Mansions of Simple Splendor and Everything of the Best

Simple Splendor and Everything of the Best

Written by Randy Watson


There are certain dwelling places that are ever so much more than the houses that most of us are content to live in . . . these houses – or mansions, rather – are on guided tours, sometimes an attraction in their own right; they are spectacular for possessing any and/or combining all qualities; qualities of size, location, design, for workmanship and sheer extravagant comfort. In fact, such houses usually make the places that most of us live in, look like the ratty doghouse out in back of a crumbling double-wide in a run-down trailer park on the bad side of town. Most often the only comfort we can take in such comparatively humble abodes, is that it is ours, and it’s paid for. Still, such ordinary homes are comfortable, and very often incorporate such items as were luxuries in previous decades . . . running water, electricity, air conditioning, cable TV and internet access – luxuries once, but almost necessities now. It’s all a relative thing – but oh, the homes that we can fit out for ourselves when money is no object at all.

What is behind these gated homes? I guess that sheer size alone is the most impressive – so many bedrooms, bathrooms, dedicated to special purpose rooms, guest suites, a chef kitchen the size of a small aircraft hangar . . . all that tends to add up. If you are routinely entertaining tens or hundreds of people at massive events, possess a huge art collection, have guests that stay for months or years, or just a very large extended family – of course size makes perfect sense. Look at Buckingham Palace, or the Vatican – now there’s a mansion for you.

Then – what about spectacular location? There are only so many gorgeous mountain vistas, or villas with a spectacular seaside view or of Tuscan vineyards that the rarity tends to limit number. But such are wonderful places to live in – and given deep enough pockets or sheer determination to live out in scenic country or at the top of scenic downtown buildings – they can be found and possessed.

Design . . . my own personal weakness – a cleverly and tastefully designed large house, with a multiplicity of original, attractive and useful details is always easier to live in, than a large house. There is size . . . and there is utility. I’ve lived in large and slap-dashed units, and then in tiny and carefully designed ones and I would assume this would scale up to mansion-sized residences. Which would you rather live in: Hearst Castle, the Greene & Greene Gamble House or the Southwind Ranch in Karnes County? Sheer splendor and size, or something carefully designed to be livable and attractive at every angle?

So – with enough of what you have, you can have as much as a house as you want.

Guess the Movie Clues are Pictured

The Movie Guessing Game

By Celia Hayes

This was an amusement thought up by the Queen of the Red Hats group – which is not officially a Red Hats’ group, but is really just a group of ladies of a certain age, who call themselves the Cherry Bonnets, and think of themselves as holding up the friendly, slightly exhibitionistic, somewhat anarchic social end of what the Red Hatters used to be. We put on red hats and purple shirts (in my daughter’s case, since she is well under the cut-off age of 50, a pink hat and a lavender shirt) and meet once a month for dinner, a themed gift exchange and lively conversation at a chosen restaurant . . . this differentiates us from the Shiners and similarly long-term male organizations, in that we do it for the pure fun. And in my case, to get me out from behind a computer keyboard on the third Tuesday of every month.

Again, like the home-brewing and cheese-making thing, this was my daughter’s idea. She insisted that I needed a real-time, meat-space social life, so a couple of years ago, we happened to be out for dinner at a Cajun restaurant in the Forum at Olympia Parkway (alas, long gone – I think Panera Bread moved into the space, although the food is just as good, either way) and the Cherry Bonnets happened to be having one of their do’s . . . or affairs, as they call them in the old-fashioned and purely social sense. So, we’ve been toddling out to a monthly dinner ever since, and having a moderately good time, and getting home in time to watch mid-to-late evening television. Party-animals until the wee hours, the ladies are not. But we still manage to have a good time.

A couple of dinners ago, the Queen of our group suggested that for our most recent event, we should bring a movie-based gift basket for the obligatory exchange; popcorn and movie candy – and at least four clues to a specific movie. The fun of that would be in guessing exactly which movie was meant: anything would be within play, although something over forty years old and/or thunderingly obscure would not be any fun at all. We had about three months to think about this, and for my daughter and I to collect the various clue items from our various sources, mostly yard sales, the retail severely-marked-down-shelves and/or the Dollar Store . . .

And it was a blast, although no one guessed the Queen’s chosen move. She provided a bag containing a zip-lock bag of fresh apples, a print-out of a picture by Leonardo da Vinci, a package of a set of fairy wings, and a little plastic princess tiara. And no one guessed “Ever After” – that re-rendering of Cinderella, where Drew Barrymore threw apples after the Prince, was helped by Leonardo to appear at the ball in a costume of wings, and become a princess . . .

Mine and my daughter’s movie clues are pictured: Guess?

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Wine Brew Fun with Fruit

Fun with Fruit Brewing Wine


Like many of these things that I am reluctant to do at first, but get talked into and eventually start having fun – getting into the home-brewing and cheese-making was my daughter’s idea. Many months ago, I had noticed that storefront location in a local strip mall was now taken up by an enterprise called Home Brew Party. I was unwary enough to mention this to my daughter. At the next opportunity, she dragged me inside . . . and was promptly carried away by the possibilities of making home-brewed beer and wine.

A portion of one of her intermittently ginormous but infrequent paychecks went towards buying two equipment kits – one for wine, one for beer: a couple of food-grade six-gallon plastic buckets with gasket-sealed lids, or a single bucket and a huge glass bottle – a carboy, bungs and air-locks. The two kits came with accessories – a siphon for transferring the liquid from one bucket to carboy; the wine kit came with corks and device ram them into the necks of bottles, the beer with caps and a capper to crimp them tightly . . . and some basic guidance.

We did wind up buying some other things – cleaning brushes on long handles, nylon bags for steeping fruit, and a little device to squirt cleansing solution up into bottles. We started with some ingredient kits, until we got the hang of it. They were expensive . . . and it was much more fun to see what we could do with in-season fruit, or what my daughter could bring home from her occasional job at Edible Arrangements. One of the fruits they use is pineapple, cutting ornamental shapes out of the center of the whole ripe fruit – and the scraps are waste, and so the workers may take away as much as they like of it. My daughter and I came home with what amounted to about twenty pounds, once the usable portions were cut from the rind.

Any fruit that is in season and free, or less than a dollar a pound; a gallon of fruit wine usually needs between two to four pounds of fruit, and about two pounds of sugar, plus some other bits of this or that by teaspoonful: powdered tannin, crushed Campden tablets, yeast nutrient, enzymes. Chop up the fruit, and freeze it overnight – this is key; the frozen fruit will yield up every possible drop of juicy essence. Put the frozen fruit in a fine-mesh nylon bag, add the sugar, the bag of fruit, water, and other required ingredients in the brewing bucket, cover it and attach the airlock. The next day, sprinkle a packet of wine yeast over the whole . . . and every day thereafter for as long as is called for, stir and mash the bag of fruit against the side of the bucket. This week, I started a batch of pear wine, since pears were on sale at HEB for 88¢ a pound.

Sixteen pounds of pears dissolved away to about a quart of fiber and skins. I put the nascent pear wine into the carboy today – it’s cloudy and pale yellow, and smells divinely of pear-essence with a touch of yeast. There was a thin layer of sticky sediment at the bottom of the fermenting bucket. As the pear wine ages in the carboy, more sediment will fall out over the next few months, as it clears. Then, we will bottle it – possibly having to sweeten it again. And there you go – pear wine.

The pineapple wine made the best summer cooler ever: half pineapple wine, half mineral water, over ice with a splash of grapefruit juice. Heaven in a glass on a hot day!

by Celia Hayes




Commercial Real Estate Market Podcast

Dr. Dotzour, Chief Economist at Texas A&M Real Estate Center, recently opened a bank account in Canada…


COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center, National Association of Realtors) – For those who have never heard Mark Dotzour talk, here’s your chance.

Yesterday the Center’s chief economist did a 30-minute webinar for the National Association of Realtors concerning the current state of the commercial real estate market.

Dotzour discusses the outlook for job growth in the next 12 months and what he describes as a “bipolar” commercial real estate market. He takes a look at the health of businesses and consumers in today’s economy.

He also discusses Fed monetary policy and refers to Ben Bernanke as a “warrior without ammunition.”

It is a fast-moving half-hour of insight and analysis for commercial real estate professionals.

To hear the webinar, click here.

For more Dotzour comments on the Fed’s “playbook,” read his blog post from yesterday.

The Real Estate Center is part of the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University in College Station – the heart of the Research Valley.


Fossil Springs Realtor Home for Sale – Open House – Home Tour | Helotes Texas Homes for Sale

Progressive Luncheon and Six Home Open House Tour

Helotes Homes for Sale – Open House Thursday August 18, 2011

Fossil Springs Realtor Tour

Written by Randy Watson

Luxury and elegant homes for sale

Please RSVP to Your Realtor

Gift Card Drawing! To be eligible for drawing, you must tour all six homes
Members of San Antonio Board of REALTORS
Luncheon/Open House Tour – Thursday, August 18th, 2011 from 11:30 – 1:30
14019 Windy Creek, Helotes, TX
Your Host: Cathy Cole, Re/Max North 210-885-0624


Remarks: Located in the small premier neighborhood of Helotes w/Stellar NS schools. Close to UTSA, USAA, Valero, Mil bases, La Cantera, parks & schools. Gracious open floorplan w/soaring ceilings, fireplace, dual staircase. Master suite down w/indulgent MBath w/Sep vanities, sep garden tub/shower. Huge closets throughout. Sparkling Chef\’s Kitchen w/42\” Cherry cabs, silestone, tile. Light Bright & HAPPY! GAMEROOM/media rm. Walk to SPORTS PARK. Unique Backyard w/privacy & GREENBELT, BONUS playscape. Softner, Sprklr

14307 Windy Creek, Helotes, TX
Your Host: Randy Watson of Mission Realty 210-744-4514


Remarks: Welcome to Helotes! Near La Cantera, UTSA, Valero, IH10 & 1604! Surrounded by beautiful Texas Hill Country. Native Texas plantings, professionally landscaped. BBQ on huge covered Treks patio-deck w/Sunsetter extension. Take dip in the Hot Tub. Solarshields on all windows. Chef Ramsey ready island kitchen. Corian counter tops. Built-in oven & microwave. 4BR 3.5Bath. Master down, glass shower, garden tub, dual vanities. 3 BR up, 1 w/en suite bath. Carpet/tile throughout. .26a lot on Greenbelt. Full Sprinkler

14523 John David, Helotes, TX
Your Host: Charo King, Re/Max North 210-698-2623


Remarks: Brilliant previous model with master down and 3 bedrooms upstairs. Tiled family room with fireplace open to kitchen with solid surface countertops and stainless appliances. Upstairs boasts game and media room and guest suite 2 other bedrooms have jack and jill baths. Large private mostly flat yard with patio space. 3 car garage, water softner, surround sound, sprinkler system and more!! Bring your offer TODAY!

14619 Windy Crk, Helotes, TX
Your Host: Janet Bressman of Coldwell Banker 210-483-6469


Remarks: NESTLED GEM high in the hills of Helotes sitting on 1.83 acres Beautiful views abound you from every room in this immaculate one story 5 bedroom with dual masters, 3.5 baths, open floorplan, island kitchen, private master w/sitting area & master bath w/seperate tub & shower & dual vanity, beautiful wood floors. Relax on your covered porch offering great views & tranquility!

9222 Deborah Sue, Helotes, TX
Your Host: Adelita Aquirre of Real Living 210-924-0777


Remarks: This 5 bedrooms 4 bath Two story spacious home with Master downstair and 2nd bedroom down.Open floor plan high ceiling, beautiful foyer,Family rm.with fireplace ,Covered patio plus large deck.3car garage side entry.Island kichen BKsplash,built inoven ,top stove ,and over half acre c orner lot.Bexar wrong As per apprasier 4010 Sf.Seller will Contribute toward buyer closing cost

9402 Conbar Ln, Helotes, TX
Your Host Charo King of Re/Max North 210-698-2623


Remarks: 127k in upgrades here!!3 car attached garage & 4 car detached garage on half acre cul-de-sac lot with city views! Detached garage has central ac and heat, cable and more and can be converted to a casita or man cave. Loads of extras: Master suite has large bath & spacious closet complete w/closet organizers, GRANITE kitchen w/ double ovens, gameroom w/ walkout balcony, dry storage under the deck, custom wrap around decking w/ hot tub; fire pit, screened in covered patio and koy pond.

Jeffrey Cruz, Legacy Mutual Mortgage, 210-422-7613
Rebecca Blayney, SendOutCards, Marketing Specilists, 210-695-5524

Root Beer Home Brew Making

The Home-Brew Gateway Element

by Celia Hayes

So, my daughter and I have been experimenting with a lot of do-it-yourself food, lately;  Breads and cheese, beer and wine, mostly. It’s part of our family culture, or it might be in our DNA, an ancestral proclivity to have a go at something, since it really can’t be all that hard. Well, some things are a bit tricky, and require a lot of instruction and experience: fine cabinet-making, for instance. And installing HVAC systems. And automobile maintenance – just not interested in that. But we have found that we have had pretty good results with many of our own D-I-Y projects, especially the food-based ones. What’s so complicated about following a recipe, and making a food-product for the household just as our ancestors did?

OK, so without an electric stove, indoor running water, refrigeration and food-grade PVC containers, but the results are extremely satisfactory  . . .  in fact, some of them are more than satisfactory. The home-made honey mead was ambrosia in a wine-glass, and the stuff that aged a little actually came out of the bottle with a slight fizz to it. The first wheel of farmhouse cheddar cheese came out very well, too – although it came out slightly crumbly, with a texture rather like feta. And when you’ve made it yourself from scratch, you certainly do know exactly what went into it.  In the case of the wheel of Parmesan I made last week – four gallons of whole milk, and not much else. It has to age for almost a year, so I won’t know until then how close we’ve come to the real thing.

One of the other big reasons for doing this is that we actually do appreciate the good stuff, when it comes to food and drink; champagne tastes on a beer budget. The solution is to either drink mineral water on six nights and champagne the seventh, learn to like beer, or learn to make champagne. Or cheese, or multi-grain breads; many of the necessary ingredients for making something at home are now widely available either in the grocery store, a specialty store, or on line: wheat gluten, rye flour, liquid rennet. I really can’t say if we come out ahead, comparing the cost of ingredients for our home-made stuff,  against the retail price of the cheapest available commercially mass-produced foodstuffs at HEB or Walmart, but we certainly come out ahead in comparison to the cost of the top-line gourmet products from Central Market or Whole Foods.

So, this last weekend, we expanded our repertoire just a little – to root beer. My daughter had a yen for some, but the case lot at Sam’s Club just cost to darned much, and I suddenly remembered seeing the ingredient kits for root beer at Home Brew Party – and I needed a packet of champagne yeast for the pear wine we just started . . .  (anything under $1.00 a pound, we’ll have a go at making wine out of it). So, today – a vat of root-beer, about twenty bottles, done up in a two-gallon lot, bottled and capped, and waiting for the fizz to develop. Which it should, in a day or so.

And I just had a thought  . . .  what would a root-beer float taste like, made from home-made ice-cream and root-beer. I’ll bet it would be fantastic.

The San Antonio Home Brew Party Shop is located in the strip-mall at the corner of Judson and Nacogdoches, 210-650-9070. The Home Brew Party log is “A Place to meet with your friends and discuss beer, wine, mead, cider, cheese, and bread.” They even have a discussion forum online to talk about brewing. These sound like mighty serious folks about perfecting their brews.

20 Acre Ranch with Medina River Frontage in South Bexar County. 18029 FM 1937, San Antonio, TX

Created Sunday, 06 February 2011 00:00

20 Acre Ranch with Medina River Frontage


New Price $173,000

No Longer for Sale- OFF MARKET

LISTED By Randy Watson of Mission Realty!

Must see to appreciate! A rare opportunity to own 20 acres of Ranch land on the beautiful Medina River. This property offers something for everyone. Front flat cleared open grass with scattered mesquites. Remainder is great recreational area along the Medina River with trees, some huge pecan trees, heavy brush and over growth.

Wildlife is abundant for the hunter or nature lover. With around 500 feet of Medina River recreational frontage for hunting, fishing, swimming or tubing/canoeing. Bring your horses, too! An area along the bluff overlooking Medina River is cleared to build your home, a weekend cabin or just a place to camp with family on weekends. (There is multiple possible homesite locations throughout the property.)

Would make excellent horse or cattle property. Plenty of room for arenas, barns and pastures.

Located at 18029 FM 1937, San Antonio, TX 78221 in South Bexar County off a paved Farm to Market Road less than 30 Minutes from downtown San Antonio. A wet weather creek/ravine and river bottoms are within the flood plain. A crossing would have to be built to drive across the ravine. An underground natural gas pipeline runs across the front field. No single-wide mobile homes. Some fencing/cross fencing in poor-good condition. Electricity, telephone lines and SAWS water run along the road.
Don’t let someone else beat you to it! Currently under Ag and no city taxes, last year’s taxes were $30. Motivated sellers, awesome location. Send your offers. Have your broker call for a showing. We cooperate with all Texas Brokers.

To see more photos visit Land of Texas…

This property is no longer for sale


Sun City Book Fair

Road Trip: Sun City Book Fair

by Julia Hayden

On the road again, last week for a book festival at Sun City, Texas* . . . which is out on the sun-baked flats of grassland lightly sprinkled with woods, away on the edge of Georgetown, about half an hour’s drive north of Austin. We have heard dire things of Austin’s rush hour, so in order to get there in time, Blondie and I arose at the crack of dawn . . . actually 4:00 AM, plotting to have at least a couple of cups of caffeinated beverage in us and be ready to roll at 5:00 and thus be well-through whatever hellish traffic jams that Austin offered in the morning rush hour. With our luck, we could have given it another hour, for we arrived just before 7:30, to set-up my table in ten minutes flat, and the fair didn’t officially open until 9. Yeah, we could definitely have slept for another hour – except that everyone that we met, setting up in the Sun City community center ballroom assured us that, oh, you just never knew with Austin traffic. If we had delayed leaving until about 6 AM, guaranteed there would have been a terrific pile-up and we would have been delayed well-past time.

Another Texas indy-author told me about the Sun City book-fair, stressing that it was just the kind of event and venue well-worth the time and tank-full of gas needed to get there. Sun City in Georgetown is a active adult planned retirement community, of people who are presumed to have considerable financial security and of an age to be still quite fond of reading books, thank you very much. Blondie still had serious doubts about that, at the wheel of the Montero, and grumbling slightly as we followed the Tom-Tom’s direction – all the way past all the exits for Georgetown and onto a two-lane road apparently leading nowhere in particular. She said at least once that it didn’t look like there was very much out there at all, but pastures and windbreaks, interspersed with the occasional double-wide with the customary rusting accoutrements, but after about three cross-streets, there we were . . . and oh, my.

We followed the directions scrupulously, along an avenue adorned with landscaping, trees and wide paved footpaths that meandered through it, past cottages and mansions artfully set about, so as to give the best appearance and views. There was a distinctly uniform look about them all, though – in general style and color, although not actual design. There were also no fences along property lines – each yard merged gracefully into the next – and then we came to the community center, likewise beautifully landscaped, and Blondie and I agreed that it all looked very much like what a military base would look like, if the powers that be had unlimited funds and no military mission at all. It’s a beautiful community, I’d hasten to admit, and the people seemed very lively and pleased to be a part of it, but it did have very much that centrally-planned look.

I can’t say enough nice things about the organizers, or about the residents who came drifting through, many of whom were eager to talk about books – really, I think my throat was raw from talking so much. I sold enough copies of my various books to make back expenses and then some, there was a considerable uptick in the Kindle and Nook editions afterwards and I met a couple of people who were interested in the Trilogy and involved in the Williamson County historical society who would like to have me come back for other events. Well worth the trip – but I don’t think I got over the exhaustion until today.

*Sun City is the first Dell Webb age restricted community in Texas; for active adults with a passion for life. For recreation you’ll enjoy three championship golf courses, a world-class fitness center with tennis and swimming, plus miles of walking trails. The activity center offers art studios, a woodshop, computer lab, Billiards hall and meeting rooms for clubs and classes. Hill Country Retreat is another such Dell Webb active adult community, but in San Antonio.

Summer Garden Suffering From Heat and Lack of Rain

Reviving the Garden: Roadblocks

Well, as if temperatures of over a hundred for  . . .  how many days in a row is it now? And no rain whatsoever for three weeks and that last effective storm was the first in months anyway  . . .  If all of that wasn’t enough to put a roadblock in my attempt to bring back my back yard from the near-desert that the cold snap in January, and the stray dogs that my daughter rescued from the streets last fall  . . .  now there is something else, critter-like. Something is willfully and deliberately savaging the hanging airplane or spider plants, that I have planted in coconut-fiber lined wire baskets, and suspended from various trees or from hooks on the edge of the back porch.

In all the time that I have had hanging spider plants in my yard, nothing much ever got to them except perhaps extreme cold. They went on putting out long green leaves, and long green stems with four or five daughter plants sprouting on each one, as long as the water kept coming. The cold snap killed all the ones I have, saved one, which had just begun to put out tentative leaves again. And I had bought a huge airplane/spider plant at HEB, at the very beginning of the current campaign – there were actually three plants in the pot, so I cut them apart and re-planted them, and they were doing just fine until about a month ago.

Suddenly I began to notice cut-off leaves on the ground below first one, and then another. Every morning, a few more, and then the stems with the daughter-plants, lying wilted on the ground – and something had been eating the tender base of the plant, straight down to the roots. And then, digging up the parsnip-like roots; the only think to do was to hanging them from hooks in the porch ceiling, where the something with sharp teeth responsible for all this destruction would have to walk – upside down across the underside of the roof and then rappel down the suspending hook and chains. Of the five airplane/spider plants that I had – two survivors and the three new ones, two have been all but demolished, one has been nibbled down to the core, and two are – as yet, relatively untouched. The neighbors and I are speculating that it must be the heat and the drought, driving something into eating plants that were heretofore left unscathed.

To add additional insult, the topsy-turvy planter full of thriving Bell and cayenne pepper-plants was also viciously attacked by this same sharp-toothed instrument of destruction. Three of the four Bell pepper plants were eaten off, down to a length of the central stem – every leaf and shoot, just like that, and the rest were nibbled upon. So, there goes that hanging container to another spot underneath the porch, where it would take the rodent (or possibly marsupial) equivalent of Spiderman to get to it. The peppers are all putting out new leaves; a reassuring development, but I am beginning to run out of secure places to hang the plants at risk. And meanwhile, one of the squirrels seems to enjoy just hanging out, in one of the empty hanging baskets.

Now, the tomato plants in the topsy-turvy containers are going like gangbusters – they are bigger than any other tomato plants I have ever been able to grow here in San Antonio, and they have lots of flowers on them, but so far, no evidence of tomatoes  . . .  so far. My fingers are crossed  . . .  and the ones on the other hand are crossed that the rat or opossum will not start to nibble on the tomato plants, next. That will really be just too much.


What a Lame Little Tropical Storm Last Week

What’s That?

By Julia Hayden

That sprinkle of damp stuff, seeming to fall out of the darkest clouds in the sky  . . .  oh, yeah. They call that stuff rain – that is, when there is slightly more of it than fell on Saturday morning, courtesy of a few stray clouds from the weakest tropical storm ever to hit the South Coast of Texas.  We were watching the weather reports all this week, looking at the charts and radar, and licking our lips, thinking ‘Rain – glorious rain! This weekend, Saturday morning at the earliest! Maybe even Friday evening! And no, if it comes with high winds, it’s cool – we can adjust  . . .  as long as it brings rain!”  I swear, if the alphabet for tropical storms weren’t already established, they could have called this crushing disappointment of a storm, “Tropical Storm Cupcake” . . .  or maybe “Tropical Storm Melt-Like-A-Snowball-In-Heck.” And we had such hopes!

There was one single rainstorm some two or three weeks ago, and that was the first in simply months, and meanwhile, we are looking up at the baking hot blue and empty sky, as we sprinkle our lawns (medium-crispy to well-done) with a hand-held hose, and crying out for rain. Well, those of us who have lawns, still. I yanked mine out some few years ago, under a program sponsored by SAWS to encourage low-water usage. I put in xerioscape plants, which were strongly encouraged, for which I received  a credit on the water bill from SAWS which paid my existing water bill for about four months, and a year later – because my water-usage continued low – a gift certificate for a not inconsiderable (to me) sum of money to be used at a local nursery or at Home Depot/Lowes for plants and hardscaping materials  of my choosing to continue the personal domestic landscaping good work . . .  but it’s been so dry this summer that even my existing in-ground plants are looking distinctly limp and discouraged.

You see, that’s the thing in Texas. Summer is invariably hot, but in most summers, we can count on at least an occasional thunderstorm to keep the gardens, the meadows, the parks and the rest of it all perking along, in a condition that doesn’t look like competition for a new location shoot for “Death Valley Days”.  I had an old friend, when I still worked at Texas Public Radio, who had lived in San Antonio all of his life, and he insisted that the boiling-hot summers with little rain relief were a recent anomaly. When he was a kid, in the 1930s, and 1940s – the summers were not so boiling hot, and the days and weeks were relieved by rainstorms on a regular bi-weekly basis. That was the historical norm, but the very last summer I recollect like that was a couple of years ago – like clockwork, a storm blew in, and it rained so much that the wildflowers stayed until August, and even into September, the blackland prairie between San Antonio and the Gulf Coast was so verdantly green that a visiting friend exclaimed over and over that it looked like Ireland! Now, that was a summer – and I can hardly wait to see one like it again. In the meantime, here’s a picture of a sudden rainstorm up in the Hill Country that I took a year or so ago, just so we all can remember what it looks like, when the rain comes pouring down like one of those expensive spa showerheads for a couple of hours.