What is that saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?"
Several weeks ago, I was busy doing chores around the ranch... wondering why I ever thought ranching was a good idea. The mower wouldn't start and one of the mule vehicles had a flat tire. I was unloading a trailer and noticed a van parked at our entrance. It was too far a distance to see what was going on and I wasn't about to stop working to go check it out. The entrance to the ranch has a mechanical gate. The van wasn't coming on the ranch... it sat parked on the outside of the gate. I could see movement by the van and thought, if it was an emergency, they could climb over the gate and come up to the ranch house. I kept working.
About 2 hours later I locked up, loaded up Bluebonnet (our chocolate lab) and headed toward the gate entrance pulling the 16 ft trailer. As I neared the gate, it activated and slowly opened. The van was on my right with its back hatch opened providing shade to a thin bearded man. He was standing at an easel applying paint to a canvas. He smiled at me and I pulled the truck and trailer far enough to clear the gate. I was intrigued plus I needed to check this situation out.
I threw the truck into park and walked back to the van. The bearded man introduced himself as Stuart Roper as we shook hands. As I eyed the painting, Mr. Roper said he usually stops and paints scenes that catch his eye. Our ranch caught his attention! As we made small talk I found out that he was from North Carolina. Mr. Roper has a studio there and his work is displayed in many galleries. He had been down in the Texas Hill Country and decided to head north into the rugged Palo Pinto Mountains. He mentioned that he was reading John Graves' novel, "Goodbye to a River" and wanted to put his eyes on Graves' part of Texas along the Brazos River. I knew immediately I could trust Mr. Roper based on his interest in John Graves. I have always believed you can tell a lot about a person by the books they choose to read. His half finished painting of the ranch was exception. Suddenly, I was seeing our ranch through Stuart Roper's eyes...and feeling proud and protective of our land. I requested his business card and told him that I was honored he was painting our place. We shook hands and he thanked me for allowing him the pleasure. I headed South on FM 4... driving slow so that I could take in the rugged beauty of our ranch.