Saturday, March 31, 2007

Shopping, Not Buying

Shopping wears me out.
Now don't get me wrong,
I can buy with the best of 'em.
It's the shopping that's hard.
You look and you look
And then drive someplace else
And you look and you look
And still no decision is made.
Things that I would reject
In less than a heartbeat
Get looked at and talked about
And critiqued and discussed
Until I'm thinking, "let's move on,
We already know this isn't it!"
Yet, we keep looking and shopping --
Not buying at all. It makes me tired
And I struggle to maintain
A good attitude about the process
That is involved in deciding.
Me -- I like to make a quick tour
And assemble ideas for later processing at home,
Or while doing something else.
I can make up my mind a lot better
Without continuing to add to the clutter
By looking and looking and looking
And looking and looking and --
I think you get the message.
Shopping is not my thing.
It makes me tired.
I get grouchy.
Narrow it down for me.
I'm a buyer, not a shopper.
Is that a male thing?

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Commercial

I continue to learn a little each day about blogging. Today I added "Blog Rolling" and "Technorati" to the sidebar. Both of these tools are designed to broaden the readership of my blog. However, the best tool that I know is for you to share with others that you think might be interested in what I have to say, a link to this blog. You can do that by e-mailing them the URL to this website.

One of the side benefits of blogging is the opportunity to make a little extra money. When you visit any of the ads that are on the sidebar, or click on the ad words listed at the top which will pop up a list of ads to click on, I make a few cents. In a way, I guess these are my sponsors. Visit them occasionally. You might find something you want!

My intention for this blog is not to become commercial about it. It is really all about sharing thoughts and disciplining myself to write something on a daily basis. However, it doesn't hurt to make a little money doing something I enjoy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Burn On

Perfection is a desire that lies within
Only the elect few. It is an expression
Of our reach for more because there
Is deep inside, a longing that is not
Fulfilled by the ordinary. To exceed
The norm becomes the norm as the
Drive is intensified with the adrenaline
Rush of success and the adulation of
The crowd or the satiation of the
Fire that drives our behavior --that
Is our passion. To find one's passion
Is something that few experience
Because the settled-for existence of
The survival struggle dampens the
Flame until the faint glow of remembered
Embers is all that remains unless fanned
And fueled and nurtured. The burn,
Once brought to flame continually seeks
More fuel to consume as it spreads
Outward in the never-ending quest
To quench. There is always more,
Always better, always bigger, always
A new venue in which to play until
The energy is released and only
The ashes remain. Burn on my friend.

Who I Am

Who I am is greater
Than the sum of what I've done.
Who I am is bigger
Than anything I know.
Who I am is greater
Than the sum of past successes.
Who I am is bigger
Than all of my failures.
Who I am is greater
Than my family's heritage.
Who I am is bigger
Than all my friends combined.

Who I am is someone
That is nothing on my own.
Who I am is someone
Because of God alone.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On the Horizon a Puff of White

On the horizon a puff of cloud
Appears to grow from nothing.
It's fluffy whiteness slowly deepens
To a grayish blue as it pulls
The moisture into
Its blossom.
Suddenly, a slender bolt
Dashes to the ground
And the low
Vibration
Rolls across the prairie until
The panes in the windows
Lightly rattle.
A gentle breeze begins to stir
The grass and bend it
Lightly toward the
Approaching
Cloud.
It is growing higher, and wider
And imperceptibly a
Dim curtain
Appears
Below.
It is the rain beginning to reach
From the expanding mass
That blots the sky
In the
West.
The grays turn to blues with an
Occasional streak of white
That takes on a greenish
Tint as the storm
Swells across
The sky
Until it stretches across the horizon
And the whispy edges begin
To pass overhead
And blot the
Last rays
Of Sun.
The wind is now gusting and changing
Directions continually until
It suddenly ceases
In eerie silence
And the low
Warble of
Sirens
Is heard in the distance warning all
To take shelter because
A possible tornado
Has been sighted
Somewhere
Within.
And the hail begins to fall at intervals
Until a low roar like an approaching
Train begins to grow louder
And louder as though
The train is coming
Right at me and
I know that it
Is time to run
Into the house
And into the
Basement
And wait
Until it
Passes
On,
On,
On,
O............

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ethanol -- Why???

The traffic volume on the highways throughout the Panhandle seems to be increasing. That's a good sign. It is a sign of a thriving economy.

I have been seeing a lot of trucks on the highways carrying what appears to be capital equipment and machinery. I have recently seen parts for the giant wind generators, many large storage tanks, motors, fan assemblies, valves, etc. Almost all of the pieces destined to either wind generator fields or to ethanol plants.

I really struggle with the ethanol plants -- especially in corn growing areas that rely on the Ogallala Aquifer for sufficient water to grow the corn. Think for a minute about what it takes to grow corn in the Texas Panhandle where our rainfall is approximately 20 inches per year, or less. The fields are prepared by tractors fueled by diesel, the primary nitrogen fertilizer (anhydrous ammonia) requires huge amounts of natural gas to manufacture, the water is pumped from an aquifer that lies several hundred feet below the surface and therefore requires energy to lift the water. Usually the irrigation pumps are powered by electricity, the bulk of which continues to be generated at plants fueled by natural gas. Once the corn is ready for harvest, the combines that shell it, and the trucks that take it to the ethanol plants are fueled by diesel. I have heard it said that we spend approximately $0.98 worth of fossil fuel to produce $1.00 worth of ethanol. It just doesn't make sense to me.

The one area of benefit that I see, is that the ethanol plants are a source of jobs in many smaller rural communities. I think that's great in the short run, but what will happen in the longer term? Will those jobs still be there in 10 years? Or, will they dry up with the demise of ethanol.

One argument says that this is a transitional time for ethanol. Eventually we will shift to a cellulosic basis for production rather than using corn. I think that's great, but will that reduce the amount of fossil fuel used to produce it? I doubt it.

Another problem with using corn, or any other crop for that matter, for making ethanol is that it is causing a shift in acreage from other crops to corn production. This does several things. 1) It increases the amount of fertilizer used which adds to potential runoff issues. 2) Corn demands a much larger amount of water for production than most other crops raised on the High Plains, further stressing the already significantly depleted water supply. 3) The acreage shift to corn from other crops drives up the price of all crop-based commodities. This may be good in the short-run for the farmers. But, it will eventually be reflected in one of two ways. Either our food and fiber costs will increase at the consumer level, or we will end up purchasing more from other countries.

If our strategy in developing ethanol as an alternative fuel is to decrease our reliance on other countries, it won't work. It will just shift the reliance from a minuscule percentage of our fuel demands to a significant percentage of our food and fiber demands.

Increasing crop prices may have the short-term positive effect of increasing farm income from the marketplace to offset government subsidies. This would be a positive benefit to the taxpayers of the nation if the Congress would just not spend that money on something else. We all know how that will turn out.

Currently there are significant government subsidies to incent the creation of ethanol capacity in our country. Some of the subsidies are direct and some are related to the investment of funds in alternative energy production in lieu of taxing those funds derived from other means. Either way, it is dollars out of the taxpayers pocket. I would much rather see that money spent on projects such as the windmill generators, or geothermal, or nuclear energy. The problem is, ethanol plants seem to generate more votes because of the "pork-barrel" nature of the projects.

It would be nice if Congress would vote for sensible legislation rather than their behavior being totally dictated by what will get them the most votes, or line their pockets the quickest. I think we need to fire them all and start over.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Remodeling Estimates

Thinking the kitchen is in need of remodeling
We put out a request for quotes.
The funds we had set aside look kind of small
And the timeframe to do it remote.
The first problem is getting a contractor to call
Because there seems to be no lack of work
And our little project is such a small fish
The message elicits a smirk.
But when we can get one to come take a look
And he makes lots of marks on his pad,
My heart starts to rise way up in my throat
And my bride starts to look kind of sad.
All of those "little" things we wanted to do
Suddenly don't look so small.
With calculator smoking he taps on the keys
And we know that our dreams are too tall.
So we start cutting back on some of the things
That weren't all that important to us
Until the number is falling quite nicely in line
And we wonder what caused all the fuss.
We settle for something much less than we planned
But costs less than the first total now.
And although we only get half what we want
Its price is twice what our budget allows.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Movie and a Sermon

We watched a movie this evening called Flyboys. It was about American volunteers who flew in the French Escadrille in World War I prior to the American entry into the war. It was an excellent movie. I would highly recommend it.

Sundays around our house are usually a day of rest. The mornings are filled with church activities, but the afternoons are usually for naps. I had a good, long one today. Tonight, at church, we had a fill-in speaker since our pastor was out of town. I really enjoyed listening to him. He pastored a number of churches after a lengthy military career before retiring here. He has some very interesting stories to tell both from his service in the military and from the various small churches that he pastored. Tonight he talked about experiencing God's abundance fully. Too often, we settle for a life of "near joy". We need to look for God working around us and seek to experience His working in our lives. When we do, we will dine on steaks, not hotdogs. (That was the very condensed version.)

I think he's right. Sometimes, it is in the worst of times that we experience God's abundance the most. Too often, when things are going well, we forget about Him and think about how well we are doing. It's Him all along. It's just that when we aren't fully dependent on Him, we don't experience Him. I don't know if that makes sense, but I know that it's true from experience. God is in control. I personally prefer the steak to hotdogs.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Buffalo Lake NWR

One of my favorite drives in the Texas Panhandle is Farm Road 168 south of Umbarger, Texas. I enjoy the area around Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I guess the reason that I like that stretch of road is the wildlife that can be seen at almost any time of day on almost any day of the year. Today as we passed by heading south, we stopped to watch a wild turkey gobbler strutting with full tail fan for a couple of hens. He was less than 30 yards from the road so it was easy to see him.

Often we see deer there. Tonight, as we passed by returning north, we saw numerous deer -- mostly mule deer. There must be hundreds of deer that populate the refuge. At night, many of them migrate into some of the wheat fields that surround the refuge. You can sometimes see herds of 50 or more.

When there is water in the lake (which is rare), there are plenty of waterfowl -- especially during the fall and spring migrations. It is a popular stopping spot for geese and ducks. Frequently, during those migrations, bald eagles can be seen hanging around in their pursuit of the ducks.

I believe the lake was originally impounded in 1937. It became a very popular boating, skiing, and fishing lake in the 50's and 60's, but during the 70's, due to drought and years of silting, the lake went dry. When sufficient rains fell to re-fill the lake in the late 70's, it was determined that the dam was unsafe, so the lake was permanently drained and the old dam replaced by a flood control dam.

I have vague memories as a child of going to Buffalo Lake on the weekends in the summer. I had an uncle that would take his boat out and those who were old enough got to ski. I remember my father skiing and I thought it was "pretty cool". By the time I was old enough to ski, the lake had silted in to the point that skiing was unsafe. At one point, you could walk across nearly any part of the lake without it getting more than waist deep (if I remember correctly).

I am happy that Buffalo Lake is now a National Wildlife Refuge. It would be nice if it was still a recreational lake, but since it is not, I am glad they have preserved it. I believe that it helped immensely in re-establishing the deer population of the central and southwestern Panhandle.

If you have memories of Buffalo Lake "as it was", please share them in the comments. I would be very interested in the stories. If you have pictures, you can e-mail them to me at panhandlepoet@hotmail.com, I will post them for you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rain

I love to hear the rain.
It is like a thin sheet of tin rattling
As it peppers the windows,
The skylights,
The sidewalk.
The low sound of thunder
(The "potato wagon turning over"
Of my youth) brings a promise
Of violence
Or of renewal
Or both,
As it slowly grows closer.
It is spring.
Officially.
In reality.
As the trees bloom
And the leaves unfold
And I sneeze
From the whiff of pollen on the air.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Catching ZZZ's

Often in the darkest night
When thoughts are whirling 'round
Of conversations and events
That passed throughout the day
I question what and why and how
And if and even say
To myself, "did I handle that
The way I should?"
Sleep remains a sought for goal
That slips just beyond my reach
Until it finally occurs to me that
I shouldn't question each and every
Thing in such detail but rest in
Knowing that God is in control
And it really doesn't matter
Whether what I said or did was
Exactly right because in all
Those things He works for my good
And for the good of all who love Him
And seek Him with all of their heart.
In that comforting, enveloping knowledge
I peacefully fall asleep.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ramblings on Music

This is choir night and I'm in Garden City, Kansas. I guess it seems strange that I look forward to choir practice the way that I do. I always try to get home in time to make it there on Wednesday nights. Church choir is what I'm talking about. I enjoy singing.

Our choir is very good. Not professional level of course, but very good. Don't tell him, but I attribute a lot of the high quality of our choir to the director. He is very demanding -- almost militaristic in his approach to practice and to performance. He brings a discipline to us that I've not experienced with other directors. It is a good thing. It brings out our best.

We sing a wide variety of pieces in choir ranging from arrangements of some of the more contemporary pieces to the very difficult "high church" music from several hundred years ago. We are always challenged.

I think some of my favorite pieces are the Southern Gospel pieces. We don't do a lot of them, but I especially like some of the Bill Gaither arrangements. However, I just as much like some of the arrangements of the Chris Tomlin pieces, or -- well, just about anything we attempt. It is just a joy to sing with a choir that can handle about anything that is thrown at it.

I also sing in a small group called BASIC. It stands for Brothers And Sisters In Christ. We do mostly contemporary pieces. The group is small enough and the members adept enough that we can do some difficult harmonies effectively. The hardest part of singing in BASIC is that we have to memorize everything. I have let my memory skills decline with age and it is sometimes difficult for me to achieve the confidence level necessary to perform the songs from memory. I always want a crutch of some kind. Fortunately (or, unfortunately), our director does not allow us to use a crutch. No notes, no music, nothing.

I have sung with self-accompaniment on the guitar for years. The guitar has become my memory crutch. As long as I am playing the guitar, it seems I can remember the songs. Without it, the words seem to evaporate. I don't know what that is telling me. Probably that my mental discipline has lapsed through the years.

Suffice it to say, I love music. I like all kinds of music. If you looked at the collection of CD's in the console of my pickup, you wouldn't know what my favorite kind of music was. There is everything from Rachmaninov to Stevie Ray Vaugh, The Eagles to Steven Curtis Chapman, and everything in between. I like any "good" music. I don't care for most Rap and I don't care for Pop (Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc.), but I like Blues, Jazz, Contemporary Christian, old Rock, Rock and Roll, Classical, Big Band, Choral, Instrumental, Country, Blue Grass -- and just about anything else you can think of . I like music. I like strong lyrics and I like great music even if the words are so-so. Strong lyrics combined with strong music are a rarity.

I've written a little music through the years. I'm not very good at it, but it is fun to make the attempt. Who knows, maybe someday, I'll write something that people will enjoy. My goal is just for them to not know that I wrote it, but ask, "who wrote that?!!"

Writing music and writing poetry aren't all that different. Many poems can be set to music. Most contemporary music is written to a formula. That's not my goal. I don't think that writing to a formula is true art. It is closer to mathematics. When I write, I want it to convey a specific message. Sure, the lure of selling a hit is always there, but the art itself should be pure. If the art is good (just like a painting that is well done) it should sell.

There is music everywhere. I think God "broadcasts" songs to the earth. Different artists hear it and therefore express it differently. I think that is why there are often multiple songs released on a common theme at about the same time. Have you ever noticed that? When some artist releases a song with a new theme, there are often multiple songs with similar themes released in the same relatively short time-frame. The time-frame is too short for them to have been created in response to the first release -- they had to have been created virtually simultaneously. To me, that's God supplying the theme and the creative impulse of man revealing it to their brothers. Who knows? Maybe I'm right and your belief that it is just coincidence is merely your way of denying the truth. Ok, so I'm on a soap box. My point is -- I like music. I believe it expresses our deepest feelings and reveals our inermost truths.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Alternative Energy

Towering above the mesa
The row of white needles
Punctuates the blue with
Rotating scythes that
Capture the power of
The wind. Lined for miles
Across the prairie they
Are seen for great distances
And yet stretch over
Such an area that
They can't all be seen at once.
The wind blows,
The blades turn,
Slowly spinning the
Turbine that generates
Electricity to flow
Into the grid. It is
A much better way to
Invest the taxpayers
Dollars than ethanol.

Monday, March 19, 2007

One Man's Treasure...

The sign said,
"Going out of Business Sale"
So, we stopped
Because we like antiques
And that was what the other sign said.
In a former use it was
A boarding house
But now it contained
Leftovers from estate sales,
Yard sales,
Any kind of sales that
Had items long past their prime
That might be considered collectibles
Or maybe vintage
And rarely antique.
The memories rose from the
Stacks and shelves and piles
Like ghosts of the former boarders
That once occupied the 23 rooms
While they sought a living
In the oil boom town
Long deflated.
It was a pleasant hour of
Strolling and looking
And laughing and
Figuring out what the use might have been
Of some strange utensil.
The books always intrigue
But they were well picked over
And nothing caught my eye
That didn't already occupy
A place at home.
It was interesting looking at
The items that
To the former owners
Were treasures I'm sure
But to me were just
Junk.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back to Work Tomorrow

The hardest part of vacation
Is going back to work
And that's exactly what I've got to do.
So, even if my mind is still
Somewhere in South Texas
And yeah, on deep sea fishing too,
I've got to put those things behind
And focus on the job
Because tomorrow it's back to work once more.
I've got to make a trip
Up into Southwest Kansas
And the driving up will be a boring chore
In which I'm sure my mind will wander
Back out to the Gulf
Where I'll think of hooking to a big ol' fish
Out on the peaceful ocean
With the waves gently lapping
Is quite likely just exactly what I'll wish.
But maybe by the time
That I reach my destination
The readjustment will have taken place
So that I'm geared and ready
For the task that is at hand
That tonight I just don't want to face.
But, come to think about it
I guess that I'm already
Partially back on track to do the job
Just look here at the subject
That was chosen for my entry
For the last day of vacation to my blog!

Pictures From Fishing Trip


These Brown Pelicans were looking for a handout


This is the view in the harbor at Port Aransas


This shark was caught by one of the other passengers.


This was the catch in Port Aransas

The ones laying in front are King Fish

The red ones are Beeliners

The Spinner Shark is in the middle

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Home Again

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

El Mercado in San Antonio this morning followed by lunch at Mi Tierra Restaurant completed our trip. We left San Antonio around 1:00 pm and headed home. Our return was interrupted by a brief stop in Ballinger, Texas, to visit an antique shop that was having a "going out of business" sale. We managed to escape without a purchase. We had pizza in Snyder and then arrived home a little after 10:30 pm. The first chore upon arrival was re-wrapping the fish into appropriate sizes and getting it into the freezer. Now it is time for bed.

No matter where we roam
There's no place like home.

Well, maybe.....

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fiesta Texas

After picking up our fish from overnight freezing at Dolphin Docks, we headed across to Aransas Pass via the ferry. It was a very short ferry ride, but it put us on the north side of Corpus Christi Bay. From there we traveled west through Ingleside and then back across the bay into Corpus Christi. The bridge crossing the ship channel into Corpus Christi gave us a great view of the USS Lexington. Several year ago we were here and took the tour of the Lexington. It was very interesting. It is amazing how large an aircraft carrier actually is. There are many in use today that are much larger than the Lexington. We could also see numerous barges and other ships in the channel -- either docked at some of the many factories and warehouses, or moving up or down the channel.

We headed west from Corpus Christi on Interstate Highway 10 to San Antonio where we grabbed a quick lunch at WhattaBurger before heading to Fiesta Texas (a Six Flags Amusement Park). We should have realized how bad the crowds would be when we exited the Interstate to find traffic being diverted about 4 miles out of the way before being allowed to enter the park. Once we were able to enter the drive to the park, we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes to go through the automobile entry gate into the parking area. It was only the first of the many interminable seeming lines.

There seemed to be a direct correlation between the length of wait and the length of the ride. A 30 minute waiting line terminated in a 30 second ride. A 2-hour line led to a 2 minute ride. It was crazy. The best part of the park was the great weather. It was a perfect mid-70's day.

After spending about 7 hours to ride 5 rides, we decided it was time to leave. We were wet and hungry and getting cold from being wet. So, we headed into Boerne (pronounced burn-ee) to check into the motel and eat. After checking in, we quickly changed into dry clothes and went to Chili's for supper. It was very good.

Tomorrow we are heading back into San Antonio for a while -- probably to El Mercado and the River Walk -- possibly to the zoo -- and then heading back toward home. We may drive all the way, or we may stop somewhere before we get there and spend the night. It depends on how long we decide to stay in San Antonio.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Deep Sea Fishing

We left Dolphin Docks this morning at 7:30 a.m. on the "Dolphin Express" for our 8-hour fishing trip. It was very foggy. The 2 1/2 hours out were a little rough and a lot of people suffered. However, the fishing was good. We all caught our limit of King Fish and there were many other fish caught. My son and I ended up with a little over 75 lbs. of fish! He seemed to enjoy the trip a lot. In a few days I will attempt to post a few pictures from the trip.

As we started out of Corpus Christi Bay we were accompanied by 3 Dolphins (porpoises). They stayed with us only a short distance, but it was fun to see them darting back-and-forth in front of the bow of the boat.

I think I would really enjoy staying down here through the winters. Probably from about the 1st of November through April. The rest of the year is probably too hot for my tastes. Right now is just about perfect. The high today in Corpus Christi was supposed to be 81F but I suspect that it never got above 75F on the water.

When we returned to port we were craving Mexican Food, so we ate at La Playa Restaurant. It was very good. I would recommend it.

Tomorrow we head for San Antonio and Fiesta Texas and possibly the River Walk tomorrow night. It's only about a 2 1/2 hour drive from here to San Antonio. I hope the weather is as nice tomorrow as it was here today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

To Port Aransas

Today was a day of travel. We crossed a large portion of the state -- from Amarillo to Port Aransas, Texas. The terrain around Port Aransas is similar to that around Amarillo (very flat), only much wetter. However, there was a lot of variety in between -- over 600 miles worth of variety.

I generally prefer to take a little time as I travel to stop and see at least a few of the sites along the way. Today, however, was focused on just getting here.

I really like the coast. I would love to be able to live in the Corpus Christi area in the winter and in the Mountains of New Mexico in the summer. I doubt that will ever happen, but I can dream can't I? To me, the only real drawback of the coast is the humidity. I'm used to a relative humidity that rarely gets above 30% in the Panhandle. I think it must be well over 85% here in Port Aransas.

There have been very heavy rains here in the last few days. The farmland approaching Corpus Christi was standing in water. The corn is 4-6 inches high and coming along nicely. The oat crop looks healthy, but most of it looks to be destined for grazing. They will be planting cotton soon.

There has been a lot of construction here on Mustang Island since the last time that I was here. There are many more condominiums and resort hotels than I remembered. However, there are still long stretches of beach and barrier dunes that are undeveloped.

I enjoy seeing the coastal waterfowl in the tidal flats. There were large numbers of white pelicans as well as herons, egrets, and of course, seagulls. Tomorrow, as we go out in the Gulf of Mexico fishing, we will certainly see other waterfowl.

We are scheduled to take an 8-hour trip out of Dolphin Docks tomorrow. Check-in time is 6:30 a.m. and we depart at 7:00. I think we will be fishing for Red Snapper and Amber Jack primarily. However, we'll find out for certain when we get there.

I have had the opportunity to go deep-sea fishing several times. This will be my son's first trip out. I hope that he enjoys it. He seems to be excited about it. We both have patches to wear to hopefully prevent seasickness. I don't want to take the chance of being miserable and ruining the trip so we're taking the "wimpy" way out.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will be able to let you know how the trip went.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Truman Took Me Fishing

Truman always took me fishing.
We seined minnows
In our skin
Beneath the bridge
With the traffic passing over.
We hiked the pastures,
Went through the fences,
Climbed the hills,
And fished the neighbor's pond.
He always said we had permission
But I think we didn't.
I would nod
Or I would talk
And he would say,
"Be quiet or the fish won't bite!"
It was always a happy time
When Truman took me fishing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reading

I like to read. I enjoy many different kinds of books. My "library" includes a lot of biographies, history -- particularly U.S. history -- fiction, science fiction, classics, Christian apologetics and inspirational, business, and numerous unclassifiable books.

At times I will pick one book and stay with it until I have read it entirely. At other times, I may have as many as 6 or 7 books going concurrently. Usually if I have multiple books going at a time, they are of a wide variety. If I am working through one of the heavier tomes, such as William James' Introduction to Psychology, I will have something lighter going as well -- perhaps a Clive Cussler novel.

I was taught at a very early age that if you can read, you can do just about anything. Reading is the key that unlocks knowledge in every field of endeavor. Whether you are learning to cook, operate a computer, repair an engine, or raise livestock, reading can help you to get there.

Some years ago I read a book by Louis L'Amour which was somewhat autobiographical in which he stated that he kept a journal of the books that he read. I began keeping a list (to call it a journal would be to exaggerate) of books that I compete. My list is now several hundred entries long with very few repeats. It is interesting to look back and see the wide variety of books on the list. It is also easy to pick out my favorite authors because their names are frequently repeated. Some of the favorites would be Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Utley, Tony Hillerman, and Jean LeCarre. All but Robert Utley in that list are fiction writers. However, when you look at the number of books in various categories on my list, fiction accounts for less than one-half of the entries.

I'm happy that my children are readers as well. I believe it is one of the reasons that they have excelled in school. I also believe it is a critical foundation upon which they can build for the future.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rural Commuter

There's not much left of the old place now;
The house is there no more.
Junk equipment lays in piles
Where corrals once stood before.
The windmill tower is still in place
But the wheel and rod aren't there.
Nothing but a stump is left
Of the gnarled and ancient Pear.
The old stock tank can still be seen
Piled high with baling wire.
Where once there was an apple tree
Is just a worn out tire.
The garden's just a patch of weeds;
The chicken coop's caved in.
Where used to be a Quonset barn
Is just a pile of tin.
The old home place just ain't the same
As it was in days of old,
The remains have lost their life it seems
They're just so gray and cold.
The neighbor's farms are changing too
The houses are run down
And weeds have taken everything
Since they all moved to town.
The farmers have all left the farm;
They up and moved away.
Most prefer the city life
And commute to work each day.

Fresh Cookies

The sound of a mixer running in the kitchen definitely perks up my ears. I know that soon something delicious will come out of the bowl. Beginning to get restless, I decide to go see what's cooking. I go to the refrigerator, get out the pitcher and pour a glass of ice cold tea and casually look over to see what recipe is laying on the cabinet. Ah, chocolate chip cookies, one of my favorites. The dough isn't quite ready, so I hang around a bit, finding excuses to be there. Then, "would you like a bite of dough?" I reply with a grin and take the proffered bite, and go back for another, and another. I've got to quit, or I won't want any cookies. So, I head for the computer to see what's in the e-mail. It doesn't take long until that heavenly smell begins to drift through the house. I can't wait. Nothing beats fresh, homemade cookies -- except maybe the dough.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bo

For some reason, I grew up wanting a coon hound. It might have been from reading, and then seeing the movie, "Where The Red Fern Grows", or it might have been in my blood since one set of grandparents grew up in the Ozarks of Missouri. For whatever reason, I wanted one.

In the Texas Panhandle we have a few raccoons, but they usually live in the attic of some broken-down farmhouse or barn. They are definitely not a critter that attracts a lot of hunters in our neck-of-the-not-woods. Running coon hounds is unheard of. If people have hunting dogs, it is usually for hunting birds, or possibly for running coyotes.

Some years ago we moved to Nebraska. We lived in a house that overlooked the Republican River Valley in the south-central part of the state. There were actually trees there that grew naturally instead of having been planted by someone. There were deer and other wildlife in substantial numbers. One day we even had a bald eagle perch in the tree at the end of our driveway.

People in that part of Nebraska also have hounds. So, I bought a redbone coon hound. I named him Bo. It probably should have been bonehead, but it wasn't.

I never trained Bo to hunt coons. He had a natural instinct for it. I raised him alongside a chocolate lab named Cocoa which we still have. I had to keep Bo and Cocoa in a pen because if they were out, they were hunting.

I loved to hear him baying when he got scent of some kind of game. He might be a mile or more away, but you could hear him baying off down toward the river. Calling him did no good, because when he had a scent, he had a one-track mind. I think when his nose smelled coon his ears must have stopped up.

Immediately upon letting the dogs out of their pen, Bo's nose would go to the ground. He would work back and forth until he picked up a scent. It might be a rabbit, or a 'possum, or possibly a raccoon. It didn't matter. When he came across one, he would beeline on the trail of whatever it was until he caught it, or lost the scent. He didn't bay on a cold trail, he'd just follow it. He would bay as it became a warm scent. If he caught a scent that crossed the highway, look out, because he was going without looking. It didn't matter whether a fleet of trucks was coming, or not, he had his nose to the scent, running as fast as he could to catch whatever made it.

I could tell a lot of stories about Bo. Most of them would revolve around him getting out in the middle of the night and treeing a coon, or catching an opossum, or something else. He woke us up many nights in full voice. We frequently awoke to find fresh offerings on the porch with a tail-wagging Bo standing over it saying "look what I've done!" I loved it, but my better half used to get a little irritated.

When we moved back to Texas, we brought Bo with us. We rented a house in town until we could find a place to buy. Bo wasn't too good in town. The neighbors didn't appreciate his baritone at 2:00 a.m. One day we came home to a note on the door from the local officer informing us that Bo's midnight serenades would have to stop. So, I move the dogs to my workplace that, at the time, had a big yard where I could keep them.

One morning I came to work to find that someone had let Bo out during the night. Apparently he had found a scent and headed across the highway. I'm sure that he never knew what hit him.

I miss Bo. But, the Panhandle is really no place for a coon hound. We still have the lab though. Cocoa must have learned a lot from Bo because she constantly brings us offerings that she lays on the porch of our country home. They are a not-so-nice reminder of Bo.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Salesman

Over 1,500 miles from home
The master salesman is practicing his art.
He has carefully laid the ground work
By weeks ago, sending out his meticulously prepared material.
It was followed more recently by
A telephone call and a series of e-mails to set
The ever-important next contact because he knows
That the more contact he can make with you the better his chance.
Calls of confirmation precede the
Culmination of weeks of preparation for the lunch meeting.
Pleasantries are exchanged and past encounters reminded to
Increase the "stickiness" of the meeting so that guards are lowered.
The case of secrets is kept carefully closed
And the items of interest sealed until the meal is consumed
Over questions that probe the needs, desires and situation so that
The pitch can be placed perfectly on the high and inside corner where
Its temptation is greatest.
The competitive situation is assessed while never
Stating anything negative yet always raising questions that say
You are much better than them.
Artfully, the likely objections are dealt with
In the presentation before they are raised
So that they fade into irrelevancy before the final pitch is made.
"Would you be willing to test it for me?"
"I'm sure that any feedback you can provide would be invaluable!"
"If you will just take this on a trial basis, I'm sure you will see
How much improvement it will bring to your operation!"
"There's no risk on your part. How soon can I ship it?"
No product, or money are exchanged, but
Agreement is made, and hands are clasped
That the next step in the chain will proceed.
He has done his job well.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Suburban Creep

In the early morning mist
The red-orange orb hangs
Suspended just above the
Purple-blue outline of the
Ancient walnut tree whose
Bare branches hang tiredly
Over the grazing cattle.
Whistling wings of Pintails
Rise from the broken surface
Of the once glassy pond
To soar above the thinning vapors
As they flee the night-fears
Seeking their sustenance
Among the skeletal remains
Of last summer's bumper crop.
Broken by the barking of a
Farmer's watchful friend
The stillness gives way to
Sounds of motors running,
Tires humming, children calling,
And life returning to the
Hectic pace of another day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Honey, Where's the....?

Upon my desk sit many items,
But, mostly there are stacks
Of things not yet completed,
Held for further consideration,
Might be useful later but not yet put away,
Or buried for later discovery.
Near to hand are all these things
Chaotically organized exactly
According to a plan
Known only to me.
Please don't attempt to bring
Order to this mess or I will
Spend weeks trying to find
That one important paper
That I know was right here,
That you placed in the proper file,
But not where I left it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Shrunken Earth

The internet has really brought into focus how the earth has "shrunk". This blog is a portal to every country in the world. On the navigation bar at the top is a link that says "next blog". By clicking on it, Google will randomly select a blog site for you to visit next. I enjoy browsing using that "next blog" button. Much of the time I can't read the blogs that come up because they are in a language that I don't know. Sometimes, although the language may be unfamiliar, there are pictures of places in distant lands that are striking. They usually are not of the normal tourist places, they are of places that only the natives know. Occasionally, although in a different language, I can make out enough of the caption to know where they are located.

I know that people from other lands have visited my blog as well. The Sitemeter Counter at the bottom of the blog logs the country, state, and city of each visitor to my blog. I have had visitors from many different states in the U.S., but also from several Latin American, Asian, and European countries. Those of you who have been in the blog community for awhile are familiar with this.

I bring this up to say that blogging is a window to the world. In spite of the tensions and disagreements around the globe, this is a place where cultures can be shared by normal people -- people who get up each morning and go about their lives trying to make a living and to find some enjoyment. It is a place for people who aren't necessarily in positions of power, or influence, but who are making a difference by sharing who they are and what they do and know.

There are blogs out there that represent extreme positions on many issues -- especially politics. But most of the blogs are just ordinary people using this wonderful medium to express themselves. If you are reading this, thank you. Take a minute to click the "next blog" button at the top and see what you can find. You may be surprised. You may be shocked. Hopefully, you will be enlightened.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Full Moon

A single pearl
Upon a thread that fades
Into the blackness
Broken with sparkling
Sequins of light
Pulls upon the waters
And the emotions.
Laughter is louder,
Moods are darker,
Desires are sharper,
Eyes are brighter,
And strange deeds
Are done.
Let the wolf howl!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

I've Been Everywhere Man - Not Quite



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Above is a map of the states that I have visited through the years. Hillbilly Willy was interested on his Arkansas - A Great Place to Live blog, so I thought I would post it here for others.

The Journey

Each day a battle.
Each step a victory.
Each moment a challenge.
Each thought a sword.
Which way does it cut?
What must we face?
Will we be prepared?
Are we armed for the race?
Take captive each thought.
Take each moment in stride.
Focus onward with honor.
Raise your banner with pride.
For the victory isn't
Achieved with the prize.
The victory's won
With each step realized.
It's all in the journey.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Here's Your Sign

The stock market went a little crazy this past week. It seems to be fueled purely by emotion. People play the market like they would play a slot machine. It is a tremendous tool for bringing capital and entrepreneurship together. Investment should be made based on the merits of the idea, the skill of the management team, the value of the business, or the worthiness of the idea. It shouldn't be a get-rich-quick scheme. But, that's what it has become. It is one more symptom of the moral degradation of our society.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Perspective

Between Pampa and Perryton in the Texas Panhandle is a long stretch of native grassland. It is part of the area that burned in the big fire last year. The summer rains though, helped the grass to recover nicely.

I enjoy the drive across that stretch because I like to watch for the antelope. I count them. I guess it's impulsive behavior, but I always count to see how many there are that I can spot from the highway as I pass by at 70 mph. Today I counted 24 of them.

Almost any time of year I will see them. They are usually scattered in groups of 4 or 5 up to 15 or 20. I think the most I ever remember counting for the whole stretch was a little over 50 of them.

That stretch of grassland makes it easier to imagine what it must have been like before this country was settled. The buffalo trails of history have been replaced by the cattle trails of today, but otherwise, I suspect it looks the way the earliest settlers saw the Plains.

The Panhandle was one of the last bastions of the Plains Indians. The last Indian battle in the Panhandle was fought in 1876. That was only 131 years ago. This is a young country.

I think that recent taming of the land is evident in the people of the Panhandle. It is why they are friendlier and more ready to lend a helping hand than people in many parts of the country. It is because of the generational memory of the survival behavior of the pioneers that settled here. It is the memory of 10 miles to the nearest neighbor; helping each other with the round-up, or the harvest; the loneliness of the women, mid-wiving because the doctor was two days away, and the rare trips to town for supplies.

The wide-open country produces good people. It seems that it is where folks are pressed together in cities that most of our country's problems occur. I think God made us to need a little space. Sure, we need each other and we seek each other's company, but we also need to be able to get away by ourselves where we can commune with our Maker. I suspect the Pioneers found it a lot easier to depend on Him when there wasn't anyone else around to depend on.

I imagine that most people are a little like me and need some "alone" time every once in a while. Maybe that's why I enjoy that lonely stretch of highway. It helps me to keep things in perspective.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Signs of Spring

There are definite signs of spring beginning to show. This morning I noticed the buds on my hybrid poplar trees were swollen and ready to open. The temperatures have been starting to reach into the high 70's during the day and some nights are staying above freezing. Some of the late winter weeds are beginning to show themselves. Today, as I drove across the Panhandle, I noticed that most of the geese had already moved north. There were very few left on the playas or in the corn fields.

The farmers are beginning to show signs of wanting to get into the fields and plow. I've seen a couple of tractors working the ground this week. There's always someone who wants to be the first to get the soil ready for planting. I guess it's time. In just a few short weeks they will be running full time to prepare the soil for the seed.

Spring Break from school is only a couple of weeks away. The kids are getting excited about what they will do and where they will go. I find it humorous that some families will use it as a last opportunity to go to the mountains to do some skiing. I'd rather go south where the flowers are starting to bloom, the days are warm, and the fish are ready to be caught.

Winter isn't over. We'll likely have a few more cold spells before spring truly arrives, but it is nice to feel the hint of it in the air. I'm sure the "hollyacademedia" will say that it is too warm, too early and that it is a sign that global warming is upon us. I suspect that it is just the natural rhythm and cycle of the earth.

Someone today told me that one of their greatest fears was global warming. They also thought we needed to get out of Iraq. Isn't that a sign of backward thinking? They are terrified of something that is a slim possibility for the distant future, but oppose proactively preventing terrorism on our soil (by attacking it at the root) which is a much more likely immediate threat if left unchecked. How did the people in this country get so confused? It would take volumes to address that question.

I think for now, I'll think about the coming spring.
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