Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Getting Into It

It's getting easier to stay on the Bark and Roots lifestyle change. I'm finding that the attraction to many foods is mental and that hunger is more a state of mind rather than a reality.

Jen has been working out for some time and now has her own personal trainer. I'm so proud of her and her determination to achieve a healthy lifestyle. She's my inspiration.

Jen suggested that I get a trainer too and I've been looking into it. I talked to one yesterday and he asked me if I could sit up and beg, roll over and go fetch. Since my wife trained me to do all those things years ago, I'll just stay on my own for now.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Battle

I'm in the midst of a battle to overcome my lifelong love of and addiction to all things good to eat. I'm staying away from chicken fried steak with cream gravy, hot home-made biscuits with real butter, mexican food, and pecan pie. I'm giving up a life-long family tradition of celebrating everything good or assuaging anything bad with food.

I have to do it. I know that the quality of my life depends upon my being able to change my lifestyle forever. I don't want to become one of those old men you see hobbling around on arthritc knees or riding motarized carts in grocery stores. My list is still long of things I haven't done yet but am determined to do - like take my not-yet-born grandchilren to the zoo and hike to the base of the Grand Canyon. I'm already at the point where back and knee problems have slowed me down. Slowing down on physical activity just adds to the calories in, calories out problem.

It's hard to stop doing what you've done all your life. I think I'd rather be involved in battlefield hand-to-hand combat. At least then, I could meet the enemy head-on.

I can't afford to lose this fight. If you pray, say one for me. I need all the help I can get.

Oh, and jelly doughnuts. I love jelly doughnuts.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Wizzonator

What is it about little boys and their inclination to take a "wizz" anytime, anyplace?

My daughter-in-law saw a dead bird in my yard and planned to tell me about it so I could dispose of it. A little boy about two years old, who was at our house with his mother spotted the bird about the same time my daughter-in-law did.

His reaction was a little different. He stopped in his tracks and stared in amazement, then dropped his pants and, before anybody could stop him, took a "wiz" on the dead bird.

What could he have been thinking? Has there ever been a little girl who would do such a thing? Is this a serial killer in the making?

I got a shovel and gave it a decent burial. That's the least I could do.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tat Sing

Sing was from Hong Kong and lived down the hall from me during my freshman year in college. I got to know him and we became friends, which to be honest, was a surprising development to me. Prior to college, I didn't even know anybody who was Chinese, much less have any Chinese friends.

He spoke English, although not all that well but he was learning fast. Several of us taught him some good old Americanized words he couldn't find in his English-Chinese dictionary and I was careful to tell which ones shouldn't be used in polite society.

His father was a cab driver in Hong Kong and it was his idea for Sing to come to America to study. Sing always spoke of his father respectfully but it was obvious that the man was not someone you'd want to disappoint. Sing was supposed to learn fluent English and get a degree before he would be allowed to go home.

In addition to the colorful words he picked up, Sing also learned to play poker, drink beer, ride a motorcycle and sing the National Anthem("what so prouddddweee we hail") with a decided Chinese accent. We learned what sugar coated seaweed his family mailed from Hong Kong tasted like. Tasting it one time made me say one of those colorful words. It as awful stuff.

The Thanksgiving holidays were approaching and Sing was surprised to find out that the other 200 or so inhabitants of the dorm were leaving town for five days or so. He said to me, "where you be going for the thanks you be giving days?" I said, "no Sing, it's Thanksgiving and I'm going home and spend a few days with my family - back where I grew up." Without hestation Sing asked, "can I go with you?"

Home was Jasper in "Deep East Texas," which is code language for "place where lots of Rednecks live." That's the first thought that came to mind when Sing sprang the surprise request on me. What would the locals do when they saw Sing? Many of the locals had never gone off to college or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, the furtherest many had ever ventured from home was to Louisiana to buy beer.

I told Sing I'd check and let him know. I called home and told my mother about my predicament and the first thing she said was "I hope he likes American food. I can't cook Chinese." I said "Mom, you mean you think it's alright for him to come home with me?" She said, "sure, if you want to do it."

I was reluctant to do it but I couldn't stand the thought of my friend staying in that huge dorm by himself for five days. I told him to pack his stuff, he was in for a cultural experience.

Everything went well and we had a great time. My Mother asked Sing lots of questions like "what does your father do for a living." Of course, that was no big deal because she asked everybody that question. The only real problem we had was an argument about fish heads. We went fishing and caught lots of fish but Sing wanted to keep the heads to make soup. No way would my Mom have allowed fish heads to be brought into the house much less experience the sanctity of one of her cooking pots. We ditched the heads but Sing complained about it for weeks.

Sing graduated early and the last I heard, was living in Chinatown in New York City and owned an apartment building and a Chinese restaurant. I'm going to try to look him up one day and stop by his restaurant. Maybe I'll sample some of his fish-head soup.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Petey the Power Punch Packing Pugilistic Pooch

Jen called from college and asked if she could bring him home. Her mother said no. I said yes. The ayes had it - she brought him home.

He was a six weeks old mixed breed white-ball-0f- fur puppy, the last of his litter that nobody seemed to want. He had one ear up and one down along with a bit of an attitude. His Vet explained to me a few years ago that Petey considered his family to be his "pack" and that he recognized me as the Alpha dog. That was the good news. The bad news for the rest of the family was that he considered himself to be the Beta dog and everyone else was a mere pack member of no particular rank.

For years, he watched through a peep hole in the backyard fence at the goings-on in the neighborhood. He'd bark occasionally if someone he didn't know got too close to "his" yard. But he went absolutely nuts - berserk, out-of-his-mind, Norman Bates crazy when the Chocolate Lab from down the street casually sauntered by. The Lab would look at Petey as if to say to him, "I'm going to taunt you now you ugly little inferior white furry thing. I'm going to pee in your yard. You can't do a thing about it. You're locked up and always will be. Not me. I'm loose in the neigborhood and you're not. Now I'm going to pee in your yard again. Ha Ha." Petey went berzerk.

The vet said if we had Petey neutered, he'd calm down. He didn't calm down at all. Come to think of it, I wouldn't have either. Petey was "fixed" but he didn't know it and still thought he had big ones, if you know what I mean. He still barked at everything outside his yard and still tried to play a game I called "hide the salami" with anything that didn't run away or kick at him.

One day, someone left the gate open while Petey was in the backyard. He didn't just sneak out. He flew out of the gate and down the street like he was on a mission. It turns out he was. He went straight to the Chocolate Lab's house about 2 blocks away and found him lolling in his front yard with no clue as to what was about to happen.

Before I could get there, Petey pounced on the lab, who was about three times bigger than him and released years of frustration. He bit Him on both front legs and stripped some fur off his tail. He jumped on top and peed on him. Yes, he peed on him. He was on top and had the Lab by the throat when I got there.

I pulled Petey off and yelled at him to go home. He obeyed me because, like I said, I'm the Alpha dog. He trotted home with his head in the air and the fur on his back standing straight up and never looked back. I slinked home with my head down, hoping nobody else had witnessed the fight of the century.

Petey's 15 years old now and hasn't had a fight since that day, 7 or 8 years ago. He retired undefeated but unlike Mike Tyson, he never bit off any body parts - he just threated to. He has arthritis and sleeps most of the time, but even then his body jerks, moves and twitches. We think he's dreaming about his big day of kicking some major big dog hiney.

The Lab never walked down our street again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Guest post by my brother....

I have to elaborate on a Dad story. Uncle Otis started to tell it and stopped but it is too good to pass up. Dad had just put new carpet in the house when a problem arose. The new carpet and pad were taller than the previously used flooring. When Dad put the door to Jen's bedroom back on, the door wouldn't close because of the thickness. So Dad decided to fix this problem by taking the door outside and trimming it down to fit again, only he forgot to trim the bottom and trimmed the top instead. So now the door still doesn't close and has a three inch gap at the top. I think that is about the time my Mom called Uncle Otis to come over and help supervise.

I have so many favorite memories with my Dad. Learning to play sports from the master has always been a treasure. Riding four wheelers at the ranch. Listening to his high intellect and wisdom.

When I was about 4, I begged Dad to take me to the ranch and go hunting with him and all the guys. And can you believe it...he cratered to the desires of his little boy. He spent all weekend watching me instead of being able to do the things you do at the deer camp. Just another wonderful example of this wonderful selfless man who still has more patience with his boy than I can understand. There's a part of me, grown man that I am, who will always be that little boy who just wants to be with his Dad.

I love you so much Dad!!!!!


Monday, August 15, 2005

What A Party

Getting surprised last week with birthday wishes by friends and family ranks right up there with the best and happiest birthday surprises of my life. I read the nice things that were said about me on the blog and was stunned into complete silence for perhaps the first time in my life. As busy as Jen is these days, she still managed to put it together with the help of her little (?) brother, Doug. Thanks kids. You never cease to amaze me.

The other birthday that compares with this one was quite a while ago - when I was seven. We lived in Jacksonville, Florida on the Navy base and I'd had the mumps, then the measels. All my friends had been playing baseball, swimming and riding their bikes all summer, but I'd been grounded, a virtual prisoner.

In a way, it hadn't mattered that much as I didn't have a bike anyway. I had a bat and glove though and the community pool was within walking distance and I was ready to make up for lost time before school started.

I expected to get a new baseball glove and the dreaded school clothes for my birthday. Instead of the glove, there was a shiney red and chrome bike, used but expertly restored by my Dad. Thanks to Mom and Dad, I was the envy of my friends as I raced through the neighborhood on my red bike on the way to school, wind blowing through my hair, a smile on my face while wearing my new clothes.

There was no bike this time but the smile on my face was just as big. Thanks again to my friends and family for your thoughtfulness.

Call For Wranglers

The land I own in East Texas is so small in acreage compared to others around it that I've called it the Cheap Spread Ranch for lack of a better name. Before that, it was the ParKay Ranch, because it was such a cheap spread. (rim shot) But actually, it's not a ranch a all because I have no cows - not even one.

Here's what I've decided to do though: when I retire, I'm going into the miniature cattle business. They're smaller, don't eat as much, don't leave such big meadow muffins lying around and don't require as much land.

I'll also raise miniature horses to use during cattle round-ups. I wouldn't want to use full size horses because if one of them stepped on a miniature cow, I'd have a real mess on my hands, aka hamburger.

That presents me with another problem though. Anybody know any midgets who can rope and ride?

I'm still in the planning stage on this one. Maybe I'll get a goat.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Happy Birthday BigandMean!

Mr. and Mrs. BigandMeanPosted by Hello

We’ve always known our Daddy/Pop was special.

He’s generous to a fault.

He’s has the kindest, biggest, most loving heart, which he tends to wear on his sleeve.

He’d walk through fire to give a perfect stranger the shirt off his back.

He’s the funniest person we know.

He’s a master story-teller.

His eyes twinkle when he says or does something naughty.

He’s the pied piper to all children. They flock to him, and he loves them all.

The ones fortunate enough to really know him, whether related to him or not, call him Uncle.

Every person lucky enough to meet him, adores him.

There's just something magnetic about him that is difficult to explain. You just have to "experience" him.

When he loves you, he loves you with every fiber in his being.

God truly blessed us with this wonderful man.

Happy Birthday!

Love you Daddy, Love you Pop!
Jennifer and Doug

......And now Dad, lots of people wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday! It's quite a motley crew of family and dear friends. The outpouring of love for you made me quite verklimpt. I know you are going to be floored. :)

BigandMean’s “BW” (Beautiful Wife), aka “Little-and-Nice
We met when I was a 19 year old freshman in college. He smiled at me, his beautiful green eyes sparkled, and he made a dumb joke that only I thought was funny. That set the pattern for the next 42 years of our life together. I’m convinced that God was guiding us that day – how else did we find each other in this crowded world? We created two wonderful children together and we’re patiently waiting (Jen inserts – “patiently waiting” my foot!) for some grandchildren to love and spoil together. I’ve consistently refused to weigh in on the blog, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to say happy birthday to the love of my life. So, “Happy Birthday and many more”!!

Ala from Blonde Sagacity
Various friends of mine have had someone in their lives that they referred to as their ‘second father’. I never had anyone like that until I had the immense pleasure of meeting Big & Mean. Even before we actually met face to face, I had the distinct feeling that he was routing for me, that he cared when someone 'crossed the line' and upset me and that he 100% had my back. I am not a trusting soul by nature, but I immediately knew that he was someone to be trusted. Big and Mean and I share a striking similarity (other than our superior cerebral political views) and that is the fact that people often take us too seriously when we are sitting in our respective computer rooms laughing at what we have just written. I was so happy when ~Jen~ told me that she had asked B&M to co-blog with her and I have really enjoyed reading all the stories that make up their wonderful family. Big and Mean, you know how much I enjoyed meeting you and your beautiful wife. You have added laughter and a feeling of security to my online life and for that I deeply thank you. Have a wonderful birthday and have ~Jen~ introduce you to one of those Buttery you-know-whats!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

There are more unforgettable stories between your Dad and I than you could put into a dozen volumes. He has always been one of my favorite people and I have always enjoyed him as a friend and brother in law.

One time when you were a baby, he decided (I am sure he had help deciding from his frau) to replace the seat on the toilet in the house over near Hobby airport. Nowadays those things are held in place by nylon bolts and nuts. Back when, they were secured by a brass nut on a brass screw and invariably the nut would freeze up on the bolt and be a real chore to get off. He was doing fine until the head of the bolt pulled out of the plastic seat began to spin freely. It was shaped just so you couldn't hold the bolt with a pair of pliers or vice grips. When he tried to hacksaw it, he couldn't get the blade to the bolt and if he did, it just spun.

In a fit of frustration he decided to just get a hold on it and jerk it free. He jerked and the whole toilet shattered and water went every where and was spraying from the refill line all over the bathroom. By the time he got the water off and replaced the toilet his frustration level was way over the top.

There are other stories about the time he and I hooked up the water to your mom's new ice maker and flooded the attic and the time he cut off the door to your room after you got new carpet but we will not go into those just now. I will say that we were just about as proficient as a Patrick McManus character in our escapades.

Ode to Big and Mean
There once was a man, Big&Mean
Known as the Kill It and Grill It King
His words, they are wise
I like the world through his eyes
Because he’s never petty or mean!

OK, that is my weak attempt at a limerick. Happy Birthday Mr. Mean!!! What a great day to celebrate – the day God graced the world with your presence. I can’t wait to have another bowling match – maybe when your girl returns from the Big Apple! Here’s a great big hug, coming your way!

I don't have an anecdote, or any particular story about my uncle. I just thank God we've had a mn like your dad to anchor our family all these years. While most of us were being tossed about like foam on the waves in this sinful world, he has been like a rock.
Norman walks the Christian walk without having to say anything, and has a great time doing it. He is a big kid at heart - but when people are in trouble - he is the man. Just like Jesus.
So I wish him the following on his birthday:
-the perfect vacation home by the perfect pond
-an eager fishing guide
-a peace that he will see Peatie in heaven
-a decent round of golf with old friends
-a republican president as long as he lives
-many more years to enjoy his family
-to hear the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" when his race is over.

My favorite Uncle Norman story has to be the summer we were staying at the beach house in Galveston, and he played a very naughty joke on Grandma. I think he was at his best when she was around, wasn't he? He left a piece of baloney on her door knob, and then a trail down the hall from her room to the kitchen (I think). I believe the intent was to poke fun at Grandma's healthy appetite for snacks. Oh, and she wouldn't believe it was Norman, she thought my dad had done it! I laughed so hard, tears were running down my face. I can't think about it now without a little laugh. Good times!

As for mushy stuff, I guess I can make a contribution. Your dad is one of the most kind-hearted and generous persons I know. If you were serving in the military together, you would know without a doubt that he would always have your back covered. Once you're a friend, you're his friend for life. I admire, respect, and love your dad very much.

Justice of Little Green Army Men

Dear Big and Mean:
Thanks for all that stuff from Texas. It's all hanging on my wall because I really liked it. I hope that you have a nice birthday. And for your birthday I am going to make you a book about a guy named Big and Mean. I hope that your birthday is fun in Texas.
Love, Justice

I have known Norman since I was 11 years old. The first word that comes to mind to describe him is charismatic. Everyone loves Norm! I don't think he's ever met a stranger. He was always my favorite dad of all my friends because he had the greatest stories. The only problem was you never knew if they were true or B.S.. That's part of his charm. I always enjoyed exchanging jokes and hearing his latest tale. When I had my first child, Norman's witty advice was to spank it and ignore it all the time! That sarcasm was especially funny coming from one of the greatest dads out there. Here's to you, Norman. May you have a wonderful birthday and be surrounded by love.

Mike and Sue
Three of the luckiest, most fortunate people on Earth are my sister, brother and myself. On second thought luck had nothing to do with it, we were just fortunate enough to be born to parents who were genuine salt-of-the-earth people; people of integrity and character. For my "little" sister's entire life and most of my and big brother's youth we lived on a small farm near a small town in East Texas. A town that in many ways could be compared to Mayberry RFD.
During our youth, people in this town didn't lock their houses, much less their cars, as there was no reason for distrust. Most people in that town were givers, not takers. Making a positive contribution to society was viewed as worthwhile and important, and considered one's civic duty.

Dad worked as a Forest Ranger but also farmed the land to make ends meet. Mom was often out in the field by his side, trying her best to lighten his load. Dad also had a chicken house with 1000 laying hens. Obviously we all pitched in - if you ever want to teach someone about work habits and good work ethic, just send them to be a farm hand for one season. The example our parents set for us could not have been better.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, I believe it gives you some insight to my big brother who I understand sometimes feels stranded here on Blogger Island. If you ever wonder where he is coming from, this is it, he is a product of his environment. He has always been a giver, the kind of person who wouldn't just loan you the shirt off his back, he'd give it to you, no questions asked, never expecting to be repaid. I am truly fortunate and proud that he is my brother. This is a special time of the year for him and all us who know him and love him, you see, he was born on Friday the thirteenth of August many moons ago.

Happy Birthday from your little brother Mike and wife Sue.

B&M I hope this isnt too late. Tho I missed the chance to meet you in Philly, I believe we could have a blast doing whatever. Besides having a cousin that i would like to meet (hint-hint) I admire everything i know about you and especially the father that you are to your children and the Husband you are to your wife (aka MRS. B&M) Look forward to fishing with you someday here on the Delaware or (better yet) in Texas. Happy Birthday (49 ?) and God Bless.

Rose from
Anonymous Rowhouse
One of the highlights of my year was meeting Mr and Mrs BigandMean in person here in my hometown of Philadelphia this spring. My husband and daughter and I met them in a little playground downtown -- a playground where none of us had been before. We proceeded to have a lovely conversation and were gifted with the best popgun and book of poetry that the great state of Texas had to offer. Then I had the honor of taking them on a brief tour of Old City before our dinner engagement.

During our walk, I can't explain how sharply into relief the notion of being from the birthplace of liberty came to me, particularly when BigandMean and his wife and I stood in front of Carpenter's Hall and walked past the Liberty Bell. He spoke about how he had taught his students about these icons of our country's history and now he was looking at them. I was so honored, that here I was, some random blogger from a rowhouse, sharing this with them. It was one of those moments you don't forget.

Over the course of that marvelous evening, we spoke about the differences in spaces and topography between our regions. We were regaled with stories of four-wheel rides on his ranch and lots of antics that little Jen and her brother got entangled in when they were kids. We discovered how Mr and Mrs BigandMean met, and were treated with tales of their family's history. We spoke about raising children and the joy it brings. We spoke about everything under the sun, and I felt as if I had finally found marvelous relatives that I should have known all along.

It reminded me of how much we take for granted, in a way, coming from our respective places: but how a few words on a screen can draw us into a shared history that is at once highly individual and completely collective. That really is the miracle of blogging. It is from people like BigandMean and his wife, and the evening that Ala and 92Alpha and I were privileged to share with them, that we build what becomes a treasured personal history. And through friendship remember what is genuine, enduring, wonderful and true.


Norm, until recently, we've been the ones that married into this family. Melodye and Scott are still newbies to the clan (but that doesn't lessen their contributions!). Certainly, I concede your seniority but since I've just celebrated 25 years of wedlock in the family, I think qualify as an "old timer" -- is that a good thing? Anyways, you have been "the man" for many years now and everyone admires your steadfastness. We love you and honor you this birthday!! But don't for one minute think that we who have long memories have forgotten some of your finer moments -- chasing Chelsea with a crawdad, sitting in a blow-up pool with Kai, giving your daughter away at her wedding, graduating an Aggie and the list goes on. As you turn 83 this month, we salute you!!!

What can I say about Norman that people already don’t know from the instant you meet him. He was so kind and accepting from the first minute I met him. Hmmmm could it have been the fact that I was the one who now would take over all the things that are Jennifer (Car repairs, shopping bills, etc…). Nah it was just in his nature. For example, how many fathers would not get furious over a boyfriend wrecking the car you gave your daughter, that used to be her grandmothers, and had to bring her to the hospital. Not Norman for sure, his only concern was that we BOTH were going to be ok. From that day on I knew what kind of awesome man he was.

Hehe. Another little story that I always get a kick out of that shows how awesome he is. It was after I left my traveling job to get one so that I could return home every evening. Money was tight for a little while but I manged to save some to pay for the deer lease dues (Money is OK now Dad). Norm and Susie both came out to our apartment and we were going out to eat (I believe this was also when I was home from work with a broken ankle). The topic of the lease and deer hunting came up and Jennifer asked about how much it was this year. So Norman says “Oh don’t worry the boys overpaid last year so they don’t owe anything this year”. Jennifer and I just looked at each other and shared a silent chuckle. Jennifer always told me stories about how her dad did these sort of things. I can honestly say that my life has only gotten better since becoming apart of his family. Happy Birthday!

Susie S.
My association with Norm was second-hand for years -- Susie used my office as a lounge back during the good old days (when we all smoked) and I heard casual family tales. Then Jen came to me as a student worker and I got a daughter's view. Shortly thereafter, Doug joined my workforce and I discovered the 'guy' Dad. My direct association was still pretty much a professional relationship, but he was always so warm and friendly and humorous and sincere, I felt like he was a 'friend.' Now that he IS a friend, I know there isn't a difference -- he's still warm, friendly, humorous and sincere. His "Well, hello there!" always sounds like you are JUST the person he was hoping to see today -- and makes you feel that any day you don't hear that welcome is somehow less. LOVE YOU, NORM -- HAVE A HAPPY!!

Tesco from Blank Forever
BigAndMean, thanks for always getting ALa's back. You are the man.

Thank you so much everyone! Dad is going to be overwhelmed by all this love and affection.
Happy Birthday Daddy!

Get Outta Town!

Does anybody ever stop being at least a little anxious around their in-laws? This week-end, Jen and Scott are going to upstate New York to attend Scott's Mother's wedding. She's marrying Charlie, who she's known forever, and Scott is going to be the best man. Jen will be meeting lots of in-laws for the first time and I wouldn't be surprised if she was a little uptight about it. I probably would have been. (not really)

Doug and Melodye will be going to California with his in-laws to visit Melodye's sister and her husband Justin and two little boys. Justin is a US Marine and is about to deploy to Iraq for the third time. God speed Justin and keep your head down, boy.

So, we'll have one "child" in New York and the other in California. Petey, the mixed breed 15 year old, potentially rabid, refuses to die arthritic dog will be spending the week-end at the local Doggie Motel. My koi and goldfish, squirrels and wild birds will have to fend for themselves. We're going to lake McQueeney in the Texas Hill Country near San Antonio for the week-end.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stranded On Blog Island

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing here, blogging away when I really ought to be doing something else.

Here's how I got started. I never intended to become involved with anything remotely connected to blogging. But my daughter Jen got involved with it and told me all about it. I had fun reading her blog and those of a couple of friends of hers. After a while, I began to leave comments, when the mood struck me, on all three blogs. Plus, it was a presidential election year and I had plenty to say about that pestiferous John Kerry guy. Thank you Ohio!

One day, a Canadian made some remarks on Jen's blog that were offensive to most non free range chicken eating Americans. The captious latte lover also said something particularly hurtful that was aimed at Jen. At that very moment, Bigandmean, with smoke coming from both ears, made his first appearance on the blogosphere.

I've been at it ever since, writing 3 or 4 times a week about whatever appealed to me at the moment. I got tired of politics and the senseless arguing associated with it after the election. The democrats continued to take a surprisingly infantile approach of personal attacks against the President and other non-liberals while trying to block his agenda rather than offer any concrete ideas of their own. They went further into Pee Wee Herman mode by continuing with four more years of their silly claims of stolen elections, hanging chads and voter disenfranchiment. Watching the democrats flounce around has become like watching a fat lady try to get out of a water bed - you don't want to look but your curiosity gets the best of you.

I've been discouraged too, by the lack of civil discourse regarding politics. The intelligent, good-natured exchange of ideas has been replaced by the Carville/Begala in-your-face style. People don't seem to give a second thought to throwing out blasphemous, defamatory claims that someone else is a liar, draft dodger or even a nazi. Expressed opinions can result in ad hominem attacks and threats flung from around the globe by guilt-ridden, but very angry out-of-power lefties who, I would guess, are doing all this naughty stuff while trying to make their way to the Canadian border.

I've worried about some of the regular posters who leave lots of comments, then disappear for awhile. I've felt compelled to come to the defense of some who were being treated unfairly, only to learn that for the most part, they never needed my help at all. I've marvelled at the writing abilities of Ala, Justrose and others. It's been fun. I've met some very nice people, learned a lot, and have managed to put some things in writing, like family stories for my kids that I might not ever have gotten around to doing.

My blog partner, daughter Jen has had so much piled on her at work that she hardly has time to do anything but eat, sleep and work. So here I am out on this island by myself, a nice place to visit but an island I never really intended to hang around on for very long.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Leroy Surprises The White Cow

My friend, the talented writer Rose at http://anonymousrowhouse.blogspot.commentioned on her blog the difficulty at times of avoiding the use one of the most powerful words in the english language, the F*** word.

It reminded me of a story (surprise, surprise).

Two important events were occuring on a Texas ranch on the same Sunday afternoon: the preacher was coming to dinner and the cows were being "introduced" to the neighbor's bull, Leroy.

It was very important that someone monitor the introductions, to make sure that every cow of breeding age had been properly introduced. The rancher assigned his youngest son to this job while he and the Mrs. enjoyed their dinner with the preacher.

The rancher gave his son some explicit instructions as to how to communicate the progress of the introductions in front of the preacher. He said, "be sure and come to the house as soon as Leroy does his business but don't embarrass your mother and say 'Leroy f***ed one of the cows. Instead of saying he f***ed a certain cow, use a code word. Say that he 'surprised' her and I'll know exactly what you mean."

During dinner, the boy ran in, all out of breath, to report to his father. He said, "Dad, Leroy surprised the black cow!" His father said, "good job, Son. Now go back down to the barn and keep a watch. Let me know if Leroy surprises another one."

A few minutes later, the boy ran back in to make another announcement. His father said, "did Leroy surprise the white cow?" The boy said, "he sure did. He f***ed the black one again!"

Sometimes, the best laid plans.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Reasonable Accomodation

The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers and others who may have contact with the public, must "reasonably accomodate" persons with either mental or physical disabilities so that the disabled may participate in employment and other activities just as able bodied persons do.

I received notice that a woman in one of my classes had been mentally ill but was now recovered. I was told that she had to remain on her medications to maintain some semblance of control and that I should be prepared to accomodate an occasional episode of strange or unusual behavior. She was supposedly brilliant but given to occasional uncontrollable outbursts with the suspected culprit being Turret's Syndrome.

Things went reasonbly well for the first two weeks. She asked some questions that indicated to me that she was capable of understanding complex legal theories and was bright enough to understand the law cases we were discussing in class.

Then one day the wheels feel off. She said, "Dr. B., what court would you go to to have squatters evicted from your house?" "Well, you'd go to the local Justice of the Peace and file something called a Forceable Entry and Detainer. But how did 'squatters' get control of your house"?

I shouldn't have asked that. She said, "they moved in after I got kidnapped and held against my will by sub-humans who were trying to breed with me."

There was total silence while I was formulating my plan to try to "reasonably accomodate" her disability while trying to protect her privacy and salvage what little dignity might remain from a now very strained situation, when an older female student in the back row raised her hand.

I shouldn't have acknowledged her but I said "yes?" and she said, in a very loud voice, "Dr. B, this bitch is crazy"!

Momma said there'd be days like this.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Birthday Hugs To You Pop

My kids have never heard this story. It's one that I conveniently put way back there in the back of my mind where I almost never go because it's one of the few painful memories I have of my parents.

Dad retired from the US Navy after serving in World War II and the Korean War. He returned to Texas so he could help care for his parents as they grew older and because Texas was home. He went to work as a forest ranger (think Smokey Bear) for the Texas Forest Service.

With two sons about to graduate from high school and go to college and a daughter coming along behind us, Dad uncharacteristically took a gamble. He quit his job with the Forest Service and took a job at a defense plant at Fort Polk, Louisiana, about an hour away, where he was making about twice as much money. The worst thing that could have happened did - after only 6 months the plant closed and Dad lost his job.

Jobs were hard to find. He could have gone to work at the navy base in Corpus Chisti, but the whole family would have had to move and he had promised us when we moved back to Texas that it would be the last one we'd ever have to make. I had gone to something like 20 different schools through the sixth grade and Dad was determined to let me stay in one place for a change. Besides, he needed to stay close to his parents.

Dad got some good news and bad news. His old boss at The Forest Service called and offered him his old job back. The bad news was that the job wouldn't be available for another six months.

So Dad bided his time by taking any kind of work he could get while he waited. For a while he was working three part-time jobs and sleeping only 5 or 6 hours a night. He was tough, a real man's man and he could handle it but Mom couldn't. My brother and I knew that she worried about him, about how hard he was working and the stress he was under. Even in the best of times Mom could find something to worry about.

I walked in from school one day and stood at the back door and hesitated before going in. I just looked in the window because I sensed that something was wrong.

Dad had his back to me and I could see that his hands were bleeding. He had worked that day building a barbed wire fence. The wire had slipped and cut through his hands and left skin hanging from ugly blue-red places that seemed to be on the entire surface of his palms. Mom was washing his hands, clipping the dangling skin with a pair of scissors and crying. She kept crying while she washed and clipped and I heard her saying, "baby, I'm so sorry" and he was saying, "it's OK, really, it's OK." Neither one of them saw me. I waited outside for what seemed like about an hour - until I heard laughter coming from inside. Laughter.

I walked in and Mom and Dad were both smiling and laughing about the bandaging job she'd done to his hands that made him look like a mummy. I laughed too and got busy on my homework. I never mentioned what I'd seen and I don't think they knew I'd been there. They wouldn't have wanted me to see that.

A few months later, Dad was a forest ranger again and all was right with the world.

Dad died way too young. He's been gone for 17 years now. Tomorrow would have been his birthday.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Quick Lunch? Think Again

The woman in line in front of us at a sandwich shop looked normal. She was middle aged, casually dressed and typically suburban looking. It was obvious there was something wrong though because of the strained look on the face of the cashier. The cashier said, "I'm sorry, but I can't accept your coupon. It's for another sandwich shop, not this one." She said, "well, what's my total bill then?"

"$6.49" said the cashier. "That's too much" said the woman, "I've got a coupon." The argument continued for quite awhile with the woman seemingly unable to understand that her coupon was for another sandwich shop.

"Tell you what, even though the coupon's not mine, I'll honor it. Your total is just $5.40." The now really furious looking woman said "that's still too much. Are you charging me for cheese?" He said "yes, cheese is $1.00 extra."

Now she was really mad. "I shouldn't have to pay $1.00 for cheese." The poor cashier was doing everything he could to pacify her. The line behind her was growing longer. We'd been waiting about 5 minutes for this little drama to play itself out and it didn't look like it was going to end any time soon. The argument over cheese escalated, then the cashier ran up the white flag.

"OK, ma'm, I'll charge you just 40 cents for the cheese. So your total is $4.80." She looked in her purse, then at the sandwich, chips and a soft drink, then spun on her heels and stormed out of the shop without saying another word.

She'd caused quite a scene, made a dozen or so people wait almost ten minutes while she battled it out over coupons and cheese, and never got her lunch.

She must have been either off her medications or broke. In either case, she seemed to be a tortured soul. I almost offered to pay for her lunch. I wish I had.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Scouting Texas High School Football for Dear Ole Whatsamatta U.

The football season is just around the corner, and as usual I'm really looking forward to it. My old high school team (where I am a legend), the Jasper Bulldogs, lost 49-47 in the state championship game last year and may be better this year.

Football is so big in Texas that many small towns simply close on Friday afternoons so everybody can travel to the game. Whether it's Cransfill Gap vs. Walnut Springs or Midland Lee vs. Odessa Permian, football is king.

I go to several games throughout the year but the state playoffs are what I really look forward to. The Houston area is a favorite venue for playoffs and it's not unusual for three games to be scheduled in a place like the Astrodome in one day. Imagine games at 1:00, 4:00 and 7:00 with thousands of rabid fans for six different teams coming and going throughout the day.

A few years ago I went to one of those all day extravaganzas by myself. I got there in the third quarter of the first game which I thought would be a blow-out and it was. There were many good seats on the 50 yard line that had been vacated by the not-so-faithful fans of the team getting blown out and I grabbed one.

When Game One mercilessly ended, what was left of the fans on my side of the Dome quickly vacated their seats and there was a rush by fans of the home team for the next game for the best seats. That's when I noticed that I was a minority of one white guy in a sea of red and yellow clad black folks.

The team on my side of the field was from the inner city. All the players were black. The band, the cheerleaders, the coaches and all the fans on our side of the field, except for me, were black. I felt like I was from outer space. Scotty (RIP), beam me up.

I could have gone to the other side of the Dome if I'd wanted to but all the good seats over there were already taken. Besides, I shouldn't have to move. Why should I? This is the country where we had a Civil War over equal protection for minorities and then passed The 14th Amendment in 1868 in order to constitutionalize those rights. We had Brown vs. Board of Education in 1955 which recognized that separate educational facilities were unequal and thus unconstitutional. We had The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which codified the concept that discrimination based upon race is unlawlful. On principle, I wasn't moving.

I heard people on my side of the field, not too subtlely wander aloud who I was. More than once I heard "who the hell is that white guy with the red cap?" "The red cap" part seemed redundant. They decided collectively that I must be a college scout, there to look over their kids and no doubt be prepared to offer some football scholarships to those who were worthy. Why else would one white guy sit right in the middle of 20,000 rabid black football fans? Why indeed.

An older man walked down my ailse and as he went by he said "scuse me coach" and I said "no problem." Then he said, "coach, I'm going to the concession stand. Can I bring you anything"? Before I realized it, I found myself ordering a diet coke and some peanuts. I offered him money but he refused to take it. When he came back, he asked me to keep an eye on a linebacker, #42, his grandson, and I promised I would. I even asked if his grades were OK and was assured that he was a good student. I also blurted out "you know, what colleges are really looking for these days is speed. What's his time in the 40?" When told that it was 4.5 I couldn't help but say that I thought the kid had a good shot at a full ride on scholarship. I'm afraid that I really got into the part of being a big-time college scout.

Throughout the game, I was asked to evaluate several other prospects, all of whom I announced had excellent chances of a solid college football career. One really chubby, slow and not so agile kid's mother assured me that he would get better when he "got rid of his baby fat" and I agreed with her wholeheartedly. I even told the Head Cheerleader's mother that her daughter was without a doubt, one of the most talented cheerleaders I had seen in all my years of watching high school football games.

"We" scored in the last two minutes and pulled the game out, winning over a near all-white suburban team that I had actually been rooting for until the game started. I stood up and cheered like everyone else. I high fived the linebacker's grandfather and the cheerleader's mother gave me a bear hug. I had bonded with my new team. It was a fun day at the Dome.

They never did ask me what college I was from, which was a relief. And I never drank so many free diet cokes in my life.