Year In Review Part 2 – Tilden and Tall Tales


I’d passed through a Texas a couple of times. Once as a little kid, and once in 2002 for work.  I didn’t come to Texas with many preconceptions. Those first 3 1/2 weeks in Tilden went a long way towards shaping my picture of the state.  A year later I can say that Texas is a big state with a whole lot of variety.  But for now, I’ll just stick to what I learned about Texas in Tilden.

The first thing I saw in Tilden was the grocery store. Joe’s Food Market was a one of a kind store, not just in the sense that it was unique, which it was, but also because it had one of each kind of thing: 1 jar pear cactus jelly, 1 roll of paper towels, 1 slab of pickled pimento loaf, 1 bag of dog food, 1 string of dried red peppers etc… It was kind of pricey but a very friendly little place.

We didn’t stop at Joe’s that first night. We hurried on down the pocked road to our first assignment. A fella I’ll call Bubba, who was the Field Supervisor subbing for Larry, was sitting in his pickup, wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots propped on the service wagon, waiting impatiently when we finally rattled and bumped up to the gate just before sunset. Yep, we weren’t in Kansas , Iowa,   Oregon anymore!

Bubba did our initial gate guard training which consisted of handed us a clip board with log sheets, containing the 5 entries he’d made while waiting for us to 1. get a new Jeep battery, 2. find Henry and the lost RV and 3. take the 175 mile short cut.

He said: Y’all just needa do it like I done it and don’t let’em catch you with thar gate open and lockerup anigh  fer your own sakes.

That was it for training. Then he gave us a rather unusual speech about how we’d have to pay a very large fine if we quit the job without giving 2 weeks notice and if we did quit, we’d never work for the government again (kind of odd since this isn’t a government job).

Bubba hooked up the  electric and water and promised someone would be out with the septic in a day or two. We didn’t find out his water pump wasn’t working until after he left. We also didn’t know who we were working for, what we were guarding (frac tank), or what exactly we were supposed to do, except to do it like he done it. I’m not really the just wing it type, so I felt pretty unsettled. More so after Bubba described our ranch.

Bubba was a man of tall tales. He told us we were on an exotic animal ranch with zebras and albino deer and other ‘large game animals’. OK, nothing he said that first evening proved to be true, but it made for an interesting first few days, since we were a pretty afraid of walking more than a few feet from the RV for fear of being eaten by something or shot by someone. Turns out the only exotic animals were cows.

Our “exotic animals”

They weren’t particularly friendly cows though. It was in Tilden that Henry and Heidi developed their Bovinophoia which remains with them to this day. Bubba was right about it being a hunting ranch. The owner, an attorney in Austin, had a $30,000 buck that he kept for breeding. The hunting lodge was just a little ways behind us.

It was a private hunting ranch, for his friends and family. By invitation only, they would come, and for $1500, they would get 3 set shots at a buck. If the shooter missed all 3 shots (unlikely since the deer were fed in designated areas right beneath the blinds), it was up to the discretion of the owner, whether to give them a ticket to return and try again.

I have friends in Iowa and in Oregon who hunt. They eat what they shoot. But to be honest, this Texas type of hunting doesn’t seem very sporting to me. However, I’m a Yankee and I know that hunting ranching are a way of life in parts of Texas. It was  just new to me.

There was only one restaurant in Tilden and eating there meant eating among the trophies. It was a little intimidating. I only ate there once and I didn’t look up much. There were things on the wall, I didn’t even recognize. I’ve become real familiar with Texas wild life since then. But back in Tilden, they were just scary dinner companions.

Most of folks we met on the ranch and in town, drove around with a shotgun on their dash. That was new to me, too. Everyone seemed alarmed that we weren’t armed. After a while, so was I!

Texas! I felt like I’d just crossed into an old Twilight Zone episode.

So began this Yankee city gal’s adventures in Texas. I won’t write any more about hunting. I don’t mean to cause offense or make a political statement. The point is just to highlight how entirely out of my element I was since I used to cry if I ran over a squirrel with my Camry.

Tomorrow, if the internet allows, it’s on to caliche that’ll suck your shoes off and the Disappearing Dump.

Don’t Just Face It! Embrace It!

It was wildly windy last night. No rain here in Wharton, but Wow! was there wind. And with the wind, came a cool cold front.

The RV rocked and shook in manically uneven rhythms all night as the temperature dipped to near record lows.

As I write this morning, it’s 41 degrees at 3:30 a.m.

I happily donned my sweatshirt as I set about, repositioning Henry’s bed away from the bright fake fireplace to the far (10 feet maybe – it is an RV after all) corner of the living room.

He wouldn’t lay down because his bovinophobia has flared up again. But this isn’t really a story about cows, except in Henry’s mind, it’s about phobias. Although I have to admit, cows are pretty scary when their eyes glow.

What this really is, is my final post on rodents, unless one makes a nest in the bed, as I’m told happened to a gate guard down south. This amazing deed transpired all in the course of one day. The lady-of-the-gate made her bed one morning and by the time she was ready for sleep that night, there was a nest in it, complete with mice. No kidding! My friend ran into her at the laundromat the next day!

Since one of us is sleeping about 18 out of every 24 hours, the mice would have to be quick. What they may lack in speed, they more than make up for in noise.

I’ve only seen three  – or one, three times. It’s pretty hard to say. There was the pitter- patter of paws across the kitchen floor one night. There was  the about-face mouse in the bathroom another. And of course, there was the one hanging out on the front door a few nights ago. The 11 that have found their way to the Doritos, I’ve left to Heidi’s charge.

Unfortunately, Henry has yet to see a mouse, but he sees cows on a regular basis.

We’ve taken everything out from under the cabinet, stuffed the hole with steel wool and emptied the drawers on the side. The  food is sealed in bins and containers.

That does leave quite a hollow sound under the sink. When the mice are overcome by the draw of the Dorito, they bounce around like malfunctioning pinballs. It’s amazingly loud!

Henry has decided, I think, although I don’t know this for a fact, that there are tiny cows living down there.

It’s gotten so bad that he won’t sleep beside the cabinet. My pet therapy dog may need pet therapy if we can’t conquer these small home invaders soon.

I don’t think I’m musophobic (the phobic fear of mice and rats), but just in case I Googled the cure.

According to Reid Wilson, author of Don’t Panic,  if you do have musophobia, you should plaster pictures of mice all over the walls and go to the pet store to buy one. (Don’t spend the money on this step if you’re phobic as I have plenty you can have for free.) Bring the mouse home and let him run up  and down your arms. Above all, Wilson urges you to embrace your anxiety. He says you need to put your game face on:

I want to get anxious around mice because that’s what’s required to get better. The longer I feel this, the better it’s going to be. That kind of spirit is so helpful to people who are trying to get over this stuff. ~ Reid Wilson

I’m guessing this last part applies to bovinophobia as well. So, in the wee hours of the morning, I slowly slid Henry’s bed back over to its normal spot. He put his best game face on and is now anxiously waiting for the cows to come home.