A retired friend of ours loves to regale visitors with how it all began: “So here I was, working 80 hours a week trying to get my business going, with a wife and two children, and my wife keeps complaining about two things: 1) you never spend any time with the family; and 2) you need to take us somewhere!” Finally, our friend took out an old-fashioned compass and an old-fashioned map and drew a circle within roughly an hour of where they lived. What did he find? “A lake!” he crows, continuing the story. “I could take the family somewhere, and spend time with them.” Win-win. He smiles and raises his glass of sweet tea at a passing boat.
Our friend is not alone.
Our father-in-law did something similar, in a different state and at a different time. Post-WW2, an obstetrician/gynecologist with four children under the age of five, he looked around and bought a “shack” on the river. (He couldn’t afford a lake!) By the time he retired and moved to a lake within two hours of his former city home, he was the proud owner of the Family Navy. Our family flag flew over a pontoon boat, two speed boats, two jet skis, a canoe, a kayak, a Sunfish sailboat and two paddle boats. The walls were hung with photos of children and grandchildren, all of whom are always in the water.
Today, perhaps neither of these families – having found lakes close to “home” – would have waited so long to build houses and move to their lakes full-time. Good roads make commuting easier; commuting makes lakes more attractive. Another friend remarks, “I’d rather get up 30 minutes earlier, have coffee overlooking the water, and listen to a biography of Aaron Burr for half an hour while I drive than try to cram everything into the morning with no time for myself at all.” He calls their lake home “Meditation.”
Okay, so maybe that sounds a little extreme. But doesn’t it also sound really, really nice?
Picture yourself at the lake: drink in one hand, a dog collar in the other, relaxing while the sun sets. Cheering on your nephew who finally got up on water skis. Waving at a neighbor with a new jet ski. Simply sitting on your deck toasting neighbors as they pass in their own boats. There are holidays like the 4th of July, to celebrate with neighbors by tying your boats together in the water to ooooh and ahhhh over the fireworks. There are lakeside restaurants where you can dock. There is the sunset parade, where owners make a brief circumference of their area and appreciate their neighbors with waves and toasts.
More and more people think it does. We are fortunate in south-central Texas to be surrounded by lakes: spring-fed, river-fed, man-made. Some are public, a few are private. At each lake, we find full-time residents who wonder what took them so long. One of our many lakeside friends, on a lake that experiences oft-publicized up and down water levels, told us about having her home remodeled. Her lot slopes from the road to the lake front, and the original home was about halfway down the slope. After visiting her contractors in their trailer above her home, she decided to build a new house on the trailer site! “At least the old house won’t block my view!” she jokes. The joke is not on her; she has a renter for the renovated home and is enjoying the new one herself.
Our retired friend chimes in, “People told me I was crazy to build another house so close to town. I told them I would be crazy to build a house in Florida or Colorado that I could only get to occasionally. And I’m here right now to tell you that I made the right decision.”
Now that fall is here in South Texas, the lakes are still going strong. Though many owners and renters are seasonal friends, we know that our lakes are comfortable year-round. In Michigan, lake dwellers may need to store their boats; in Missouri, they may need to install bubblers in their docks; in Wisconsin, they may need to raise their boats from the water and/or send them to storage for months. But in our part of Texas, we are boating all year. We may have on jackets over our life jackets (okay, the occasional coat) but we are on the water.
Raise a glass of sweet tea to the Texas lakes!