Appointment in Balmorhea


Sena gazed around. "It is peaceful here. You put this in another setting, perhaps even in your Davis Mountains, and this would not be so special. But, surrounded by all of this desert, it makes a nice contrast. A true oasis."

"You calling my Texas ugly?" Jim Ed answered, smiling.

"Let's say the immediate surroundings are not the prettiest part of Texas."

They took long smiling looks at each other. Both knew, as surely as the sun rises in the east, what would soon happen. After a little more small talk, they walked to a cabin.

Sena lost her virginity to a fellow teenaged actor, as inexperienced at love making as she. Her second lover, an older experienced actor, was more adept. He was Italian, and they were filming in a romantic part of Italy. Her third was a Hollywood producer, called Sudden Sam. Sena thought the nickname also suited his bedroom performance.

Then she saw a black pro running back on the sly. He worked as hard at keeping it a secret as she did. Her publicist warned her that this could ruin her career. Somehow, the press never picked up on it.

She had dated and gone to bed with Nigel several months before she married him.

Sena had lovers better at foreplay than Jim Ed. She had ones better endowed, but not by much. She had been with men who perhaps lasted longer. But, Sena had never been with someone has all around satisfying as Jim Ed. Part of it, she later reasoned, was his need, which he did not try to hide. He used her with an urgency that others had not. And Sena used him, too.

After a couple of hours, they donned their swimming gear and dipped back in the pool. Then, after beer, they napped in the shade.

"We only have an hour before we need to head back. Do you want to go back to the cabin?" Jim Ed queried.

"Thought you would never ask," Sena answered, with a big smile.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Through the remaining time on location, Sena had six off days. Midway through the shoot, the Hollywood press arrived by train from El Paso. All of the principal cast members gave several interviews. Sena posed, chest out and head back, with one arm around Ernesto Sanchez. Look Magazine featured an article, "Filming on Texas' High Plains-Sena, Jim, and Rick [Sena's leading man] Experience the True Texas."

Ernesto was disappointed that his photo appeared on the inside, with the caption, "Sena grabs a real Texas cowboy." Jim Greene hunted rattlesnakes with a headlight, like a miner's light. A brooding Jim, with headlight attached, made Look's cover photo.

The religious house bossette and cook, Hermalinda, would kill Jim Ed if he shacked up with an unmarried woman. So, on two of the remaining off days, Jim Ed and Sena visited a natural lake on Jim Ed's West Section. His dad's ashes were scattered on Tom's favorite ridge, aptly called Tom's Ridge, which overlooked the lake. A ten yard wide and long simple platform stood at the lake's edge. With nothing but a sheet under them, they made love on summer nights.

A few years later, a paparazzo would have creeped forward, shot the couple from several angles, and retired rich.

On the other three of Sena's off days, the couple returned to the springs and cabin at Balmorhea.

On their last night together, Sena lay down in an open space. They could hear the springs, but view the clear, starry sky.

"There must be several thousand stars that I can see from here," Sena said. She watched a shooting star, and then another.

"Are you afraid some alien up there may come for us?" she asked.

"Naw ," Jim Ed answered. "If they are smart enough to watch us and we don't know it, they are not interested in us. They sure are not interested in some dumb Texas cow."

Sena laughed. Her hands were behind her back. She glanced at Jim Ed, who was sitting in the grass and leaning on one arm. "What are you afraid of?" she asked.

He looked at her and glanced around. "I am afraid that I am not as dependable as I should be."

"Have you done anything that makes you think you are not?"

"A couple of things lately. But, I am working on it."

Sena asked," Is there anything else you are afraid of?"

He slowly laid his head in her lap. His head rolled as he surveyed the stars. "I am afraid that Junior may not like it here well enough to stay."

"Does he give you any indication?"

He gave the thumbs up sign. "He loves working cattle. He is interested in breeding. He reads the Stockman's Quarterly, something I don't get through. Ernesto and I are working with him on roping. Junior loves roping. And Junior likes working with horses so much that he already does not want to go to school. That is not a good thing," Jim Ed said, laughing.

He looked up at her. She was running her hand through his hair.

"What about you. What are you afraid of?"

Sena glanced over at some late night swimmers. She turned her head toward a cottonwood tree- a gust of wind rattled its leaves.

"I am afraid, many years from now, that I will be disappointed that I was not the actress that I could have been."

He asked her, "You mean if you don't win an Oscar or two?"

"An Oscar would be nice. This is such a good role with Big Texan that I have a shot. But, more than approval from others, I want to know that I gave it my best. Do you know what I mean?"

He gazed at her. Then he slowly shook his head. "I think so. It's kinda the way I feel about being responsible. I judge myself on that."

"I have a few years left of being a leading romantic lady. Then, I may then get some leading character roles. Eventually, especially if my looks fade more than a little, I will have to play the jealous mother or the eccentric aunt. Some actresses rather retire. But me, I think I will work as long as I can. It is all that I have ever been interested in."

Jim Ed asked, "Is there anything else that you are afraid of?"

Sena looked down at him a long while, his head still in her lap. "I hope that my daughter will not want to be an actress. I want her to have a normal life. Settle down, with a normal guy, and have kids."

"Hell, you just want grandkids," he said, grinning.

Sena laughed. "That is part of it. But, this life is not for everyone. I have been very lucky. Plus, things don't always go well in the acting world for kids of famous actresses."

"It is strange. I want my kid to like what I like, and stay here. But, you want something different for Sierra."

Sena smiled. "Life is strange. We still have some cabin time left. Then, I need to get back."

Jim Ed stood and pulled her up. "As Ernesto says, "Time is a wasting-we are burning moonlight."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

A couple of hours later, Jim Ed's pickup pulled up next to her trailer.

"Ernesto and Maria said they would be here Tuesday to say goodbye and see us off. Will you come, too?"

Jim Ed grinned. He tilted his gray hat back. "I am not much on goodbyes."

"If you ever come to Hollywood, look me up. Ernesto has the address of my agent, who can always find me. I will show you the town."

"I saw Hollywood, before I shipped out with the Marines, in '43. I took a tour of a studio. I even had a few drinks with Dana Andrews, at the Silver Dollar Bar, on Whittier Boulevard, in East L.A."

"Sena's mouth dropped. She shook her head. "We have talked several hours, the last several weeks. You never mentioned that you had been in California. I grew up there."

Jim Ed held up his hands and smiled. "It never came up."

Sena shook her head. She looked him in the eyes for awhile. Then she leaned over and kissed him. "You are an unusual man, Mr. Jim Ed Andrews."

She got out of the pickup, stood and waved. He grinned and waved back. Suddenly, Sena was not sure of something. She stepped toward the pickup. But, Jim Ed was driving off. He did not look back

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

February 22, 1957

Sena Miller

c/o Bernie Goldblum

2835 Cienegas

Hollywood, California

Dear Sena,

I hope this gets to you. I am sending it to the address you gave me. If you see different handwriting, that is Maria's, correcting me, ha.

Last night, Maria, Jim Ed, Junior and I saw the premier of Big Texan. Jim Greene was here, along with Cold Wells. I understand you could not come from Egypt. Are you getting another accent to play somebody in Egypt?

We really liked the movie. The pictures of the sunsets were great. Almost as good as the real thing, ha. We will bring Junior next time. I can see why Jim wanted to learn to fiddle with a rope in the scene where they are trying to persuade him to give up his power. It looked like he might have been tying a quick fix knot that I taught him. But, the screen did not go low enough to tell. I asked Jim. He laughed but did not answer.

Everything is going good here. Everyone says hello, including Jim Ed. You were good for him. He cut back on his heavy drinking when he started seeing you. You are a good person. You were good for him in other ways, too.

Please visit us again. If we can ever help you, let us know.

Your friend,

Ernesto Garza

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

March 16, 1957

Mr. Ernesto Garza, Foreman

Andrews Ranch

Marfa, Texas

Dear Ernesto,

My agent Bernie is on the ball. He forwarded and I received your letter two weeks after your postmark. It is very nice to hear from you. I am glad you like the movie. Rumor is that in a few days I may be nominated for Best Actress. Maybe this time, I will win!

I am playing an American visiting Egypt. So, I do not have an Egyptian accent for this role. Besides, I am not good with accents. I did not adopt an accent for Big Texan either,, ha.

I am glad everyone is okay. I miss Sierra. She is in school in Los Angeles. We talk almost every day. Tell Maria and Hermalinda that I miss their enchiladas, especially over here.

I do hope to get back to visit some day.

Hugs and kisses


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Over the next several years, Sena was nominated twice again for Best Actress. She won for the second, which gave her two wins, counting the one for Big Texan. She was still the leading romantic lead, and once was the love interest of an character several years younger- unusual for Hollywood in the 1960s. She even had a brief affair with the young stud actor.

Then, at age thirty six, Sena fell in love for the first time since Nigel, although she had wondered what would have happened with Jim Ed, if given more time. This would be it. She and Erik, a developer of television sitcoms, would grow old together.

Looking back, she could not remember that they argued. The sex with Eric was regular and good. Sierra even liked him.

Suddenly, Sena did not meet his emotional needs. Eric moved from their Bel Air home. A thirty something supporting actress in a television sitcom related better to him than Sena, he claimed.

Sena remembered that she had not tried very hard to patch things up with her first husband. She tried to reconcile with Erik. She swallowed her pride, more than once. But, Erik never seemed interested. Eventually, she filed for divorce.

In 1966, Sena finished the on location shoot in New Orleans. She longed for some quiet time, and to perhaps revisit her friends in Marfa. She rented a Pontiac GTO, and drove first to visit some friends in San Antonio. With some thick, dark sunglasses and a scarf, Sena and her friends dined on San Antonio's Riverwalk. She drew some long stares. One middle-aged fellow, dining alone, watched her silently. As he prepared to leave, he gave her another long look. Sena smiled, briefly pulled off her shades, and waved. That made him sure. He smiled broadly, stood triumphant, waved, and left.

Sena's friends died a little to not let on that she was visiting. But, they kept quiet, until Sena was on the road again.

This GTO had a lot of giddyup, Sena thought. She wished some of her lovers had possessed this much giddyup. Jim Ed, on those high plains near Marfa that she planned to visit, had come close.

Sena originally thought how pleasantly surprised her Marfa friends would be when she arrived, unannounced. As the miles rolled by, doubts surfaced. She passed the first opportunity, at Fort Stockton, to turn southwest. She reflected that some of her grand entrances at parties over the years had been greeted with less fanfare than she expected. Plus, she was deciding, people just do not like surprises.

Sena approached Balmorhea. This was her last opportunity to head southwest, directly into the Davis Mountains, and Marfa beyond. She would spend time at the Balmorhea Springs. If Ernesto, Jim Ed, or someone else she knew happened to be there, this would be a sign from above that she should visit her friends.

The springs and the area had not changed. Sena rested poolside for an hour, some of the time without her sunglasses. She drew long looks. But, no one believed the famous actress would simply reappear, without notice.

Sena finally fired up the GTO. She imagined rolling up at the Andrews Ranch. Something just did not seem right. She headed north, hooked up on a better road at Pecos. At Van Horn, Sena called Bernie her agent, and asked for transport at El Paso. A few hours later, Sena boarded a private jet at El Paso, and headed for home, to California.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

March 10, 1966

Dear Ernesto,

Do you remember me? Ha. I am sorry that I have not dropped you a note in the last ten years. I guess someone there tells you what is in the gossip columns.

I hope everyone is okay. You may know that recently I went through another divorce. But, I am doing okay. My daughter Sierra is seventeen.. Luckily, she does not want to be an actress. But, I am concerned that she does not seem too interested in anything, except having a good time. I really intend to visit all of you again. I may do it soon. I guess that is why I finally am sending another note. Give my love to everyone.

Hugs and kisses


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

March 17, 1966

Dear Sena,

We enjoyed your note. The ladies here for sure keep me up to date with the news about you. We never miss any of your movies, either. I am sorry that things did not work out for you with that last guy.

Maria has some health problems, but still gets around and bosses me pretty good. Hermalinda has not changed. Junior played football for the Marfa Steers, but his real love is rodeo. He wants to be the All Around Champion some day. I tell him he should concentrate on steer roping. He will graduate in a couple of months. He wants to hit the rodeo circuit full time, but Jim Ed and the rest of us are trying to convince him to go to college. He could be on the Rodeo Team and still do pro rodeo later, if he continues to improve. To be a good rancher these days, it will help if he goes to college. Texas A&M and a couple of others teach them things that I wish I understood.

The biggest news around here is that Jim Ed married a couple of years ago. His first wife's death was so hard for him that we doubted he would tie the knot again. But, he fell for a school teacher new to Alpine. She was 33 [35now] and had never been married. Jim Ed was 42 [44 now]. I doubt they will have kids, but who knows for sure.

Please visit us any time you can. If we can ever help you, let us know.

Your friend,

Ernesto Garza

Sena read Ernesto's letter with mixed feelings. Jim Ed had been her backup plan, should she tire of movie making and the type of men that she encountered in her glamorous life. She smiled, as she thought that she almost dropped in to Marfa, to see whether Jim Ed was still available.

At least wise Maria, and probably Ernesto, would have seen through her. Good for Jim Ed, she thought.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Over the next several years, supermarket tabloids became popular. The papparazzo became aggressive. A photo of Sena in a bikini, on the beach in the south of France, was especially embarrassing. But, Sena tried to view the photo as a good thing. She promptly lost fifteen pounds, and kept them off.

Full length feature films survived the onslaught of television in the 1950s and 60s. But the days of spending three months or so on location making epic films like Big Texan were mostly over. Sena now filmed most of her movies on Hollywood soundstages, a throwback to the Forties and earlier. She still played an older leading lady romantic lead. But, her prediction to Jim Ed came true. She also played the eccentric aunt, and the jealous mother. The part of a schizophrenic tightrope walker was the most challenging. The role earned her a best supporting actress nomination.

Sena was thankful that her on location shoots were pretty much over. This way, she spent more time with her daughter,

Sierra was bright, and graduated from UCLA with an English degree. Sierra did not want to teach, write, or go to grad school. She worked in an art gallery in Beverly Hills, on Santa Monica Boulevard for years, but eventually tired of the every other night artsy fartsy exhibits- parties. Then, Sierra enjoyed toiling for a quite awhile in a bookstore on Ventura Boulevard, in the heart of the Valley. Eventually, she again became bored.

In desperation, Sena suggested an acting class. Sierra declined.

Sierra inherited her mother's curvy, busty figure and also stood at five-four. Her hair was light brown, like her father's. She inherited her dad's chin and cheekbones. Despite a knock out figure, she was not a beauty, like her mother.

Sierra dated a lot of guys, but never was serious with any, at least as far as Sena knew. A fireman friend of Sierra's, more like a kid brother than a boyfriend, was called sometimes to help rescue horses from the Santa Barbara area forest fires. Sena went with her friend after one rescue to check on the horses. She had never been around animals larger than dogs. Soon, she was volunteering at the big animal clinic.

Sierra had found her calling. She returned to school, and finished the required courses to apply to veterinary school, which took awhile, since she had majored in Liberal Arts. She entered The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

In 1985, Sierra was thirty-six years old. She had one more year of vet school.

That same year, her mother was fifty-seven. Sena worked out daily, and kept her youthful figure. After all, her livelihood depended on it. A good hairdresser kept her graying hair looking its natural color. She still turned heads in streets, even when her celebrity was not first recognized.

Her casual relationships with actors, directors, a producer and one writer lasted from five to nine months. All of them were too chatty or self absorbed to give her a memorable screwing.

Sena had only loved, or thought she loved, two men-Nigel, then Eric. At times, an unpleasant thought passed through her conscious. But, she shook it off.

One evening, with a covey of girlfriends and wine, Sena blurted "I've loved two men. But no one has loved me." Sena joked, and her girlfriends thought so, too. On the way home, Sena confronted the unpleasant realty. It was true. Nigel and Eric cared for her. But, it was not romantic love, the way of novels and movies.

Sena knew some couples who finished each other's sentences. They looked at each other the way Nancy Reagan looked at Governor Ron, with adoration, at least with television lights shining.

Sena thought of these couples and wondered if they realized how lucky they were, as if they had won the lottery. Sena did not realize the ups and downs, the struggle it takes to make a marriage.

Sena reluctantly decided something about her, perhaps her ambition to be the best actress she could be, kept men from loving her. She confided to no one. But, she had given up on romance.

Beyond Sena's self awareness, there was something else. Sena never was more concerned about her husbands' happiness that she was about her own; she would never have sacrificed her life for theirs. Perhaps Sena could grab this kind of love only after sharing of years of experiences, both good and bad.

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