Texas, Texas, Texas…what’s not to love, right? Except a government that isn’t FOR the PEOPLE, power outages galore, and a dwindling water supply. Presumably residents of Texas adore those things since they stick around, or they simply prefer a flat, shrub-covered and rattlesnake-laced landscape that goes on forever. Who knows.
Both Joe and I wanted to look back on our Air Force roots, which meant a visit to Lackland AFB near San Antonio, followed by a stop at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo.
First we camped about an hour outside of Houston, where we discovered the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center, and trotted our butts on over to see what exciting discoveries were to be made in the world of Texas Czechs. Joe is still of a mind that it’s a big secret that there were U.S. military Czech linguists back in the day, but I’m pretty sure groups like this https://www.facebook.com/groups/203010518274 let the feline out of that particular bag many shadowy moons ago.
He didn’t want me to say that I was a former Czech linguist, so I told them I had a “Czech background.” This is true! Of course, the kind ladies then offered help with my Czech genealogy studies, and I was forced to trot out noncommital excuses and head nods ascertaining that I would be thrilled to seek their advice—upon my next visit.
I’ve been re-learning Czech on Duolingo, and I could almost understand the paragraph painted on their wall (above) without even needing the translation! Not sure that I will ever turn this skill into anything that matters, but at my age studying Czech again brings me happiness. And dog knows we could all use a little of that, eh? In fact, maybe I’ll even translate a book or two of mine into Czech. The children’s books, duh.
I also arranged a lunch date in Houston with my friend and fellow author Sandra Biersdorfer—our first time meeting in person. We had a long, chatty meal at a local Mexican establishment, where I partook of some mighty fine enchiladas.
Sandra has two kitty books for kids—fellow cat fanatics—as well as other children’s titles that you can check out through our Crescent Renewal imprint.
If you’re a reader of my blog, you know by now that Joe’s heritage is Hungarian, and he’s really into foods his mom made as a child. (This list does NOT include pea soup or plum dumplings, in case you were wondering.)
One of the desserts he likes best is called kolach, but the kolaches in Czechland are unlike the Hungarian kind, so after a couple tries he was one disappointed puppy. I thought they were plenty tasty, myself—they’re like a jelly donut, only the filling sits on top of the pastry instead of being wrapped inside.
See these? These are the barracks we stayed in for basic training in the 1980s! Lordy, lordy. I don’t know how long they’ve been in use, but these monstrosities are still housing trainees today. In fact, we spoke with a couple women who gave us the scoopage on how it differs today from when we showed up at Lackland almost 40 years ago.
There are now NEW barracks, see below, so some squadrons get to live in these comparative palaces while others are stuck in the ancient buildings that were probably built in the 1940s. It’s become quite the “class separator,” as trainees who lodge in the new barracks gloat that they landed in DISNEYLAND, while those stuck in the old ones ended up in ALCATRAZ.
Whew, makes me glad they were all crappy when I was there. ‘Cause you know my bootie woulda without a doubt been an Alcatraz dweller.
The other big difference? Women and men are now in the same flights together! That definitely didn’t happen when I went to Air Force Basic Training, nosiree. I watched them marching along and I was downright baffled; surely they weren’t housing males and females in the same buildings?
The youngsters we met told us that the men and women still live separately, but they combine into mixed flights during the day for training. I think that’s pretty cool.
We Camped at Beautiful Lake Medina…Which Didn’t Exist
Come to Texas! You’ll love it here! Visit our lakes…oh. Never mind.
According to the interwebs, “It’s not just the wells drying up. Medina Lake is the lowest it’s been since 2015. For months, the lake has been sinking lower and lower because of drought and irrigation. The century-old reservoir — which straddles Medina and Bandera counties — was 6.5 percent full late last month, having dropped 33 feet in a year.” Yikes.
When Joe checked us into the campground, they told him, “Don’t feed the deer. They’re so tame they’ll walk right into your camper if you do.”
I didn’t see the problem.
“Sweet, I’m in!” I sez to Joe, who assures me he also doesn’t approve of deer in campers. I ignore him to the best of my ability, and 200 applecarts later not a single deer has been successfully lured into my camper for cuddles! I now suspect those campground workers were liars, because what deer wouldn’t be queueing around the block to cuddle with me? [It’s rhetorical, don’t answer that.]
Tootie Becomes Toothless
Tootie started choking on her food again, so I called the closest veterinarian to see if they’d give her a steroid shot. When I explained the situation, the vet (like the New York vet months earlier) said it sounded like stomatitis, and I needed to have all of Tootie’s teeth pulled. Apparently, in stomatitis, the cat becomes allergic not to the teeth themselves, but to the plaque (or other “stuff”) on the teeth, and painful sores erupt. She felt removing Tootie’s teeth would dramatically improve her health; although I felt terrible about it, the path we were taking was certainly not leading to wellness.
Lake Hills Veterinary Clinic shifted their schedule around to make time to do the surgery—a very kind act for someone who would never be a repeat client—and I am incredibly grateful.
Tootie made it through the surgery ok, and that night I learned that a semi-feral cat—on drugs and in a cone—and a small camper do not a heavenly hash make. Tootie already possesses an exaggerated startle reaction, which means she could be loving away on me, but then Joe needs to get up for something: “Omg! A monster! Run and hide! Hide and run!” she screams (inside her head) as she races for her hidey-hole and peers out. “Whew that was a close one.”
Combine that already heightened alert system with the aggravating factors of cone and drugs listed above and that night the camper morphed into a pinball machine, a streaking blur bouncing off the walls, dinner trays, kitchen cabinets, bathroom door, and shoe rack. Repeat until exhaustion kicks in and you fall asleep on Mom’s lap for five minutes before gathering enough energy to start it all over again.
450 Acres is Pretty Good, Right?
I love going to animal “places,” but I get pre-stressed worrying if I’ll see animals in bad conditions or not living as they’d live in the wild. This safari, called the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, sported 450 acres and most of the animals lived on HUGE swaths of land, which I loved. It was a cold day in the middle of the week, so it wasn’t crowded and we were able to take our time going through and trying (and largely failing) to identify the different critters. I wasn’t as fond of the giraffe paddocks, and the smaller animals by the center were in cages, too, but overall I was pretty pleased by the care they were receiving and their living conditions.
Joe Wasn’t Happy to Spend a Second Birthday in San Angelo
Both Joe and I were also stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, TX for training (he went twice) and this would mark the second birthday he spent there. He wasn’t thrilled about it, but since he made the reservations, I kindly pointed out that maybe he should take that up with himself?
We found a local state park to hike in, and chose the Roadrunner Trail because, oooh, that’s probably pretty special, no? No! It was called the Roadrunner Trail because it ran beside the park road. Ha! Those sneaky bastages.
(On a side note, I’m pretty sure I saw a roadrunner at our campground, but didn’t get a pic. We also spotted a wild boar behind a camper, but we were driving so no proof of life for him either, dammit.)
And Then…We Exploded. Or Imploded. Figuratively, of Course.
This may come as a shock to you. If so, brace yourself: We fought.
We don’t fight that often. I’m not talking bickering, because that happens too.
But when we fight? We’re like two toddlers drunk on apple juice that—unbeknownst to Mom—went slightly rancid in the fridge.
And then somewhere, in the middle of all that poop throwing (again, figuratively)…we decide we should get a divorce.
Because that’s how we fight. “No, you’re a doodoo head. I’m leaving. I hope I never see you again.” That sort of thing. Oh, here’s some footage now:
Then I Got Kicked Off Camper Island
When we fought at home, we’d “get divorced” but just go our separate ways for a few days. Eventually we’d say “Eh, we’ll get divorced next time. That seems like a lot of work.”
Unfortunately, for us that method doesn’t really work on the road. Um, because you’re stuck together. Very, very, very close together!
So, I’ve decided to return to Pennsylvania to help with my mother while I take stock of my life.
Will We Get Back Together Again?
I don’t know. I’m still considering it a break.
Joe is back out on the road (in Arizona I think?) working through his grief in the way of his people (i.e men): in other words, he’s carrying on as if nothing ever happened.
“Why’s it so peaceful now? Didn’t there used to be someone here yammering at me all day long? Ah, well. It’s better this way.”
And I’ve been mourning in the way of my people (whiny little beeyotches the world over): Drowning my sorrows for three weeks in a long-term hotel with my only friend, Tootie, where we cuddle, cry, drink, and—most importantly—wallow. All. Damn. Day. Long.