My buddy, The Wanderer, did a story based on this same song by Charlie Pride 'bout six months ago. His story is called "Crystal's Chandeliers" and is based in England ... giving it a totally different background. I'd been planning on doing this story for some time but he beat me to the punch! He graciously said okay for me to give it a shot too.
Thanks, as always, to techsan for his timely and accurate editing (that means he gets credit for the good stuff and all errors are mine!) In addition, for this story he shared some anecdotes about barbeques in the Southern part of Texas.
Oh, the crystal chandeliers light up the paintings on your wall
The marble statuettes are standing stately in the hall
But will the timely crowd that has you laughing loud help you
dry your tears
When the new wears off of your crystal chandeliers.
COLETO CREEK RANCH - CHUCK
The two thousand acre ranch had been in the family since old Amos Curtain had come to Texas to dig wild cattle out of the scrub brush northwest of Matagorda Bay. Amos - less his right arm left behind in Vicksburg - did admirably well in pulling together enough of the scrawny longhorns to do a drive along the dusty, old Opelousas Trail to New Orleans.
When it got crowded there he moved west to the brush country southwest of San Antonio. Old Amos had kept the name of the original ranch even though the new place was 150 miles west of Coleto Creek. A few years later, drives were made up the Chisholm and Goodnight Trails to Kansas.
Over the years the ranch grew, reaching its largest size of around nine thousand acres around 1890. After that the ranch was gradually broken down as land was given to offspring over the generations. I was an only child and my dad was fifty-seven when I was born. By the time I was old enough to know what was going on, the ranch was pretty much out of business.
Mom moved into a nursing home and I went to college in Lubbock in the Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management program at Texas Tech. I was Charles Curtain but everyone called me Chuck ... had since I was a toddler. When I finished school, I took a job in San Antonio as an assistant manager of one of the better hotels, The Sam Houston, close to the Alamo and the River Walk. I was able to keep the ranch ... well, at least I paid the taxes.
It seemed that all the guys I met – first in college and later at the hotel - loved to hunt so we'd go down to my ranch and hunt whatever was in season: ranging from huge whitetails, to wild hogs, javelinas, bobcats, and coyotes. There were a number of other animals, many of which could be hunted every day of the year.
At the suggestion of a banker from Houston, I put together a brochure on hunting at the ranch and started leaving it at other hotels besides the Sam Houston. Business started picking up and I hired a girl I'd more or less fallen in love with, Sophie Adler, to take care of details for me. She was a professor in the English department at UTSA. I'd met her at a party a bunch of people from the hotel had put together. I guess she'd came with her roommate who worked at the hotel.
She was quite pretty and definitely the tallest girl I'd ever met up close and personal. With her high heels on she was actually a bit taller than I was. When I first saw her standing at the other side of the room, the words that came to mind were long, tall and lanky. She was wearing a black sheath dress that showed her short dishwater blond curls and slim, curvy shape off to advantage.
We danced a few times and seemed to hit it off. I liked how bright she was. We were at the recreation center of a large apartment complex and wandered out by the pool. Sitting down while we sipped our drinks, we chatted about a wide range of subjects. I was totally taken with her. Sure, I had a number of girlfriends over the years – growing up and in college – but none of them moved me the way Sophie did.
I did arrange a dinner for the next week and later in my hotel room (a perk as assistant manager) I thought about her. I don't know that I believed in love at first sight but I was sure smitten with her. Even clearer in my mind, I was head over heels in lust with her. It wasn't any one thing about her but the total package excited the hell out of me.
A few months after I met her I was hosting a barbeque out at the ranch and made sure she was invited. Watching her play volleyball in her brief, tight shorts and tank top was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen. She was the best volleyball player – man or woman – that I'd ever seen. It seemed so effortless and she seemed to particularly enjoy slamming the ball in the faces of the guys across the net leering at her. She jumped higher than I would have thought possible with an effortless grace ... it almost seemed in slow motion.
She seemed interested in the ranch so I invited her out the next weekend to show her around. I looked forward all week to her visit. This was mid-summer and hot so I told her to dress casual and comfortable. When I picked her up she was wearing low-cut jean shorts and a white blouse tied at the waist. The top two buttons were undone showing ample cleavage ... damn!
I showed her around the house first. I'd mostly closed off the upstairs – it was too much for me to keep up. I'd made what had been a large, pecan-paneled library into my bedroom. I'd knocked out a door in the wall connecting to a bathroom and remodeled it: taking out the old claw tub and putting in a large shower and new sink and toilet. It came out real nice. I was pleased since I'd done most of the work myself.
The kitchen was huge, taking up the back third of the first floor of the house. I'd installed new appliances since I needed to feed the guys that came out to hunt. I would hire one of the neighbor ladies to come in to do the cooking.
I showed Sophie the outbuildings and the firing range – and explained to her why I had to have one. As we were driving out in my jeep – it was an old WWII Willys Jeep I'd restored while in high school – Sophie asked about the three log cabins.
"This is where the hunters stay. They come anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. I am the hunting guide whenever I can but I usually have to hire some of the locals. I could make a lot more money if I had someone to help with the cooking and do all the scheduling. If I can do that I think I could quit the hotel and do this full time."
We stopped and looked through the cabins. They were small and simple but very clean and utilitarian. They each had a fireplace, two small bedrooms and a decent sized living room.
"Chuck, if you don't mind my asking, what does someone pay to come here and hunt?"
"Well, a good example is the whitetail deer. I charge $3,500 for a four-day hunt for one buck and three does. A spring turkey hunt is $1,000 for three days." I could see her eyes get big at this, so I continued, "Well, we don't have hunters in continuously, and I have to pay a good chunk of that money to hire guides and cooks/cleaners."
She looked thoughtful at this and we continued the tour of the ranch. It really was quite beautiful and we saw a lot of wildlife that I pointed out to her as we drove around. I'd picked up lunch at a deli near the hotel and had it packed in a cooler with a couple bottles of one of the nicer Chardonnays – they were from Chalk Hill out in Sonoma County in the California wine country.
The couple that owned it had been out hunting a couple of times – mostly quail and dove – and sent me a case for Christmas each year. They had stayed at the hotel several times and I made sure they were well taken care of.
We wound up at the lunch spot a little after noon at the place I'd picked out. There was a year 'round creek with a deep pool that was my swimmin' hole as a kid. I'd trucked in a homemade picnic table and parked it on a grassy slope under a huge live oak. It was the prettiest spot on the ranch. We enjoyed the lunch and lay on a blanket afterwards.
We'd kissed a few times, maybe some light petting but nothing really serious had happened on our dates. I had some hopes but between the wine, food and the hot afternoon we fell asleep after a few gentle kisses. I woke to the relatively cold feeling of water being splashed on me. Sophie's husky laugh was slowly penetrating my heat-logged mind.
I sat up ... and saw Sophie standing waist deep in the water with water slowly trickling down her breasts. She laughed at me and ducked under the water, swimming to the far side of the small but deep pool. Not needing an invitation I slipped out of my jeans and tee shirt and walked the few steps to the creek – her eyes were on me as I stepped into the warmish, clear water. Her face was flushed ... I didn't think it was the heat.
I slowly swam over to her - meeting her with a wet embrace. Our kiss started slowly and rapidly became passionate. With one hand on her firm breast, I ran the other up and down her back, coming to rest on her buttocks. We stayed there, petting each other with a growing lust and then with an unspoken agreement we swam back to our picnic area.
She got out first and walked over to the blanket. I stood there unmoving, admiring her taut body. She had wide shoulders that tapered to a small waist then flared over her hips and enticingly lovely derrière. I noticed that her broad hips, her slender waist and the cleavage of her rear end created an almost perfect shape of a heart.
She lay on the blanket and opened her arms to me. I knelt beside her, kissing her at first tenderly, then with a deep passion. While we were kissing I massaged her breasts, her larger than expected nipples becoming turgid with her need. I knew as I took her nipple in my mouth – one then the other - that I had fallen in love with her and wanted to do my all to make her happy.
I brought her to several strong orgasms orally. As she relaxed and came down from the intense reaction of her body, I entered her and we slowly made love. We came at the same time, me with an intensity I'd never known before and Sophie with a more relaxed long slow trembling.
We fell asleep in the hot, dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves of the live oak, sweat running from our bodies in runnels. Later we rinsed in the creek and made love once more, slowly and with love in that beautiful creek-side glade.
As we drove away from that loving interlude, I knew that Sophie was the one for me ... the love of my life.
As a girl growing up in Providence, three things seemed to totally occupy my mind: reading and writing, volleyball and Brown University.
I was an avid reader from an early age. I would read anything I could get my hands on: fiction, non-fiction, magazines and newspapers ... I had very eclectic tastes. Of course, my mom tried to get me out of the house: "the sun's shining; it's summer – go outside and play!" But it fell on deaf ears! When I was "in the zone" the house could fall down and I wouldn't notice.
When I was twelve, I knew I was going to be a writer. I started writing as much as I had been reading. I wrote stories. I wrote letters to the editor. I wrote erotic love notes ... and then tore them up with a red face! But I knew – I just knew that I was going to be a writer!
Between my twelfth and thirteenth year I grew. I mean I grew! In about eighteen months I went from 5'2'' to 5'11''. I was just starting to get a few curves that seemed to go away the taller I got. Tired of mom's nagging me to do something besides reading all day, I joined the church volleyball team. And I liked it! I was good. I seemed to turn into a different person on the court.
Instead of this mousy (in my mirror anyway) scarecrow, I was this vicious killer. I would always seem to be in the right place – I poached, I fudged, I moved but I loved to slam that ball down on someone's face. I especially liked to spike on one of those "little miss prissy" girls that had the looks, the clothes and the friends that I didn't have.
I kept this love of volleyball the rest of my life. I played in high school every year and the same for Brown. In college I was all conference each year. At picnics after I got married, we would have these pick–up volleyball games. Oh, was it fun to slam the ball at one of those macho beer bellies!
High school was boring for me. I was smart, maybe too smart. I sure didn't seem to be what the boys were looking for. The guys all seemed to be about six inches shorter than me or else some jock with an IQ of 12. I was lucky as a sophomore with a teacher that understood me and what it was that I needed. Connie had gone to Brown, eventually getting a master's degree in Comparative Literature. She told me about their great summer programs, open to high-school students.
I started taking the summer mini-courses in Comparative Literature at Brown during high school and as a senior took the seven week class. The mini-courses were not for credit but I learned a great deal from them. They were in small class format and were great fun. I would spend the next school year building on what I had studied the previous summer.
The first year I took a Shakespeare class – an acting class where we studied and put on "Romeo and Juliet." It was fantastic; really opened my eyes. Over the next year I read all of Shakespeare's plays and joined the school drama department and had parts in plays until I graduated.
The second summer was on English poets. I fell in love with Wordsworth's work and read everything he wrote. It was such a passion for me that I talked my parents into a vacation to the Lake District in England. We stayed at the Glen Rothay Hotel, across the road from Rydal Water. It was a famous old place, dating to the seventeenth century but important to me because it backed up on Dora's Field, immortalized by Wordsworth.
For two weeks I dragged my parents to every noteworthy place in the area that was famous somehow for the connection with the great poet. Both mom and dad were really swell about it. Dad particularly liked to sit at night with his pipe in the tiny bar, smoky from the coal fire, beautifully paneled walls, huge timbers in the ceiling blackened by centuries of the coal smoke. The bar had over forty single malts and he said he would do anything I wanted during the day as long as we let him relax in the bar at night.
Like volleyball, Wordsworth remained a lifelong passion and I always yearned to return to Rydal mount. I finally did when I had a semester in London. I spent hours and hours perusing old bookstores along Charing Cross Road. Mom was forever sending me a bit more money when I begged.
I dated a reserve mid-fielder for Arsenal for a few months but all he wanted to do was shag (as he called it) but I wanted to learn about the city ... it had such a marvelous history and so much culture!
Jens was from Germany – and while he was incredibly fit and taught me more about sex that I knew there was to learn – he was terribly boring. A couple months of him and I almost felt like becoming a nun.
I had written a lot of stuff – mostly poetry and short stories - by the time I finished at Brown. I needed to find an agent and see if I could make the grade. I immediately thought of Aaron Paul. Aaron had been a guest lecturer at the seven-week summer course, and had seemed very interested in me. Too interested, really, but by then I guess I had become cynical and expected he would want a bit of quid pro quo for helping me.
Aaron was an interesting guy – smart as hell, even more cynical than I'd become - and attractive in an overblown way. I was able to get enough stuff published in various magazines to get an offer from the Times in New York to work in their Book Review section.
This gained me a lot of experience and contacts on one hand but on the other I became surer than ever that I wanted to write a novel. I started on it but I could see that it needed more dedication than I was able to give it. With the piecemeal writing that I was doing I kept losing the thread of what I originally had in mind.
Through a friend I made contact and was offered a position as an adjunct professor teaching creative writing at UT San Antonio. I had three classes a semester, leaving me plenty of time to write. With some money from dad each month, I was able to do okay. A colleague in the Art Department asked me to work on a children's book with her. She had the idea all mapped out in her mind and we worked well together. The book sold moderately well and this gave me another source of income.
I fell in love with the city and River Walk and the great restaurants. In response to an ad, I found an apartment to share – tiny but clean – with a girl that worked the night shift at the Sam Houston Hotel. The location was great – close in – and the small size turned out not to be a problem since she was gone during the evening and I was gone during the day.
One Saturday when she wasn't working she invited me to a party with some of her co-workers. One of them, Charles Curtain, was the most masculine man I'd ever met. He was quiet, just a bit taller than I was, with fairly short brown hair. He could have been the model for the Marlboro Man.
He didn't tell me but I was able to quickly discern that if you called him Charles he wouldn't even hear you. He was Chuck all the way. He was a better than fair dancer and a great conversationalist. This really surprised me though I couldn't say why. We started dating on and off – nothing very serious – until I found out he had a large ranch. For some reason this excited me. I guess I had visions of thousands of cattle with dollar signs instead of eyes.
Chuck didn't talk much about it, just that it had been in the family for a long time. In my daydreams I saw myself ensconced in a lavish ranch house, hidden in my writing room, and cranking out hit novels one after the other.
I finally saw the ranch when Chuck invited a lot of people he worked with for a Sunday afternoon barbeque. There were about forty people there and it was tons of fun. He had a volleyball area set up – sand and all – and I was in my zone. I was taller than about half the men and in better shape than almost all of them. I was very competitive – maybe too much so – and several of the girls were giving me dirty looks.
The ranch was nice. The house was an old but a well-maintained three-story monstrosity. All the other ranch buildings were also in good shape. There were several small log cabins and I asked Chuck what they were for.
"There is a huge demand in Texas for places to hunt. A lot of the money people in Dallas and Houston lease the hunting rights to large ranches and treat it like their private reserve. I provide the same service to hunters that don't want or need full time access, and to hunters from out of state.
"It works well for me. I'm able to keep up with the taxes on this place. To be honest, I think it is much more attractive now that I've let the land go back pretty much to it's native state. Hey, if you have time next Sunday, I'll bring you out and give you a tour."
So I found myself that following weekend at the ranch with Chuck. I realized that this was the first time I'd be really alone with him for an extended period of time. He had a cooler in the back of his jeep with a picnic lunch.
Well, clearly this wasn't the rich ranch I'd been envisioning, but by then I think I'd half fallen in love with Chuck. The ranch did look like a quiet place to write, and there were a half-dozen rooms that would all make a good studio. I decided then and there that Chuck would make a good husband. He was nice looking, polite while losing none of his masculinity, and comfortable to be with. Half in love seemed good enough for my needs. I just had this burning need to be a famous author.