Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A friend sent this late last night. Thought I'd share.

These are actual analogies and metaphors found in the essays of high school students.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

Her vocabulary was as bad, as, like, whatever.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

The hailstones leaped up off the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star crossed lovers raced across a grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a landmine or something. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

She was as easy as the TV guide crossword.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

I'm still workin' on last weekends shots. Maybe post something later today. Huge plans this weekend. It'll be another busy one. We'll talk. Goin' to class. later.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ol' Dudley blew me away with this one.

Y'all need to head over and see this. Am I the only one that started humming the bass beat from "Jaws" when I saw that? Seriously, I' gotta get me a Gar. I'm both grossed out and fascinated. At least it wasn't a huge friggin' spider.

Reminds me, you hear about that dude that got eaten by a Great White the other day? Ok, that was just wrong, I apologise.

My grandaddy's shotgun.

When my father was growin' up his daddy had this 12 gage shotgun on hand at all times. It was used to put food on the table and to fend off critters that threatened the family livelihood. Dad used to tell me over and over about the time he found a snake in a corner of their barn and went to get this gun. He was maybe 6 or 7 then. He'd found the gun, took it out to the barn, took deadly aim and proceeded to blow out the whole corner of the barn, dispatching the snake in the process.

Dad was never into guns. The other story he tells concerning this weapon is about his mom forcing his older brother to take him on "hunting trips" in the woods with he and his friends. My uncle was a sure shot and had a pump action .22 that he could hit anything with. He and his friends would be arguing about which ear they were gonna hit on a squirrel sitting up on a tree limb when dad would cut loose with this shotgun and take out the squirrel, tree limb and all. He didn't get invited back after that.

It's a Stevens 12 gage, and it's about 70 years old. The gun had been in my uncle Mack's gun cabinet since before my grandfather died in the early '60s. My cousin John had grown up shooting it and enjoying the ties that the gun represented, connecting him to his own father and our paternal grandfather. He'd grown up here in Bell county and had known Granddad as a child, so the gun meant a lot to him.

When my uncle Mack died in about 1998 my Dad decided he wanted the gun. It was his fathers gun and he wanted me to have it. He told John about it and John handed it over to us without any hesitation. He hated to give it up but now says he gave it up because he wanted to keep peace in the family. His own son was even more upset. To him the gun was his only tie to his grandfather, my uncle Mack. I felt bad about the whole thing, but dad was in charge and doin' what he wanted, as usual. Everyone just put up with it.

When we got it I decided to take it somewhere and get it cleaned up. These pictures show the result. I've regretted doing that since then, ruining the original finish of the gun, but I was an idiot back then and didn't know anything about guns, other than that I wanted some. Since I got it back from the gunsmith it's been in my closet, leaning up against a wall. I never shot it, too worried about how old it was and whether it would stay in one piece.

When some bastards broke into my house and robbed me in '05, old guns like this one were completely ignored. They went for the cooler, more modern stuff, to my sorrow. When Peggy learned about that robbery she asked me if they'd taken the shotgun and I could see the relief in her face when I told her they hadn't.

Dad wanted me to have it because he knew I loved guns. He also knew that I'd always longed for some sort of closer connection to his side of the family, so having this gun might make accomplish that. But I knew that these other folks, who I love dearly, had been hurt by what my father had done all those years ago. By rights, it's really John's gun, to be handed down to his son, and then to his, and so on. I'll never have kids to hand it down to, and it doesn't mean as much to me. I never knew Granddad. The ties just aren't there.

I told Peggy a long time ago that as soon as Dad died I'd give it back. I didn't want to upset him by doing it while he was alive. I didn't want to have to lie to him if he asked me where it was. When he passed away a month or so ago I knew it was the time to make the gesture, but something in me resisted. It was as if I was going against Dad in some way. Hell, maybe I'd gotten used to having it.

I got a call from Peggy the other day. I was scheduled to go over to her salon in Salado last Friday and get my hair cut. I do this every six or eight weeks or so. It's a great time. She wanted to beg off because she was gonna go with John to see her kids and grand kids up near Ft. Worth and spend the weekend. I decided after thinking about it that this was as good a time as any.

I have several hours off between classes on Thursdays and knew I could make the trip and get back in time to teach. I took a few pictures of the gun for me to save and in the end I decided to wrap the gun in an old deer hide bag that I'd sown together and put a few beads on about 15 years ago to carry my hunting rifle. It seemed fitting somehow. I wanted them to see that I'd taken care of the gun and also give them something from me for the years I'd had it.

So, I wrapped up the gun in this case, tied off the end and took it to Peggy's salon and handed it over. I was surprised to find myself sniffling a bit and my chin crinkling when I handed it over, and then the tears came. It was like I was parting with Dad all over again. It hit me hard for a few minutes but then John walked in unexpectedly and I straightened up. You know, it's a guy thing.

Peggy looked at him, holding the case in front of her and asked "Do you know what this is?", and with joy in his eyes, looking at me from under the brim of his cowboy hat, John smiled and said "I think I do." We ended up laughing and talking about the gun and his experiences hunting with it. He talked about one time when he was kneeling on the ground by a tank (in Texas that's a small stock pond that attracts wildlife) waiting for doves to fly by when both barrels went off at the same time accidentally and the gun flew out of his hands.

I told him how sorry I was that Dad had done what he'd done and he was cool about it. In the end Peggy told me to go ahead and sit down and she gave me a great haircut and then didn't charge me. While I was getting sheared John picked up the case and left with it, going home. I watched him leave with it and got a bit emotional again, but then I put it behind me. After the haircut Peggy and I hugged and I drove home. I pulled out a fat cigar from the glove compartment and cranked up the jams about as loud as I could and tried not to think about Dad too much. That sort of thing seems to help these days.

You guys have a great Monday and we'll talk again in a few. I've got great shots from the weekend to share. Later.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I’m hemorrhaging money these days.

First off, I plunked down a little over $700 for a new set of tires yesterday. Nice Goodyears. It’s been a year since the last set, which seems too soon, but I have put about 30,000 miles on the car since then, so I guess it makes sense.

Also, I was driving up from Florence yesterday morning and listening to an Austin radio station, KLBJ, when they talked about Roger Waters appearing in concert in Dallas and Houston in about a week and a half. I couldn’t friggin’ believe my ears! A year ago this month, I sat here, green with envy, reading about Mushy and his buds going to Atlanta to see Waters and his band do all of the old Pink Floyd tunes, plus a full rendition of Dark Side of the Moon on it’s 30th anniversary.

I looked at the web sites back then and saw that Waters wasn’t coming anywhere near Texas and actually looked into driving to Georgia. Figured it’d be a cool way to get to meet Mushy and see a great show. I asked soldiers in my class “Who’s from Georgia?” and “How long of a drive is that?” I wanted to see it so badly but it looked like it wasn’t to be. I couldn’t afford it all and was tryin’ to be sensible.

When I later saw the pictures Mushy posted of the event and read his description of it I realized how much I’d screwed up, thinking about trying to be good and not spending too much money. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve missed in my life, buyin’ into someone else’s idea of bein’ good. What a stupid fuckin’ waste of time! Anyway, a year went by and I’d basically forgotten about it. No, not really. Missing that concert was still eating at me. Then this Austin radio DJ dropped the bomb.

When I got to work I used the computer to look it up and check the details. I didn’t really believe it was real. I figured now that he’d finally come to Texas the concert would probably be on a Wednesday when I have class. Something would go wrong. Rush just played a gig in Austin on this last Wednesday and I couldn’t go. Pissed me off!

I figured SOMETHING would screw it all up. But no, the concert in Dallas is scheduled to be on a Friday night and the Houston show is on a Sunday night. I looked into tickets for both shows and it turned out the ticket site for the Houston show allowed for a better view of where your seat would actually be. I scrolled through the ticket prices and seat locations and, filled with excitement, I made the decision that I wouldn’t settle for the cheap lawn seats at the back of the venue. I’ve done that a few times and the view is not really worth the price of the ticket.

Before I knew what I was doing I was taking out my credit card and plunking down $558 for two tickets ($236 a piece, plus tax) in about the 16th row, center section, under the awning. I told a student who was sitting up front in class, what I’d just done and she was amazed. I told her this is why we grow up and get a good job… So we can blow ridiculous sums of money on rock concerts and guns and stuff. She agreed.

Denise, on the other hand, shit a brick when she took me to lunch and told her about it. Oh, she’s glad to be goin’, but she knows a little about how much money I owe to this card and that one, so she was looking at things a bit more sensibly. I need that in my life, but not right at this moment. This is a once in a lifetime thing. 30 years from now the cost won’t matter. Hell, I’ll just make more money. Teach another class. Everything will be cool.

After getting the tires and eatin’ lunch with Denise I went home briefly and then made a short trip to Salado. I knew my cousin Peggy, my barber, was gonna be heading up to see her son and grandkids today and I had something to give her. Something for her to hand over to her husband so he could hand it down to his son, and on and on. It was really something of theirs that dad had made them to give to me years ago. I felt bad about that back when it happened and wanted to make things right. I’ll tell you more about all that in my next post. Meanwhile, here’s a teaser shot, to peak your interest.

Denise and I are drivin’ up to Dallas again today. We're gonna take Mom out to eat at BJs in Temple and then we’ve got two nights reserved at the Hyatt. We'll be ccomin’ back Sunday afternoon. My buddy Russell from Grad school days, is flyin’ in to DFW airport from Tennessee Saturday afternoon and we’re gonna be there to pick him up. This is the guy that lives in Britain now, having moved to England in about 2000 with his wife Gay when she got a great job over there.

I went over there to visit them in about 2003 and had a wonderful time. Little did I know then that all wasn’t cool in the Walker household. They eventually split up and she came back to the States to go back to Grad School but he stayed over there and got a job as a Speech Pathologist for the NHS. He eventually moved from Yorkshire to Wales, where he lives now, with his current squeeze.

We’ll pick him up Saturday and get together with some other old friends and have a wonderful time. We’ll probably eat and drink WAY too much and in the end, Denise and I will steal another two glasses from the Hyatt when we check out. Their little glasses are so stylin’! We’ve got a growing collection. I figure with the price I pay for the room they can throw it in with the bill.

Anyway, have a great weekend and we’ll talk about other stuff on the other end. Cheers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

By the way...

The town of Seguin, where we went to that chili cook-off last weekend, was named after a Tejano hero of the Texas rebellion against Mexican rule. If you read his story, you'll get a look at the true complexity of early Texas history.

When we drove into town Friday night, just before sunset, we drove past the central square and I saw this monument. I said "Well, there's Juan", and Denise said "Valdez?" I was like "What? You've never heard of Juan Seguin?" Then I remembered she's a foreigner and all, and we must forgive these little lapses in knowledge... That and the fact that she mispronounces everything. Anyway...

Juan Seguin was a great hero of the Tejano (Latino Texan) rebellion against Spain and then the further rebellion against Mexico that we associate with the Alamo. Most folks don't think too much about the first part of that, but many Tejano families like the Seguins were deeply involved in that struggle against Spanish rule long before Anglo folks started coming into the territory in the 1820s.

Seguin led a band of twenty-five Tejanos who favored the revolt against the dictatorship that Santa Anna had established and fought on the Texan side at the battle of the Alamo. Seguin was saved when he was chosen to carry the message through lines to Sam Houston saying that the Texans "shall never surrender or retreat." Seguin got the message to the other soldiers on the Texan side and then returned to the Alamo but it had already fallen to Santa Anna's army.

He later commanded an infantry company and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto , where Texas Independence was finally won. Seguin was elected to the Texas Senate in 1839 and became mayor of San Antonio in 1841. Thing is, as more Anglos came into the country (then an in dependant republic) and expropriated land from Tejano families. More than a million acres of Tejano land was expropriated by Anglos in the decade after the Alamo. They did this by refusing to recognise old Spanish land grants and killing people if they wouldn't sell. There was a saying then that "If a man wouldn't sell his land, his widow would". Seguin and other Tejano leaders found themselves increasingly caught between a rock and a hard place, increasingly a hated minority in their own nation.

He became a hated figure among Anglos in Texas for his passionate defense of Tejano rights and eventually was forced from office on charges that he was aiding the Mexican army that invaded Texas in 1842. He fled to Mexico to "seek refuge amongst my enemies," where he was arrested and forced to enlist in the Mexican army as an officer. He later served against Texas and the United States in the Mexican-American War.

Seguin periodically returned to Texas after that, being elected to two terms as Justice of the Peace of Bexar County in 1852 and 1854 and as County Judge in Wilson County in 1869. He eventually went back to Mexico and settled in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, where his son Santiago was mayor. He died there on August 27, 1890. His remains were returned to Texas in 1974 and reinterred in his namesake town, Seguin, during ceremonies on July 4, 1976.

When I went to see his grave site there were two Mexican guys sitting under the shade of the trees sipping beer from brown paper bags. It turns out Seguin's grave is just down the hill from a public housing complex, and just up the hill from a huge baseball complex and the Guadalupe river. It's a beautiful site. I couldn't help but feel the irony of the setting. I wonder what he'd think of Texas now, as the Tejano population grows and more and more Anglos scream about immigration? It's funny how things work out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I guess experience is still the best teacher.

After years of using these big dudes in urban warfare, NOT what they were designed for, the U.S. Army is beefing up the Abrams with more protection designed for the urban setting. Turns out there's really nothing like a shot from that 120mm smooth bore to convince some of the other folks that they need to keep their distance.

Just to give the guys a bit more oopf, the army's buying 2,832 "loaders' armor gun shields," to provide protection around the loaders hatch on the top of the M-1 Abrams turret. The loader (who normally loads the 120mm gun), also has his own hatch, and a 7.62mm machine-gun on top of the turret.

The other machine-gun, next to the commanders hatch, is 12.7mm (.50 caliber) and already has a gun shield. The loaders gun shield kits cost about $16,000 each.

The loaders gun shield is part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit). The kit is a collection of additional features for M1 tanks, which make them more effective when fighting in urban areas. Many of the items in TUSK have been added to tanks over the last three years, as they became available.

Bottom line with all this... Our tanks are lookin' more and more like Israeli tanks, which are designed for this shit from the ground up. Too bad it took this long to learn this lesson.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another great weekend was had by all.

We had a great time in Seguin and I took a few good pictures (I know, big shock). Some of them are posted here and more are posted over at the FlickR site, so you can click over there and check them out. Remember, you can click on any of these and see a larger version.

Here's a shot of our camp site. The park there, Starcke Park, is set up in a beautiful pecan bottom along the banks of the Guadalupe river with baseball diamonds and a golf course and tennis courts. That's my tent there and my car, and the cooks truck and the big pop-up tent where all the serious hot and heavy chili cooking takes place.

That's NOT to say that we weren't doin' some cookin' on our own there in the smaller tent. I don't know if it was the full moon, or the setting, or the fact that someone might walk up and hear us, or whatever. Lets just say it was a great night.

There's a happy boy, chillin' in the shade while the cooks sweated out the fixin's. Note the new growth of fur on the chin. It was only a matter of time before I got sick of shavin' every day.

We forgot to bring chairs (I always forget something) so Denise and I made a dash to town Friday night and found a Wal Mart where we got a few of the $9 variety. Mine was already broken by the time this picture was taken the next afternoon. I can't really complain though, seein' as how I weigh in WAY over the recommended tonnage limits on these things. Nothin some good duct tape can't fix.

Here's a shot of the falls over on the West side of the park, where the river flows past the old Seguin water works. Beautiful scenery! The following few shots were taken here, at a few different angles. You can see more of this sort of thing over at FlickR.

Lots of critters were flitting around, with birds dashing here and there and turtles and fish in the water. I wish now that I'd brought a few rods. It would have been fun for both Denise and I to sit on the bank and wet some hooks. I'd never been to Seguin before though and had no idea what we were in for. Next time I'll be prepared.

This is about my best shot from the trip. Very happy with how it came out. Note the little bird on the log and the other one on the bottom left.

Here's a merge showing the huge pavilion where the cook-off was going on. Friggin' thing is about the size of a football field. All the judging and the awards ceremony happened here. People parked their RVs all around it and set up camps where they not only competed for the best chili but also for "Best in Show". The winners in that category turned out to be some ladies who showed up in cute little towed trailers and dressed up in fancy western outfits. They even had live music playing in their camp.

Those ladies are the ones to the right of this picture, in the short frilly dresses. When the awards for chili were handed out they had the recipients sit up on the stage over on the left so that as they went from 10th place to first the stage filled up from left to right with these lucky ladies. When the grand prize winner came up they gave her a bouquet of yellow roses and a crown and sat her down in one of the tall chairs to the left of the bower.

It was very different from what I've seen at other cook-offs I'd been to. Normally you go up to get your prize and give your team a shout-out and then you go back to your seat in the audience. I think this was cooler. It was nice to see all the ladies hug one another and congratulate one another as the seats filled up.

Anyway, we had a great time. Denise and I showed up around 7:30PM Friday night, right after our friends got there and we started drinkin' and havin' a good time as soon as the camp was set up. By 11:30 or midnight we were ready to hit the sack. We got up early Saturday morning and while our friends got started with the chili we went to a local burger place and got breakfast burritos and coffee. The rest of the day was spent ether sitting around camp, walking around the other camps, or driving around Seguin, taking pictures and sightseeing. You can see all those shots over at FlickR.

I'll probably post something else about the trip in a few days. There's too much material there to pass up.

Anyway, I hope all of you had a great weekend too. See ya again in a few. Cheers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Headin' down to Seguin to camp out at the Texas Women's Chili Championships this weekend.

Drivin' down there today and settin' up the tent. We'll party with the folks and then maybe drive back ether Saturday night late or Sunday morning. Some good friends are competing and I'll be hangin' out and eating all the chili that's not tied down. It'll be hard work but I think I'm up to it. We'll sleep in a tent in the pecan bottom at the local park under the shade of some huge trees by the Guadalupe river and have a great time.

You recall last weekend we went up to Dallas and spent Saturday night at the Hyatt? I took this lopsided set of merged pictures from our window overlooking the Southwest side of town. You can go over to the FlickR site and see a few more shots. Some of them came out pretty good.

We had a great dinner there in the West End at the Hoffbrou Steak place Saturday night and then went to a huge gun show Sunday afternoon. We drove over to Ft. Worth to connect with a few friends of mine after the gun show and then hit the Pappasito's there in town before the drive back to Killeen. It was a full weekend. Looks like this one will be just as full.

After we get back Sunday I'm gonna try to tackle this yard again and reduce the jungle to a manageable level. I've also got to redo a few exams before next week, so I'll be busy.

Anyway, you guys have a great weekend and we'll talk on the flip side. Cheers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Went to see mom again today.

I called her this morning to see if she needed me to come over this afternoon to do anything. She always likes to have me double check the paperwork she's sending in to the government to sort out the issues to do with Dad's death. Anyway, she told me she'd gotten some fat little shrimps out of the freezer and decided to make herself some Shrimp Alfredo and If I came over I could have some.

I'd been thinking I needed to stay home today between classes and get some stuff done here but hearing about those plump little shrimp jarred something loose from the memory banks. I remembered that I had repeatedly forgotten to pay my property taxes on my land and the bill was way past due. I needed to go to the county office in Belton and give them a check. While I was all the way over there I could stop in and take advantage of mom's recently renewed passion for cooking.

I got there by 2PM (the tax thing took 5 minutes) and found her putting the finishing touches to the Alfredo sauce. She made it from a little packet she found at the grocery store a while back, with a few of her own touches added in for fun.

While I watched she poured the sauce from the skillet into the container of shrimp and noodles. Then I got to stir the pot and combine everything together.

I wanna tell ya, it was GOOOD! You can see a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on for kicks. She could easily sell this stuff in a fancy restaurant, fer sure. I had some diet green tea with mine but by the time I left mom was in her easy chair with her plate and a glass of red wine. She knows how to do it.

Mom told me that now, since she doesn't have to cook simpler foods for dad any more to watch his diet she's got all sorts of ideas for fancier stuff coming to her, like the Chicken Enchiladas I posted about a while back. She gets to thinking about what might taste good to her and uses her time to please herself. It makes my heart glow to think of her pleasing herself and making the best of everything. And I'm just glad I get to come along for the gastronomical ride.

After two plates and some fruit filled Jell-O for desert I changed one light bulb for her that she couldn't reach. It's a natural talent of mine... Reachin' stuff or liftin' stuff for those who are vertically or chronologically challenged. I thanked her for the good vittles and then I headed back here to process these shots and make some ham and cheese Kolaches for Denise to eat when she gets off work.

My class isn't till 7:30 tonight, so I'm sittin' here in my underwear, hunched over in front of this friggin' screen, tryin' to catch up on reading your blogs. You guys that post four or five times a day are drivin' me nuts, but don't let that get in the way of your drive to fully express yourself. Far be it from me to get in the way of the creative process. I'm just sayin'...

Anyway, I'm out. We'll talk. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Who I am.

A guy who goes by Old Soldier tagged me with one of those meme things about a week ago. This hasn't happened in a while and it's a doozy. Here's the jist of it...

1. Write your own six word memoir.

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want.

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to the original post if possible so we can track it as travels across the blogosphere.

4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.

5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

I've had a hell of a time, being naturally long winded, trying to figure out something that would really say who I am. There's a temptation to be flippant, or melodramatic, or just come up with something silly because the task a daunting one. How do I come up with a short statement that says so much without saying anything? In the end though it finally hit me.

Those of you who know me, who've been reading this stuff for a while, will probably see this coming. Here it is. Six words. I've even got a picture. Drum roll please...

I've been carryin' this dog tag around since I found it in my folks strong box when I was a kid. It's been on my key ring since I was in high school. It was issued to me when the family flew back to England in 1966 for a three year tour of duty. It was my first trip over. We all got two of them. The other one's around here somewhere. I've realized through the years of looking at it and carrying it around that it says just about everything there is to say about me, for good or ill.

Dad made me who I am, one way or the other. The choices he made in his life both opened up the world to me and showed me the kind of man I didn't want to be. I'm who I am because of him. Of course, I'm not finished becoming me. I'm still workin' out the details of who I am. I'll probably never really get it done to my own satisfaction. Maybe that's from daddy too. He continues to influence me. He always will.

So here you go. Six words... "Basically, I'm just my daddies boy."

In the later years he'd always call me "Sunshine". When I'd drive up to the house on Friday evenings to get him he'd sit in the front window and wait for me. When I'd drive up he'd struggle to his feet and shuffle out to the walk, usually with mother following to say hello to me and he'd wave and say "Hello Sunshine!" I used to look forward to that. I miss it now.

So, that's who I am. How about you? I'm not gonna tag anyone, but it you feel like a challenge, go for it. Cheers.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Some humor for your Monday.

First off, we had a great time in Dallas and Ft. Worth over the weekend. I took some good shots but with a new online class starting soon and other shit, I won't have time to show them to you till mid week or so. So in the meantime, enjoy some hilarious children's literature. Wonder why mom never let us see these?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Y'all remember this little toy?

My buddy Dave told me about a rifle a while back that a friend of his wanted to sell. I went up to Gatesville and identified the rifle as a Chinese copy of a Russian Dragunov Snipers rifle and told them it was worth about $2000. Then I came home and Googled it and found out they were really selling for about $4000! I decided to try to put a bid in. Told them I'd give them $1500 for it. That was about a month ago. There've been some interesting twists and turns in the story since then.

Things started out with me being the only bidder on the rifle. Dave was acting as my agent, contacting the owner on my behalf and tellin' them I wanted the rifle and a few of the sealed tins of 7.62x54 yellow tip ammo that they had layin' around. I really didn't want to spend that kind of money on the gun but felt like a fool if I didn't even try to get it for such a low price. When the hell will I ever see this sort of opportunity again?

Well, within a few weeks another bidder materialized. Another friend of Dave's from Gatesville. This guy offered $1800 for the rifle, so I reluctantly upped my bid to match him. Thing is, Dave told me that this guy really wanted the gun but couldn't afford to give them the $1800. He thought that when the time came this guy would back out and I'd end up with the gun. I reluctantly pledged $1800 and then a week or so later, Dave called and told me that this other guy had wrecked his truck and needed to get it fixed and now was talking about backing out of the bidding entirely.

I was like, "Fuck! Now they think I'm gonna pay them $1800! Thanks a whole friggin' lot Dave." He was very apologetic and told me he was backin' out and didn't want to be my go-between any more. Hell, I wasn't upset or anything. I REALLY didn't want to spend even $1500 for this friggin' gun. It'd be cool to have it but I don't have the $1500 or $1800 just layin' around any more than that other guy did.

Well, the auction was held in Gatesville over the last two weekends. Dave went over there for me and would call me to tell me if anything happened. They had the gun on sale for about $2200 but no one was showing much interest. I figured I'd just wait till it was all over and then swoop in and offer them $1500 and walk away with it. Turns out though, it wasn't to be.

In the end, another bidder showed up totally out of the blue and paid them $2000, on the very last day of the bidding. Dave called and told me and we both were in shock. Best laid plans eh? In reflection, I was actually happy for them, relieved that I wasn't going to have to cash a credit card check and go deeper into debt for a rifle I don't need. At the last minute I'd actually thought that if they didn't sell it in the auction I'd offer to take it up to Dallas this weekend (There's a huge Gun Show this weekend up there) and walk around Market Hall and see if I could sell it for them.

So, in the end I was happy to hear that they got so much for the gun. They got what I told them the gun was worth. I know they're happy and I KNOW the guy who got the gun is happy. I'd love to have a rifle like that but I'm glad I didn't put another $1800 on my credit card, so everyone came out a winner. Good times.


It's Friday, so you probably know what the plan is. We're gonna head over to Temple tonight and take Mom out to eat somewhere. She's still dealing with the bank and all the government agencies, telling everyone that Dad died and figuring out how much her Social Security and Air Force pension will be. It's incredibly frustrating for her, not knowing how everything will work out, trying to get everything switched over to her name and filling out lots of forms. I wish I could get it all done for her but she's doing a wonderful job all on her own.

As I said before, there's a huge gun show in Dallas this weekend. Denise and I have a reservation at the Hyatt for Saturday night. We're gonna drive up to Ft. Worth Saturday morning and spend the afternoon with Jim and Terry and then head over and get our room in the evening. The plan is to head over to the Hoffbrau Steak place in the West End and eat dinner. Maybe listen to some good music somewhere around there. Then we'll sleep in and hit the Gun Show on Sunday.

It should be a good time. I'll tell ya how everything went down later on. You guys have a great weekend and we'll talk in a few. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Last Friday and Sunday, we put the feed bag on.

Denise and I drove over to Temple, not totally sure if Mom was gonna be game to go out to eat or not. She changes her mind pretty quick based on how she feels. Her prerogative, and I'm used to it, but it makes these new Friday rituals a little more interesting.

She'd said she probably wouldn't want to eat much, but I told her I didn't mind drivin' her back to Killeen, so we headed back to my neck of the woods and went to The Olive Garden.

It turns out the wait for a table was about 40 minutes, so we sat (Mom and Denise sat) outside and waited with the little flashing light/vibrating thingy that give you. We enjoyed the sunny weather till the telltale vibrations told us our time had come.

Neither of these women, the most important women in my life, like to have their pictures taken. Witness protection program. Enough said.

So I was reduced to sneekin' a shot now and then, like when Mom took a huge gulp of her margarita. It was a good one. Denise had a Strawberry Daiquiri and I had a few chilled mugs of Shiner. I asked for one tall glass but they were out of them, so they sent me two regulars. I wasn't cryin'.

We started out with the salad and bread sticks and ended up goin' through about two helpings of both. their salad and bread sticks are the best. They're a must have thing whenever we go there.

I chose the Seafood Alfredo as my main meal... Sautéed shrimp and scallops tossed with creamy fettuccine alfredo. I love it. I think I have this just about every time I come. This or the Lasagna.

Denise had the Stuffed Chicken Marsala... Oven-roasted chicken breast stuffed with Italian cheeses and sun-dried tomatoes, topped with mushrooms and a creamy marsala sauce. Served with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes.

Mom had the Stuffed Mushrooms... Parmesan, romano and mozzarella cheese, clams and herb breadcrumbs baked in mushroom caps. She was lookin' for somethin' small and light, having stuffed herself on the salad. She was happy with these.

After eating we drove Mom back to Temple and enjoyed a few chilled glasses of Chateau Monet. Mom gave me a few more items from Dads drawers and Denise and I headed home. We went by Blockbuster on the way and rented a few great flicks.

The Kingdom was excellent, about FBI agents investigating a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. Into the Wild was a favorite of mine, but Denise didn't like it. I used to fantasize about walking into the woods and not coming back, so this story was of particular 9interest. I'd read the original story in Outside Magazine back in the '80s or '90s and knew the story going in. Rent it. It's good stuff.


Sunday night we all descended on the house in Temple again, this time to eat Mom's chicken Enchiladas. These things are famous. Ask anyone in our extended family. She hadn't made them in ages, so we were all really happy to hear her talk about wanting to make them. She's got to be hungry enough to want to take the time to make them, so it's great news whenever that happens.

Before I dug into this platter there were about 12 or 14 enchiladas in there, filled to the brim with chicken and a special sauce and covered with different kinds of cheese. And what's in the special sauce? I'll never tell.

Yep, I can make this dish. I got the recipe from her a decade ago. Easy peasy and good as hell. I think I ended up eating about half of them myself.

She even brought out the good plates and stuff. She made a salad for us to eat and we consumed it all mightily. After this there was ice cream with chocolate sauce dripped over it and then the traditional tipple of liqueur. Everyone went home fat and happy.

Now, if you're suffering from sensory overload from all this good food, just relax and settle down. You should be used to this sort of thing around here by now. Just imagine how I felt having to sit there and eat it all. It was torture, stuffin' myself like that and then havin' to drink all that booze.

Well, that's a lie. Boy, is THAT a lie. You know that was a lie. It was all WONDERFUL!

We're scheduled to take mom out again Friday, the old tradition holding up so far, so there could well be more pictures of good vittles to come. Just settle down and try to hold back the green envy. Not sure where we're goin' yet. Maybe BJs. I'll tell ya when it happens. We'll talk. Cheers.

Do I really cuss that much?

Fuckin' "A" I do! Well hell, the English language is a rich language and I think we should use ALL the words. I even use a few in Spanish, and maybe some Russian and German. How about you?

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Where you been?

Found these little distractions over at Mushy's place. Couldn't resist stealin' 'em.

Here are the States I've visited, so far as I can figure. There's a lot of cool ones left, fer sure. I'll get there eventually. Kinda looks like a shark, don't it, with big nasty lips?

...And countries I've visited. I'm prouder of this list. I had a LOT of fun fillin' it out. There's still some huge holes, but I've got time to fill 'em. Too bad this thing doesn't count all the coast lines I've seen. That would fill it up quick. I know, it's hard to tell one place from another. Here's a map just showing Europe.

I got my first passport when I was a little nipper, headed over with my family to be stationed in England in 1966. I had to get my second in 1983 so I could take a trip to Europe in the summer of my Junior year in college. I was still usin' that one when I started floating around with the Navy in 1990, teaching History and Government on deployed ships and bein' the biggest, fattest, hairiest tourist bastard in the planet.

It was a great time and it filled up that passport with stamps. When I took a trip to mainland China from Hong Kong in '91 or '92, the border dude's eyes went wide as he flipped through it, lookin' in vain for and empty page to put his stamp on. It was hilarious. I still have that passport, now canceled and replaced with a depressing one that's mostly empty.

Well, maybe I'll get another chance to get around. Who knows.

So, where you been? Go here and see what your map looks like. Have a great week. Cheers.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday rant.

Like a lot of you, I was not really surprised to hear of Charlton Heston’s death this last weekend. He’d been in decline for a long time, suffering from Alzheimer’s and out of the limelight for a while. I wasn’t surprised but I was still very sad to see another great icon of my youth go the way so many others have gone. The way we’ll all eventually go.

I’ll never forget the day John Wayne died. I was a senior in high school, sitting in front of the TV one night, killin’ time, when they broke through the show I was watching with the news and a prepared obituary. I cried my eye’s out as they went through all the familiar roles he’d played in the decades of his life. It really tore me up, even though I’d seen him at the Oscars and knew he was not long for this world. He was a HUGE hero of mine back then. I still love him, but I guess it’s a lot harder now to sustain the worshipful admiration. I guess I’ve grown up.

As with Heston, they went briefly in their obituary into Wayne’s political activities and talked about how he’d become widely known as a conservative figure, riding an armored car into Harvard once in the late ‘60s to take a roasting from one of their societies, giving back for every barb he took, earning the respect of those who tried to insult him.

It’s always easy for liberal critics of these men to profile them as right wing nuts, the way they love to profile all of us as right wing nuts for believing in many of the same values these men championed. It makes it much easier for them to fully embrace their own simplistic notions of right and wrong, portraying our beliefs in cartoonish ways. It leaves them feeling that much more sophisticated but makes most of them incapable of understanding the real subtleties of thought that are evident in most of our beliefs.

Clicking on Drudge this morning I read an obituary of Heston that included this little revelation…

Decades before his NRA leadership, Heston was a strong advocate for civil rights in the 1960s, joining marches and offering financial assistance.

Civil-rights leaders in Los Angeles held a moment of silence in Heston's memory Sunday after an unrelated news conference.

Heston had contributed and raised thousands of dollars in Hollywood for Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement, said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Round Table.

"We certainly disagree with his position as NRA head and also his firm, firm, unwavering support of the unlimited right to bear arms," Hutchinson said. But, he added, "Charlton Heston was a complex individual. He lived a long time, and certainly, there were many phases. The phases we prefer to remember were certainly his contributions to Dr. King and civil rights."

I knew that fact going into the deal. I'd learned it a long time ago. I'd seen Heston in the footage at the Lincoln Memorial to hear King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. It had always been one of the things that made me love Heston all the more. He was a champion of liberty, end of story.

At least these representatives of the left may be incapable of reconciling these notions... That you can champion gun rights and civil rights at the same time and not be somehow confused. They think the one makes you automatically a right wing nut, and the other a liberal saint. That’s their knee jerk profiling again. But the truth is both positions display a strong belief in individual liberty. That’s the simple connection liberals seem incapable of recognizing. Poor dumb bastards. They’ll never understand.

There’s absolutely NOTHING different in advocating the one or the other. They are the same. In fact the one is designed to support the other. If the Black people in the South had been armed and organized, how much harder would it have been for those Southern Democrats to lynch them and treat them like shit, the way they did for so many decades after Blacks were supposed to have been set free? In fact, one of the freedoms white supremacists, North and South, were most afraid newly freed slaves would be able to celebrate was gun rights! What might they do with those guns, having been treated like cattle for generations?

You ever accidentally bump into someone at a gun show? People are amazingly polite in those venues. “Excuse me” is followed by “No problem”. Imagine how much more polite society might be if all the idiots out there knew that the next rude, stupid thing they did for fun might just be the LAST rude, stupid thing they ever did. We can all dream. There’s a gun show in Dallas this weekend. I’ll go and plunk some money down in memory of old Chuck, and the Duke. Can’t think of a better way to celebrate their legacies.

Anyway, I was gonna post something this morning about takin’ mom to the Olive Garden last Friday, till this rant boiled up outa me this mornin’. She made her famous Chicken Enchiladas Sunday night and I have pictures of that too. I’ll get those posts done this week some time and you’ll see all the food. It was wonderful.

By the way, my favorite Chuck Heston flicks were Will Penny and The War Lord... OK, aside from all the other great ones too. But these were two that stood out to me. What were yours?

You guys take care and keep your powder dry. We’ll talk. Cheers.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Had dinner with Mom on Tuesday night.

She'd cooked a roast and veggies last Sunday and put it in the fridge till Denise and I could get over there during the week to share it with her. My sister had already come over earlier in the day and taken her share by the time we got there at about 8PM on Tuesday night.

Mom went into the kitchen and started to heat everything up when we got there. She said she had an excess of eggs now that dad's not there to eat them and was afraid they'd go bad before she could eat them all. She asked me, would we like some stuffed eggs to take home. I tried not to slobber on myself and look too eager. "Sure, we'll take those off your hands." They were goooood.

Dad used to eat scrambled eggs and waffles every morning. Mom's scrambled eggs are wonderful. Her secret is... well, it wouldn't be a secret if I told ya, now would it? Come over some time and I'll fix 'em for ya. I learned at the feet of the master.

She heated up the roast and veggies in a skillet in the oven, heated up some peas on the stove and baked us some little croissant rolls to go with it all. It was all wonderful. She doesn't have the energy to cook elaborate meals much any more but when she does it's a treat for everyone. She's got fresh peaches in the freezer, so there'll be ice cream and chicken as soon as the weather gets hot, or as soon as she gets hungry for it.

After the meal we sat in the living room, talked about all sorts of stuff and sipped some of that chilled Chateaus Monet (you keep it in the freezer). These after dinner tipples have become a regular treat whenever we go over there for dinner or after eating out. We make sure she has a ready supply of the good stuff.

All in all, she's doing OK these days. She's keeping herself busy going through dads stuff and deciding what to keep and what to give to the Goodwill folks. I took a bag of dads stuff home with me when we left. It makes me feel very strange to do it, but that's life.

My dad told me a few times that when his father died of a heart attack in the back yard of their farm in 1964 that he'd taken his fathers clothes out into the field beside the barn and burned them. He couldn't stand the idea of some other man wearing his dads clothes. I guess I don't feel that way, and it's not my decision to make anyway.

The plan today is to go over to get mom at about 4:30. Then we'll ether drive back here and go to the Olive Garden, or we'll stay in Temple and go to BJs. It's a new thing, all this stuff bein' up in the air. Mom can change her mind in a second and decide not to go out at all, so I'll have to badger her from time to time to get her to come out of the house. Well, traditions change. We'll do whatever she wants to do.

This weekend was going to include dinner with some friends of Denise. The Deans secretary and her husband. But the husband shot himself in the hand cleaning his pistol a few days ago and is in the hospital, so the dinner is off. I feel sorry for the guy, but what a friggin' idiot! They think they might be able to save his pinky finger. Sheesh! I mean, I ALWAYS know when my shit is loaded. It ain't that hard to prevent that sort of thing. Well, shit does happen.

So, It looks like I might have time to get some stuff done around the house. I just ended one semester and will start another Monday. My classes are full, so it should be another busy one.

Anyway, you guys have a great weekend and we'll reconnect on the other side. Cheers.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I went out and took some pictures of my land, so you guys will know what I mean by "scrub land".

How cool is it that the place is on Wilson Branch Road? It's some sort of kismet, not that I believe in that or anything.

Here's a shot of the improved road just down from that sign. Eventually they'll have new roads goin' through the whole place, including right past my lots.

This is the view that greets you as you drive on to the place, past the first rows of ceder. There are lots of tall trees here that I hope to reveal with the guy cutting back the ceder.

Lots of ceder, chokin' out a lot of other, prettier trees.

When you take the path down the hill you find yourself runnin' into tall ceder and oaks, as well as other trees.

And yes, to answer one question, you can hunt on the property. Thing is, there are people living on all four sides of me, so I don't feel good about hunting with a rifle out there. But bow hunting is definitely a possibility (not from this blind though). The neighbors would rather we pet the deer, but I may have to harvest some.

You head down hill far enough and you see this ancient artifact. It's the biggest and prettiest Live Oak on the place, or on any place around. The previous owner built that platform so his kids could climb the thing.

Further down you get to the creek bottom, where you can easily see the difference between my property and the sheep herders property. This bottom land floods every time there's a heavy rain, the creek swelling with runoff. You can see the fence bent over from all the crap that piled up against the fence the last time this happened.

Here's the creek, taken from the low water bridge just down from my property. There are a few springs that feed it but it's flow is mostly runoff. In the summer it mostly dries up. My property technically goes to the middle of the stream.

Well, pretty cool eh? Lots of possibilities. I'll probably have it paid off by the end of the year.