Clarity and Trust in the Texas hill country: part 1


Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

Carolyn Horton handed me a pistol. “It’s scatter shot,” she said. “So you don’t need to have good aim, just point and shoot.”

She walked back up the ranch house. I’d only been in Texas for a few hours.

Mommy and I stood in the sun by the Pedernales river.


Listening to the small rapids. Framed by the high bluffs across the river. Keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes – who, if they appeared, would get a surprise from the old cowboy pistol just handed to me. The snake charmer.

I guess that’s how an adventure in the Texas hill country should start. Pistol in hand. Rattlers starting to come out for the spring.

It had been way too long since your Mommy and I had gotten away – just the two of us. On our 10th anniversary we were taking care of newborn preemies. So this year we took a belated anniversary trip to celebrate 14 years of marriage and 15 years together.

We decided to visit Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Roy’s 210-acre Texas Land Conservancy protected ranch outside of Johnson City, TX. Half way between Austin and San Antonio.

We flew out Friday morning. Both of us needed a little escape from the day to day routine desperately. My mind was a mess. Full of questions. Fresh from the illness, that for a few weeks, I had come to accept might be cancer. It wasn’t, of course. But among other things it taught me that life is short. And I’m done waiting for just the right time for everything. So we bought some plane tickets and set out on a adventure.

Mommy and I used to take lots of adventures to together. Real deal – swimming with eels, heavy whitewater, middle of nowhere adventures. Lately though life hasn’t been much bigger than our little suburban neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, you kids are the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me – and you’re quite an adventure yourselves, but we needed to get out there. By the time you’re reading this you probably already understand.

Friday morning I put my Stetson hat, Ariat ropers, and 1974 Jimmy Buffett tee shirt on and strolled through the Nashville International Airport like I owned it.

“I love how your chest swells up and you strut with confidence when you wear that hat,” said Mommy. “Just a little bit of arrogance.” She smiled.

“I cain’t help if I’m a pro bull rider, ma’m,” I said. Loud enough for the other waiting passengers to hear. She kicked me real easy.

On the flight I put my headphones on and started a rotation of Pat Green, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, and the Grateful Dead.

“Help on the Way” by the Dead sticks out in my mind from the plane ride.

I think it played as I thumbed through my tattered copy of “Where is Joe Merchant” by Jimmy Buffett.


I write to you kids a lot about looking for answers. Struggling with this stage of my life. It’s not pretty. Sometimes its embarrassing. But I’m being honest. I’m searching. Trying to muscle my way through something.

On Easter we went to church with Nana and Papaw. Someone told a story about Mother Theresa and a man who came to her seeking “clarity” in his life. He wanted to know what his greater purpose was. All the answers. No more confusion. She turned him away and told him there is no “clarity” here on Earth. Only Faith. Only Trust. He got no clarity. That story stuck in my head. Faith and Trust and the rest is up to us.

As I read through “Where is Joe Merchant” for what must be the 10th time I came upon this passage:


I folded the edge of the page down. Closed the book. Looked out the window of the plane at the clouds below. Opened the book and read it again. I looked at your sleeping Mommy. Closed my eyes and drifted with the music. No more answers, I thought as we flew from Nashville to Austin.  Mother Theresa and Jimmy Buffett both…I took it as a sign.

We drove down this long dirt road, in the hill country. Aunt Carolyn handed me a gun by the river and we set out to forget questions and answers both.


I tell you more about the trip and include a bunch of pictures in my next letter.

I love you,

– Daddy