I decided to get out of town after a brutal week at work. It wasn’t that the work I had to do this week was difficult, it just required a LOT of my time. So I took off a ½ day on Friday, ran some errands, threw some stuff in a bag, and hit the road. Destination: Ingram, Texas, about 2 hours southwest of Austin.
A bit of history…
When my grandmother was in her late 60s, she married her second husband, a widower named Dayton. It was weird because my grandmother had been a single woman for a long time, having divorced my grandfather in the early 1960s. But she was healthy and active, and she and Dayton were a lovely couple, traveling, playing golf, and enjoying their lives together. This was the early 90s, and I was living in Austin completing college. Not long after they married, I learned that Dayton “had a house on the river” in Ingram, and that as long as we took care of it, members of Dayton’s new family (i.e., Grandma’s kids and grandkids) could use it as a place to get away.
The first time I went to the house—which is really just a stone cabin--it was with mom and Roy. They had gone down for a week, and I drove down and joined them for a weekend. It was summer time, and we’d be awoken each morning by the loudspeaker announcements and the sound of “Revillie” being played over the p.a. of the summer camp across the river. And despite the fact that it was hot outside, the house’s placement at the top of a sloping hill and the breezes off the Guadalupe River kept it perfectly pleasant out on the shaded porch.
The place is rustic, but is brimming with charm. The property it’s situated on is worth god-knows-what these days. It was originally built by Dayton’s mother as a place for him to live while attending college at Schreiner College in nearby Kerrville in the late 1930s. It has one bathroom, concrete floors, a sleeping porch, a big stone fireplace, a flagstone patio overlooking the river, and a swimming pool. It is one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been. His mother aptly named the house “Shangri-la,” and there is a guest book with signatures dating back to 1938. In the den, there is a beautiful wooden Edison hand crank record player along with a bunch of thick Edison and Decca label 78s in the storage drawer. Hanging above the mantle is an old painting of Will Rogers framed in rope. In the built in wooden china shelves, there is a full set of “Bucks County” dishes that would fetch lots-o-dough on E-bay. This place is practically frozen in time, but it has cable and central heat and air.
My grandmother passed away unexpectedly in 1999, and I’ve only been here once since then. We had a “girls” weekend when a few of my girlfriends came down, we drank a bunch of beer, cooked out and just enjoyed hanging out. I have wanted to come since then, but it was always awkward asking Dayton after my grandmother was gone. Dayton passed away a few months ago, and his son Lee was nice enough to let me know that the cabin was available to be enjoyed…at least until they sell it…which will be soon. So I suspect this will truly be the last time I ever come here. They’ll sell it, and he and his sister, who have little if any emotional attachment to this place, will make a gazillion dollars off the property alone. And I’m sure someone will simply tear down this humble cabin and build a huge monstrosity in its place. Indeed, since I first started coming here, large, modern homes have sprung up all around Shagri-la, where there used to be empty land. I’m sure some real estate investor is sitting off in the wings like some vaudeville villain, wringing his hands, waiting for the day he can get his claws on this land. When I got here, the cabin needed a good airing out, and it was a bit dusty, but other than that, it’s in good shape. Once I got the car unloaded, I made a grocery list and went to the grocery store. I spent a quiet, relaxing night by myself, just reading and watching TV. Somehow just being here makes the stress of life’s craziness melt away.