Here in south Texas, the brief drought of the late 1990's has ended with a flood...make that floods. As the old saying goes, "it never rains but it pours," or as my dad says, in a slightly more succinct yet all-encompassing phrase, "if it ain't always something." But, since I have suffered no real troubles due to the rains, I cannot legitimately complain just yet. Monday night the rising Cibolo Creek and the smaller run-off creek called Elm Creek conspired to cut me off from both of my usual routes home from work, necessitating a 1 1/2-hour detour down IH-10 through Seguin and back toward Stockdale to cut across a couple of county roads and come in through what I affectionately call the "back door." When I left for work that day, the Cibolo was already only about 2 feet below the bridge at Sutherland Springs, and I knew I wouldn't be coming home that way that night. But Elm Creek cutting me off the other way was a surprise. But when I got home, my house was still here, Baloo, my hound dog, was safe and sound, having stayed dry underneath the house, and everything was still intact. The terrible floods that swept unwise motorists off the roads and wiped out an entire mobile home park to the west of me left me untouched, so I feel that my little scenic detour is really nothing to complain about. I had intended to write this article about the Stockdale Watermelon Jubilee Parade, which occurs on the third weekend of every June, but for only the second time in its 53-year history, the parade was canceled due to rain. And so, today I write about rain.
I have always enjoyed rainy weather, especially on weekends when I don't have to go to work, and especially on Sundays. With pipe in hand and a glass of iced tea within easy reach, the rain drums on the roof and spatters down the windows. How easy it is to sit and stare out the window at the rain, falling in thousands of tiny crown-like splashes into the water already filling the driveway, and see into days long past.
My first hazy memories of rain are at my grandmother's old house in Floresville, where I lived until I was four years old. Watching my mother leave for work in the old blue Nova, hearing other cars hiss by on the rain-slicked street, drawing small pictures in the mist that formed on the window pane. Another memory, quite vivid this time, of falling off the back porch into a mud puddle and coming up covered from head to toe with mud.
A year or two later, at the house in the country that my parents rented--their first house away from my grandmother's. The big puddles that formed in the driveway and would stay for days and days after a heavy rain. I would float paper boats in them that my grandmother taught me how to make, imagining I was sailing with Puff the Magic Dragon on the shores of Honalee. The leaky roof of that old house, and the snakes that would sometimes come inside to escape bad weather.
Several years later, now a teenager, coming back from Karnes City with my Aunt Erna and getting caught in rain so fierce that we couldn't see the centerstripe on the highway. Later we learned that we had narrowly missed a tornado. Then getting caught in an intense freak summer thunderstorm one afternoon where I had absolutely no place to take cover--except an old cattle trailer. I hid in the front end of the trailer trying to escape the worst of the rain and wind and prayed that I wouldn't get struck by lightning--and as an afterthought, prayed that the storm wouldn't develop into a tornado. As you can guess, I didn't get hit by lightning, though one bolt did strike so close I couldn't count the space of time between the flash and the thunder. Afterwards I found the tree that it had struck, less than 100 yards away from me.
Other, much gentler rains, as I sat in a recliner by an open window at my aunt's old house in Stockdale sipping iced tea and reading a book about Judge Roy Bean one summer afternoon, listening to the sounds and enjoying the smell of the rain. One wonderful rainy Sunday in September when I lived in a small apartment in Seguin, I sat and typed furiously for nearly an hour, suddenly sitting back realizing I had written my first song. And another rainy Sunday night, when I shared a house with two friends in San Marcos, when I had spent nearly two hours doing yoga exercises and meditation, with the scent of jasmine incense in the air, a rain-soaked bush just outside my window caught the light of the streetlights and seemed to turn into an entire galaxy all of its own. As I sat and watched it, deep into trance, I suddenly seemed to know the Answer to Everything, and laughed out loud.
Another very bad rain one freezing winter day, that turned the highways into death traps, and claimed the life of one of my friends. And another night years later that was just like it, when I drove home from work late at night, and a drive that usually took me 25 minutes took almost two hours as I crept along in second gear. I was unable to leave home for three days afterward--the entire area was iced over and nothing moved until things started to thaw.
Rainy days when I spent hours in an old bookshop in Seguin, plowing through hundreds of volumes, the air mixed with the scents of rain, old books, and the proprietor's pipe smoke. One heavy rain at night that conveniently stranded me at my girlfriend's (later to become my wife) mother's house.
There are other rains that are still falling somewhere in my memories, but I feel I have rambled on long enough for now.