Coming Home

A rediscovery of the familiar

Dave Hensley/Flickr
Dave Hensley/Flickr

When I woke up this past Christmas morning, I turned on the faucet to brush my teeth and no water came out. My pipes had either frozen, or my well had gone dry. I live in a rental house on a cotton farm, and my landlord lives next door. He came over and hooked me up to his well, so I took a shower and spent Christmas with family in Lubbock. Afterward, I left for a month’s residency at an artists’ retreat along the Florida Gulf Coast.

It used to feel better to come home from a bad place than it did to leave home for a good one. Back then, my wife was more than a friend, our children were young, and I’d be returning as a journalist from a foreign war. It’s been different now that I’m divorced and pushing 70 and living alone. Lately it’s felt better to leave home for a good place than it’s felt to come back.

When I returned to Texas this time, it was colder than I’d thought it would be. I picked up my dog from my former wife’s house and hoped that the water was still running in my rental place. It wasn’t, and my neighbor was nowhere to be found. But I had a gallon left in a plastic container, enough to flush my toilet, and there were gallons more at the nearest convenience store a couple of miles away.

The next morning, I took my dog for a walk, and that’s when I rediscovered why I’d fallen in love with Texas.

It started with seeing the land, which was so flat my neighbors said you could watch your dog run away for three days. Then there was the sky, which was all encompassing and so blue that it almost hurt to look at it. A breeze was blowing a few clouds east, and I was walking along with them. Perfect harmony all around.

That night, one of my Texas sons-in-law cooked a brisket weighing 18 ½ pounds. It would take the family a week to eat it all. After dinner, he and my older daughter, grandchildren, former wife, and I watched All the King’s Men, a cautionary tale for politicians who think they can outwit the press.

The next night, my younger daughter, her Texas husband, and I sang along with Van Morrison, read poetry, and cuddled with their cats.

When I got home, there was still no water, but around midnight, I heard my neighbor’s truck pull up. He and his wife had been visiting friends in Dallas. They were happy to see me, and I to see them, but my neighbor was surprised when I told him I still had no water. He said the men working on his well must not have turned the water back on to mine. So he did it himself in a jiffy.

All’s well that ends well. Especially in Texas, with family and friends.

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Dennis Covington, who died in April 2024, was the author of six books, including Salvation on Sand Mountain, a finalist for the National Book Award. His final book was Revelation: A Search for Faith in a Violent Religious World.


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