Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Last Week As a Texas Resident

This is my last week as a resident of Texas, at least for the foreseeable future. Nearly everything I own — save my car, a suitcase and the laptop on which I’m typing this — now are ensconced in a house in northeast Kansas, which is where I take up shop next week. I’m purposely being vague about my next gig so as not to scoop the newspaper for which I’m going to work, which will make the official announcement next weekend.

The past few weeks have flown by in a haze of activity. I managed to finish building a desk in the shop before the movers came, of knock-down trestle construction so it could be easily moved from house to house. It is made in the mission-style I favor to match the other pieces in the study built over the years — a Morris chair and ottoman, side table and prairie sofa — all built of black walnut. I ran a piece of white oak down the middle of the desktop for contrast, with breadboard pieces on the end of the top for contrast and oak dowels to secure the joints.

I finished building and staining the desk and almost immediately started packing up the shop, no mean feat. At first I thought the shop would have to be placed in abeyance with my son-in-law, but God smiled upon me. I found a lovely house with a perfect shop, so all my tools save a lathe I never used and a few rolling tables that were too bulky to move are now in Kansas, awaiting unpacking when I go back for good next week.

I made a quick trip to Austin the other day after coming back from Kansas. It was as if my posterior had not endured enough time seated behind the wheel after more than 1,200 miles driving to and from the heartland. I had to pick up the freshly printed copies of the second collection of columns from the printer (Shameless promotional aside: “The Loblolly Chronicles” is now available. Click on the books link on the main page of this Web site to order. I’ll send you a copy and an invoice.)

It likely will be some time before I make this road trip from East Texas to Austin, one I have made countless times over the years. That’s not to say I won’t be back in River City, just that I’ll be coming from a different direction. No more stopping, as do many travelers along Hwy. 31, at Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, for a pit stop and a pastry. Or enjoying the pastoral vistas further west closer to Waco, as the soil turns blacker and cattle graze under a wider sky than one sees in East Texas.

In Austin, I briefly visited with family and friends, handed out a few books, made the obligatory visits to Whole Foods and Book People and then flew home in time for a fish fry in my honor out in the country near Jefferson.

Luckily, it doesn’t take much of an excuse for these folks to hold a fish fry, throw back a few beers, and fire off several hundred rounds of ammunition. That is why I love my extended family. So that is what we did on a May afternoon when nature smiled and blessed us with cool weather rarely seen here this time of year. As the guest of honor, I got to shoot a fully automatic rifle and a semi-automatic loaded with tracer rounds, just as the sun began to sink below the treeline. When darkness fell, a couple of the younger men hauled in large logs and quickly had a bonfire going.

A bonfire in May in East Texas may not be rare, but it is rarely needed. On this night we all hovered close, wearing shorts and T-shirts for the most part. All my warm clothes are already in Kansas, awaiting winter there. The stars twinkled brightly above, and I wondered if they would shine that bright two states north. I expect they will.

I know the next week will pass in a flash and soon I will load up the hybrid SUV and head to Kansas, returning to Texas often but now as a visitor, not a resident. I am excited about my new job, its challenges and opportunities. But I would be lying if I said I won’t miss Texas, my adopted home for more than 40 years. I leave behind family, friends and more.

Life takes some sharp turns down unexpected roads, doesn’t it? You just have to hold on and enjoy the ride as best you can.


  1. Even though we have never met it is one of my greatest joys to read your column every Sunday morning. Thank goodness for the Internet!(should that be capitalized?)

    I began reading your column when you were the editor of the paper here in Nacogdoches and have managed to follow you around.

    I wish you the best of luck in Kansas. Please keep the columns coming!

    All the Best,
    Susan Lewis

  2. Whoo-boy!! You are about to find out just how much your [formerly] Yankee blood has thinned out living here in Texas all these years.

    I can only echo Ms. Lewis' comment and wish you the best of luck in your new endeavor. You are always welcome in Texas.

    Be sure to wear Orange and White on appropriate weekends in the fall!!

    Jay Jackson

  3. Susan, Jay: Thanks to both of you for the kind words. I do plan to keep writing both online and for the paper. Sometimes it will be the same piece, sometimes not. And yes, I'm concerned my Yankee blood has thinned. At least I'm starting my tenure in May and can acclimate. Right now, the weather there is glorious.

    Thanks for writing. It is great to know there are actually people out there reading this, beyond my blood kin. It's unlike writing for a newspaper, where you figure at least a goodly portion of the folks who pay for the paper actually read it. I just don't know what is going on with this online stuff. Sometimes it feels like writing into a void, so hearing from folks alleviates that feeling.

    Take care, gb

  4. Texas will miss you more. Love you, Dad. xo