über alles

One of the best things about living where I do is the cycling—routes and routes and routes along one-lane roads, up and down hills steep enough to receive categorization.

During July and August I did several rides along a loop that passes the old Pecan Creek rural school. (Most of my bike routes pass at least one of these schools.) There’s a spot on Weinheimer where the road curves around a bluff, next to something between a puddle and a proper tank. It was at that spot on a Friday morning, the last Friday of summer, where I had a Battlin Billie moment.

As in billy goats. As in the Fredericksburg High School mascot. Dave Campbell’s Texas Football readers named it the winner of the Mascot Madness contest. The district’s tagline is über alles, “above all.” My daughter attended through ninth grade and then graduated from somewhere else, an entire hour away. Moving her into that dorm was daunting, but looking back, it was the right decision for all of us.

I was thinking about that move as I traveled downhill, headed into the curve, when all of a sudden I saw movement on the private road coming down the side of the bluff. It was about two dozen goats, and they were making a run for it.

They charged down the unpaved road: Free at last! They moved as one bleating mass, bolting up the hill I was riding down.

So I slowed. Some of those fellas had horns.

Just as I braked, they saw me. They stopped too, right in the middle of the hill.

It was a small standoff.

I’m sure they’ve never seen anything less threatening than me—a middle-aged woman on a hybrid Trek bicycle. But that bright headlight? That black helmet? You never know. Might mean trouble, right here in River City.

When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike all over the neighborhood during the summer. I’d meet my best friend, and we’d go over every road, up and down hills. Even riding with someone, I always felt independent, as in control as any 11-year-old could. Although I could have left the neighborhood, I never did. Where would I go? I wouldn’t have known what to do with complete autonomy.

After a few uneasy moments, the goats scattered, their untidy monolith dispersing in at least three directions, along with their dreams of wanton consumption of paper goods. Still, I admired their gumption. They saw their chance and took it. Those goats were more daring than I’d ever been.

I resumed pedaling, not looking back. The feeling at that point on that particular ride, the hardest hills behind me, is pure freedom. The rains had made the Russian sage pop out, and the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds while mourning doves whinnied. I felt 11 again, unrestrained within my confined space.

Four days later my daughter and I boarded a plane. Unlike her first move into a dorm, in which we filled the bed of my husband’s pickup truck with everything under the sun, this time she was moving by airplane, and we had only the allotted number of bags. But unlike those goats, she knows where she’s going. Above all, she wants the chance to explore outside the neighborhood/state she’s always known.

At the end of our journey, I left her in a dorm at the top of a hill. As I walked back down, toward the hotel, I did not look back.


  1. I admire your riding skills!! Bicycles terrify me at this stage of my life — too many falls in the past couple of years, I guess. I try not to look back — but sometimes . . . sometimes, I can’t help myself. I hope she has a great year and is happy with her decision, especially when winter hits.

  2. She wants the chance to explore outside the neighborhood/state she’s always known. Good for her being willing to give it a good and good for you, finding a way to let her. No looking back. Just pressing on, gently.