Monday, October 24, 2011

Boys Gone Wild...And Taking My Heart With Them

The boys have been watching one of those shows where people are dumped out into the middle of nowhere and immediately begin eating all kinds of disgusting stuff.  It inspired them.

Yesterday morning they woke up.  Do you want to know what the weird words are in that sentence?  Morning and Woke.  They do not usually stir before midday unless they absolutely have to.

"Why are you up?" I asked as I was leaving to take Camille to ballet.  I knew something was going on.

"We're going to be outside all day," they said.  "We have things to do."

They often spend huge chunks of time outside - well, they do if it isn't triple digit temps, anyway.  Which it kind of was All Summer Long due to the Natural Warming Trend that has Nothing To Do With Us.   (We will resist Global Warming and All Science-Based Evidence in the same way we resist The Highly Suspicious Metric System because We Are Americans and that's What We Do!!)  Where was I?  Oh yes, the boys....headed outside...up early...Camille and I headed off to ballet...

The cast of the Nutcracker was being photographed for the programs - hence my trip back into the city on a Freaking Sunday.  I get really irked by Sunday activities. Anyway - the girls were told to wear light make-up for the photo shoot - Camille put on a little lip gloss.  What else does she need?  If she didn't look just like her brothers and sister I would swear this kid had been switched at birth.  It's like I had no part in the deal whatsoever - they all look like their dad - and he doesn't need much make-up, either.  This is not her natural smile, by the way.  She and Jules both have the same Fake Camera Smile and we have tried but we can't get rid of it. 

Look at those graceful arms!  And I've noticed that she often stands with her feet in first position while making a sandwich or mouthing off to one of her brothers.  (Pardon our mess - Homeschool Co-op is in full swing and meets in our home - maps on walls - chairs against walls - sewing machines on the floor...mummifying chicken on the counter but that's another story for another post...)
So my girls - one lights up a stage while playing piano....the other is about to get her first taste of lighting up a stage while dancing.....and the boys - the boys - the boys - are busy EATING TERMITES.

By the time Camille and I returned from the city is was late afternoon.  Jeff was already working on the Big Sunday Dinner. "Where are the boys?" I asked. "And why do I smell smoke?"

"They're down by the lower pond and they've got a fire going."

WHAT???  Let me just explain my brief moment of panic by reminding my dear readers that the state of Texas was Officially On Fire not that long ago.  The dreadful and tragic fires of Bastrop, while not all that nearby, poured smoke over us for weeks.  And grass fires were breaking out right and left in our area - and I was quite concerned about you know - my whole life going up in flames.  And my boys were casually playing with fire.

"They're fine," Jeff said when he saw the blood drain from my face.  Okay - so we finally got some rain out here.  Everything greened up overnight - our cows got some meat on their bones again - and the weather cooled down.  But still.  "I've been down there and checked it out," my husband continued.  "They've got a fire ring in a pit and it's a small fire.  They're spending the night down there."

"Oh," I said, feeling much calmer.  "Well, are they coming in for dinner?"

It was then that Jeff explained to me that the boys were living off the land and refusing dinner.  In fact, they had spent the day building shelters, making weapons, and hunting and gathering.  They'd eaten cactus and other flora and fauna and TERMITES.  That's right, my very own flesh and blood turning over rotting logs and eating bugs while trying to make simple tools.  And some people don't believe in evolution.

You might think I reacted strongly to this - but I've known these boys for some time now.  These are the boys who bring snakes in my house - the boys who wake each other up by actually THROWING snakes into each other's beds....

- the boys who used to occasionally wake me up by announcing breakfast was ready - breakfast being grasshoppers sauteed in olive oil with garlic and cumin (they're their daddy's sons after all - they're going to use some light seasonings - can't have unseasoned grasshoppers).  So the termite thing didn't throw me all that much.  They're big boys, though, and I wondered just how many termites they'd have to eat before feeling full.

"They're gonna do frogs for dinner," Jeff said casually.  "I told them how to clean 'em and cook the legs."

UGH.  Jasper chimed in that the cactus was kind of good....he hadn't tried the termites but he wanted to eat the frog legs later with the boys.  Jasper refers to Joel and Jules as The Boys.  The Boys have talked Jasper into eating all sorts of things over the years - most of which I do not know about and I'm perfectly fine with that. 

Jeff kept on cooking our dinner as if all of the talk of termite-eating was normal.  He grew up on this land and spent his own childhood living wild - so it was pretty much just me wondering if the boys would survive the night.  They've always been Outside Sleepers.....often traipsing through the living room at bedtime, carrying a pillow and saying, "Goodnight Mom!" before slamming the backdoor and heading outside.  Sometimes they slept in the "fort," and sometimes they slept right on the ground.  We live close to the San Antonio River and so the river fog tends to roll in every morning - they would wake up with their hair soaking wet.
But this time, they weren't sleeping where I could see them out my bedroom window.  They were sleeping far enough away so that I wouldn't be able to hear them at all if Something Bad Happened.  What if a dingo tried to get my babies? Okay -so it would be a coyote, but you get the idea, right?  We live on a big place - over 100 acres - and they were as far away from the house as they could get and still be on family property.

Since we're such a Norman Rockwell family The Grandpa came for dinner.  And during dinner, we were talking about the boys, and by the end of dinner we had all decided to take them dinner.  We had not seen them all day - wanted to make sure they were okay.

By the time dinner was over it was good and dark.  We grabbed flashlights and food and headed out the door.  "Dad, we'll be back - just hang out here for awhile," I said to The Grandpa Who Walks With a Cane and Has Steel Rods in Both Legs.

"Oh no," he said casually.  "I'm coming, too."  He turned on a tiny little flashlight he keeps on a key chain to prove it.

We don't live in the Piney Woods of Texas - which are quite lovely in a Little House in the Big Woods sort of way.  And we don't live in the deserts or mountains of West Texas, which are also quite lovely.  We live in Brush Country which is not quite lovely at all.  It is full of thorns that grow on basically everything.  Thorny trees, thorny bushes, and tons and tons of thorny cacti.  Rattlesnakes curl up at their roots. The ground is hard, packed clay for the most part - especially during a drought.  There are animal trails throughout - followed by cows, coyotes, javelina, wild pigs, and the occasional fox or panther. And our place isn't manicured and kept up.  We were basically going to be following cow trails down the hill and through the brush to get to The Boys.  In the dark.  With an old guy and a cane.  And Jasper (who wore flip flops).

Off we went.

I held onto my dad and I only tripped him once.  Jeff caught him and copped a feel.  "Was that your breast I grabbed?" he asked me hopefully.  "Not mine," I replied.

Jasper kept running ahead - you know - into the dark and thorns and rattlesnakes - and Dad and I hobbled along with his cane and tiny little flashlight.  Jeff tried to pick out the path in the dark while swatting mosquitoes, and Camille danced along under the impression that We Are A Normal Family.

"How much further?" my dad asked.

"Oh, not much," we said.  We are good liars.

Finally, Jasper yelled, "I can see their campfire!"  And we could.  But they were in the middle of a mesquite thicket and Jeff had to lead us around a maze of cow trails to finally get to the little clearing they'd made.  Joel was guarding the fire.

And Jules was already bunked down.

They only had one cot between them - with the rattlesnakes Jeff didn't want them actually sleeping on the ground - so the plan was they'd sleep in shifts.

"Are you hungry?" Jeff asked.  The Boys admitted that they were, indeed, a bit on the peckish side. So Jeff spent the next few minutes feeding them. 

They had dragged some tires in from a nearby creek and settled in like proper rednecks - little grilling racks set out to cook their frogs on.  They'd also, they informed us, cooked eggs in the coals and then scooped them out of their shells to eat them.  These eggs came from the hen house - not sure if that counts as living off the land but I guess it does if there happens to be a hen house on said land.

The boys showed off their place to their little brother and sister - the shelters they'd built...

Jasper didn't care for the flash...

After a perfectly lovely visit, we bade farewell to the Wild Boys, and began our long trek back to the house.
We immediately headed off on the wrong cow trail - walked in circles for a few minutes - and then got our bearings and made our way home without further incident.  During the day you'd never get lost - but it was a dark night and we had teeny tiny flashlights.

Later that night, after Jeff had snuck back to their camp with mosquito repellent and an extra blanket, we were snuggled in our bed.  The coyotes were howling, and I worried that Jules might be a little anxious.  My heart strings were stretching in new directions - the boys seemed so very far away.  That's my theme this year - the stretching of the heart strings.  I fell asleep with the same slight worry I've grown accustomed to feeling - the one I didn't think I'd grow accustomed to.  My heart stretched all the way to a college dorm room hours and hours away, floating down the hall to where my firstborn lay peacefully and safely sleeping in my mind (it was more likely she was tucked away in a practice room).  And it stretched through the thorny bushes and down the cow trails of this place we call home, seeking out the Wild Boys who were stargazing and story-swapping beneath the big Texas sky.  It spread warmly down the hall to the two who have yet to test the bounds of its reach.  Where will they pull this heart of mine? 

I've a feeling this journey of my heart has just begun.

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Elizabeth Stone


  1. That made me tear up. Lovely post, great pictures. :)

  2. one of your best posts. beautiful!

  3. very great port (i know bad English, but how do i express the sentiment?)

  4. Man, all that just to make me sad at the end. What have I told you about establishing warnings at the beginning. I was smiling all through this and, BAM, right in the kisser with that thoughtful ending. I guess I should really know better by now, huh?
    Anyway, yeah, how is it that none of the kids look like you. Did you actually give birth to them or are you raising the kids of your husband and his sister? I mean, you are in Texas and so far out in the Country and all. And 100 acres??? Seriously, if I ever wanted to sneak up and murder you all, I'd get so bored with the idea by the time I got there. I would be like "forget about it" and go slash some other Family. Plus, don't even get me started on the cow patties. Uck!
    Your Friend, m.
    p.s. That Camille has some gorgeous eyes. Which I guess she gets from Jeff. So what I'm actually saying is that Jeff has some gorgeous eyes. m.

  5. Mark, way to be totally stalker-creepy and hit on Sardine Papa all in one breath. *slow clap*

  6. When I write the blogging comment ettiquette book - I'm going to include a chapter on how you don't want to mention sneaking up and murdering....hitting on Sardine Papa is entirely okay, though. Mark - you have a bazillion comments on every stinking post - (not that I'm jealous) so you should know all about the ettiquette. Also I think I'm misspelling ettiquette.