As you can see, there was some damage to some crops. Not good, with the way this year's crop is down 75% already.
As I climbed in the truck to leave the hand-harvest festivities, I was surprised when Colin opened the passenger door, case of wine in hand and said, “Tom’s finally paying off an old bet. Slide over to the middle, will you? I don’t want to put this in the back. It gets bumped around too much.”
I undid my belt and moved over to the middle, fastening the middle seatbelt and resting my hand on top of the case even though Colin had cinched it up with its own belt. Precious stuff, I guess.
“Ever since I’ve been here. I met Tom through Sean, and we started playing poker. That’s how I met your contractor, Campos – through Tom and cards. We don’t play as much as we used to, although Tom’s wife Julie doesn’t mind if we gather at their house. We all seem to be so busy. Anyway, Tom invited me out the first year.”
“They are sometimes, but I think where Tom and Julie are it’s a different, larger school district for their kids. And I know Julie likes the one-story, adobe-style house. I had been out there once. Tom and Julie’s house is beautiful with a huge courtyard. It’s about ten miles west, and in Hockley County, not Lubbock County, but still on Cotton A property.
“Wow,” I said. “What a difference. And in just three generations? From mule and plow to a tractor that plants ... how many rows at a time? “I think they use both eight- and sixteen-row planters now. And it is amazing. Good land, good people.”
“And each spring planting. That one’s much easier and mainly ceremonial. We meet at sunup to sow the seeds at the end of each row in that same acre and then consume a breakfast along with the blessing.”
“March is way too early. Normally they wait until about the 10th of May to plant. Timing’s kind of tricky, depending on West Texas weather. You’ve got to get all those acres planted between the heavy rains, and then once the plants emerge five or six days later, you pray the hail storms don’t come.”
“They are. Incredibly wealthy. And from property investments, too. They just refer to the cotton, cattle and oil as separate businesses, and they still want a success in each.”
“Property investments? Is this Tom the ‘Tom’ you bought the student housing from?” I asked, remembering a conversation from last July.
“I think there’s about a dozen of them all together. Russ, Fern and Tom, Julie and their kids. Then spouses and more kids. Russ’ dad, Ted Arbuckle, died about four years ago at the age of 98, a couple years after his wife Hazel. He and Monsignor Fitz were good buddies. Tough old guy, but I liked him. Had two sons, but Russ’ older brother was killed at the end of World War II—a long time ago. So it fell to Russ to continue the farm and all. Fern’s from a ranching family up by Yellowhouse Draw, and they’ve been sweethearts since they were teenagers. Great couple.”
“Well, it should be. You really don’t know where it is?” Colin asked surprised.
“Look there in the glove box. Should be a Lubbock map.”
I leaned over, pushed the old latch to open the ancient compartment, then gasped as papers and odd items fell out all over the floor even as I tried to grab them. “Arrughhh!” I cried as Colin winced.
“We were. Good people. So down to earth ... and into the earth,” I said as I raised my hands, examining the scratches and stains again. “It was a good day, Colin. Thanks.”
We rode in silence for a while, each deep in thought. My distraction tactic was working and I thought of my boys and their families. I hope they’d be described as a good family. I thought they were. I missed them, envying Russ and Fern their close-knit, as well as close-in-proximity family. But I know I am in a good place. I am comfortable here.
“Would you like to come in?” I said tentatively, then quickly added, “For some wine?”
“And damn good-looking.”
“And it’s not there now?”
“It is,” It is, I said tentatively, “I’ve just sort of put it on the back burner while I get to know him as a person, that’s all.”
“And he’s wanting to move it to the front burner, is that what you’re telling me?”
“Sure, Murphy. Call or I’ll call you and we’ll see what we can work out.”
Colin, on the other hand, had been chiding himself severely for kissing her like that. He’d liked it, all right, but wondered how in the world that kiss could qualify as gentle as his twin had directed. He’d been afraid to call Maggie, thinking she might turn him down, which she had. Better back off, Buddy, he told himself. Now is not the time to ruin a good friendship with passion, no matter how much you’d like to kiss her again and again. Besides, Dad’s cabinet needed to get finished before December. He would pour his passion into the wood instead of into Margaret Grant.