Category Archives: Juniper

Norman Clyde and Life on Mountain Trails

Norman Clyde taught, read, guided mountain climbs and rescues.  “Norman Clyde still guided parties into the Sierra into the 1960s, when he was in his seventies. In the 1950s and 1960s, he lived by himself at the old Baker ranch-house on Baker Creek near Big Pine. Because he was trained in the classics, Norman Clyde loved to read books in Latin and Greek. At the Baker ranch-house, Clyde had thousands of rare classical books. At age 80, he was still sleeping outside the ranch-house on a mattress and sleeping bag, as long as it was fair weather.”

The above photograph on the cover of the magazine, Climbing, I have kept since a friend of mine, Mark Garlin, gave me the magazine in 1972.  Norman Clyde died later that year, December, 1972, at the age of 87.  I have kept the magazine at my ready shelf since that time because of my love of climbing mountains and the presence of strength and fortitude in Clyde’s face and posture.  Despite age, he has tools of his love and trade beside him:  rope, ice axe, and rucksack.

When I have climbed mountains by way of trail and path, not rope nor ice axe, I have met young and old, educated and not, rich and poor, and men and women who love the outdoors and the challenge of a good climb.  Without fail, those that are on the trail take an interest in the columbine and rushing waters and all the conifers in high country.  Oh, the trees: ponderosa pine, spruce, juniper, pinion.  There is learning in the austere mountain trail that is both external and internal.  In the external, one sees and usually identifies geological formations, the topography, the magpies and jays, and the trees.  Internally, the lessons run deep and are formative, even in old age.

Norman Clyde in the photograph above was in his eighties.  The perseverance in his climbing is found off the slopes in building strawbale compounds (as my good friend, Jimmy Henley, was doing at the time of his death in his seventies), performing the arts, climbing trees as a trimmer, and pursuing goals in getting a degree.  If ever you think you are too old, think of Norman Clyde on the front cover, the mountains behind and the tools of his adventure about him.  Clyde will climb until his body fails.

As I wrote, I keep Clyde’s photograph on my ready shelf.  If he can climb at his age, I can hike and build fence and mountaineer at my age.  As I climb in the high country, three questions arise:  What am I doing here?  What should I do?  And, how do I know?  The answers are simple and complex.  I am hiking.  I am hiking.  I know I am hiking in this moment at my pace, walking among the trees, hearing birds, seeing and hearing rushing waters, touching ground, seeing the sky as I meet others on the trail.  Those are my three answers.  In a sense, those are everyone’s answers.  Until our bodies fail.   Norman Clyde, front cover, Norma Clyde, front cover….

*******

Photograph of Norman Clyde by David Hiser.

Quote in first paragraph from Wikipedia, “Norman Clyde,” accessed Aug. 23, 2016.

The three questions in the last paragraph are derivative from my course in philosophy at University of Texas at Austin, 1961.  On the Philosophy Department’s website page (at least a couple of years ago) those questions were posed in a slightly different way.

I climbed with Mark Garlin, my friend who gave me the magazine.  He lectured at the Air Force Academy in the 1970s on climbing and survival in the mountains.

 

 

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Filed under Adventure, Juniper, Recollections 1966-1990, Recollections 1990-

Cedar of hope

I have a cedar chest in the living room, placed between the sofa and the armoire.  I store Pendleton blankets in it now, but it was my mother’s cedar chest or hope chest as it was sometimes called. Opening it up the other day, I came across the trademark on the lid with the scientific name of the red cedar used to construct the chest: Juniperus virginiana.  I don’t recall ever having seen that before.

I find it quaint, old-style, to burn the imprimatur into the lid.  Frankly, I am not one given to hope, but rather working for a desired outcome seems to pay off better than wishing.  Cedar chests, however, were storage boxes of blankets, sheets, pillowcases and fine dresses for young women in the 1920s and 1930s in Texas, my mother being one of those hopeful for the ‘right man.’  The Lane Company that manufactured cedar chests went out of business in 2001, after having started constructing ammunition boxes for the U.S. military in The Great War.

As I open the cedar chest today, the red cedar smell permeates the blankets and handkerchiefs I store.  The scent of cedar brings back the vignette of my mother leaning down, opening the lid of her hope chest and caressing white sheets and pillowcases as I sat on the bed and read comic books as a boy.  Cedar is a tree.  Cedar was hope.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

As the contents of such a chest would primarily be linens, construction in moth-repellent cedar, or at least a cedar lining, was popular. The Lane Company of Altavista, VA (1912, closed 2001)[4] were a notable maker of cedar chests. After developing production-line techniques for making ammunition boxes during World War One, they turned these production techniques and a patent locking-mitre corner joint, into vast numbers of chests. This was aided by strong advertising, using a teenaged Shirley Temple as a model, in a campaign targeted at GIs and absentee sweethearts of World War II. They were particularly well-known for their practice (since 1930) of distributing miniature (12″ long) cedar chests to high-school girls as advertising gifts.[3] The Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is the “cedar” used in making moth-repelling cedar chests and drawers, as well as pencils.

‘Hope Chest,’ Wikipedia, accessed March 15, 2012.

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Juniper: an evergreen for all my seasons

Juniper in Flying Hat Ranchito grove, often referred to as cedar (J. Matthews, 2011).

(As a disclosure, I use “cedar” and “juniper” interchangeably.  See notes below from Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.)

I grew up with cedar all around me, but cedar posts for building fence predominated.  T-posts (the steel ones) may be making fence construction faster these days, but I hold to the cedar post as a primary building material.  Allergies from cedar congest the lungs of Texans, particularly central residents who weather the Mountain Cedar every year.  A website dedicates itself to, “Cedar: The Allergy Plague of Trees.

All of that being said, the cedar or juniper holds personal value for me beyond the descriptions, quotes and links I attach in this post.

Of all the flora about me as I grew up and the plants about me now, the juniper radiates scent and memories, even beyond the majestic pecan in my far pasture.  I burned juniper in a Folger’s coffee can to sweeten the air at campsites and even in my apartment from time to time, placing the coffee can at the edge of the hearth.  I have taken cedar bark and twisted it into fine pieces and lit a single match to start a campfire, and I have carried cedar tinder in my backpack to start fire along the trail.  I cut cedar staves and posts one Christmas vacation to earn extra money and to say, I once worked as a cedar chopper.

Green juniper groves along the Colorado River near Bend, Texas, contrasted with bleached white-gray rock outcroppings, and I found old campsites of roundups in pastures about the river, the blackened rock, not the red, holding the remains of cedar fires.  My grandmother once pointed out a cow camp firepit near the Colorado that she had cooked for the crew and her husband-cowboy Jake, before his accident on the horse Hell’s Canyon.

I have camped near cedar breaks many times, but the one time I remember was on the Zuni Reservation, out in the middle of the reservation, by myself with junipers and coyotes through the night.  I built a small fire of cedar and munched on a juniper berry for its bitter effect.  I had sped to the reservation from Grants, New Mexico, and hastily set up camp, sleeping in my bedroll beside the fire the night through.  I was seeking a medicine man, but he never found my camp.

More often than not at Christmas time, my family cut a juniper tree from the ranch to place in the living room.  The tree may have been as short as three feet, at other times, five-feet tall.  I loved the aroma of the juniper as it filled the house for Christmas.  Tinsel drooped from the branches with those bubbly lights all aglow.

Near Abilene, on the road to Coleman, there is a park on the east side of the highway at Buffalo Gap, a broad cut in the hills that buffalo and migrants used to go into southwest Texas from the High Plains and Caprock.  The park has a large grove of junipers that have trunks three to five feet in diameter.  I have rested there many times and note the broad-deep shade the junipers provide in the Summer and windbreak during Winter.  From the Juniper Park — as I have taken to call it — one can see into Buffalo Gap and off in the distance the plains to the north.  This Juniper Park has been a lookout, a redoubt of some sort, for a long, long time.  I think I stopped there one time when I was traveling to Brownwood to take care of my aging mother, or it may have been another time, and I rolled the windows down to smell the juniper and place my hand on the fertile greenery I had known all my life, or that other day anew in late Spring.  I thought then, as I do now, that I will remember this day for as long as I live, for although my mother lay dying and I was teaching in a foreign land, the evergreen of juniper and its effect transcended my sorrow and sense of alienation from this world.  I have found home and peace and love beneath junipers for all my seasons.  To me, its fruit is never bitter.

______________________________

Notes, corrections and additions:

Some juniper trees are misleadingly given the common name “cedar,” including Juniperus virginiana, the “red cedar” that is used widely in cedar drawers. True cedars are those tree species in the genus Cedrus, family Pinaceae.

In Morocco, the tar (gitran) of the arar tree (Juniperus phoenicea) is applied in dotted patterns on bisque drinking cups. Gitran makes the water more fragrant and is said to be good for the teeth.

American Indians have used juniper to treat diabetes; such treatments by the Navajo, for example, are under clinical study.[3] Clinical studies have shown that treatment with juniper may retard the development of streptozotocin diabetes in mice.[4] Native Americans also used juniper berries as a female contraceptive.[5] The 17th Century herbalistphysicianNicholas Culpeper recommended the ripened berries for conditions such as asthma and sciatica, as well as to speed childbirth.[6]

“Juniper,” Wikipedia, accessed December 25, 2011.

* * *

juniper, any of about 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreen trees or shrubs constituting the genus Juniperus of the cypress family (Cupressaceae), distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The juvenile leaves of a juniperare needlelike. Mature leaves are awl-shaped, spreading, and arranged in pairs or in whorls of three. Some species have small, scalelike leaves, often bearing an oil gland, which are pressed closely to the rounded or four-angled branchlets. Male and female reproductive structures usually are borne on separate plants. The reddish brown or bluish cones are fleshy and berrylike and often have a grayish, waxy covering. They mature in 1 to 3 seasons and contain 1 to 12 seeds, usually 3.

Common juniper (J. communis), a sprawling shrub, is widely distributed on rocky soils throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many ornamental cultivars have been developed. The berrylike megastrobilus of this species is used to flavour foods and alcoholic beverages, particularly gin, which is named after Juniperus through the French genièvre. Juniper “berries” have a fragrant, spicy aroma and a slightly bittersweet flavour. Used with venison, they remove the gamey taste. They are also used to season sauces and stuffings, in pickling meats, and to flavour liqueurs and bitters.

An important ornamental and timber tree of eastern North America is the eastern red cedar (J. virginiana), whose fragrant wood is made into cabinets, fence posts, and pencils. This species is an invader of glades, pastures, prairies, and other open grassy areas in parts of its range; thus, it is considered a troublesome weed by some botanists and land managers. The savin (J. sabina) of central Europe, Chinese juniper (J. chinensis) of eastern Asia, and creeping juniper (J. horizontalis) of eastern North America are other popular ornamental species with many horticultural varieties. The wood of incense, or Spanish, juniper (J. thurifera), of Spain and Portugal, and of Phoenician juniper (J. phoenicea) of the Mediterranean region sometimes is burned as incense.

Oil of juniper, distilled from the wood and leaves of several species, is used in perfumes and in medicines such as diuretics. Galls produced by junipers as a reaction to fungal infection are known as cedar apples. This fungus, cedar apple rust, completes its life cycle on members of the apple subfamily of the flowering plant family Rosaceae, which contains numerous species of trees and shrubs commercially valuable as fruit and ornamental plants. The growth of junipers around apple orchards and plantings of related genera is thus discouraged to avoid disfigurement or loss of these important cultivated plants.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “juniper,” accessed December 25, 2011, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/308301/juniper.

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Walking with Great Blue Herons

The grove peninsula. This is one of several peninsulas formed by the meandering Salt Creek (December 2011).

Blue Heron tracks along a still pool of water in Salt Creek (December 2011).

I walked in the grove this morning.  Several peninsulas emerge in the grove, cut by the swift and long-flowing water of Salt Creek.  Upon purchasing Flying Hat Ranchito eight-years ago, I found a red metal chair on the peninsula I photographed, a solitary chair for the previous owner to muse, observe or rest.  I took the chair off the peninsula.

Wet and cold the air, I saw track of the Great Blue Heron that frequents the creek that meanders among the elm, oak and juniper.  I see one or two of them each day flying to the cow tanks about the ranchito.  The heron track I identified with my Peterson’s field guide to animal tracks, a new third edition I purchased when Border’s went out of business in Fort Worth.

I was not alone as I walked in the grove.  The Great Blue Heron — past and present — walked with me in the grove today.

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Cool, clear water

Western edge of pond, Flying Hat Ranchito, north Erath County, Texas, July 2011.

Proust had his tea cake that extended memories to prosy heights that we all have started to climb, but failed to reach — my ascent stopped at Swann’s Way, but I’m not going to stay long on the ledge for I have hammered the next piton to assail the final page of Mt. Swann.  “Cool Water,” a country and western classic by the Sons of the Pioneers, a tea cake of sorts, takes me back to old Camp Bowie, near Brownwood, Texas, as I complained the lack of water on a hot summer day, touring with my parents in a old, non-air conditioned Ford sedan.  Why they weren’t thirsty, I’ll never know, but I campaigned persistently for halting somewhere, anywhere, for water.

I must have been persuasive for my step-father stopped the car along the highway and I crossed over a fence and ran to a pond of fresh, cool water in a green pasture.  I drank, cupping the water in my hands, not muddling the water as I scooped.  Even today, I still see that pond when I drive in the region, although it has been dug out and deepened countless times.  Both my step-father and mother laughed in sympathy and I was dubbed, “Chief Water Bucket,” a name I did not like nor wanted.

The drought in the Southwest descends brutally upon the landscape, in the news and by the mails; the only shade at times is under lovely junipers.  I look out upon brittle, brown grasses; the trees in the grove are turning golden.  The newspapers boldface the headlines that cattle are being sold through the night at local auctions as cattlemen line up two-miles long with moaning cows in their trailers.  In the mail, Barton Water Cooperative states that I can only water the yard twice a week and if the water usage exceeds tolerable levels, I will be assessed a fine, a surcharge.  I fill one water trough for my horse, Star, allowing an overflow into a pan on the ground for wildlife.  I dare a surcharge for that.

This summer I have thought often about “Cool Water,” and sung and hummed the melody and lyrics.  Each time I reflect on the music, I am back with my parents alongside the road, running for the cool, clear water in that pasture.  “Cool Water,” is my tea cake, my madeleine.

Here are the lyrics to “Cool Water,” followed by a current photograph of the ranchito’s only pond.

All day I face the barren waste without the taste of water,
Cool water.
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry and souls that cry for water,
Cool water.

The night are cool and I’m a fool each stars a pool of water,
Cool water.
But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn and carry on to water,
Cool water.

(Chorus)
Keep a movin’ Dan, don’t you listen to him Dan, he’s a devil not a man
and he spreads the burnin’ sand with water.
Dan can’t you see that big green tree where the waters runnin’ free
and it’s waiting there for me and you.
Water, cool water.

The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water,
Cool water.
And way up there He’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water,
Cool Water.

Dan’s feet are sore he’s yearning for just one thing more than water,
Cool water.
Like me, I guess, he’d like to rest where there’s no quest for water,
Cool water.

(“Cool Water,” Sons of the Pioneer, RCA Country Legends.)

Flying Hat Ranchito pond, north Erath County, July 2011.

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Allowing the flourishing of wildlife

A 1975 reprint of Farmers' Bulletin No. 2035

The first summer I lived on my ranchito, the summer of 2004, I hired Cody Scott to plant native grass seeds in my far pasture, the Pecan Tree Pasture that lay between Barton Creek and Salt Creek.  Last summer I reseeded the pasture with native grass seeds and wildflowers.  The upshot of these two distributions has been a resurgence of bluestem, side-oats gramma, buffalo grass, coneflowers, Indian blankets and vetch.  Frankly, I held no longitudinal goal other than to provide habitat food for cattle, horses and wildlife.

Frank Waters of The Man Who Killed The Deer (1942) fame wrote that the proper relationship of a person to the land was to “live with the land,” not on it, but with the land.  Living with the land has been an axiom for me, a mantra for many years.  A U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2035, “Making Land Produce Useful Wildlife,” provides me guidelines to live with the land.  By way of full disclosure, I do not make my living raising cattle or horses, but teaching at a junior college in Abilene, so my basic approach to my ranchito is sustaining the land, not cropping, leasing or planting.  That being said, I integrate what I have learned with horses, cattle and the land into my lectures.

The land is my teacher and all things upon it instruct, from thistles under juniper to even — I hesitate to write this — the mesquite.

So, a few tips from “Making Land Produce Useful Wildlife,” by Wallace L. Anderson, biologist, Soil Conservation Service, I list below.

To support a high wildlife population, a farm or ranch must have a plentiful supply of good food close to cover that furnishes protection from enemies and weather.  And it must be available in all seasons of the year….

Pastureland practices harmful to wildlife are uncontrolled burning, overgrazing, and complete clean mowing early in the season….

There are three essentials to good cover for wildlife — grasses, weeds, stubble, and other low-growing plants for nesting and roosting; dense or thorny shrubs for protection from predators, for loafing, and for nesting; and, in the North, clumps of evergreens or other tall dense cover for winter protection.

Mesquite thorns, poisonous plants and cacti also abound along the fence rows in the far field.   I have bull nettle, a stinging plant to the touch, but it has medicinal properties.  The nightshade plant that many define as a weed has been used to treat snakebite erupts along the corral.  And the few cedar trees, cut and harvested year after year prior to my ownership, their posts for sale in Mingus and Palo Pinto, are defined more appropriately as “juniper” provide berries for birds, aroma for incense and luscious shade from the sun.  I shan’t be cutting  cedar breaks or juniper.  All this in the far field allows the flourishing of wildlife close to me, close to you, close to us all.

Juniper, often referred to as cedar (J. Matthews, 2011).

[In my next post, I will write about the mesquite tree that is close to us all here in the bush.]

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Flaming rainbow

Summer solstice rainbow

In the country, dust and heat on summer solstice day in Texas compress the air and stifle activity unless pickup doors close and air conditioning is set to near maximum.  Cattle bunch up under the shade of mesquite and live oak, chewing cud, panting and resting.  Highway construction workers — I see them between Mingus and Abilene — don white, flowing bandannas about their neck, issuing profiles of Bedouin upon the Arabian desert.  The workers move slowly, crumbling with drills and backhoes the old asphalt so that concrete may be laid for continental traffic.  They toil for dollars, but mostly for future mirages in far-off lands.

So dry, the forest service retorts, that in the recorded weather history of  Texas, no drier period between last October and May has occurred.  As the sun set two days ago, smoke from wildfires westward turned the sun blood-red and I thought of all the science fiction tales that speak of dying worlds, collapsing stars and barren wastes of uninhabitable planets.

But yesterday evening, thunder and lightening came through the ranchito with rain that pooled ever so briefly on the county road, setting new potholes that I will not regret.  The sky, the air turned yellow, yellowish-green, and in the east where the squall line flew, the darkest blue set the mantlepiece for a rainbow, two of them, in the sky.  How infinite the patterns of the weather for one day the sun scorches the veld and the next day reflects the colors of rainbows.  Flame and rainbow melt.  The colors drape beautifully, artfully, upon a landscape that nourishes life and hope again, an elegant form that rests against me.  Dust and heat will come again, I know.  But yesterday a rainbow colored my sky and will again.

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Lilly’s Mound: early Winter morning

 

Lilly's Mound in an early Winter morning at Flying Hat Ranch, Texas, 2011 (click to enlarge)

In the far background are the Twin Mountains of north Erath County, Texas, 1,400 feet. Ducks swim and feed upon and beneath the pond in the middle of the photograph even in this cold weather.  The gate opens into the arena pasture.  The small mound with cedar posts upon it, to the far, far left in the photograph (you may have to enlarge), is Lilly’s Mound, 1,065 feet.  The mound is small and does not stand out in the photograph — in fact, hardly noticeable — , but it is a meaningful part of this good earth to me and Brenda and Star.

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Filed under Cedar, Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Juniper, Lilly, Star

Cedar post traction

The weather remains cold, down to 12 degrees last night and up to 21 degrees at 3:00 p.m.  I do like Winter.

Since Tuesday, we have stayed put in the ranch house, burning pinion in the fireplace during the day, lowering the thermostat to 65 degrees in cooperation with emergency power issues in Texas.  The temperature is not expected to go above freezing until Saturday and another snowfall descends this evening.

Schools closed.  Our mail carrier, Jeannie Chisolm, told us this morning that the roads are treacherous on her route that encompasses county roads in Erath and Palo Pinto Counties.

I needed to make a mercy run to Interstate 20, five miles away, for supplies.  First, I had to put weight in back of the F-250.  The old “two-bales-of-hay-watered-down-and-frozen” ploy was not feasible.  Too cold and I didn’t want the hassle of clean up next week.  As a second option, I decided to load the F-250 with cedar posts in order to weigh the rear end down.  Actually, the wood used for fence posts is not cedar, but juniper.  The colloquial is “cedar,” however, and I’m not about to go to the “cedar” yard and ask for “juniper” posts — might result in fisticuffs about definition of terms. But, back to loading cedar.

It’s not as easy as it sounds.  First, I broke the ice around the barn doors with a flat shovel in order to drive the DX-55 Case-Farmall into the pasture where I stored the posts.  After the tractor warmed up, I loaded two big stacks of cedars into the front-end loader, sweeping some snow off the posts and observed Meadow Larks nearby, scratching for seed where the posts had rested.  I drove up the hill to the house.  I used a rubber hammer to dislodge the goose-neck ball from the bed of the pickup, as it had become frozen after the rain Monday evening.  I use the rubber hammer and vise-grips frequently in these times.

I dumped — very carefully — two loads of 6 to 9 inch cedar posts into the bed of the F-250, raising the front-end loader above the bed of the pickup and away from the back window.  I estimated the load to be about 800 pounds, sufficient to give traction on ice for the pickup.  I test drove the 250 up and down the lane.  Two loads seemed sufficient — it was.

Between our place and the interstate, a pickup had overturned and at least ten off-road events in the bar ditch had occurred.  Trucks on the interstate traveled in one lane at 15-20 m.p.h.  We bought our few supplies and came back to the house on the road with two inches of ice beneath several inches of snow.  The clerk at the Exxon station stated that the local propane dealer had run out of propane and his trucks could not resupply until the roads cleared.  There was no milk for sale — all sold out.

Back at the house, we settle in.  I give Star a loaf of hay to tide him over till supper.  Lottie our Schnauzer jumps up on the fireplace bench to warm herself after we relight the fire.  I look out and see cedar posts in the F-250 and I know in an emergency we can make the Palo Pinto Rural Health Clinic (PPRHC) in Gordon with cedar posts as weight in the back for traction.

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Gathering mistletoe in December

Oklahoma floral image mistletoe

In the 1940s and 1950s, I grew up in central Texas, playing and working about the counties of Brown, Mills, San Saba and Lampasas.

Although born in Brown County, my family spend a great deal of time visiting relatives during the holidays in San Saba and Lampasas Counties.  The Colorado River and San Saba River formed the backdrop of my childhood and early teen years.  During December, I often stayed a week or two with my grandmother who lived first in Bend, Texas, and then Lometa, a few miles away from Bend where she worked as a telephone switchboard operator for the communities.  The switchboard was in her living room.  Her name was Effie Morris Parks and she taught me much about living off the land, or at least using nature’s products from the original source, not a supermarket.

Grandmother Effie, as I called her, steered me in the month of December to harvest and collect two things:  mistletoe and cedar.  Cedar is still harvested, but the gathering of mistletoe with its poisonous berries to frock the door portal seems to have vanished from holiday culture.

She had a green Chevrolet pickup.  We would drive the pickup down dirt county roads and pull up next to a tree, usually mesquite, that would have clumps of deep green mistletoe with white berries.  We would knock down the mistletoe with long bamboo poles that we also used to gather pecans in the Fall.  Either that or I would climb up the tree and break off the fungus.  Then we would gather the mistletoe and place it in the bed of the pickup until the pile topped the rails.  We had to be careful to preserve the white berries because that improved the price we would receive.  We drove to San Saba or Lometa and would sell the mistletoe at the mohair and wool congregating store.  We would make upwards of twenty dollars and during the rest of the season, I often thought I saw what we had collected in small, cellophane packages sold in grocery stores in Brownwood.  I doubt that was the case, but I felt rather pleased that I had helped make holidays brighter for someone.

I chopped cedar only once or twice as a boy and it was grueling work, but during December the weather was cold and going into the cedar breaks to cut wood did not seem as brutal as it was chopping cedar in the summer.  Grandmother’s friends would take my cuttings — not very much, I’m afraid — and I would have a few dollars to spend during the holidays.  The cedar choppers I worked around were all muscled and strong and I envied their chopping expertise.  I learned how to cut staves versus good thick fence poles.

My grandmother Effie also gathered water cress, pecans, killed and plucked her own chickens, and during the late summer we would take the green Chevrolet and collect wild Mustang grapes that she would turn into jelly to consume on our breakfast table and give to friends.  The tartness of the Mustang grape is like no other.

But it is the memory of harvesting and gathering of mistletoe and cedar with Grandmother that stays with me today during the holiday stretch.  I scraped my arms and got stuck by mesquite thorns.  Despite it all, I grew up knowing nature intimately during the cold of December with my grandmother as teacher.

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Filed under Bend Texas, Cedar, Christmas, Juniper, Life in Balance, Plants and Shrubs, Recollections 1942-1966, San Saba Texas