A five hundred acre parcel of land on the west side of our small home town was leased from the local family doctor for a cattle operation, based on a strong, callused hand shake and the binding word of my dad over 40 years ago. To my family, this land parcel fondly became known as “The Pasture”. Sandwiched in between Highway 90 and Interstate 10 in Katy, a stranger speeding by would hardly notice the ominous space of berry patches, clumps of prairie grass, mounds of fire ants and stretches of gravel roads that winded through and around the many acres.
With one handshake, Dad had no way of realizing the positive impact his decision would have on our family over the course of four decades. Times were simpler then. It was an era when a man’s handshake and his word could be counted on, just as the land could be counted on to give life and meaning to kids growing up. It was a time when the only trouble that could be borrowed was in an inviting mud hole where my younger brother would run Dad’s truck so that he could study the tire traction and mud velocity at differing rates of speed. And trouble for me when I drove the truck too fast down the muddy, slick road and felt the slow, helpless slide into the ditch as my younger brother strongly encouraged me to “gas it!” only to find us a few minutes later, as water flowed into the floorboard, hitch hiking a ride back to town in the rain.
How would Dad have ever known that a strong, callused handshake and his word would result in lessons of shooting clay pigeons with a sling-shot, learning to pen and work cattle, ride and sometimes get thrown from horses. Along with lessons of roping, bottle-feeding baby goats, calves, killing snakes, picking dewberries, as well as, lessons of pain from the sting of a wasp, or a scraped knee. We learned to dove hunt, run a trotline, kill and skin deer, and hog hunt under the moon light with Kerr dogs.
A strong, callused handshake and a man’s word gave the kids in our family a safe place to play while learning some of the basics in life. It was a place where the boys in our family learned to be brave hunters, cowboys, and men while the girls learned to be their cheerleaders. How would Dad have known that the teenaged boy becoming a man, stuck in a muddy bog hole in the middle of The Pasture in his Jeep would some day be his son-in-law shaping relationships for future generations?
Times are not as simple forty years after that first handshake. However, I am grateful for The Pasture and the life giving lessons that it bred. I am even more grateful for my dad who, with a strong callused hand shake and an honest word allowed me the experience of life lessons that will never be replaced as, with all progress, The Pasture is turned over to commercial development and a new meaning of a handshake.