About nine days ago a letter arrived in the mail with a lawyer’s return address. That’s never good news. Inside was a surprise. I owned a lot on Lake Thunderbird near Smithville, Texas. I also owed the back taxes and the Homeowners’ Association fees from….1983. Yep, those were my exact words, too .
Out came the Texas map to find County Road 2104. There it was at the corner of Dead End and No Way Out. I did what any rational human being would do, I called my lawyer.
“Jim, apparently Kent (deceased husband) bought some land and conveniently failed to tell me about it. I can’t afford this. Please make it go away.”
“Humm. Let me make a few phone calls.”
One Week Later
“Nope, this is going to be a sticky one. You need to see the property before we take further action.”
Thunderbird Lake is 45 minutes south of Austin.
This part of Texas has rolling bumps. Texans call them hills, but that’s a bit of exaggeration. Scrub Oak, mesquite and brush blanket the land. Being a Native Texan, I take the landscape for granted, no longer snapping to its beauty or flaws. It’s like being married to the same person for 50 years; the good and bad create the whole.
Two Days Later
July temperatures hover around 105 degrees in Central Texas. That’s way past hot; it’s ridiculous. Our motto is “start early.” By seven o’clock I had that Blues Brothers feeling…40 miles to Smithville, a full tank of gas and a half pack of iced-down Diet Coke. I pushed on my sunglasses and Hit It! It was time to speculate on some land.
Rural Texas is secluded. Texas is incomprehensibly huge. Of course, you’ve heard us brag about that before. Ownership of vast amounts of land is common. One family will easily own 1,000 acres. Think of huge this way, the entire island of Manhattan is 14,478 acres. That would mean 14 families would live on the Island. As we say in Texas, “our neighbor is down the road apiece.” I drove down County Road 2104 and drove and drove. Saw three houses and two dogs before I arrived at the turn-off to Lake Thunderbird.
The Jeep lurched onto the caliche road as I slowed to read the street markers named after Indian tribes: Comanche, Navaho, Shawnee. Feeling rather smug about only getting lost twice, I killed the engine in front of an overgrown lot at the southern tip of a peaceful lake.
Love at first sight. I exhaled.
Before I realized my own actions, I was pushing through the underbrush to the shore. There it was, Kent’s surprise gift fourteen years following his death. I squatted down, fixing my eyes on the water, visualizing me sitting in a small rowboat, coaxing a wiggly worm onto a hook in hopes of luring some granddaddy catfish to thrill me with a nibble. The sun skipped and flipped and sparkled upon the water.
I smiled, got up and zigzagged back to the Jeep. I picked up the cell phone and punched in the lawyer’s number.
“Jim, I’m keeping the lake lot. I know, surprised me, too. Yes, it’s perfect. Thanks.”