You can't beat Texas – for hospitality and generosity!
How extraordinary was my week (late October 2018) in Texas – particularly Seguin and the surrounding Hill Country?
For one, it was spent mostly with my 13-year-old grandson, his mom, and step-dad. That in itself was worth the trip from my home in rural East San Diego County, CA. As I write this blog, I'm on a plane headed back to San Diego.
My grandson, now 13, and I hadn't seen each other in over two years, so back in September when our daughter asked if I'd act as his guardian on a veteran survivors' hunting trip near Harper, TX, I said simply, “I'm in.” And I was.
To start things off with a mishap , however, I miscalculated the traffic, time it took to get to San Diego International Airport (Lindbergh Field) and through the TSA process. So they were just closing the door when I arrived at the Gate for boarding. The “boss” said, “No!” when asked if I could go ahead and board. He wanted his flight to leave on time.
“What's Plan B,” I asked, and the kind attendant had an airline employee whisk me off to another Gate via TSA (again), where I was actually given priority boarding, partly because I'm a senior citizen over age 75 and a disabled veteran – which means I no longer have to remove my shoes and/or a few other items – when maneuvering through Security.
At one point, they asked to put me in a wheelchair to move me from one point to another. The airline rep told me, “Go along with it. You'll get there – next stop(s) – faster, and I can help you more.” “Okay,” I said, with maybe a little hesitation.
I called my wife at the next Gate. She said, “Get out of that wheelchair and go get something to eat.”
My reply, “I don't dare get up now; I might be in big trouble.” Besides, the ladies kept smiling at me; one of them poured my coffee, put cream in it, stirred it, and gave it to me. A guy with his arm in a sling offered to push my wheelchair while I held the coffee. When we got to the gate, I thanked him, and nestled in among other passengers sitting in wheelchairs and waiting to board. I felt a little guilty.
I wondered what to do when it came time to board until a sweet lady who gave her medical history in an interesting/non-offensive monologue, stood up when it came time to pre-board and walked – with not too much effort – down the ramp and onto the plane.
Emboldened, I looked around, stood up, and walked on board – surprised at having my pick of window seats (which I prefer), and plunked comfortably into 4-F (no pun intended).
It wasn't my intent to get caught up in all this scenario, but things just happened. I considered myself blessed for making the next flights out of San Diego and Phoenix, but when we arrived in Austin, I didn't ask for special treatment; instead, I got off the plane and headed for baggage where I found my bag had arrived ahead of me and was waiting at the airline's baggage office.
Again, you can't beat Texas hospitality. At my daughter's home near Seguin – the town named after Juan Seguin who fought at the Alamo on the Texans' side (another story) – dinner that night was a country banquet with Tex Mex enchiladas, beans, biscuits, salads, and probably some other dishes I've forgotten. And my favorite, sugar/calorie-free root beer (IBC Diet or Virgil's do fine), Miller beer for them. Plus, several of their friends came bearing favorite dishes, including dessert, and just to meet/greet/ say hello. Some I've known several years; so it was good to see everyone.
It was fun to sit around playing the guitar and singing country, rock, and – yes, we did – old hymns, which for some reason brought the most requests from some of the much-younger-than-I-am crowd. I grew up singing from the “Baptist Hymnal,” so I know them all (most anyway) by heart. About midnight we called it quits as guests faded toward home. (I played a bunch of old hymns at a bar one night years ago, but that's another story, too.)
The next afternoon – on Friday – my 13-year-old grandson and I packed our bags into a rented car and headed deep into the Texas Hill Country, out State Highways 290 and 46, through Fredericksburg to Harper, TX, some of the most beautiful, picturesque land and scenery I've seen. This was to be a hunting trip for two teenaged boys whose dads were deceased combat vets – fallen heroes. One of the deceased was our son-in-law, Christopher Henze, an Army Sergeant and infantryman. His sons, one 22, the younger, 13, exhibit many of his fine characteristics and values, such as duty, honor, loyalty, work ethic, independence, and love of country, among others.
The 13-year-old was an honoree at the hunt. (The older grandson lives in another state where he attends college.) The boy qualified for the hunt using a high-powered rifle with a scope – one shot at 80 yards. Amazing, to me anyway. That night we feasted on bison stew, which was delicious and perfect for a cool Texas evening. This was a compatible group all gathered from different communities – some from hours away – to honor these two boys, their hero-late dads, and their families.
Among them were the coordinator – a sales manager for a large corporation, a combat widow who invites the boys and helps ensure who will attend, outfitters and guides, cooks, hoteliers, guardians, and other volunteers, all there to honor these kids as part of the R4H wounded warriors project(s). In fact, I came away with a R4H camoflauge baseball cap.
The hunts are held on privately-owned ranches and land preserves; the owners volunteer their people and property to host the kids. Several of these weekend events feted other survivor kids at the same time in other locations around Texas, at no personal expense to them or their families – except gas and maybe food – to and from the event(s) location(s).
I was blown away by the whole event! The grandson and I stayed in a first-class cabin on Friday night – free of charge – and were in the “mess hall,” at 5:45 a.m., where they served (me) coffee and granola bars. Then we rode a four-wheeler ATV to the “blind,” to wait for sunrise, and the deer to show up. We sat in the blind for about an hour before sunup, slept some, then woke when dawn showed itself.
A blanket of fog lay across the open space in the woods where the feeder was. We were prepared for the first good light and the right-sized deer to show up. A young, six-point buck and a doe hung around the feeder for awhile then wandered off. Then an eight-point buck came on the scene, grazed back and forth, wary but not too much. The grandson whispered, “I'm on him.”
He balanced his weapon, checked his scope, took careful aim, and after what seemed an eternity to me, squeezed off the shot. When the ringing noise stopped, the guide, a bearded woodsman with years of hunting experience, mouthed, “Amazing, I've only seen this twice, and the other two were Marine snipers. I'm impressed.”
The deer was downed with one shot, through the heart from 80 yards, in the fog. I'm not a hunter, but to say I was impressed is putting it mildly. The hunt was done, over, and it was just past dawn. The grandson and I headed for a day of touring old San Antonio – just the two of us. The professionals would see that the deer was skinned and , and the meat shipped to the boy's family.
Another thing amazing to me is that not all of the adult volunteers are military veterans themselves; some are, of course. But as I told one of them, “You're doing your service to your country and these families now. Thank you for your service!”
James L. Young is owner-director of J.L.Y. Public Relations, dba Sycamore Press Div.; dba InsuranceProsGuides.com, publisher of CA Insurance Continuing Education courses/freelance writer/author/blogger/small press publisher and consultant, in the Greater San Diego, CA Area.
Attn: Jim Young, Editor
J.L.Y. Public Relations,
Sycamore Press Div.,
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