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La Grange, TX – Weekly Report – Mar 4-8, 2019

March 13, 2019

Before Interstate 10 was built, US Highway 90 was the main East-West highway through the middle of Texas. It started at Van Horn, extended eastward, and exited Texas into Louisiana.  It eventually ended near Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  It was referred to as the Gulf Coast Highway.  It passed through the southern part of Fayette County, Texas connecting Flatonia and Schulenburg to San Antonio and Houston.

In 1988, Nanci Griffith and James Hooker wrote the song “Gulf Coast Highway.” It describes a couple living along the side of that highway through good times and bad.  Many duos have recorded this iconic song, but the performance by Nanci and James on Austin City Limits is the best.  Look for it on YouTube.

Highway 90, the jobs are gone                      We tend our garden, we set the sun
This is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow
And once a year they come and go    At this old house here by the road

And when we die we say we’ll catch some blackbird’s wing
And we will fly away to heaven                     Come some sweet bluebonnet spring

All of the short term volunteers at La Grange this week were from Hartville, Ohio.  Several had been in La Grange last spring, but this was a larger group and included several who were new to MDS.   This was also the first week for our March team of Long Term volunteers, from Alberta, Manitoba, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  Monday and Tuesday dawned on some of the coldest temperatures for the year, which did not bode well for painting.  Teams were encouraged to seek shelter regularly.  Trips for coffee or hot chocolate were not seen as slacking off, but as important physical and morale boosters.  But, by the end of the week, some people were wearing shorts or, at least, short sleeves, which gave rise to morale trips to Dairy Queen for cold treats.  The real morale boost was the lack of any significant rainfall to affect the work.

MDS has one new house in Schulenburg and one in Flatonia, near what remains of Highway 90.  One lacks only two weeks to completion, while the other is just two weeks old. Great progress was made on both. The newer house is basically complete outside and ready for electrical, plumbing and HVAC contractors to start inside.  This is house number 9 for MDS, and one we will not finish during our remaining weeks.

Ms. Laura and her grandson are thrilled at the progress so far, and expressed their thanks when they joined us for supper at Camp Lost Pines.  The motto on the back of the MDS T-shirts was being carried out… Rebuilding Hope.  Their visit ended with all of us gathered around them as prayers were lifted up, as on a black bird’s wing.

This song also came to mind because we are seeing the promise of a “sweet bluebonnet spring” being fulfilled.  The green of fresh leaves is apparent, and the red indian paintbrush, burgundy wine cups, and pink buttercups are visible almost everywhere.  However, the surprise of seeing a large swath of BLUE in a field or alongside the highway is a really sweet sign of Texas spring.

Inside La Grange, several abandoned yards were showing off as bluebonnet blossoms progressed over the past two weeks. The red house for Ms. Jessica and her family is also progressing.  The work on flooring, interior painting, doors and trim was exceptional.  I knew it would be a productive crew when I saw team members with their own tools, including one member who brought her favorite trim nailer from Ohio.

The house in the pines for Mr. Herman and Ms. Carolyn saw progress in the electrical service connection, the decking and railing outside, and the painting and flooring work done inside. One volunteer experienced with American Sign Language was thrilled to be the translator between the clients and the rest of the crew.  The clients were thrilled to see the interior walls take on the color they had chosen.

Our most western house did not see much work this week as we wait for a septic contractor to do their work.  Bright green siding and the red metal roof give the house the look of pure joy as it waits.  Meanwhile, Ms. Valerie has maintained her joy and spent productive time cleaning up the property in preparation for move-in day.

We enter our last three weeks of work in La Grange mindful that our time here will end.  But that will not occur before new houses are finished, and a couple of other houses are touched by the remaining volunteers. Eventually MDS tools and equipment will be packed up and moved out.  MDS volunteers will head home, carried along by the memories of “Some Sweet Bluebonnet Spring”.

From La Grange, Fayette County, Texas… not far from the Gulf Coast Highway,
Phil, Tom, Larry, Judy, Connie, Lillian, David, Lowell, Willie and Carl