Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010?

Yea, we've got some cool stuff in store for us here in the new year. For instance...

Ironman 2



Robin Hood... Yea, I know. Another one. But this one looks cool!



The Wolfman. Mmmm, maybe the coolest of all.



And that's just a taste. There's also Alice In Wonderland, The Book of Eli, Kick Ass, Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia, Season of the Witch, and Daybreakers. It's gonna be a cool year, at the movies anyway. So, have a great time tonight, and have a Happy New Year. Cheers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas, and New Years plans.

Christmas day started slow in my neck of the woods. Denise and I slept in that morning and then gathered our presents together and headed over to Mom's place in Temple.



There was a pretty good spread of stuff over there when we arrived. I was kind'a shocked to see it. Wasn't expecting it. Of course, these holidays have become somewhat muted compared to the old days. My sister is in Oklahoma City, snowed in, and Dad's not around any more. We don't do stockings any more because Mom doesn't want to have think about Dad's stocking not being hung up there.



It's times like this when I think you need a big, extended family, with lots of kids and grand kids runnin' around. That way, the missing folks are maybe a bit less evident. There have never been any children or grandchildren around here, and I'm the only man in attendance now. It makes it weird, having all this food and stuff to wade through. I felt that for the first time last Thanksgiving. I find myself noticing all the silence, and thinking about all the folks who aren't around any more.



But Christmas is about loving the folks that are still here, and remembering the others and the old times fondly. That's life. Life goes on, so we quickly shifted into the old routine. Mom began reading the tags on the gifts, handing them around, and the fun began. Needless to say, within' an hour of our arrival there was torn wrapping paper and pretty bows all over the place. As usual, the better boxes and the bows are set aside for reuse in the new year. It was a great time. I made out like a bandit. Among other things, I got a new watch and a cool new camera. I gave Denise some jewelry and sweaters, and mom got some good stuff too. Mom had me goin' at one point.

She said later that she'd wanted to surprise me with a new laptop computer but couldn't tell which one to get. So she put a heavy rock from the garden in a fancy bag and covered it with tissue paper. I lifted the bag and thought "What the hell?" Then took out the tissue and said "Aaaah, a ROCK!" Then I saw the little envelope. There was a card in there, a note from Mom, and a check for $500. The note said that the money was supposed to go towards a new laptop. It also said that the money had come from Dad's Social Security check, so we'd say that the laptop was from him. That did it. I was holdin' it together until then.



After all the presents were distributed, time came for the ladies to set up the big feed. That's my cousin Sue there on the right. She lives in Houston and comes up to visit my mom every now and then. We were all happy to have her up here for the holiday.

I took up my station on the recliner with the remote control. Hey, it's not like I didn't do anything. I was summoned now and then to reach something on a tall shelf, or lick the whipped cream bowl, or take out the garbage. Such is the lot of the sole male presence in these holidays, or just about any other time. I'm proud to do my part.



There was Mom's cornbread dressing and green beans...



Denise's mashed potatoes, Mom's sweet potatoes and gravy for the dressing...



And a HUGE friggin' turkey. We could'a fed an army. It was great! There's a lot left over, as usual, so we'll be enjoying it all for a while to come. After the feed I collapsed in a recliner and lost all consciousness for a good while. They could'a rolled me. Hell, maybe they did.

As far as the rest of this week is concerned, Denise and I are headin' up to the frozen North, to Minneapolis. Her nephew is gettin' married on the 31st, so we're flyin' up Tuesday, joining the festivities, and then flyin' back Saturday. We both have to head back to work on the 4th.

She's not lookin' forward to the cold, and I'm not jazzed about havin' to wear the suit (even though I do look damn good in it). I'll love playin' in the snow, and she'll love seein' all her kinfolks. All in all, it'll be a great time.

So, I'll see ya when we get back, no doubt, with all the pictures. Until then, enjoy a few funnies I've set to post while I'm away. Cheers, and have a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I was clickin' on this...



Dow! I hate that when that happens. Anyway, I clicked on that, and when it ended, I found this.



Cool eh? Here's a link if it won't open for ya. Ya gotta love that music. FFC was a friggin' genius, puttin' those elements together. But it's even cooler with the real birds.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have a slammin' Christmas!



I hope you've found everything you wanted underneath the tree, or everything you've needed, and that you have a happy 2010 too. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There's an old story about Teddy Roosevelt and his successor, William Howard Taft.

Roosevelt was a keen manipulator of his own public image, understanding like no other president before him the power of the mass media. So he was concerned that Taft, his Secretary of War and hand picked successor, would not do anything to ruin his image with the public and sabotage his ability to use the "bully pulpit" to move his agenda forward.

He also knew that Taft was a big old boy. He was only a little over 5'11"... A short little scudder, as my daddy would say, but he weighed in at over 320 pounds. He's famous for being the heaviest guy we ever elected to be President. They had to bring a new bath tub into the White House because he didn't fit in the one they had. So, what was T.R.'s advise to Taft on exiting the political scene?



"Don't ever let 'em take a picture of you on a horse." Well, I'm taller than Taft, and not quite as heavy, but I know that horse was hurtin'. Every now and then he'd give out a frustrated whinny as we climbed a ridge or something. I figured he was sayin' somethin' like "Son of a bitch! Eat a salad now and then, Shit!" I'd say "Yea I know. Poor baby."



The horse is named Cherokee, and he belongs to my buddy Dave Willingham there, in the chaps. He teaches down in Florence, where I start my days teaching AP classes. Over the years we've become buddies. He's always takin' about his horses, so recently a plan materialized for me to come down and join him for a ride. He's been around horses all his life, as have I. But I haven't been on one in about fifteen years. Turns out, it comes right back to ya.



Not sure why, but I always hear the theme from Bonanza when I see this shot. I guess I'm Hoss, in that equation. Hell, Dan Blocker was only 6"3" Shit, I'm bigger'n everybody! Check out his bio there. Surprisin' and fascinatin' stuff.

What was the best thing about riding a horse? Well, maybe it was the saddle jumping up and slamming me in the nuts over and over again when ol' Cherokee decided to break into a trot. Mmmm, yea, that was special (check out some of the other pictures here).

I tried to stand up on the stirrups from then on, and the nut slammin' mostly went away. Then, at one point, Cherokee decided to break into a full gallop. Man, that was cool, but my life flashed before my eyes there for about 30 seconds. I just knew I was gonna end up bein' tossed ass first into a ceder clump. But I held on. It was GREAT, and I'd do it again in a second.



Seriously, it was great to be out there with the guys, enjoyin' the scenery and the ride. After all, this stuff's in my DNA. I come from a long line of horsemen. My ancestors, uncles and cousins were and still are old rodeo types. All of them were doubtlessly laughin' their asses off as I hopped along, tryin' to hold on to the saddle horn and stand up in the stirrups, tryin' to stay on the horse and keep my nuts from gettin' slammed into that saddle again.



We rode at a local park, the Parrie Haynes Ranch. It's a wide tract of land that was once one of the biggest cattle ranches in Central Texas.

Parrie and Allen Haynes were married in 1895, and started their lives, along with most of the other local folks, as Sharecroppers. They lived frugally, and in time were able to amass a wide tract of land. When Allen died, Parrie took over running the operation.

Being childless, Parrie made sure that the children of Texas would benefit from her success. When she died in 1957, $100,000 was bequeathed to the Killeen school district for scholarships, and over 4500 acres of the ranch were turned over to the state, so that the orphans of Texas would have a place to go and enjoy the wilderness.

After a period under the supervision of the Texas Youth Commission, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission took over the management of the land in 1993. Since then they've partnered up with Coca Cola to fund the construction of greater camp facilities.

Today, riders can enjoy about 50 miles of well marked trials that wind up and down the ranch, over fields and hills, through beautiful spring fed streams. The trials are maintained by volunteers from the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association. It's a great place. I can't wait to get out there again and do some more exploring.



After the riding, Dave and his son Ryan and I went back to their house and did some shooting. I'd brought a few of my toys, and Dave brought out his western style .45 revolver. It was a fun time. I told them, next time they needed to come up to Killeen and stick their heads in the big blue safe and pick the ones they want to shoot. Maybe we'll do that, some time early in the new year.

Anyway, it was a wonderful time. By the time I got home I was feeling like I'd run a marathon. My whole body was sore. I hadn't used all those muscles... legs, arms, back, in a very long time. I think if I rode more often I'd figure out how to do it without all that hoppin' around, and maybe lose about 100 pounds.

Hell, maybe if Taft had ignored Teddy's advise they wouldn't have needed that new bath tub. Cheers.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What's goin' on.

Well, it's Friday, and it's the end of another semester. Hell, it's almost the end of another year.

It's been a good year. I guess I have a lot to be thankful for. It's been a long, tedious road, but I finally feel like I've come to a place I've been workin' toward for a long time. Funny thing though... Finally gettin' here's got me kinda turned around.

I started teaching, flying out and living on Navy ships and teaching college classes in March of 1990. I went from being a security guard at a country club and part time substitute teacher to traveling the world. It was awesome. I did that job for almost four years. It was a wonderful, invaluable experience. It'd be impossible for me to calculate how much money it would have taken for me to do all that traveling on my own dime. I was happy as hell, but I never did make any money in those days.

Thing was, when I was sailing around the world, vacationing on a beach in Australia or Italy, I really didn't care if I was poor. Hell, I was having a great time, and I was thinkin' I had a cooler job than anyone else I knew. It was a blast, but in time, even that job began to feel like a dead end gig. I started looking beyond the fun, thinking about my career, and realizing that there wasn't much growth potential in teaching on the ships.

There'd been a time, when I was in school and working at the country club, when I'd see a plane flying overhead. It would be slowing down, flying low, headed for one of the local airports. I'd drift off in my mind, wondering who those people were and where they were going. It seemed then that the folks in that plane were going somewhere, doing something interesting. They way I looked at it then, my life was deadly boring. I didn't see myself going anywhere. Then, after graduating and sending out applications, I got that call. I thought about it for one night and the next thing i knew I was flyin' to Naples and getting on the USS Thorn.

Well, after flying and sailing around for a few years I found myself out in the yard again with the dog, and I saw one of those planes up there again. What happened then surprised me. I found myself thinking "Oh you poor bastards. You've been on that thing for hours, and they probably haven't fed ya. And someone just farted, and your sinuses are clogged from the dry air, and they've probably lost your luggage, and you're not done yet, are ya?" It surprised me. The wonder of it all was gone and I'd become cynical. I'd been there and done that, and I guess I was ready to move on.

I was never gonna move my career forward teaching on the ships. I knew that, so I decided to get a job teaching here in Killeen, on Ft. Hood, teaching for the same college that had hired me to teach on the ships. My folks had moved down to Temple to be closer to my Grandmother, and they'd taken all my stuff with them. So it was easy. I got a job teaching on the base, bought a jeep and started making car payments.

Thing is, I was only qualified to teach History back then. The Navy campus had always waved the qualifications and let me teach Govt. on the ships, but the folks on Ft. Hood wouldn't. As a result, I was always limited in the number of classes I could teach. That meant I never made much money. But, I was livin' with my folks in Temple. My only bills were car payments, gas and food, so I didn't feel poor. I was goin' canoeing and backpacking in the spring, spending the money I made and enjoying myself.

When I complained about being a part-time instructor and needing to teach more classes, people told me that I needed to get qualified to teach something else, like Government. But I resisted it. I didn't want to teach Government, and I didn't want to go back to school. But eventually I found I had to do something. I was at that stage again, seeing that dead end coming up at me fast. So I moved to San Marcos in the summer of 1997 and went back to school.

I loved living in San Marcos. It was awesome. And I loved being in grad school again. I found that I'd done a lot of growing up in the decade since I'd gotten my Masters in History. I got my 18 hours between the summer and fall semesters of '97, kept a 4.0 average, and was back in Killeen by the end of the year with enough qualifications to teach Government. And, I'd accumulated about $8000 of credit card debt. That's when I really went to work, and I haven't looked back since.

By 2003 I was makin' three times the money I'd made before, working for two or three colleges and teaching online classes. I'd paid of the credit card and the Jeep, and I was making enough money to make payments on 17 acres of land and the house I'm livin' in now. Even so, as good as things were then, the dead end was still there, starin' at me. After all, I was still part-time, and I'd come to think that I always would be. I'd even begun to think it was really better to be part-time. I'd developed a kind of "working class hero" chip on my shoulder. I figured that most of the full-time, main campus profs I knew were arrogant assholes, and I was better off not becoming one of them.

But there was always a sword of Damocles hanging over my head as a part-timer. About the same time I signed the mortgage on my house, some pencil pusher on the main campus decided that part-timers like me were teaching too many classes and our course load had to be cut. The state law was on his side. Part-timers were supposed to me limited to teaching 9 classes a year, but I and a few of my colleagues were teaching more like 35. It's easy to do that when you're teaching for so many different campuses. One hand doesn't know, or doesn't want to know, what the other is doing.

For years, it served everyone's interest to look the other way. The Ft. Hood campus looked good, I made a decent amount of money, the college made money from the students and the classes got taught. Everyone was winning. But then the accreditation year came along and someone on the main campus got scared that the college would get in trouble if the accrediting institution found out about folks like me.

So, in about 2003, with me increasingly feeling like a rat on a wheel from all those different jobs, and with the main campus folks up in arms, two things happened. I stopped teaching online classes and the main campus folks cut us back to something like 20 conventional classes a year. Between those two things, my income went down about $20,000 a year. But my bills didn't go away, and I'd gotten used to a better standard of living. So I kept spending money like I was still makin' it, assuming that I would again and I'd be able to pay the bills. In other words, I started running up the credit cards again, eventually to the tune of about $56,000. I guess I just went crazy for a while.

Some time in the middle of all of that I started blogging. I met some wonderful folks in the blogging world who helped nudge me along, encouraging me to take a few new directions and make a few long over due change my life. I'll always feel beholding to those folks, for their friendship and honesty, and I still feel lucky to know them. It's been a time of transitions. In that time I met the woman I share my life with now, and a year or two later my father passed away. Those changes have set off changes in my family that are still reverberating, working themselves out, as I'm sure they will forever.

Then, a little over a year ago, another interesting opportunity arose. The folks I work for on Ft. Hood were willing to hire guys like me to be full-time and pay us a bunch of money to encourage us to drive to San Saba four days a week and teach at a state prison. They were gonna pay me the same amount of money I was already making, teaching at three campuses, just to teach at San Saba. Then they were gonna pay me extra money to keep me teaching at a few of those other campuses. I thought about it for a while, talked to some friends, and eventually decided to go for it.

That turned out to be a great decision. The new job has worked out wonderfully. Not only am I making more money than I ever thought I would, but I've made some great friends in San Saba. I feel like my life's been enriched beyond what I ever thought it could be. I'm still workin' long hours and teaching a lot of classes, but I feel like I'm finally being adequately compensated for all that hard work. I sold the land, paid off all of the debt, and now find myself sitting on the edge of what looks like a brand new, fresh starting line in my life.

Some things haven't changed though. I recently had a funny experience in one of my evening classes. I can't remember how it came up. I think the students were asking me what I'd be teaching in the next semester or something. The topic of my work load came up and I told them I had 8 classes going on three campuses. One Black dude chimed in with "You sound like a Jamaican." Everyone laughed, and my mind, and those of many in class, flashed on this running skit in the old TV show In Living Color.



I said "Yep, that's me. Tree jobs maaan. Now, lets geet to work!" That set the whole class off. It was hilarious.

Anyway, yea, I'm doin' really well now. And it's not just the money. I know in my gut that the good money can go away again at any time. It's happened before. I dunno. It's been a long strange trip to get to this place. I guess, gettin' here has left me feelin' a bit weird.

It seems like a lot of things have turned upside down in the last few years. It's like I almost feel guilty for being where I am. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are havin' a hard time now, including a lot my friends who are still teaching part-time. There's a lot of folks out there that I love. It tears my heart up to think about them. I wish I could do somethin' about it, but as good as things are, I'm not doin' THAT well.

One of my most persistent fantasies these days has me winning the lottery and spreading the money around. It'd be so cool to do that. I could lift the wight off of so many shoulders. But I've gotta take care of my own, and just pray that the rest takes care of itself somehow. Anyway, I keep buyin' the lottery tickets.

Main thing is, I know my journey isn't over. It's far from over. This is just the highest peak I've reached so far. I get excited, thinking about where I'm goin' from here. Only God knows. Whatever happens, it's all good. Anyway, I just felt like sayin' all that. Sorry if I went on too long. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clifton Park Christmas show.



My buddy Glenn, that's him there in the brown coat and Santa hat, is the Musical Director at Clifton Park Elementary here in Killeen. He's one of those guys who's done lots of stuff in his life. He managed a bunch of Taco Bells for years after getting his college degree in music. When people ask him how he can stand to teach little kids in a public school he tells them "Hell, I've made lots of money before and been miserable. Nowadays I dance and sing with little kids for a living."

We've been teaching near one another, on Base and elsewhere, for a decade or more. I first got to know him when we both taught at the jail in Gatesville about ten years ago. He was teaching college Music classes for Tarleton (now Texas A&M Central Texas) while I taught History and/or Government for CTC. For a year or two recently he was teaching his classes across the hall from me on base. When he'd crank up some great old rock, country or blues tune the sound would waft through the walls and rafters and leak into my lecture. My students would get a funny look on their face and stare up at the wall, and then they'd begin to laugh as my head started to bang and shoulders started to jump with the beat. It was great.

This last year, when Denise took a trip to Kentucky to see her pregnant daughter, I was left with an extra ticket to see Derrek Trucks in Dallas. I asked a few other folks but no one was interested. Finally I asked Glenn, and he agreed to go with me. We both had a great time. Since then we've gone to a few other concerts, and our women have even joined us a few times. We've all hit it off really well. He told me about the school Christmas show a few weeks ago, and I told him Denise and I would love to come and see what he's done with these kids.



The show was held in the schools auditorium, with all the parents and families packing the place. By the time we got there it was standing room only, and the heat in the room was stifling.



After beginning with the 5th grade choir singing a few Christmas carols, the 2nd graders began their country and western themed show.



They did stuff like jumping over rails laid out on the ground, twisting around with rubber balls (above) or dancing with hula hoops, It looked like they'd practiced for the show in PE class. I was worn out just watching it all.



These kids were cute as hell. It all reminded me of a time when I was about their age. The 5th or 6th graders in our school in England were doing Macbeth in front of a crowd of their parents. They got us 2nd graders to play trees. We all painted the leaves, cut from paper, colored and taped to our rulers. We were herded onto the stage at the right moment and became the forest that comes alive at one point in the play.



Some of the kids played instruments, but most of the music was provided by a tape machine, or a few folks that Glenn had asked to come.



You can see them there, on guitar and bongos. They all did a wonderful job.



At one point I moved out into the hall and walked down to another door to try to get a better shot. I discovered quickly that the temperatures in the hall were ten or fifteen degrees cooler than in the auditorium. I signaled Denise and we joined the parents there who were all tryin' to get better close shots of their kids.



In the end, Denise and I applauded the kids, waited a bit for the crowd to thin and told Glenn that it had been a great show. Then we left, tellin' Glenn we'd see them Saturday. Denise headed home while I went to pick up our dinner. We'd called in an order to the Pizza Palace from the school. So we ended the day with a wonderful, thick, medium sized double pie with all the meat and fixin's we love. That and a cold Yuengling and I was a happy camper.

As I said, we'll see Glenn and his wife this Saturday. They'll drive down from their home in Waco. We'll all meet here, and then we'll drive down to Austin and have dinner somewhere. Then we'll attend the late show of Esther's Follies. It should be a great time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Damn, that looks cold.



I love stuff like this. It'd be cool to drive around in the snow, or mud. It's cool, but I hope the car, or whatever, has a heater.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Denise finally got a Christmas list in the mail from her younger grandson Colin.

He'd told her over the phone that the list was in the mail, so she was lookin' for it. She went over to her place a few days ago to check the mail and then stuck the list on the fridge for me to see when I got home that night. Check out this list. Remember, he's 11 years old. Those of you who may be chronologically impaired (I'm not namin' any names), click on the picture to enlarge it.



Of course, the first thing I shouted about was the very first thing at the top of the list. TWO $100 prepaid visa cards. The boys got style. Hit 'em with that right off. His granddaddy (Denise's ex) gave him one of those last Christmas, so I guess he's figurin' on inflation, or the decline of the dollar. $100 doesn't go as far this year as it did last year, for an 11 yr old.

Ya gotta wade through a lot of computer game jargon there too. XBOX 360 Messenger Kit, Hypercam Gold Edition, Call of Duty World at War for computer and Modern Warfare Two, XBOX Disc Repairer, an XBOX rechargeable controller battery, etc. Then my attention was peaked. Getting through all that computer game crap, my eyes focused on something I finally recognized.

It's right there in the middle of the page. PPSh-41? "Airsoft, if existing." Are you fuckin' kidding? Aaaahahahaha! I love it. Shit, that's cool. I want one too!

Then I glance a little further down and see "Airsoft Browning M1919 (if existing)." and he ads "bipod attachment doesn't matter."

Oh, I LOVE this fuckin' kid. I really do. Damn!

I looked up that PPSh on the web. They do make them, but the friggin' things have to be custom made from a real parts set and cost about $700! Check it out.

Sheeeeit, I could get him a semi-auto version of the real thing for that. I've seen them at gun shows. They have to make the barrel longer, from 12 inches to 16, to keep it legal. This makes the gun look a little different, but check out the fun you can have with it.



The stories the same with the Airsoft M-1919. You can get one, but it has to be custom made. Here's a link to one, and here's a look at someones home made gun.



So, Merry friggin' Christmas kid! I think we'll toss somethin' together, and then in about five years we'll fly him in, like we did his brother, and let him shoot the real stuff. That should be good enough for the boy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It's like a friggin' video game.



The caption reads "a night hog hunt by MSGT Pinkston from USAMU. The video is from one of his weapon mounted Thermal Imaging scopes. The scope is able to feed directly to the video camera."

It's like spotlightin', only in the dark. Must have a semi-auto .308, and lot of money to toss around on scopes. Or maybe he's just preparin' himself for when the shit goes down and the folks from across town decide to come over for his TV and refrigerator. Plinkin' hogs could be good practice. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm tellin' ya, it was a massacreeee!

Denise got up Sunday morning to feed the cats. She coddles 'em, so they always pester her in the morning. We were out of dry stuff, so she was gonna put a few cans of wet food down so they'd leave us the hell alone for while. Next thing I know she's callin' to me from the hallway and sayin' "Come look at this."



It seems the kitties had a bit of an unsanctioned meal last night. Which is cool, but they brought it IN the house before they plucked it and consumed it.

That's my second bedroom, by the way. Basically, it's the cat's room. The one we sleep in is next door.



One of them must have caught himself a blue Jay. They love to dive bomb my chillin. Every now and then one will get a little too bold, dive a little too low and end up lookin' like it's been run through a wood chipper. No doubt, after plucking it out of the air, one of my little killers brought it in through the cat door and proceeded to dispatch and consume it, without ether of us hearing the commotion. We were sound asleep.



The little bastard left a mess, all over the place.



I looked, but there was no head. Sometimes we find a head layin' there on the carpet. This time it was just feathers, and wing bits. A massacreeee, I'm tellin' ya.



Meanwhile, the kids just napped the day away. It was wet and cold outside, so they were all spread out around the house.



I know Mushy... Pffft! As to which one of them did the killin', there no way to know. I'm NOT gonna follow them all around and check their stool for feathers. It could have been any one of them. They're all street cats. Only barely socialized. savage killers, all of 'em.

It's kinda cool, livin' with a four legged street gang. Thugs and toughs, born and raised in a parking lot.



Well, that's it. I spent too much time in there takin' pictures, so Mrs. Hissy, the Empress dowager of the gang, decided to go outside. That cat door keeps me from havin' to let them in, and then let them out, and then let them in again, all friggin' day long. Any cat owner can relate.



It was my job then to bust out the vacuum and erase the evidence. I had to use the hose and get up all the wispy little downy feathers from under the bed. Then Denise and I both settled down in the living room and I built another fire in the fire place.

We'd enjoyed one Saturday night while watching college football. We drank a few adult beverages and ate whatever we could find to heat up from the fridge. The last of the Thanksgiving leftovers were mixed into a British dish called Bubble-n-Squeak: mashed taters, peas and such, mixed up and fried in a skillet. I nuked some Little Smokies, covered and tossed in some good honey BBQ sauce, and Denise also made some great Queso from scratch. We busted out some toothpicks and chips and had a great, cozy night in front of the fire.

Sunday morning, I made her some milk coffee, and myself some hot chocolate while we watched the second of the three Lord Of The Rings movies, The Two Towers. Denise has never seen any of them. I've seen them all many times, and love them all.



She huddled under the covers on the couch in the morning while the fire got going and her milk coffee cooled a bit. While the complex, interwoven story on the television unraveled, she'd ask me questions like "Where are those kids?" and "Who's that guy?" and "Is he a good guy or a bad guy?" I'd answer "They're not kids. They're Hobbits, and they're with Treebeard," and "He's Aragorn, and yes, he's very good... and that's his wowman there, with the pointy ears. Just watch the movie dammit!" It drives me nuts, the way she does that.

By the afternoon, the film was over and the next one was starting, but so was the pro football. So we began to switch back and forth between different games, and I kept puttin' new logs on the fire. The evenings football turned ugly as I watched my Cowboys suck it up, AGAIN, against the Giants. Then we watched the Cardinals come alive against the Vikings. Denise was happy to see my teams go under, but then she had to watch her boy suck it up. Let's hope her team (the Packers) makes at least a decent showing for itself tonight.

Anyway, Here I sit, waitin' for her to get home and stokin' the fire. No San Saba today, so I get to relax and enjoy the day. The Kill Bill movies are on Spike, so I've got them goin' on in the background while I surf the web and type this. I'd be cookin' dinner, but we went to Great Wall and stuffed ourselves on Chinese food for lunch, so it'll probably just be snacks for dinner tonight.

Well, y'all try to have a great week. I've got a lot of time on my hands, so I'll probably be postin' somethin' in a while. Somethin' ta do. Cheers!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Don't it make you proud?



Click over here to see more.

Remember the Kid down in Florence who was makin' chain mail?

Here's the first post, and here's the last post about it. Maybe you need to refresh your memory.



Well, he came into class week before last, wearin' the stuff. Looks cool don't it? He even went over part of it with some kind of perma blue to darken it. There's no way to unlatch it to put it on or take it off. He just tossed it over his head and shimmied into it. I told him it was cool as hell.

He got into a little trouble this week. A bunch of my kids went to a Youth Fair in Georgetown on Wednesday. At one point, Dillon here decided to chase a duck into a river. He ended up slippin' in the mud and goin' into the water up to his knees. That's when he and a friend decided to take off their shirts and jump in all the way. Oh, did I mention it was in the 40s that day?

After that they both got detention. Three days worth. His buddy got an extra few days of community service for cussin' out the female teacher who kinda went nuts when she saw these boys jump, almost fully clothed, into the water.

Don't ya just wish you were back in school?

Friday, December 04, 2009

A few visits, and the drive home.

Saturday night, after the 6th Floor, The three of us drove around Dallas lookin' for some good Chinese food. Bryce wasn't interested in Mexican food, and I'm not familiar with the Chinese food places in Dallas. We ended up on lower Greenville av., at a place called Big Wongs. It was great. It wasn't a buffet, which is what we were lookin' for, but the food was wonderful.

After that we drove on to Arlington, lookin' for some TCU gear for the kid. With their team winnin' these days, Bryce was fixated. We went to a place I knew off of Cooper and I-20 and he found everything he needed. It was like Christmas. I think Denise was makin' up for the fact that she doesn't live there in Kentucky with the boys, where she could spoil them on a regular basis.

Then it was back to the hotel and several adult beverages while we watched Bryce try to pack his ill gotten gains in his suitcase. He'd busted the one he came with, so Denise gave him one of hers. I asked her why she didn't just buy the boy a good sized bag, but my input wasn't required at that point. She had a few extra layin' around her place, so that did the trick.

Sunday morning, the three of us got up early and drove the 20 minutes or so up to D/FW airport to send the kid home. It was very emotional for Denise. She came back from his gate in tears. She wishes she could live there with them, but her job and her man are here in Texas.

We went back to the hotel to shower and gather our gear, and then we drove off towards Arlington to have breakfast. I'd made a date to meet one of my long lost high school buds there.

I haven't seen David Cavenah in 25 years, ever since he came back from a stint in the Air Force and I moved on to a four year college. It was cool to meet him again, and his lady friend, and get caught up on some things.

After a good breakfast at an I-Hop off Eastchase and I-30 in Arlington, I shook hands with Dave and we talked about how we should keep in touch. Since then he's signed up with Facebook, so that'll be easier to do.

Denise and I got back into her Camry and drove over to Ft. Worth. I had one more stop to make. About a month or so ago, my old friend Keith's mom had called to tell me she had something of Keith's that she wanted me to have. I was surprised, and had no idea what it could be.

You may remember, I found out that Keith had killed himself a few years ago when I got reconnected with my high school class for the 30 year reunion this last summer. I came up to visit his mom before the reunion, and it was wonderful to see her again.

Keith and I ran together from the 8th grade until, like David, I lost contact with him when I went to college. When I called his mom after 25 years and told her who I was, she said "You mean Big Jeff?"



It's great to see her now, and to see how good she seems to be doin'. Still, it always makes me sad to see her there alone. It's normal, almost expected, for a woman to lose her husband and become a widow late in life. But your kids aren't supposed to die before you do.

So much that was expected... So many good expectations that were taken for granted have withered and died in that house. It's very sad. But that's the way things go. Life goes on, and Margaret seems to be doing a great job of movin' on and making a life for herself.

Anyway, after we got there and spent some time playing with the dogs, she wanted to walk me over to the kitchen table to show me what she had for me. I couldn't believe it when I saw what it was.



I instantly remembered this poster from when I'd come over as a kid. Keith had it on his wall for years. It's Robert E. Lee and all his generals. It had been one of Keith's most prized possessions. She'd had it framed for me...



And she'd had this inscription placed on the back. I almost busted in to tears when she walked away to talk to Denise about somethin'. I said somethin' to myself like "Keith, you dumbass! What the hell were you thinkin'?"



Along with the poster, she gave me a cool Civil War time line book, and this Stonewall Jackson porcelain decanter.



It's about 12 1/2 inches tall, hollow, with the head glued to a cork stopper. Apparently there's an old story in the family that they have some connection with Jackson. I remember Keith sayin' something about that back in the old days. I'll have to fill it with some George Dickel and see if old Stonewall can still hold his liquor.



Also, while we were there, Margaret brought out this old Rifle and asked me if I could figure out what it was, and what it was worth.



I could tell from lookin' at it that it was in rough condition, and I had no earthly idea what it was.



I just knew it was OLD, and beat to hell. When I got home I took some pictures of it and sent them out to all the usual suspects, chummin' the water, hopin' for a bite. My old gunsmith, Randy Kline, who has built several cool guns for me in the past, quickly replied with the right answer.



Here's what the rifle is supposed to look like. It's a Belgian Flobert .22 rifle, from the late 1800s. Notice, there's not supposed to be a brass patch box on the butt. Someone added one to Margaret's rifle. What's worse, it's lid is busted, flopping open freely, with a small nail there to try to hold it in place.

The rifle is missing all but one screw, and that distinctive trigger guard. No tellin' where I'd try to find all those parts. I called her early this week and told her what it was, and that I didn't think it was worth anything. I told her I'd bring it back the next time I came up.



Anyway, we parted ways after a while, me packin' all my new loot in the car, and Denise and I started the drive home. Just about then, the drizzling rain started to get heavier.



I was pooped, so Denise drove. That means I was free to play with the camera and mess with the driver.



I can spend hours playin' with the camera, experimentin' and tryin' to see what's possible. It turns out I had plenty of time to do all the experimentin' I wanted to do.



The weather and the holiday traffic played havoc with our timetable. It was good we didn't have to be somewhere on time. I-35 was backed up all the way down to Waco. It took us about two hours to get there... Twice the normal time.



Still, we stopped in the little town of West, South of Waco, at the Czech bakery there. I wanted to get myself some Jalapeno Beer Bread. It's wonderful stuff.



It took us from 2:30pm to about 7pm to get home. After that, we were ready to do nothing but plop on the couch, nuke some Thanksgiving left-overs and watch football. It was a good, busy weekend. Bryce made it home in one piece with all his pillage, and Monday morning would come soon enough.

After that, this weekend is gonna be a breeze. I'm gonna go over to Salado today to get my hair cut, get my laundry from the dry cleaner in Temple, and take mom out to eat at BJs. There are chances of snow this weekend, which means a warm, glowing fire in the fireplace and lots of snuggle time.

I hope you guys have a great weekend too. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The shoot, and the feed.

I forgot to tell ya, my buddy Jim, who went to the game with us, has just returned from workin' in Pennsylvania for a few years. I called him last week, when he was gettin' ready to drive home and told him I was down to two lonely bottles of Yuengling in the fridge.



So, he kindly trucked home a case of the Traditional Lager and a twelve pack of the Black & Tans. I picked them up Thursday and drove home with them, so I should be good to go till this summers road trip. Pfew!



After a short trip to Wal Mart and the time it took to set up the air bed, we all relaxed around the house Thursday night. Denise and Bryce watched TV while I started workin' on the football pictures. Check out that nice air bed there, tucked up against the couch. It's the one we use when we go campin'. Cozy, with flannel sheets and an old down comforter.

The next mornin', while Denise slept in, Bryce and I took a trip up to Dave's place near Gatesville and did some shooting. I'd let him peruse the Fat Boy (my new safe) the night before and pick out some of the stuff he wanted to shoot. You should have seen his eyes light up when I slid that big blue door open. He had his head buried in there, like a kid in a candy store. It was hilarious.



You can see from this shot, we stuffed a pretty decent assortment into the trunk, and enough ammo to allow us to enjoy ourselves for a while. There were three different versions/calibers of Kalashnikovs, my new M-1 Garand ( have two now), my M-1 carbine, and my AR-15.



Then there was my newish conceal/carry 1911, and enough Mtn Dew and cigars to keep me goin' for the afternoon.



Between the stuff I had (far side) and the stuff Joe and Dave brought, Bryce was gonna get to try out a wide range of firepower.



He spent a LOT of time fingerin' things, between constant text messaging. He was itchin' to shoot somethin'.



First thing, Dave brought out his new WW2 Garand (he's got about five of 'em). he sighted it in, and then let Bryce take a turn. He took the time to give Bryce some valuable tips on shooting. He's a natural teacher, having been shooting since he was big enough to hold a rifle. he's teaching me too, but i started too late. I'll never be as good at this stuff as ol' Dave.



At one point, Dave brought out his WW2 German Luger. It's a finicky bastard, with way too many moving parts. You can see Joe here, tryin' to get it to chamber a round. You can also see Bryce there on the left, sitting on the back of the truck and staring lustfully at Joe's M-4 carbine.



I took a hand with the Luger too. It's cool. feels really good in my hand. But it's just to fine a piece of art to have any practical use on a battlefield. No wonder the Germans switched to the P38.



In time, Bryce got to shoot Joe's tricked out Yugoslavian AKMS...



And my Polish AK-47 (they called it a PMK-PGN-60). I call mine "The mule" because the thing weighs a ton! It has a milled steel receiver, rather than stamped and pressed like an AKM. Makes a difference.

In the end, Dave brought out one of his Civil War era muskets and showed Bryce how to load and shoot it. 60 grains of powder and a .68 soft lead ball.

video

My camera doesn't do sound videos, but you get the picture here. The friggin' thing is almost as tall as they are, and it kicks like a mule. we all took turns, and all had fun doin' it. My gun collection needs to drift over to this sort of stuff. It's just too much fun to shoot. If you want to see some other videos and pictures, click over here.

After we finished up, Bryce and I drove down to Temple and joined the ladies at my Mom's place.



They'd been busy cooking a huge Thanksgiving feed while we were having fun shooting guns.



You can see the spread here: Ham and friend chicken, cornbread dressing, corn-on-the-cob, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, brussels sprouts, corn biskets and some of Denise's Yorkshire puddings. All of that, and fruit salad, for five people. Yep, we're still enjoyin' the left-overs!



I had to, was FORCED to enjoy two plates. Here's plate number one...



And here's plate number two. Yep, it made a pig of myself, but what else is new?

After all that, after the ladies cleaned up and packed away the leftovers, Denise, Bryce and I drove back over to Killeen. they were in her car and I was in mine, smokin' a fine cigar and jammin' the tunes. Denise called me as we grove into town, tellin' me that she and Bryce wanted to go to Penny's in the mall. So we convoyed over and I met them there.

Then, after spending some time in penny's, thinking we were all gonna head home, I told Denise I'd meet her at the house. I came home and started workin' on the days pictures, but they took their time and walked through the mall. That ended up giving Denise some quality time with Bryce, and it also gave me the time I needed to finish up these pictures.

They came home eventually, and Bryce laid out all the loot she'd picked up for him. Turns out he'd got to pick out some early Christmas presents there at the mall. I told him that if his Nana lived there in Kentucky he'd be gettin' that kind of treatment about every other weekend.

We relaxed in front of the TV again Friday night, after packing for the drive back up to Dallas Saturday morning. The plans included a trip to the huge Gun Show at Market Hall, a trip to the 6th Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, and whatever else we could think to pack into the trip.

But enough is enough. We'll talk about all that in the next post. Cheers!