Since i was working Christmas Eve and Day, my family and i got together on my next day off. We met in Johnson City and took a tour of the Johnson homestead. It was quite magnificent and i was glad my grandmother had wanted to go there, as it wasn’t something i typically would have sought out to see by myself. I tended to shun the idea of anything touristy, but it was really quite an enjoyable hike and neat to imagine what the land must have been like when the Johnson family first bought it.
Before i could leave for Johnson city there were chores that had to be done. The temperature outside was 26 degrees. I would wait until it was 30 degrees to turn the heat lamps off and throw the blankets over the boxes. At 26 degrees the blankets weren’t going to do any good but if i waited until it was above freezing, i’d never make it to Johnson city on time.
It was the only day off that was scheduled for sunny weather so the laundry would have to be washed and hung before i left. It would dry in the yard while i was gone and i would remove it from the line upon returning while the pest control man did his routine scheduled carpenter ant spray. This meant i rose at 3 in the morning, put on my coat and down slippers, trudged to the extension shed in my long johns, coaxed a dollop of frozen detergent into a cup, dumped it in the washing machine, pushed the button, and collapsed in bed for another hour while the washing machine ran its cycle. At 7:00 am i stood in the yard with a hat, a scarf, a winter jacket, and bare fingers hanging the laundry on the line. It was 26 degrees. I had waited until the first hint of dawn light appeared because i figured i could either have sight or sensation impaired and still achieve hanging the laundry, but not both. I waited until i could see what the fingers i could no longer feel were doing. It seemed like the task took twice as long as usual and my hands burned as if they were on fire in the sleeves of the wet laundry, trying to right-side-out things and make my fingers work to pinch clothes pins. When i finally got the laundry hung i headed in to warm up but much to my dismay, there was no time. The tree boxes had to be switched over to the blankets and the car had to be loaded.
The car didn’t only have to be loaded…the windshield had to be scraped because below 30 degrees my defroster would not be tackling it. It would simply melt two little circles at the base of the glass and there they would stay while i spent ten minutes willing them to travel to the rest of the windshield and reveal the car from under the blanket of winter.
Of course Gigi made an appearance. She was part of the family and so she attended the family gathering. If they were not holy terrors to manage on leash, i would have brought Sili and Cashew but, they were really more free-range type dogs…not so good on a leash.
The Johnson homestead was full of huge old live oak trees. There were 3 of them that must have been over 200 years old, their branches large enough to be formidably sized trees themselves. There was one that would have taken three or four people touching finger tips to hug all the way around its trunk.
First we toured the homestead where there was an old wooden house with two rooms separated by a wide porch for air flow; a bedroom and a kitchen. We saw several stone barns that had held up considerably better than the wooden house. In fact, it looked as if the stone barns could have been built yesterday, made of limestone blocks in the style of today’s stone structures in texas. There were a few longhorn bulls and a couple horses who let me rub their noses. No doubt they were looking for treats but the sign clearly said do not feed the livestock and i’d brought none with me. On the homestead i took no pictures. I was lost in thought, looking around me and realizing all this land belonged to one family. I wondered what their lives must have been like and what size the trees were back then. It wasn’t until we visited mr johnson’s childhood home that i began snapping a few pictures. It was a truly magnificent little house with screened in porches and a beautifully detailed screen door. They must have been a pretty financially comfortable family to afford all that land and this house down the road in their day. I imagined what it must have been like with little children running round the yard back in the day, before it was a museum with strangers peering in the windows at the nailed down furniture.
Before i left to head back and meet the pest control man my mother gave me my Christmas presents…a cover for the windshield so it wouldn’t ice in the freezing temperatures and….the biggest bag of japanese yams anyone had ever seen. I should have been super excited about the wonderful life hack my mother had just given me for winter use on the homestead but all i could see was glorious purple japanese yams! My eyes lit up like a christmas tree and i squealed in delight. What precious precious cargo i would be carting home! One had to drive all the way back to Austin to get them as the hill country didn’t carry japanese yams. She had hit the nail on the head. I was beyond happy and practically salivating thinking about cooking them, peeling them, and eating them plain in the tiny house, grainy, slightly firm, and sweet like sugar. I headed back to the homestead with the images of 400 year old oak trees in my mind.