It’s an old joke, but it still gets a laugh:
“What’s the difference between a boatyard and a bar?”
“In a bar, someone might actually do some work.”
It’s true anywhere, I suppose, but it’s a fact that boatyards do shelter a certain number of reprobates: scam artists, hustlers and hard-drinking, hard-living sorts who aren’t necessarily subscribers to the Protestant work ethic. Skilled but not always schooled, they drift through coastal towns like so much social flotsam and jetsam, rarely noticed or remarked by those who comb along life’s beaches.
On the waterfront, where skilled craftspeople and under-employed shrimpers, undocumented workers, refugees from corporate boardrooms and just plain boat junkies ebb and flow with the tides, there’s room for the hard-living and hard-drinking in the easy-going camaraderie that develops. When the idiosyncratic and quirky, the lazy, the obsessive, and the mysterious get thrown into the mix, the fun only increases. Continue reading
Never mind the calendar. On the Texas coast, summer shimmers into being when she will, and when she arrives, the signs are everywhere.
Store shelves begin to be emptied of Gatorade and bottled water. Bandanas and straw hats appear. Yard workers stop more often to wipe their faces, and even the Ladies Who Lunch begin to sweat. They don’t “perspire” or “glow,” as proper Southern ladies should. They sweat right along with the yard crews, and they do it at nine in the morning.
Soon, it becomes too hot to walk barefooted on a boat deck or dock. The sharp, metallic trill of cicadas replaces birdsong, and rueful humans can’t resist asking one another,”Hot enough for you?” It’s summer for sure, no matter what the calendar says. Continue reading
Cooler weather and occasional showers have mitigated the drought in parts of Texas, and summer’s spectacular wildfires have ended. Still, dssiccated pastures, disappearing herds, abandoned lakes and empty stock ponds make clear the continuing need for rain.
Hidden behind these more obvious signs of drought lie other consequences, equally troublesome if more personal. Enjoying breakfast in a Hill Country kitchen last weekend, I heard a tiny sigh as I split a biscuit and reached for the glass dish holding my friend’s homemade preserves. “That’s my last jar of peach, and close to my last jar of fig,” she said. “It’s only December,” I said. “Don’t you usually have enough to last ’til summer?”
Yes, she allowed, she usually did. But this year drought put an end to her gardens and orchards. With so little rain, the fig trees barely produced. Peaches were available from irrigated orchards, but they were expensive. Pears were the size of walnuts, and the walnuts didn’t make. Even the dewberries weren’t good, setting so little fruit she left it for hungry birds and animals. The sweet, succulent blackberries that overflowed her baskets in the past withered and died, offering up only a cup or two of tart, nearly tasteless berries. Without good berries an abundance of pies, cobblers and sauces disappeared, not to mention the brandied blackberries that always had been a holiday treat. Continue reading
Rain ravens, we called them. Sculling through midwestern skies they circled higher than our imaginations, far beyond our sight, past the scudding clouds into apparent oblivion. Only their harsh, echoing call testified to their presence. Bending over her pan of cinnamon rolls my grandmother murmured her irritation. “Have to get the wash done early. There’s rain on the way.” More often than not, she was right.
There were other signs, of course, and she taught them all. A halo’d moon meant rain – counting the number of stars inside the ring told the day of its arrival. When rising winds lifted and twisted the deep-lobed maple leaves, their silvered, shivering backs might as well have been engraved, “The Rain is Coming”. Continue reading