Tree Hugger

Tom at 2, 1955

My mother had been living in an apartment in Alamo Heights and wanted to live in the country. I encouraged her to build a place at the farm and she did. All the rock for the place was quarried from our place. She got a sheepdog she named Pody and she dearly loved living out there. She was an environmentalist and very politically liberal. I have always been a conservative and more to the right politically so we did not discuss politics too much.

Beautiful trees of the Scenic Loop

She was committed to her causes and one story about her is worth telling. The farm was on a road called “The Scenic Loop.” People would take a Sunday drive out of San Antonio and make the Scenic Loop and enjoy the trees, the creeks and the wildlife. The county decided the road needed to be straight through without all the bends and curves, taking out centuries old trees.

Mom and others protested to no avail. The morning the big bulldozer was unloaded the operator found this lady standing in front of the first tree to be dozed. It was my Mom. The dozer operator pleaded with her but she would not move. The county commissioner came out and pleaded with her but she would not move. They all went back to San Antonio and had more meetings. The final upshot of the deal is they cancelled the plan to bulldoze the trees. The Scenic Loop is still a beautiful winding road to this day.

We grew clover at the farm, and I had a deal with a beekeeper from Nebraska who would bring a big truckload of beehives to our farm each year. He would leave them for the winter. The bees would help with the pollination of the clover, and he would always leave a few gallons of honey when he picked up the bees in the spring.

Pody without bees

One fall day, I was painting Mom’s garage on a six-foot ladder. Pody (Mom’s dog) was curled up near me sound asleep. Our Nebraska beekeeper arrives about this time with a big truckload of beehives with a net over the entire load. Our road wound through the oak trees and he was waving to me when one of the limbs snagged the net and tore it down the side. Bees came swarming out by the thousands and they were all over Pody and me. Some got down inside my skivvy shirt and stung me. Pody was yelping so I guess she was getting stung, too. I jumped off the top of the ladder and headed for the back door of Mom’s house. The funny picture was Pody and I fighting each other trying to get through that door at the same time. Once inside there were bees everywhere. Mom had an evaporative cooler that had water running down the excelsior.

The bees were mad because he had not stopped to water them, and they were frantic for water. When they covered the outside of that cooler the fan would suck them into the house. I felt bad about it, and the poor beekeeper was out there until two or three in the morning with smokers trying to get his bees back into the hives. He lost a lot of bees that night.

Field Lark, appropriately named.

I used to enjoy plowing at the farm at Leon Springs. I loved the smell of the newly turned earth. One hot Saturday afternoon I was plowing the front field and had been plowing since early that morning. I only had a few more passes down the middle of the field and I would be through. Each time I made a round a lady fieldlark who had a nest in the middle of the field would put on her show to try and get me away from her nest.

She would flop along the ground with one wing dragging behind her and as I passed and moved on down the field she would return to her nest and settle down on it again. On my final pass she was right in the path I had to plow and as I approached she was frantic as she flopped along the ground giving me the broken wing show.

When I got to about six feet from her I just could not bring myself to plow through her nest so I whipped the tractor around the nest and got back to plowing about six feet beyond it. I watched the nest for the next few weeks and sure enough she hatched out three little ones and my Sudan crop came up all around her before she and her brood left the nest.

Photo of Scenic Loop found here.

Photo of lark found here.