The Trees of Autumn

Letter From Texas

It is a warm night for November, even in Texas.  Thanksgiving is a few days away, and the warm weather, interrupted by a cool snap, has returned, reimposing itself like an unwelcome guest on an autumn background of falling leaves and brown, seemingly endless prairie stretching north to distant Canada.  Southeast from Waco, along Highway 6 to Bryan and the Gulf Coast beyond, Santa has made his first appearance, starring in a light show (“Santa’s Wonderland”) staked out in a cow pasture bordered by barbed wire and the cracked pavement of the highway.  I turn on the air conditioner to cool the stuffy car interior.  My wife shakes her head.  “Welcome back to Texas and eighty degrees at Thanksgiving.”  I need a Dr. Pepper.

Welcome back, indeed.  Sitting on the porch of my parent’s home in Houston, I’m watching a grey squirrel bury a pecan amongst the leaves and bare roots of a massive live oak and trying to imagine the yard as it was 35 years ago, before all the roads were paved, before city water, before the crawdads and water moccasins disappeared from the creek and the ubiquitous horny toads vanished.  In those days, my brothers and I could roam the adjacent fields unmolested.  We kept a pet raccoon for a time.  My younger brother once brought home a copperhead for my mother’s inspection and was quite upset when Daddy whacked its head off...

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