trolling, spam and nastiness. The world can be a lovely, lovely place – event the cyberworld!

      Linda

      • So very true, Linda. So many people want to subscribe only to the negative, but when you open your eyes, especially in the blogosphere, there is creativity everywhere. It comes in many forms. Beautiful and wrenching poetry, amazing art, fabulous fiction…even in flash snippets, emotion, which on the surface is raw, but is presented with both style and grace.

        I think Shel was right. He would have loved the Internet.
        Red.

  30. I’ve never been to Texas, Linda, but your words and the resulting dialogue with readers has me thinking about it. I might come just for the firm handshakes.

    • bronxboy,

      And you’d be right welcome. Not only would we shake you hand, I’d make everyone promise not to say one word about the weather. Crops, maybe, or the price of hay. But none of that “hot’nuf’for’ya?”
      stuff!

      Linda

  31. What an absolutely amazing and lovely story – reading this took me on a much-needed voyage in the middle of the day. The painting is wonderful.

    • Courtney,

      It is an amazing story, and one I’ll enjoy telling and re-telling. It’s hard to show the painting off to best effect here, but it’s a wonderful interpretation of the photo, which is itself an interpretation of the “real thing”.

      Let’s face it – sometimes this old internet is just flat fun!

      Linda

  32. “We’ve howdied but we ain’t shook yet” is already sitting in my brain, waiting to come out at the first even nearly relevant opportunity.

    • Hippie,

      There are so many colorful sayings in Texas, I can’t begin to list them all. I heard one of my personal favorites for the first time in a line at a box store. A couple of ladies were sharing bits of gossip, and one got especially tickled by what the other said. “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!’ she said. Everyone within hearing distance burst into laughter. She didn’t even blush.

      Linda

  33. Linda I love all your posts but I think this one is your best yet. What a brilliant example of how to write a post about a few handshakes a cottage and thoughtful friend who paints so well (June’s painting is simply perfect!) Brava!

    We all remember your original post about the cottage because it too was so beautifullly written and Steve did all that fascinating research about the hands above the door frame and I’m sure we all half wished you’d have bought the place because we wanted to see inside.

    I lived in Texas for a few years in the 1990′s and loved the warmth of the folks and how people who barely knew us would shake our hand and say “y’all must all come to a cook out next weekend…”

    • Rosie,

      I think part of the enchantment of that “cottage” is that it appeals to so many people. People seem to like “small”, “old” and “mysterious”, and this one has it all. At this point, I’m not sure I’d want to see inside – I suspect a corollary of “you can’t go home again” is “you can’t go home again, even if your home is imaginary”.

      I have learned that the little place originally was the gas station that went with the rest of the cottages. I can see it, with a single pump out front and a couple of chairs for people-watching. Maybe that’s what it should become again – a community gathering place. Not a gas station – maybe a cyber-cafe!

      Linda


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