We’ve got a free afternoon, which hasn’t been happening a lot lately mainly because David has become so deeply entrenched in volunteerism that he has little time for anything else. Having been raised in a household where we were instructed to keep our heads down and never volunteer, the motivation behind his need to be of help to others eludes me. On the other hand, I’m cheerfully discovering that I receive credit through association. Because David’s so obliging, people automatically assume that I am, too.
We set out around one, head toward LBJ’s hometown, Johnson City, on 281, but take a right turn before we get there. And now we find ourselves on a modest two-lane country road, recently resurfaced. We pass only two cars on our way to Willow City and, though the speed limit is sixty, these other vehicles are going forty. Country drivers in no hurry. And neither are we, but twenty miles below the posted limit is too much. Are they driving so slowly because they’re oohing and aahing over the bluebonnets that line the verges? If so, these folks need to get over it. This time of year you can’t take two steps without tripping over a wildflower.
Pretty pictures of bluebonnets are all over the Internet right now, even shared by people who aren’t Texans; and the Willow City Loop is the best place to go to view their splendor. Everyone says so. There’s a sign as we approach the loop that tells us we are no longer allowed to pull to the side, stop, and get out and take pictures. A neighbor warned me. Apparently this time of year there are so many tourists going at the slowest pace possible that, most especially on weekends, it takes two hours to do a drive that would ordinarily take about forty minutes.
Thankfully this is a weekday and the place isn’t crowded. We’re amazed by the beauty of the area right from the start. The people in charge of the loop (no idea who that is) have gone to some trouble to please the tourists. Boots of every ilk are hooked upside down on fence posts. We turn a corner and come upon a rusted tractor beneath a windmill, posed perfectly for picture taking. And charred trees amidst the blossoms.
It’s not long before people are pulling off the road and stopping to take photos. It’s the way of things—tell someone what they can’t do and they do it anyway.
“Pull over here,” David tells me.
“But the sign said not to!”
“Everyone else is doing it.”
“If everyone else were leaping off a cliff would you do it, too?”
“There are no cliffs around here.”
I pull over and he gets out. Before us is a sparkling creek with small dunes poking up through the water, bluebonnets dotting the green banks, and willows leaning in. Lovely. David walks around talking to strangers about how pretty this spot is, how there are so many flowers this year, how great it is that spring’s here. Words. He can talk to anybody about anything. And the same way people assume that I’m helpful because he is, they also assume that I’m friendly simply because I’m married to a friendly person. And sometimes I am friendly, but usually I keep my tongue still.
I stay in the car because Dilly’s with us and I don’t want the hassle of leashing her, which she dislikes, or stuffing her into the front-riding halter, which she also dislikes. And now you’re wondering why I don’t just let her out, set her free to smell the damp earth and priss around in the shallow water. Because once she takes off the only way I can get her to come back is to bribe her with treats and I didn’t bring any. I suck at dog training.
Every time we take a curve we come upon more periwinkle majesty, but not only shades of blue; Indian paintbrush, vivid coral; Mexican blankets, fiery yellow and red; winecups, well-named, literally the color of red wine and shaped like cups; Black-eyed Susans, yellow with brown centers; evening primroses, the softest pink.
Beneath a sky so clear that looking at it makes my eyes tear up. All these flowers against green fields, surrounded by ancient live oaks. There’s a beautiful view in every direction. The air smells heavenly.
We’re glad we came.