Tag Archives: Nancy

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale – #28

For newcomers, this is a semi-regular newsletter from the Texas Triffid Ranch, Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery. Feel free to forward early and often, and to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Installment #28: Nancy Crawford (1933-2021)

My mother-in-law Nancy died in the early morning of August 29, the day before her 88th birthday. Considering her sense of humor, that was completely in character. She was the sort who loved to celebrate others’ birthdays but didn’t want any particular fussing about hers, which is one of the many reasons why we liked each other so much.

There’s so much to be said about Nancy that it’s taken nearly four months to get it out: without her kindness and encouragement, there wouldn’t be a Triffid Ranch today. Way back in 2003, right after I married her youngest daughter, my newfound fascination with carnivorous plants had expressed itself in buying a set of assorted carnivores at the local Home Depot while buying bookshelves, and that led to a vague discussion on the merest possibility of someday starting a store dedicated to carnivores. As opposed to the rest of the family , she didn’t rush for the holy water and silver bullets just right then. Instead, she wanted to know why I wanted to do something like this, and when I explained that this was something to work toward, slowly and carefully and never without a day job as a backup, she just said “All right.” If she’d said “Bless your heart,” a phrase full of misunderstandings and regrets among those who never grew up in Texas, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have heard the round that took me out, and I spent the rest of her life making sure that I never gave her reason to say it, jokingly or otherwise.

Nancy and I came from drastically different backgrounds, but we spent so much time comparing notes. She graduated from college at a time when graduating “with honors” actually meant something, and she came about as close as anybody could to crossing herself when I related how the Harvard Class of 2004 had 91 percent of its class graduate that way because of parental pressure. She and her husband Durwood had just married when the Texas Drought of Record of 1952-56 started, and she told me how Dallas was so close to being abandoned as the wells were running dry just as the rains returned. We talked about local soils and local geology, and she showed off the spider lilies in her back yard that her mother had given her when they first moved there, and we discussed planting her beloved wood ferns in the incredibly shady front yard, and we both gazed upon her flowering quince in awe and wonder every spring. 

Nancy made a point of giving moral support when Caroline started doing solo jewelry shows shortly after we got married, and really ramped things up when the two of us started doing shows together starting in 2009. After a while, if she wasn’t manning the booth if Caroline needed a break, she was hanging out front and greeting new customers, and rapidly it wasn’t a real party if she wasn’t there. In the days when most of our shows were science fiction and horror conventions, she didn’t quite get the passion other attendees had, but she respected them and treated them with a grace and charm so rarely seen any more. It got to the point where if she wasn’t at a show, everyone would ask about her, including the convention organizers, and she always blushed when we told her about her fan club contingent checking to see how she was doing.

When the gallery finally opened, after months of preparation, the old Valley View location was just up a distance from their house, so Nancy and Durwood made a point of coming out to the grand opening, just to see what we’d done with the place. Nancy was very familiar with Valley View, having watched it go up in the early 1970s (Caroline’s older sister Shari worked in the Spencer Gifts in Valley View, and even donated her old manager badge when we opened), and was thrilled to see the completed gallery and greet people whom she’d only met at traveling shows. She was even more thrilled when we moved in 2017 to the current location, and got to see a better idea of what we wanted to accomplish when we invited the whole family for a special opening. Even when she couldn’t make it to open houses, she always wanted to hear details on who showed up and what new items we had on display.

The last few years were rough, as she became more frail in the final stages of dementia, and as anybody else with family in a similar situation will tell you, Nancy had good days and bad days. One of the surefire ways to turn a bad day into a good day was to show her plants and to tell her about the last show, and with the Porch Sale events held at the gallery all through 2020, I had plenty to tell her when we would go to see her. Considering that she was one of the most gentle people you’d ever met, she always feigned shock when I’d refer to her walker as “the War Rig” or suggested that maybe she might be a little less rough with the rest of her roller derby team, but she was laughing about it as much as I was. It always came back to the plants, though: she had never encountered Sarracenia, or at least knew what they were, before 2003, but the only thing that thrilled her more than photos of leucophyllas were photos of their brilliant scarlet blooms, and I started the whole Manchester United Flower Show theme so she could see as many blooms of as many different types of carnivore as she could. When the first Heliamphora bloom opened in the gallery a few years back, I don’t know who gasped in wonder louder.

I wish there were gigantic monuments to Nancy all over Dallas, but sadly most of what made her happiest was gone. The buyer of her house claimed that they were buying it to restore it to its original late-Sixties glory, even asking us not to dig up the spider lilies or transplant the roses I grew from cuttings in the back yard. The whole property was razed almost immediately after its purchase to make room for yet another zero-lotline McMansion, and the only thing connecting the new house to the old was the street number painted on the curb out front. In the gallery, though, we have all sorts of items she gave us over the years, all displayed proudly, and she smiled when we both told her we put them specifically where she could see them when she came in. As long as the gallery remains, there’s always going to be a big piece of her in it, but it’s not anywhere near as big as the hole she left.

Other News

The Dallas Morning News Best In DFW Awards came back in the middle of November, and the Triffid Ranch got Bronze in “Best Art Gallery.” What that entails, other than entreaties to buy advertising to promote it, we’re still figuring out. The interview in Community Impact Richardson is a better opportunity for entertainment: the interview is great, and it comes with a photo that proves that even Annie Leibowitz couldn’t get a good photo of me. And now you know why you don’t see lots of selfies, and not just because my smile really makes people regret leaving Ripley and Parker to look for the ship’s cat.

Shameless Plugs

Yes, the independent bookstore is supposed to be dead, Just try telling Mark Ziesing Booksellers that. As of next year, I’ll have known Mark for a solid third of a century, and if you’re looking for gonzo print magazines from the Eighties and Nineties, he’s the best source around.

Recommended Reading

Quite literally, nobody publishes books like Molly Williams’s Killer Plants any more. More’s the pity: while it’s not packed with full-color illustrations, it’s also loaded with excellent advice on caring for carnivorous plants from an apartment dweller’s perspective. Go order lots of copies as last-minute gifts: speaking from personal experience, it’s just the right size for a thorough reading on a work-related plane trip.

Music

Par for the course: as soon as I discover the band Santa Hates You, I discover that the band is no more. Good thing it has quite the YouTube presence, eh?

Have a Safe Weekend

The best thing about September 2021 is that it’s not August 2021, and we’re muddling through. The gallery opens at 4:00 pm on September 4 for Carnivorous Plant Weekend, and everyone who knew Caroline’s mother is welcome to come out and share memories.

Momentary resurfacing

Apologies for relative quiet on the site this week, but it’s been a bonecruncher this week. For those who haven’t heard the news, Caroline’s mother Nancy died last Sunday, the day before her 88th birthday. The backstory is better suited for the next newsletter, which is going out later this week, but without Nancy and her ceaseless support and love, the Triffid Ranch as it is today may never have happened. Everyone who knew and loved Nancy is invited to come out for this weekend’s Carnivorous Plant Weekend on September 4 and 5: she always loved to come to events and talk with people who had heard her stories via Caroline, and she was always tickled that friends and customers were willing to come to Triffid Ranch events to meet her and not her dingbat son-in-law. The family is having a formal memorial soon, but as a much-missed friend put it about his own mother, you should never go with too few words, and I know several friends coming out who will have great stories.

(And on an unrelated point, Nancy always got a kick out of news coverage about the gallery, particularly our 2017 Dallas Observer Best of Dallas award, and today is the last day for voting in the Dallas Morning News Best in DFW reader’s choice awards. We last talked with her just a few days before she passed, and she got great enjoyment over discovering that the Triffid Ranch managed to get nominated in the first place. I have no delusions that the gallery would win, but she had fun with the conceit, and if we did, I could say with a completely straight face that I couldn’t have done it without her.)

State of the Gallery: April 2021

Ah, it’s not an April without drastic environmental and social change, usually with multiple situations happening at once. April 2021 keeps on keepin’ on, and it’s only halfway finished.

Before getting into details on the gallery, please note a very important caveat on any plans involving the Triffid Ranch. Caroline’s mother Nancy, an essential part of the gallery’s beginnings (some of you may have met her when she would come to early Triffid Ranch shows before the gallery, and a regular guest at open houses and events after the gallery first opened), has been in hospice for a while, and her condition continues to deteriorate. Her situation and continued comfort is paramount in our lives right now, so please understand if we don’t answer questions right away or can’t schedule appointments at this time.

On that line, because we need to be in close range if she needs additional help, any Triffid Ranch events by necessity will be close and brief. Because of news this morning, we’ve had to cancel attending the Plano Music & Arts Fest this weekend, and will make it up by rescheduling last weekend’s planned Porch Sale for Sunday, April 18. If you can’t make it this Sunday, barring further mishap, the Manchester United Flower Show runs on Sunday, April 25 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as well.

(As for last Sunday’s last-minute Porch Sale cancellation, chalk that up to complications of being a responsible adult. As of last Saturday, I became a fully vaccinated adult human, and didn’t have any issue for the rest of the day other than a slight ache in my left shoulder. About 18 hours later, though, the oft-noted side effects for COVID-19-susceptible Moderna vaccine recipients kicked in, with severe fever, joint and muscle aches, and generally all of the non-lung side effects of a severe bout of viral pneumonia. As uncomfortable as it was, having as bad a reaction as this signified that my cells were more susceptible than most to a COVID-19 infection, and severe weakness and pain is a lot better than death. Now that those side effects finally wore off, it’s back to outdoor shows, absolutely with masks at all times to make sure.)

Through May, that’s going to be an ongoing situation: weekly events at the gallery and a relative minimum of events away. That’s not an absolute (there’s no way I’d miss the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Austin in June, for instance), but between weather fluctuations and some truly ridiculous booth fees for local events, staying home and setting up at the gallery makes more sense. In fact, as these take off, it may be time to invite other vendors, just to give others a chance to get back into setup and breakdown practice.

Finally, some other good news. The ongoing contest to give away one of three custom carnivorous plant enclosures to a local business continues until April 21, and participants are finally understanding that it’s not a scam nor a data mining attempt. Final voting starts week after next, where everyone’s encouraged to vote for their favorites, but feel free to let friends and cohorts know before then. Now let’s see about getting those enclosures new homes.