Plato’s Front Porch

Autumn Cypress Along the Rio Frio

We’d left home intending to visit Lost Maples State Natural Area. Because the relatively small pocket of New England-like foliage draws thousands of visitors each year, we’d scheduled a midweek trip, hoping to avoid the hordes of leaf-peepers who descend into the canyon each weekend. To our chagrin, the line of cars waiting to enter the area was substantial, and electronic signs along the road suggested the wait might be longer than an hour.

Not inclined to spend any time in a line, even for maple leaves, we began to wander, plan-less and happy, down one road, then up another: feasting on chicken-fried steak and coconut cream pie, admiring an assortment of rivers and creeks, and exploring old family cemeteries. 

Deciding at last to visit Medina via Ranch Road 337 — part of the so-called “twisted sisters” loop beloved of motorcylists — we were heading north on 187 when we saw the sign. I still was trying to process what I’d read when my friend said, “Did you see that?” I had.

Noticing our reduced speed, she said, “You’re going back, aren’t you?” “Of course I am,” I said. “We can’t convince anyone we actually saw that without some kind of proof.”

By the time I’d stopped the car, my friend was laughing. “I know about highway adoptions, and I know Lost Maples. I know about sheep dip and philosophy. But what in the world is a “Sheep Dip Philosophers and Whittlers Association?” “I don’t know,” I said, “but we’re going to find out. I want to join.”

Asking hill country friends about the sign brought no answers, and a casual internet search turned up nothing of interest. Eventually, the impulse to identify the group faded, but when I came across the photo in my files one day, I decided one more attempt to solve the mystery wouldn’t hurt.

Searching for information on “Texas philosophers” — a term considered by some to be oxymoronic — I made a serendipitous discovery.  A “Philosophical Society of Texas” was established on December 5, 1837, only months after Texas became a Republic.

The twenty-six charter members who gathered in the capitol at Houston included men whose names still resonate. Sam Houston is best known, but residents of Texas, and especially those who drive Houston’s downtown streets, will recognize Wharton, Lamar, Gray, Allen, and Smith. Even those living across Galveston Bay are connected to the Society; Chambers County was named for Thomas Jefferson Chambers, a charter member who served as a Major General in the Texas Revolution.

Their goals were grand. The full text of their “Memorial” can be read here, but these selections give a sense of their intent and the flavor of their language.

We, the undersigned, form ourselves into a society for the collection and diffusion of knowledge, subscribing fully to the opinion of Lord Chancellor Bacon that “knowledge is power.”
Our object more especially at the present time is to concentrate the efforts of the enlightened and patriotic citizens of Texas, of our distinguished military commanders and travelers, of our scholars and men of science, of our learned members of the different Professions, in the collection and diffusion of correct information regarding the moral and social condition of our country; its finances, statistics and political and military history; its climate, soil and productions; the animals that roam over our broad prairies or swim in our noble streams; the customs, language and history of the aboriginal tribes that hunt or plunder on our borders; the natural curiosities of the country; our mines of untold wealth, and the thousand other topics of interest which our new and rising republic unfolds to the philosopher, the scholar, and the man of the world.

Despite its lofty goals, the Society had been formed by men with other, more pressing responsibilities. By 1845, when annexation into the United States brought an end to the Republic of Texas, the group no longer was active.

In 1935, as part of Texas’s centennial observances of statehood, the organization was revived. Now administered by The Texas State Historical Association, it continues to limit its invitation-only membership to two hundred people born in, or residing within, the geographical boundaries of the Republic of Texas: people who have contributed to the achievement of the original aims of the society.

There have been changes. Today, women are included as members — the current First Vice-President is Kay Bailey Hutchison — and new concerns are on the agenda: the “Proceedings” available to the public on their website vary from oceanography, to immigration, to architecture and the arts.

Despite The Texas Philosophical Society’s interesting history, its members clearly weren’t the ones cleaning that two-mile stretch of road in Bandera County. Feeling I’d exhausted the internet, I began making phone calls to hunting lodges and guest houses in the area.

After only two calls, I had my answer. The Lost Maples Sheep Dip Philosophers and Whittlers Association met — reasonably enough — on the front porch of the Lost Maples General Store. On the advice of a local rancher, I called the store, where an affable woman with an inclination to chat answered a few more questions. 

“Who are the members?” I asked. She said, “Anyone who wants to be.” That didn’t sound very exclusive, but it did sound easy.

“How would I go about joining?” “Well,” she said, “you don’t have to sign up or anything. Just come on over to the store, and set a spell on the porch. Some people get their picture took.” “That’s it?” “That’s it. Course, if you want to stay and talk a little, that would be fine. Or you could drink a beer. You could whittle, I ‘spose, but I don’t b’lieve I’ve ever seen girls whittlin’.”

After that conversation, I couldn’t wait to get to the store. I’d been passing it for years, but never had stopped. Now, it was time.

Even though it’s been upgraded from a general store to a country store, I found the original Association sign still hanging on the porch. There used to be a bench beneath it; now, there are some fancier chairs. Whenever someone decides to sit down, the Association is in session.

It’s hard not to imagine that those meetings —  semi-spontaneous, with high irregularity and just a little beer — have helped the Lost Maples Philosophers and Whittlers maintain their Association even longer than the original Philosophical  Society of Texas.

Like uncounted Texans before me, I came; I sat; I thought. Then, I drank a beer, talked to some bikers, and thought some more, until one of my grandmother’s favorites sayings came to mind. “Sometimes, I sit and think,” she’d say, “and sometimes I just sit.”

Out in Bandera County, there’s nothing wrong with that: not even for a philosopher.

Comments always are welcome.The photo showing me in “The Philosopher’s Chair” also is posted in “”Who I Am” on my new site, “Lagniappe.”


103 thoughts on “Plato’s Front Porch

  1. Does your new group have a secret handshake? Do you get a decoder ring? So many questions! Who knew such folk live in Texas. :) Great post!

    1. It’s a big, wide, wonderful state, Tina, and there are characters galore. Somehow, I think Sam Houston, William H. Wharton, and the others would be right at home at the Vanderpool store. Can you imagine the stories?

  2. Your “sometimes I sit and think” quotation reminds me of the subtle difference between “catchin’ fish” and “fishin'” – which difference usually involves bait or lack of same. One of the joys of knitting is that it looks like you’re a lot busier (and busy at doing something “useful”) than you actually are. Knitting is very back brain, leaving the forebrain to freewheel.

    1. As a matter of fact, I know some people who’ve gone fishing with an unbaited hook. As one said, “Nobody bothers a guy on a bank with a pole in his hand, especially if he seems intent on his line.”

      You know how amazed I am by people who have the ability to knit. My mother would pull off some of the same marvels you do: knitting while watching tv, or carrying on a conversation, for example. And it’s true that we non-knitters never want to bother someone who’s actually doing it, lest they drop a stitch or miss a row. We don’t know what damage we could cause, but we’re always sure it would be considerable.

      1. Great story!
        The “sometimes I sit and think…” comment reminds me of the saying, “Don’t just do something, sit there”!
        I also like the idea of fishing without bait. My whole life, the few times I went, I never particularly enjoyed fishing;
        I just didn’t get it. I now live within walking distance of The Roanoke River and at times enjoy going there and mindlessly sittin’ n watchin’ the river flow… but now, in the doldrums of these bizarre times, the thought of incorporating a pole and line into that activity certainly does quicken the spirit!
        Thanks Shoreacres!

        1. In case you haven’t figured it out, sometimes I fall a little behind in responding to comments — or with posting, for that matter. Late summer and high heat aren’t always a good combo; by the time I get home from my hours on the docks, I’m not good for much but staring at a screen. But I’ll show up eventually! Most long-time followers have learned that my 24 hour response rule gets broken from time to time, but I like to mention it now and then.

          I’d forgotten “Don’t just do something — sit there!” That one goes back some years. I remember it from the days when the round tuit was a fad, and people would use the cardboard “coin” imprinted with the words as a way to excuse momentary laziness.

          I had only a vague idea of where the Roanoke runs. When I looked it up, I was surprised and pleased to see that the Nature Conservancy, the same organization involved with the east Texas Sandyland Sanctuary I so often post images from on Lagniappe, is working there. What a beautiful place! I’d find time to sit there, too.

  3. I have to admit I had the same experience with the fall color at Lost Maples. A line of cars too long to tempt me to line up to see nature. And, like you, I ended up running up the Medina River… A thoroughly enjoyable drive I’ll admit… I missed your sign, but found some mighty fine wine along the way. I enjoyed your story as usual.

    1. That photo of the highway sign’s from some time ago, and the last time I was in the area, I didn’t see it. I could have missed it, or the group that was doing the actual work may have had enough and quit the program. But the sign’s still there at the store, and I hope it stays for a good long while.

      Lost Maples always is hard to predict. My favorite visit actually came after the colors peaked. It still was pretty, but there was almost no one there. It can be the same at Garner State Park. I’m always happy to see people making the effort to come out, but sometimes it can be a bit much.

      Have you ever made it to the winery in Sisterdale? It’s a nice one, too. That would be a good trip now, with the wildflowers in bloom.

      1. The only time we tried fall colors at Lost Maples was our 30th wedding anniversary… and my layoff from work back in 2008. It wasn’t our first time through though.
        We were staying the weekend in Fredericksburg and running through the hill country south during the day. And it was on that trip we stopped in Sisterdale. Seems we stopped in a bunch of wineries that weekend. Brought home a case of mixed wines from the region. That was before they began winery road on 290 going into Fredericksburg. Now I see they do tour buses so you don’t have to sample and drive. Turns what used to be a fun drive into something akin to spring break for adult-like humans…

    1. It certainly is your kind of place. The hiking trails are good, and varied, and the views are wonderful all through the year. It’s occurred to me that I’ve never been there in spring. It might be worth a visit, , just to see what’s there. The roads in the area last June were spectacular — awash in gaillardia, horsemint, and an assortment of other flowers.

    1. I’m not sure why this highway adoption sign caught my eye. I suspect it was the somewhat larger size, needed to accomodate all that text. Usually the signs credit “The Connor Family” or “The X-Bar-J Ranch” and hardly differ from one another. I pay more attention to them all, now. You just never know who’s turned civic-minded and signed up to gather trash.

      That could be a good topic for discussion on the porch: is Texas the land of oxymorons, or just morons? Opinions surely would differ.

  4. Fascinating, Linda. I love those titbits of country tale. If history was taught like that, I am sure the subject would draw in many more students young and old.
    Australia has similar tales, not least the ‘Man from Gundagai and his dog on the tuckerbox.’
    Banjo Patterson also wrote beautiful poetry so reflective of early Australia.

    1. I had no idea where Gundagai was, and no idea at all about a tuckerbox. Now I’ve sorted both of those, and had a bit of a history lesson myself. I love how, after the statue of the dog was erected, the usual order of things commenced: festivals, food courts, and tourist accomodations. But best of all is that poem. The last lines certainly remind me of “Gunga Din”:

      “Now, I can forgive the bleedin’ team, I can forgive the rain.
      I can forgive the damp and cold and go through it again.
      I can forgive the rotten luck, but hang me till I die,
      I can’t forgive that bloody dog, five miles from Gundagai.”

  5. I came upon a whittler’s club up in Louisiana, Linda, which seemed to have the same purpose. It was in a rundown old place but it had the obligatory chairs out front for people to sit, whittle and philosophize. It would be fun to sit Plato down at one of these places, or better yet, Socrates and have him join the conversation. –Curt

    1. Actually, Socrates almost made the title, but his name didn’t alliterate with ‘porch’ quite so well. I suspect he’d enjoy Texas porch life, though.

      When I was traveling through Arkansas last fall, I was surprised to see such a high percentage of convenience stores with benches out front — with people on them. Around here, any people who gather have to stand. There’s a world of difference between benches and no benches. It’s the difference between “Come on over here and talk” and “no loitering.” Those signs are everywhere: they’re just not printed on metal and stuck in the ground.

  6. Having always been a lover of country/general stores, I would most certainly be one to stop and sit a spell. Like a Mayberry tradition of converging on the barber shop – I’d love to be a member!!

    1. The barber shop, the beauty shop, the domino game, the general store: they’re all important as community gathering places. The local café can serve the same purpose. “Going to have coffee with the guys” was one of my Dad’s rituals. He’d be up and out of the house by 6 a.m., just to be able to have that time before work. No matter who, or how many, showed up, the group went on for years.

      1. haha, I know. Our local Dunkin’ Donuts is impossible to get into on Sunday mornings and I see the same situation growing at the Burger King, but it’s not the same somehow without the country charm. :)

  7. What a fun topic. When I first read the sign I thought about the Porch Sitters and Bullshit Society which as it turned out, isn’t much different than the association you wrote about.

    I found it interesting that in the Philosophical Society of Texas’ declaration they used this clause: “…the customs, language and history of the aboriginal tribes that hunt or plunder on our borders.” Philosophically speaking, how could “aboriginal tribes” plunder on their border when they’d been there on the land first?

    1. It’s true, isn’t it? The same phenomenon can have a multitude of names, but it’s always recognizable.

      In the context of Texas history, the borders mentioned were those of the new Republic of Texas, and plundering no doubt referred to the sort of raids on settlers that were common at the time. It’s interesting that the word “plunder” originally meant to take away furniture or household goods, and that’s exactly what happened to travelers, or those necessarily living in isolation. Of course, horses were a target, too.

      Sometimes we forget that the existence of boundaries and the practice of plunder were common even before the arrival of the Europeans. There was a multitude of “aboriginal tribes,” and they weren’t always kindly disposed toward one another. The Comanche, Karankawa, and Apache didn’t get their reputations by sitting on the porch whittling, and they weren’t opposed to raiding other tribes. Pawnee Rock was used by the Pawnee to defend against other Plains Indians long before the wagon trains showed up, and inter-tribal squabbles over territory were common.

      Even when treaties were negotiated and adhered to by the parties involved, they didn’t ensure safe passage. After George Sibley and the other Commissioners signed their treaties with the Osage and Kaw, setting boundaries for the Santa Fe Trail beyond Council Grove, it remained one of the most dangerous passages in the West because of raids on wagon trains carried out by other tribes.

      It’s an interesting and complicated history. The “how” of the plundering that went on is easy to describe. The “why” is more difficult, particularly since there were both honorable men and scoundrels among the tribes, the French, the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Texans who followed.

        1. Here’s a post I’m sure I wrote before we knew one another. It has many more details about Council Grove, and the treaty that was signed there. All of this resulted from my first trip to Kansas, several years ago. There’s so much history, it’s impossible to grasp it all in one trip, or even two or three!

  8. Just sittin’ is a great way to pass the time. You look quite at home in that chair. Funny how a search for some answers can lead you down very interesting paths.

    1. That photo’s interesting in some ways you might not expect. It was taken by a friend well into her eighties who has no computer or mobile phone, never has driven a car, and never had used a digital camera. We had a little practice session ahead of time, but I still ended up having to encourage her to press the button. Once she saw that we could delete the out-of-focus shots, she gained courage — as do we all.

        1. I think so — just as her ability to turn out a dozen pies in a morning, maintain an acre of garden, build a rock wall, and lay a stone patio at 80 seems like a miracle to me. We’re a good pair. She loves driving around looking at native flowers, and has identification skills I only dream of. I can’t wait to get up there again.

  9. While I’ve seen a whole lot of sheep recently, as would anyone who travels even a little in New Zealand, I didn’t know what sheep dip is. Wikipedia helped me out: “Sheep dip is a liquid formulation of insecticide and fungicide which shepherds and farmers use to protect their sheep from infestation against external parasites such as itch mite (Psoroptes ovis), blow-fly, ticks, and lice.” That’s a nice touch to add to the name of the would-be association.

    1. What’s even more amusing is that there’s a whiskey named Sheep Dip. Apparently it got its name from the tradition in Britain of home distillers hiding their brew in barrels marked “Sheep Dip” to avoid scrutiny by revenue agents. That background certainly gives new meaning to the phrase “Sheep Dip Philosopher.” A glass or two of that kind of Sheep Dip, and anyone might begin philosophizing.

  10. You look maaahvelous Linda! When I saw your title I came right over to see if it was MY Plato’s front porch – you know, a view of the wetlands through the pelican’s eyes. LOL! A wonderful read!

    Well, at the new site I couldn’t seem to see the comment box, at least on the About me page with the philosopher chair picture! So I will be poking around there some more. I like shoreacres…find it descriptive and evocative. Never before thought of the word acres with a shoreline just because acres seems like dry land and the shoreline has its wavy rows of seafoam.

    1. Of course I thought about Plato when I choose the title. I tried and tried to find a place for him, but of course that wouldn’t have worked so well. Nevertheless, he certainly served me well during that debacle, and even better, introduced us to one another.

      Thanks again for pointing out the missing comment box. I think what happened is that, on the last re-do of the editor, WordPress changed the method for adding comments to a page, but forgot, or just didn’t care to, add the changes to the classic editor. No matter. It’s fixed.

      We need to get you over here for a long trip through south Texas on the ICW. Seeing everything from the Aransas Wildlife refuge (whooping cranes) to the King Ranch (cattle and cactus) from that perspective will make shore acres seem perfectly reasonable.

      1. Wow, Whooping Cranes….I would love to see those. Your coppery cypress trees aren’t so different from the scenes here long Tamiami Trail. I love it when they look that way.

        I though not seeing the comment box was me doing something wrong. I got into comments once I went to a post that has others. I clicked on the comment list and then saw the box at the end. But, glad it wasn’t all me and that a problem was addressed on account of it. All is good!!

  11. Dear Philosopher-Queen Linda, Ruler of all that’s surveyed and ranched, and Only Law West of the Pecos – I’d say if somebody would hand you a scepter, I guess a cattle prod would do, you’re looking all set to steer the ship of state.
    Never having been to Texas, “philosopher” made me think of Baxter Black. But turns out he grew up in Las Cruces, NM. (And Born in Brooklyn! Had to mention that)
    I’m not a whittler, there’s a couple of court orders restricting my access to sharp objects, but a couple of New Year’s Eves ago, my folks were rushing around making the feast, and discovered we had no toothpicks to make some of our traditional snacks. My dad handed me a bunch of maple twigs and a jackknife, and said, “Sit Down. Make toothpicks”. I don’t remember feeling philosophical but it was fun, we all laughed quite a bit, and I have a new important survival skill. So there’s a Lesson in there somewhere.

    1. I had to make a side trip to find out about Baxter Black. At first, I didn’t think I’d heard of him, but after some reading, I suspect I have heard him, on NPR, and maybe even on Prairie Home Companion. He’s on my to-be-explored list, now. No doubt he shows up at the annual Cowboy Poet shindig in Elko, Nevada. I like the proverbs on his website, especially this one: “Pardon me, I was thinking without permission.”

      That cattle prod would have some advantages, and the very thought of being able to move along some of the herd is tempting. But I’d probably be happier with a nice, hand-carved mesquite cooking spoon as sceptre. A friend in Kerrville made a set for me once, and the only disadvantage I’ve found is that they don’t wear out. Every arts and crafts fair or woodworking show in the hill country always has beautiful ones for sale, but I just don’t need one. On the other hand, if I ever see a really well-done ladle, I’m in.

      No doubt you’ve heard this conversation from the silverware drawer. A fork says to the spoon, “Who was that ladle I saw you with last night?” “That was no ladle. That was my knife.”

    1. I’m sure it’s similar. There used to be a combination hair salon and — something — in Friendswood that had an equally creative name. I can’t remember it now, but I go by there from time to time. I’ll have to see if it’s still in business, and what the name is. Over the years, my mother belonged to several knitting and needlepoint groups. She said the ones with pretty names were nice, but the one that was named “Stitch and Bitch” was the most fun.

  12. What a hoot. There’s a similar society on the front porch of the General Store in Terlingua, Texas…only difference is that “thinking” is NEVER ALLOWED. It would only get in the way of downing the next longneck.
    Great info about the Texas Philosophers. Kay Bailey Hutchison is an admirable selection.
    Thanks for the post.

    1. I was so surprised to find the history of the Texas Philosophical Society. Reading their membership rosters, both original and current, was like going through a who’s-who of influential Texans. Even some of the moderators were interesting: Bill Moyers, for example.

      Inquiring minds want to know: is Terlingua’s general store the west Texas equivalent to Luckenbach? I thought I recalled that Jerry Jeff’s “Viva Terlingua” was recorded in Luckenbach, and so it was. I still think “Home With the Armadillo” may be in the top ten of songs written about Texas.

  13. You mean you have maple trees in Texas? “New England like foliage”? And we in the North Country don’t even have the chance to see one or any NE-like picture, not in Alberta that is. Nice sitting picture at the end. Glad you’re enjoying your wild discoveries on your road trips.

    1. We do have some maples, Arti. These are called the “lost” maples because they’re just a remnant stand of bigtooth maples. They don’t exist anywhere else in the state, except where people have purchased and planted the variety. You’d love the place for the birds as much as the foliage; it’s well known as a birding destination, and several rare or protected species can be found there.

      Of course, it’s a fine place to whittle away some time: either hiking at the park, or lounging at the store.

  14. What a great story, Linda! Just goes to show how, if one is diligent and persistent, one can find out just about anything … from just about anybody! I think that philosopher’s chair suits you. Glad you turned back so you could bring us the rest of the story!

    1. Of all the reasons to travel secondary roads, the ability to stop and turn around ranks right up there. Beyond that, there are sights galore that never will show up on Travelocity or in a Google search. Besides: if we don’t know something exists, how could we search for it?

      The way I finally got the scoop on the sign is a good reminder that people still count when it comes to gathering information. For a whole variety of reasons, too many reporters spend their time staring at a screen, scanning Drudge or Twitter to see what’s trending, and then reporting that, instead of getting out into their communities to see what’s happening. You know about that.

      1. I’m thankful I was a reporter before the Internet. Yes, gathering stuff online is a real time-saver (providing one accepts what one reads with a healthy dose of skepticism!), but *knowing* how to gather info from real people, records, etc. is way preferable, in my opinion!

  15. I laughed all the way through! Something as quirky as a sheepdip and whittler’s association is right up my alley.

    1. Of course it is. I’m glad you got some chuckles out of it. Even though I’ve had the photo hanging around for years, I still grin every time I look at it. Just like more cowbell, we always can use more quirky.

    1. That photo’s pretty much essence-of-me: just hanging out, waiting to see what’s going to show up next. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Dana. A little tenacity can go a long way.

  16. Amusing quotations and signage. Your grandmother’s saying is about as sagacious as they come. For those of us who always have to be “doing” something, just “sitting” is a challenge but as some other wise philosopher observed, ” We are not human doings; we are human beings.”

    1. I’ve never heard that, about human beings-vs-doings. I like it. I love “sagacious.” In a 1754 letter to Horace Mann, Horace Walpole defined serendipity as “a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something else”. That certainly fits here.

      But he went on to say that he created the word after reading a Persian fairy tale titled “The Three Princes of Serendip,” whose heroes “always were making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”. Exactly.

      I believe it’s time for a repost about serendipity and sagacity. Thanks for bringing that marvelous combination back to mind.

  17. I love it. No one can say that you don’t follow your nose until you get what you’re looking for.
    “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen girls whittlin’.” That made me laugh out loud. I didn’t know it was a gender thing. :) I love your mother’s saying about sitting and thinking… or not. Dad had some good ones too.

    1. Whittling and wood turning (or any sort of woodwork, for that matter — ahem!) don’t have to be a boys’ thing rather than a girls’ thing. One of my favorite group shows to attend is put on by the Hill Country Wood Turners, and they have some female members who turn out beautiful pieces. The lady on the phone didn’t say girls couldn’t or shouldn’t — only that she hadn’t seen it.

      My theory is that, back in the day, whittling was the guys’ equivalent of snapping beans or embroidering tea towels. That’s what the women did when they were porch sitting. It gave them a fine excuse to just sit around and gab, without being criticized for not being productive. The best “just sitting” always was in the evening, or after Sunday dinner, when everyone would gather on the porch and wait to greet whoever passed by.

      Now that I think about it, that’s very close to lawn chairs on the drive, watching kids ride bikes.

  18. This SDP&W Assn building reminds me of the “Ol’ General,” a country store I love in the mountains. People do just set a spell there, but the philosophy is questionable and the sustenance is more in the way of baked goods. I think I’d favor yours with good conversation and beer!

    1. We have our gossip-and-kolaches places, too, and they provide their own pleasures. I’ll even indulge from time to time. Best of all are the hybrids, where there’s a Czech or German baker turning out goodies, a porch, and a cooler full of long necks. Kolaches and beer? Why not? Both are great conversation starters. (Don’t miss Prasek’s Smokehouse in Hillje, if you don’t know it. Hillje also has an SPJST hall, which SDP&W called to mind. The SPJST is a Czech fraternal organization: Slovanská Podporující Jednota Statu Texas)

  19. This post captures the relaxed culture that I feared might be vanishing, but through your story, it’s alive and very positive and well! Oh, the world needs more people like this – people who welcome a stranger and even enlarge their circle and make room for new members! We also need more people like you, someone who is not afraid to throw on the brakes, turn around and politely step into uncharted territory!

    It’s so great seeing you in one of those ‘updated’ chairs — which looks like it has a nice angle for comfortable ‘perching’ — scoot over, por favor, if there’s room for one more on the porch!

    1. The chairs are great. They’re a variation on the Adirondack chair, and comfortable as can be. There actually were several chairs there: certainly three, and maybe more. Of course, if the chairs are occupied, there always is the porch railing, or the steps. We’ll make room for you.

      Your comment about “making room for new members” reminded me of the amusing behavior of the cormorants here — grackles, too. If they’re all arranged on the power lines, equally spaced, and another one flies in, the whole line moves as adjustments are made to give each birdie its space. I saw the same thing last Saturday at a meeting. Attendance was higher than usual, and politeness reigned as people scootched and wiggled to let extra people and chairs into the rows.

      As for throwing on the brakes and turning around, I finally got tired of thinking, “I wish I’d stopped to look at that.” It’s one reason I prefer to drive when out in the country with friends. Even when driving, I often see things they don’t, and they’ve gotten used to the sudden stops.

  20. “Searching for information on “Texas philosophers” — a term considered by some to be oxymoronic…” Humility is the first step toward wisdom and where most people stumble.

    1. There could be the genesis of another Texas-style phrase in that. “Stumblin’ toward a humblin'” clearly is a variation on “cruisin’ for a brusin’.”

      1. I appreciate the distinction between being clueless and brash as to the consequences. I have always viewed Texans as sympathetic people who know how to take care of business.

        1. That’s right. And somehow your comment reminds me that there’s a real connection between the general store porches and the dance halls: everyone is welcome, and fun abounds. That sympathy — “simpatico” seens to capture it a bit better — is so nicely conveyed by this tune. It’s a song for everyone, even those who are only passing through.

  21. Love the view from Plato’s front porch! I’m so glad you turned around and went back. We have a group of woodworkers here in town which I showed a couple of times at the Gallery, but they aren’t the real whittlers. You had yourself a “real good time” as the country folk would say.

    1. One of the interesting things I’ve learned about whittling is that basswood is one of the most-recommended woods, especially for beginners. It’s relatively soft, and the grain isn’t so pronounced, so it’s easier to work with. The tree actually is native to Texas, but I don’t think I’d recognize it if I walked into it. I’m getting better at flower identification, but I’m still pretty poor when it comes to trees and grasses.

      I did have a real good time. I almost always have a good time in the country, even when I end up flat on my face or stuck in the mud, or covered with muck, as recently happened. Life lesson #285: even if you’re in a hurry, put your boots on before heading to the mud flats.

    1. Deliciously quirky is exactly it, Dina. I can see you on the bench, with a hedgehog on one side and a couple of sweet pigeons on the other — and a nice Texas beer to complete the picture. If you ever get over this way, we’ll go.

    1. It’s simplicity itself, and a whole lot of fun. And believe me, it would be a wonderful place to take photos of some very interesting people, Otto!

    1. Another word for “eccentricity” might be individuality, Anne. We live in a strange time, with tolerance of differences preached, but not always practiced by those who consider themselves most tolerant. I think that’s one of the things I love about rural Texas. You’ll often find bikers, ranchers, age-worn hippies, and grandmas gathered on these porches. There aren’t often hipsters, but they’d be accepted, too, if they ever had the urge to show up.

  22. I just checked out and followed your other website/blog of photographs. I read through your ‘who I am’ and this post, and I just think it’s all great! In particular, I want to go back and look at bee with I am guessing pollen all over his/her? back and wings. I am assuming you took the picture of the bee. It is very impressive. How do you pronounce it? The name of your new blog? Well, have a great weekend. The last of the snow is falling here, and by that I mean, on Sunday it’s supposed to go to 8! Sorry, no idea of Frehreheit to celsius conversion. And I promise to keep my comments separate to each blog next time. Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. I’m really glad you liked the new place, Tamara. That is pollen on the bee. Since I’ve gotten a macro lens for my camera that lets me take close-up shots, I’ve been amazed at some of the things I’ve seen. It’s unbelievable how many little bees and flies and spiders and such are roaming around on those flowers!

      The way I’ve always heard lagniappe is LAN-yapp. That will do, anyway. No one is going to fuss at us if that’s the way we say it. Don’t worry about keeping comments separate, either. Until everyone gets used to the fact that I have two sites now, I’m sure there will be others who do the same.

      We have one more good storm coming on Sunday, and then there’s supposed to be some decent weather for a while. I found a conversion table, and discovered that you’re going to hit around 46F that day — there isn’t going to be any snow sticking around in that warmth. Enjoy it!

  23. I had not erased your post notice from my email and I had to scroll through here to see if I had commented. I thought that I had and then remembered that I had tried but my computer froze and refused to let me continue to type.

    I like this post about the Medina area. It is quite beautiful and drove through with my husband and children many years ago. I was most impressed. I’ve always wished that I could live there but now it’s too late in life. I hope you’ll show more photos of this lovely area of Texas. I remember somewhere there about is the best lemon pie that is made anywhere. It was a small café but I can’t remember if it was I Medina or another town in the general area.

    There really is beauty in some parts of Texas- one only needs to get off the main highways and drive in the country and small towns.

    PS: The photo of you is a very nice one. You’re sitting pretty and looking happy as can be.

    1. Lemon pie is a favorite. I’ll have to do some investigation. Two places that come to mind are Bumdoodlers (originally in Boerne, but now also in Kerrville) and a café in Camp Wood that’s as down-home as you can get. Medina’s the place to get apple anything: pie, turnovers, ice cream, strudels. They all sound good.

      Getting off the main highways is always a good idea, unless a tight schedule is involved. Of course, it’s often a good idea to avoid the main roads just because of the traffic. One well-placed accident can turn a twenty minute commute into two hours, but even worse is the tourist traffic coming into our area. Yes, there’s an economic benefit, but all the locals know which parts of town to avoid on the weekends.

      I think everyone who’s ever visited the hill country wants to live there. I’d love it. But, the very fact that everyone wants to live there has made it a difficult proposition. Kerrville especially has become a magnet for retirees, but you have to be a very well-off retiree to be able to move in at this point. But, it’s still possible to show up and just hang around for a while, as I was doing in that chair.

      1. You are right about the tourists and retirees. It’s getting congested according to what I’ve been reading. For a number of years folks keep rolling into the once sleepy little towns. Seems a shame. The place with the pie, I think, had a German name and it might have been in Medina. Lots of folks were in there and that was maybe 30 or more years ago.

    1. You’re right, joared. This is a little tale about far more than quirkiness; it’s also about freedom and responsibility. The SDP&W association doesn’t just sit around on its porch, they also signed up with Adopt-A-Highway program to help keep the porch’s neighborhood clean. The sense of community found in places like this isn’t just a feeling, it’s a commitment. That’s part of what makes it so appealing.

  24. Well, first off I have to say that that is one fine picture at the end. You look like a bright and sunny philosopher and a fine traveling companion as well. I am a little surprised though. You didn’t whittle so the lady could have seen one doing just that. :)
    I like the idea of the informality of the association. Kind of like a bunch of country philosophers sitting around a general store’s cracker barrel, spittin’ and whittlin’ and coming out with the occasional bon mot.

    1. But I was whittling. I was whittling away at my friend’s conviction that she couldn’t possibly take a photo with one of those new-fangled, complicated cameras. It was worth insisting on the photo just to get her past that little stumbling block.

      As for bright and sunny? Pretty much. Like Emma Goldman, who didn’t exactly say, but is supposed to have said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution,” I decided somewhere along the way that philosophers didn’t have to be morose, black-coffee-and-Gauloises sorts who never stopped talking and never said anything of value. Out on the porch with the SDP&W crowd, you’re more likely to hear some Hunter S. Thompson wisdom, like, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.” Now, that’s some practical philosophy, right there.

  25. What could be more appealing than to note a sign like that and dig until you learn more, except sitting on that porch? I love the loose, inclusive feeling. What an antidote to so much that’s going on currently, right? The Philosophers’ Memorial sounds like the Smithsonian of Texas – I love the scope, hey think big, we’re in Texas! (I like exploring cemeteries, too, in fact I’ve been known to get out a map and track down old, local ones in rural areas.) The bright expression on your face complements the text perfectly. Thanks for the ride. (Enjoyed watching the video for a few minutes too!)

    1. You’d be busy for years around here. Family cemeteries abound, and the fact of burial is sufficient to create a cemetery. I found a few graves at a highway intersection a year or so ago, on a tiny triangle of land. The only other visitors were some chickens who were having quite a discussion about whether to cross the road, and they didn’t seem impressed by birth dates in the early 1800s. The state helps out by posting signs along highways. Usually, there’s only a name and an arrow: “Hawley Cemetery — thataway.” Beyond that, you’re on your own. It’s great exploring.

  26. This is so wonderful! Does it make you want to whittle something? I have to admit that I also have not known any lady whittlers. How about dipping sheep? If you sat long enough on the porch you’d no doubt get an invitation to participate in one or another kind of sheep-dipping. At this point I am envious of your being a Texan. I am going to send this to my SIL who has a fondness many things Texan after being born there and going back during college days …

    And I love the photo – so glad you took the photo op.

    1. Whittling never has appealed to me. I can’t remember even trying it out at camp, when it was a craft option. When it comes to front porch activities, non-activity is my preference. Sitting and watching is my specialty. And I certainly have no desire to get involved in sheep-dipping. All that business about sheep being cute, cuddly, placid little creatures is mostly myth — at least, as far as I’ve seen. Perhaps I haven’t seen them at their best.

      I do love Texas, and long ago came to the point where I began calling it my state. I have great memories of growing up in Iowa, and cherish them. But I’d never go back. There’s that business about 30 below wind chills and frozen door locks that just doesn’t appeal. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more fond of temperate climates.

      I was satisfied with that photo, which is good, because I’m not about to engage in some of the turn-back-the-clock routines some of my friends cherish. I have one friend who nags me to have my hair colored. I can’t even imagine such foolishness. She not only forks out a good bit of money to have it done, she spends more time in salons than I could tolerate. I’d stick with the porch.

  27. Posts like this remind me that curiosity is a true gift, and writing is one of the best ways to share its rewards! I suspect that this post will result in more than a few new members! Bravo!!

    1. I agree that curiosity’s a gift, but it can be cultivated, too. In fact, it needs to be nurtured, or naturally curious children will begin to lose their openness to the world. I thank God every day (or pretty often, at least) that I had parents whose usual response to my complaints that there was “nothing to do” would be to say, “Well, if you don’t have something to do, you’d better go find something.” And off I’d go, to meet the world.

      Now, as an adult, I have a hard time imagining what it means to be bored. There’s always something to do — even if it’s just sitting around and enjoying the afternoon.

  28. Deee-lightful! Your grandmother’s favorite saying reminds me of one of my Dad’s. He was a great front porch sitter in his golden years. When I visited, he’d sit and watch not much happen for a good while. If an idea came to (my) mind of “something to do,” he’d say, “No need to rush into it.” I’ve had occasion to quote him many a time. Love the photo of you just sitting on the front porch, too.

    1. And that porch sitting wasn’t only a function of age. It was a social custom, part of a slower and more observant, life. Of course, there was a certain pleasure in keeping track of what the neighbors were up to, but it also was good to know peoples’ habits and customs. When something went awry, it was spotted pretty quickly: anything from a spat between a married couple to teen-aged angst. I’ll never put the modern i-gadgets into the category “tool of the devil,” but on the other hand, some things just don’t live on a screen.

  29. I didn’t know that Jennings & Keller song, and it’s spot on. Besides — any song that includes a mention of Ray Wylie Hubbard clearly has been composed by someone who has a sense of humor, and knows the Texas music scene. The mention of I-30 and Texarkana reminded me of how important the interstates are here as reference points. There are people who consider anything north of I-10 as Yankee territory.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I happened to pass by that front porch this weekend, but I didn’t stop and sit, this time. I had other things to do — mostly involving our wonderful spring wildflowers.

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