Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens

Life is rolling along here in scenically rural Milam County, Texas. And its population is getting sicker. There are only 25,000-ish people in this county, so our ten COVID-19 cases are a lot. It was NOT good news to find out yesterday that one person who got sick worked at the local Dairy Queen. We’ve gotten take-out from there during our confinement.

Our lovely Dairy Queen

Oops. This has led Kathleen to declare that we bring lunches from home from now on. No one has disagreed.

Now, an important point to make here is that we have the best Dairy Queen possible here. It’s in a modern, new building. It’s clean. They pay well above minimum wage and have employees who’ve been there many years. The staff have all been briefed on precautions to take. And the owner, Robert Mayfield, immediately closed the store so that they can disinfect it from top to bottom and be sure that it’s safe (and that the workers there have a chance to quarantine and stay safe, themselves).

An example of Judge Young’s weekly newspaper articles.

Our County Judge, Steve Young, has been doing a heroic job going on the radio, doing Facebook Live, and otherwise staying in touch with the people here, urging them to not gather in large groups, wear masks if working with the public or out in public, and to stay the heck home. We’re all really proud of the work he and our Health Department are doing.

But, it takes actual cooperation to prevent the spread of disease. No one at the hardware store, serving the public, was wearing a mask this morning. No one at the gas station where I got fuel this morning was wearing a mask or gloves other than me. I am NOT gonna touch a credit card machine with my hands! I also have a very clean credit card now.

It’s good to have your own company hand sanitizers spread everywhere you go, so you can clean your credit cards and such.

I know Cameron is not alone. There are people everywhere who believe themselves immortal or invulnerable or just don’t give a shit who are wandering around like nothing has changed. Now, I’m not referring to people who have no access to masks or gloves and have to be out so their families don’t starve; I know isolation and protection is a privilege. I’m talking about people who feel perfectly comfortable putting other people’s lives in danger by their choices. Who knows how many innocent folks with underlying conditions that predispose them to having a bad case of the virus these people will kill in the name of their personal freedom?

Happy thoughts, yeah.

I Said There Would Be Some “Ups” in This Post

Look at all those freckles.

Yes, I did. I was looking at myself on Zoom yesterday (it’s hard NOT to look at yourself) and realized I looked as bad as I felt. So, last night I re-colored my hair for the first time since early March. It’s now orange with some pink highlights. (My next hair appointment isn’t for another month, at least, so plenty of time to wash out color by then.)

I put on makeup and lipstick today, added my sparkly yellow shoes, and I donned my new Hearts Homes and Hands lab coat. I look all professional and up-beat, and I’m hoping that will spread to my mood and attitude. So far, it’s helped. If I have to take things one step at a time, at least they will be sparkly steps!

Here you can see my lab coat. It reminds me of the one I had in grad school to keep chalk off my clothes, just like my mentor, Georgia, wore.

A Little Pope News That’s In-Between

Chris is really close to getting the first two offices completely done, other than installing the barn door between them. He has been working on trim all week. There is a LOT involved in doing trim, which is sorta sad, since when it’s well done, it blends into the background.

Trim in progress.

The doorway between the two rooms will NOT blend into the background. It’s darned bright and cheerful, especially on Lee’s side!

Trim, trim, trim.

Another thing that is taking a while is that they have to make dozens and dozens of shims to go behind the metal to trim windows on the tin walls. And, well, the house isn’t all level, so many shims are needed elsewhere. Easton spent an entire day cutting shims. Now, that sounds fun. Or does it?

Without shims, this trim would stick out from the wall, because the metal has bump-outs.

The plan is to get the remaining two rooms all cleaned up and move the supplies needed to finish the rest of the downstairs over there. We can’t paint the ceilings or refinish the floors if there are wood and tools all over the place!

So…even though we remain sort of dazed and confused, my plan is to dazzle with my shiny hair, shoes, watch band…anything cheerful!

Shine on.

Holey, Holey Moley

Cameron, Texas is a town full of holes. Part of its fading small-town charm is that very few things are in tip-top shape, so holes are everywhere.

Now, the true banes of my existence are the holes in County Road 140, where the Hermits’ Rest is located. As a matter of fact, I even made a movie of the potholes last year. At the moment, there are a few places where no matter how hard you try, you ARE going to hit a pothole. A couple of them are so deep that I’m surprised people haven’t lost wheel covers.

Red stars are our ranch community houses. 140 is the land of the potholes.

And ARGH, never ride in a car with someone unfamiliar with the road who doesn’t know to weave right and left to avoid the Big Ones and slow WAY down on the humpy section at the hill! I thought I was gonna get sick when Mike was driving me on Sunday.

The pothole situation in the county is so bad that a couple of people have bought their own equipment and begged the city to let them maintain their own roads. I don’t think our front-end loader can cut it, though.

Ground Holes

Canova and me at the Bistro

My sister dropped by today to have lunch and see the progress on the Pope Residence, and she needs to be careful when she’s walking. There was NO way I’d lead her across the empty lot (AKA “The Old Rossen Place”), because there are so many depressions where there were once trees. I think I’ve talked about it before, but since we’ve been having so many elders and people dealing with mobility issues, these things just LOOM in my mind. Stay on the walkways, everyone! (We do have insurance, and we do plan to level that ground.)

Holes in Houses

I am much happier with some of the holes in our renovation project, though. Chris and Easton moved the back door over, to make room for the length of stairway we’ll need to give the bathroom a ceiling. He sent me this picture:

It’s a long way to the ground now!

I looked at it and said to myself, “Hmph, the door is in a good place but, why is it opening that way?”

Not five minutes later, I got a text from him saying, “It opens the wrong way, but it will open right once we move the front door to the back.” How’s that for anticipating my criticisms! Smart guy! In any case, the doorway hole is a good one.

There are lots of holes in the ground and in the floors right now, too. That’s because plumbing experts showed up to repair all the lines and install the ones for the break room area and the bathrooms. Once they are done, we can put in floors! Hooray!

They made sure to get all the outside work done today, since it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. I like it when people are careful like that. One of the guys told me he’d get rid of the annoying sapling/weed tree growing right next to the house and on top of where the plumbing goes in. I will be sure to kill its trunk to death, since it can’t be helping the house stay level.

Here’s the framing for the stairs and bathroom. The floor has holes, for plumbing.
This kind of stuff.

A final hole I’ve been thinking about is the ones caused by the tiles in the Hermit Haus cracking. We have decided to just pull them all up, remove the walls, and cover the entire flooring area with that nice stuff people put down in garages, with the little sprinkles. That should last forever, and if the ground shifts, it won’t be the end of the world.

More later. Gotta get more work done before the exciting Chamber of Commerce Banquet!

Great Little Things in a Little Texas Town

Happy Lunar New Year!

Like I was talking about yesterday, I’m trying to take notice of little things that bring joy. I think it’s important, even when you know perfectly well that the bigger things require attention. I just don’t want the scary stuff consuming me, because that would paralyze me and I’d get nothing done.

So, here are a few things that have sparked joy in me over the last day or so.

Lee’s future office. Ahh.

Of course the Pope Residence renovation is bringing joy! We have master masons working to shore up the brick on the interior, and the rest of the walls have been revealed. Want more pictures? I put some up on the Hearts Homes and Hands blog.

There are a couple of small town signs that I enjoyed yesterday, too. One was put out by the local bank. It’s so smart of them! And still, it has small-town charm. I edited it to say “office” and deleted “drive-thru” and hung it on our office door.

Keep our town healthy!

This one has to be my favorite. Kathleen and I walked to the Bistro to get our Friday wine, and I glanced over at the Italian restaurant. I thought, hmm, someone must be hanging out there and annoying people. Then I looked on the bench. I had to take THAT picture!

Bad kitty. Can’t you read?

It’s Ricky, the town cat, owned communally by all the downtown merchants. According to my friend Jean, he’s not only loitering, but soliciting pats! There’s a happy Cameron kind of thing, right?

Other things that have kept me perky are just things. We got new sticky notes and magnetic clips to give to clients at Hearts Homes and Hands. I think they came out great, which is always a relief when you pay money for things.

I didn’t make any typos!
There’s a hand that’s been working on stuff.

And the last thing is I got my nails done and honored Imbolc, my favorite time of the Celtic calendar. I put Brighid’s sacred flame on them. That will make me smile for the next couple of weeks. It wasn’t easy for Tina to do this, so I appreciate the effort, even if I’m the only one who really knows what it’s about.

And what else?

What the heck! From @stephenrx7 via Twenty20

We are going to go get CHICKENS for the new coop today! And food for the old chickens, who get to stay right where they are. As you can guess, the ladies in my family are pretty darned excited.

Let’s hope they get along with the dogs. There will be some training involved!

Ups and Downs of Small-Town Businesses

Now that I think Pickle and Vlassic are over their foam-eating issues, I can return to other topics. One that has especially interested me is how people in and around Cameron feel about the customer service mentality in the area. I may have mentioned that a couple days ago, Lee wrote a blog post about why Cameron has such a hard time keeping restaurants open.

Lee’s photo of the former Sonic, now up for sale.

Usually, our blog posts and Facebook business page posts get between 100-200 views/hits each. Not this one. The Facebook one has 2500 views and 14 shares. Mandi said the one on her page also got lots of shares. The website stats look hilarious. There were 1500 hits that day, which made the previous week look totally flat.

So, yeah, Lee’s thoughts on this topic struck a nerve. I’ve been hanging around Cameron for just nine years now, but I’ve seen so many places open and close right up. One has done it at least four times (I’m not naming names, just noting facts). When I talked to a former cafe owner, she said people would just walk off their jobs or not show up because they didn’t feel like it. Turnover was huge. Just a week or two ago we went to a local place where only the cashier had showed up, so she was trying to wait tables. It didn’t go well.

Continue reading “Ups and Downs of Small-Town Businesses”