Doodle #5. A Quiet Moment

Doodle #5.
Doodle a quiet moment.

Doodle #5. Quiet river
Doodle #5. Quiet river

This is the San Marcos River edged by willow trees and grass and such.

Well, it is if I say it is.

Here’s a better picture.

San Marcos River above Fentress, Texas
San Marcos River above Fentress, Texas. By Kathy Waller.


Prompt from 365 Days of Doodling by Carin Channing.

My Writing Writing Writing Day: Yeah, Right

In the previous post, I announced my intention to get up, go to BookPeople, write for an hour on a project of not-email and not-post (because Ramona DeFelice Long told me to), and get off the laptop by 7:00 p.m.
Here’s how the day went.

At 8:00 a.m., I discovered Ernest experiencing grave digestive problems reminiscent of previous problems caused by eating string. No matter how careful we are, he’s always able to find string.

After practicing every sneaky tactic I know to wrestle him into the carrier, I hauled him to the vet, wrote a check, hauled him home, and spent the next twenty-four hours stalking him up hill and down dale, from litterbox to litterbox, to get an accurate picture of his post-doc activity.
If there wasn’t any, I would have to take him back to the vet today for reconsideration of the diagnosis of UTI to ingestion of string.
In addition to the X-ray, the veterinarian gave him a long-lasting injection of antibiotic so we wouldn’t have to catch him and fight over pills or liquid for a week. I could have chosen to start treatment without the X-ray and see what happened but wasn’t sure I could get him back into the carrier if the antibiotic didn’t work. Some things are not worth the effort.
Because we have two cats and two litterboxes, and because I knew isolation wouldn’t be possible, at least if I valued our doors, I sat up all night watching him. He slept. All night. Didn’t go near a litterbox. I played Bookworm.
David rose at 7:00 a.m. We changed shifts. I went upstairs for four hours of sleep. David stalked.
I woke at 11:00 to the news that Ernest had performed admirably. David had kept samples. I said I didn’t need to see them.
Ernest is in fine fettle. At present he’s lying on my arm, making biscuits where I wish he were not. I will tolerate this until the first claw penetrates my clothing and punctures my flesh. He means well.
In fact, he forgave and forgot as soon as we returned from the veterinary clinic. He swished around as if I had never betrayed him, sat in my lap, pinned down my left arm while I typed, lay on the footstool, gazed at me lovingly.
I’m grateful he doesn’t hold a grudge. In the fight for proper medical attention I nearly dislocated his shoulder. I’m trying to forgive and forget that my back and my right arm will once again have to be put right by the massage therapist. The carrier alone is heavy, and with Ernest inside it gains seventeen pounds.
Concerning the writing life: I did not go to BookPeople; I did not write for an hour; I did not eat breakfast or lunch until nearly 3:00 p.m. I did not do anything except be nurse and mama to a big, hulking guy tabby cat.
But hey–I got another blog post out of it.

The craziest thing is that it’s almost the same post I wrote two or three years ago, about the day I was


determined to write write write but instead spent the day lying on the floor in William’s bedroom, trying to coax an ailing Ernest out from under the bed and to the doctor.

Now the question: Do these things happen because I’m crazy, or am I crazy because these things happen?
What is the moral? (Must be a moral.)
  • Change in the Davis-Waller house doesn’t seem likely, at least while Ernest and I live here. Might as well accept that and go on.
  • I should never never never publicize my intention of writing writing writing.
  • Writing writing writing equals change. See first moral, above.
And failing to follow through is embarrassing. Especially reporting the failure, as is only fair. Readers deserve to know.
cropped-img_31112.jpgWhen this post is safely online, I shall throw things into a bag and head south to retreat with Austin Mystery Writers. I will have a cabin and a river and some pecan trees. I will not have Internet connection or decent TV reception. Phones will work only outside.
And for the next two days, I promise to sit in a porch swing and Write. Write. Write.


If paragraphs in this post are incorrectly spaced, please pretend they’re not. Today’s format is like Ernest–not under my control. It’s just one more miracle of modern technology.

Cottonwood School Reunion at the Fentress Resort

Cottonwood School Reunion – Fentress Resort–Fentress, Texas–1930s (?)–Row 1, 2nd from left – Carl Waller; 4th from right – Jessie Waller Meadows (white collar); last on right – Ethel Waller (polka dots). Row  5, from left: Maurice Waller (partially hidden); Bettie Pittman Waller; Pearl Daniels; Frank Waller; Barney Waller

The Cottonwood community lay along Cottonwood Creek, Guadalupe County, across the San Marcos River from Fentress, Texas. The photograph above was taken at the Cottonwood School Reunion in–I believe–the 1930s. The people I know are identified in the caption. Some of the other surnames represented are probably Gregg, Rector, Daniels, Ward, and Fleming. I would be grateful for help in identifying individuals I don’t recognize. (The faces here aren’t exactly clear, but more of these pictures are out there in albums and attics, so if you find one with IDs, share the info, please?)

The picture was taken in front of the skating rink at the Fentress Resort. The skating rink now resides on Hwy 183 just south of Lockhart. It looks a lot smaller now than it did when it was in its proper home on the bank of the river.

I believe my grandfather, Frank Waller, is wearing a necktie. That didn’t happen often, at least when I was around.

In the caption, I note that Maurice Waller is partially hidden. I knew he was in the photo but had difficulty finding him until I realized he had to be beside Aunt Bettie. He was always beside Aunt Bettie. And partially hidden would have suited him just fine.


“River Smiles” by Sean Loyless, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

When I was in my late twenties, three of my co-workers and I met every Friday during summer vacations to tube down the San Marcos River.

We would start with burgers at Pepper’s or salads at Palmers’ or, joy of joys, real, old-fashioned Tex-Mex at Herbert’s Taco Hut. Then we’d go to Vivian’s, change into swimsuits, throw tractor tubes into the back of her husband’s old truck, and head for City Park. We’d tiptoe into the bone-chilling water (a “warm” 72 degrees all year, they say), lash the tubes together, and for the next hour, just drift along. Then, after handing the driver limp dollar bills that had traveled downstream tucked, like Lydia Bennet’s lace, into the bosoms of our swimsuits, we would take the River Taxi back to City Park. There we sometimes we tossed the tubes back into the water and floated down again.

If we wanted to take the long route, we drove two vehicles, parked the pickup under the I-35 overpass, and drove the second car to City Park. Then, instead of getting out and boarding the River Taxi, we walked around the dam, and, leaving the crowd behind, floated along a quiet stretch lined with elephant ears and shaded by cypress and pecan trees. At the interstate, took waiting pickup back to Vivian’s for chips and dips and games of Mexican dominoes.

On the river, we talked about school, complained about school, gossiped about school, rehashed last year, and pondered possibilities for fall. We discussed our private lives: would the builder ever finish Vivian’s house, would Patty really leave us for that high-powered engineering job, and was Nell really—really—pregnant? We had enough material to last all summer.

To the uninitiated, this probably sounds dead boring. But we knew–from experience–the potential for adventure every time we got together.

Drifting along in cold water and hot sun, paying attention only to ourselves, we floated into spider webs. We floated into elephant ears. We floated into pockets of debris. We floated into other people. We screamed at spiders and debris. To other people, we apologized.

In drought years, when the river was low, our bottoms dragged on the broken pilings of bridges past. We ducked under low branches and paddled furiously to escape teenagers cannonballing off the old railroad bridge. When a boy lucked out and landed almost dead center, drenching us, Nell yelled, “That’s about a D-minus in maturity!” While the rest of us hissed, “Shut up, they’ll know we’re teachers,” the dozen boys watching from the bridge launched themselves directly at us.

Sometimes adventure occurred away from the water. Whenever we left the pickup under I-35, transportation to the starting point was a challenge. We all drove compacts. Getting four women and four tractor-tire inner tubes into one little car and navigating through traffic, even in a very small city, took courage, cunning, and creativity. I don’t remember exactly how we did it. I think we tied one tube onto the roof and looped the others together; then the non-drivers hung out the windows and held onto the tubes to keep them from flopping around.

At the end of one trip, we found the truck partially blocked by other vehicles. Vivian, who was far from proficient in standard shift, had to back up. “But I’ve never done reverse,” she wailed.

Another time we took Vivian’s little yellow Toyota to Rio Vista Park to retrieve a car we’d left there. June had been wet. On the way in, Vivian drove into a mud hole and the Toyota sank to the axle. We changed cars and returned to Vivian’s. When we pulled up at the curb, her husband emerged from the house saying his truck was making a funny noise and he needed Vivian to drive him to a meeting pronto. A few days later, her husband developed Bell’s palsy. I’ve always felt partially responsible.

The most exciting event involved Vivian’s Toyota, her purse, and a kind stranger. Leaving Pepper’s after lunch, we had to turn left onto Sessom Street, a four-lane racetrack winding along the edge of the university campus. Turning left onto Sessom at any time wasn’t easy; at noon it took a good sense of timing and nerves of steel. Vivian had neither. She turned anyway.

Suddenly the Toyota stalled, straddling the center line, engine running but steering wheel locked. Vivian’s purse strap had looped around the steering column, settled into a groove, and then caught around the handle that operates the windshield wiper. How it happened we never figured out. But without scissors or a knife, we couldn’t free the strap from the column, and without freeing the strap, Vivian couldn’t turn the steering wheel, or, in fact, make the car move at all.

So we sat, blocking the inside lanes, while cars whizzed by on both sides, horns blaring. Somehow the purse strap impinged upon something in the guts of the steering column and our horn started blaring. Intermittently. Long blasts, short blasts, medium blasts. Vivian and Nell worked frantically to unwind the strap. Confined to the back seat, I couldn’t help, so I toppled over and guffawed.

Our savior came in the person of a pedestrian with an amazing configuration of dreadlocks (a style seldom seen in 1970s San Marcos) who dashed into the street, opened the passenger door, leaned across, and addressed the tangle.

I don’t know what happened next, because I was still collapsed, but after several more minutes of cars tearing by and horns blowing and the three people up front pulling and tugging and breathing heavy and muttering, the strap released its stranglehold on the steering apparatus, the wheel turned, Vivian and Nell said, “Thank you thank you thank you,” (I was laughing too hard to enunciate clearly), and the stranger ran back across the street to safety. We eased into traffic and drove the four miles to Vivian’s, right through the middle of town, horn blaring all the way. By the time it was over, I had released enough endorphins to keep me pain-free for the rest of the summer.

The stories I’ve related are a mere sample of the fun four school teachers had on their Friday afternoons on the river.

In fact, we had so much fun we decided to share. Vivian had a relative, Barb, about our age, who had expressed interest in joining us on one of our jaunts. She was nice, but she was so organized and so competent and so confident, and so willing to confess to being all three of those things, and more, that she didn’t fit well with our ragtag crew. But she wanted to go, so we invited her.

She brought her swimsuit and tube. She brought a cooler of sodas and lemonade. She brought a little float to hold the cooler and a rope to tie it to our tubes. She brought cups and a trash bag. She organized the expedition so we could drift along smoothly and efficiently.

And we did. We ate lunch, we floated, we played dominoes, we went home. Period. It was the quickest and least eventful float on record. No spiders, no debris, no dragging bottoms, no submerged axles, no stuck steering wheels, no helpful men with interesting hair. No laughing. No shrieking. No joyful hysteria.

In other words, as my students would have said, bo-ring.

Afterwards, Vivian and I analyzed the situation and pinpointed the problem: Barb had organized all the fun out of the trip. Vivian, who never said an unkind word about anyone, leaned toward me and murmured, “She’s always made me nervous.” I could see why.

Over the past thirty years, however, I’ve thought a lot about that analysis and have concluded that Vivian and I were wrong. It wasn’t the organization. Vivian and I (liberal arts) were scattered, to put it mildly, but Patty (engineering and math) and Nell (business) could have organized things as well as Barb had if they’d wanted to. And what I wouldn’t have given (still would) for the organizational skills Barb possessed.

No. I believe the problem wasn’t that Barb brought ice and chilled sodas, but that she left something at home–the ability to just let things happen, the understanding that fun requires spiders, sunk axles, stuck steering wheels, and screaming.

Looking back, I also suspect that Barb didn’t have the time of her life either. At times, when the rest of us didn’t appear to be taking the project seriously, she became visibly impatient. I think she was as happy to end the day as we were.

From this story about my life in tubing, I draw the following moral: a chacun son gout,* or, to each his own taste.

Or, on second thought, the real moral of this story is that there doesn’t have to be a moral at all.


*I didn’t learn this phrase in my one semester of French. I heard it as chacun a son gout years ago in Die Fledermaus. I’ve always wanted to use it, and this seemed like a good time. But, cautious creature that I am, I checked Wikipedia first and discovered that the correct phrase is the one I used in the text of this post. It doesn’t scan, but I suppose we can’t have everything.


Image of River Smiles by Sean Loyless, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Adapters, palm pads, and bezels

The prodigal laptop has returned.

It’s been on a six-day retreat in Houston, getting its hinges fixed. Several weeks ago, one of them popped and bad things ensued. Bits and pieces in the back loosened and bent, and the monitor started to come apart at the seams. I was afraid it was going to spit little internal organs all over the carpet.