Monday, September 9, 2013


An old memory on the subject of 'possums and how our perceptions grow as we grow older.  We have not entertained a cat at our house for almost six years now, and have decided that life without a cat is not so bad.  Therefore, 'possums never come to the door looking for a meal.  I'm sure they're out there, but they are not OUR 'possums.


When I was eight, I used to walk every Wednesday after school to Mrs. Mellie Sims Lecky’s house for my piano lesson.  She lived right at the edge of that area of town where the colored folk lived (remember, this was 1944).  I remember being amazed once when a black man came to the front porch, and “Miss Lecky” went out and talked to him for some time.  She actually called him by name and everything.  I was really impressed.  When I was eight, I didn’t know that you could tell black people apart.

When I’d grown up and started reading Jane Goodall’s work, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that each of the chimps she spent so much time with was easily recognizable after you had looked at their pictures for awhile.  They were not all cast in the same mold, as I had previously thought.  They had their own faces and personalities, and each had a name.

Now we have, for some time, been visited in the early evening by a number of ‘possums, who take turns coming to the back door to eat the cat food that the cats almost never completely finish.  Who woulda thought it, but as an old guy I find that ‘possums not only can be distinguished by size and color, but each has its own  unique, expressive face.  They don’t all look alike.  We always know which ‘possum (or sometimes two or more) is paying us a call.

Last Saturday, as we were heading toward Austin, we saw a large beige colored ‘possum lying dead in the road.  My wife immediately announced that it was not OUR big beige ‘possum.  Then she went on to say that we should name our visitors.  My response was that since we only name our cats because the vet needs a name for his records, why would we name ‘possums?  But the more I think about it, the more attractive seems the idea.  We have come to know these animals.  If we call them by name, it will be a lot easier to talk about them, and keep track of who’s come around the most, who seems to have moved on, or when a newcomer drops in.

I’ve decided to start taking a closer look at the minnows in our garden pool.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Call Of The Wild

I fear that our old friend Verne has taken heed to the call, and will no longer dominate the lower pond.  I certainly could be mistaken, but somehow I cannot help but feel that our relationship has slipped into history.

This afternoon, Verne's adopted mama, my lifelong roommate, was making a trip out to the mailbox.  I heard her call out, and made it to the door as quickly as possible, to hear her say, "There's a turtle across the street, and it's just about the right size to be Verne!"

At our age, it's hard to actually keep track of such trivial things as years, but I think it has been about two and a half years since tiny Verne was discovered by Lauren and Jameson in our middle pond.  I reached in and plucked the little fellow out using two fingers, in order to confirm its identity as a snapping turtle.  We have no idea how he came to be there, but he was somewhat less than two inches across, and not much longer than that, including his tail.

We did not expect the creature to linger long.  We once made an effort to actually introduce turtles into the pond system, but they would never hang around long.  After a few days or on rare occasions, a few weeks, they would be gone, either wandered away or gone for some other reason.

The snapping turtle, however, lingered on.  He made his home in a grotto I had built into the pond long before I anticipated that there would ever be Verne, and would spend most of his time there.  In the months when the trees were bare, we would never see him.

Then, as we began to feel as if springtime was close at hand, Verne would gradually begin to favor us with his presence yet again.

Today, I walked across the street and into the neighbors' driveway, and bent over to pick him up and return to his home.   I must say that Verne had grown considerably more robust since that first time I lifted him with two fingers.  I used two hands, and he was not willing to be lifted.  Having just recovered from a couple of weeks of careful attention to a puncture wound in my hand from a broken tree branch, I was not interested in confronting those flailing claws and risking further damage.

It was exactly at that time when the partner showed up and we made the mutual decision that if Verne wanted to go to the river, there was nothing we could do to stop him.  If we took him back across the street, he would probably leave again during the night or tomorrow.  The Wild has called, and Verne has gone.  Farewell old friend, you gave us much pleasure, and if you should ever wish to climb back up to the river's ridge, we'll welcome you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Number of Things

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.~Tusitala

I fancy myself a happy malcontent, since the number of things of which the world is so full continues to remain beyond my reach.  While I am so often contented with my "status quo", there is always something new awaiting me, and I will never know it all.  I may never be as happy as a king, but from what I have learned about kings and their history, I will never be assured that kings are exceptionally happy.  
Kiwi and an egg

Today I saw that a Facebook friend had posted an image showing the relative sizes of a kiwi and its egg.  Of course it started me thinking of guinea pigs.  When Sifu Donna was a young lady in college, she had a pair of guinea pigs.  Somehow the female began to show signs of becoming a mother.  When our instincts let us know that the blessed event was due, young Donna and I kept the mother-to-be company, anticipating developments.  We had substantial experience with hamsters, and we expected something similar.  

After we had sat around for a while, the guinea pig disappeared behind a painting that was leaning against the wall, and we left her alone, sitting and waiting.  After a while, curiosity overcame my daughter, and she took a peek, exclaiming, "There's GUINEA PIGS!"  And there were!  The two youngsters were scampering around each appearing to be nearly half the size of their diminutive mama.  Nothing at all like the little pink rubber erasers we were expecting from our past experience with hamsters.

Wikipedia tells me that guinea pigs were domesticated in South America as early as 5000 BC, thousands of years after the domestication of the camelids of South America.  Whether or not this is correct information, how could it not incite further curiosity???  The history of so called "Native Americans" has been very exciting to me since the mid-'40s, when I became attached to a book belonging to my piano teacher.  How long have there really been human beings in the western hemisphere, and what is the history of their migrations?  I doubt that we know even close to what will someday know about them.

I was enthralled by stories of Sandia Man in my early years, and, in 2006, subconsciously inspired to take a "short cut" around the rush-hour traffic of Albuquerque on a trip to Chaco Canyon, I went past Sandia Cave, and began to realize that my expectations had been somewhat exaggerated.  Later research informed me that Sandia Man had been debunked some time ago.

Chaco Canyon itself has become a decidedly different place from the way it was presented when I was in my twenties.  I think there is much more to learn there, and there are questions which surely will never be answered.

The world is so full of a number of things, and I only wish that I could know them all.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Old Guy's Rambling Remembrances #39

6/19/03  (There is nothing new under the sun)

It’s now official.  The once Democrat, now Republican  Governor of Texas has called a special session of the legislature to reapportion the state for the express purpose of securing the dictatorial authority of the Republican Party in Texas.

I can remember when I voted for any Republican who managed to make it onto the ballot, because I believed that Texas needed a two party government.

I remember when, in the days of Governor Mark White, I had my “Gee, I miss Governor Clements” bumper sticker proudly displayed on my pickup.

In retrospect, I can’t help feeling guilty.

Tom Delay says that this reapportionment, having no connection whatsoever with the census, is necessary, because most of the major offices in the state have gone to Republicans, and that we need to change the voting boundaries to reflect the “will of the people”.

When my co-worker Chuckie said, back in the aborted election of 2000, that “the person with the most votes should win the election”.  That would have made Al Gore president.   I strongly disputed that concept, although as everyone knows, I would much rather have seen Al Gore as President.

When we have finally become a single party Republican state, I will remember that many of the politicians who were Democrats in the seventies are now Republicans, and that little has really changed in Texas.

I sometimes wonder what Thomas Jefferson would say about his United States of America if he could see what we have done to it, but I also sometimes wonder what Jesus would say about Christianity if he were to speak out about what we have done to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Old Guy's View Of Mankind

Many years ago, I'm thinking it was when I had children yet to be born, and when TV was mostly black and white, some news program I was watching had dug up an "old philosopher"...a fellow with strong opinions, a person, I suppose, very like me, except he was much older and seems not to have had much formal schooling.

Among the things he said, the one (and the ONLY one) I remember is, "Man ain't got no business going up around "Sput-Nick" and stuff like that.  He ain't powerful enough!"

Believe me, if the old feller had said "He ain't SMART enough", instead of, "He ain't powerful enough", I might have become a loyal fan.  Mankind is powerful well beyond the ability to reason.  We are so willing to think that we can do anything with no concern for the consequences.

Sitting among the flints on the lakeshore can inspire dreams...One can sit for hours fantasizing about the diminutive worlds they represent.  What were the dreams of the first homo sapiens who sat among the flints and said, "Hey, I think I can use this!.  I can make tools and weapons to make my dreary existence better!  I can invent technology!"...?

We can never really know, can we?  We can only guess, and continue to study, and have dreams of our own as we try to imagine.

Then, we can look up from this primitive dreamworld and see where we are now.....  
To me, this expanse of liquid sustenance is full, but those who are supposed to know such things say "only about half a foot to go".

It almost brings a tear to my eye that soon it may be overflowing, or may be much depleted.  If the forces of nature do not provide more, it could easily be very, very low by the end of summer.  Such is the need for water to sustain our lifestyle today.

My wife's mother would  tell the story of when she visited her grandmother as a girl, grandma would hand each of the kinder a teacup of water in the evening with orders to "take a bath".  My dad's Uncle Fred owned a house in Rosenberg, but he also had a few farms in different places, and when I was about six, Uncle Fred and Aunt Annie were living on a farm near Kenedy.  Even now, whenever I pass through Kenedy, I find myself looking down roads that we pass, wondering if I could spot a landmark that could give me a clue to the location of that long ago farm.  Uncle Fred's lights were powered by electricity produced onsite with an Aermotor windmill generator connected to 6v storage batteries.   In those days, people often needed no more electricity than required to power lights and a family radio.  Imagine, if you will, how little that could do for us today.  Uncle Fred's water came from a shallow well through the power of a hand pump.  Of course, by the time I was nine, he was back in Rosenberg, with all the comforts of big city life, but that's somewhat irrelevant to this tale of what we've done  to ourselves.

From before I was born until I was approaching middle age, a cap on the price of gasoline was enforced by our Federal Government.  I feel pretty sure that it was because of this, that citizens gradually moved from public transportation to a "family car", to households where everyone "required" his own automobile.  The once valuable public transportation became intolerable to the "average" least here in Texas it has.

I also think that it was this gasoline subsidy of the twentieth century that stifled the development of electric and steam powered vehicles, and even some of the more adventurous alternative fuel vehicles that we're slowly trying to figure out nearly forty years after our addiction to gasoline became something to consider.

There are so many things besides petroleum and water that we have come to squander, with little thought other than our own "immediate needs" of what we're doing to ourselves.  I can't begin  to consider them all.

I'm very fond of living in comfort myself, but when "the city" tells us we need to turn up our thermostats, turn out lights we're not using, and limit our lawn watering to avoid their having to build more facilities they can't afford, I'm happy to say, "Maybe I'm smart enough to give it a try."


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Crispy's B'n'arrows

Our granddaughter Christa is twenty-five now, but she once was much younger. I'm thinking that she may have been about the age or our youngest granddaughter, who is five, when she became interested in a "bow'n'arrow". We first selected a twig from the brittle japanese varnish trees which grow so fast and prolifically around the grounds.

Later, I set about to make a nicer bow, using a technique I'd read about which was reputedly used by some Native Americans, using a much springier and nicer wood, I think I remember from the flowering quince. I was quite proud of it.

Lately, my wife has become interested in "divesting", and has tried (with a little bit of success) to clear out some of the clutter from the attic. I applaud her efforts, but I'm not sure it's a task that will be easily or soon accomplished.

When I found these ancient relics among the trash, I was struck with a fit of nostalgia (with me, It's so easy to incite a fit of nostalgia). Crispy was always more fond of the old brittle one, while Papa would gaze fondly on the prettier one and wonder, "why?"

I record them here on Flickr, knowing that they now may rest in peace in the landfill.

In the year that I was four, I craved two things. One was a swing, and the other was a "bow'n'arrow". My dad and granddad made me a swing, suspended from a tree in the front yard.

I was immediately skeptical, because it was a singlerope swing. I had thought a swing needed two ropes that you sat between instead of straddling the single rope.

I found right away that a single rope swing could be even more fun than the traditional, until an overnight shower one day shrunk the rope beyond my reach. Of course, the swing eventually returned to normal, and I learned something about ropes in the year that I was four.

One day, I was over at granny's house when my granddad came in with a substantial hickory stick, which he'd found in the woods. (Granddad was a logger, and the woods was where his work was). I was never able to see a bow in that stick, which was probably about 7/8" thick. It stood in the corner untouched until a short time later, my dad found a potential job down on the coast, and we moved away.

I think I was a teenager when someone showed me a beautiful bow he'd made using an ash hoe handle, and I saw for the first time, a drawknife. It was then I realized that granddad and I had visualized a "bow'n'arrow" differently. I became certain that he had planned to MAKE a bow out of that hickory stick, not just to fasten a string to it, the way I had it pictured.

It was not too long after we left East Texas that granddad hurt his leg in the woods and moved his family to Houston, where he worked as a night watchman. I'll never know what became of the hickory stick.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Rambling Remembrance Of The Future, Actually Written From Memory

The cusp between April and May of 2004 caught us in Las Vegas!  (The real Las Vegas ... Nuestra SeƱora de los Dolores de Las Vegas Grandes, on the eastern base of the Sangre de Cristo in New Mexico.)

Shortly before Christmas in the preceding year, my wife suggested that we were getting up in years, and should probably be thinking about relocating to a pedestrian town, in anticipation of the declining abilities.  She suggested Las Vegas, and I became so excited I could hardly breathe!  We could go to Heaven, perhaps well in advance of our inevitable demise.

We went to scout out the place for my birthday at the end of April.  Although we'd been there several times before, this was to be a critical appraisal.

One of the things I really wanted to do while there was to follow the Gallinas River up to El Porvenir.  I had seen the name on maps for a long, long time, but did not know what to expect.  I was surely expecting a little mountain village at the very least, and we were on the way up there on the narrow paved road State Route 65 beyond the village of Montezuma when my wife suddenly asked, "Did you know that El Porvenir means 'The Future'.."?

OMG!  I'd never thought of myself as fluent in Spanish, but the simple combination of por (for) venir (to come) should have certainly been recognizable!

When we reached our goal, we hardly knew we were there.  El Porvenir is not a village.  It is a Forest Service campground at the base of Hermit's Peak, which provides a trailhead to the cave where John Augustani, the Italian hermit who hung around Las Vegas for several years selling hand carved Santos before finally moving on, and who was the inspiration for the name Hermit's Peak.

I wrote this originally on my wife's iBook at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, and somehow it escaped me, and has been lost forever.  Therefore, this slightly inferior account is recaptured from an old guy's memory, and seems to leave out some of the most exciting details of John Augustiani.  Maybe Google might help both the reader and me to fill in these details.

For now, I'll simply close by mentioning that we've seen The Future, and I would someday like to go "Back to The Future", but for now, I'll simply say that my excitement eventually faded after my wife decided that we really shouldn't go so far away from our daughters and their families, all of whom now live nearby.  I can't argue with that kind of logic.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Place For A Wandering Man

Memories often take strange turns.  Yesterday, I was thinking, as I often do, on a single subject, a tune played by the younger brother of a school classmate.  On his trombone, he'd play a jazzy version of, "Believe me if all those endearing young charms", and he had it well perfected.

So, often without provocation, I will suddenly begin to hum or whistle that jazzy tune.  Sometimes, I will give my tune words, such as:
Believe me if all those
Endearing young charms

Which I gaze on so fondly today
Were to change by tomorrow
And fleet in my arms,

And the skies are not cloudy all day....
Home, home on the range...etc.

And so, I started thinking of my dad, and am forced to once more relate another "dad fact", which, I'm sure, may be boring to some.

The first three years of my life were spent on the road.  My dad, who had started his working life at age 14, after the untimely death of his father, was a "traveling salesman".

The family went along with Dad on his work, living for no more than a short while in many towns across Texas.  I was first, then my younger sister and I, traveling with Mom and Dad, occasionally stopping for awhile in Nacogdoches, the city of my birth, to allow we little ones to stay with Granny for awhile.

Of the products he sold in those early days, I only remember a line of glass mixing bowls, and subscriptions to Progressive Farmer magazine.  It was work that he loved, however.

In the year that I was four, we moved to Nacogdoches, and lived there until shortly before I reached five.  My dad worked for a time in the woods with my grandfather, who was a logger, and tried a small scale printing business in a building behind our house (a duplex shared with one of Mom's cousins), and I suppose, filled in part time at the post office.  Then, we packed up and moved down to the Texas coast, to Bay City, Texas, where he worked for awhile in an appliance store owned by an old family friend who had previously traveled with us.

Then, one evening, he walked into our little house, and announced, "I'm a FULL substitute!"  Not knowing for sure what that meant, I later found out that he had accomplished a goal.  He had become a postal employee at the Post Office in Bay City.

When I was eight, and my dad was away in the South Pacific during The War, my mom bought a second hand upright piano, and was very insistent that I take piano lessons.  She probably should have taken them herself rather than waste her money, but she felt that my sister and I needed the experience of learning music.  One thing she really wanted me to master was, "Home, Sweet Home".  It had always been my dad's favorite.

Once my sister and I were away at college, my dad began to sell a brand of recliner chair and aluminum cookware locally, and soon hooked up with a representative for several furniture factories.  He gave up his job with the post office, which, I later understood, he had never come to love.  Once again, he became a "traveling salesman".

He later separated from the senior representative, and began representing furniture factories on his own.  My mom chose to stay home, and traveled with him only occasionally, and on numerous trips to Furniture Markets.

It was not until many years later, during the year that I was fifty-eight years old, and we sat with the minister preparing Dad's eulogy, that I suddenly realized that the year in Nacogdoches, and all those years in the post office, which frequently gave him headaches, were to provide my sister and me with a stable environment during our "growing up" years.  I had never been aware of the sacrifice he made for us, because he never gave us reason to think about it.

My dad was a traveling man, who loved the road, and the interaction with people of all temperaments in countless places across the country, but he always came home on weekends, and carried with him always the sentiment he had held as a boy,
"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;"