Night oxygen

starsOFTEN I AWAKE, usually temporarily, about 5 a.m. or so.

If I’m on my side, I turn to face up. If sufficiently awake, I take a deep breath. No matter the month, the air will be cool to cold at 5 a.m. And the air is remarkable, nice.

There is no central air at the Hacienda, of course. It’s pure mountain air. It is clean. There is no heavy industry here or anywhere hereabouts. Virtually none down the mountain at the capital city either. The air here is how the Goddess made it. It smells real good.

Here is another thing:  We see stars. I never saw stars in Houston, of course. Not a prayer. I remember decades back at my grandmother’s farm in Georgia, I would stand in the yard nights and oh-so-many stars. You don’t get that in big cities. Too much light competition and pollution.

If you’re out in the Hacienda yard on a cloudless night, there are stars from horizon to horizon. You spot dippers big and small. The moon is as it should be, from a sliver to full, depending on its druthers.

In Georgia, fireflies were common. They’re rather rare here, but sometimes you see them too. But it’s the air that’s particularly striking, its clarity, coolness and good smell.

Old times there are not forgotten

 

pond2

I WOULD PADDLE the unpainted rowboat alone over bream, minnows, snakes, tadpoles and trout through this water named Wavering Pond, even though it was much nearer a lake, filled with Spanish moss and tall cypress trees holding black crows that, being smart, would fly away before I could shotgun them.

It was the 1950s.

Further back, during Hoover’s Depression, my mother would swim there, leaping off a rope tied to a cypress limb. But I never entered that water because I thought it dubious, and I saw more snakes than I would have liked.

So I stuck to my boat and the paddle, just one paddle so you couldn’t really row. You poled and paddled, but since you weren’t going anywhere in a rush, that worked just fine.

Our pond rested down a rutted dirt road about a quarter mile of corn field and Hereford cows behind this house that had been in our family since the 1890s — just 30 years after the bloody war.

home

At first, as was common, the front and one side of the house was one long screened porch for sitting, free of flies, on rocking chairs with cold lemonade on summer days after dinner. And watching fireflies at night after supper. But times and styles and desires changed, and the porch was cut off, saving just this short piece.

There was an interim style, still short but with a wood banister, where my dirt-farmer grandfather would sit and prop up his long, skinny legs in Dickies pants, looking across the red-clay road that ran directly in front of the house about 18 feet away. He usually wore a stained felt fedora and a cigarette, which eventually killed him.

The cigarette, not the fedora.

garage

Shifting your gaze leftward, past a stretch of yard and a pecan tree, you would have seen this garage. They parked Fords there. It was always Fords. Even the tractors were Fords. These were my mother’s people. If you wanted Chevrolets, my father’s family was the place to visit, up north of Atlanta, almost 200 miles away.

But you never heard any fussing about it. Chevrolets versus Fords. It’s not like anybody was a Yankee.

We were all on the same squad that mattered.

These pictures were taken in the 1980s after many of us had died, including the corn, the cows and my dog named Pepper. It had changed an awful lot. Even the red-clay road out front had turned into asphalt.