Wild West Yorkshire Invades The Lair

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April 03, 2006:  I have an adventure story to tell.

First, though, a Nature Note:

We have had a new bird hanging around The Lair for about a month now. It is a Say's Phoebe and it is  unusual to see that bird in this part of the state. We have the Eastern Phoebe all the time, it has a light gray breast. This bird has a buffy orange breast. Here it is:

say's phoeba
Say's Phoebe
(foggy day, picture taken through window)

This bird is pretty far to the east of its normal range. I wonder if they are gradually extending their range. I would love to have this beautiful bird around all the time. It likes to perch on the shepherds' crook where we feed the humming birds. I haven't seen it in the last week or so.

The humming birds are back. They were a bit late, but they really have come in this week. We have mostly black-chinned with a few ruby-throated hummers. The barn swallows are also back.

Now for the story:

Some five+  years ago I was reading Annette Haltom's journal (to visit her Blackberry Creek Jottings, click here )and clicked on a link on her site. Well, let me back up. Annette and I corresponded some and it turned out that although she lives in Michigan and I live in Texas she actually is from this town and her grandmother was still here. That amazed me, because it seems unlikely that I would make contact from here to Michigan and "meet" someone who had lived in this area. The link I clicked on was to the web site of Richard Bell of Yorkshire England; his site is called Wild West Yorkshire and it is an illustrated nature diary. I loved his work and sent an email telling him so and received a friendly note back. We have corresponded ever since. If you are a regular reader of this Lair Log you may remember that when Farris and I went to London and Paris a couple of years ago, Richard and his wife Barbara traveled to London to meet us and we had a delightful few hours together. Our friendship continued and this year we extended an invitation to the Bells to come visit us. They accepted and as soon as word got out that they were coming, son Mitch and his wife Tresa (who had also met them in London) wanted to come to see them again, and my sister Lynette and her husband Ray decided to come as well. Lynette had sometimes acted as go-between messenger from me to Richard if my email was out or my computer died, to explain why I was not answering emails. When daughter Camilla heard about all who were coming the week of Richard and Barbara's visit she commented that it sounded like we were going to have a regular festival. And we did. We had a Festival of the Bells. It was one of the most enjoyable weeks we have celebrated at The Lair in a long time, a festival of friendship, family, fun, and food.

It got off to a slow start. Just as we were preparing to go to the Airport in Austin to meet Richard and Barbara I decided to check my email before shutting down my laptop (my big computer had died--that's another story) and I had an email from Barbara's brother-in-law telling us that The Bells had asked him to let us know their plane was leaving  England six hours late and they would call us from their first stop in Philadelphia. We didn't hear from them due to a mix-up about phone numbers. Finally we contacted the airlines and learned they were in the US and were being put up in a hotel for the night in Philly, but they didn't know what hotel. To make a long story short, we were able to find out from the airline the flight they were coming in on the next day and met them at the airport. This was their first visit to the US and immediately the fun began of hearing the things they found different (such as us driving on the "wrong" side of the road). We took them to Marble Falls to the famous Bluebonnet Cafe and learned that our menus and methods of serving restaurant meals are different from theirs. They enjoyed it, tired and jet-lagged as they were. When we got home, Mitch and Tresa had arrived and the party began.

Richard carries a sketch book everywhere he goes and Barbara keeps a journal. As is our custom, I asked them to write something in our physical Lair Log before they left. Richard did what Richard does. Here is his entry, not in his sketch book, but in our Lair Log.


Richard Bell's Lair Log will serve nicely as a summary of our activities during the week.
Barbara wrote her entry on the next page, including an excerpt from her journal, and one of her
statements really pleased me for she talked about the land and then said "The gift is just being here." I think I can safely say
those words apply for all of us, the gift was just all of us being together, enjoying nature and sharing adventures.

The first day of adventure was bitterly cold. We took them to see the Eagle nest:

eagle watch
Farris, Richard and Barbara watching eagles.

Mitch was using my camera with his telescope and it was too cold and windy for me, I hid in the car. We had hot chocolate at the Acme tea room in Llano and then went to Enchanted Rock.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has a massive dome of pink granite with a measured age of one billion years and is among the oldest exposed rock in North America. The park (consisting of 1,643 acres) was bought by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy in 1978. It is a popular area for people from all over the nation to come to enjoy hiking, climbing, backpacking, camping, and nature study. Mitch used to climb near vertical formations nearby when he was in college. One can climb to the top of enchanted rock without climbing gear. Mitch and Richard decided to hike to the top of the rock. Barbara decided to hike around and look for new birds to add to her life list, Tresa was in her car working on her laptop preparing for a genealogy trip the following week, and Farris and I, having previously climbed the rock, hid in our car away from the cold and the wind.

richard
This is so typically Richard (well, without the borrowed hat); one sees the smile and laughing eyes frequently.


A comment we heard from the Bells  over and over was how big everything is in Texas. Here is a picture taken from near the top of the rock:

view from top
Texas as far as the eye can see, folks.

Mitch can be pretty canny. He shrewdly bought some just-out-of-the-oven cookies at the restaurant and took them with him when they climbed Enchanted Rock. Richard said they were still warm and were a treat in the windy cold way up on the rock. Here are the intrepid climbers rewarding themselves after returning to base:

climbers
Mitch and Richard

Mitch had brought his small telescope and one night he and Richard spent some time looking at Saturn and Jupiter, some galaxies and other heavenly bodies. My only disappointment of the week was that we did not have a clear view of the Milky Way while the Bells were here, and that was one of two things Richard had mentioned before coming that he hoped to see. He has not seen it due to light pollution where they live.

The second thing Richard had asked to see was the Dinosaur prints at Dinosaur park but we had had rain and they were under water. However, our good friend Max (who built our house) and his wife Zudora, who regularly and fearlessly drive around England every so often and  wanted to meet the Bells, had dinner with us and Max remarked that he knew someone who had such prints on his ranch here and he would see if he could arrange for us to visit those. We had not even known there were prints in this area, although we have found (and had verified) dinosaur gizzard stones on our place and the history books place them in this area.

Early the next morning we met Max and his son Derek and drove to a local ranch on the Lampasas River.

dinosaur prints
We saw two kinds of prints. Here is a series of large ones emerging from the river and going toward the bank.

the crew and the prints
Here you see everyone except Richard who was taking the picture. Notice the progression of the footprints
from the river toward the bank. This is a second set of large prints.

three-toed print
Here you see the other type of print, from a smaller, three-toed animal.
These prints are very similar to the ones we saw at Dinosaur Park near Glen Rose a few years ago.

This was a really fun adventure for all of us and a high point of the Bell's visit to Texas.

max_richard_our host
Max is putting down a marker for scale, Richard is sketching the print and our host is on the right. He was so generous with his time and to allow us to come see these prints; he does not advertise their presence because he values his privacy and wishes to guard the environment of his place.

Lynette and Ray had arrived from Louisiana the evening before:

Ray

Lynette

 While here Ray and Lynette made and served crawfish etouff to give Richard and Barbara a taste of south Louisiana and to entice them to make that destination their next US trip. I notice Richard included a sketch of the dish in his Lair Log above.

The Bells went out on the land each morning and afternoon, hiking and sketching and nature watching.

barbara hiking
Here Barbara is hiking up the creek bank in very windy weather.

mitch-barbara_porch
I included this picture of Mitch and Barbara because it shows several of the activities of the week. The first is sitting on the porch, visiting and watching wildlife. Note the binoculars around Barbara's neck. Barbara and Richard saw humming birds for the first time, mocking birds, cardinals, an armadillo, a jack rabbit, a Cara Cara, our white tailed deer, white wing doves, white crowned sparrows, field sparrows, the eagles, lots of firsts, including having their first taste of root beer and their first taste of Brownies. In addition to showing the activities of visiting, relaxing and rocking, watching nature, the picture also shows another frequent activity during the week. If you look carefully on the porch to the left of Mitch you will see a cup and saucer. I could not begin to say how many cups of tea I saw our British friends make and consume during the week, often making and serving it to us instead of the other way around. The Bells are such easy company. And I informed Richard that his wife is his greatest asset.


Here is another activity we saw frequently; Richard is sketching a lone Indian Paintbrush. He sketches in the daylight, in the dark, he sketches nature, buildings, in church before the service begins, whenever, wherever, Richard sketches.

The Bells had a potpourri of Texas weather, from bitterly cold and windy to warm and balmy, to a heavy downpour all the way to Bergstrom Airport the morning they departed.

sunset at the lair

This sunset was one of the gifts and it captures the glow we felt as we treasured the new memories made during the Festival of the Bells.

A Final Note: Do not let anyone lead you to believe that having a computer isolates you. None of the above adventures would have come about without our computers and the Internet. Neither would we have met these lovely friends without computers and the Internet. There are a lot of synchronicities involved in this saga, beginning with Annette being from this area although living thousands of miles away, and us "meeting" over the Net, and her site being instrumental in us meeting the Bells and their subsequent visit to the Texas Hill Country where Annette used to live and we now live. It can make one believe all this is meant to be for a purpose unknown.

Last revised: June 07, 2006




Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.