Years ago, my mother-in-law, Ruth Bayne Gill, aka “Bayne”, bought a parcel of land on Mill Creek, between Vanderpool and Medina, Texas. It’s a beautiful piece of Texas Hill Country, with creek bottom habitat including Bald Cypress and other water loving plants and a nice size hill rising toward the rear of the property covered with juniper, Texas mountain laurel, red oak, and blue oak. The hill is tall enough to hike up and look out over the valley to the opposing ridges and hills and is itself capped with huge and magnificent boulders painted with colorful yellow, white, and rust orange lichens and green Hill Country ferns. Bayne spent a lot of time visiting her land, dreaming how she would put a small Texas “Dog Run” cabin on it. In the meantime, she thinned the cedar just a little and explored her acreage from bottom to top.
Bayne’s love for nature was infectious. In the summer of 2000, our oldest son, Stuart, took a job with the Texas Nature Conservancy in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, clearing fire breaks. Towards the end of the summer, James and I, along with our younger son Trevor, and Bayne, drove out to the Davis Mountains for a visit. On our visit, we hiked and hiked and hiked. As usual, Bayne marveled at the plants, the bugs, the sky… anything and everything Mother Nature. She could name all the birds, insects, and other animals, the plants, and understood the complexity of their interactions. We often paused so she could collect a few seeds of notable plants.
Bayne passed away in the spring of 2013, surrounded by her family, in her country cottage in the woods outside of Goliad, Texas.
Fast forward to March of 2019. James and I drove up to Mill Creek to camp for the night. Visiting the Mill Creek land she passed to her children always makes us feel closer to Bayne. We can almost hear her voice ringing with joy while telling us some delightful natural history tidbit or Native lore.
Early the next morning, James got up to hike across the creek and up the hill. I stayed back, enjoying the quiet morning air. Later in the morning, I started hiking around the property, checking on some bigtooth maple trees (of Lost Maples fame) that James’ older brother William had planted some years back. As I was walking, I spied a small glass jar with a rusted lid on the ground near a clump of old cedar trees. I picked it up; there was paper inside. I’ve always dreamed of finding a message in a bottle. Doesn’t everybody? I knew immediately it was Bayne’s handwriting. And some seed. I very carefully opened the bottle. The paper was yellowed and cracking, but I was able to read, “Alligator Juniper – Aug 2000.” She had collected that seed with us on our Davis Mountains family trip almost 20 years ago!
I felt like I had won the lottery a thousand times over. Actually, I already had. Bayne was the best mother-in-law I could dream of; I loved her dearly. I knew at that moment, her spirit was with me and always will be.
Growing up, I was always happiest outdoors. Joining the Gill family took me to a whole new level of love for the miracles of nature. James and I, along with our amazing Gill team, are thankful and humbled by your support in allowing us to share our love of plants and the outdoors with you.
Thank you for being a part of Gill’s and Happy Mother’s Day to you!