Just For Christmas Anymore
by N. Ray Maxie
“We Dearly Love ‘Holly and Mistletoe’”
escapades….. This story is far away from the Ark-La-Tex. But
please, if you will, allow me to wander a bit.
You see, “A friend is someone that reaches for your hand and touches
“How long y’all gonna’ be staying here in Alpine?”
he asked. ----- “Oh, we don’t know yet. Maybe a week or two,” I
replied. -----“Well I can tell you there’s gobs and gobs of interesting
stuff to do in this area,” he continued. ----- I said, “Au, we’re
in no big hurry. We like to take time to smell the flowers and savor
the local flavor. You may even see us attending the big downtown
Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) street dance come Saturday night.”
WAY, WAY out in far West
is one of my favorite trans-pecos towns. It is the county seat of
Brewster County. A nice, friendly, place to “cool your heels” and
unwind a bit. The locals often take time to speak and visit when
you meet on a downtown street. Most all business people are politely
approachable, open to conversation, and down to earth. Friendly,
too! It’s a most excellent place of respite in today’s busy world.
There always seems to be a cool, gentle breeze blowing about the
trans-pecos region with humidity frequently around 15 to 20 percent,
or less. When the temperature does get above 100, to 110 degrees,
it just doesn’t seem that hot. You can sweat and hardly even notice
it. And look! Yes, look in the mirror! That otherwise naturally
curly hair of yours will likely even become mostly straight; and
dry. You can believe me on that one.
All that is in sharp contrast to Houston
and the Texas Gulf
Coast region where the sultry, steamy and humid days are always
KING; king of sweat. You may even begin to feel like the old “sweat
hog” if you have to work outside very much. Without air conditioning,
''Sauna'' and ''steam bath'' really doesn’t do the Gulf
Coast justice. Comparing Houston
in the summer to being slapped in the face with a hot towel falls
short of the reality.
Houston is one of the
hottest cities in the country. For six months a year there is nowhere
more humid. As a result, Houston
is now the most air-conditioned place on earth. The cost of turning
its hot air into cool exceeds the gross national product of 30 countries.
And, Houston’s Herman Hospital was the first hospital in the nation
to have AC.
I can remember the horrid days before air conditioning. Not until
after World War
II did air conditioning become fairly common in the average
American home. I never had it until 10 to 15 years later, though.
And that is not, I say, not a pleasant thought.
But as my old departed uncle, William O. Ridgway, once said when
he moved his large AC/plumbing contracting business from New Orleans,
Louisiana, to Houston,
“If you want to make money son, you’ve got to go where the money
is.” And he did both.
is truly a unique city where AC is hardly needed. My wife and I
have grown to highly enjoy our visits there. So it is no surprise
it has been rated among the top ten best little towns
in Texas. You will see some of the most beautiful, impressive
sunrises and sunsets. There are also plenty of good dining places
where the food is always excellent and restaurant folk are super
Merle Haggard’s country song goes something like, “Leather boots
are still in style for manly footwear. Beads and Roman sandals won’t
be seen. Football’s still the roughest thing on campus and kids
here still respect the college dean…..We still wave ‘Old Glory’
down at the courthouse, where we like living ‘right’ and being free.”
County Courthouse and Jail in Alpine
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, April 2002
When in Alpine
we often experience a true feeling of the Last Frontier. Folk in
town seem mighty proud of their Western Cowboy Heritage. The climate
is unequaled. Cool nights and dancing with the bright stars help
to create a most memorable evening. The surrounding mountains often
change their color three or four times a day.
is the home of Sul Ross State University. Their crime rate is one
of the lowest in the state. You will find Cowboy Poetry, Balloon
Rallies, Fourth of July Celebration and fire works, plus Cinco De
Mayo (May 5th) Fiesta, Gallery Night and Theater of The Big Bend
productions. If there is ever a lack of something exciting to do,
my wife and I can drive 25 to 40 miles north to Fort
Davis and also to the huge McDonald
Observatory. Then perhaps one free night, drive west 26 miles
on US Highway 90 to the mysterious Marfa
Lights, or south about 80 miles to magnificent Big
Bend National Park and the Rio Grande River. All these are within
a day trip and very interesting places to visit. I say, don’t miss
them while you are in the Alpine
Amtrak is the only way to travel these days. That is of course,
if you are retired, not on a schedule and in no hurry to get any
place, as my wife (of fifty years) and I am. Amtrak passenger trains
on a regular schedule in both directions. We travel Amtrak Houston
frequently and occasionally to other far away places. It takes us
only one day of travel each direction to and from Alpine.
Obtaining a rental car, we may stay over five or six days, based
at a local motel. The full round trip makes a week of “senior adult”
fun and mostly carefree vacationing for us.
Last May, while in Alpine,
my wife and I had driven downtown, ate breakfast, then leisurely
walked around gawking a bit and window-shopping. We enjoyed a huge
scenic mural of an “old timey” steam train and some cowboys, plus
(“Hoss” Cartright) painted on a large wall along with scads of other
stuff of local interest. You see, “Hoss” attended Sul Ross State
College there many years ago.
Soon, we strolled
by the new metal benches recently placed along the sidewalk. These
are across the north parking lot in front of the big Amtrak/UP station.
There we sat while enjoying the cool mountain breeze and fresh morning
atmosphere of small town America. Sitting quietly, she and I watched
traffic pass along Old Highway US-90, i.e.; Holland Avenue, right
before our eyes. Mostly pickup trucks, (with or without a dog) hay
haulers, cattle rigs, 18-wheelers, farm tractors and occasionally
Soon a nice
shinny dark green car pulled alongside the curb and parallel parked
right in front of us. I ask my wife, “Honey, did you call a cab?”
She said, ”No! Don’t you remember we have a rental car?” ----- “Oh
yeah!” (You see, I kind of get mesmerized in Alpine)
----- Immediately, a nicely dressed upper-middle aged couple, with
an appealing presence of physical stature and dignity highly above
average, began getting out of their car. I overzealously mistook
them for tourist. So I spoke, saying, “Hello. Are y’all tourist
like we are?” ----- “No!” Came the reply. “We live here.”
It turned out
to be our newly found and ‘truly southern’ friends “Holly and Mistletoe”,
natives of Northeast Mississippi. And you may have already guessed
why I casually mistook them for tourist. You see, they had only
been living in the Alpine
area for about six months and hadn’t yet taken on the look and demeanor
of native people. But then, on second thought, maybe if “Holly and
Mistletoe” lived out there in the far reaches of West
Texas for a lifetime, they may never take on that local persona.
It’s just mighty hard to change the spots on a leopard. If you know
what I mean, Vern? At our age, anyway!
Well, the next 15 to 20 minutes passed real fast as we four visited
right there on the sidewalk. Then “Holly” told us they had driven
into town and were headed across the street to eat breakfast. Would
we care to join them? Of course we would! We were anxious! Although
we had already eaten, we could drink coffee and visit a while longer.
It turns out they live about eleven miles out of town on a 33-acre
spread with a delightfully gorgeous modern custom built home. It
is a gently rolling, hilly landscape that is often much sought after
in suburbia America. It’s an attractive location, just out of this
world. They live out where the deer and antelope play, along with
wild Havolina hogs and Texas armadillos. Their “home on the range”
is a showplace and a most desirable location. The kind of place
perhaps thousands of folk in the Houston-Dallas/Ft.
areas would give an arm and leg for. There was a time in my life,
I know I would have.
Over the next
four days, “Holly and Mistletoe” took time to show us around Alpine,
Brewster County and Fort
Davis. We spent hours at a large community flea market at Fort
Davis. We enjoyed stopping to browse at several other resale
outlet stores. “Holly” was, in a ‘previous life’ in aviation; a
corporate pilot now retired from flying those sleet, fast corporate
jets around the globe. So, naturally he took us for a nice, most
enjoyable visit to the local Brewster County Regional Airport. (He,
being a mighty good-natured trooper; I jokingly call him a ‘bush
We ate out at some of the finest restaurants in town and attended
a local youth costume show/dance and dinner at the Alpine Community
Center. On our last night there, a Saturday, we attended the Cinco
de Mayo dance on the humongous patio at the “Our Lady of Peace”
Catholic Church, where a good time was had by all. On Sunday
morning we were “special” guests at First Baptist Church, downtown.
We stayed afterwards for fellowship and a delicious lunch prepared
as a fundraiser by their FBC youth group.
SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY AT ITS FINEST….. I must tell you, the
best part of our entire trip was the day our new found friends invited
us out to their place for a much enjoyed tour of their beautiful
home and country estate. After giving us the ‘grand tour’, “Mistletoe”
prepared delicious refreshments for us. We viewed their family photo
albums and later we all participated in a photo session in their
envious home and landscape.
“Holly” showed us his gem workshop where he does gem and stone mounting.
Some of the prettiest jewelry I have ever seen in my entire life
is produced from his large stone collection. His expert jewelry
craftsmanship is first-class; second to none. He is not yet into
commercial jewelry production and doesn’t really desire to be. For
now his artful work is widely distributed mostly for the pleasure
of friends and family.
Of course “Mistletoe” is a big part of their workshop and jewelry
making, too. She produces some very nice rings, necklaces, bracelets
and earrings, plus other stuff, herself.
HOME AND ACREAGE FOR SALE….. Since our last visit out west
with these friends, they have decided their estate is just too large
for them and now isn’t where they want to spend the rest of their
lives. As many of my readers already know, we ‘older folk’ often
realize that we are carrying too much baggage. As life’s priorities
change we have a need to downsize considerably, simplifying our
lives at every opportune time.
So, our new friends are actually “The Holleys.”…. Really! Yes, Larry
and Brenda Holley, (whom we affectionately call “Holly and Mistletoe”).
They now have their showplace home and acreage out there, up for
sale. Plus all of “Holly’s” beautifully hand crafted custom made
Sadly, we all
know that change doesn’t come easily! Does it? Often times though
we must, either willingly or unwillingly, move on and try to adapt
to life’s ever changing situations. You see, Life is what happens
while we are living! (Now isn’t that a highly intelligent and
During my growing up years near McLeod, in the Ark-La-Tex area of
NE Texas, my dad often reminded me that “Nothing stays the same,
Son. Nothing ever stays the same.”
Throughout life, I have learned some people come into our lives
for a REASON, some for a SEASON and some for a LIFETIME…
“Holly and Mistletoe” are keepers.