Monday, October 26, 2009

Things My Daddy Taught Me, Part 1, Where I grew up

I was blessed with the privilege of growing up on a cattle ranch, in Southwest Texas. Almost in the heart of the hill country. In a valley, at the base of the Edwards Plateau, along the banks of the Nueces River. It was a big ranch by some standards, right at 10,000 acres. The lake we swam in, was fed by a large spring that came out of the side of a hill. It was full of bass, perch, and catfish. We had fig trees, pecan trees, wild plums, and big, beautiful , oak trees. We even had pine trees to cut for Christmas. The mountain laurel, when in bloom, covers the hillside in purple, and fills the air with a strong, sweet, aroma. It always gave me, an instant headache. We had persimmon bushes, that when the persimmons ripened, we had pretend chewing tobacco. The wild grapes made great jelly, and of course, the first grapevine cigarettes. It only took one time of smoking the vine, for me to figure out It wasn't worth my tongue swelling double in size. The whitetail deer, turkey, and quail, flourished on the ranch. You never killed anything you didn't eat, unless of course, you crossed paths with a rattlesnake. Summertime , was always, rattlesnake time. We never left the house without being told, "watch out for snakes!" We always had a big garden full of vegetables, and an orchard with peach, pears, & plums. Canning & preserving was a big deal at our house. We really didn't have to buy much from the grocery store, we were pretty self-sufficient. It took a lot to feed us seven kids, and our constant string of overnight friends. And we had a lot of friends! We never had television, but all the kids in town & surrounding ranches, wanted to be at our house. My Mom built us a ping pong table using a sheet of plywood, we had a concrete slab with a basketball goal, a baseball diamond in front of the house, and a volleyball court in the back . We had a tree house, playhouse, and a camp on the creek. The camp on the creek got the most use. It was there, I learned how NOT to cook a chicken, that you can NOT fry eggs on a flat rock without them sliding off, & that you can NOT smoke grapevine without your tongue blistering. Thank God, we had lots of chickens, because we were convinced, if we leveled that rock a little more, we were going to have fried eggs. Horses were part of every day life. Any spare time I had, was spent on the back of my horse, Buck, & later years, on Rascal. We rode bareback, tried wearing breechcloths, which was a one time thing. Sweat + horse hair + bare skin = itch, rash, pain. We made our own war paint out of Agarita bush roots by mashing them up and mixing with water. We thought we were pretty smart until Monday morning came around and we had to wear it to school. We didn't know it would stain for days, and my face was red from scrubbing and all the jokes.

My Daddy was bigger than life. His name was Jerome, but everyone called him John, or Big John. He could have been another John Wayne. He was a big man, 6"2", about 220lbs. His Dad died real young, so he only got to go to the 6th grade. He went to work instead. On a ranch. And there he found his true calling, ranching & family. Daddy loved life, the people in it, and the Lord he worshipped. He believed in honesty, hard work, having fun, and prayer. He went and fought in WWII, came back and went to ranching and raising a family. A family that became 7 kids, 4 girls, & 3 boys. His first priority, was getting his kids to church. He loved to sing, and was the song leader at our church, until he died. Many a Sunday, I stood on a chair by the pulpit, and sang a special with Daddy. I love Sundays the best. When we worked, and we did a lot, Daddy always made it fun. He was always smiling and happy, even when he had reason not to be. It didn't matter if you were a girl or a boy, we could all do the same things. We did the same work, had the same responsibilities, but the girls couldn't cuss. Daddy wouldn't have that. He just wanted us girls to be independent and capable, like his Mama. When Grandpa died, she raised 5 kids by herself, and never remarried. She lived to be a healthy 96 year old, and said it was from all the hard work and going to church. We all wanted to be like Granny. The first thing I learned from my Daddy, at a very young age, was love of family, love of the Lord, & love of others. From that young age, I knew I was loved, by Daddy, by the Lord, & the rest of my family. What a great way to start my life and in such good company.

**This is the beginning of Things My Daddy Taught Me.   Please join me on some colorful, sad, happy, crazy, tragic, stories on my life's lessons.


  1. This is so awesome!! I can't wait to read more!!!

  2. So I am sitting in what I think used to be your horse stables. I live at a ranch/camp called Camp Eagle at the Headwaters of the Nueces River in Rocksprings, TX. I do hope to talk to you! :)

    I just read this story aloud to the staff here and it is a great testimony of what God is still doing out here.