Native Son: Antlers

Sitting here in Longview, eyes adjusted to the blue glow, with waves of raindrops cheering like a stadium crowd on the tin roof over my shoulder … the wind rushes outside and my hand instinctively zips my hoodie up a bit, like it can actually feel the outside chill inside the house. Perhaps it can. I love quirky things that defy simple explanation. Like why yawns are contagious … even over the phone…even without sound … even between species! (We’ll get back to this story in a minute.)

And so it defied simple explanation when a seemingly rational man drove 150 miles to the thriving metropolis of Antlers, Oklahoma, painted his beard, put on a wig, doffed his muggle garb and donned his Hagrid. He even walked the town a bit, eventually having a fun little chat with two local police officers … we’ll get back with this story in a minute…

So I rented this little cabin on the outskirts of Antlers for some quiet soul-searching. Perfect place. I felt like I was at the edge of the earth … nothing moving but clouds, ducks, and me. Took a little pre-sunset stroll and found a few treasures. More on this later.

Photos: The Cowboy Cabin and, just down the road, an old Crape Myrtle that outlived the house when it was planted.

Welcome to “How My Brain Works 101.”

So … the rain has stopped, and I am quietly trying to figure out another example of things that defy a simple explanation. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror … yep.

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Fortunately, the Antlers police officers had been tipped off to the Harry Potter event at the local library, so I didn’t have to give up my Chinese Fireball Dragon egg … or spend a few hours in their version of Azkaban. Back at Hogwarts (“the library” for you muggle folks), the fun was getting underway. Wands waved, butter beer brewed, chocolate frogs croaked, and the wizards went wacko. It was an amazing evening of enchantment.

Photos: Hagrid and friends. I especially liked the small town ingenuity … when they couldn’t find a guy for Harry Potter, they substituted Shari Potter!

So I took two walks during my visit; one around the pond and one around the town. Both proved to me, once again, that wonders exist all around us.

Photos: At the ranch, native Sumac showing fall colors; beavers have been busy.
Photos: Around town, fall colors shine.
Photos: Quirky stuff!

Some things do indeed defy simple explanation…like why I keep trying to find that one perfectly ripe Eastern Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) fruit. After 40 years of trying, you’d think I would just file it under, “Nope.” So when I found this tree, laden with ripe fruit, I thought my quest was over. Ripe persimmons hanging everywhere; half the crop already on the ground below. I carefully chose the most perfect one and went to take a nibble … I mean, how bad could it be? I mean Diospyros actually means, “food of the gods.” Well, this sucker got puckered again. Oh … you want details? Initial taste was pretty good, but ten seconds later the smile-killing astringent kicked in and that delightful sensation of a mouthful of dirty sand took over … and wouldn’t stop. The gagging reflex came on full throttle as I tried to vacate the vicious pulp … but my tongue had gone numb, so I just made duck noises at the sky as I danced around like an imbecile. Suddenly, déjà vu kicked in … this is pretty much what happened the last time I tried a native persimmon … and every time before that. Okay, Stevie … say it slowly, “Nope.”

Eastern Persimmon
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And speaking of quirky stuff…
While Longview Arboretum gardener Laurie Brown and I were chatting about details of the Sensory Garden, she noticed something odd about her shoe. Upon investigation, she discovered an anole lizard had entered the hole in her shoe’s heel. After several minutes of gentle prodding, it came out the other side!

Photos: anole lizard

You truly never know what the day will bring.

To see the full slate of photos from the Harry Potter shindig, like “Friends of Antlers Library” on Facebook.


Just so you know … the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town too small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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