My Black Friday visit to Roundrock finally happened a week and a day later, and we had a nice time doing nothing much at all. Somehow we’d gotten out the door earlier than usual, and even a stop at the small-town grocery story for supplies didn’t seem to interfere with a very early arrival. (Roundrock is southeast of our home in faraway suburbia, so maybe traveling downhill like that made the difference.) With ample sun and moderately warm temps in the offing, we looked forward to a day of nothing more than soaking up the sun in the comfy chairs. Or maybe hiking. Or cooking lunch over a fire. Or throwing a stick for Flike.
The biggest surprise upon arriving was to find the lake nearly at full pool. I’m not sure I realized that so much rain had fallen in the area lately; I hadn’t been paying attention. I started noticing the signs of it at certain points along the drive down: a huge soybean field that doubles as a duck-hunting preserve when allowed to flood was partly covered in water, a low-lying forest we pass was dotted with pools of water, the massive Corps of Engineers lake we cross thrice was beyond its normal banks. In the past we’ve seen these same signs and reached Roundrock only to find that none of that rainfall had found its way to our side of the ridge, but clearly it had this time. The lake was broad and had clearly been even fuller in recent days given the flotsam that lined the shore. Of course it was leaking as vigorously as ever under the dam, but I’m glad for this fuller pool so that the fish have more depth for overwintering. (I’ve concluded that if I can simply line the bottom of the lake with twenty-dollar bills — rather than twenty dollar bills, which wouldn’t be enuf — I can solve my leaking problem. So don’t send anything smaller than a twenty.)
When we arrived, we unpacked the truck, which includes opening the back door and stepping aside to allow Flike to explode from within and dart around, barking uproariously, looking for a stick. We got our supplies into the cabin, with no surprises waiting for us on the porch. (Sometimes we arrive to find the comfy chairs off in the woods — the work of the winds rather than the critters, I hope — or the phoebe brooding a new clutch, though not this late in the year, or a scattering of sticks and leaves — again the wind, I hope.) Our plan was to have a fire to cook our burgers, so Libby got busy unstacking the chairs around the fire ring and otherwise organizing. I unpacked the things we’d brought to the cabin including the wall clock that sings various bird songs at the top of the hour (when the batteries are not worn out, as they were) and various kitchen implements that we’d taken home for a more thorough cleaning than we can manage at the cabin. Then it was a matter of deciding what to do next. Flike suggested a hike, so that’s what we did.
Although the sun was shining, the temperature was still in the forties, so I kept our hiking to the south-facing side of the Central Valley just to stay in the comparative warmth. We rambled through the trees, up and down the ravines, and eventually found ourselves at the pond in the northwest corner of our 80-acre rectangle. It, too, was full, and we hung around there for a while, just enjoying the quiet and solitude, but then our stomachs suggested we make our way back to the cabin and do something about lunch.
Do I have to go into detail about how I failed at achieving a one-match fire? Can we just let it stand that my first effort at building the fire to cook our burgers was merely preparation for my second effort? Libby was kind enuf not to goad or chide me about the mess I’d made of things, but eventually I managed to get the wood to burn (could the recent rains be part of the reason the wood wouldn’t light? or was it my insufficient supply of tinder?) then build up a sufficient pile of coals to shove under the grill. The burgers, pink and no doubt gristly, shrank to the size of hockey pucks over the coals, but with sufficient hot mustard, Swiss cheese, some pickles, and a good-sized Kaiser roll, they were toothsome nonetheless. The dogs agreed, getting two burgers (without buns) themselves. Lunch was completed with two cookies from the bagel shop. (I had paid for one but they gave me two, which means I should return to pay for the second. And while I’m there, I may as well have some bagels, right?) Then it was time to sink into the comfy chairs (or in my case, the bed in the cabin) to reflect on our tasty lunch.
But our stupor was interrupted by the sound of a car or truck coming down our road. We are far enuf back, and the cabin is literally at the end of the road — you can’t get anywhere else from there — that we rarely get visitors, and the ones who do come along are usually people we know. (Though check out this early account for something different.) It turned out to be Good Neighbor Brian, whom we hadn’t seen in more than a year. He’s been dealing with some personal issues back in Kansas City that apparently kept him away from his woods that adjoin ours, but his chores that day lead him to the area, so he stopped by to say hi, hoping we’d be there.
We had a nice chat, got caught up on everyone’s business and the local gossip, then he had to get on to his chores, so he left. The day was still young, and the sun was still shining, so we decided to take another hike, this time to the east where we’d heard some of the neighbor’s cows raising a ruckus. We started our hike heading down to the pecan plantation below the dam, but the scrub there is so thick that little Queequeg had a hard time keeping up. So we turned our feet a bit to the north to get back into the woods where there was less undergrowth. This proved to be the case, but Queequeg was still having a hard time keeping up. This time he was simply too tired from the morning hike, the big lunch, and the demands on his little legs. It took a lot of cajoling and frequent pauses to keep him on task. Our hike took us to our northeast corner, unchanged since our last visit several months before, but the path along our northern fence line was littered with fallen tree tops. I suppose the storms that filled the lake had brought down some trees as well. As Libby and I worked to clear the path, Queequeg got to enjoy the time to rest, and Flike, I imagine, was delighted to see us handling what had to be the biggest sticks we were ever going to throw for him.
The afternoon hike didn’t last very long. Soon we reached the road, and we followed it down the hill to the cabin. Libby and Queequeg retired to the porch for rest and recovery while Flike and I did a few chores in the area (which involved another downed tree and stick throwing). It was satisfying work, but with the shortened sunlight, I knew that if we didn’t get on our way home soon, we would be driving in the dark for the last third of the trip, the part where we meet the traffic of the city. So we slowly packed up and closed the cabin. I certainly would like to get back to Roundrock in December — one more time for the year — but little Kenneth will be coming in a couple of weeks for a three-week visit, so opportunities may be sparse.
By the way, here is the view we saw from the cabin porch on Saturday: