LOST PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER


ACRYLIC ON CANVAS BY CHERYL LYLES SMITH

Some of you may remember my writing about the loss of my sister’s and brother-in-law’s home by fire the morning before Hurricane Harvey hit.  My brother-in-law had called me to invite us out to stay with them if we did not want to ride out the storm here on the coast.  They lived eighty miles west of here on the family ranch and in the house that I grew up in.

The above portrait of my father was painted by their daughter (my niece) who died of cancer at age 57 in 2012.  The  painting was done from a small photo of him in exactly the same pose taken probably in the late 1950s.  It hung in the entrance to her parents’ home.  A few years ago when we were visiting I had Husband take a photo of it because it was very special to me.  Now I am so grateful that he did as the painting was destroyed in the fire along with everything in the house.  Perhaps I should explain the painting for those of you not familiar with the practice of burning prickly pear cactus.

In the painting my father is filling up his pear burner with butane from the tank in the pick-up.  He would then strap it across his shoulder and go out into the pasture where there was plenty of prickly pear cactus.  As he turned it on fire would come out of the end of it and he would burn or singe the thorns off the cactus.  With the large thorns gone the cattle would eagerly eat the cactus as a good source of protein and contained water.  During times of drought when there might be little for the cattle to eat and feeding hay might be too expensive for a rancher, this method would help to get through the lean times.  Burning pear was most common in the fall and winter, but I have seen my father burn pear into the spring and fall if it was a really dry year.

Today times have changed and few people burn prickly pear.  The pear burner was invented in 1914 by John Bunyan Blackwell.  A photo of one can be seen at the Bullock Museum website.

As a footnote, my sister and brother-in-law built a new house on the same spot as the one that burned and were able to move in just before Christmas.  Husband and I went out Christmas Eve to see it and to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.  I had prints made from the photo Husband took as gifts for family members.  Life goes on.

       Here is a close-up of prickly pear cactus so you can see the sharp thorns.

 

Here is a cluster of them together with the red fruit or tuna.

SNOW ON THE COAST!


About three and a half months ago we had  Hurricane Harvey.  Today we had snow on the coast as did much of South Texas!  The last time it snowed was on Christmas Eve of 2004.  Early this morning neighbors were out again (as after Harvey but this time welcoming the change in weather) reveling in the magical wonderland that our neighborhood had become.  We were bundled up in coats, hats and gloves that had been stored away and seldom used.  The past couple of weeks have been very warm and air conditioners were still running and shorts were still being worn.  Kids and adults were trying to make snowmen but with meager results as most had little snow-making experience.

For those for whom snow is a normal occurrence, feel free to skip this post:  spoiler ahead, it is mostly of snow!  But perhaps I can be forgiven as it may not snow for another thirteen years.  Husband gets the credit for them.

EARLY MORNING BEFORE DAYLIGHT VIEW ACROSS THE STREET FROM OUR HOUSE

OUR HOUSE

PARK NEXT DOOR TO US

HUSBAND ON OUR DRIVEWAY WITH NEIGHBOR’S BOAT IN THE BACKGROUND

CRONE WITH COFFEE

NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE WITH CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON

OUR BACK YARD

TREE LIMB IN BACKYARD HEAVY WITH SNOW

SAME TREE IN THE BACKYARD THAT LOST SO MANY LIMBS DURING HURRICANE HARVEY

HUSBAND AND CRONE AT THE PARK

By noon the sun came out beautifully and the snow began to melt, but for a time our coast was a magical place and children created memories of the year it snowed.  Cheers!

FRIDAY FOTO: POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN


On a recent overnight trip Husband and I stopped in Crystal City, Texas to check out a historical site (future post) and found Popeye the Sailor Man.  The city claims to be the “Spinach Capital of the World,” so it seems appropriate for statue of Popeye and a Spinach Festival that started the day after we were there.  The festival featured music, a beauty pageant, carnival,  a spinach cook-off and for the first time ever, a spinach-eating contest.   Contestants had to eat cans of spinach; I assume they did not have to open them Popeye-style.  It was 52 degrees that day so it was cold for us in November. The next day it was warmer.

 

DAY OF THE DEAD ALTAR (ofrenda)


Inspired by a El Dia de los Muertos Street Festival last year that I wrote about, I have created an altar(ofrenda) in my home.  These altars are to remember and honor the dead.  November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day.  The Day of the Dead is celebrated November 2  although some seem to combine the two days.

Day of the Dead –
Paths of flower petals and
burning incense guide
spirits to the house of the living.
Tables with favorite food and drink.
orange and yellow flowers,
all offered to the spirits.
Then the living go to
graves of the dead.
Custom says ill fortune, illness
death or worse
may befall
those who make no offerings.

Who will decorate my grave?
Who will bring me food?
Who will talk to me?
No one.
Cremation may be best f or me.
JH
Nov. 2016

Below is a closer look at my orfenda   The pocket knife is for my father; the clip earrings for my mother; the wine bottle for another relative; the carnations for a friend; matches with Mexican Loteria characters for those that loved to gamble; sage for cleansing.  I needed marigolds!  Maybe next year.

MAY THEIR SOULS FIND THEIR WAY TO MY ORFENDA EVEN IF ONLY IN MY HEART.