When my wife, Anne, used to come home and find me gone, one of the children would say, “Dad has gone over the hill again.” That would mean things at home had become a trifle thick and I’d walked out on the family once more.
No, I don’t mean walked out for good, but I’m impatient taking care of small children. Believe me, mine were a handful; yelling, laughing, and running all over the place. I would become exasperated with the young ‘uns and at times I would blow-up for no reason at all. Then I would remember something from the Scriptures; “Provoke not your children to wrath.” That’s when I would know that it was time to go over the hill.
Over the hill is where the yellow wild flowers grow in great abundance, looking as if some demented artist splashed great slashes of yellow paint everywhere. When my girl Angel was a baby, she picked a big handful of the blossoms. Joley taught her to say “Happy Easter” and her flowers graced the table that Easter Sunday. The Easter ham never tasted better.
Over the hill lies a pond where the fat, old bullfrogs croak and harrumph the night away. Once a neighbor gathered a gallon bucket of frog legs there in less than an hour and the antics that the frogs made when Stan or Steve, both sharks in the local Little League, would throw a rock in their midst, it would seem to rain frogs everywhere.
The hill would slope gently down to where a wet weather creek bubbles and gurgles happily before joining Red Deer creek. The creek is forbidden to the girls who are barely out of the toddler stage. But I find the remnants of a small dam and I wonder what kind of skullduggery the boys have been up to down here.
One hill leads to another and that hill is covered with Indian Paintbrushes. The Indian Paintbrush to me is the most beautiful of all the wildflowers in the world. Beyond that is another hill where you can’t walk without crushing the State flower of Texas, the wild Bluebonnet. Bluebonnet Hill at that time was soon to be leveled to make room for a 4 lane bypass around Pampa, Texas, so me and my kids used to gather a handful of the bluebonnets and transplant them in a grove of mesquite bushes not far from the hill. I hope we were successful in the removal of the wild flowers. But that has given over to time now and the flowers probably won’t grow where they were transplanted.
The mesquite grove also provided us with the aromatic wood that we would use for cooking out. There is no better taste anywhere in God’s great garden than mesquite flavored steaks or chops, and if it was a few days after payday the aroma of hot dogs could be smelled throughout the neighborhood.
I might as well walk a bit farther to where the black Angus and the Hereford cattle make their home. Maybe I’ll even inspect the water gaps, making sure they are still sturdy. I remember once during a summer of not much rain, when the owner of this property offered to cut the water gaps out so that the neighbor’s cattle would have a place to come to water in this spring fed watering hole. Yes, I remember that drought and the neighbor’s kind offer.
Circling back toward the house I see the black Angus, like a small boy’s playthings, on a hill not so far away, the cows ignore me but the calves approach me cautiously. I don’t bother them and soon they rejoin their mothers.
Now I have come full circle and here is my household still needing me, I hope fervently. Angel throws herself against my legs wanting to be picked up and carried, Joley’s bright brown eyes welcome me home while she talks a mile a minute. Stan and Steve rough house each other around the front yard, Stan laughing so hard at Steve’s ineffectual pummeling that his own defenses are almost nil.
These are my kids, how could I have been so annoyed with them only a short time before.
My wife asks, “Where have you been?”
“Over the hill,” I reply, knowing that things are going to be all right once again in the Briggs’ house.