Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's Time

Dozens of times I've sat at my keyboard wanting to write something profound, witty, or interesting, but the words weren't there.

I wanted to write more about that communist sonofabitch in the White House and those self-centered, spineless, moral cowards in Congress, but feared being placed on someone's watch list. How sad that we can no longer exercise a freedom that was so expected, cherished and respected only a few years ago.

I wanted to comment on the abject stupidity of people who believe government is the answer to all their needs and wants...but I didn't, for fear of offending friends and relatives who visit. Now who is the moral coward?

I wanted to share the intense pleasure of rising before dawn, sitting on the patio with a cup of coffee in hand, listening to the last notes of the whipoorwill turn into the first song of a cardinal greeting the sun of another hot Texas day, but that's sort of silly, and most of you wouldn't understand.

I tiptoed around political subjects, chastised fools only when their antics became impossible to ignore, told you about the weather, took some pictures of flowers, and linked to other bloggers and websites, but I seldom conveyed the depth of my feelings and opinions.

As the years go by, nostalgia takes over and facing the modern world becomes too much of a pain in the ass when you don't have the strength or the desire to do battle every day. My little world is made up of old cars, old movies, old music, old perceptions, old ideals, and old memories. Things that mean nothing to those who didn't live them. While my world is a mental pleasure to me, those of us who live in a nostalgic world are an equally big pain to those who don't.

As I retire from active blogging, I hope my friends and relatives will forgive me if I sometimes forget to do the things I used to do. I don't mean to forget names, faces and birthdays, and I don't intend to tell the same story over and over. It's just Mother Nature doing her thing. I forgot what other things I'll probably forget.

With the appropriate apologies taken care of, I want to thank all of you who took time visit this site over the years and simply add......

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New London, TX, March 18th, 1937

Today is the 75th anniversary of a horrible tragedy in a small town only a few miles from where I live. This account is from the museum website.

In 1937 New London, Texas, in northwest Rusk County, had one of the richest rural school districts in the United States. Community residents in the East Texas oilfields were proud of the beautiful, modern, steel-framed, E-shaped school building.

On March 18 students prepared for the next day's Inter-scholastic meet in Henderson. At the gymnasium, the PTA met. At 3:17 P.M. Lemmie R. Butler, instructor of manual training, turned on a sanding machine in an area which, unknown to him, was filled with a mixture of gas and air. The switch ignited the mixture and carried the flame into a nearly closed space beneath the building, 253 feet long and fifty-six feet wide. Immediately the building seemed to lift in the air and then smashed to the ground. Walls collapsed. The roof fell in and buried its victims in a mass of brick, steel, and concrete debris. The explosion was heard four miles away, and it hurled a two-ton concrete slab 200 feet away, where it crushed a 1936 Chevrolet.

Fifteen minutes later, the news of the explosion had been relayed over telephone and Western Union lines. Frantic parents at the PTA meeting rushed to the school building. Community residents and roughnecks from the East Texas oilfield came with heavy-duty equipment. Within an hour Governor James Allred had sent the Texas Rangers and highway patrol to aid the victims. Doctors and medical supplies came from Baylor Hospital and Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Dallas and from Nacogdoches, Wichita Falls, and the United States Army Air Corps at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana. They were assisted by deputy sheriffs from Overton, Henderson, and Kilgore, by the Boy Scouts, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and volunteers from the Humble Oil Company, Gulf Pipe Line, Sinclair, and the International-Great Northern Railroad.

Workers began digging through the rubble looking for victims. Floodlights were set up, and the rescue operation continued through the night as rain fell.

Within seventeen hours all victims and debris had been taken from the site. Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler canceled its elaborate dedication ceremonies to take care of the injured. The Texas Funeral Directors sent twenty-five embalmers.

Of the 500 students and forty teachers in the building, approximately 298 died. Some rescuers, students, and teachers needed psychiatric attention, and only about 130 students escaped serious injury. Those who died received individual caskets, individual graves, and religious services.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Last Six Seconds

With a respectful Air Force hand salute to all Marines....those currently on active duty, as well as those who are out of uniform and waiting for their next mission. This was borrowed from another website, but I don't think they'll mind if I share it with you.

On Nov 13, 2010 Lt General John Kelly, USMC gave a speech to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis , MO. This was 4 days after his son, Lt. Robert Kelly, USMC was killed by an IED while on his 3rd Combat tour.
During his speech, General Kelly spoke about the dedication and valor of the young men and women who step forward each and every day to protect us.
During the speech, he never mentioned the loss of his own son. He closed the speech with the moving account of the last 6 seconds in the lives of 2 young Marines who died with rifles blazing to protect their brother Marines. This is that speech:
“I will leave you with a story about the kind of people they are. About the quality of the steel in their backs. About the kind of dedication they bring to our country while they serve in uniform and forever after as veterans.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour. Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines. The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda.
Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island . They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America ‘s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born.
But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.”
They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq .
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way-perhaps 60-70 yards in length-and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically.
Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped. Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different. The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event-just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion. All survived. Many were injured, some seriously.
One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.” “What he didn’t know until then,” he said, “and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal.” Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.” “No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “.let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.
It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were-some running right past the Marines.
They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop.the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the SOB who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers-American and Iraqi-bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe, because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty, into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight-for you.
We Marines believe that God gave America the greatest gift he could bestow to man while he lived on this earth-freedom. We also believe he gave us another gift nearly as precious-our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines-to safeguard that gift and guarantee no force on this earth can every steal it away. It has been my distinct honor to have been with you here today. Rest assured our America, this experiment in democracy started over two centuries ago, will forever remain the “land of the free and home of the brave” so long as we never run out of tough young Americans who are willing to look beyond their own self-interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.
God Bless America , and..SEMPER FIDELIS!”

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gun Confiscators Read & Heed

Anyone think that the relationship between citizen and government is business as usual?
Sipsy Street Irregulars

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gopher Tails for Papa

Reading Jesse Veeder's blog about being a child in rural North Dakota, reminded me of a book I read while attending our one room country school.
The teacher encouraged us to read the story because it was written by Erling Rolfsrud, who was born and raised not far from where we lived...and very near where Jesse now lives.

Not surprising, even this simple children's book, written by a farm kid in a backward little state, managed to make it on you tube.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feeling Better

Getting the rant off my mind worked. With the thermometer at 79 degrees and a warm south wind blowing, I decided to do some yard work. Spread fire ant bait, Cleaned some flower beds, dug up, raked and weeded my little garden, and planted sugar peas and bibb lettuce.

Also cleaned some parts from my '56 Plymouth restoration project. FWIW, a mixture of lemon juice and vinegar does a fantastic job of rust removal. I tried the molasses and water formula, but it's slow and not very effective...and it smells terrible!

I feel much better now...but the news will be on in a few minutes, so my cynicism might soon be back.

Periodic Rant

Like a dog shaking to straighten its fur, the earth seems to be juggling its occupants to get things back in place. Either that, or it's playing a cruel joke on us. Everyone seems to hate everyone else, and what once seemed to be a slow but steady crawl toward an advanced level of civility, has turned into a high speed slide back to the cave.

Women, who once led the way to civil appearance and conduct, are now leading the species back toward that cave. Bodies covered with ugly artwork, hardware hanging from a multitude of painful punctures, and a mouth like a sewer are no longer an oddity, they are the norm.

Men have always been slobs below a veneer of civility demanded by women, but now that women don't care, the slob factor has taken over. Unshaved, unwashed, foul mouthed, ill-mannered, lazy, ignorant, and sporting even more ink and hardware than women, many of today's men are walking, talking, arguments for abortion.

With nearly half our population living on some form of government largess and totally ignorant of simple economics, how can we ever get back on the road to becoming a civilized society.

Religions have become less tolerant, as have the non-religious. Politicians no longer legislate for the good of the country, but rather for the good of their cronies.

I see nothing but increasing violence down the road as the new "tribes" continue to choose sides and make demands. American greatness is dead and once the body is cool and the flesh begins to stink, the vultures can begin their feast.

Rant off.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TL in Exile

More distant drums.
TL in Exile

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Part 3, Reviews and Sales

I read somewhere that the average book sells only a few hundred copies, and based on sales to date I’ll probably be in the average category. No bestseller list for me! The book is now available in several European countries, but I have no idea if any copies have been purchased outside the US. It takes several months for sales figures to be reported from some sources.

Promoting is the most difficult thing for me to do. Some serious writers send out dozens of complimentary copies to professional reviewers and lobby for a good review, but I can’t bring myself to do that…even if it made economic sense. In my opinion, that almost amounts to bribery. I had one solicitation offering a free review, which I accepted, but after seeing what she wrote I suspected she had only glanced through a few chapters and hadn’t actually read much of the story, so I won’t link to that review. Like everyone with even a hint of an ego, I find praise easier to accept than criticism, but I would rather have an honest review that said the story was garbage, than to see it praised without the person having read it.

Amazon has several active, semi-professional reviewers, but getting on their list is difficult. I plan to contact some of them, since the more reviews that show up on Amazon, either from professionals or readers, the higher the sales potential. (Self-serving, shameless hint!)

I did a search a few weeks ago, and found a nice, independent review in a Romance Writers of America newsletter in California. Even though the plot doesn’t conform to the accepted rules for the Romance genre, it apparently caught the interest of at least one person with that reading preference.

I also found it included in Christmas gift-list suggestions on two Internet shopping websites, and on a Chrysler club website in Germany, but how it got there is a mystery.

Some folks have asked when I will finish another book, but I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea when that will be. The one I have in work is perhaps twenty-five percent complete, but I can’t find the fire to finish it. Maybe the fire will return, but as a habitual jack-of-all-trades, master of none, there are too many other projects that for the moment I find more interesting than writing.

I hope your questions about my novel have all been answered.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Dreams, Part 2

Over the next three years, I worked on the story off and on, but mostly off. I was certain I could never write well enough to have something published, so I simply wrote for practice and for my own entertainment. As the story neared completion, I asked several people to “beta read” the manuscript and critique it. The reviews were frustratingly mixed. Women said there was too much car stuff, while men said the plot was lacking in action and was too mushy, so I quickly learned that there was no way to please everyone. It was suggested that I change the story to make it more palatable to either men or women and to forget trying to appeal to both. Since the main story was about relationships, which might appeal more to the ladies, I decided to remove some guy stuff and concentrate more on the characters with hopes of making it a better read for women.

The manuscript languished for another two years while I fiddled with the plot, but with much prodding I eventually decided to attempt marketing the manuscript. After being rejected by one agent, it dawned on me that trying to land an agent was a waste of time. Their understandable goal is to make money, so their focus is in signing talented authors who write for a large audience and who are young enough to have a long writing career. A book written by an old guy, targeted to readers from his generation, doesn’t merit serious attention from successful agents.

I also knew that most large publishing houses will only consider the works of agented writers, so it would be extremely difficult for a new author to place a manuscript before their editors. That left two ways to get the book published. I could self-publish, which meant I would have to assume all the editing, printing, marketing, and promotion costs. That route would only serve to satisfy my ego, and those who know me won’t be surprised by the fact that I’m too frugal to spend money in that way.

The only other option to see my book in print was to shop the story to small publishers, some of whom will accept un-agented manuscripts. The first publisher expressed no interest, but the second one I contacted, Wings e-press, dumfounded me by offering a contract only a few days after asking to see the full manuscript. Their offer was fair, and unlike some unscrupulous publishers they asked no financial investment from me. I would receive no money upfront, but they were willing to invest in my novel to the extent of absorbing all editing, publication and marketing costs for both the e-book and paperback versions. Needless to say, I quickly signed, and they have been wonderful to deal with.

Then the real work began, and it was hectic for a couple of weeks.

While the first editor was busy correcting my grammar, punctuation and typos, I worked with one of their contract artists to design a cover. I was shown samples from several contract artists and selected Robert Stroud to create the cover. I was allowed quite a bit of input in the design, but the final layout was the artist’s responsibility. It took about a week from the day we first talked on the phone until we agreed on the final rendering.

I was amazed by all the work that goes into publishing a book. Three editors reviewed the manuscript before it went off to the printer, and I was horrified to see all the stupid mistakes they caught. When you try to correct your own work, it’s all too easy to overlook the same mistakes every time you read it. I find myself “comma-ly challenged” in a major way, so there were a lot of corrections in that area.

The first editor just laughed at my embarrassment and explained that it’s normal, and that’s why editors are needed. Even after all that work, I’ve spotted a couple of errors in the published version, but then I also found a major typo in a recently released New York Times bestseller.

I was pleased that there were only three paragraphs she requested I change. I did rewrite two of them, as I agreed the editor’s suggested version was better, but I argued and won a debate on the third. However, as I now reread the story after months have gone by, I ask myself why I wrote so many clunky paragraphs! The editors were being too kind to let me get by with some of the weak writing.

After the majority of errors were corrected with the first edit, we had to format for publication. The publisher has a preferred format for their books, and it was different than the way I originally had set up in my computer. Thank goodness Microsoft Word is so versatile!

After completing the edits, deciding what scenes to use for teasers, and writing a synopsis, bio, and other info for promoting, it took about three weeks before it was available in e-published form and a few more weeks until the print copy was released.

Final thoughts tomorrow.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Dreams...The Real Story Exposed! Part 1

I never expected my little novel to generate so much speculation about the identity of characters, and even more curiosity about the plot. So, to pacify inquiring minds, I’ll reveal the story behind the story and relate what led up to its publication.

Despite terminal antipathy when it came to high school English, combined with an inherent streak of learning laziness, I somehow acquired a latent interest in writing and over the years have had a few articles published in automotive enthusiast magazines, newsletters and local newspapers. They were nothing that required much thought or effort, and I had never seriously considered tackling a project as big as a novel.

The first thoughts about writing In Dreams entered my mind several years ago as I was passing through Denver on a trip from Texas to visit my parents in Montana. As I inched across the city in rush hour traffic, I passed exits with familiar street names that brought back memories of my time in that city. Denver was a great Air Force assignment and I came to love the area in the short time I was stationed there.

Yes, I had dated a girl while attending missile school at Lowry AFB, and I guess our relationship had become as serious as a relationship between seventeen year old kids can be. Naturally, I wondered if she might still live in the area and I contemplated what it would be like to meet a former girlfriend again after decades had passed. I also contemplated what life might have been like had I made different choices when I was young.

Contemplation was as far as it went, but the seed was planted and since long drives are little more than hours and hours of boredom, I passed time by writing a story in my mind. Before the trip was over I had the basic plot formulated and when I arrived home I drafted an outline for future reference, but it would be many months before I took the next step.

Although the idea of writing a novel was now a semi-serious consideration, I really didn’t know how to begin, so I browsed the appropriate Internet forums and tried to soak up enough knowledge to take the first step. Experienced writers advised me to first write about what I know, and to borrow the personalities of real people to develop believable characters. That seemed logical and easy, and by recreating bits of my own early life and military experiences, I had a background for the main character. The girl I had dated would be the inspiration for the female character, and while there would naturally be some similarities, almost everything about her would have to be changed for obvious reasons.

Yes, the main character resembles me to those who knew me when I was young…and that was intentional because the character was easier to realistically create. I learned that most writers include themselves in their stories in one form or another.

Conceding that much to the speculators, I don’t believe the protagonist(s) in the modern segments of In Dreams contain(s) much of who I am today. However, I don’t know how others see me, so maybe I did inject more of “me” into the role than I realized. It wasn’t intentional, but others will have to decide that.

The main female character is far less similar to the real person from the past, and I have no idea what she might be like today. While researching background for the story, I learned that she is still alive and living in the Denver area, but I have not talked to her. When I finished the first draft of the manuscript I did send her a copy, only to let her review it to make sure there were no coincidental similarities to her real life that could be recognizable and embarrassing if revealed. She never responded, so I assumed there were no issues with the plot, and there was obviously no interest in making contact. I also sent her a copy of book, with the same response.

Except for “Dean”, whose character was affectionately based on my old Air Force buddy to whom the book was dedicated, the other characters were entirely fictional with names derived from friends and relatives, and even pets. All of them are composites, but they too were inspired by people I know. None were intended to be anything like the individuals might be today, especially since they were constructed from a collection of dimming memories, imagination, conjecture and embellishment.

The most enjoyable part of the writing experience was researching the past and present, and discovering little nuggets of information on the Internet. Along with relearning the physical layout of Denver in 1959, I found weather records of the local conditions during Christmas week of that year, as well as the phase of the moon and the number one song on the top 40. For some reason, trying to be factually correct for little things seemed important, though I doubt anyone would have been too critical had I only guessed at those relatively unimportant facts.

Radio station KIMN…my favorite at the time...was one of the two top AM stations serving the Front Range for many years, and if I expected to evoke nostalgic thoughts from local readers when it came to their long-ago favorite radio, I had to be accurate. The highlight was when I located the KIMN disc jockey that was working at the station during that time. I had earlier found an audio clip of an actual radio show from KIMN that was recorded only a few weeks from the date I wanted, though it was from a different DJ’s program. I tweaked the wording slightly to make it fit a Christmas broadcast, and then emailed it to “Dapper Dan” at his retirement home in Hawaii, and asked him if the final result closely represented DJ chatter that might have taken place at the time. He responded with a very nice letter, and verified that it was accurate to the best of his recollection.

Fast forward a couple of years.

It was a long weekend and Judy was away visiting family. The weather was dreary and there was nothing of interest on television, so I decided to see if I could put the conceptual plot into actual text. I was surprised to discover that the words came easily and at the end of three very long days I had consumed several pots of coffee, had a pounding headache, my eyes were on fire, and I was totally exhausted. The good news was that I had 30,000 words on paper. While that was less than half the number the final version contained, it formed a skeleton on which to build.

More tomorrow.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another February 3rd...and More Memories

I guess it was because of my age at the time, but this event will stick with me forever. Maybe this was the day the United States began to lose some of its greatness.

Monday, January 30, 2012

You Think Your Herd Dog Has Talent?

Check out this badass bunny!

Monday, January 23, 2012

India's Animal Wars

Looks like the animal wars are escalating. I read where Hindus in India planted pig parts on the site of new mosque. In retaliation, Muslims slaughtered a pregnant cow on the grounds of a Hindu temple. Several people were reported killed in the resulting riots.

If the practice of critter dumping spreads to Texas, I hope the offenders use the entire animal. After their point is made they can donate the carcasses to our Southern Baptists so they can throw a barbecue.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Little Sunday Entertainment

If you've ever been to Louisiana, you understand what a different world is tucked into our gulf coast. Swamps, Spanish moss, alligators, snakes, millions of birds, and a cast characters you couldn't even imagine. The first time I drove through the state, I tuned in a local radio station and heard this kind of music as I enjoyed watching the wildlife that populated the bayous along the road.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

It Might as Well be Spring

On a day when the Pacific Northwest is being pounded with snow, ice and flooding, and Canada's prairie provinces are experiencing minus 30F temperatures, I should probably feel guilty talking about spring.Then again, it might give some hope to those having to put up with more typical winter weather.

More than four and twenty...the blackbirds are flocking together and feeding heavily as they prepare to migrate.

A few brave bulbs are sending up shoots to test the weather, so it appears a few of them survived the brutal summer. I was afraid that most had been baked.

Salad fixin's from a volunteer bibb letuce will be ready in a few days and there are a few others a week or two behind this one. If the weather stays mild, I'll have to begin planting early crops in about two weeks.

I forgot what this bush is called, but it's trying to bloom early. Looks sort of like a wild rose, but I don't remember planting anything like that.

But, there is a downside to the mild weather too, as the weeds are also making an early appearance...

Then there is the surest sign of spring. The purple martin scouts have already begun to arrive in South Texas, Louisiana and Florida! They are about a week earlier than normal.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Pain

Property taxes, Christmas bills, estimated state and federal income taxes, plus auto insurance on four vehicles, certainly makes January a painful month for my bank account.

If we made payroll deductions for all taxes illegal, people might get angry enough to put the government(s) on an economic diet. When you have to sit down and write checks, tax paying becomes a whole lot more personal.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Hint of Spring

Mother Nature has been blowing warm kisses across the Gulf of Mexico into East Texas the past few days. Yesterday it was a breezy 73 and it's already 60 at dawn this morning.

One unidentifiable bird has apparently been fooled by the balmy weather and has already begun singing his spring song, so I had better clean out the bird houses soon. The bluebirds usually begin nest building in early February.

One bad thing...billions of tiny weeds are sprouting in the yard, but maybe they'll be killed when we get the hard freeze that I know is yet to come.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Journalistic Logic

"The shooting renewed dabate about a federal law that made it legal for people to take loaded weapons into national parks."

This quote in today's paper is another brilliant display of journalism from the Associated Press, referring to the killing of a park ranger in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Let me get this straight. The guy was running from a multiple victim shooting in Skyway...blew past a ranger checkpoint in the park...shot and killed a park ranger who tried to block him...and then ran again. And now the debate is whether a loaded weapon should be allowed in national parks?

I'm sure if there had been a sign warning that no loaded weapons may be carried into the park, that he would have stopped and turned his in.

Only from a mindless, nanny mentality can you expect this type of logic.