I’ll tell you! It gave me a happy surprise yesterday, and who doesn’t love a happy surprise? I especially love one that leads to nature observations and stories.
I was leaving work around 5 pm, as workers tend to do, and turned left out of the parking garage. That road leads between two sets of offices, but is shady and has lots of trees. It once was a lovely park-like area, and some parts of it still are.
I looked ahead after making the turn and saw something in the road. Usually, you see deer, since the herd that’s always lived in the area is still here. But, no, this looked more canine.
As I got closer, I ruled out dogs. As I got even closer, I easily ruled out coyotes by looking at the tale. It was a native gray fox! You usually don’t see them when it’s light out, but we were in a dim area.
The fox seemed very happy. I soon realized it was not alone. In the proud little fox mouth was a sizable, but lifeless, striped skunk (also native). I knew foxes ate small mammals, but I didn’t realize they’d eat a skunk. Heck, this skunk was hard for Foxy to carry.
I lucked out, and there weren’t any cars behind me, so I got to watch the fox trot along an office building, probably looking for a place to settle down to a nice, but potentially stinky meal. I didn’t get to grab the phone camera, but no doubt you enjoy the fact that I can’t draw for squat.
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, by Chris Arnade, may not be the most well-crafted book I ever read, but it made a huge impact on me, and I am very grateful to have had the chance to read it. It helped me understand some of the issues in Cameron as well as why some of the things the movers and shakers are trying don’t really work.
I have a suspicion that my friends, family, and coworkers will be very glad when I write up this review, so I’ll stop summarizing the book and explaining what it says. I’m just so glad that I had some of my prejudices and misconceptions ripped away and have at least a bit more understanding of a subset of American society that I once had some strong biases against: the people in small towns or impoverished neighborhoods.
So, all about Dignity
Arnade calls people like me “front row people,” which are people who by luck of their birth have had all the opportunities available to be able to do what counts as “success” in the US: advanced degrees, home ownership, a job that uses the brain, not the body to earn a living. They have a front row seat at all the possible things the society values. He calls people who live in towns where all the employers are gone, where many people use drugs or alcohol to get through the day, and who use their bodies to work, when there is work, back row people. Always having trouble getting ahead, behind on opportunities, etc. *
It impressed me that Arnade, who was a Wall Street stockbroker, and therefore way in the front row, got curious about the lives of people near him who didn’t have the same opportunities he did. He spent three years getting to know a community in Brooklyn, then visited places across the US to learn how they get where they are and why they stay.
Oh, it was nowhere near as bad as I’m making it sound! I woke up yesterday rather early, because we were expecting a man to come work on our Hermits’ Rest gate, which had gotten fried in last week’s lightning storm.
As I was sitting there, I realized there was a market day over at the fancy baseball fields in Cameron, which are officially called the Yards of Cameron. Wow, I said, I bet that would be a nice place to publicize our new nonprofit, Milam Touch of Love (MTOL). I wish we’d planned to do that. Wait, I can just go do it!
I messaged the rest of the Board, and at least two of them said they’d come, too. Jean had the brilliant idea of seeing if our mutual friend, Pamela, would let us sit beside her booth and solicit memberships and donations, and generally let people know we exist. Pamela said yes, so Jean grabbed some chairs and we headed over, wearing our official shirts.
Well, that doesn’t tell you much about what I did last night, does it? I’ll explain. Everyone who’s ever driven between Cameron and Temple will have noticed a couple of very cute shops in Rogers, Texas. One of them, the Vis-a-Vis Galleria drew me and my sister in a few weeks ago. I discovered that, not only do they have fun clothing and a really tasteful collection of consignment items, they do classes on decorating furniture.
So, I signed up for a class, just to have some fun on a random weekend. I’d hoped to get someone to go with me, but I was fine with going alone. Since I’ve been channeling my dad, I’ve gotten better about being friendly with everyone I run into. It turns out that everyone has an interesting story, somewhere in there!
To get to the Hermits’ Rest, you have to go 2.2 miles down a county road for the last leg. As a county road in a poor county, you don’t expect immaculate maintenance. But, you might expect to be able to go in a straight line.
Not on our road! You know it’s a local driver when you see a lot of weaving and slowing down. There are spots where those in the know look like they are doing a slalom. There are areas on the hill where people driving what they think is a reasonable speed can go airborne.
We call that the roller coaster. When you first turn onto County Road 140 there’s what we call the washboard. It’s caused hubcaps to fall off. And there are at least two danger pits where I have no doubt people unfamiliar with the road have experienced damage to wheels or suspension systems.
When we brought Harvey home from where he was dumped at the Rattlesnake house, the vet said he was about the same age as Brody, so I assigned him the summer solstice as his birthday. Sigh. Brody would be four now.
Anyway, Harvey is doing well. Not as porky as he was for a while, thanks to Carlton keeping him moving, but nowhere near the bag of bones he was when Ralph first found him cowering across the street, waiting for his owners to come back.
He seems a lot calmer now, and less prone to his growling habit. He only gets testy when Carlton gets too relentless in his play requests. He also enjoys running and playing with Vlassic, which provides us with hours of fun.
He looks so incredibly happy when I get back from Austin every week that it makes me tear up sometimes. All that love coming barreling at me warms my heart. He and Alfred both just have the most expressive faces.
That’s really all I have to share. I just don’t talk as much about Harvey, it seems, but rest assured he’s always in my heart.