Mesquite wood seems to be catching on with a lot of us. As a native Texan I have trouble considering mesquite anything but a weed and great for smoking BBQ. But I did order a nice slab from Texas and I am making it part of a series of tables to be used in an executive suite to hold various awards and momentos.
I lived in Texas for much of my life and when I think about mesquite my mind goes back to dove and quail hunting on Mama Jesse’s place. It is in the middle of the state where the Texas Hill Country meets the rolling plaines of West Texas. She arrived in Mercury, Texas in a horse-drawn wagon from Tennessee. Daddy Jonce died about 10 years before Mama Jess but in the time they were young and together she came to hate rattlesnakes. If you are in mesquite habitat, you are in rattlesnake habitat, its a fact.
The reason Mama Jesse hated rattlesnakes is because of what happened when it stormed and thunder heads reaching more than 40,000 feet bred tornados. With no radio or emergency warnings Mama Jesse and Daddy Jonce had to march the kids to the make shift storm shelter when the weather was threatening. It was no more than a hole cut in almost solid rock with a metal sheet as a cover. When it started raining scorpions, black widow spiders, tarantulas and, yes, rattle snakes crawled in to get out of the rain. Mama Jesse came to hate all of these creatures but she held a special dark place for the rattlesnake.
Once Mama Jesse was cutting down the mesquite trees around her tank—a hole in the ground that provided her drinking water. She was more than 80 years old and walked up the path to the house and a rattle snake confronted her. I asked her what she did and she said “Why, I chunked him.” I figure Nolan Ryan knew what she meant. He could chunk a pretty good fast ball.
She raised a large rock over her head. By her description I figure it was the size of a typewriter or a bowling ball. She raised it over her head and as she did, she fell and landed face to face with the rattler. I’m sure the rattler thought she was getting down to fight at his level but only a moment later the rock came down and landed on the rattler’s head. In his last moments I am sure the rattler thought she was about to bite him.
My best Mama Jesse story dealt with a mesquite tree. In other parts of the world you would think of them as shrubs but in Texas they are trees. Once one of Mama Jesse’s sons pulled up the driveway and noticed that the mesquite tree growing out of the foundation of her house was blown to pieces. Her son asked, “Mama what did you do to your house?” “Well, I pulled up and there was a rattler hiding behind the mesquite tree so I got my .410 shotgun out of the trunk of the car.” She said how she ran from one side of the tree to the other to cut off the snake. In the process she had shot up her house and left gaping holes where she missed the snake and hit the house. Some of those holes were six feet off the ground and for the life of me I cannot figure how the snake got there.
Her son said, (and I bet you never said this to your grandmother) “Mama, don’t shoot your house any more!”
Now this is a true story. Every fact is a fact.
A few months later her son drove up and saw that the mesquite tree had been burned down and there were two large burn marks on the side of her house.
“Mama, What did you do?”
Well, I saw that rattlesnake again and I remembered what you said about the house so I went to the garage and got a jug of gasoline…...”
That very day the mesquite tree was chopped down and I am sure that somewhere there is a snake writing a blog about the crazy, 80 year old great-grandmother and how she shot at him and tried to burn him in a tree…
So as I work that mesquite and tame it for my project my mind will be on Mama Jesse and how she enriched the lives of everyone who came to know her.
-- If she asks please tell my wife that I can sell my tools for what I paid, okay?