Juanita and Silas Taylor’s cozy, pleasant country home near Cunningham rang with laughter recently, plus a sound more unusual sound, the sound of Welsh accents from “over the pond”.
Once again Louise and Paul Tarling of Llandrindod Wells, just across the border from England in Wales were visiting the Taylors.
This odyssey began back in 1999, when the Taylor’s granddaughter, Stephanie Reagan was going to school with British exchange student Naomi Tarling. . Stephanie discovered that her new friend was in an inadequate host home. Naomi was reluctant to call home, though, because she didn’t want to go back to the U.K. almost before her adventure began. Still, she was uncomfortable with her host family.
When Stephanie explained the situation to her mother, Lynda and dad, Tilman, Naomi was invited to the Reagan home to stay. That’s no surprise since Lynda Reagan is as hospitable as her parents. And there Naomi lived until she and Naomi graduated from Plainview High School in 2000.
She came for Christmas at the Taylor’s and before very long Juanita and Silas were considering Naomi as their “British granddaughter.” She taught them British Christmas traditions, including holiday crackers, which are paper wrapped tubes that are pulled apart with a snap and contain trinkets, jokes and paper hats. Stories of traditional Christmas foods and activities were shared.
Naomi’s parents came to visit and have been visiting since as have her three siblings.
“I suspect we have seen more of Texas than some Texans” Paul grins as he talks about the many places in Texas, and indeed, the United States they have visited.
The Tarlings love the heat! At home they say they just don’t get enough of it.
They love TexMex food too. In particular they enjoy guacamole and mole sauce.
Louise has a relative in Georgia and nephew in Austin and a brother in McAllen, Texas as well as another in Boulder Colorado so they get to visit multiple locations.
This trip Louise and Paul drove from Georgia to Texas and enjoyed trying soul food in Athens, Georgia and breakfast in Louisiana.
“Collard greens” they both say, “they’re really good!”.
Over 22 years of friendship the families have shared many fun times and events.
When Stephanie married in 2016 Naomi was her maid of honor. The young women haven’t let a few thousand miles interfere with their friendship.
Lynda and Tilman have visited the Tarlings in Wales and, of course, Stephanie visited her dear friend Naomi there as well.
Paul Tarling is a retired Anglican minister. There is a lot of warmth in this couple. They are open, friendly and willing to try new things.
They left after visiting with the Taylors to go to see the Reagans in Plainview on to Boulder, Colorado and then to Yellowstone National Park and Salt Lake City, Utah.
“One thing we would truly love to see here in Texas is the bluebonnets blooming” Paul says while Louise nods enthusiastically.
It has just never worked out that the State Flower of Texas was in bloom when they could visit. They have gone to cattle sales, seen cotton fields, been all around Austin but not seen the glowing glory of Texas bluebonnets.
As mentioned the couple enjoy the heat and sunshine makes them happy. The Taylors took them to Paris to see the Red River Valley War Memorial and of course, the cowboy hat topped Eiffel Tower.
At the Taylor’s Louise had the chance to feed the big Brahma bull. Since she had never even been close to a cow before it took a certain amount of courage to feed him, but she did it.
“And lived to tell about it”, they all laugh.
But best of all was the reuniting, the sharing of memories and catching up on events and each and every family member.
When Naomi wed Paul Bellis he had to be brought into the Texas family fold. Like the others he was enchanted with Juanita and Silas’ warm, welcoming hospitality, as well as the equally welcoming other members of the family.
When asked the Tarlings explain that exactly the same things that have happened in the U.S. are happening in Europe.
Soaring fuel and food prices, labor shortages, Covid problems are no different here than they are there. It’s worrisome but their quiet faith keeps them from being too distressed. They had actually planned the trip two years ago but the pandemic delayed it until now.
Another thing that they decry is chain stores.
“Just like in Britain things have come so-much-of-the-same. Chains have replaced mom and pop stores and you get the same goods in say, Georgia as in Texas, or Utah.” Paul laments.
“Fish and chip shops are not what they were in the U.K. either” Paul said.
It’s hard to find unusual, locally made items to take home from either country.
A description of the Texas icon Bucc-ee’s drew interest as the various food items, of spotless restrooms and wide variety of items for sale were mentioned. It’s very probable that the Tarlings will add a stop there to their travel agenda.
Their visit to the Taylors was only for a few days but they were treated to barbecue brisket, baked beans and other Texas specialities while here. The Taylors niece Davine Smith contributed a made from scratch chocolate pie when she and her husband Don came to eat. Made using her grandmother’s recipe, it was a hit as well.
They left to continue their American adventures reluctantly, as anyone does from the warmth of Juanita and Silas Taylor’s home.
But there will be photos sent, tales recounted and a strong binding link that is the product of 22 years friendship which started through the kindness of the Taylor’s granddaughter.
It’s an unexpected and loving dynamic with an unusual beginning.