Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tears in Sutherland Springs

By Fred Owens
I received four deeply personal emails from friends in Wilson County. They each live only a few miles from the church in Sutherland Springs and they each know of people who were in that church last Sunday when the shooting started.
I've known Wilson County since I went down there to work at the newspaper ten years ago. I stayed for 18 months and made many friends. They still send me the newspaper every week, so I keep up.
Jack. No last name. He does not like his name and business used. I would have to ask his permission,  and I  expect he would decline. His message to me was private. He employs well over two dozen people in a manufacturing business some ten miles from the church where the killer shot the people. Jack knows the Holcomb family that lost so many members. He knows the road that goes by the church, and the trees and the sky and the weather. Jack has lived most of his life in south Texas. In his email he gave me news of various people who were in the church or related in some way.
Then Jack ended his message by writing: "Thank you for your prayers. We all in Wilson County have heavy hearts and this will stay with us all our lives."
--- "heavy hearts and this will stay with us all our lives."  That's what he said and I know the man. He is  friendly, courteous and not inclined to emotional display.
Elaine wrote to me, a woman my age, we discuss family news  on the email and debate politics. Her views are fairly conservative and mine are not. We were having just such an argument last Sunday morning when the shooting started. She had just written, after a disagreement, "but we're still friends, right?" and I replied yes, of course.
Elaine has spent her life in Wilson County. Actually she grew up in Karnes County, just a few miles away.  Elaine is the oldest of nine children, and from that role of being the oldest, she has developed a good habit of giving direction to people. She runs a business with a staff of 25 or so.
But she wrote in her email, after the tragedy,  that she can't sleep. She wrote, "Al and I do appreciate your comments. Things will never be the same here. I wake up in the morning (when I can sleep) and then realize all over again that this horrible thing really did happen to our friends and neighbors."
She can't sleep. That seems to be a small thing, but to me it's huge -- to be robbed of the peace that comes over Wilson County on a quiet evening in November.

Lois is the oldest of my friends in Wilson County. She writes a breezy column for the newspaper most weeks, and talks about old times on the farm where she grew up.

She wrote:

Yes, it was horrible, IS horrible. When you are in the midst of something like this, it changes you. It has changed me. This week, since Sunday, every day my mind goes over and over, how the people in the little church must have felt, the fear, the horror, etc. and the First Responders who had to go in there after, to retrieve the wounded and those that had expired. Even thinking about it now, brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. Those families and friends will never be the same. They will have to live with this all their lives. I knew no one personally that was killed, but some of my friends did..they had kinfolk and friends.
The whole county has been traumatized -- Floresville, Stockdale, La Vernia, and Poth. 
I have been depressed all week, but I am better now. Life must go on. But I am still sad.The people of Wilson county are strong, loving and help each other.

Lois reads the Bible every day and she does not get depressed. It takes a calamity of this proportion to rob her of the joy of every single day. She said she was depressed all week and now she is better. I believe that. She has great strength. She keeps on praying and sharing the consolation that comes to her.

Nanette is the editor of the newspaper in Wilson County, has been the editor for ten years now.

She wrote:

Sunday’s act was the slaughter of the innocents, and it was evil.

The power of good will prevail. We are seeing it daily, the love and compassion that are being poured out on the survivors, our communities, and the world around us. Good will continue to prevail, as long as there is love. And there is abundant love here, despite the horrific events of last Sunday.

The slaughter of the innocents, 26 people, young and old, in a church deep in the heart of Texas, all heads bowed in prayer, and they died. I don't call them victims. I believe I will never use that word again.  They were all innocent.

Those are the emails I got from four friends who live very near to the church in Sutherland Springs where the shooting started last Sunday morning.

I'm going to tell those four friends something good, because I watched this all on TV. The whole nation was watching it, and what they saw and what they felt is that Wilson County is a very good place to live, and the people who live there are good folks from top to bottom.

The national media circus overwhelmed the area with a hundred satellite trucks and two hundred pushy journalists, but they're gone now, gone to the next disaster.

Wilson County is left to itself once again, and they will deal with this as they must.

Thanksgiving comes in less than two weeks. The people of Wilson County will cook turkeys and watch football games and eat too much just like the rest of us. They will bow their heads and give thanks for what they have, and they do have a lot to be thankful for.

With heavy hearts and many tears, we give thanks.

until next time,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Saturday, November 04, 2017

A New Song

By Fred Owens
I was humming a tune, a nice little ditty that I had composed. Then I realized I wrote the song twenty years ago. It's time  for a new song.
Seven Years since I left LaConner and moved to California

Seven years ago, I closed up Hedlin's Produce Stand for the winter. I packed up my 1993 Red Toyota and drove out of LaConner, leaving that blessed town once and for all, heading for sunny California.

Seven years in California. I miss my friends in LaConner. I miss the Skagit Valley and all those green fields, but I am much happier in Santa Barbara. I love the blue skies. I love wearing shorts and sandals. If I start to complain about anything, I just head for the beach with a towel and a book.

A Democrat, but not a proper Democrat

I have this unfortunate tendency to think freely and wander off the reservation. I keep writing what I honestly think, and then I delete it.  I cannot seem to get it right. The situation is too confusing. But let me try with a few common progressive goals that I support.

I support an increase in the minimum wage. I support the forgiveness of student loan debt. I support the estate tax  -- you can call it the death tax if you want, but I support it.

I support legal abortion. I support legal marijuana. I support same sex marriage. I oppose the death penalty.

Those are fairly standard positions for a Democrat like me, but when we get to cultural issues I am somewhat of a dinosaur.  I admire Christopher Columbus, Robert E. Lee and Mickey Mantle. Yes, I have read Howard Zinn. Zinn serves as a useful corrective to the main story, but he is not the new gospel of truth. Don't give me new myths and don't ask me to believe in new idols.

I have never respected the political judgment of  actors. I intensely admire the film work of Meryl Streep, George Clooney and Matt Damon, but off screen they have nothing  to say.

If I was a Democrat running for Congress in 2018 I would keep my distance from Hollywood. Don't go to their parties and don't accept their money. It's getting very toxic in La La Land.

Enough of that.

Garden News. I made $532 in October doing garden work for my seven customers. I charge $20 per hour and I work several hours each day. Last week I pruned the Cecil Brunner hedge rose for the Swiss people. Next week I will strip the ivy off the back fence at a rental property. It will take me two hours to strip the ivy. I know that because I already did it once earlier in the summer. Then the darn ivy grew back again. I suppose I can look at that as job security.

Every week I go to work at the pre-school garden. It is great fun working among the little tots. I trim the trumpet vine, I dead head the geraniums, and I look about for what needs doing. The last time I was there they had spilled straw all over the parking place in front of the school. They buy bales of straw to strew around the play area as a protection against injury. They unloaded the new bales of straw in the parking area, leaving heaps of little straw pieces all over the place -- that took a half an hour to sweep up.The pre-school also has a topiary giraffe. I trim that as needed.

Next comes the Italian garden, built in terraces on a hill side. It is three stories from the street to the top of the garden in the back yard. I worked there yesterday and I loaded six cans of green waste and carried those six cans down two flights of stairs to the street where they will get emptied on trash day. That was a bit strenuous.

That's my work. Do I love gardening? A little. You could say I love it a little. My customers are very nice people, but honestly, I just need the money. This is no easy way to make a living. I get hot, tired, dirty and dusty. I tell people that I do gardening work and they imagine it's a cool job. It's not.

The Writing Workshop

I read four very short stories at the writing workshop last Saturday. Bathsheba Beckons is my favorite story, about an old farm hand and his romance with the owner of the farm. I stole the plot from Far from the Madding Crowd,  but my reading put them all to sleep. I was reading it out loud and the other writers were struggling to stay awake and pay attention. Well, what could I say to that? I liked the story and they did not.

However, I read three other stories as my turn came up -- Berkowitz, about a doctor advising a depressed patient, The Woman with Scars of her Face, about a woman with scars on her face, and The Ten of Swords, where a man goes to a psychic to discover why his ex-wife stole all his money. These three stories were received with enthusiasm .  The other writers made sharp and interesting criticisms of this phrase and that phrase, criticisms that will make useful improvements in the three stories.

My Struggle

It may seem natural to you, but I had the hardest time writing the newsletter this week. I typed then I deleted. Then I typed some more, then I deleted. I felt so confused and conflicted -- but I realized it was not me, it was the culture I live in. Trump won the election a year ago this week, and our nation has become confused and conflicted. I cannot fix that. I can only write down what I see, and this is a painful exercise.

Just the same, be well, and have a good week,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital