Just before leaving Houston yesterday I stopped by Alan & Kat’s to pick up the dogs. The family was attending a birthday party and was not yet home. Alan sent me a text asking me if I could hang out for a while until they got back because Madison had something to give me. It was a Father’s Day greeting consisting of an original, signed painting on canvas entitled “Wheat” by two artists named Madison and Austin. In a somewhat Impressionistic style, it presents our recent wheat crop and the huge oak tree behind our farm house. It’s value is inestimable.
In addition to the painting, I was given a coffee cup with “Papa” bear on it. Madison explained the connection between the bear on the cup and my association with Baylor University. I get it.
I was greeted by other things when I arrived at the farm late on Saturday night. Two deer bounded away from the house as I drove up. I performed my usual initial inspections of the place. Before entering the house I took a flashlight and walked around outside. I checked out the X-Garden and discovered that the row of corn plants had run their course and were wilted and brown, just like the entire field of corn across the road. The ears that grew on the brown stalks had been devoured by our pet rabbits who operate the garden in our absence.
Two small eggplants hung on a bush. I planned to get them in the morning. Several large green tomatoes were also enduring the heat of the summer. A few butternut squash were available for harvest. Purple zinnias, orange zinnias, and wild sunflowers decorated the place. The biggest surprise was the melons. Just three weeks ago the watermelons were no bigger than my thumb. Now seven large melons were lying on the ground in the garden. This is encouraging, since I went to Bush's roadside produce stand in Stockdale to buy a watermelon this morning only to be told they had none because of the drought. I'm not sure what I will do with rabbits that decide watermelons are on their diet.
(This morning I returned to the garden to get what I could – the squash and a bouquet of flowers. The eggplants had become rabbit food over night. And one of the big green tomatoes was on the bunny buffet as well.)
Inside the house another surprise awaited me last night. I entered the utility room to switch the water heater from “Vacation” to “Hot,” and found myself stepping into two inches of water. The water heater had sprung a leak in the last two weeks. Water had run into the garage and out the garage door. I spent an hour and a half mopping up the mess. Cold showers only until it is replaced.
When I stepped into the garage I found that John, my new lawn tractor, had flats on both front tires, a consequence of encountering mesquite and cactus thorns during his last workout. Fortunately, I knew about a magic solution called “Slime” that repairs and then prevents such leaks. I picked up some today and will repair the tires tomorrow.
This morning I was greeted by the usual wildlife – our pet rabbit checking out the garden, the cardinals gathering to devour the sunflower seeds and to enjoy the birdbath, hummingbirds checking in periodically for a refill of the sweet, red nectar I’d hung for them, and Mexican eagles patrolling the field.
Then I received the new version of Father’s Day cards, text messages from my children with embarrassing evaluations of my performance as a dad. Leaks, flats, and rabbits are nothing compared to such things as original artwork, coffee mugs, and Father's Day texts.