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July 4th, 2002

is this Canada?

The weather here makes me worry I have been teleported without my knowledge to the Canadian prairie, someplace north of Edmonton, perhaps.

We awoke to a fourth day of pleasant weather, proof of either a weather pattern, flooding in San Antonio, or a merciful God. We drove the hour out to Park Hill Prairie, the county park of "pure untouched" blackland prairie. We were the only ones there at first, other than myriads of birds, who sang like a choir audition. We looked through binoculars at a cool brown customer with a good song, a brown body and a yellow crest(I think he was either eastern meadowlark or dickcissel, but I gotta get out the Stokes bird book). Sulphur butterfiles flitted everywhere, and each stride we took caused hundreds of grasshoppers to launch as if were we missile planes releasing payloads of grasshopper.

The park people apparently use a huge tractor to cut a giant green swatch in the prairie for hiking. The tractor had not run in some weeks, because the grass was rather high. The lower parts are filled with crayfish mounds, so the hiking was a bit uneven. Flowers and seed pods were everywhere, mixed among tall grasses.

We had the entire park virtually to ourselves, but later appeared one fellow in an old rusted American car, whose red husky-looking dog sat and watched us as if we were rare prairie dickcissel birds. I love that feeling of being miles away from crowds, from hassle, from stress, from concrete. Distant cows on adjoining fields are my favorite "crowds".

We passed by the two fishing ponds at the park, and I thought it was just as well that my wife had decided to come and I would forego fishing because the ponds were so high that cane pole fishing would have been difficult given the extensive shallows. I like to cane pole fish more than use real gear these days, as it helps me connect somehow with my childhood. We marveled once again at the field in which the single emu doth lie down with the kid goats just beside the prairie park.

On the way back, we noted all the bunting and empty storefronts in downtown Farmersville, population 2300, birthplace of Audie Murphy, I believe, and we stopped at Shipley Doughnuts, which I always, parenthetically, prefer to Krispy Kreme. We saw a giant great blue heron flying overhead as we emerged from the doughnut shop. He was glorious, simply glorious.

Everywhere on the country highway home, folks were selling fireworks. In particular, the signs everywhere touted something called an "artillery shell" for the sum of 2 dollars and 98 cents. I did not stop to ask about the potential for shrapnel.

When we got on highway 121 near our home, we passed flowing fields of 3/4 high corn, some of it browning, in that "wait until you thought you were safe before I die" way that corn has. Then we passed a HUGE solid field of 5 foot high sunflowers, a yellow paradise, and I remembered I lived in Texas again.

rocket's red glare, tearfully

We went with our neighbors A., T. and their 9 month old son
B. to Collin County Youth Park, in the country outside McKinney, for the "Forever Free" 4th of July celebration.
The park is huge open fields with nice little hills and a few trees. Hundreds of people came, but we never felt crowded, because the whole place had this rural spaciousness. We walked around the place, among child activities for which B. was too young, picked up snow cones (I must admit that I am such a non-scintillating conversationalist I am reduced to questions like "How do you say 'snow cone' in Urdu?"--by the way, it is a long word starting with a 'g'), and strolled about the grounds to see the country western bands that played in succession. The whole thing was very nice; it seemed a little odd how much security was present here, but we did not mind a bit. Folks rode by on horses, kids were pulled in red wagons, "freedom fair" people drove on those little "gator" four wheel things that are like a cross between an ATV and a toy truck. The last of the band before the fireworks had a jaunty, likable sound and a woman who played the fiddle as though it was part of her autonomous system. I love a good fiddle, played live. Recordings lose the "moment" in which a good fiddle tune comes alive.

We sat on a gentle slope on a horse blanket we had bought in Mexico years ago, and were able to observe the fireworks begin without any crowding. I am not a "crowds" person, so this was right up my alley. A. and I went to try to find someplace to spend all those odd little "fair tickets" I had improvidently bought, so many of the fireworks took place as we walked around. It was great--instead of being some
stadium setting, cheek to jowl, we could wander around or sit and see everything as if we were right there. The fireworks went on for what seemed like forever. Sadly,
Mr. B., our infant companion, expressed displeasure at the noise and lights. Although we felt badly for him, the fireworks nonetheless overcame the negative experience.
A. and T. took turns soothing him through the experience, and by the time we returned to the car, he was none the worse for the wear.

I typically don't go to stadium fireworks shows, because the crowds irritate me. Last year, we sat in my brother's side yard where a local show can be seen without the fuss and bother of parking and crowding. But this rural youth park may become our new annual event....it was really nice,
even if we did leave before the band *after* the fireworks
was finished with its repertoire of the works of KC and the Sunshine Band.