I was not supposed to be in Texas on this leg of the tour. Scheduled was three months in Colorado, but as life goes, there are changes. One must roll with the punches. But Boerne is a magical town. The day I pulled up to the library I felt like Dorothy arriving at Oz. The Patrick Heath Public Library is a three year old structure that embraces the west but with a twist of Frank Lloyd Wright.
There was serendipity to Boerne. When I was at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke MA in September, I ran into three older women looking at my art. A conversation ensued. When I mentioned where I was going next, I said: “Texas”. “Oh where?!” asked one of the ladies expectantly. At that moment, a flash of recognition washed through me. “Boerne,” I said. “That’s where I’m from!” Eleanor McCall said, the mother-in-law of its former Mayor. To put it in perspective, it’s like meeting someone in Manhattan who not only lived on your street, but in your building AND in your apartment as well. Boerne has a population of just under 11,ooo.
Like all places I set up, conversations began almost immediately. The world is truly a melting pot when I meet a man from England, now living here. Graham Miller told me stories of when he was seven years old and the US troops were building for the big assault on Normandy. “My buddies and I used to hang around the camps, climbing over the grease-covered tanks (protected from the long sea voyage), much to the deep disappointment of our mums.” He talked about a day a GI cook stuck a helmet full of french fries for them to eat. Later he became a Spitfire pilot and regaled me with interesting facts and tales about one of the most beautiful fighter planes of all time.
The night before arriving in Boerne, I’d woken from a dream about meeting Willy Nelson while still in Amherst. We’d started chatting in a coffee shop and then continued the conversation as we walked the town. I woke with that dream as clear as the blue Texas skies that Friday morning. It felt like a good omen.
At the beginning of my first week at the library while chatting with someone, I looked beyond this person to see “Willy”. Cowboy hat, long hair protruding, bandana and the rest that said “Texas”. Willy in fact was a Canadian by the name of Rick Taylor, veteran of the Canadian army, now carrying dual citizenship. He is married to a German. He told me that he’d read about the exhibit and as I’ve learned about him, his inquisitive nature drew him to visit. We talked WW II (for which he missed by a year’s age restriction). He he said he joined the Canadian Irish Regiment “because I wanted to wear a kilt”. I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in Rick. He mentioned a local bar where Tuesdays are kilt night. We have a rendezvous scheduled.
Today, Veterans Day, I attended a ceremony at Veterans Park. It had a feel of Mayberry – that iconic feel-good show from the 1950s. It was a show I had loved watching as a kid. American flags were passed out to attendees, the local school band played patriotic songs, the school chorus sang their renditions and sandwiched in between were the speeches and tributes. What followed was an organized cookout with lots of traditional summertime food. All free. And on a day where the sun drove the temperature into the 70s.
There are many wonderful people here who have made me feel welcome. I’m not a Yankee to them. One woman joked:”My daddy used to think damn Yankee was one word until he left Texas.” My only regret is the stay is the shortest so far. I’ll be gone by Thanksgiving but as this tour has become a journey, its richness will last. Happy Veterans Day.