BUYER BEWARE; THE GREAT FLAW IN OUR LAND ACQUISITION
When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
– Yogi Berra
If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.
– Dan Quayle
Last time I told you about our arrival in Blanco. Like everyone else, the purchase of our property was quite a commitment, but we were quite proud of our acquisition, more than proud! Of course, we invited relatives to see.
If memory serves, my parents from Illinois were first. They had the good judgment to stay at a bed and breakfast in Wimberley, having been forewarned that the six of us were staying in our 750 square foot, one bedroom cabin. The views on our place, the heavy woods, and the variation in the topography we thought made the mini-ranch a great place. When my Midwestern parents gamely came to tour the property, though, all Dad saw was the rocks. Rocks everywhere! No crops to be grown here. I must say that I came from a farming area in southern Illinois, and rural property was valued in terms of its agricultural productivity. Anyway, my father left shaking his head, not understanding how his supposedly bright and responsible son had agreed to pay about the same price for rocky ground that good farmland in Illinois went for.
The next visitors were my wife’s middle sister and her husband. As I related to you before, my wife was a surprise to her parents—her sisters were 17 and 19 when she was born. Rosey (his last name was Rosener; purebred German) and Evelyn arrived and even stayed with us in the cabin. Even though they were almost 20 years older than we were we always enjoyed their company, particularly since they partied hardier than even we did. Rosey was a character. Looked like the Marlboro man, owned a big cattle ranch in eastern Colorado, a World War II B-17 pilot who got shot down on his maiden flight and spent 3 years in the prisoner of war camp later eulogized in the movie “Stalag 17”. Maybe it was the prison camp, maybe it was his personality, but I never heard Rosey criticize any person, except of course national political figures who asked for it.
So Rosey came and I proudly took him on a tour around the property. He was a man of few words. Of course, he was complementary about our great acquisition, but he froze me in my tracks when he said “You know, you have a lot of cedar on the property.” I had never really looked closely before I bought the property. The place was just green to me. But he was right. The place was infested with cedar. We did have a good time, though, and they visited us several times.
Having higher energy then than now, I was determined to eliminate the cedar blight all by myself, so I proceeded to buy a chain saw. Cedar really is a pest; it will grow so dense as to kill all other vegetation. What’s worse, I’ve been told that a mid-size cedar tree will soak up to five gallons a day when it is rainy, diminishing the water table. I pressed our four kids into service, and we spent many weekends sawing and piling cedar for burning. It took me a while to realize that the cedar was growing faster than I was cutting it. Everyone has a seminal point that critically changes the way they do things. Mine for cedar cutting was when we (the 4 kids and I) decided we needed an early Sunday bonfire one winter weekend. You see, men are strange….some things they want to be as small as possible (cell phones, computers) and others (the horsepower in cars, anatomical parts) as large as possible. There is no in between with us. So we built a huge pile of cedar cuttings and put the torch to it. What I didn’t realize or appreciate at the time was that the wind (as it usually does mid-morning) had come up. My kids still remember it….the fire went probably 50 feet into the air, and with the wind blowing, fingers of fire would dip down to the ground and start small fires in the grass all around. We raced to get rakes and brooms to put the fires out, and with a lot of screaming and yelling we managed to put out all the fires without having to call the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department. Scary. And the worst part was telling the mother of our children what we had done….
I had learned my lesson. I needed help. I had learned about cedar, and to this day I make sure that those cute little Christmas trees growing on the ranch get cut before they get big.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
If you go from the city to the country, don’t think you are instantaneously capable of taking care of a ranch by yourself. Don’t play with fire. Keep the bad stories from your wife; it is the kindest course.