While Bill's parents were here, we took a three-day mini vacation. On our first day, we stayed at a ranch Deep in the Heart of Texas. It was a working ranch with longhorns, horses, six llamas, and a dog named Rosco. There are seven cabins, but I think we were the only family there because it was a Thursday.
Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of activities going on during the week--such as the chuckwagon dinner I'd been looking forward to--but we still managed to have fun.
After we checked out our cabin, we walked a half mile or so up to the big house for Allyson's free pony ride. We were escorted by Rosco, who went everywhere with us. He would have been very lovable had it not been for his propensity to roll in mud puddles and then rub up against our legs.
It turned out that the "pony" was actually a big horse named Apache, but Allyson wasn't at all afraid. As she rode around the yard, she never stopped grinning. She sat tall in the saddle, her hair waving lazily in the slight breeze. The ranch wife, Tracy, said she was a natural.
Meanwhile, Nana, Ethan and I sat at a picnic table in the shade, next to the chuckwagon that we would not be eating from. After Allyson's ride, Bill and his dad stood and talked to Tracy and her husband for quite some time while sweat trickled down our backs.
Back at the cabin, I settled on the couch for a short nap while the guys drove 20 minutes (each way) into Glen Rose to buy groceries. We could have eaten out, but we decided it would be more fun to grill steaks on the charcoal barbecue.
I guess it's been years since I had anything grilled over charcoal, but I couldn't believe how incredibly delicious the ribeyes were. Sandi didn't marinate them at all, just tossed them on the grill. Even Allyson gobbled her half a steak and asked for more.
After dinner, Bill and Jim watched their Canucks' playoff game. (We were shocked that the cabin had the Versus channel on satellite.) The rest of us sat in the giant hot tub for about an hour. The temperature was perfect, and it was mostly relaxing except when we were caught in the crossfire of Ethan and Allyson's splash wars. We stayed in the water until the stars came out, but the full moon was so bright that we couldn't see too many stars.
It was such a lovely night that we were reluctant to go to bed even though we were exhausted. Sandi, Ethan, and I sat on the porch swing and listened to the night sounds while we contemplated the vast sky. We wondered whether there could be other life out there in the universe somewhere.
I felt very small, but not insignificant. I felt God all around me in the gentle sway of the trees, and I rejoiced that he has given us the capacity to revel in the joys of nature. Surely all the beauty in this world isn't really NECESSARY; no, I think it is a gift for our pleasure--and his. I get the feeling that God delights in surprising us with the wonders of his creation.
Finally, Sandi and Jim settled into the bedroom while the rest of us climbed up the steep ladder into the loft. (Allyson loved climbing the ladder, but getting her down was a major ordeal.) Ethan and Allyson each had a twin bed, and there was a double bed for me and Bill. We were all out in minutes, but Allyson woke up an hour or two later when she fell out of bed with a thunk. She slept blissfully in the middle of our small bed for the rest of the night, but her kicking and thrashing seriously hindered our slumber.
Ethan was up by seven, excited to go fishing in the pond. We opened our eyes to find him standing over us. "Is it time to go?" he asked. Bill stumbled out of bed, but I smiled and rolled over, snuggling Allyson's warm body against my chest.
Two hours later, when we finally got up, the guys were just returning. We were basking on the front porch in the morning sun when we spotted Ethan running across the field, his fishing pole held high and a proud grin lighting up his face. He was breathless with fishing stories.
They'd hiked to the fishing hole, where Ethan promptly caught a turtle! (He released it, of course.) Next, he caught a tiny bass with Grandpa's help. Bill caught two more bass that were a bit bigger. It was a catch and release pond, though, so we didn't get to enjoy a breakfast of fresh fish.
The biggest adventure was when Bill's line got tangled on a tree trunk. Jim fearlessly shimmied his way across a fence, just inches above the water, to untangle the line. He probably could have used some help, but Bill was too busy laughing and taking pictures.
Anyway, they made it home in time for a breakfast of leftover steak and eggs--yum!--and no one got wet.
My favorite moment occurred on the way out. We had bought sugar cubes for the coffee, and Allyson wanted to feed some to the horses. We stopped in the pasture, and they all clustered around us. I was amazed by the velvety feel of the horses' lips, and by the intelligence in their gaze. Not being a "horse person," I'd never felt such a connection with a horse--or any other animal. Just as I thought, "Thank you for this moment, Lord," one of the horses nuzzled my neck! It felt like God had just kissed me! Granted, I had just fed the horse a sugar cube, but I don't know.... It reminded me of the time last summer when I thought God had sent me a dolphin.
Allyson was torn between delight and anxiety; she hid behind my legs like she used to do when she was a toddler. Ethan seemed perfectly at ease. Bill had to drag us away so we could begin part two of our little vacation: the safari camp at the nearby wildlife preserve. But that's another story.