Thursday, December 2, 2010

The First Annual Restaurant Review

December 2, 2010

So, immediately you say, “a restaurant review? You?” I’m entitled. I may not be the foremost authority on food, preparation, or presentation, but I know what I like. I know when the food tastes good. I know when I am pleased with the service. What else is there?

So we (yes, today I have a partner on my travels) start out, making sure we have everything necessary. And even though I always tend to forget something (see previous article) we hastily load up and start out on our journey. And a journey it shall be. You see, I decided to review a rather unknown restaurant just a little farther from the house than your typical evening dinner out. We decide to make it a two or three day trip and spend the first night at my sister’s house in Canyon City, about three hours away. We begin by making the first gas station so that we need not be bothered by fuel on this first leg of the trip, which was rather uneventful. About halfway there we did pass the exit to Kyle, and remembering my prior experiences in Kyle we decided to avoid that exit. We arrive at my sister’s with plenty of daylight remaining and ample time for socializing. After a modest amount of exploration around the area, and wanting to get an early start the next morning we head to bed plenty early. And just so that we would have something to write about my sister’s house decided to contribute some material of its own. They have a rather large grandfather clock situated just outside the bedroom door where we were to sleep and every fifteen minutes it decided to let loose with a melody that lasted about fourteen minutes (or so it seemed) at a volume which did not disturb me, due to my failing hearing, but kept Jackie up all night. It seemed the logical solution would be to close the door, which we did, but then revealed the next of our disturbing events. The alarm system control panel was set to glow constantly. And it was bright! So, either we tolerated the light or the sound. I was quite happy with either but Jackie never could make up her mind and simply never got any sleep all night. I guess draping a dry wash cloth over the alarm panel was just too easy of a solution..

We got an early start the next morning as expected and stopped off at the local donut shop for a cup of java and something to settle our stomachs for the long trip ahead of us.  I decided for a cinnamon roll and a dozen holes and Jackie requested a hot dog kolache without the pastry part of it. Just a hot dog? Who eats just a hot dog for breakfast?

En route to our destination, somewhere beyond Sonora or so, but not yet to Fort Stockton we came upon an area where all you could see on the horizon was windmills. Not the Holland style windmills nor the water well type of structure, but those new electric generating windmills. In this part of the country there are multiple plateaus situated above valleys, or even flat areas, and the plateaus are simply lined with these tall white electric generating windmills. It rather reminded me of all the aborigines lined up on the ridges in the movie Quigley Down Under. For as far as you could see there were windmills. From the south horizon to the west, and continuing on to the north, nothing but windmills. Now I realize where all those propeller blades you see passing through town are headed. I remember wondering why I never see any of the pedestals on trucks headed this way. Maybe they are manufactured elsewhere and thus do not pass through my neck of the woods.

Additionally we began seeing more than just hills and high plateaus. We were now seeing small mountains in the distant. Mountains that would soon grow to epic heights to those of us that have spent our lives in east Texas, but still referred to as hills by those in Colorado, Montana, and others. As we traveled into those mountains I could feel my truck struggling to get up and around those hills. In fact, it seemed that even though we were going downhill it struggled. I doubt that it was the thinning air as fuel injected engines are not supposed to be affected by altitude changes. After setting up the GPS I could see that even though it looked like we were often travelling downhill we were, in fact, steadily increasing in altitude. It actually sickened me slightly, but then, a lot of things do. It was almost like being in the fun house at the carnival.

I knew we were getting to West Texas when we started seeing towns that have been mentioned in John Wayne movies. El Dorado, Blanco, Ozona, Sweetwater, and several others. It took all I could to keep from taking a side trips to each one just to be the standard tourist.

We arrived at our destination of Sierra Blanca, Texas at about four in the afternoon. I would have thought for sure that we would be simply wasted after the long day on the road but we actually felt pretty good, so we decided to explore just a little. Ok, by now you have come to realize that this really isn’t about a restaurant review, haven’t you? We did have another reason for making this trip out west. Jackie had purchased some property out this way some years back and this would be my first trip out here. Of course, it was mule deer season and breaking out the 270 for a deer or the 204 for a predator of some sort was not out of the question. From the hotel where we were staying for the night to the property turned out to be about 60 miles. She didn’t mention that. Of course, I found out that a trip to the grocery store in these parts is in excess of 70 miles one way most of the time. We arrived in the area of the property shortly before sunset only to discover that the fall rains had washed out not only one, but two areas of the road just before her property. Not wanting to deal with it all this evening we decided to abandon the property viewing for the evening and head into town for a bite to eat before turning in.

We decided on one of the only two places in town to eat, La Familia Restaurant and Gift Shop. Well the gift shop portion of the place was already closed so we sat down at a table near the register. The only other occupied table was just next to where we sat. We were promptly greeted by a young Hispanic female. Jackie ordered a fajita enchilada while I decided on the Mexican Plate so that I would have a sampling of several things. The young lady took our order then visited the next table, presumably to check on their drinks or whatever. The waitress handed one of the customers at the table something that looked like a check, but instead of the couple heading to the register to pay they passed it right up and headed into the kitchen to prepare our order. Turns out it was the cooks sitting at the next table. Jackie’s order was ready a couple of minutes prior to mine and sat on the counter under the heat lamps for those minutes. I was seated to where I could watch the cook at the grill prepare my meal. On several occasions she took a squeeze bottle of what looked like oil and squirted it not only on the grill itself, but also on absolutely everything she cooked. But, I was open minded and willing to reserve any comments until I had tried it, which finally did come.

Jackie proceeded to unwrap her enchilada to find nothing but fajita meat wrapped in a corn tortilla. No rice or beans. She had to request hot sauce (we did not get any chips & salsa) and sour cream to dress it up some. The sour cream came in a small package which actually made us feel a little better as the cleanliness of the place was rather short of the local gas station restrooms. My meal consisted of a Chile rellenos, two cheese enchiladas, taco, rice, and beans. The taco meat had no real seasoning in it at all so it was not much more than lettuce and tomato in a crunchy shell with some chewy something on the side. Having tolerated the taco I moved on to the chile rellenos. Now, all the chili rellenos I have had in the past was filled with seasoned hamburger meat or something. This one came to me flat leaving my to wonder what was waiting for me inside. As it turned out it had no filling in it at all. My chile rellenos was simply a fried pepper. Next was the cheese enchiladas. How could someone mess up a cheese enchilada? Cold is one way, and cold it was. As it turns out the beans and rice was the best thing found at La Familia Restaurant and Gift Shop. See? It is a restaurant review after all.

The next morning we headed out to the property with sufficient help to get all the way to the property. The local ‘guide’ that accompanied us seemed well enough equipped to handle most any situation but even he had to manually fill in a ditch or two just to get to the property. Then he decides to drive off into a huge ditch and get completely stuck so that I had to break out my chains to get him free. It was about that point that we decided to simply walk the remainder of the way and avoid any further chance of losing our transportation completely.

Many times, when walking around on my property, I dream about a variety of things. This particular property reminded me of the many John Wayne movies I have seen over the years. One specific one, in fact. McClintock! One certain passage in that movie applied to this property. As I recall it goes something like this… “This land hates the plow. Serves pretty good for cattle. But you just can’t make it go on the Mesa verde.” I really believe this about Jackie’s property. Even the mesquite has better sense than to try to survive there. Tumbleweed is obviously formed when bushes intentionally chew themselves off at the ground to free themselves so that the wind might blow it to another county. There was not much there but rock. Lots of rock, limestone, talc (or whatever talc is made from) and sand. There was sand everywhere. On everything. In everything. Around everything. There was sand in the air. So much so, that you could not see more than a mile or so. It didn’t appear as a widespread sand storm, but then, I have never seen a sandstorm short of the movies.

We did see several herds of pronghorn antelope, but no deer, although we saw evidence of both in abundance. Being a week into deer season explains why they are keeping a low profile.

Not wanting to be left alone out on the ‘mesa verde’ we decided to leave once our guide’s truck was freed. There was no communications available at all. Cell service was non existent and if we were to get stuck ourselves we would be sort of on our own unless the amateur radio that I had brought along could raise someone local. We decided to go on into El Paso for the remainder of the day just for sightseeing.

There is not much in El Paso, and if it were not for Fort Bliss we would not have been at all entertained the entire afternoon. As it was we ended up in New Mexico for lunch just to say we had been there this trip.

We started back early the next morning and was over 100 miles into our trip before we found anything open to get breakfast or even a cup of morning coffee. We drove all the way back not even stopping at my sister’s. It took an entire day for me to recover from this trip and we both decided that the next trip out we are going to fly. I think we would rather enjoy the pat down by the TSA instead of the intolerable 700+ miles in the pickup.

Copyright, 2010. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without advanced written authorization from both the author and Google.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Persistence is Futile. But I want to Assimilate!

November 20, 2010

Some time ago, I don’t mean years, or months, or even weeks; about 10 days ago Dad stopped receiving his newspaper. I won’t mention which because they undoubtedly have much more money to put towards legal fees than do I. The day I discovered this I had just returned from a weekend off from my duties. You see, I happily moved in with my parents when it became obvious that they had become unable to properly care for themselves. I spend weeks at a time there with the occasional weekend or week off to go home to… visit. I have three sisters who gladly relieve me at least two and sometimes three weekends a month, and again at least a full week or ten days a month. I didn’t completely move in. I sort of live out of a suitcase and occupy the same old room that I lived in some forty years ago growing up. Moving on, I returned home to learn that dad had not received his daily newspaper for the last three days, so a call to the circulation department was in order. Now, this particular newspaper is not of the local variety. Although we live in a rural area and the nearest town has a publication of sorts, it is not a daily paper. Dad therefore relies on the paper from the great metropolis that is about forty miles distant, but delivers daily. Well, we both thought.

My call to the papers main switchboard was answered by a rather male sounding voice, which in itself, was a surprise. I don’t know why. I suppose it may be because it has been many years since I was actually out in the workforce and exposed to what normal really is. I shouldn’t be all that surprised, after all, I do have access to the internet and am not completely cut off from the trends affecting our country. In any event the pleasant young man transferred my call to the circulation department whereupon I spent several minutes monitoring my own circulation while I listened to that recorded voice, “All customer service agents are presently assisting other customers. Please continue to hold and someone will be right with you.” Finally after what seemed like hours I hear a different recording. Progress.. “We are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please use our automated system. If you experienced difficulties receiving your newspaper, press 1.” *Beep* “If you did not receive your newspaper today, press 1.” *Beep* “Please enter your ten digit telephone number, starting with the area code, followed by the pound sign.” *Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep**Beep*

And after all that… “Please hold for a customer service representative.” To my surprise, a person then answered the phone right away. I guess all that was just a way to kill some time while an agent became available to talk to me. It didn’t really seem to do anything because the agent then had me dictate all that information to her again. I hate that. Why make us wear out our telephone keypads pushing in all those digits when they are going to ask anyway? These new phone are not made by Western Electric any more. They wear out faster than batteries in kids toy now days. But after all that I got a pleasant “Thank you, we will take care of this right away.” That’s it? Seemed easy enough, once I got to talk to a real person. I was happy, or so I thought.

Day two. Dad makes his usual early morning sojourn down to the highway to check the mail….and his newspaper; which of course, was not there. Another day and again I have to watch him return to the house empty handed. Besides from that I patiently sit and listen to the events of the trip. About the neighbor’s cattle and how the cows leave their young unattended (like the hawks are gonna swoop down and carry them off,) about how little they have to eat, and then analyze the trash he picked up in the ditch to bring home. Its trash, Dad, let’s put it in the trash. Well, to this day that trash is still on his desk. He is still wondering exactly what it is and why someone would throw it away. “We are experiencing heavy call volume and all customer service agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold or to use our automated system. For English please press 1.” All I want is for Dad to have his newspaper. That way, when he returns he will quietly sit and read his newspaper during breakfast. “Yes sir. I’ll send a message to the carrier and we will get this cleared up right away.”

Day three. Dad makes his usual early morning sojourn down to the highway to check the mail….and his newspaper; which of course, was not there. Another day and again I have to watch him return to the house empty handed. Besides from that I patiently sit and listen to the events of the trip. About the neighbor’s cattle and how the cows leave their young unattended, about how little they have to eat, and then analyze the trash he picked up in the ditch to bring home. Its trash, Dad, let’s put it in the trash. “We are experiencing heavy call volume and all customer service agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold or to use our automated system. For English please press 1.” Is there an option if I want to speak to a supervisor? I leave my phone number for the carrier to call. I have hopes of a newspaper by Thursday…

Day four. Dad makes his usual early morning sojourn down to the highway to check the mail….and his newspaper; which of course, was not there. Another day and again I have to watch him return to the house empty handed. Besides from that I patiently sit and listen to the events of the trip. About the neighbor’s cattle and how the cows leave their young unattended, about how little they have to eat, and then analyze the trash he picked up in the ditch to bring home. Its trash, Dad, let’s put it in the trash. “We are experiencing heavy call volume and all customer service agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold or to use our automated system. For English please press 1.” Any chance I can talk to a supervisor? “Please hold.” Finally, someone that will give me the attention that this is due. I have hopes. “Sir, my supervisor is unable to take the call at the moment but I gave her your phone number. She is really good about returning phone calls. You should hear from her today."

Day five. Dad makes his usual early morning sojourn down to the highway to check the mail….and his newspaper; which of course, was not there. Another day and again I have to watch him return to the house empty handed. Besides from that I patiently sit and listen to the events of the trip. About the neighbor’s cattle and how the cows leave their young unattended, how little they have to eat, and then analyze the trash he picked up in the ditch to bring home. Its trash, Dad, let’s put it in the trash. “We are experiencing heavy call volume and all customer service agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold or to use our automated system. For English please press 1.” By now you are wondering why I am wasting time with this antiquated communications system called the telephone. Why not simply get on the internet, look up the papers site, click on the ‘Contact Us’ link and be done with this nonsense of daily talks to the customer service recordings? You know? I fool around with designing pages such as this. I mean, after all, I have been in the hospitality business for longer than I care to admit, and I have contact us pages for customers to communicate with me. So, I recognize a well planned contact us page. So I did use their contact form on about day two. That day all went as planned. “I didn’t get a newspaper. Circulation was no help. Can you help me get a newspaper?” No worries, right. The next day I fill out the same form and I got a little long winded about how I had called circulation, then sent in the contact us form, explained that I was not all that hard to find, and listed the previous ‘case number’ provided in the email confirmation sent to me to acknowledge receipt of the previous days form. “Your form contains too many characters. Please edit your text and limit the number of characters used to 150.” What? 150 characters? How can you legitimately complain about anything in 150 characters? So that day’s complaint was about how the form did not allow enough room to adequately complain.

Day six. It is now Saturday. Dad makes his usual early morning sojourn down to the highway to check the mail….and his newspaper; which of course, was not there. Another day and again I have to watch him return to the house empty handed. Besides from that I patiently sit and listen to the events of the trip. About the neighbor’s cattle and how the cows leave their young unattended, about how little they have to eat, and then analyze the trash he picked up in the ditch to bring home. Its trash, Dad, let’s put it in the trash. “We are experiencing heavy call volume and all customer service agents are assisting other customers. Please continue to hold or to use our automated system. For English please press 1.” By now I had learned the keystroke sequence and entered them in without even listening to the recordings, and I get a live person. “Mr. Taylor, has anyone called you back yet?” Oh, yes, of course. But I was just calling to say thank you….NOT. Not only has no one called me back, but I still do not have a newspaper! So, I ask the customer service rep (I really don’t know why they call it customer service if they cannot provide any service) for the carrier’s mother’s name so that I can call her to see if I can get a newspaper by Sunday. I never got to speak to a supervisor that day and the call ended quite soon afterwards.

Later, and not very much later I receive a call from a nice sounding lady. “Mom?”, I ask. Well, no, but it was the local distributor. She was quite pleasant and explained that the carrier was indeed delivering a paper to what they thought was the correct address, and after a long conversation about how to recognize the correct location to deliver our paper I get a promise, and a phone number.

Well, things are looking up. I have a real local phone number to contact the actual local distributor in the event I do not receive a paper tomorrow. I really think that if we don’t get a paper the distributor will actually bring it out herself.  Wishful thinking. Tomorrow is another day and I think if I hear one more time about how little the neighbors cows have to eat I’m gonna feed them cows a newspaper distributor.

Copyright, 2010. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without advanced written authorization from both the author and Google.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Facts of Life

November 15, 2010

Recently my son of 24 years asked me the heritage of my biological parents. Now you have to understand, the technology generation that my son grew up in required him to text the question to me rather than use a conventional telephone. Instead of picking up the phone and hearing me answer in my usual round the bush diatribe, he texted me the question. Of course, having received the query via text message I felt obligated to answer using the same medium. Never mind the fact that I still use a cheap, bottom of the line, first time newbie phone that only has a telephone keypad on it (after all, it IS a telephone, right?) and not a full QWERTY keypad (I’ll bet he has no clue what THAT is!), and he knows this, I still felt obligated to attempt to fit 20 minutes worth of ramblings into that little 1 x 1.25 inch screen. Suddenly, I found myself searching feverishly for which of those 12 keys would produce the “=” symbol. You see, having found out that my ramblings simply would not fit on that screen I opted to simply send him a URL to the family tree on  That is a wonderful thing,, although sometimes I wonder if it simply allows some unsuspecting nitwit (me) to put far too much information into the hands of identity thieves. They say that they hide all information about living persons, and it does seem so. Still, that is a lot of information on the web about my family even if a Great Grandpa seems to have just appeared in Texas with no apparent previous history to be found. Maybe they did not keep prison records very well back in them days.

Anyway, having found a complete barrier to sending him a text message back with a URL to the family tree I decided it would be easier to send a link to the main site with a notation that he would have to search the database for my entry. Well again I found myself then looking for the “_” symbol. Darn cheapo phones. Someone told me just yesterday that I need to get a new phone. He even had a name for it, although it escapes me at present. It would connect to your laptop with one of those USB cables and allow your laptop to access the internet over the phone. I don’t need to get a new phone for that. That’s the way I do it now anyway. So I finally ended up sending him the information but had to use the word ‘underscore’ in place of the “_” symbol.

As it were he must have needed the information real fast because he sent a message back immediately that asked “What nationality?” Well I could see I was not going to get anywhere with getting him to do any research on his own so I finally just sent him what he wanted. My text back to him contained just the requested information. “Moravian.” Within 5 minutes I get another text message from him. “Never heard of it.” So much for a college degree…

So here is the information you requested, Son. I hope this fulfills your requirements and arrives to you within the allotted time that you needed.

My Great Grandfather, Anton, was born in 1861 in Freydek-Mistek, Moravia which, at the time was obviously a part of Austria. It was he who migrated to the United States because he married my Great Grandmother, Johanna (born 1866) in Fayette County, Texas in 1884. Now, since Johanna was born in nearby Zabreh Nad Odrou, Moravia she also migrated to the US. The story has it that they both arrived in the States about the same time but on different ships. Johanna and her family (Peter and Rosina Stavinoha) was in one ship bound for Corpus Christi (I think) but a plague there cause the ship to dock at an alternate port of Victoria, which at the time was on the coast and not inland as it is today. Near that same time Great Grandfather Anton fled his country for reasons unknown (that’s an author’s way of saying he really does not want to disclose the facts of the matter) and bought his passage on board a ship bound for the States as the servant of another family. And, he did so under a forged passport. This part we know to be true because my Aunt, who recently left us, has guarded that passport throughout the years and has preserved it in the family treasures. Well, Great Grandfather Anton’s ship was bound for Galveston yet some catastrophe in Galveston caused this ship to dock at its alternate port as well, Victoria.

It is unclear to me at this point if they met in Victoria or if the individual families both moved inland first to the settlement near Somerville and met there. Regardless, the Great Grandparents (mine, that is) married in Fayette County, Texas.

Back to Moravia. Although at the time it was part of Austria, it bears stating that the European states seemed to wander about aimlessly about the era of the various world wars and I really don’t know myself what political subdivision claimed Moravia in the ensuing years. But, looking at the maps of Austria the area labeled as Moravia appears quite close to some country called Poland. So, I guess you could say we are simply Polaks. Personally, I prefer the mystery of Moravian, hence my text message to you. And by the way, son, the Great Grandparents appear to both have the same Grandparents themselves. That explains a lot, actually…

Copyright, 2010. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without advanced written authorization from both the author and Google.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opening Weekend and the Doc Hollywood Method of Deer Hunting

November, 2010

Well, for 2010 at least, the first opportunity for deer hunting has come and gone. Again this year my father has decided that he just didn’t have the ‘want to’ to get out and go. Not to be deterred I was able to find a last minute hunting partner. Having property suitable for deer hunting is somewhat similar to being rich. You are never without ‘friends’ wanting to tag along for the hunt. But as it were, my friends really are just that. True friends that would make sacrifices for you. This time he sacrificed a good portion of his monthly income so that we could all eat this weekend. Of course, we could simply eat what we shoot but I made a promise that I would start that diet next week, so the security of knowing we would have food was a welcome treat. When Mike brings the food it is usually enough for an army and packed with home made things like extra large pans of enchiladas, made my his wife of course. But we would not have enchiladas this trip. More on that later…

And as is usual I left the homestead not having everything I needed. Speaking of ‘homestead’, I could write volumes, but that is well beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that these days I stay confused about just where the homestead actually is. Anyway, I always forget something and this year was no different. Normally I do not use any of these fancy calls or rattle bags, or what have you. Of course I do use a grunt call that aids in stopping a wary buck in his tracks giving a hunter an opportunity to take his time while leveling his gun for a steady aim. But this year I thought I would give those artificial calls a try. Although I had a puny set of horns I cut off a little 6 point a few years back I decided to purchase a set of rattle horns from an online distributor. The price was right, and if it called up even one unsuspecting buck from out of the woods I would consider it a worthwhile investment. At the same time, in order to meet the minimum purchase on the site I purchased a doe bleat call. You know what that is…it’s a little box about the size of a ring box that when turned over it makes a sound like a doe bleat. Good for other things too. Like frightening the UPS driver that delivers to me. I’m sure he believed without a doubt his truck was haunted. Getting on with it, I left that box of rattle horns and that doe bleat back in Dayton. There must have been more that I forgot. Two items just does not seem enough. More on those rattle horns later…

I was sure I got an early start this year. After all, my sister surprised me with arriving early to take over my parent sitting duties and I was able to leave much earlier than expected. Still, it was after dark before I arrived at ‘The Bodine.’ And for those of you not all that familiar with my family history, ‘The Bodine’ gets it’s name from the original land owner, J. Bodine, of Abstract 1283 of the survey of Texas land completed by the G&BN Company in Leon County, Texas, and where my family put down its Texas roots. Somehow the name has stuck and the entire family knows the property simply as The Bodine. And I only own a small portion of it, having purchased it from my uncle on my fathers side some years ago. The trip up was quite boring as is the norm, with the highway congested with hunters on their way to their own deer leases. En route I spotted about ten or twelve deer within rock chucking distance of the road. As it turned out it would be the most deer I would see on the entire trip. More on that later…

Having arrived I proceeded to get the utilities on and the cabin somewhat cleared out so we would have room to move around. I seem to store things inside in between trips so that the locals don’t relieve me of any extra things left outside. As it was rather dark, the first of the utilities was the outside lighting. I have one of those lights that when you turn it on it takes a half hour to warm up before it is bright enough to put out more light than a key chain flashlight. While it was warming up I proceeded to unload my personal things from the back of the pickup. You know, the usual things. Ice chest, suitcase, boots, gun.. where’s my gun? My gun was here. I know I put it in the truck before leaving. Let’s see. I stopped to get gas. That was the only stop. I used a credit card at the pump to pay so I never left the side of the truck while filling up. But the gun just was not where I put it! So, here I am thinking, could someone have lifted it out of my truck while my back was turned at the Valero? At a long red light? It was a nice Remington 700 synthetic with a Nikon 3x9 50mm scope on it. And in a hard case too! I really liked that gun and was really ticked off about losing it and could only hope that I just somehow forgot to put it in the truck and it was resting comfortably back in Dayton. After that I had to rest a minute and allow the nerves to calm a bit, so I went in and ran the water some. If you have ever done any hunting at all you are very aware of the requirement to get the water running through the pipes before you expect to use it. Not only to get the stale water out but in my case to simply make sure all the air is out of the pipes before I turn the electricity on to the hot water heater. There wouldn’t be much else that I would hate to have to do than to have to change out the heating element on that hot water heater. It's situated up above the bathroom and has quite a bit of tools and left over materials from the cabin construction all around it. It would be a major event just to gain access to the thing. Well now that the water has run sufficiently smelling up the cabin with putrid water and the electricity to the heater is on I decide to vacate the building and resume unloading my truck. Now that the area light has warmed up it is finally bright enough outside to see around and finish unloading and getting stuff inside. Satellite box, couple of gallons of extra drinking water (remember the pipes?), heaters for the deer stands, gun, extra batteries and flashlights. Wait a minute. Gun? That wasn’t there a while ago. Where did that come from? As it turned out the gun, in its hard case had migrated from near the tailgate to come to a final resting place up under the gull wing tool box on my truck. I’ll never know how it was able to navigate the rest of the gear in the bed of my truck, but it did. I’m just glad I’m going crazy and some thief is not a couple of hundred richer as a result of some unsuspecting pawn broker. At least now I will be competently armed in the morning. No way I am going to miss with my trusty 7mm. More on that later…

Mike and his son were going to be running late due to an evening baseball game and I didn’t expect them to drive up until morning. And he was right on about the time. About 4:30 am I see the lights of his truck coming up the road. He didn’t bring his Gator this trip so we would double up and all ride in the Mule, which I hadn’t even bothered to unload the previous night. His first order of business was breakfast. At least he has his priorities right. For some reason deer hunters must have breakfast. Ignore the fact that we have a total of five occasions throughout the year we even have breakfast (and those seem to be for the spouses benefit, not ours,) when on the deer lease it is just a requirement that you eat breakfast. It must be something along the lines of never go grocery shopping when you are hungry or something. You just don’t go deer hunting unless you have had a good breakfast. Often though, a good breakfast is defined as a tortilla with a link of venison sausage topped with spicy mustard. I guess men and women just have differing ideas about what constitutes a ‘good’ breakfast. Today, however, it was bacon and eggs with biscuits. And the requisite coffee, naturally. I don’t do milk, and Mike’s son does not do coffee, so he was content with a Dr. Pepper for breakfast. Or was it a Diet Coke? It doesn’t matter, really, it only serves to remind me of one more thing I forgot this trip. More on that later…

After breakfast we had plenty of time to check on the weather, temperature, and to choose which deer stand we would each occupy this morning. Now, you have to understand something about deer hunters. They would rather have a root canal than to use a different deer stand than the one they shot that trophy buck out of last year. So, it was a short discussion. Transportation was another matter completely. While Mike and his son (Ok, yeah, he has a name) Jordan was cleaning up the breakfast dishes I went out to unload the Mule and pack it for the short trip into the woods. Now, my cabin sits atop a hill. Not much of one mind you, but a hill nonetheless. It is probably a quarter of a mile to the road and no more than a fifteen foot rise in elevation, but it is gradual all the way from the road up to my cabin. And when I parked the truck was situated facing uphill with the trailer behind. You can probably see where this is going already. Unloading the Mule I simply let off of the winch a little allowing the Mule to be move aft just enough to remove the rear restraints. Then I set the parking brake and let off the winch a little more in order to unhook it from the forward tether. Are you with me yet? Then I simply let off of the parking brake and give it a shove and let it gently roll off of the trailer. The slight tilt of the trailer hitch on the bumper gives it just enough of a slope for me to be able to get it rolling by hand. And roll it did. I never knew just how much area that slow-to-warm-up light illuminated, until now. I can tell you without a doubt it does not reach beyond the distance traveled by a rouge Mule in November. I hear the door to the cabin open and Mike asks if I am ready to go. "In just a minute," I say. "I’ll be right back…"

The short trip to the first stand was uneventful. Well, as much as can be with two big adults and a twelve year old on a two seat Mule. Fortunately I would be the first off and Mike and Jordan would continue on to a stand about three quarters of a mile distant. I can’t speak much to the events that occurred with them. Suffice it to say that Jordan was not happy that he was not able to take a shot at that doe. After all, it was just last week that he could shoot at the does. What difference does one week make? So they pass on the does and have to watch as several groups of hogs devour all the corn distributed for the deer. I mean, they were not hog hunting, right? Over in my area I hear a few gunshots just barely after day break. I don’t mean one over there; another there; and finally one over there. I mean three very closely spaced shots where the marksman (sic) was either operating that bolt at the speed of a scalded jackrabbit or using an AR-15. Just how many shots does it take to kill a deer? Was it running? Who in their right mind shoots a deer on the run? Never mind. I forget this is Leon County. It must have ran in front of three other hunters with ARs because those rapid shots in succession seemed to happen several times. Oh well. Much stranger things happen here. I decide it is time to try out my rattle horns in hopes of drawing out one of those running bucks. Yeah, I did forget the new ones obviously made out of some polymer or something, but I still had the authentic short horns of that small 6-point from a few years back. Better than nothing I thought, and began what I assumed would be the rhythmic sound of buck fighting despite never having heard it in person. They were small and quite difficult to get the small horns to click together effectively. After about an hour of not seeing anything I decided that the sound I was making must not be right so I gave it a rest. Figured it was time for a nap anyway. Well about a half hour into my nap I see a huge shadowy figure moving about in the trees beyond my feeder. Soon, a rather large black boar hog can be seen moving about as if to decide if it was safe to come out into the open. It took quite a while before he consumed the corn on the ground that had found its way into the edge of the woods and was forced to either give up or come out in search of more of that golden candy. But he would be safe. Not because I was deer hunting but because old boar hogs are just not fit to eat. He would stay there for the better part of an hour eating away like a pig. I finally decided to find out how the hog would react to my technique of the rattle horns. Not more than a millisecond after that first click of the horns that hog left a dust cloud that obscured my view of the feeder. Almost at the same time I finally get to see what I came here to see. From my right, coming up a road, well, trail, was a lone doe making her way towards the feeder. Apparently the hog had left a generous amount of corn on the ground because I watched that doe feed for more than an hour. Soon mother nature took charge and I have to disturb that doe with my movements. To take care of business I would have to stand up, open the door of the stand, step outside, then relieve myself off the steps of the stand about seven feet to the ground. There would be no way I would be able to keep from disturbing that doe while she snacked under the feeder, but I was willing to give it a try. Choosing my times carefully I was able to stand up and open the door to the feeder, which by the way, provided a nice wall between myself and the doe, and step out onto the top stair without being seen. I removed my gloves which generally gets in the way of doing what I was preparing to do. It was at this time that I noticed the damage that those rattle horns had been doing. Being a rather small set of horns they were generally clumsy to operate and I often found myself rattling my fingers into the horns rather then rattling the horns together. The cold weather basically prevented me from feeling the horns as they clanged against my cold fingers leaving a plethora of bruises on and about both hands. But I couldn’t be concerned with that now. My main objective was to take care of the business at hand, so to speak. Occasionally I would peek back to that doe, surprised to see that she was not paying me any attention at all. Sparing you any further details I completed my assignment and began the arduous task of returning to my seat undetected. I leaned over ever so slowly to have a peek one last time through the space between the door and the stand. Although I was amazed that she was still there, she was looking in my direction. Or staring in my direction like she had just seen the first human in her life. It’s not like I was walking around or anything. I was well hidden behind the door and only my boots could be seen. Knowing that I could not move my feet without taking the chance of her running off I remained still peeking only occasionally to see if she had given up on me and resumed her feeding. It took several minutes before she decided that I was of no threat to her and continued feeding. I then eased around and started a graceful dance to return to my seat within the confines of the stand. I was just about there and was reaching for the door to again secure it closed when I saw him. Off to the left, where I had least expected to see anything, there was a fine 8-point buck watching me as I moved about trying to get back into my stand unnoticed. Of course I froze thinking this would fool this buck into, I don’t know what. Thinking I was a limb or something? Right… So I said to myself, “Hello Mr. Buck. How about you stay right there while I get my gun? Are you ready? “ In just a minute," the buck says. "I’ll be right back…"

Although the cloud of dust left by that buck was a might smaller than the one left by the hog, it hurt worse. At least I learned not one, but two things this hunting session. Rattle horns make for an excellent hog repellent, and Neil Shulman just made up that scene in the movie.

Copyright, 2010. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without advanced written authorization from both the author and Google.

2010 Youth Hunting Season is in the Books!

October, 2010

As is in most states, here in Texas there is a Youth only season where those under 16 get to have a weekend of deer hunting without the interference of boozed up adults. And every year I take a small group of hunters and dads up to my place for that weekend. Well, that was this past weekend.

But, this youth season also co-exists with Archery season, which I have been participating in for a couple of years now.

This year we took a doe and two hogs. Everyone was happy and everyone got to experience the thrill of the outdoors. Everyone was happy that is, except me...

Since my son is well into his twenties I was without offspring for this years hunt, again, simply hosting the group on my property and in my cabin. As it is, I am able to do a little archery hunting while the kids are hunting. And as does every hunter with 'misses' to his credit, I have a short story (excuse) to tell.

The morning was a crisp 38 degrees but the wind was thankfully not blowing hard. Wouldn't matter anyway because my archery stand is way down deep in the thicket where even the sun has to compete for admittance. I have an area about the size of a middle class suburban home carved out of the thicket about a half mile from the nearest of the kids. After I drop off the last father/son pair it takes me just a few minutes to get to my stand, but I was only there minutes before I could see the sun trying to shave off the tops of the trees.

All settled in I decided to take a little snooze, as I usually do. I could see the corn feeder had distributed it's morning portion of feed and that the hogs had already had their share. I figured any deer that happened by would awaken me with their chomping on the corn the hogs had left for them. And, I got a few more minutes than I usually do as a young yearling spike buck (a male with one single horn on each side, for those that do not know the lingo) sauntered out of the woods on the far side of the feeder. Being inexperienced in the ways of the world it did not notice me but a mere 30 feet from him as he began to delicately pick up the corn and chomp away.

As we normally do, we try to communicate with each other using text messaging and picture message to relay what each of the groups are seeing in the way of wildlife. I had already received one such report of a group of hogs feeding at a stand near a spring about a mile distance. So, I obliged by sending my report in the way of a picture message. I snapped a few with my cell camera and promptly decided on which to send based on the picture clarity. So, I dialed the number, still being as quite as possible so that I do not interrupt the buck feeding just below.

Pressing the send button I watch as the cell phone connects and attempts to send the picture. No luck. Timed out, and the cell phone asks, "Do you want to try again?" Well, yeah... So it goes through the connect sequence again and once again it times out without being sent. Ok, I check on the yearling buck still feeding below and not paying me any mind, and I decided to try one more time, but this time I raise my arm high in the air in the hopes that it aids in the cell phone service. As I watch hopeful that the picture will finally send I hear a commotion back over my shoulder where the young buck was last feeding. To my surprise out charges a very nice 8 point buck with it's ears laid back and it horns outstretched and making straight for the yearling buck. Of course the yearling flees instantly leaving the 8 point buck standing proudly in the middle of my clearing beaming as though he had won a major victory. (In reality he had, because instead of me being alert and at the ready, I am sitting with my arm outstretched towards the sky as though asking the Lord why I have my hand above my head while this 8 point buck is surveying his new found territory.) Well I can't move because the king of the clearing was looking around alertly to take in his new territory making sure everything was to his satisfaction. It sure was to him but I had a real problem with it.

It seemed like at least half an eternity before that buck finally decided to claim his newly acquired food which lay in wait all around him. He began picking up the kernels of corn seemingly one at a time and on each he would raise his head and look around as he chomped his candy kernels. At some point in all this I managed to get my arm lowered into what became a baby cradle position. I call it that because my arm had been up there now sufficiently long enough that not only had it progressed to a state where I no longer felt anything past my shoulder, the color had long left the fingers and was fast approaching the elbow, and my arm ended up being the 'baby' that was being cradled.

With that arm being all but useless the buck was free to roam about at his leisure feeding on the corn. Fortunately for me he had not spotted me. I don't know how as I am sure I made several grunts and groans during my ordeal.

Finally I managed to work myself into a position whereby I could raise my bow and prepare to draw back and take aim. At this point I was thinking how nice it would be if I had only listened to that salesman that claimed that a 70 pound draw bow would be more than sufficient and 75 just was not really necessary. Somehow at the time I just knew that I wanted that extra 5 pounds, but now in retrospect, I'm thinking 65 pounds would have been far better. No good. Just couldn't pull it. "Do you want to try again?" Well, yeah!

After 20 minutes or so I finally managed to draw the bow without my soon to be main course hearing me. But as it were, either the bum arm or the buck fever took over and I failed to do my part in the cycle of life. Oh well, there's always next year.

This was the last weekend of bow season and quite likely the last chance I will get to hunt at all this year. In January however, there is another week long youth hunting season. I am already making plans for that week. I just hope they pan out....

Copyright, 2010. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without advanced written authorization from both the author and Google.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Snippets of a Short Vacation

February, 2009

Well I started out on a short vacation today so my time may be slightly limited for the next couple of days. I’ll try and provide updates off and on where possible, given the limited internet connectivity.

It started out simple enough. Up rather early and start packing. I never do anything in advance. I feel that if you pack in advance and your plans change then all you did was cause yourself more work. Unpacking. Therefore, my life goal is to never do anything in advance and you will never cause yourself extra work.

So I get on the road about 11 am and within the hour I am rewarded by my first pleasantry. I come across an ice cream factory. So I said, OK, I’m a little hungry. Let’s stop in for a snack. Well this ice cream company is not just any other ice cream company. It’s Blue Bell. Their motto is “We eat all we can, then sell the rest.” Well they must been close to shift change and expecting a large work crowd because they only let me have a small taste of a couple of those many flavors. Oh well, on with the trip…

I remember driving down the road deep in thought and coming to this bridge over a river. I peeked down into the river like most do when crossing a bridge, and thinking that the river sure is low. But, we have been in a bit of a drought. But not less than a mile later there is another bridge, another river. I thought, that is some bend in the river. But as I drew near I could see a different name on sign for the river. And crossing this bridge I noticed that the river was flowing full and with vigor. I wonder why God would send so much water down this river while starving the one just a mile back. But I suppose that it works the same in life too. I wonder if there was a way to cut a canal from one to the other to help balance things out. No, better mind my own business. Besides, I didn’t want to be gone later than the weekend, and it sounded like extra work.

A couple of hours later while almost dreaming as I was driving, I realize there was a sign pointing in the direction of a small town that I remember from somewhere. A town that a certain someone was bragging about being the nicest place in the world to live. So I thought, side trip. Ok, there is no real purpose for this trip anyway. I turned toward…. More tomorrow.

It was maybe a half hour later, no matter the exact time as I seldom pay attention to the minor details, when I came across a sign pointing towards what seemed to be a gravel road which simply stated “The Inn above Onion Creek.” I remember thinking, I’m thirsty, I like onions…Martini. I seemed to forget about my side destination and started wondering if the gravel hitting the underside of my truck would loosen the caked on mud so it would be easier to wash later this week. Well as it turned out, no liquor is served at The Inn Above Onion Creek and I didn’t see anything that resembled onions anywhere near the water. I don’t know how they can call it onion creek if there ain’t no onions.

For whatever reason when I left I turned the wrong way on the highway (I use that term lightly) and spent the better part of the next hour exploring roadside icehouses in an attempt to determine just where I was. As it happened, I was traveling along some road numbered 3237 or something, which came to an abrupt halt, and suddenly I found myself on 12. Why couldn’t they have numbered them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc instead of jumping around so much. Just seems like it would have been easier to find your way around if you were looking for a road numbered 3726 and when you saw 3750 then 3751 you knew you were going the wrong way. But no, some fool just gave out numbers however he wanted to. I think it was an act of revenge or something.

I soon found myself in an area call The Devils Backbone. I wondered why for only a few moments. The road seemed to go up, then down, then up, then down, although it seemed to be doing a bit more up than down. This particular road did a lot of winding around and around too. It wasn’t long before I found myself at the top of a rather large hill, and the road ended at this little cottage at the apex. As I turned around and approached the road to begin my descent I found that I could barely see over the dash to the roadway ahead. Inching slowly the truck finally tipped over to a degree that reminded me of something a little more than the bunny run at Lake Tahoe. Downhill, I thought. Okay…

Upon reaching the bottom I discovered that the road now seemed level, but often had a major dip to upset the fore and aft balance of the vehicle. At each of these dips I noticed a white post on one side with what appeared to be markings each foot or so. As curiosity got the best of me I stopped my truck right there in the middle of the dip to scope out that post (I felt safe enough as I hadn’t passed another vehicle for some time now.) Examining the post I was now certain that the markings were indeed at one foot intervals, except that the numbers started at the bottom instead of the top. At the top were the simple words Flood Gauge. I remember thinking, those words should be larger. I’ll add more later. I have to move my truck.

I spent the night on one of the highest peaks around so as to not be the butt end of flood gauge jokes from my friends. Never mind the fact that I still didn’t know exactly where I was, and reasonable sleeping accommodations were not locally available. The seat of the truck was fairly comfortable going to sleep but I think the steering wheel was up against a bad spot all night because I woke up with a crick in my neck. I went to relieve myself in the edge of the woods. I just couldn’t wait any longer. I was having to go a lot more lately. This recycling thing just isn’t all that profitable. Do you know how many beer cans there are to a pound? Anyway, as I was shaking the dew off the lily I began hearing some strange rustling sounds in the nearby scrub bushes so I beat it back to my truck. Just about the time I got the truck started I see maybe 30 or so small dogs coming out of the woods at me.. They all must have been from the same family because all them dogs looked exactly alike. Same light brown color, same bushy tail, long noses. I thought that maybe I didn’t want to be here. It took me some 10 minutes to outrun those critters. As I rounded the corner onto the next highway I see the sign in my rearview mirror pointing into that road. Purgatory Road. Now things are beginning to make sense and that $267 a night at that onion place doesn’t seem so bad.

As I remember thinking that I was headed for something before all this I see yet another feature that makes me forget about my side destination. Another bridge, Rock Creek. I needed to wash my face anyway, and this ought to be interesting enough. Little things like rocks seem to be more and more interesting to me in my old age. Anyway, I steered my truck onto the shoulder and down the embankment toward the water’s edge. Nearing the creek I realized how this one got its name. It literally was a creek of rocks. No water. Just rocks. Thinking about the previous nights sign in the dip I quickly looked around and decided that maybe I didn’t really want to be here either. What was the name of that town I was headed for?

Back on the road I see a rabbit run across the road. Breakfast. I was getting a little hungry so I started looking for someplace to grab a bite. It wasn’t long before I see a sign zip by quickly on the side of the road. Now what did it say. There went another….and another. Good Eats. HBO. Picturesque Views. Rooms. I hate those little signs. Why can’t they put all the information all on one big sign? It must be a budget thing. I really don’t want my eyes off this road so often. I have a hard enough of a time as it is. Finally, a sign big enough to read. “The Inn Above Onion Creek.” Damn.

Given my past experience with this Inn I decided to press on. Hunger is a relative thing anyway. I think of my relatives and their body mass and my hunger seems to vanish, for a while at least. So I head off past the Inn and on towards the unknown. Much to my surprise however, I soon happen upon this little village. I didn’t pass a sign though and have no idea of the name of this settlement. So I decided to locate the center of town in hopes of finding the police department, chamber of commerce, or anything that would have the towns name. Much to my chagrin though I could find none of the above. I did find a fire station which had the city name on it. Turns out I was in the city of Miller-Whitaker. Never hear of a town with two names. Well, there is a first for everything. My hunger returned however when I came across what was likely the city diner. You know the place. Every town has one. That central coffee shop with Sheriff Andy sitting at the counter with a healthy portion of bacon, eggs, and grits. What is a grit anyway? I think I heard that line once in a movie. Can’t remember which. Doesn’t matter though, the diner was still closed as it was only a quarter of nine. I guess the town doesn’t wake up till noon. I ended up finding what Texans call a grocery store and gas station on the edge of town that had a loaf of bread, sausage and a tub of that watered down butter. You know, the ones that are about 85 percent water and the rest vegetable by products? Only after I left the store did I realized I had no way of cooking the sausage. I seen a movie once where a trucker just tossed his meat on the top of the engine for a hundred miles and had a feast when he got to his next rest stop, so I decided to give it a try. Cold buttered bread didn’t really seem so bad for the moment. The bread I picked out was one of those loaves that has raisons and cinnamon mixed in. I needed some variety. As I opened the bread I wondered who decides which direction the little twist ties go when the bread is packaged. Clockwise or counter clockwise? I really wanted to eat at that diner too. It had a hugh piece of cherry pie on display. I pressed on to eat my grub. Instead of risking life and limb for this meal I decided to stop at the next available wide spot in the road. When that came it was in the form of an entrance to a residential area that caught my eye. There was not one tree to be found and the houses were so close to each other it would severely put a damper on my sex life. Not only that, but the houses seemed to have no architecture at all. Every house was identical. Thirty feet across the front. Thirty feet across the sides. And thirty feet tall. They looked like alphabet blocks without the letters. The only thing that distinguished them from alphabet blocks were that they did have pitched roofs. I suppose that is so the builder knew which side was up. As I was leaving I thought I should have remembered to get pictures. You guys might never believe me. Although I didn’t get one of the houses I did manage to get one of the entrance as I was speeding by. I found myself on Center street so I must be heading back into town. Not so bad I thought since I could now see a puff of smoke coming from under my hood every now and then. I realized that I had forgotten all about that sausage. I'll get back to you in a little while. I gotta go back and find that fire station.

On the way back to that fire station I was escorted through town by those men in blue. Wasn’t a bad thing. They invited me over to their place once I was finished at the fire station. They have a nice little place, I just missed it my first time through town.  The town police department...  They said that I owed the town for the cost of water or something. I don’t know why. They have a pretty big supply and I didn’t use that much. I mean, most of the plastic was burned away and the sausage was about gone by the time I reached the station. I took a picture of the truck they used too. My insurance company suggested I take pictures of everything but I kind of forgot. I got back on the road after a 24 hour stay in town.

As I started out this morning I put a little thought into my directions and put the rising sun to my back. I was a little more cognizant about reading signs and specifically avoided areas with things with the words devil, purgatory, Inn, onion, creek, and the like. Texas is full of wildlife and this trip had already yielded a variety of things to believe and disbelieve at your will. Although I didn’t see any horns on that rabbit the other day I still hoped to see a jackalope somewhere in my travels this week. With only a day longer to go (I would have been on the road sooner but the chief said something about good behavior) I was desperate to see something I hadn’t yet seen in my lifetime. As luck would have it I came across a road sign (I gotta remember to stop reading signs) that offered exotic hunts. Even though I wasn’t up for hunting for things I decided that curiosity had to be quelled, so I pulled in. Upon arriving at this interim destination I saw what appeared to be a small calf licking on a dog. Not the way other dog lick on each other mind you, but close enough to warrant a better look. On second thought I decided to just look around for a barking cow or mooing dog.

I was interrupted by the guide thank goodness, I don’t know what would have transpired otherwise. After explaining my desire to see some strange Texas wildlife I was politely informed that I could only see the game if I was a party to a hunt. So I thought, why not? I have nowhere else to go. So we loaded up and headed out. (Or should that be head ‘em up, move ‘em out!) Within minutes we were deep into the woods surrounding his ranch and I could see native Texas wildlife in its natural habitat. The first thing I saw was a flock (or is it a herd) of wild hogs. There must have been a hundred of them critters, but they were all on the move away from us at the speed that would make Jeff Gordon envious. I mentioned that to the guide and he said he would find something a little more on the lazy side for me to see. It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with something that was less than a blur in the woods. As we approached these animal they seemed to be just cows. However, the horns on these critters seemed a little off. I listened in disbelief as the guide told me that one was a water buffalo, another a regular North American buffalo, and the other a beefalo. Yeah, ok, what the hell is a beefalo I asked. Well, you remember that dog and calf back there at the house? There ya go he said. A cow and a buffalo had decided to breach the boundaries of species solely on the basis that both were lonely or something. Okay, we can go I said. Well, this is where I was informed that my end of the agreement has not yet been fulfilled. The hunting part he said. Well I thought hunting ended with finding, not with killing, but he disagreed. And besides, he had me out in the woods somewhere that I know not where, and I remember the dog and the calf and the cow and the buffalo and didn’t want no part of guide and hunter so I did my part. I now have 600 pounds of beefalo in the back of my truck accompaning those 200 pounds of beer cans. Of course I also found out about what exotic game hunts cost in Texas. My next stop is going to be something European. Like an internet cafe'. Not because I want to abandon my Texas trip mind you, but because I need to transfer some money.

Well it seemed like an hour passed before I finally found a bank to transfer the funds necessary. I may have to cut my vacation a little short. Once the transaction was complete I decided to recommence my trip in an entirely different direction, so I headed off towards the south. I soon came across a new sign (you forgot to warn me about reading signs, didn’t you,) Igloo it said. Now what do you think Texans would need an Igloo factory for? That’s why I had to stop in and see for myself. I hadn’t really noticed any Texans in this area living in igloos, but I wasn’t really looking either. You would think something like that would just catch your eye. Once inside I realized the err of my ways. This factory was not manufacturing igloos, it was packaging ice in ice chests to send up north. I guess that whole global warming thing really has some merit.

Having my newfound information I went to call a friend and discovered that my cell phone was not working as expected. I had seen a Verizon place a couple of miles back so I swung the truck around and headed back to Verizon to check my phone. When I arrived I noticed that this wasn’t your typical Verizon store. It had a nine foot high chain link fence around it with security cameras and one of those boxes like in that clowns mouth at the fast food drive in. When the person answered I explained my problem as best I could but the person answered in the same dialect as the clown. I simply didn’t understand it at all. Excuse me, I said, and I explained again. Once again I asked for entrance to get my phone worked on. No, was about all I could make out, but I was not sure if no problem followed or go away was what followed. Anyway, I asked again a little louder and asked if someone would come out and let me in. This time I got results. Finally. NO! CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Maybe I’ll stop by on the way home. Someone else may be at the reception desk tomorrow.

Back on the road I am almost asleep because I have been ignoring signs as much as I can. No distractions generally mean boring which equates to sleepy. In any event my boredom was suddenly interrupted by the sound of gravel again. This time though it was not hitting the underside of my truck, but the side. I screeched to an abrupt halt. Coming out of my stupor I realize that the road I am on is literally carved out of a mountainside and I’d swear that the wall of rock actually hung over the road some. Fully awake now I remember thinking, I really don’t want to be here. My suspicions were confirmed just minutes later when the road sign ahead read Watch out for falling rocks. I guess I’ll have to go back to reading signs again.

Still heading south with the sun nearing the horizon I feel like I should start looking for some place to crash for the night. South Texas has become quite flat now and long stretches of road with little to see. As the sun sets for good I’m in the far left lane doing just a little over the speed limit when I see a flash of white zoom past the window. Whitetail deer. Gosh I hope they all stay on the median and don’t jump out in front of me. I really don't need yet another story to tell my insurance company. As I was recovering from the slight fright of deer so close to my door doing 75 miles an hour I get a quick glimpse of yet another road sign. Next service station 65 miles. You gotta be kidding me. Sixty five miles? I look down at the gas gauge, then looked for a suitable place to turn around. This is one sign I think I’ll believe.

The remainder of the trip to south Texas was uneventful. You probably didn't expect that. Neither did I. I found a simple place at the tip of Texas in the heart of Brownsville to bunk for the night. Nothing could go wrong I thought, and settled in for a long nights sleep not knowing at the time that the place I was staying was an old battlefield where hundreds died stealing defending this part of Texas from the Mexicans. I sure hope all those souls are resting peacefully somewhere else.

I was in a real sound sleep this morning when all of a sudden I was awakened by gunfire. I rolled out the side of the bed closest to the wall (I really don’t know how I knew which side was closest to the wall, instincts maybe) and fell to the floor to protect myself from what was surely a home invasion. Realizing it was just the TV coming on automatically I struggled to get up without further harming myself or my surroundings. I felt of my head which had apparently struck the nightstand on the way down and could already feel a quarter sized bump arising from the area just over my temple. Just who sets the television as an alarm anyway? And on the military channel at that?

Well I was up already so I decided to have a look around. I had checked in late last night, maybe around midnight and didn’t really get a look at my accommodations. This facility (I’ll not call it an Inn for obvious reasons) was not your typical hotel or bed and breakfast. It was some converted apartment project. One could live in this place full time. It was a full one bedroom unit with king sized bed, two closets in the bedroom, full bath, kitchen, living room (with a huge big screen TV which, by the way, was the perpetrator of my morning wake up call) and dining room. It did have the typical hotel information book complete with things to do in the area, map of the property, and phone numbers to call in an emergency. I think I’ll leave the book open to that page while I am here.

It also had a complete historical account of the area. As it turns out this is a famous fort (originally named Fort Texas) that was used during the Mexican-American war. Zachary Taylor renamed the fort after Major Jacob Brown who was killed during battle. Five years later a settlement nearby was formed that was called Brownsville. Go figure. Anyway, the area where I am staying is actually part of the fort that fell during the battle. Following the battle they constructed a morgue right here on the spot and buried the dead all around just so they wouldn’t have to move them so far. Hmmm, maybe I don’t want to be here.

I did think to stop and pick up some more sausage, Eggo’s and syrup last night so I thought I just light some of the incense provided and have some breakfast. Sausage cooked on an actual stove seemed quite appealing to me right now. The unit had a gas stove, which I am really not accustomed to using, but I could not find any matches at all. Well, I guess I’ll have to venture out in the world after all. Having retrieved some matches from the local convenience store I returned and lit the stove, added my links to the pan waiting for that savory aroma of sizzling sausage. The room had this aroma, but somehow it didn’t resemble the sweet aroma of frying pork. I actually coughed a little. Looking up I could see a slight layer of smoke near the ceiling. *cough cough* I didn’t think I had the stove on that high, and the sausage was not even nearing brown. Then I saw it. The incense in the corner was putting out much more smoke than I thought it should, and it didn’t have the aroma that I thought it should. Note to self: Incense does not come in green coils with a wire stand.

I put on a pot of water to boil so that I could have some hot tea with breakfast, but the stove started making this strange ticking sound. Although I didn’t suspect I was a target of some breakfast bomber I was a little concerned and called the emergency number in the open book on the coffee table. Maintenance came right down and explained the workings of new gas stoves and electronic igniters. Talk about feeling stupid…

After breakfast, which tasted strangely of insect repellent, I decided to go out and buy some clothes. I usually make at least one trip into old Mexico and pick up various items. This trip it was jeans, a new leather belt, a few gift items to bring home, and some new Air Jordan boxer briefs. You know those shorts that Cuba Gooding Jr. yells out across the room “I’m wearing your underwear” and the little old lady in the hover around spins around with this odd look on her face? That’s them…

On the way back I find out that you now have to have a passport or birth certificate in your possession to get back into the US. It would have been nice to have seen a sign before I crossed the bridge into Mexico. After I left the consulate’s office I stopped by the pharmacy. Do you realize the things you can get at a pharmacy in Mexico without a prescription? And do you know how hard it is to find an ATM in Mexico? Anyway I started walking back across the bridge, not many people drive in Mexico, and learned that you don’t want to pet the dogs at the border. Well, I wanted to but the dog wasn’t too enthused.

My luck just hasn’t been on my side this trip. I decided to spend the rest of the day in my room and tried on my new wears. The jeans were a little loose for now but I expect them to shrink up a little. For $9.00 I can deal with a little shrinkage. The belt was okay, of course, but I may have to take the Jordans back and exchange them. Michael Jordan must have a bad case of “noassatall” because they just don’t have enough room in the posterior for me. I’ll have to try and find some O’Neals or something designed after someone bigger.

I’m going home tomorrow. Straight home. No signs. No rest stops. No Inns. I’m going to try and avoid anything that even remotely seems like it will ruin my day. Going to try and get an early start too. Nine or ten perhaps.

Well I made it back home, none too worse for the wear. It was a six and a half hour drive from Brownsville to home. Along the way I saw rain, shine, wet roads, dry roads, wet roads with accidents, dry roads with accidents, twelve cops, eight ambulances, fourteen car loads of winter Texans, twenty two car loads of teenagers, two pest control trucks, one cattle truck, one horse trailer, three INS Agents, one case of road rage, and one good samaritan helping someone change a tire.

I didn’t go back through Kyle on the way back. I remember what the Sheriff said about hell freezing over so I made a detour around Kyle. I really didn’t want to be there anyway.

The roads had these little rumble strips, you know, those pesky little carvings in the side of the road that wakes you up if you wander outside your lane, and some roads actually had them in the middle of the road. What a novel ideal. Another had the strips in patterns that sounded like Mary Had a Little Lamb when you ran over them. I think the man, excuse me; woman, that invented those things ought to receive the presidential medal for humanitarianism or something.

Although I tried my best to not look at signs on the way home I just couldn’t help but noticing the one that identified Screaming Woman Creek. Given the name and my past luck with places I decided to pass on this one rather than stopping to see what all the screaming was about.

I went through Refugio on the way back. Know what Refugio is famous for? Nolan Ryan was born there. How do you pronounce Refugio anyway? I’ve seen other towns that I had reservations about the pronunciation. Iola. Not like it looks. Ola is how the natives there say it. Not that the town is full of native Indians or anything…I just meant the people that live there. Yturria, now there’s another.

About Sarita I past through a check point. Yeah, a real federale, show your passport checkpoint. Are you a US citizen? Where ya going? Where ya been? Let my dog sniff your vehicle. Turn your cell phone off. Dim your lights. Don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars…. I mean, they must have a real job to do there I’m just not real sure what it is. I did see them searching some little car from Iowa or somewhere with a couple of old folks waiting. I guess they thought the old people were smuggling Geritol or something.

Well, I’m back, and glad to be back. This trip, despite my occasional excitement, has not completely broken me of taking vacations. But, I think I’ll start planning vacations from now on. Maybe even use a travel agent.

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