I see so many cars parked around a big corporate fast food place – so many queued up at the window, waiting for their flavorless extruded hunk of scientifically engineered food-like substance. So much substance with so little sustenance. Offset printed plastic focus-group tested graphics, tied in with billion-dollar commercial campaigns carefully crafted to make you jump at the sight of their logo like baby birds at a squirming worm.
Meanwhile so many family owned greasy spoons go wanting with their hand-painted cracked stucco signs. The food might not be better, it might even be greasier, but at least it is real.
Are these hornets or wasps? Looking around the internet, they are probably wasps – their narrow heads and bodies might be the clue. I like the word hornet better, though. It sounds that much more dangerous and mean. And these little bastards looked plenty mean.
It was an ungodly hot day – well over the century mark. Everything else was slowed down, resting, waiting on the cool of the evening or for fall – but these guys were buzzing away, working on their home and future family. It was along a trail that ran between a couple of mostly-desiccated ponds. The paper nest was tucked beneath a the low canopy of a feathery row of bushes. I heard them before a saw them.
There is a strange beauty in this cluster of concentrated pain and meanness. The slick thin black bodies, whirring wings, and delicate paper nest with its precise geometry of hexagonal cells.
This morning I took a look at the internet, looking for something to do and came across a listing that pointed out that admission to the Audubon Center is only a buck in July and August. This might seem a little odd to someone not from here – why would admission to an outdoor center be reduced during the height of the summer? It is, of course, because the summer is flooded with toxic heat.
So I drove down there as close to opening in the morning as I could manage and it wasn’t too bad. At least not for a few minutes. I paid my dollar (an put some more in the donation bucket) and started walking the trails. They advised to check out the wetland and prairie trails first and then visit the shady wooded section – as the day warmed up.
It warmed up fast – the temperature climbed to over the century mark within a couple hours. I did carry my insulated growler full of iced water and that helped a lot.
The Center has a few miles of trails and I was able to walk them all. Even though it was hot and dry (most of the wetlands were more like mudlands) I enjoyed the variety of the geography – swampy, open areas, and thick woods. The Center is built on a recovered landfill and that gives it an array of terrain you don’t see in such a small place in North Texas.
I didn’t take to many photographs, but I had a good time and want to go back soon.
ABD AL-RAHMAN III was an emir and caliph of Córdoba in 10th-century Spain. He was an absolute ruler who lived in complete luxury. Here’s how he assessed his life:
“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity.”
Fame, riches and pleasure beyond imagination. Sound great? He went on to write:
“I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: They amount to 14.”
When our kids were little we had a little popup tent camping trailer. It was pretty cool – we would keep it loaded with all the stuff we would need for the weekend. All we would have to do is buy some food and head out to one of the wide selection of Texas State Parks within a few hours drive of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. It was worth it even for a single night – we could go to a soccer game on Saturday morning and be in the woods for Saturday night. It was a good thing… until the trailer was stolen from in back of our house… but that’s another story.
One of the places we would go was Tyler State Park – outside of the eponymous East Texas City. It was a large park – held a lot of people in a whole series of camping areas around a resplendent sylvan lake. When we drove to and from we would pass a Bar-B-Q restaurant off the exit from Interstate 20. It always looked delicious and the associated smoke smelled even more so. But in keeping with the whole camping thing we never visited.
That was many years ago but I remember it.
On our last trip to New Orleans (for Lee’s Tulane Graduation) we left early in the morning, but not too early. We would be going past Tyler right at lunch time – and I decided to finally try out Bodacious Bar-B-Q.
There are four major types of Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina, and Texas. Bodacious is, of course, Texas. Texas BBQ is actually a dry, slow cook – with most sauce added after.
The food was great, of course. The place was exactly like you would expect – a little dusty, a little cluttered, a lot of local workers on their lunch hour.