Back home from Las Cruces to Vega, Texas in time to see the last iris in my front yard. I miss the cycle of flowers now that I live part of the year in New Mexico. Beginning with the first crocuses through the daffodils and tulips to iris, wild roses, day lilies, and varieties of roses and finally xeriscape plants, the old yard reveals its previous owners love who planted perennials, beginning in 1920 when the house was built. They’ve weathered all these years with intermittent if sincere care. I declare them a miracle when they persist each year.
There’s a comfort here. I call it my cabin without mountains–or woods. Just the flat grasslands, including the 32 acre pasture fronting the house and the three acres around it. The old Sears-Roebuck barn out back dates from 1926 when it was ordered and assembled out in the back lot. Greg Conn, the local museum director, looked through it while I was gone. “A treasure trove,” he declared of the accumulated old furniture, implements, and such, stored away in the granaries inside. “Make it your annex,” I teased, actually wishing something of that sort could happen to assure its care.
I like the loft where I spotted a fox last summer napping, only his ears visible from the back yard.
I’m here this time, like every time, to check on the old house, to look after the farm out west, but also to drive to nearby Adrian to do a book signing at the Sunflower Station–the gift shop run by Fran Houser at the mid-point marker of Route 66.
Fran’s a warm and witty woman who kindly carries Walking the Llano along with t-shirts, miniature cow skulls, caps sporting the Route 66 logo, and other souvenirs of that old highway. Adrian has only 150 souls and the land around is flat enough to see most of the 60-plus wind turbines that distinguish it from the 1930s landscape. No one seems to notice as tour bus after tour bus of folks pile out to have their pictures taken in front of the Route 66 halfway point sign. Arms spread wide, smiles all around, even the Panhandle wind can’t fluster their enthusiasms. I sit at a table, a remnant of tiny kitchens past, surrounded by mementos more enthralling than my book.
What is the llano anyway–and how the heck to you pronounce it?
Fran does her best. “And here is our local author. She’s written a book about the history of this very area. The ‘lano.’ You can’t put it down. It’s a must read.” Here she trails off to ring up another postcard.
I don’t care. I enjoy talking to folks from Australia (which part?), Great Britain (where?), Japan (Fran even knows a Japanese greeting), and Germany (no, I don’t speak English, but where is the restroom?). I’m not a good pusher of the book. I sort of sit here as decoration. I’ve worn a persimmon-colored jacket today.
Brody’s actually the star–and the tour directors, all of whom Fran has known for years, hugs all around. Brody is Fran’s golden lab, and at eight he’s just hit his prime of pet-ability. Everyone loves Brody. Hardly anyone enters without sweet talking him and rubbing him royally. If Brody had written a book, he’d be sold out by now.
The days winds down and a group of motorcyclists descend upon us. Leather all around. We talk to a buy from Great Britain who explains that they all flew in from Australia, Germany, and Great Britain to pick up bikes in Chicago. And here they are five days later. They’re headed to LA. Surprisingly, one of the German tourists buys a book–a bit bulky to lug along on a motorcycle.
With gestures and useless words, we realize that neither of us speaks a common language. I lamely offer “Espanol?” as a compromise. Nien. And that got me thinking: the llano, via the humble book (and a motorcycle boot), may end up in Germany, Australia, Japan. And it doesn’t matter whether anyone can pronounce “ya-no” or not.