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Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

God’s Choir | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Community Chronicle in the June, 2020 edition and the Rains County Leader on June 23, 2020:

Porch gliderLast year, our front porch began to list to the southeast. Investigation showed that the support post on that corner was rotting away. We discussed our options with a local handyman, and several months and several thousand dollars later, we had a beautiful covered porch furnished with an indoor/outdoor rug, two padded rocking chairs and a comfy glider for two. We have spent many happy hours on our new addition, especially during this time of social distancing when God has blessed us with a lot of porch-sitting weather.

One morning, I was rocking and reading when I was distracted by a birdsong I didn’t Birdsongrecognize. It sounded like someone had pressed a key on a synthesizer and held it for a couple of seconds. The song continued for a minute or two with brief breaks between notes, but I was never able to find the singer. While I was looking for him, I noticed another bird singing what could have been a riff from a doo-wop song. I closed my book for a while and just listened, and I heard more birdsongs than I could count. (more…)

The Call of the Wild | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on February 25, 2020:

cowardly lionFirst, let me say this column is not about the Jack London novel or the new Harrison Ford movie. It’s sort of about a dog, but it mostly about me being a fraidy-cat.

This week David and I are visiting with Spike, our occasional canine son, while his people visit the Holy Land. Their flight was a late one, so the plan was for Spike to have his supper before they left and stay in the house until we arrived after Home Group was over. Then, we’d walk him one more time before bedtime.

It was a good plan, but the problem was that David didn’t feel well, so he didn’t go to Home Group. That meant I had to go back home to pick him up before heading out to the ranch. These things always take longer than expected, and it was late and very dark when we arrived – and the coyotes were out. (more…)

The Storm Cellar | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on January 13, 2020:

storm cellar doorStrong storms covered Rains County with torrential rains accompanied by lots of thunder and lightning Friday night. The winds were not as strong as predicted, but the forecasts had many residents talking about the weather all week. At the Senior Center on Wednesday, I heard a woman at the table behind me ask if anyone had a storm cellar. Only one of her lunch companions had one, but she said that, in the nine years she had lived in her home, she had never been into the dark hole in the ground with its rotting, shutter-style doors. I wasn’t surprised that no one else had a cellar. The shallow Texas bedrock makes the cost of digging prohibitive. But the conversation brought back memories of my very early days in west Texas.

I was born in a tiny town about twenty miles west of Abilene called Merkel. We moved


A picture of Merkel’s downtown we took around 2002.

from there to Snyder, about fifty miles further west, just shy of my fourth birthday, so my memories of Merkel are limited. I’m sure some of them are things I’ve been told rather than things I actually remember. I know that we lived in a rented house behind Miss Johnnie’s house, our landlady, but I don’t remember much about her. I remember eating pinto beans at her house once – they needed salt. I remember learning to brush my teeth with tooth powder. And I remember the storm cellar. (more…)

Christmas Boxes | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 17, 2019:

Ralph and Alva HaganWhen I was a kid, December 26 was Granny Hagan’s birthday. Later on it became the day to return those what-were-you-thinking gifts and to stock up on Christmas supplies for next year. More recently I’ve heard it referred to by a specific name, especially on Facebook when greetings of “Happy Boxing Day” appear on the day after Christmas.

It turns out that Boxing Day began in Britain as a time when the rich boxed up gifts for the poor. I’m thinking it might have been a charitable way to get rid of boxing-day-1901the leftover turkey and those unsuitable gifts. It also became a day when servants were given the day off after receiving a Christmas box or gift from their employers. The servants in turn would go home and give Christmas boxes to their families.

Boxing Day isn’t widely celebrated in the U.S., but boxes certainly play a big part in the American Christmas season. Even though gift bags are probably more popular now than gift boxes, online shopping has resulted in an over-abundance of shipping cartons. And some traditionalists still like to wrap and tie bows on containers with square corners. (more…)

Country folks are prepared | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 10, 2019:

Unpredictable weatherAt the end of last week’s column I mentioned that I was planning to be one of the vendors at the Christmas Around the Square event on Saturday. It took a bit more planning than some of the events I’ve done because it was my first outdoor one.

First of all, I had to plan for the weather. I know that everyone thinks the weather where they live is the most unpredictable, but if you’ve ever experienced a Texas Blue Norther and felt the temperature drop thirty or forty degrees in as many minutes, you know that Texas ranks pretty high on the volatile weather list.

I watched the long range forecast for several weeks, and the predicted temperature was consistently in a forty to sixty degree range. Of course, allowing for a ten to twenty degree variance along with wind chill, that could mean anything from a snowsuit in the morning to short sleeves in the afternoon. I settled on multiple layers and moved on to precipitation. (more…)

Stories | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on December 3, 2019:

Lane Street Collectibles

Lane Street Collectibles, Nov., 2019

Most of my Saturday was taken up by a book event. Angela Snyder and Billy Watkins, partners in Lane Street Collectibles in Quitman, hosted a book signing for me. After helping me set up and tear down, Billy commented, “There’s a lot involved in these book signings.”

He’s right. I have a banner, banner stand, and several boxes and bags of books and other supplies that have to be carried in, set up, and positioned for traffic patterns and visibility. In addition to my inventory of books, my supplies include several tablecloths because you never know what size table will be available; business cards and holder; book marks; Lucite sign holders and signs; candy and a decorative bowl; tape, twine, scissors, pens, note pad, and other miscellaneous supplies; and snacks for me. I believe in being prepared.

I’ve spent quite a few Saturdays in the past few months at the craft fairs and markets that are popular this time of year. I sometimes check the numbers and wonder if it’s worth the effort. I sell enough books to cover my expenses, but not enough to make any best seller lists. However, all the interesting people I meet and the stories they share make up for any shortfall. (more…)

Plenty to do in Emory | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on November 12, 2019:

Theres nothing to doMany people don’t like the idea of small town life. “There’s nothing to do!” they cry. That might be true if they want first-run movies, Broadway-style stage performances, world class theme parks, or five-star dining. But if they can be content with fun, heart-warming events shared with warm-hearted, friendly people, Emory just might be the place.

David and I have always been happy to stay at home, working on small projects around the house, reading, or watching football or old movies. But after living in Emory almost nine years and making lots of friends, it’s hard not to get involved. The past few days have been really busy for a couple of less than social butterflies like us.

On Friday, we dropped in on the Women’s Service Club Reception and Open House at the Rose Community Center kitchenRose Community Center. The newly renovated building looks amazing, and even though we were a bit early, the women graciously took time from last minute preparations to show us around and answer my reporter-type questions. The trays of cheese, veggies, and cookies may not have been five-star, but they looked beautiful, and whatever was in the covered warming trays smelled even better.  We didn’t stay long, though, foregoing the refreshments and opting for lunch at the Senior Center.

Saturday morning we went to the American Legion breakfast, the place to be on the second Saturday of each month if you’re hungry for a delicious country-style breakfast. Apparently a lot of people decided to start their Veterans Day weekend celebration the same way, because we had trouble finding a place to park or a place to sit. We did, however, find one empty patch of grass and two empty seats at a table with some friends. We chatted with them, and I met a Navy Seabee who spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. There are some really interesting people in this little town.

David in Model ADavid had been invited by a friend to ride in his Model A in the Veterans Day parade, so after breakfast I dropped him off among a group of antique car enthusiasts and went in search of a good place to watch the parade and take a few pictures. I was early enough to snag a good spot in the Court House parking lot next to a couple of ladies I had met at the Senior Center. The weather was beautiful, the conversation was entertaining, and before I knew it, I heard the sound of drums as the Rains County High School Band led the parade down Highway 19. The Model As were close to the front, and David was in the second one, so I didn’t have long to wait. He was sitting in the rumble seat, so I got a great picture of him before he disappeared around the corner. The rest of the parade was fun with several floats, some marching groups, and a group of jump rope experts. It was over before the drivers who were stopped behind the barriers could become too restless, and all that was left was a few stray pieces of candy that would soon be flattened by oncoming traffic.

The festivities weren’t over, though. A canopy and folding chairs had been set up in preparation for a short ceremony honoring the veterans and dedicating several new personalized bricks that had been added to the memorial. Across the parking lot, several tables had been set up and filled with hot dogs, chips, cookies, cupcakes, and bottled water in preparation for the annual Veterans Day picnic. It had been several hours since breakfast, and parading raises an appetite, so David and I snagged some food and found an empty stretch of shaded curb. Several friends joined us, and I listened to one of them tell stories about her father’s years of service.

There was a chili cook-off and concert at Sidekicks later in the day, and maybe other David at Vet Day Program 2019events, but David and I had partied enough, so we went home. We’ll go to the high school on Monday for the annual Veterans Day program. There will be a nice Continental breakfast, and friends and family will applaud as each veteran is introduced. The color guard will present the flags, the band and chorus will perform several patriotic songs, and there will be ceremonies in remembrance of MIAs, POWs, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Most of all, we’ll shake hands, hug, and chat with friends who have become extended family.

As the holidays approach, there are many other activities coming up. The 4th annual Jingle Mingle, the Women’s Service Club Thanksgiving Luncheon, the Community Thanksgiving Service, and Christmas around the Square just to name a few. These events may not have the “WOW” factor that appeals to the younger generations, but to those of us who’ve fought all the crowds and stood in line for all the hours we care to, they are just perfect. Regardless of how you feel about the activities that are offered, you can’t say there’s nothing to do in Emory.



Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Fall is almost here | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on October 22, 2019:

Fall color in texasAutumn arrived on the calendar several weeks ago, but the actual season is just now making its appearance in Texas. We’ve had a few cool nights that called for a blanket, and one night I woke up to find Kitty snuggled up against me. And a few mornings have called for a lightweight jacket, but we still have some days – like today – when the high temperature is near 90 degrees. Still, fall is definitely in the air, and here are a few ways to tell that Summer is on its way out.

Most of the many trees in our yard are oaks of one kind or another with a few elms sprinkled in for variety. Instead of giving us a nice display of fall colors, they usually go directly from green to brown – overnight. However, we have one black gum tree outside our dining room windows that puts on a bit of a show before dropping its foliage. This week I saw a number of yellow and reddish leaves, and Sunday morning when we drove in from church, I noticed that the riot of red has begun.

Last week I was driving down County Road 3200 fairly early in the morning when I sawBuck on the road something in the road ahead. It was an animal of some kind, but it was in the shadows, so I couldn’t tell what it was. It was a small buck, but he didn’t seem to be moving, so I slowed down to give him time to get out of the way. I stopped a few feet away from him before he finally tore his eyes away from whatever was holding his attention, turned around and ran back across the street in front of me, and disappeared into the woods. If you’re a city girl like me and don’t know what could have made him so careless of his own safety, go ask you mother about the facts of life. Apparently, in the Fall a young buck’s fancy turns to thoughts of love.

Another sign of Fall is that seasonal food events are in full swing and seasonal foods are making their appearance. Our annual church chili cook-off has come and gone, and the date of my family’s annual fish fry has been finalized after several changes. And every coffee shop, bakery, donut shop, and candle store offers something in a pumpkin spice flavor or fragrance.

pumpkin_spice_latteNeighbors are now coming outside to finish up projects that were set aside when the thermometer neared triple digits in an effort to complete their work before the first frost. Charles who lives across the street is painting his porch, Connie is working on her greenhouse, and David and I put a final coat of paint on the railing around our front porch. We still need to put one more coat on the floor and do some cover-up work on some spots of algae or mold that are bleeding through on some of the rafters before we call it done – unless David decides to add a heat source so we can continue to sit out when the blue northers come.

Last week I pulled out Kitty’s blanket, the one I got for Christmas last year that she immediately claimed as her own. She has ignored it so far, but I have a feeling she’ll rediscover it once the really cold weather hits. Maybe Santa will bring her a blanket of her own this year.

Speaking of Santa, one final sign that Fall is around the corner is David. He has begun counting down the weeks and days until Christmas. If I didn’t love him so much, I might have to kill him!



Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Tractors | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on 10/01/19:

Tractor pull - antiqueI went to my first tractor pull this weekend – well, almost. Actually, we were leaving the library after picking up a couple of movies David had reserved when I saw a sign at the entrance of Heritage Park that pointed the way to a Tractor Pull. I craned my neck as we passed, and I saw a couple dozen of the big, colorful machines lined up like a bunch of cadets standing for inspection.

I know very little about tractors, and even less about tractor pulls, so when we got home, I looked on Facebook. I found that the event was the Club Pull for the Lake Country Antique Tractor Association where antique tractors compete for distance pulling tons of material. I imagine that most readers of the Rains County Leader already knew that, but just in case, I did a little bit more research.

Apparently power pulling is a motorsport competition that is popular in several countries including the U.S. and can be done with both trucks and tractors. The vehicles are usually modified for the event so they can pull a heavy sled along a track with the winner being the one that pulls the farthest. If two or more reach the end of the track, they add more weight and do it again.

I found a few pictures of the event, and it looked like a fun way for people to show off their toys. You’ll notice that I wrote “people” and not “guys” because, even though I’ve seen more little boys playing with toy tractors than girls, I know a couple of big girls who have a thing for tractors, too. One is my Aunt Fay, and the other is Stella. You know Stella – she’s my friend who sometimes goes on trips so we can go stay at her house and play with her dog Spike.

Aunt Fay grew up on a farm, and even though she raised her family in a nice neighborhood in Mesquite, Texas, she has always had a garden and has always been a country girl. She and Uncle Dean bought several pieces of property through the years, and when he retired, they moved to a small farm in Brashear, Texas. They worked together for years, but when she was left a widow, she carried on. She contracted with others to harvest and bale her hay and to tend to the small herd of cattle she raised – but she took over the care of her sizeable yard and her not so small garden. She has several lawn tractors, one or two of which make David envious. She also has a small tractor and the attachments she needs to plow, cultivate, and generally care for rows of tomatoes, okra, onions, squash, peas, and more. She has slowed down a little in the past few years. She has sold all the cattle and has decreased the size of the garden a little. That’s to be expected, though. She is, after all, 95 years old.

Aunt Fay grew up in the country, but it really surprised me when I found out that StellaJohn Deere Tractor with shredder liked to drive their tractor and can often be found in the field during haying season. She is still highly sought after in her chosen field of pharmaceutical research, even though she retired several years ago to open her own travel agency. But I guess some of us shed our city girl persona more easily than others. Still having seen their tractor, I can see the attraction.

The few tractors I saw growing up and the antique tractors I saw at Heritage Park on Saturday were about the size of a pickup truck. Stella’s tractor is a monster by comparison. Its back wheels are taller than and I am, and I’d probably have to use a step ladder to get into the cab. I guess being in control of that much power could have a great deal of appeal, but the cab would be the selling point for me. It’s fully enclosed, air conditioned, and probably has a surround sound stereo system. Even so, I doubt you’ll ever find this city girl behind the wheel of one of those monsters. But I might have to show up at the tractor pull next year, just to see if it’s worth another column.



Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

The pigs are back! | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 24, 2019:

Pig in pen 091319Anyone who has lived in Texas for any length of time, unless they live in the city where they are surrounded completely by cement and asphalt, knows that feral hogs are a big problem in the Lone Star State. I didn’t know that much about these destructive creatures until the spring of 2018 when they decided to invade our backyard. If you were reading City Girl back then, you know that they provided material for half a dozen columns, but that was the only good thing about them.

For several months they made nightly raids, rooting up what little grass we had in search of acorns and other goodies and generally making a mess. Sometime in mid to late summer, they moved on, either because David shot one and six more ended up in a trap or because the food supply at our place was about tapped out. Thirty to forty pigs can do that to a little over two acres pretty quickly.

Whatever the reason, we didn’t have any more visitations until this spring. Even then, David spotted only minor damage toward the back of the lot near the creek, and then only for a few days. As the season wore on, though, we began to hear reports from several neighbors about pigs in their yards. None of their invasions compared with what we suffered last year, but since most of their yards are not as landscape challenged as ours, they were still concerned.

My across-the-street neighbor, Connie, was the most upset, because she has been nursing a lot of fruit trees and veggies that she doesn’t want to share with the local wildlife. She told her son Jon, an avid hunter, about our problem, so he and his buddy decided it might be a good time to spend a long weekend in Texas. In spite of lack of evidence, we put a couple of game cameras in the yard. If there were any pigs, they didn’t pose for us, but the guys decided to come anyway.

A few weeks before they were due to arrive, a Facebook friend posted pictures of half a dozen pigs chowing down at their deer feeder. I put her in contact with Jon, and she gave him permission to come and hunt at her place. It’s about a ninety minute drive from here, so he only went once with no success. He spent the rest of his time scouting around Rains County and visiting with Connie. His buddy, on the other hand, spent most of his time there and bagged four of the beasts. They went home with coolers full of meat and left a happy mother behind.

As if to thumb his snout at the hunters, a huge black boar ran across Connie’s yard while Jon and his friend were packing their truck for the trip home. They tracked him across the street into our yard and down into the creek, but they lost him in the underbrush and didn’t have time to pursue him further. We got the last laugh, though.

The trapper that helped us out last year has developed health problems and never came back to get his trap. It’s a fairly big contraption with posts that are sunk firmly into the ground, so it has remained in place and has become a trellis for wild vines and briars. While here, Jon cleaned it up a bit and reset it. I didn’t expect any results, but it didn’t hurt anything to try.

Then, Friday the 13th, while I was at the Fair, David texted me a note that said, “Look what you caught.” Sure enough, there was a picture of a black boar, trapped inside something I had thought was useless.

“So now what?” I replied. The hunters were long gone by then, and even though I’ve heard of people keeping pot-bellied pigs for pets, I didn’t think Kitty needed a sibling.

“Waiting for you to get home and clean it.” Right! Like that’s gonna happen. By the time I closed my book booth and arrived home, Connie had found someone who wanted our uninvited guest, and the pen was empty again.

Of course, the news got around, and neighbors thanked us for getting rid of at least one pest. David has since reset the trap, and we’ve been putting food scraps in it from time to time. We haven’t seen any more activity, but hopefully, the smell of captivity and fear will linger long enough to insure peace at least for a little while.



Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

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