December 10, 1994
Greetings from the Hurd clan and the wilds of West Texas. West Texas?! Well, if Fort Worth is where the west begins, then, yes, west Texas. Yea, it's not so far west; but it can be fairly wild.
We've been roughing it now for nearly two years, having left the luxurious surroundings and comforts of urban life. OK, roughing it might be a little strong, but it has been an unusual two years.
It was about this time two years ago that we sold our city house on Wabash. Carrie was about 7 months pregnant with our number 6 child (Evan). We packed all our belongings on the covered wagon (actually, a moving van) in January, and became a part of the homeless population for about 3 months. Seeing the plight of a desperate, homeless family, a family of 7 graciously opened up their home to us, giving us refuge from the cruel January winter. After regrouping there (they could only stand it one month), we traversed the wilderness toward our new homestead. However, our little house on the prairie was not quite ready, so another family allowed us refuge in their rent house.
For 2 months we hung out there (with no furniture) while our little dream cabin was being fitted for occupancy. Meanwhile, Evan was born in the rent house, on a mattress on the floor. Folks, it just doesn't get any more pioneer that this (well, you know what I mean). Finally, we were able to move in, set up housekeeping, and call it home (home for us, the field mice, rats, snakes, anything else that wanted to wander in) It was a little rough at first (no utilities for a week or two, none) but with the help of some good friends, it is shaping up nicely (notice the shift to the present tense).
And there have been some adventures. Since we were the first humans to set up home in this wilderness, there were some adjustments to be made by the civilized species as well as the natural wildlife. It took all summer to convince the various snakes (mostly copperheads) that living together was not compatible. There is nothing like getting a call at work from your wife who is screaming on the phone something about two snakes trying to get in the house. And I never dreamed that my oldest daughter and son would capture a 5 foot long rat snake that had taken up residency in the garage with their hands and carry it around like some pet. How many times have you come home from work to be told that there is a snake in the garage and that you are expected to get it? NO WAY!
It wasn't long before Carrie and the kids had purchased some chickens and guineas for the yard. Doesn't that just remind you of something you read in a book? Well, our neighbors (half mile away) quickly informed us that they wouldn't last; too many predators (snakes, coyotes, coons (that's Raccoons for you city people), etc.) Undaunted, we pressed ahead and sure enough, one at a time, about every 4 to 5 nights, one would disappear. One night, very early in the morning, we were awakened by a loud disturbance outside (guineas screaming for life and limb) and spotted the criminal predator: a lone bobcat. About 4 weeks later we had him in a live trap! He was beautiful, though very unhappy (ruined his day) Well, he was shipped off to a live game refuge and we city slickers basked in the glory of rescuing the whole community from this savage beast.
Our house is set on a hill on the south side of our 73 acre spread. We've made it through 2 Texas summers without AC; thundering storms; blowing sand and dust; fires (all self-inflicted); droughts; snake attacks (no bites); ravaging Indians (just kidding); etc... and have enjoyed it all. The kids really like the wide open space; we enjoy the peace and tranquility of quiet nights, bright stars, and the slower pace of a small country town, where the deer and the antelope play (nice, huh? ) .
As you read this Carrie will be very close to having our number seven child. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this birth; the kids are really pulling for a girl this time and being so close to Christmas adds to the anticipation. Carrie is most occupied with training and schooling the children. The oldest three (Lindsey, Wesley, Monica) have come a long way in the school ethic (you know, like work ethic) and can accomplish a lot on their own. Not that they don't have to be watched and urged on! You remember how YOU were in school. But they are becoming self motivated and that has freed Carrie up somewhat to begin teaching Micah and Clarke to read. It is amazing how exciting it is for the children (and Carrie) to first learn to read.
Carrie still finds time to do the thing she loves the most: compose and enforce "honey-do" lists. She has spent a lot of time making our little house homey and comfortable. It has come a long way; still so much work to do. She has had two summers of gardening also. You've probably seen those pictures of ladies in their garden; nice clothes; gloves on; hoe in hand; vegetables ripening left and right; cupboards full of home canned food; smiling children. That's not us. Thank the Lord for grocery stores; we would have starved to death. But we're learning- that it's doggone hard work!!
Lindsey (soon to be 11 years) is the spitten image of her mother. There is no greater blessing than a first born girl who is anointed spiritually as a servant. She is Miss Hospitality. Lindsey is the main cook of the house, keeps us in homemade bread, keeps us in nightly treats (why I keep gaining weight), irons my shirts, is learning parenting skills by training (I mean obedience, not potty) Evan (20 months), waits on our guests like they are royalty, the main motivator of the oldest three memorizing Matt 5,6,&7, snake handler (come on, just kidding), "SuperKid." What she doesn't do is take care of her goat. Yes, goat. Rebecca. She had been talking about getting a calf to raise for slaughter. This summer we visited a lady who raises goats. They're nice goats. Lindsey fell in love with one of the babies (who wouldn't) and decided to spend the $250 she saved from selling bread on a dairy goat. I said they were nice goats (Swiss Alpine, for you farmer types) . Well, she didn't get one quite as young as she hoped, so, I don't think she ever really "bonded” to it. S0 guess who feeds and waters it. No, Wesley does. The problem is that we just took her to be bred. That means she will have a kid in a few months. That means she will have milk to feed the kid. And that means that we can have milk for ourselves if someone will get out there and milk that goat. So guess whose going to milk the goat. No, me.
Wesley, on the other hand, is the spitten image of his dad (poor lad). I don't mean that so much in looks (though that's there), but I can see so much of myself when I was his age (91/2) in him. I mean, he can be a real space cadet sometimes, two sandwiches short of a picnic, heavy on the right brain side, you know what I'm getting at. But we couldn't make it without him. He is our handyman. Takes everything apart. The garage is full of pieces that used to be together with something. Wes received a scroll saw for his last birthday. He is becoming very handy with it. He likes to make wooden guns for the kids and has done a number of other decorative projects for Carrie and other folks. I depend a lot on Wes to keep things going around the farm. He keeps the animals in food and water every day (well, almost) and has been helpful when we hatched a couple of batches of chickens and guineas last spring. Wes takes care of Clarke, making sure he is dressed, bathed, teeth brushed, etc... He was real pleased when Clarke finally got out of diapers. Wes' biggest accomplishment of late was swiftly and definitively crushing his dear old dad for the first time in Chess. There was no mercy. This lack of mercy is showing itself in Wes' marksmanship skills. He has become quite a shot. Last summer he and I took the 9mm (that's a semiautomatic handgun, for you non-survivalists types) down to our shooting range to pop a few caps (shoot some bullets). I set up a 1" square bathroom tile on the target, stepped back about 20 feet, and began throwing lead in that general direction. I got it, finally, after about 10 shots. I put up another one, handed the gun to Wes, who proceeded to blast it with the first shot. No mercy!
Monica (soon to be 8) has really developed a sweet, helpful spirit. She is responsible for Micah (5). However, Micah is old enough to take care of himself, so Monica will be responsible for the new baby. She is real excited about that (ask me after the first dozen or so of dirty diapers)! Monica loves to have fun, is always bright with a smile, and loves to play with her horse figures. She is beginning to take on more of the cooking chores with Lindsey and also learning to iron. She is, like her two older siblings, an avid reader; devouring everything she can get her hands on (it also devours a lot of time). Every family should have at least one sleepwalker in the house. Monica is ours. There is nothing like being in a dead sleep at night only to begin to realize that you're not alone. You open your eyes only to see this face right in your face staring at you. Really keeps the pulse rate up. The other kids have had a lot of fun with her sleepwalking antics.
Every family should also have at least one child who can really put away the groceries. Micah (5 1/2) is the one in our family. This kid eats more than I do (really!) and he's real picky about it, too. Not long ago Carrie asked him to get some things out of the refrigerator for lunch. It was evidently not of his liking as he responded, "I can't find the cold slop and lice (a Freudian slip for cole slaw and rice). We should have recognized this early on in his life when he ate the Cheerios off the Christmas tree one year. In spite of this though, Micah proves to be invaluable around the house. He is our organizer. Everything has its place and he is pretty diligent about making sure they stay in their place. You should see the kid organize a shopping cart full of groceries! He is Mr. Neat and Clean. Micah is the latest child to respond to the calling of Jesus as his Savior this past spring. I tell him we are waiting for winter to go to the lake and baptize him.
On the other hand, Clarke (4) is Mr. BusyBody. This little guy is the busiest person I have seen. Wears me out. He is into everything everywhere all the time. He also serves as the "Family Echo" (every family should have one of these, too). Says and does absolutely everything Micah says and does without exception. If we didn't get it the first time from Micah, it's OK, Clarke will repeat it (sometimes twice, just to make sure). There are advantages to this mimicking; when we work around the farm, Clarke is one of our hardest, most diligent workers.
Evan (20 months) is really coming to his own as a personality around the house. He and Lindsey have a real special relationship; it's a toss up as to who he goes to first for comfort. Most of the time it's to Lindsey. However, in the last few weeks, he and Clarke have taken to each other as playmates. It is exciting to see Clarke work with him and teach him the art of boy playing. His vocabulary is just skyrocketing. He knows one word, "BUU" (that is, like "bucket" without the "cket") (this kid's almost 2!) (perhaps he just can't get a word in edgewise). It's a very efficient word: means absolutely everything.
Going into town (whether Weatherford or Fort Worth) is a big event for all of us: exciting for the kids; work for the parents. It can be a big event for the people in town also, depending on where we're going and what we're doing. The comments regarding the number of children run the gamut of responses; it is just amazing what people will ~ay, especially when they don't know what to say but have to say something! You can just about categorize the responses into age groups: 60 and up are usually positive; I guess they remember growing up in large families, 30-60 are usually disgusted, 15-30 are astonished.
Eating at a restaurant is always challenging. The waiter wasn't planning on letting a bunch of kids (who don't tip) occupy his 8 top table (usually occupied by big tippers) and the folks sitting around you had not previously planned to eat with you and all those kids. It is a good opportunity for them to exhibit the table manners they learn at home and to win the affections of the waiter and surrounding guests with their politeness.
There are disadvantages to spending the majority of your time away from civilization. Each spring, Weatherford sponsors the "Peach Festival" at the downtown square. Everybody comes to the peach festiva1. We were there and having a good time examining the crafts, etc... when it suddenly started to rain. I parked the family under an awning on the sidewalk while I went to get the car. As it rained, and as people sought shelter with Carrie and the kids under the awning, Clarke decided he needed to go to the bathroom. Well, he doesn't tell anyone, he just does what he's accustomed to doing at home; yea, you got it; he drops his pants (no underwear) and proceeds to take care of his business, right there on the sidewalk, in front of everybody and almost ON somebody, without Carrie seeing it until he was practically done. When Carrie did look around, a lot of other people were watching too. Talk about embarrassed!! She smiled, shrugged her shoulders at all the on lookers and hurried the little group towards the car. What can you do??
So, life in the wilds of west Texas is keeping us pretty busy. I hope this brings us up to date with you; we've not been very good about sending out Christmas greetings the past few years. For this we apologize. Should you make it out toward our direction, be sure to look us up.
Our prayer for you and your family this Christmas season and the year to come is that you would grow in the understanding and knowledge of the God of the universe who exercises His lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth.