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Time to read
3 minutes

The Possum Cop Chronicles

January 04, 2023 - 00:00
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Pura Vida

Many years ago, my grandfather, Pap, had a store, Fred Krause Supply, in Pleasanton. In it, you could purchase livestock feed, appliances, televisions, stereos, saddles, records, rod and reels, fishing lures, guns, groceries and even original artwork by Game Warden Arthur McCall - all under one roof. It was kinda like a mini-Walmart before the real Walmart ran all the local stores out of business.

I liked to draw and paint when I was a kid, and I was pretty good at it. I even got a couple ribbons at the Cowboy Homecoming Brush Country Art Show they used to have down at the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Station to prove it. When I was about 11, Pap asked Warden McCall if he would give me some painting tips. A few days later, Arthur was at my house. He showed me how to scuff-up a flat brush and use it to paint grass and brush and a bunch of other stuff. I learned a lot from him. Very cool.

I kept painting through junior high and high school. After high school, I went off to the University of Texas to become a doctor, until my grades in calculus and chemistry persuaded me to do otherwise. Somewhere around that time, I came across a thin magazine titled, “Texas Game Wardens – Guardians of our Natural Resources.” It was full of pictures of boats, and game wardens cutting fish out of nets and checking hunters. There were stories about the Game Warden Academy and disaster response. Legendary game warden, Jim Pond, was featured in a story about how his wife helped him carry out his duties, and there was a funny story by Game Warden J.C. Romines about having to take apart a clothes-drier to rescue a bull snake. Great stuff.

After reading that little promo-magazine, I was ready to sign up. But first, I had to get a college degree like I promised my mom I would. I decided the quickest way to make that happen was to get an art degree, so that’s what I did. A year after graduation, I was sitting at the first desk as you walk in the door to the classroom at the Texas Game Warden Academy.

After 7 months of fun at the academy, I graduated and was stationed in Willacy County. Being a game warden in Willacy was big fun. We worked hard and played hard. I found time to paint some, too.

One of the guys that I worked with was a talented artist who did pen-andink drawings. One day, he was at my house and saw a small painting I had done of a spotted seatrout. He liked it, so I gave it to him. I told him I’d like a pen-and-ink drawing of a quail someday in return. He agreed.

Years went by. When I’d see him, I’d jokingly ask where my quail was and he’d jokingly say that he was working on it.

20-some-odd years later, he and I are both retired. I spent the last 3 years of my game warden career in Atascosa County, living in Pleasanton on the old home place. My Pap’s store is long gone and so is my Pap. Arthur McCall is still around and still painting; me, not so much.

My friend moved off to Costa Rica, but he has a place in Texas now, too. I haven’t heard from him in quite some time; One of the last times I saw him was at his son’s funeral back in 2009. That was tough.

So, you can imagine how perplexed I was when I walked down the driveway to the delivery barrel up by the highway and saw that I had a package from him. It looked to be about the size of the trout painting I gave him years ago. I figured that he and his wife were fixing to have a garage sale or something, and instead of chunking that old dusty painting out, they had sent it back to me. How nice.

I opened the package. It was a beautiful pen-and -ink drawing of a bobwhite quail. There was also a note that talked about the pain of losing a child and how he didn’t have much inspiration to do anything afterwards.

A recent health-scare got him thinking about his own mortality and all the things he wanted to do but hadn’t, so he he decided to get an early start


on his bucket list. Item #1 on it was finishing my quail. He ended his letter with “as they say in Costa Rica… Pura Vida.”

I knew the literal meaning of “pura vida” but I wanted to know what it meant to Costa Ricans. I did some Googling. According to the official website for Costa Rica, it means “enjoying your life no matter what the circumstances; it’s a simple appreciation of life and the realization that life is what you make of it.”

Christmastime is here, and the New Year is just around the corner. For most of us, the holidays are a joyous time, but that’s not so for others.

The quail is on the wall in my living room, and my friend’s letter is on my desk. I get choked up a little when I read it. I’m glad he’s doing better and getting on with that bucket list as best he can. Yep, it’s never too late to start anew.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Pura Vida!

Jon Brauchle spent 29 years as a game warden.