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The Burro Lady is Real

I was looking for an old rough draft on one thing and found this instead. I wrote it about a year ago. As I haven't posted anything in months, now seems as good a time as any. Happy Friday. 

There are a few moments I think I’ve dreamed. 

The caged tiger at the Louisiana gas station off I-10, where we stopped to refuel in the middle of the night on a family road trip. 

Getting lost in the Basel alleys early in the morning during carnaval and repeatedly running into groups of masked, drum-and-pipe-toting revelers. 

These memories, like most, need verification after a while. I pull out a journal, contact a friend, or in the case of the tiger, confirm with Google. 

Of all my uncertain, dream-like memories, none is more surreal than the woman on the burro. 

In 2002, three high school friends and I convinced our parents to lend us a truck and their trust to drive around Texas on spring break. We left Houston for Dallas on a loop that took us north to Amarillo, west to the Davis Mountains and Marfa, then south to Big Bend. As we drove from Marfa to Terlingua, through scrubby desert and the starts of mountains, the woman on the burro appeared, heading towards us on the road shoulder, gone almost as swiftly as we registered her, probably because we were speeding. Had three other people not seen her, I would swear I dreamed her; even though three other people saw her, I still recalled that memory with a twinge of doubt. The woman on the burro felt like a ghost. 

A few weeks ago, a friend from that trip shared this article on Facebook with me, confirming the burro lady is real, not a shared hallucination. 

"You were in the middle of telling your mom, your friend, your lover—whomever—the kind of story you tell on a road trip. Your eyes light on an unexpected shape on the roadside ahead, and as you get closer, spinning along at 70 mph, you stop talking, your mom or your friend or whoever is looking now, too, at the elephantine hump that’s moving steadily down the bar ditch, and you realize, “Hey, that’s a woman on a burro."

It was exactly like that. 

My first reaction to this post, “OMG, you found her! SHE’S REAL.” Before I could finish that thought, I opened the link, and all my excitement faded. The article that brought the burro lady back to me immediately took her away. Burro lady died. In 2007. 

But y’all. The burro lady is real. I kept this to myself for at least an hour or two after finding out, because saying, “The burro lady is real,” sounds idiotic, a point that was emphasized when I finally told my husband, who said, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I’ve tried for weeks to put into words how much this news, despite its age, meant to me. I think about Terlingua often. It’s a lonely place, but knowing I know someone in that cemetery, even if I don’t actually know her, makes me want to go back. 

What memories do you think you've dreamed? 

Blueberry Traditions

Two years ago, I decided I should try to carry on a family tradition of berry picking. From about third grade until I left home, my family spent one Saturday morning each summer at an orchard. We would get up around five or six to arrive early and avoid the worst of the Texas heat. We did it when we lived outside Dallas, and we found a new place when we moved to Houston (The King’s Orchard, now apparently a parking lot for the Renaissance Fair). We’d carpool with family friends, bring sunblock and sandwiches, pick for a few hours, then head home. My mom, in a jumpsuit and gloves, headed to the blackberries. The rest of us stuck to blueberries. When we got home, we made blackberry jam, and bagged and froze the blueberries. And then, blueberries for the rest of the year.


I missed this in college, but never made a real effort to locate a farm near St. Louis. But there are a few options around Louisville, so my first summer in Kentucky, we decided visit Huber’s Orchard. So Gabe and I met some friends at the farm in Starlight, Indiana, where we rode a tractor-pulled flatbed trailer to the blueberry bushes. We picked (and ate) blueberries for at least two hours, and when we checked out, our harvest weighed in at around 20 pounds. The berries lasted us the whole year and were mostly consumed on cereal and in pancakes.