A guide to POTSDAM
Talking Location With author Corabel Shofner – Texas
7th August 2017
#TalkingLocationWith… author Corabel Shofner, who has written a children’s novel “Almost Paradise” set in Texas.
“I believe places can heal. I believe science can heal. I believe God can heal. And I believe my hands can heal. It is best to use all of the above to get maximum results.” (Ruby Clyde Henderson in ALMOST PARADISE)
Emotionally, this story needed to be set in the Texas Hill Country. As a child, I spent my Summers on the Guadalupe River outside of Hunt, Texas. It was a healing respite from my turbulent family in Mississippi. Ruby Clyde and I both found a home there. The vistas, the smells, and sounds of my childhood there sustain me to this day.
It began when my mother was a little girl in the 1930’s. Her school teacher invited her to Camp Waldemar in Hunt Texas. Off they drove, across three states, the teacher and my mother, who soon fell asleep in the back seat of the car. My mother woke up next to the Guadalupe River and thought she was in heaven. She felt that way for the rest of her life. When we came of age my sisters and I also found our summer home in the Hill Country.
What was so special about this place, that we all fell under it’s spell? It was enchanting: the enormous cypress trees rising from the edge of the river water, the stone walls, the strong German artistry, the paths going up the hill where women, young and old, walked about under twisting trees.
The women were strong, athletic, artistic, and intelligent with great integrity. We were sharpshooters, archers and rodeo riders. We square danced on horses and raced long war canoes, proud of our hip-to-knee bruises. We were writers, artists, potters, and dramatists. The food was exquisite. The friendship was better. We hiked up secret trails to our tribal hills, where we prayed and sang while campfires released embers into the night sky.
When my daughter first stepped off the bus, she was greeted by Connie Reeves who said, “I taught your grandmother and your mother to ride and I will teach you too.” Connie was 99 years old and was still riding her stallion. She died at 103 years old still in the saddle. These are the women we were in the Hill Country.
My mother returned every fall for an adult session. When one of my sisters became sick, she returned to Texas. The painful beauty of the landscape matched her passing. Likewise, setting in a novel is more than place, it must reflect emotions. For me, the deepest emotions are always found in these hills.
“They call it the Hill Country for a reason, you know. The hills around us rolled like somebody had shaken a giant bed sheet in the breeze. Tiny, dark green trees dotted the hillsides. Patches of grass spread in places, but it was mostly dirt. And the sky.
Overhead, turkey vultures caught updrafts and soared. I’d seen them on the drive up, along the road tearing at the flesh of dead animals, such ugly birds. But when they fly, they are lifted by invisible strings—lovely black shapes against the endless blue sky.”
If you travel to the area, I recommend driving deep into the Hills. Take your time, ramble around, dance, eat, go to church, make friends at the Hunt Store. Don’t expect to be entertained, strive to be immersed. Here are some tips to start you off:
Drop into Mo Ranch. If you dare, shoot down the 38’ slide into the clear waters of the Guadalupe. The slide is 80 years old and the sled precarious, but hey, it is Texas. You can also hike up the river chill in a smooth rock pothole while the rapids rush around you.
Don’t miss Cryders Rodeo and Dance Hall. My mother danced there and after many floods and fires, the place still rocks. It is as tenacious as a Texas weed.
The Hunt Store always has been, and still is, a local hang out for locals. A coffee shop before Starbucks was cool. It is now a place to get your gourmet on and to catch live music with local artists and ranchers.
My favorite whimsey is Stonehenge II on the Al Shepperd Ranch, but it has since been moved to the Hill County Arts Foundation campus in Kerrville.
On your way to Kerrville, flatten a large cardboard box and slide down the Ingram Dam. Watch for the “king of the dam’ who slides down standing up. Yii-hiiii!