When we arrived in Texas, I noticed right off that we were a long way from Las Vegas. Or civilization as I knew it. My husband took all phone calls from our landlord because I couldn’t understand even my own name if I couldn’t use gestures to gain context. And the house I’d rented had wheels. I was under the impression that mobile homes were always kept in special parks with warning signs at the gate to please drive slowly so you didn’t knock them over with your wake. But I learned they do have really good thermal qualities – similar to a Styrofoam cup. Warm in summer, cool in winter. Really, what more could I ask for? And then we met a fireman who gave me a great tip to remember – if I was ever trapped in one (and it’s likely, since they engulf quickly), I should just run at the wall. He assured me I’d “pop right out the other side”. That was helpful.
I decided I wanted a real house; I’d heard they have tornadoes on occasion here, and would rather not be the CNN clip telling what it felt like to ride my house across town. We began looking, only to find that road navigation is a dyslexic’s nightmare. “Take FM1626 to RM1431 to SR183 and left onto CR976” – I’m supposed to keep all those numbers straight while driving? Then I noticed that none of these numbers people refer to will ever be found on a street sign. But one road might change names 3 times in a mile, or be known by several names concurrently. And there is at least one “No Name Rd” per town. Tracking house numbers is fun, though, too. I think they let every resident pick his own. There is no logical progression of addresses down most roads, just as there is no building code. You can build or plop whatever you like on your property. We followed one ad to a lovely home, only to find a schoolbus junkyard on one side, a busy chicken operation with a mobile home on the other, and a 7,000 sq. ft. mansion across the way. How realtors determine comps here is beyond me!
But we finally found a small farm and set about our new life expectantly. It only took me a short while to get used to ‘i’ being pronounced ‘a’, as in our orthodontist’s slogan: “Simply Awesome Smalls”. I picked up phrases like “ole in the car” and “rat around the corner” pretty quickly. And then I joined the local homeschool group to meet people. Thinking back, I’m not sure if I was speaking Greek, or what went wrong there. I was under the impression that homeschooling has always meant doing your own thing the way you feel is best for each child. Not here – 75% of the population of my little town is employed by the school district, and homeschooling is what teachers do when they have babies. They bring all the propaganda, bells and attendance sheets home. I was dumbfounded. Why, if you don’t want to change anything, would you go to all the trouble and expense to do it yourself? Meanwhile, they were appalled that I didn’t think their teacher certification and training in crowd control were necessary to educate their own children in the 3R’s. It wasn’t long before they booted my arrogant backside…..
But I’ve never been overly peer dependent, so I decided to start a small sheep farming business and weave it into our education. Bought three little cuties to start my flock, put them in the back yard and went to dinner. Came home to find my Shepherd preferred fresh lamb to Iams. So much for Kubota, Deere and the Dodge Ram. So we switched to a more durable farm animal: goats. My boys were instantly convinced that I’d enrolled them in Rodeo 101 to fulfill their Physical Education requirement. Goats must be Satan’s pride and joy. They ate my roses and hibiscus in spite of trucking in $1500 worth of feed from New Mexico. They enjoyed playing ‘King of the Hill’, and we learned that businesses aren’t guaranteed profitability.
Spring arrived, and the rains came. One night at midnight a storm appeared, blowing horizontally with a dreadful noise and knocking out all power to the house. Hubby was out of state and the kids couldn’t sleep. Water began coming in through the walls, and the kids started a towel and bucket brigade. sopping up the mess any way possible. I rocked the baby and sobbed on the phone with Dad, who wanted to know what he was supposed to do from several states away. I had no clue, but it was the only thing I could think of to do that looked productive. The 3 year old came to me screaming about something I could not understand, so I added him to my lap. Then we noticed during a lightning flash that the barn roof was gone, leaving all of our stored clothes and family photos exposed. Thunder and lightning were now rocking the house simultaneously, but I couldn’t leave my wedding albums in the rain. I put the babies to huddle in my daughter’s bed with her while my oldest son and I went out to rescue them. We realized once we were out there that this might not be the safest thing we’ve ever done. But we did discover what traumatized Junior – our trampoline had left the time zone .
I had photos drying on every available surface for months while the rain continued. The goats climbed on anything and everything to keep their dainty feet dry. (They can get pretty high.) My freshly planted vegetable garden turned to soup. But the sun did come back out eventually and parched what managed to sprout to a crisp. We overseeded the lawn in attempt to bring it back, only to have an entire flock of grackles stop by and peck up every last seed. Then, just so I knew God still provides, the tree overhanging the back door produced what looked like raspberries and dropped them on the step. The chickens ate most of them, but the children tracked in the foulest looking yuck I’ve ever seen along with the berry stains.
Summer brought the drought, and didn’t give way to winter or rain again for another four years. The house floor cracked and we were advised that we should have watered our foundation – didn’t we know nothin? It’s how you keep the ground from giving way under your slab. Since the clay underfoot is a veritable sponge, the best way to keep it from shriveling and warping is to keep it wet. So hubby went out to fill the deep cracks in the clay beside the house. I think some poor kid in China is still wondering where all that water came from. Nothing changed except the water bill. It would make more sense to me not to build a house on a slab here, but I kept my mouth shut. I’m only a woman, and cannot be expected to say anything intelligent.
We finally gave up and sold the goat venture for the princely sum of $800. That’s when I learned the true secret of farming, and what obviously makes it so desirable. You get to buy everything at retail price, watch it all go to hell in a handbasket despite working your fingers to the bone around the clock, when you can finally sell for wholesale.