Tuesday, October 19, 2004

My hero

Mrs. Rose
Originally uploaded by Uncle Mikey.
Mrs. Elfrida R., the caretaker of my family's ranch (not really a ranch, more like country acreage with a river running through it and a bunch of wildlife), is in the high 90s and sharp as ever. My grandfather hired her and her husband in 1938 to run the place, which then had stables, horses, and even some actual farmland and livestock. Her husband James passed away some years back and Elfrida (I would never call her that to her face, but I love the name), with the help of her grandson and his wife, still keeps everything in tiptop shape, which is no mean feat on 200 acres in the Texas Hill Country, subject to regular flooding and some pretty interesting wildlife crises.

If I had lived through all of the events of the last century and worked hard my whole life, and raised children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I'd be taking it easy on a permanent basis and having people bring me things, and take me places. Not so with Mrs. R. Every morning, early, she drives down from her house and across the low water bridge from which I have taken a couple of pictures posted below (we call it the Ford) and embarks on her daily one-mile walk around the 40-acre Oat Field, which may or may not have had oats growing there at one time. Then her work day begins, unless it's Sunday, during which she attends church and spends the day driving around and helping other church members, most of whom are considerably younger than she is. During the week she does the same for her family.

Mrs. R. is somewhat less spry than in the past, and doesn't get as much varmint hunting done as she used to, but you do hear the occasional shotgun blast from near her house, which is not far from the main house. She sees no reason to use air conditioning even in the dead of summer, and doesn't seem to be affected by the heat in any way. I have noticed a television in her house but doubt it gets used much when youngsters aren't around.

When I visit Mrs. R, which isn't nearly often enough, I am always struck by her enthusiasm, her sense of humor, and especially her wisdom. Real wisdom, earned the hard way in a century of experience with humanity during the most interesting times this planet has ever seen. I get the same feeling from talking to her as I get when I read ancient greek philosophers and historians, a sense that the human experience is universal and timeless, and that we are meant to experience all of it, not spare ourselves the extremes for fear it will change us.

I hope she lives another 100 years, and I can't wait to see her again.

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