A WRITER'S WIT
I spent much of the month of March continuing to work on a book that has already occupied two years of my time, and I only feel two-thirds of the way through it (maybe less). I spent half the month in the hill country of Texas at a dwelling known as Hacienda María. Sitting high atop a hill overlooking a beautiful valley where the landlords, Native American Seed Company, harvest grass and flower seeds indigenous to Texas, this dwelling is a bit of heaven in which I could work quietly each day as long as I wished, then prepare meals in a huge, sunny kitchen, and then walk my daily 10,000 steps or more on the beautiful country roads of the hacienda property. I've returned to Lubbock refreshed and ready to continue my book as well as my blog work. I hope you'll take a look at my photos below.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-9 Pennsylvania
MY JOURNEY OF STATES is a series in which I relate my sixty-year quest to visit all fifty states in the U.S. In each post I tell of my relationship to that state, whether brief or long, highlighting important personal events. I include the year of each state's entry into the union and celebrations. I hope you enjoy my journey as much as I have. This is the second post of fifty.
Oklahoma is the state I traveled through first when I was but a toddler, on the way to Louisiana, where my father was stationed in the Air National Guard for over two years. In time I passed through Oklahoma—north to south, west to east, southwest to northeast, across the panhandle—scores of times, but I never visited anyone, rarely had any business there except to buy gas or stay in a motel, so I wouldn’t have such a long trip to . . . wherever I was headed: Kansas, Texas, Arkansas. ¶ My maternal grandfather, James Brown Richards, did his basic training as a soldier for World War I at Fort Sill in Lawton. The 1918 photographs in the photo gallery below depict a fairly barren place, but now the town has many beautiful tree-lined boulevards, even where the fort remains. After back surgery, I often stayed there as a halfway point between Lubbock, Texas, and Wichita. I would eat at a Chinese restaurant whose name I cannot now recall. ¶ My second trip to Oklahoma came when I was twelve and our church youth drove to visit St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in OKC. I was probably dazzled by the sanctuary at the time, but can recall little of it now. I remember more the dinner afterwards when I ordered fried shrimp. My parents had given me enough money to eat what I wanted . . . I thought. The next day the education director (PG) at the church, who’d been one of the trip sponsors, castigated me for ordering such an extravagant meal when everyone else ate hamburgers and fries. Had I ordered more than I could pay for and the adults had covered for me? Or had the director taken it upon herself to judge me as if she were God? ¶ Oklahoma is a beautiful state, deserves more than a drive-through, particularly the eastern third. Angling northeastward on I-44 in early June, you can see grand rolling hills, even larger ones, the Ouachita Mountains. Unlike the 1930s, when this part of the country suffered great drought, Oklahoma has recently enjoyed anywhere between thirty and fifty inches of rain a year. Verdant stretches of green fields and hedgerows of trees, not to mention veritable forests in the eastern third of the state, as you approach the Ozarks, are eye-popping and inviting. ¶ In 2007, Ken and I, on a trip to Wichita, made a reservation to stay in the Price Tower boutique hotel in Bartlesville. The tower, a Frank Lloyd Wright design, was erected in 1956. The designer had combined what looked like two offices to make one largish hotel room. ¶ The most recent news about Oklahoma is the number of “earthquakes” it has experienced largely, residents assert, because of the practice of fracking by oil companies in the area. The state is also known for one of the last botched executions of a prisoner, when the injection concocted by prison officials did not work properly. ¶ Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state in 1907. Proud Oklahomans celebrated their centennial not that long ago.
Photos 1&2: James Richards on right. Photo 3: James Richards
NEXT TIME: My Book World
Packing It Out is Good
I get aggravated enough when I’m in urban areas and see trash strewn all over the place. With the winds we have in West Texas, a piece of trash always seems to be lodged in our bushes. You don’t know whether to leave it there and let the wind blow . . . I’m kidding. I usually can’t stand it and do a trash run to the dumpster. I’ve picked up Sonic cups, KFC boxes, some kid’s schoolwork, plastic grocery sacks (one hung up high in our cherry laurel tree until it finally disappeared), even an individual’s county HIV test results (negative, thankfully). But when I’m out hiking in nature, I especially loathe seeing someone else’s trash.
In perusing the March/April issue of Sierra Magazine, I see that I’m not alone. I’ve attached the short feature so you can read it for yourselves, but the gist of it is that hiker Seth Orme has formed an organization called Packing It Out, in which he and his friends might hike for miles, and on their way they pick up trash and haul it out of the park or whatever wilderness they happen to be in. The story should inspire all of us to pack it out: not just our own debris, but a piece or twenty that someone else has left behind. Maybe the action would inspire others. We can only hope. According to Sierra, “Each U.S. resident generates an average of 4.4 pounds of trash a day; all together that’s 728,000 tons, or enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks” (25). To state the obvious: that’s too much!
NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction 2017
Richard Jespers is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
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