Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

Making a Dam in Segovia

Bob Winship and I are at his ranch in Segovia, Texas, an hour and a half west of San Antonio, standing on the bank above the Johnson Fork of the Llano, which cuts across the corner of his property on its way north to the Colorado.

“Guidry [that’s Mike Guidry, out from Houston, who lays claim to one of Winship’s hunters’ cabins] put in a trotline last night, and he said the river’s silted in. But it’s not that.” He points to the rock dam that arches two thirds of the way across to a tapering shoal. “The dam’s got gaps in it.”

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” I start to say to him, then do, because he’s an English teacher too—on occasion only, now that he’s retired.

He picks up on the Frost allusion. “Well, two can’t pass abreast through them, but there’re gaps just the same.”

“And apparently Nature wants the dam down.”

“Maybe, but I don’t,” he says, “and this is my slice of river here, my stones, my time and energy, and I’m going to put it back up. Guidry’s shamed me. A man can take what Nature deals him, until some man shames him into resisting, and repairing.”

“Or some woman,” I say. “They’re much better at shaming you into doing things than men are.”

I want to remind him of Emerson’s “Hamatreya,” a poem in which Earth mocks boastful men who claim ownership of the soil, but I let it go. Besides, this is river and stones, and maybe they’re different, though I don’t see how; seems to me a river’s even more unclaimable than dirt since it moves away always. Maybe the stones. Maybe you can claim them since they stay pretty much where you put them until a great swell rolls them around. Whatever. Philosophy’s wearisome out here, with so many things to look at and so many things to do. The water’s as clear as newly Windexed glass, polished almost, and slick except where it ripples thin across the stony bottom.

-51-

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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