Charles and Sheron's house, like the couple, is larger than life yet completely understated and cool. Situated atop a plateau overlooking the tumbling landscape of the Texas Hill Country, a private grotto sits a short hike down the hill from the house. Both spiritual and practical in their love for nature, Charles and Sheron are perfectly suited in this space. Their home is a Cherokee church, three stories high yet it manages to feel tucked away. Sheron and I talked in the kitchen about her garden and Charles waited patiently for his turn while sorting through the dish of nuts for his favorites. Both hobbyists and collectors, the couple added to each others stories as we wandered through the house.
Sheron - My dad was a big gardener. He came from farmers and my mom came from farmers and I was always allowed to pull weeds and pick vegetables and stuff but nobody ever talked to me about soil or where to plant this and what kind of sun. So I’m having to learn from a book constantly and every year is a new year out in that garden. But I love it so much that I decided to keep the yard totally natural because I wasn’t going to try and water five acres and shoo deer away from stuff so I just said this is whatever it is but in that garden, I’m fighting. I’m fighting back the wilderness.
What do you have going?
Sheron - Right now I have some tomatoes that are getting close to ripe, I have green-beans that are teeny-tiny now, I’ve got lots of blackberries. I had a bunch of strawberries and then the great nephews showed up and I have no more strawberries now.
Oh they ate them all?
Sheron - Oh yeah, that was a locust. I’ve got onions, I’ve got lots of herbs and I planted a lot of flowers and bulbs and stuff that the deer would eat otherwise. You know, I’ve got an apple tree, a peach tree, the fig trees and a pomegranate. They’re all done flowering, well the apple tree is done flowering, the peach tree he’s not going to flower this year I’m afraid. And it’s irrelevant because I’ve never been able to beat the raccoons and the birds to any of the fruit anyway.
I’m growing a little bit of everything and it’s a constant battle against the bugs because it’s all organic, so it’s mano-a-mano me and the worms, and they win a lot of times. Asian long beans, I recommend to everybody, nothing wants them, they grow like crazy. They’re delicious, they reseed themselves, they’re amazing.
Someone told me that putting red Christmas ornaments out there would deter birds because they go after them thinking they’re a ripe tomato and then they don’t like the way it feels when they peck at them and so they go away.
Sheron - Oh thank you, all right! I have a bunch of those, I’ll go do that. I’ll do that tomorrow thank you very much!
And we have Chili Piquin. They just pop up everywhere down in South Texas and they say they grow wild around here too and turkeys love them. There’s this guy that is a botanist, an old guy that Charles knows (he’s old but he’s younger than us) he and Charles are always swapping stories. He is totally into, as a hobby mind-you, knowing all the Latin names of everything. He said, the Chili Piquin, as far as he can tell in his research is the granddaddy of all chilies. And you can find it worldwide, and that was the original chili, it’s teeny-tiny. It’s native to everywhere, I mean I don’t know where it started. The fertile crescent? Just this teeny-tiny thing that no human would eat. Well, tough people will eat them. When we had them growing in the yard, if we would have people working in the yard anyone from Mexico that was working was like, oh! Great! Free peppers and they would just pop them like candy. And I was just like my oh my god! Big Charles can eat them but he chooses not to and I can’t, I’m not even going to attempt it. They’re really hot, but they’re pretty. A neat little bush.
And when did ya’ll move here and build this house?
Sheron - Well this house is sort of organic actually. It was originally going to be one story and it was supposed to be smaller. And we got out here and the rock dictated a whole lot of what we had to do because we wanted to leave a small footprint so we wanted to find a clearing with the best view blah, blah, blah that would also not necessitate cutting down as many trees. We wanted to save as many as possible. So this is the spot! Rock to the center of the earth so he drilled down about six feet into the rock, the existing rock.
Charles did that himself?
Sheron- Yeah, well he and a crew of whoever was at Home Depot. There was also a contractor guy that was a engineer and he made sure everything was structurally sound. And Charles’ dad was a builder too so he knew a lot about it but this was an undertaking. First they put the rebar down in and then that insulated Styrofoam brick and another wall of Styrofoam brick and then rebar and concrete! So its like four feet and it’s so well insulated we hardly ever use more than a couple hundred dollars tops electricity and we’ve always got everything blazing. He wanted it to be tornado proof, fire proof, apocalypse proof, everything proof, zombie proof, so.
Yeah, if there is an apocalypse we’ll probably all come out here to stay with you.
Sheron - You better. That’s the plan, that’s exactly why we bought it. In fact he built iron shutters that can go on, out in the back, that he can attach to all the windows if the hoards of banshees come, hopefully they’ll just sit there and rust in the ground. That’s ok too. The house is enough insulated that if we had to do without electricity we could, just in case.
How long did it take for all this to come together?
Sheron - Well it really only took a year and half because he stepped on it. We really had to get out, we were done living on the top floor of a condo in Austin and second of all it had been sold so we had to move faster than we thought. We found that out half way through the process, but it’s all good. And let’s see then we went out to—well, a place that I will not name that told me the kitchen I wanted could not be built, I was just ridiculous. But we built it anyway, just we had all the cabinets hand-done and we just put it together ourselves.
They are so pretty.
Sheron - Well it was quite an undertaking to make that first stoke, “are we sure we want to go with turquoise?” Let’s do it, ah! I’m happy now but at the moment it was kind of terrifying.
You’re art is so beautiful too and goes perfectly with the house, is this something you’ve always collected or were you waiting for this space.
Sheron - all the paintings you see like that is Marcela Robles, a Mexican artist and we bought those when we lived in Acapulco and, I mean, you can see why we love it. All told, we lived there for about 8 years. We lived there twice, about six years one time, and two years another time. All the western art is Bud Green who was a famous western artist, he’s since passed away. He was a famous western artist and we got to know he and his wife late in his life and he really got taken with little Charles, and our Cherokee bunch and so he started doing all these things along these paintings they’re either with Big Charles or Little Charles or me. He did a painting for lot’s of famous people, at one time he made a copy of the one he did for Dean Martin to give to my dad, so stuff like that, all that’s real homogenous. And then we have The Charles Rogers Senior artwork, and we have a lot of Charles Rogers, Jr. artwork and we also have an authentic Justin Davidson.
Charles - (points to painting) this is Sheron as queen of the Carnival. And I was getting tired of everything down here being dark and old mirrors. It’s rolled canvas, I took some that were getting holes and I rolled them all up and trapped them under another canvas.
Sheron - it’s canvas on canvas
Charles - upon a canvas.
Sheron- it’s pretty exciting!
I love it.
Sheron - well especially because we have all those mirrors so you get to see it like 30 times. And I’ve been collecting those since I was about 21. There’s always a place for a mirror.
Charles - I tried to make it as three-dimensional as possible. The thing had to be about, maybe, astonishment or who knows?
Did you just recently get into painting?
Charles - Well in the 3rd grade I painted a picture, and it won the elementary school’s thing. Then, the number two painting that I did was, I guess I did one for myself just before Charles came. I was 37 at the time. But it wasn’t what I liked it was just too abstract and it was not saying anything. So then the third one I did was for my mother-in-law, an impressionistic thing of flowers and after years of calling me by my last name, Rogers, she started calling me Charles. That was number 3 and number 4 is being stretched on canvas and it’s eight feet by six feet and its done as a middle-eastern tapestry and it’s gold, high-gloss gold paint and lapis blue. That one would be a trip to see, if it was here. And this one is number seven and I’m on number eight now, in 35 years. And I always knew what talked at various art shows but I just didn’t have any time to do anything about it being a doctor. The story of this one with the foxes is that my wife always wanted twin girls.
Sheron - wouldn’t that have been fun to dress them alike?
Charles - So we have the mother here and then we have the twin girls but we had to give them a modern backstory. They have different fathers. That’s always a requirement. So the red fox has certain jewelry on its head and ears.
I love their tongues.
Charles - well that’s actually candy that they got from the box. See the little, you know, moon candy. They got into the box of moon candy.
Sheron - I don’t know what it is but I know I want it.
Charles - that’s the story, they got into the box of moon candy and she brought them out and then got down to the last three and so they’re thinking maybe this is on the moon, how can I get there? So the silver fox, the candy went to its gut, and this fox it went to its head. This one, went all over the place mostly its rear end is kind of large, back there. But the mother’s eating so much it changed her fur, so she no longer is a red fox or a gray fox but a moon candy fox.
Sheron - It’s an art explosion going on over here, at all times. My son painted this for me, it’s called “Flight Attendant Left on Mars” and it’s my worst nightmare that I’m always half dressed and missing my flight so he painted me stranded on Mars. I couldn’t dream anything worse than that.
And you have an extensive comic book collection?
Sheron - Yes, I’ve been collecting them for a long time. My favorite is Kitty Keene, oh my god! I started buying comics when I was six, and I had a pretty good collection and of course they got brother-ed and sister-ed to death. Then when I was about 20 and my roommate and my best friends and I, we’d party and then go buy comics books. And then when Little Charles was born he was really into this whole dinosaur series and my brother-in-law worked over at a flea market and he had some really cool ones so he’d pick them up for us. I’ve been a comic book fool all my life. I don’t really read them cover to cover any more I just take care of them, but when the kids come over they always want to see the ones with the naked women and slicing your heads off and stuff but I direct them to Richy Rich. I can sit down and read Richy Rich again, perfectly happily and recall the good old days. They’re what saved my life half the time. I stayed a lot with my grandparents and they’d take me down to the corner store and they’d put in a plastic bag five to ten comic books with the covers cut off because you aren’t supposed to resell but they did. And so that was treasure! You got ten comic books in a bag, all right!