Yesterday we drove down to our place in the country. We had heard they would be opening Highway 71 that morning between Bastrop and Smithville, which is the route we always take. As we got into Bastrop, the air was so thick with smoke it was difficult to see. And it smelled as if everyone in town had decided to barbecue all at once.
On the other side of Bastrop, we started seeing some of the damage the fire had caused. We had feared the fire would take our favorite Chocolate shop. It did.
Roscar Handcrafted Chocolates was opened not that long ago by Frans and Roselly Hendriks, who hail from the Netherlands. Apparently, while visiting some friends who lived in the area, they so fell in love with Bastrop, they decided to move there and start their business. Frans is a master Chocolatier. His Tequila & Jalapeno truffle is a work of art and I could eat my weight in them (and probably have over the years.) And not only is he a genius in the kitchen but he and his wife Roselly are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. I sincerely hope they decide to rebuild.
As we drove a bit further we really started to see some of the terrible damage.
Kind of looks like a forest in winter time, and I was reminded of that Robert Frost poem. But that's not snow, its ashes. And this was only what could be seen from the highway. It was much worse elsewhere.
When we got to the house, the first thing I did was something I had promised myself I would do when my wife, daughter and I all held each other tight and cried this past Monday when we thought there was a chance we might lose our house. I knelt down on the front steps, hugged them and kissed the concrete floor of the front porch.
I know it doesn't look like much. But it means everything to me. It was my grandparents' home, and whenever we stay there on weekends, I can still see my grandmother whipping up one of her spectacular breakfasts: eggs (from their chickens,) bacon (cured in smoked in the little building which was their smokehouse and is still there,) homemade biscuits, and red-eye gravy.
Sitting on that front porch, I can still hear my grandpa tell the bigger-than-life stories from his youth, that I would listen to with rapt attention and never get tired of hearing, no matter how many times he repeated them.
I feel awful for all the people who lost their homes. Around 1400 homes were destroyed. Most only had time to get out with only the clothes they were wearing, the fire was moving so quickly. And many couldn't afford insurance, which means they lost everything. It's easy to discount the severity of a disaster when all you experience of it are images on a television. But when you see it up close like this, and were almost a victim yourself, it's a much different feeling.