Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekend fun, and my 500th post.

Friday night was a good time. We took mom out to Dynasty, as I told you before, and we made further plans to change things up and visit many more places in the future. Mom spoke about wanting to eat Italian next time, so the plan is for her to come over to Killeen this Friday and we'll all go out to the Olive Garden. It should be a great new tradition. We'll go wherever mom wants to go.

She's got great taste in food and isn't tied the way dad was to one place and one thing. It should be fun, seeing what we can come up with on a weekly basis. Also, not being tied to going to Dynasty every week will have it's rewards.

I can't eat a full plate of that stuff more than once a week or I'll lose my girlish figure, so there are a few great places here in town that I've been avoiding, saving myself for Fridays. All bets are off now, so these other folks had better brace themselves. I'll be bellied up to the buffet in mid week. It may just set the planet and stars off kilter. Someone call Al Gore.

Saturday afternoon, Denise and I drove down 289 towards the Hill Country to visit the Texas Men's Chili Championships in Johnson City. The new batch of Bluebonnets are out already, and soon they'll be spread out all along the roads, mixed with Indian Paint Brush and Butter Cups. If any of you are thinkin' about it, you need to plan a trip to the Hill Country in about a month. The flowers should be in full glory by then.

Some good friends of ours were competing it the show, testing out their new cooker and doing BBQ Brisket for the first time. Normally I'd go down with them and camp out, but this one looked like it was gonna be kinda dull (no gun show or rattlesnake roundup), and Denise had been kinda puny the few days before. She had missed work last week suffering from a stomach flue but was feelin' better by Saturday, so we just made it a day trip. Turned out to be a great idea. It rained a bit on us while we were headed down there. Though I love campin', doin' it in the rain is not my cup of tea if it can be avoided, so the day trip turned out to be a good idea.

The guys had already turned in their food (Chili, BBQ ribs, brisket and chicken) to the judges when we got there, so we hung around for a bit and then decided to head out and drive around the town and see what was there.

After a short drive into town and a trip to a local store for provisions (some peppered jerky, Raspberry Peach Chipotle Glaze, Peach Jalapeno Preserves and some hot mustard), we headed East from Johnson City to check out the Perdenales Falls State Park. Dig the flash flood shots. Not cool.

I'd always heard of the falls but had never seen them. It's a bit early in the year for a road trip like this. the flowers aren't fully out yet and the water isn't flowing much in the river, but these granite falls are pretty none the less. I'll have these shots over on the FlickR page soon. You can click over there for the rest of the pictures.

The falls are created by a sheer drop of along the Perdenales River. the water cuts trough the rock and makes chutes that swimmers and tubers use too have a great time in the summer.

One such chute, the largest of them, is already runnin'. Others can be seen, but the water isn't high enough for them to have any water in them yet.

Off to the side of the falls there's a spring emptying water into the river from under this rock and tree.

A few guys were out fishing and wading, but I don't think they were catching anything. Well, it's all about the friends and the relaxation, right? And the cooler. Don't forget the cooler.

After wandering around the falls we checked out a bird watching blind they have set up in the park. You walk in quietly, past the sign that warns you about rattlesnakes (Denise got a HUGE kick out of that), and then you can sit and watch the critters flit in and out.

There's a cool looking bird bath in there, attracting all sorts of critters.

I tried to take pictures of the hummingbirds, like the one above, but the auto focus on the camera kept focusing on the stuff behind the birds. Drove me nuts, and ruined most of my shots. I did manage to get a few fuzzy shots by focusing on the feeder and then shifting to the bird, but none of them turned out the way I wanted them to.

It was a very peaceful place. We hung out there for a while and then the time came for us to go back to the cook-off to see the awards handed out.

Turns out my buddy Dave and his brother Fred won 10th place for their ribs. It was fun to see them win again.

After that Denise and I headed West 20 minutes or so to Fredericksburg to eat dinner. We went to the Auslander and I tried my first Black & Tan.

Gag me with a stick! That Guinness is AWFUL and cutting it with Bass Ale didn't help! Don't know what some folks see in it, but to each his own. I washed it down with a tall Paulaner Hefeweizen (the idiot put a lemon slice in it) and some beer battered mushrooms. Then Denise and I split a big fat bacon cheeseburger and briefly walked around town. on the walk we stopped in at a little ice cream place for dessert and then decided to head back home the way we came.

On the drive home we noticed a spot light shining up from the center of town in Marble Falls, so we headed over to see what was goin' on.

Turns out they were having a music and arts festival, and there were several great Blues Bands (locals from Austin and others from around the nation) playing at various venues around the town square. Once we parked the car we just went from one place to another, sampling the music, and none of the bands disappointed.

On the main stage down town we found a great guitar player named Derek O'Brien who was backed up by the house band and horns from Antone's in Austin. His drummer that night was Chris Layton, the guy who played drums for Stevie Ray Vaughn and still plays his ass off with many other local and national bands. I can't believe we just missed seein' Omar and the Howlers! Apparently they were on stage just before O'Brien. Well, I guess I should pay closer attention to what's goin' on around the hill country. Had no idea the festival was gonna happen.

The band played their asses off for about a half hour while we sat on a curb and listened. When they finished we wandered over towards the car and happened upon another amazing little power trio playing in a funky little place off the main square.

This is the Chris Lopez Band out of San Antonio, playing in the little bar at the back of a place called The House of Blue Lights, off the main street. Here's a taste...

They were playin' covers when we got there, and pulled out an amazing version of Tom Petty's Mary Jane's Last Dance. It was wonderful. We listened for a while and then headed home.

We zipped up 289 and got to the house by about 12:30. It didn't take long for me to be sawin' logs. Part of me wanted to stay and close down that last venue, but the cats needed kibbles and it had been a very long day. I'll pay closer attention next time and we'll see them again.

Well, I hope all of you had a great weekend. Cheers.

Friday, March 28, 2008

It's Friday again.

I went over to see mom yesterday and tried to help get some stuff straitened out with the VA, the Air Force, and such. It looks from what we've heard so far like mom's gonna be OK financially after my dad's death. She's gonna be making enough each month to allow her to live pretty well. We called USAA and got all the policies switched over to her name and she's gonna end up paying less for better coverage. Her taxes are even gonna be less, now that she's a widow.

I went by the Chinese food place after seein' mom to tell them that dad had died. They knew us well from our regular trips and always treated dad like a king. I just don't want there to be a big scene when I show up there tonight with mom. It's gonna be hard enough on me to go back there without everyone feeling the need to come up and tell me how sorry they all are. Hell, It's probably gonna happen anyway, but we'll deal with it.

I was tempted to take mom somewhere else, maybe to BJs. I gave mom the choice of where to go, as I always will, and we'll probably visit lots of places in the coming years, but I LOVES me some Chinese food. Don't want to miss out on that regular feed. I know my waistline could use a break from the Generals Chicken, but I haven't paid attention to that voice in my head in a while.

Some friends of mine are goin' to Johnson City to compete in a chili cook-off this weekend, and Denise and I were planning to drive down and join them, but she's come down with a stomach flu and those plans may be off. Depending on how she's doing, maybe we'll just drive down Saturday and spend a few hours rather than going tonight and pitching a tent.

I've got students taking their final exam as we speak, and more taking them Monday. My 8 week semester is ending early next week, so I'll have a few days off at the end of the week to relax and get some other stuff done. I've recently taken up the bow again after something like 20 years, and my groups were getting tighter before dad went into the hospital and those sorts of things got shoved aside. Since going back to work this week I haven't been able to get to the range but I'll get over there today and take about an hour to practice. With a few hours of shooting next week under my belt I might just be able to get a turkey the following weekend. We'll see.

So, I'll head over to Temple at about 3:30 or so and make a few more phone calls and take care of a little more business for mom. Then we'll take her out to Dynasty and belly up to the buffet one more time. I'll get me a bit more of those good vittles. Maybe I'll eat a few more shrimp this time for you-know-who. If there's time after that I might get to do some shooting at the range. I think they close at 7:30. We'll see.

Now, I feel like I need to say somethin' to all you wonderful folks who were so kind to me and my family when you heard the news of my fathers passing. I want you to know that it really did help having those comments posted, and it still does. I find I'm able to move through my daily life now without thinking too much about daddy. I keep myself pretty busy, but from time to time the flood gates do open. I don't feel bad about it or anything, but I do have a desire to keep the grief private when it comes to most of the folks I deal with on a daily basis.

Having friends like you guys out there really makes everything easier to deal with. I love you folks with all with all my heart and I feel your hand on my shoulder when the need arises. It'll take me a long time to get over this loss, if I ever really do. But like many of you before me, I'll deal with it. I guess I'm tryin' to grow up a bit. It's not fun, but it's necessary. Don't worry. I won't ever REALLY grow up. There's no fun in that. I'm just tryin' to do what a man's supposed to do in these situations.

So, be looking forward to a lot more Friday posts, and more great pictures of great food and fun. Everything is gonna be OK. You guys have a great weekend and we'll talk on the other end of things. Cheers.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tid bits and tunes.

Y'all need to go over and read this. I know a few of you already read that blog. He writes some amazing stuff on the war. I think you'll enjoy it.

Also, did you happen to see these poll results yesterday? Hilarious. Like rats deserting a sinking ship. I guess they can't see the big picture. like spoiled kids, they won't play if they can't win.

On a similar note, do you know how much fun I'm having trying to explain what Super Delegates and Caucuses are to my students? it's hilarious, I wanna tell ya. Eight years after bitching and moaning about having the President chosen by the Electoral College, Democrats have set themselves up to have a hand full of Super Delegates choose their party's candidate. Logical?

Anyway, I haven't post any music in a while, so here's some stuff I've been blasting in the car lately.

Picture me in your mind, cigar in hand (or in mouth), sun roof cracked, speeding (just a bit, of course), on the lookout for the man, breaking just about every noise ordinance in town, jammin' to these great tunes.

And this one really gets me in the gut. No video here, but the audio is great. Crank this baby. Turn up the volume and you can thank me later.

And here's a different sound. I HATED this country stuff as a kid but the sounds have worked on me since. Mom and dad taught me, I guess by osmosis, to love Ray Price and that Honky Tonk sound. I guess I grew up a little and my mind opened to it, because I purely love it now. From time to time you can find me singin' these tunes at the top of my lings while I'm zippin' down the road.

I used to bust out my country CD on the way to the Chinese food place on Friday nights and dad and I would both jam. He loved it, so here's a great classic for daddy.

Pfew, that felt good. I hope you found something there you like.

Tomorrow is Friday, so you know what's on my mind. I think a plan's coming together for the weekend, and it might just be fun. I'll tell ya about that later. I'm off to work now, so if you smell cigar smoke and hear these tunes zippin' by fast, you'll know it was me. I'll see ya out there. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life goes on.

As you know, I buried my daddy last Saturday. The service was very nice, and we had a beautiful day for it. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. Beautiful flying weather.

My cousins and their kids showed up, from both sides of the family, along with other family and old friends. Even one of my dad's old golfing buddies showed up. Shocked the hell out of me. I thought all the local guys were dead.

My best friend from the old canoeing days, Jim Aycock, drove down from Ft. Worth even though he was sick and I told him not to. He's a real buddy, and I love him to death. The flowers he and his wife terry sent were the prettiest flowers I'd ever seen. Not only did he come but he brought me two 12 packs of Yuengling in his trunk (one Traditional Lager and one Black and Tan). Now THAT's a buddy.

I surprised myself by being able to hold it together through the service. I'd always figured I'd be a basket case when Dad went, but I needed to stay strong for mom and it was surprisingly easy to do. I guess I've grown up a bit more than I knew.

I held it together till the service was over and the folks were filing by to give their sympathies to my family. My dad's 95 year old cousin, Wilson Moon, hobbled up to me on his cane and said "Well, our buddy went and left us didn't he?" I got up and hugged the old gentleman so tightly I think I may have shook something loose and we cried for a minute. After that I just stayed up on my feet and hugged everyone who walked by. It felt good.

My cousin Peggy, my barber who'd cut my fathers hair a week earlier came by and said something very sweet to me, after which I picked her up, hugged her and shook her. Her husband, a tough ex-rodeo cowboy, tried to shake my hand but I told him there wouldn't be any hand shakes that day. He got similar treatment. He seemed tiny in my arms. They all did.

I held it together till the ceremony was over and my jacket was off (it was about 85 or 90 that day). While mom waited in the car and everyone was getting ready to go I walked over to the coffin and said my last goodbye. It was quick. I said something like "Bye bye daddy", and told him not to worry. I'd take care of everything. I reached out and gave the coffin a sweeping touch and then, quietly crying, turned to walk back to the car. I shook the hand of the funeral home rep, thanking him for doing a great job. Then I drove momma home.

After the funeral we all went back to the house where we were ready to serve lunch to those folks who came by to see mom. No one came. The folks who were part of dad's family all begged off. My mom's side of the family was well represented. We ate lunch, drank some of Denise's Southern Comfort Punch and remembered dad.

My cousin Bob had flown in Friday afternoon and was a huge comfort to mom and I. This is the guy I go fishing with in Canada every year. We've grown very close in the last 15 years, and consider ourselves to be brothers now. He stayed with mom Friday night so she wouldn't be alone and then stayed with me Saturday night.

We got up early on Sunday and I cooked breakfast burritos for he and Denise before we drove him back down to Austin to catch his flight back to Pennsylvania. I had Denise take this picture after he decided to head through security and go to his gate. I always break up when we part. I love him so much, it's hard to see him go.

He and Denise hit it off really well, bouncing hilarious barbs off one another now and then. Bob's a Yankee, with a Yankee's sense of humor, which took me a few years to get used too. I wanted to bust his ass for a long time before I figured out he was joking and I learned to give him some of the same shit back. Denise is tough as nails, with a British sense of humor, and doesn't take shit off of anyone. I think he really loved her strength, as I do. He told me on several occasions that I'd found myself a good one and better not screw it up. I share those sentiments.

After leaving the airport we drove around Austin for a while, visiting a few cool stores and killing time. After a while we went to Pappasito's for lunch. Denise had a Strawberry Margarita and I killed two Shiners in chilled mugs as we enjoyed the spicy beef queso dip, beef and chicken fajitas and my favorite brochette shrimp. I can't go to eat there without getting those. It was wonderful. There was a dude dressed as the Easter Bunny there and they had an Easter Egg hunt for the kids in the garden of the restaurant. It was a wonderful time.

After that, with the sky becoming cloudy and the temperatures dropping into the 50s, we drove back up to Temple and went to see mom. I asked her if she wanted to go to the cometary and after briefly hesitating she decided we should go.

As I drove us into the park and swung around to the point where dad's plot was in view, mom looked over at it and said something like "Well, he's really there isn't he?", and started to sob.

Mom hadn't cried yet and had felt the need on a few occasions to try to explain why she hadn't cried to those of us who were. I think the sight of that mound and the beautiful flowers was the moment that the reality of dad's death finally hit her. We cried together, arm in arm, with Denise softly touching my shoulder from the back seat.

We all got out and walked over to stand in front of the plot. Mom and I stood there, with me supporting her as her legs buckled. I stood behind her and held her up, surrounding her in a bear hug, as we both sobbed for a good while. It was a very sweet, cathartic moment for the both of us. She called my dad a "Stinker" for going first. Later she took Denise on a tour, showing her where her sisters, their husbands and my Grandparents are.

After that we drove her home. I sobbed some more, leaning on the stairs and letting go for a while. We spent another hour sitting in mom's living room and talking about a lot of things. Her cats begged for her attention the whole time, maybe sensing something was wrong. I got the above picture as one searched the yard for movement.

While we talked, remembering things about the past, mom revealed some things to me about my dad that I'm still trying to get strait in my head. I might tell you about that stuff some time. It was cool to hear my mom unload, and brings me the hope that as time goes by she might tell me more of the stories she's apparently always been reluctant to tell me while Dad lived.

Anyway, everything is very slowly getting back to normal. Mom's doing fine, and we're slowly dealing with all the stuff that comes up after someone dies... All the government agencies who have to be told, and the insurance, and the banks. It's a daunting process, but we'll get through it.

I talk to mom every day now, sometimes twice a day, and she's getting phone calls from lots of well wishers all the time. I can never thank those folks enough, or the folks who've expressed their condolences to me on the comments page of this and other blogs. You guys are wonderful, and I'll never forget it. Consider yourselves hugged, picked up and shook. Mushy can tell ya what that's like.

This next Friday is gonna hurt. I'm not sure what I'll do with myself. I mean, I know there's a lot of things i can do, but it's still gonna hurt when I think of all those Fridays, and the football games in the fall, and the driving range. I talked to mom about how we should start a new tradition, with me taking her out to eat. She loves that Chinese food just as much as dad did, but we can go wherever she wants to go. We'll see. We'll get through it, no matter what happens.

I tell ya, having Denise here loving me, taking such great care of mom, and having you guys out there will make it all a lot easier to deal with. I love you guys.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brits in training.

Found these a long time ago and enjoyed watching it. Hope you do too. Everything is still cool here, but I'm busy as hell getting back into the teaching groove and stuff. I'll have a fresh post in a while. In the meantime, enjoy this.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Transitioning back to normal life... More Shtuff.

Just want you to know everything is going fine at home. Mom is fine, and I'm doing OK. We're all healing, very slowly. My sister has had a very bad time of things, and made things worse for me and my mother with some of the things she's said in the midst of her grief, but all of that is another story for another day. Denise has taken up the slack from my sister and both my mother and I have depended on her far too much. She's become like another beloved daughter to my mother, and her love for me has been a source of endless comfort.

Some time this week I'll tell you haw the funeral went, and the events of Easter Sunday, but now it's time to begin to shake it off and start getting back to some sort of normal life. Classes begin at 8am Monday morning, and I can't wait! Bob is back in Pennsylvania and Denise and I are here getting ready to hit the sack, watching Penguins on PBS. Cute little fuckers. Now they have REAL problems.

So, in the interest of getting back to something like normal life, here's the skinny on all that brass I showed you last week, and some more cool shtuff for your perusal.

OK, so you wanna know the details? From left to right, starting at the top left:

One of those two little rounds is a .22, but the smaller one on the left is a smaller blank. It seems even smaller than the .22 round next to it, so I don't really know if it's a .22 or not. That big piece of brass is a souvenir from one of the ships I taught on. It's spent brass from a 20mm CIWS anti-missile system (I think it's from the Arleigh Burke). Next to that is a .30-30 hollow point I picked up hunting on Ft. Hood years ago, then a Russian made .30 round for my new M-1 Carbine. Next are two British .303 rounds for my Canadian made Enfield. Then you have two 5.45x39 rounds. The one with the white tip is an East German blank. The other is a Russian round.

That stripper clip in the middle of the group is loaded with that same Russian 5.45x39, for an AK-74 type rifle. When fully loaded it carries 15 rounds. The clip is designed for speed loading a magazine for an AK-74. Behind those is a 7.5x54 round for my French MAS-49/56 rifle. Then you've got two 7x57 hollow point rounds for my hunting rifle (a converted WW1 Mauser), a Russian 7.62x39 hollow point, a Chinese 7.62x54, an East German 7.62x39 blank, and a .223 blank. Behind them are spent brass from a 7mm Remington Magnum and a conventional 7mm and brass from three .50 shells, all found on one hunting trip or another on Ft. Hood. Then you've got a clip of .30-06 for my Garand and a single .30-06 round.

Now, below those, going right to left are four different kinds of Civil War loads: Two American cartridges with ball and powder in a paper wadding, one British Enfield load with a greased bullet, and a "Buck and Ball" round. Then you have two .54 Mini balls, and a .68 mini ball for a confederate musket. Then you have what happens to a .68 ball when it hits a steel plate. To the left of that is a .54 musket ball, and two others that hit the same steel plate. Finally, there's another "Buck and Ball' to the left of them, and a clip full of 7.62x54 for a Russian Mosin-Nagant or a Tokarev rifle above that.

To my knowledge, that's everything. You think I misidentified anything, feel free to chime in.

Now, for more shtuff... Back in about 1995 I went hunting for real for the first time and got a deer (I'll post about that some time soon). When I took that deer, after dreamin' about it for years, I was determined to not only save and eat the meat, but also to save the hide and tan it.

First I rolled it up and froze it till I had a nice sunny day to work on it in the back yard. Then I soaked it in water and let it thaw, soaking in the water and becoming elastic. I made a large frame from some branches we'd recently pruned from the tree in the back yard and stretched the hide on the frame with parachute chord, leaning the whole thing up against the fence.

At some point along the way I realized I was gonna need a scraper to scrape the membrane off the hide and dry it out. I set to work in the garage to build one off the cuff. I took a thicker piece of tree limb and a piece of barrel hoop (I'd saved some hoops from one of mom's old garden barrels to make arrow heads - perfect material for that).

The result is here as you see, a scraper with a short handle and a sharp, curved blade.

I cut a notch in the top of the handle, bent the blade so it would fit in the notch and then sank a few nails in there to secure the blade to the handle. It worked perfectly. I used it to scrape all the crap off that hide and dried it out in the back yard. I still have the hide, rolled up somewhere, and the scraper too. I'll use it again, one of these days.

I took up the hobby of knife making several years ago, and this is one I'm very fond of. I got the blade out of a catalog, and some of the handle materials at a gun show. Friggin' thing was razor sharp right out of the box. I cut the shit out of my finger when I was pulling the blade out of the cardboard and it slipped.

The handle is a mix of rams horn and wood, cut into an interesting shape. It's glued to the tang and then pinned with three sets of brass pins. It all came together very nice. I use it now as a utility knife out on the work bench. One of these days, when I get back into hunting, I'll use this as my skinner. I still need to make a sheath, but that's the easy part.

I found this little toy at a gun show in Austin several years ago. Looks innocent, doesn't it?

It's harmless until you unscrew the blade, turn it around and then re screw it into the handle. And yes, that blade is Damascus steel, with a beautiful design cut into the spine of the blade.

Here's another little toy. I picked this up at a store in France in about 1990. I was in Toulon on my second cruise with the Navy, teaching on an underway replenishment ship called the USS Concord. I seem to remember someone saying not to buy anything like this and try to get it back into the country, but this was way before 9/11, and things were more civilized back then. Anyway, I always figured advise like that was for the sailors, not civilians like me.

Here's the thing opened, with my pen there for some sort of size comparison. Opened like this it almost measures 11 inches. It's really a piece of crap, but I love it. Can't imagine trying to fight anyone with a thing so wobbly. Too many working parts. It's fun to open, with that flash of steel, and it'll make a deep hole in somthin', so there ya go. Nice letter opener, eh?

So, I'm off. You guys take care and have a great week. Cheers.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Everything is going fine, for the most part.

I don't have time now to read blogs or post anything with all that's happened, but I just wanted to say how much I love all you folks and how much your sweet comments mean to me and my family.

Eventually I'll be able to tell you about everything that's gone on, including some amazing family drama. The last 48 hours have been a mix of wonderful joy and laughter, as well as profound grief and anger. I know that sounds like one of those 1930s serials... "Tune in next time to see if the car goes over the cliff!", but it's the way everything has unfolded.

Well, welcome to my life. We'll talk. Don't worry about commenting again to this one. I just wanted to tell you all how much I love you and how great it is to have friends like you. In a time like this I guess you really find out who your friends are. It's been wonderful.

I'm doing fine, and my Mom is being very strong. Much of the family came together tonight at the viewing and it was great. More folks will arrive tomorrow. The funeral is tomorrow afternoon and then we're gonna gather at mom and dads house and have some food and some of Denise's Southern Comfort Punch.

Denise has been a rock in these last few days that my mom could lean on while I couldn't always be there, and she's shown me all the love that I never really thought I'd have. I can't imagine going through this time without her, and all of you.

My cousin Bob arrived from Pennsylvania today. He's very close to me, like a wise older brother who's been through all this before (both of his parents are gone now). So now I have another guy here who's on hand to laugh and cry with. Between Denise, big brother Bob, and my other big brother on my speed dial, I'll make it through this ordeal just fine.

Tomorrow will be very hard. Maybe the hardest thing I've ever been through. But I know I have the love of many treasured friends, and that's making things very much easier. Thanks a lot for that.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

My daddy.

I've had the pictures in this post for months now, tryin' to be smart and come up with a eulogy ahead of the event, thinking I'd be too torn up to do it after the fact. Well, here it is. The fact is a fact now. My daddy passed away in his sleep at the hospital at about 11AM today.

Mom had spent the morning with him and says that he'd gotten much better. He was awake and alert, and his mind was clear. When the food was brought in for him he surprised my mom by eating and drinking it all. When a nurse came in to ask him questions (they'd been told he was suffering from dementia), he gave her a sinister look, as if to say "Of course I know that. What the hell business is that of yours?", and answered all her questions accurately.

Mom was thinking everything would be Ok when dad gave her the signal that he was ready for a nap and she should go home. Within an hour of that the hospital was calling her telling her that his heart had stopped and they were trying to revive him. I was up in Gatesville, shooting my new carbine with my buddy Dave when they called me. They said mom was on her way to the hospital and that they were still working on dad.

Dave was sitting ready to shoot my rifle when the call came, so I told him to go ahead and blast away and we'd get the hell outa there. By the time we'd gotten the truck half way back to his house from his back 40 the hospital was calling me again saying they couldn't revive him and that my father was dead. I guess I was in shock, because I took the news very matter-of-factly. The reality of it didn't hit me for a while. I was half way from Gatesville to Temple before the sobbing and tears hit me, to the point where I was afraid to drive for fear of being blinded by the tears.

I made several calls along that 30 minute drive, telling relatives that he'd passed. I called Mushy, who's become the next best thing to a brother to me, and then he sent out the word to the rest of my blogging friends. The words you guys have expressed since then have warmed my heart, and I'll make sure my mom and sis hear them too.

I've got other stuff I need to do now, so rather than go on I'll just show you some pictures of dad, beginning with this one.

It's one of my favorites. It's a shot of him (in the middle) with his older brother Sam and his father, taken some time in the late 1920s while that sat in the cotton field my grandfather tilled as a Tennant Farmer (dad was born in July of 1922).

Here's dad and I, in 1960, taken in Bermuda where I was born.

This is Dad and his brothers in about 1978, at a Wilson Family reunion.

This is Dad and I after a golf game, some time around 1992 or 3.

This is dad, sitting in the kitchen of their house in Temple, reading the paper with his buddy Rascal in his lap. I think it was taken about 1996.

This is a shot I took with my phone on Fathers Day of last year, as we were waiting to get a table at The Outback Steakhouse in Killeen.

And this is one of my favorites. I took this Christmas before last. I think the look in his eye, the humor, the look of mischief, captures his spirit better than any other picture we took in many years.

He was still pretty clear headed then. He's young again now, sitting here at my side while I type this. He'll always be with me, wherever I go. I miss you daddy, but I've been missing the real you for a long time now. Now you can shine again. You can get together with your old pals and play golf again. We'll see each other again, and we'll do all the things you always wanted to do. You don't have to worry about anything. I'll take care of mama and Margaret. Everything is gonna be fine. You did your job, better than anyone else I know. Now I have to do mine. Rest. Rest in peace. You've earned it.

Dad's puny.

As I told you yesterday, mom called me at about 1am Wednesday morning telling me she was calling 911. Dad was complaining of chest pains. "Could I come?" was the question, as if there would be any other answer but YES!

As I said yesterday, I drove over there thinking that might be THE night, but it wasn't. Dad spent the night in the emergency room, with mom and sis sitting with him till morning. After a few hours I had to bring Denise home so she could get some sleep before going to work. I was secretly thankful for that. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in the hospital all night. Of course, if they'd needed me I would have sat there with mom, but sis got there and they both told me to take Denise home at about 3:30. Denise called in to work in the morning and told them she'd been up all night at the hospital and that she'd be in late and then we slept in till about 11. As she headed to work, I headed back to the hospital.

When I got back over there at about noon, dad was up in his fifth floor room sleeping like a baby. I stayed all day, off and on. Sis spent about five hours with him in the afternoon while I went to see mom and do a few other things. Then mom came over at about dinner time while I took sis home. Mom got out of there at about 9:30pm, with me escorting her to her car out in the dark parking area before going home myself. Dad's one remaining brother and his wife visited him late in the evening and several relatives called during the day to see how he was doing.

It turns out dad has a urinary tract infection. That, coupled with dehydration, weakened him and had him laying in bed for several days until he complained about that pain. We're still not sure what those chest pains were all about, but his cardiologist will see him today.

Turns out he went for about 4 days last week without taking a bath or changing his own diaper. Mom would say "Don't you need a bath?" and he'd say "No.", and then just go back to bed. I guess it's gotten to be such a chore, taking his clothes off and bathing, that he decided not to do it. The result of all of that was this infection. He's also become more difficult to feed and care for, at times refusing to eat and constantly wanting something different than what mom fixes for him. She gives him water to drink all the time, worried that anything else will hurt his one remaining functional kidney, but I guess he wasn't drinking enough of it and has become dehydrated.

It looks like everything will be OK on the short term. But there are lingering questions in our minds about mom needing help taking care of him on a daily basis. Mom just doesn't have it in her to be a drill sargent, and that's increasingly what dad needs to force him to do what he needs to do to stay healthy. He's becoming more and more like a child and taking care of him is exhausting her. That REALLY worries us. If something happened to her we wouldn't have any choice but to put dad in a home. That's an issue were gonna have to deal with now.

Anyway, thanks for the beautiful comments to yesterdays post. You all mean a hell of a lot to me. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


First off, mom called at about 1am last night sayin' she'd called 911 and that dad was goin' to the hospital complainin' of chest pains. He's been sick for about a week, layin' around in bed and not eating, so we've been worried somethin' was up. I drove over there in the rain thinkin' maybe it was THE night, but it wasn't.

My sister and Mom stayed with him most of the night, but I needed to get Denise back to the house so she could get some sleep before she had to go to work. She insisted on goin' over there with me last night, sayin' she wouldn't be able to sleep for worryin', so I let her come along. Truth be told, I was glad to have her next to me. It was great to have her at my side at that moment. She helped my sister find the place while mom and I stayed in the emergency room with dad. We got back here by about 3:30 and slept till about 11am today and then she went to work late while I headed back over to the hospital.

Dad's up in a fifth floor room now sound asleep, but the nurse said he's askin' for me over and over again when he's awake. Now I'm headed back over there. I'll post somethin' about it all later. Bottom line, after a scare, everything seems to be OK.

Now, enjoy some funny pooties.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


You know, gear. Toys. Bruno posted pictures of old rounds and it got me thinkin' of all the crap I have around here, so here's some candid shots of some of my crap.

First though, Mushy posted some hunting memories recently where he talked about using his Air Force survival knife. Well, here's mine.

When I took a class in Camping and Canoeing in 1980 at a local community college, I was told I needed a knife for the trips. So I went to a great army surplus store there in Ft. Worth, Omaha Surplus, and got myself a knife. My whole early life had been lived in the Air Force, so lets say there were ties that drove me in this direction. I got myself a K-Bar too, but for some reason this little knife always fit better in my hand. It was also cool to have a knife that no one else on the trips would have.

Over a long space of time, through many canoe trips, the leather got wet again and again. As I've told people, if you haven't gotten wet, you haven't had the full canoeing experience. Between turning over now and then and falling down while crossing mossy rocks in the rapids, or just paddling for hours in the rain, this knife got wet again and again. When it did I started to notice the handle getting loose. Turns out the leather spacers in the handle shrank on me, loosening the guard and making the knife a mess. So I had to do something to tighten it all up again. Being unable to get the pommel off, I decided to take a nail and wrapped it around the tang just below the blade, pressing the guard down on the leather spacers, tightening the whole thing up.

That worked great, till the leather shrank some more. I eventually had to wrap another nail around the tang. Makes me wonder why anyone would use these leather spacers as a handle material, but there you go. The handle eventually got stained by dirt and grime, and took on this nice dark color. As you can see, I ground the blade down to a simple V shape by many hours of rubbing it on a large wet stone, and then I blued the blade. It's very sharp, both on the long main blade and the short one above the main blade. The only thing I didn't do is grind the saw blade down so that it would really be useful.

I eventually personalized the sheath as well, as you can see above. A few bone hair pipe beads, brass and Czech glass beads on a deer hide strap, and trimming the sides of the sheath where you attach it to your belt. It's safe to say no one else has one like this.

In the end, I guess I decided that this was really a piece of crap as a knife. If it weren't for all my modifications, I wouldn't be seen with the thing on my belt. Of course, after personalizing it, I love it to death. I don't carry it on hiking or canoeing trips any more. I've graduated to more practical pocket knives and skinners that I made myself. But this thing will always have a warm place in my heart. There are many great memories in every stain or cut on that sheath, and every dent in the blade.

Now, for jollies, how many of these can you identify? Aw, come on, most of it's easy. A mix of old and new, foreign and domestic, from the Civil War to the 21st Century. See what you can do.

I'll have more shtuff later. God knows, the house is full of it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The weekend.

Took dad to get his hair cut Friday afternoon. Got him down to Peggy's place in Salado by 4:45. She treated him like a king and did a really great job on the both of us. Then she turned around and didn't charge dad for the cut. Said not to tell him. Our little secret. Next time we go I'll try to remember to take the camera in there and get a few good shots. I guess I was too concerned with getting him there on time and getting him past all the curbs, stairs and stuff, his legs not being in great shape these days. We made an appointment to come back in 6 weeks.

After that we went over to Dynasty and had the same big feed we always have. It wasn't as crowded Friday night but the food was just as good. After Spending a while there at the house with Mom, talking some stuff out with her, getting a dose of her wisdom, I went off to meet up with Denise and a few of her friends at their house out by Stillhouse Hollow. That was a fun time too.

Saturday, Denise and I woke up slowly, as is our habit on the weekend. We were set to go to a St. Paddy's... Oops, I mean St. Patty's Day Party at the home of a friend of ours. We cooked some good snacks to take over. Denise did her normal pizza roll and I experimented with the dough to see about making a large version of my Kolache that I could then cut into slices. It worked perfectly.

Again, sorry, no pictures, but here's what I did. I took a frozen loaf of bread dough out of the freezer and let it thaw over night. Rolled it out flat like a square pizza dough and covered it with honey mustard. Then sprinkled on an 8 oz. bag of shredded swiss cheese. I sliced up and spread on the same kind of sandwich ham that I use in the kolaches and then sprinkled on garlic salt, pepper, and a few other spices. It's like you're makin' a pizza. Then I rolled the whole thing up into a fat tube and pinched off the ends to seal it. Finally I stabbed it about 8 or 10 times so the steam will rise out of it, and then spread on a mixture of butter, garlic, pepper and oregano, and put it in the oven at 375 for about 35 to 40 minutes. It normally would have been 30 but both pizza rolls were in the oven at the same time.

While it was baking I got a frantic call from mom. I dread those calls, never knowing if it might be THE call. Turns out dad was stuck out on the swing in the back yard, unable to get himself out of it. His legs have been weaker than usual the last few days, and mom can't lift him, so she asked if I was free. Normally she has to call 911 and the local fire department comes and picks him up off the floor, or whatever. Mom hates doin' that though, as you might imagine. I told her not to worry, that I'd be right over. 20 to 25 minutes later I was hoisting dad up out of the swing and tellin' mom it was no big deal, to call whenever she needed me.

By the time I got home again Denise had taken our pizza rolls out of the oven and cut them up. We gathered all our contraband together and headed for the party. It was a great time. Denise made a big bowl of her Southern Comfort Punch. Both it and our food hit it off well at the gathering. It was a two cigar night out there on the porch by the pool, sippin' punch and listenin' to hilarious stories about the old days in Killeen, as well as one guys tales about flyin' helicopters in Vietnam. You know I loved listenin' to all that.

Sunday was another slow wake-up. Didn't roll out of the sack till about 3PM. I was determined to take a few shots at the archery range that's set up where Dad and I hit golf balls, but the wind was blowin' too much and the targets kept blowin down, so I decided to wait for another day. Denise and I went over to Las Casas Mexican food Restaurant and sat down in their screened-in porch area for dinner. Denise had their famous "White Wings" and I had a huge friggin' burrito. After my two Sierra Nevada's and her one big, top shelf strawberry margarita, plus the food of course, we headed over to see the folks.

We chatted with mom and sipped a few glasses of Chateaus Monet while I checked the paper for movie times. At one point Dad hobbled in to join us and sat down in a chair there in the living room. He eventually got around, as he usually does, to talking about how old he is. I always have to remind him it's really 85 years, and not more. He always wants to say 89 or 90. I said something humorous about how he'd been a pain in my ass for at least 40 some odd years and he flashed a look of acknowledgment in my direction. I could tell he was thinking it was mutual.

I got up from the couch and slowly walked over toward him, looking at him. As I leaned down in front of him he said "Now, be careful." He started to squirm. I told him "I'm gonna kiss ya", and he smiled and said "Oh, OK." I looked over at Denise after all that and saw that tears were welling up in her eyes. It wasn't long before dad had gotten up to use the restroom and mom had gone to the kitchen, leaving Denise and I alone in the living room so I could briefly, silently cry without ether of them seeing it. You know, it tears me up to see my father this way, but that's life.

After that visit Denise and I went to see The Bank Job at the local mall. EXCELLENT FLICK! I can't say enough about it. You all need to go see it if you have the chance. Wonderful movie. Here's the trailer.

Take my word, you'll love it.

Started reading The Road last night as Denise slept. It's written by the same guy who wrote No Country For Old Men, and it's also soon to be a movie, set to be released in 2008, with Charlize Theron, Viggo Mortensen and Robert Duvall. Love this guys work. I think I've read everything he's written. Check him out.

Well, Denise is off to work this morning, but I've got the week off. It's Spring Break, so I'm chillin', waitin' on a buddy to come by at about 10AM. We're off to Peacock Archery in Belton. I'm gonna get all my beat up old arrows refletched and renocked and show my buddy this outdoor range I found. It's rainin' so we may just shoot at Peacock. Anyway, it's casual. No worries.

You guys have a relaxing week, and we'll chat again. Cheers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where all little Leprechauns go to die...

You know, the pot at the end of the... You get it. Have a great St. Patties day everyone! We'll be going to a party Saturday night with the same crew from work and town that we usually get together with. There'll be booze and finger snacks all around. It should be fun.

For the other side of your brain, here's a little interesting history to munch on while you enjoy a brew or two over the weekend. Not that many Americans know about the San Patricios.

It's Friday again, so you know where I'll be tonight. I'll head over to get dad early today because we're both gonna go get our hair cut by my cousin Peggy in Salado. It should be a fun time, givin' dad a chance to tell stories and see his niece. Maybe her husband will show up, knowin' dad's gonna be there. I should be able to get some fun shots to post for Monday.

Then we'll head over to the Chinese place for another big feed. Then it's over to see mom for a while. You know, same old Friday. Maybe she'll bust out the Chateaus Monet for me, but usually that gets saved for times when I bring the little woman. We'll see.

Then I'll give Denise a call. She's going out to eat tonight with some old friends who live out by Stillhouse Hollow Lake, between here and Belton. I'll call her when I get away from the old folks and she'll give me directions to get to their house. I'll bring a bottle of nice wine, and we'll have some fun.

So, you guys have a great time, and we'll get back together on the other side of things. Cheers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Found something very interesting on Drudge Wednesday morning.

Got to this site and read why the playwrite David Mamet has decided to announce why his private beliefs are now incomputable with his previous public Liberal political persona. It's very interesting, and I think mirrors a bit of my own political maturation in the last two decades.

Here are a few quotes from the piece, to tease you:

On the system of checks and balances... "The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long."

... And on the hypocrisy of criticizing Bush while lavishing unblinking praise on JFK... "Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia."

... And on the state of our political discourse, and I think this goes both ways folks:
"In short, liberalism has become a state religion (cult) intolerant of other religions which have to be driven out of politics, and those who dissent are heretics whose voices must be stilled or delegitimized."

Go ahead and read it. You'll like what he says. And tell me what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Here's Pat Condell again, from Britain. Enjoy.

I tell ya, I love the hell out of this guy. And we're not too far behind the Europeans when it comes to appeasement. Try to get any of the presidential candidates to speak as candidly as this guy does.

Quick question.

Would you rather serve in the Iranian army...

Or the Ukrainian army? Still confused? Well here's a recruiting ad from the Ukraine.

Well, maybe it is the size of your gun after all.