Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

The Glass Halfempty Family in the Land of Prickly
by Lin Sutherland

Once upon a time, in a land not so far, far away, lived the Glass Family. They were a large family with a Mama, a Papa and seven girls who lived a life as clear as glass. They lived in the Land of Prickly where everything bit, stung, nipped, pinched, scratched or stabbed. And the critters -- oh, how strange they were: spitting horned lizards and great red-tailed hawks that swooped down on rabbits that had developed very lo-o-o-ng ears and legs so they could run very fast. And herds of wild cows that had horns up to the sky so they could part the thick brambles that tore at their hide to eat the little bit of grass that grew on the ground there.

It was a hard land, and the family didn't have much money to live on. They gathered in the evening and stories were passes that taught about their people who had come there long ago and fought to settle the land. It was much harder on them, Papa said, and they stuck together. The girls learned to be strong and brave and skillful and smart. As they grew up, they ran and played together at the Lake of Littleness and the Well of Solidarity. 

The Land of Prickly was a hard land, and yet, its wildness was its beauty. Who knows why, but for half the girls, they saw its beauty and grew up seeing the good in all things. For the other half -- who knows why -- they grew up seeing only the prickly and the hard.  They became prickly and hard themselves, and became known as the Glass Halfempty girls. For no matter what anyone said or looked like, they saw only their faults. The glass was always half-empty for these sisters, and from that moment on, they never saw clearly again.

Meanwhile, the other girls kept playing and singing and working together. They saw clear as glass that, though the land was hard, it had beauty, and although people were flawed, they could shine like diamonds, too. They relished life in all its fullness. They always saw the glass as half full, and seemed the happier for it. 

Soon it came about that one of the Glass Halfempty girls pointed at one of the Glass Halffull sisters and said, "We don't like you that way. We find fault with you, and you're having way too much fun, too. We want it different... and we want to get rid of this dag-rabid Land of Prickly!" 

So they marched off to the Barrister of Barrancas, an official who made sure great yawing divisions were established in families. 

"Oh yezz," the Barrister pronounced, "the Land of Prickly is worth great yawing mountains of money! Oh, yezz, yezz, yezz..." 

"And we shall have it!" the Glass Halfempty girl declared.

"Oh, yezz, of course," the Barrister smiled greedily. "And me too..."

All the long-eared rabbits cocked their heads and said, "Whot?" and chuckled. Up in the sky, the red-tailed hawk guffawed and spit up a piece of rabbit fur. The wild cows mooed lowly and sniffed and turned their heads away. They would not distinguish such silliness. Even the brambles shimmied and squirmed.

But the war was begun. One of the Glass Halfempty sisters, the Main Tumbler, got her young daughter to file a lawsuit that said "Away and begone" to her own sisters. They drew Mama Glass into it, and her cup clouded...The war went on for two years, and many a tear and drop of blood was spilled. Family didn't speak to family. Words were shouted, lies were told, hearts were broken. The Glass Family legacy was so clouded, no one could see or speak. The Land of Prickly grew silent and gray. Truly, all was a Glass Halfempty now.

But wait! Suddenly, through a little lens, one of the Glass Halffull sisters saw a way. It was just a little light, just a beaker of half-full, but it was there. "I know," she said, "We shall be what our Papa taught us! We shall be brave and strong and smart and skillful. We shall give them their money, and we shall pretend as if... oh yezz, all is so terribly woefully half-empty... but we shall go on, for we know that the glass is truly... " she stopped and whispered, "you know... "

And so it came to pass. Money passed hands. The Barrister of Barrancas smiled and got money too. The Land of Prickly was not divided. But the world of the Glass Family was. You cannot undo such a huge crack in something so fragile as glass -- or the chalice of family. Only time can wear it down, grinding at it like sand. That and the knowledge that the glass remains... half-full.
Lin Sutherland is a local writer, engaging raconteur and deft horse wrangler.  She runs the Onion Creek Ranch in Austin.