Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle

As a military kid, we were constantly moving when I was growing up, and my parents also moved many additional times that were not required by the service. It was a crazy lifestyle for a kid, and I am still trying to construct my own history. It’s very difficult to do, as I do not have anyone to ask anymore (father gone 1967, mother gone 1993, no siblings). I might run across an old, hoarded and sometimes inherited piece of paper – a letter, postcard, receipt – and from that I find an address or date to help complete the puzzle. Sometimes, all I have are memories, which was the case here. I had no address, and all the landmarks had been destroyed.

Daddy was transferred to the North Pole, on the DEW Line to keep an eye out for the Russians during the Cold War (and in his case the "cold" part was literal), an 18 month assignment with no families allowed (what I know about that one deserves its own post), so my mother and I ended up waiting this one out in Carterville, Illinois. It was a really small town with a population at the time (1960-1961) of about 2,600 people. The house we lived in was a tar paper shack, which was a little wooden structure covered in a paper-based material that is tar-coated to be water-resistant. A lot of it (most of it, really) has a fake brick appearance. The house, although it was right in the middle of town, had no electricity, heat, or plumbing. I have no photos of it (Daddy took his camera with him to the Arctic) but found this pic on flickr that resembles it very much. Click to view larger at its source. Seems like our shack was in better shape, even though the front steps were rotten enough for Grandma to fall right through one of them once.

Mother would attach a water hose to the neighbor’s faucet, and ran the hose through a hole in the wall of our little cottage, that was our running water. I am assuming that she had permission to do that. There was a wood-burning potbellied cook-top stove in the house for both cooking and heat. She chopped wood for it every day. I don’t remember any furniture (I guess it was in storage). I do remember sitting on the floor playing with paper dolls while mice scampered around. I am not bothered by mice (luckily).

In the backyard, there was an outhouse, and establishing the boundary of the property in back was an active railroad track. My mother planted a food garden back there, and I remember homegrown corn and strawberries.

I tried to locate the house by looking for the railroad tracks, but Google maps didn't show any. I had to search online for an old map of the town that showed the old tracks.

On Google satellite view you can see the path going through that was left by the old railroad.

I tried locating it by finding my Grade School, seen below, but it has apparently been bulldozed as well, replaced by unremarkable modern buildings.

Look how close we were to the train!! I am amazed. The house next door to the east was even closer.

Here is the current Google street view of the place. It still holds a little house, but an infinitely better one. I got a kick out of the way the residents were captured sitting in their car, with the car parked in the yard, and one of them is sitting in the hatchback! That's a little bit hillbilly, but they've got nothing on us.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Catblogging - Lost

Last November this pair of adorable kitties showed up on the block. It was a very lookalike pair of brother/sister tuxedos (and we soon found out it was a trio, as they had a longhaired tuxedo sister, but she hardly ever visits). This is the first one who showed up on the right. She sported 4 white boots and her brother had white boots in the back with white toes in front. You never saw sweeter or more affectionate cats, these were cuddle-monsters from the start. We later nicknamed them "Boots" and "Bisou." (Our original name for him was "Spats," but Bisou being French for 'kiss' it seemed like a cuter name.)

The first time these kitten/cats ventured onto the screened porch, they both piled into my lap and went to sleep.
These cats seemed to be mostly outdoors, but they always looked good - good coats, no injuries or obvious health issues. Because of that, I tried to worry less, or at least I was able to push the worries to back of my mind - because these are not our cats, and they have a home around here somewhere. Before long, Bisou started to readily come inside the house for belly rubs, snuggling, and occasionally a short nap. We never feed local cats anymore, and no longer have litter pans, so we make sure the visits are very short. It is important to us that neighbor cats know where they are supposed to be living, where their real home is. It's important that they don't think they live with us.

We just can't go through cat-parenthood again. It's far too painful, expensive and hazardous to our own health through stresses. But I looked forward to every visit from Bisou, and really tried not to fall in love.

We started to see Boots a lot less frequently in the daytime, and found out that she had become a night kitty. Any evening, after dark, we can go out in the driveway, and she will come running. She is usually either under a truck down the street or coming out of the storm sewer. She wants belly rubs and petting, and does not get tired of them. She got to be much more skittish about the house though, and stopped coming inside at all, ever.

About a week ago, these posters went up in the neighborhood. It is Bisou. I am happy that Bisou's humans cared enough to put them up. I have seen many cats go missing around here without seeing flyers or getting an inquisitive knock at the door to let people know that they are missing their little sweetie.

If you are a long-time reader here, you know that I have strong feelings against leaving cats to roam freely and unsupervised outdoors except under certain circumstances - but for me those circumstances do not include a suburban neighborhood. The outdoors in general present dangers from venomous snakes, scorpions, coyotes, and all manner of things. In areas where humans are denser, there's the extra danger from vehicle death, child/teenage/adult pranks, dogs, other cats, communicable cat diseases, whatever lives in the storm sewers, plus the snakes, scorpions and coyotes. It's an active debate in the cat-world and there are pros and cons to both indoor and outdoor choices. What is not in dispute is that outdoor cats have a much shorter lifespan.

We do not know what happened to Bisou. It is possible that some neighbor who fell in love with him decided to make it permanent. That's what we have to hope for. I contacted Bisou's people to send them our photos, and the woman said that they provide shelter for Boots in the garage. I don't know if that means an open or closed garage, but a closed garage in the winter here is a welcome thing, but in the Texas summer it will not be shelter. It will be an oven, even at night. If Bisou is really gone from this world (and we don't know what happened), he will never have experienced a whole summer, as he was a young cat just out of kittenhood when he came into our lives last November. We miss him very much.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm Too Old For This

I'm Too Old For This - Christopher Cross and Van Wilks, a soundtrack very appropriate for this post.

I almost feel as though I should apologize for the almost complete lack of political posts lately here at the Oasis. I'm not out of touch with it, I keep up with the goings-on, but I am so disgusted and tired of it by days-end. The knockout punch came this week when early voting began for the Texas primaries and I discovered that we have been the victim of the redistricting fiasco - and we are not longer living in Rep. Lloyd Doggett's district. For the first time in my life, I had a Congressperson who truly represented my views. The only (D) running against whoever with be the GOP candidate is named Elaine Henderson. I have never heard of her. She does not seem to have a published website yet, and her Facebook presence is very sparse. I ran across this very short bio but so far cannot detect any signs of a campaign. [sigh]

We had a bit of a rough time since the beginning of May. My back was feeling stiff so I tried to stretch it this way and that - obviously I waaaay overdid it because I sprained it. Pain, pain, pain. The doctor gave me some meds, a muscle relaxer and a pain killer, so I wasted quite a few days away in pain and foggy brain. While that was going on, MrB fell off his bicycle and got some bruised ribs and generally very painful midsection - so there we were - both applying ice and heat and swallowing those foggy pills.

On Friday night, we missed a planned concert because of that, but did go out Saturday for a great show. It was Van Wilks birthday party show, with Carson Brock opening, and special guests Eric Johnson, Christopher Cross and Dave Sebree (Dave runs the Austin School of Music and rarely plays solo, but he is one hell of a guitar player). The video at the top of the post is from that show, and so is the following pretty instrumental. We could all use a little beauty, it sure can overwhelm all the ugliness.

Rainy Day in Vancouver - Christopher Cross, Eric Johnson, Van Wilks

Friday, May 11, 2012

Labyrinth at Natural Gardener

This labyrinth update is for Debra. A couple of years ago, the labyrinth was in a transitional state. They had been trying to construct it in plant life, but that plan did not work out. Now it is back, and made of good, old stones. Take a look at the gate for it, which leads into a short path, in this older post.

The Natural Gardener is a nursery, a plant business, but it's such a wonderful place it's worthy of just visiting. We went there to buy some milkweed for the butterflies, and it is doing well in the backyard now.

The labyrinth is surrounded by beautiful wildflowers, a few garden sculptures, and on one side there is a teepee. Here's a nice view facing outward, and at bottom, Google's satellite version.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


We were just a couple of days past Eeyore's Birthday drum circle day when it was time for some great live music shows. We got a couple of very special tickets for the Punch Brothers' Austin City Limits TV taping! Didn't not take any pics or video (They really really prefer that you don't take video, esp. since they are filming the show anyway, and all the phone cams make the audience look dorky.) but there are lots of nice pro pics at the link.

This was only our 4th time to get to attend and ACL taping. The tickets are free but must be acquired through a lottery or a connection, it's not easy to get in. The sound is amazing, and so is the camera work on the finished product, that we may get to see on TV this Fall.

If an ACL taping with what is probably my favorite band right now was not enough, we also saw them the next night at a sold-out, little-bit rowdy show at Antone's club. If the crowd at the taping was a bit reserved, this one made up for it - and there's video to show for it. This is actually an old one that mandolinist Chris Thile first wrote and recorded back when he was about 18. It's a gorgeous instrumental that I can't listen to enough.

Punch Brothers - Song For a Young Queen

This one is a cover of a song by The Strokes, but PB has made it their own, IMO. It's not one that they played during the taping because it contains one of those words that you still can't say on TV.
Punch Brothers - Heart in a Cage

Just a couple of days after Punch Brothers came though town, we were happy to welcome The Greencards back to Austin. They have moved back here from Nashville, and it's nice to have them back. Like Punch Brothers, they really tear it up on the strings and vocals. Here's a beautiful instrumental.
The Greencards - Adelaide

Great shows! What a week. Now - a little rest.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Spring's Last Hurrah

Well, it's been busy around here, always too much to do. Been getting behind in the postings here, and even forgot to mention my 7 year blog anniversary on the 6th! Will start out with Eeyore's Birthday Party, the annual costumed gathering that I like to call "Flowers, Drums, Songs." It's an all-ages all-species event featuring old and new hippie culture, May-Pole, live music, microbrews, topless women, and freeform dancing centered (for us, anyway) around the drum circle. Here's a short video of this year's circle.

OK, you are thinking, "where are the topless women?" (I could tell.) There are a number of really nice photo collections of the festivities and fabulous costumes posted on the Eeyore's site, ranging from casual to pro. A couple of my favorite ones are by Craig Bush and Nathan Caperton.