Armed with five rolls of shelf paper, I travel to the house we recently purchased just outside Marble Falls. In addition to tasking myself with lining shelves and drawers, I will take delivery of the new dishwasher, an LG with the most wondrous drawer near the top, intended for those hard-to-place oversized spatulas and spoons. See, this is the good thing about moving so often—every time I come back to the states I get all new appliances.
Lining shelves is an important bonding ritual. In the kitchen, I turn on the radio and spend hours measuring, cutting, removing the backing, and pressing the contact paper into drawers and shelves. Five rolls line eighteen drawers and forty-two shelves, and the whole time I’m working, I’m thinking about what I will put in this drawer and what will be most convenient on that shelf. By the time I finish the kitchen, I’ll know where the potholders will go, the spices, the silverware, the glassware.
After a while the radio becomes annoying. Every station is an oldie station. Every other song is an Eagles song. Every advertisement has something to do with health and personal maintenance. It makes me feel like everybody from Llano to Burnet is the same age with the same issues. An incongruous and disconcerting advertisement from the local Baptist church—“Guns are a part of life here in Texas,” a woman says. “So we need to make sure our children understand how to handle them properly.” She continues, giving the time and place where parents can take their children for gun lessons.
How will I, an emphatic proponent of gun control, fit into this part of the world? I shouldn’t be so naïve. People hunt. There are all kinds of creatures that need killing—deer and wild hogs for instance. I need to adjust to the notion that there’s a difference between country guns and city guns.
I turn the radio off and work in silence. When I want a break I sit on the back porch. Several vultures perch on the T-shaped pole just beyond our property line. Their gazes are menacing, their posture hunched. Thugs.
The first time I brought my little dog, Trip, up here, he was confused and timid. This time he’s curious about the exotic poop instead of frightened by it. Judging from the number of dead skunks on the shoulder of the highway between Austin and here, and the way the stink wafts around the area, I decide it’s wise to be on my guard as far as Trip is concerned.
“It’s skunk season, is why,” the dishwasher installer tells me. “After skunk season you won’t see nearly as many of them.”
Skunks have a season. I never knew.
The two men who deliver the dishwasher are delightful rednecks with full beards, shaved heads, and colorful arms. In nasal drawls, they call me ma’am, compliment the house, and offer all kinds of information about living in the hill country. For instance, we shouldn’t kill or get rid of rat snakes because they keep the area clear of mice and rattlers. And we should switch leach fields for the septic tank every few months; and the current leach field will always have the greenest grass, a tidbit that makes me uncomfortable.
After they’re gone, and after I’ve gone through my five rolls—all of the kitchen and half the laundry room—I pack up my toothbrush and clothes, the dog’s bed and his food bowls, and we head back to Houston.
Just south of Bastrop, Leo Kottke is interrupted by a call from—this is a surprise—my mail delivery person in Marble Falls. Introducing herself as Wanda, she asks if I want her to drop the mail key by my house. I tell her that I’m no longer in town and might not be back for a month or so, at which point she offers to hold the mail and the key at the post office. Calling to offer a favor—what a nice thing to do. How astonishingly accommodating. I thank her and say good-bye.
I have no idea who delivers my mail in Houston, but I know who delivers it in Marble Falls. I know her by name. Wanda.