Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2304906-Chapter-One-Finding-Two-Spark
by SSpark
Rated: E · Chapter · Biographical · #2304906
Owning property is different than dreaming of owning property. Way different.
Ranch Notes: Finding Two Spark

What is it about the Lone Star State that draws folks’ attention like a fly trap and never lets them go? The lucky get to stay, the others wish they could. In my mind it’s our legacy: the fight for freedom. It’s “Remember the Alamo”—and the fact that we do. It’s the idea of wide-open spaces, which still exist despite a handful of mega-cities dotting the map like the age spots on the back of my hand.

And it’s the love for our land, our individual slices of Texas, best served with bluebonnets and brisket, a cold Dr. Pepper or Lone Star beer. Longhorns still roam our fields, and dreams still come true if we’re willing to work hard enough.

I’m a Native Texan, a proud Boomer who grew up on bar-b-que, country music, and westerns. John Wayne, Marshall Matt Dillon, and Ben Cartwright were the yardsticks by which I measured my father. And I swore I’d never marry unless Little Joe Cartwright or Rowdy Yates became available. Preferably Rowdy Yates. Little Joe was too short.

Anyone who knows Texas knows we compartmentalize her regions, not only because of her size, but because each area is so diverse. Corpus Christi, where I was born and raised, belongs to the section known as South Texas. She’s found on most maps sunning on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, an enormous expanse of warm water that ushers in hurricanes like a whistle-blowing cop, urging traffic to move.

The only elevation for miles around is found among white sandy beaches that glow under mostly cloudless skies. Wandering the dunes we loved to explore when I was a kid was the closest we got to altitudes higher than sea level. I loved the beach and the white-tipped muddy-green water that crashed against its shore. And I adored the sun that bleached highlights into my otherwise bland brown hair and darkened every inch of my body not covered by a few bits of colorful cloth.

Our family’s flag flew from smack dab in the center of the middle class. We took only one vacation when I was growing up—to Disneyland in 1964. The rest of the time, if we were going to get away from the flat coastline, we’d pack up the station wagon and head for San Antonio, gateway to the Texas Hill Country. As my father drove the hundred and thirty miles from Corpus, I’d watch green hills rising and rolling like Gulf swells under a giant blue sky. Live oaks and mesquites decorated those hills and colorful bouquets rose out of them in Spring. Bluebonnets and Indian Blankets, Brown-eyed Susans, and Evening Primrose dotted the landscape like artwork. Inserting myself into the painting in my mind, black dirt creeping between my sandals and toes, I’d imagine owning land just like it one day. I’d raise children and daisies and write best-selling novels about life on the ranch.

Life had a different plan.

Instead of allowing me to skip down the yellow brick road, necessity grabbed me by the ear, snatched my map to the Emerald City, and fed it to a squadron of monkeys flying by.

But she couldn’t steal my dreams.

I may have shuffled from one misstep to another, but I kept a smile plastered on my face and clicked those ruby slippers for all they were worth. And I held onto that dream, refusing to give up no matter how tired I got.


For Texans, a sizable chunk of the American Dream involves carving out a hunk of our beloved state as our own. Thousands of acres or a tiny backyard, doesn’t matter as long as it’s ours—a patch of earth that no one can take away. So, the day I typed Live water property - Texas Hill Country into my computer’s search bar, I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in a threadbare work dress, rising from a hardscrabble field. “I’ll never go hungry again!” I screamed, clutching a fistful of dirt and glaring toward Heaven.
To be clear, while my body had never gone hungry, my dream had lay on her deathbed, clawing at life, on more than one occasion.
But it never disappeared.

Shortly after Scott and I married, his job moved us to Midland, right in the big middle of flat, arid West Texas. Living in Midland is like living on the beach. Without the water. The move was supposed to have been temporary, but twenty years later we were still there.
Not that it was a bad thing. Search the world over, and as you find folks who lived in West Texas, for even a short time, they’ll all tell you the same thing: “It may not be the prettiest place in the state, but the people more than make up for it.” Some of the best people in the world live in West Texas. And that’s the truth.

It’s also easy to work hard in West Texas because there’s not much else to do. A couple of decades of hard work and good decisions had positioned us in a place where we could finally plan for retirement—in a more central location. And after spending years in the hot, dry desert, the consequences of limited water availability weighed heavy as a hippo on our minds. Although we had a long list of things we’d like, having plenty of water was be non-negotiable.

As I perused site after site, I was once again that little girl, staring through the station wagon window. Each of the properties I viewed was covered in green grass and live oaks and featured water in some form or fashion: lake, creek, pond, or river. But the title page on the website that seized my heart read, “Welcome Home”, and the pictures added to the sentiment. Live oaks grew in bunches up and down green hills that were taller than those I grew to love when I was a kid. Other trees—red oak, burr oak, maple, mesquite, and pecan—sprouted up along creeks. The two-story Lodge, built on a hill overlooking a fifteen-acre lake, featured Austin limestone and cedar. It stood in a grove of trees so tall the structure disappeared inside them. Bass and catfish made the lake their home, and deer, turkey, quail, and dove roamed over all of it.

I could tell God had created it just for us.

“Scott! Come look at this,” I hollered from the bedroom. He was off somewhere, watching TV or playing with the dogs. At that moment, I could not have cared less about what he was doing. What he needed to be doing was looking at the site. With me.

“What?” he asked, walking through the doorway.

“I think I’ve found it. Look at this! What do you think?”

Scott is also a Native Texan. For him, the dream was every bit as meaningful as it was for me. His mother often spoke of traveling up and down society’s ladder as if they were Sisyphus, pushing that rock. An entrepreneur in the truest sense, his father’s successes lifted them to lofty heights, then slammed them back down to sea level. Over and over again. Owning a patch of earth that no one could take away held a prominent place in Scott’s dreams as well.

“I know this is kind of weird,” he said after going through each site, “but the one that says ‘Welcome Home’ is the one I prefer. It just feels right. Talk to the owners and let’s see if we can go look at it.”

After talking to the seller, we drove four hours from Midland to see the place. I laughed when I got the directions, our first taste of country. “Pass on through Star and you’ll see a sign about three miles up with ‘Hurst Ranch Cemetery’ and an arrow pointing right. Turn there. Then, at the top of the third hill, you’ll see three mailboxes on the right. Turn left through that gate. All you have to do after that is follow the ranch road until it gets to where you can either go straight, through a gate, or curve right. Curve right.”

Believe it or not, we arrived at our destination with absolutely no problem. The directions, while sounding arcane over the phone, were spot on. But until we drove through the gate and entered the property we were there to see, the area did not impress me. Most of the land on the way in had been cleared for either growing hay or grazing cattle. It was green, but also flat. I viewed anything green as I would Heaven’s streets of gold. But I’d had enough of flat.

Once we turned that curve to the right, however, an entirely different landscape opened up. Along with green grass and rolling hills, a small clump of live oaks on the left about a hundred feet from the road greeted us as we drove over the cattle guard. I could immediately imagine a tree house built among those sturdy trunks, grandkids waving as we passed by.

As we continued driving, we could see a veritable forest of live oaks standing tall and proud at the top of a hill, with a driveway leading into it. When we pulled in, we saw Ricky and Paula standing on the back porch of a structure that looked even bigger than it had in the pictures. Ricky had his arm crooked around Paula’s waist and they were smiling and waving like parents welcoming home kids from college. Scott parked his truck, and we got out. There was no need for introductions, it felt as if we were old friends.

The Lodge, as he had deemed the house, located on two hundred sixty acres, had been Ricky’s dream. He had created her as an event center and executive retreat, but a cancer recurrence hammered the vision and forced them to sell. As they showed us around the house and property, it was clear the Rockin’ A Ranch had been his baby and his heart would forever linger there.

For us, it was love at first sight, as if Serendipity had reached down and tailored the match. While we weren’t interested in turning the place into a commercial endeavor, The Lodge was the perfect fit for our family. There was plenty of room for our kids and grandkids as they came to hunt, fish, and hopefully, visit some with us. We could afford the down payment, and our banker financed the rest, which was a debt unlike any we had ever undertaken. We were crazy scared, but we said a prayer and signed the papers anyway.

And just like that, the Rockin’ A became Two Spark Ranch. But while the deed had our names on it, we had a long way to go before the place was really ours. We worked and worked, then worked some more, driving the four hours between West Texas and Central Texas every Friday and Sunday afternoon for eight years. During that time, we finally paid off the original note, then bought more land and repeated the cycle.

The property I had watched out the station wagon window when I was a kid was parklike in my memory. Thick green grass tickled the bases of perfectly manicured oak trees, no brush, no undergrowth of any kind. Come to find out, owning property is not for sissies. Weeds grow. Brush grows. Trees die. And there’s always something to fix. After I began helping Scott mow fields, he had to spend most of his time repairing what I had broken. And that’s before we added four longhorns to the mix. They’re as bad as I am about tearing things up.

The stories written here are not about life before the ranch. They’re about transitioning to life on the ranch, something I thought would come as easily as slipping on a cowboy hat. It didn’t take long to realize that dreaming a dream and living that dream are about as similar as Bambi and a black-headed buzzard.

And a lifetime of longing had done nothing to prepare me.
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