Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Cold. Bleh.

Head pounding,
Eyes throbbing,
Lint on my upper lip.

I shoulda shaved this morning
So the Kleenex wouldn't stick.

Dripping,
Aching,
Fever too?

There's nothing here to take
And I don't feel like going to the store,

I hate
A cold
At any time,

I wish we had a warning
When a cold is coming on,

Sneezing,
Coughing,
Droopy eyes.

I'm sure I gave it to everyone
I saw through the holiday.

Sorry about that.....

Chris

Monday, December 26, 2011

I-45 Grand Prix

Traffic in Texas can be a challenge in the best of times but, Monday after a Christmas Sunday is downright daunting. Mrs. Claus has traded in her red stocking cap for driving gloves, leather jacket and a scarf which I deem fitting since she continues to man the drivers seat. Again, I am riding shotgun and the trusty GMC has been converted from sleigh to a Grand Prix racer.

The traffic is not as heavy as I have seen it but, there apparently is a race going from Houston to Dallas because the speed of the traffic is obviously unchecked except where periodically slowed to a crawl to allow for gawking at motorists whose cars are stalled along the roadway. Or, where "balled up" by big rigs engaged in a slow-motion passing maneuver. I find that my faith is severely tested at times when other drivers do the unexpected. Fortunately my driver is able to handle the escapades while I focus on book or this brief post and try my best not to say, "Watch out!"

It will surely be worse as we get closer to Dallas....

Chris
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Friday, December 23, 2011

Trans Texas Christmas Trek

From the frozen early morning of the Texas Panhandle, headed to the relatively balmy southern reaches of the Big Thicket, we set out in our trusty GMC sleigh this morning. Mrs Claus took the wheel while I manned the shotgun seat. Although it was unnecessary to go to the lengths of many whom we pass that are so laden that bags of goodies are strapped to the roof, we did face the daunting prospect of stuffing every nook and cranny of our trusty rig with the many boxes and bags that accompany us. Santa himself (the original) would have been proud.

Somewhere buried beneath the mounds of packages is a cooler packed with what will become the roast beast. In our case it is a beef tenderloin, the thought of which makes my mouth water. I am certain my daughter will have many treats to go with the main course; she is an excellent cook.

The highway is filled with holiday travelers on their own similar trek. It is interesting to see the young families with children strapped into the back seat. You can almost feel their excitement, the same that I felt as a youngster when we made the long trips to Oklahoma to spend Christmas with my grandmother so many years ago.

I remember watching out the window into the starry darkness of Christmas Eve, watching for the red blinking light of Rudolph's nose as he drew Santa's sleigh across the sky. It was many years before I discovered that Santa's pack was carefully stored in the trunk, only inches from where I sat. After all, it took an idealistic and imaginative child to grow into the idealistic and imaginative me of today.

We have many miles yet to go as I compose this mobile post to the sounds of Country Christmas on Sirius XM radio. Rascal Flatts is singing Jingle Bell Rock and my fingers are trying their best to dance in time on this tiny Blackberry keyboard. It's a great way to pass the time as we draw ever closer to those precious grandkids that make this time of year so special.

Chris
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Unreason of the Season

Cooking and wrapping, cooking and wrapping -- oh, the frenzy of cooking and wrapping.  Hmmmm.....no, I'm not much on the cooking and wrapping but, there's plenty of it going on.  I did help a little.  I cut out the Christmas cookies and frosted them.  Surely that counts!

I am amazed each year as we approach Christmas just how much must be done at the last minute in order to be ready.  This year is a bit like when we were younger; we are getting ready to go elsewhere for Christmas -- to my daughter's.

It is interesting how we seem to have gone through phases through the years regarding Christmas travel.  Early married years were a matter of alternating between the parents and the in-laws.  As the children came along and grew, we tried to have Christmas at home rather than to travel.  I think it was as much a function of not wanting to haul everything along with us as much as anything.  Now the kids are away from home and one has a family and children and are entering the phase we were once in.  The other is still in college but fiercely independent.  Getting him to come home at all is sometimes a challenge.

We still try to find a time and a way to have Christmas with our parents.  Family is important.  Too many families are spread all over the country and it is difficult during the holidays.  I wonder how some manage it -- especially when there are blended families involved.

The loss of family continuity is a part of the much larger issue of the secularization of our country.  The same values which are embodied in the very reason we celebrate Christmas have been replaced by a commercialized version of greed that is rampant throughout the year but especially obvious during this season.  Fractured families and greed are both symptomatic of the loss of focus on the very One the season celebrates -- Jesus.  It is time for clarity in our thoughts and actions.  Remember the reason for the season.......

Just my thoughts,
Chris

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Grabbing Headlines

I had a lengthy debate with myself about whether I should post this or not.  I'll explain why as I go along.

Last night I attended the awards banquet for the Missouri Cattlemen Association.  It was the culmination of activities for their annual Convention and Tradeshow.  About the time that everyone had eaten their tasty meal of beef (of course it's what's for dinner -- what else would be served at a Cattlemen convention), a protester from a radical animal activist group disrupted the banquet by entering into a side door and holding a sign stating that "Meat is Murder."  It was a young lady dressed in a cow suit.

There had been protesters throughout the day outside the convention center.  The hotel where the meeting was held had an area designated for protesters.  For the most part, the demonstrators were peaceful and remained in that area.  They were much more persistent than normal.  Usually when I have attended events where there were protesters, it was more of a staged media event.  The protesters and media typically showed up at about the same time, photos were taken, occasionally interviews were given, and then they all left pretty much together.  What most people don't realize is that such protests are generally just headline grabbing opportunities to get free publicity for a cause.

That is the reason I debated with myself about posting this.  I don't want to give them what they want -- free publicity.  So, I will be careful not to name the organization. 

A gentleman who I know quickly got up and escorted the young lady out of the room and out of the building.  It was handled very well and very quietly.  I suspect there were people in the room that didn't even see it occur. 

Unknown to me at the time, there was a second young lady that stepped in through a door on the opposite side of the room and videoed the disruption.  Within 30 seconds that video had been sent out to news media and posted on the Internet.  They grabbed a headline about disrupting the meeting when in reality, it was almost unnoticed.

It is interesting to me that they used deception to get into the building and the meeting by telling hotel staff that they were part of the entertainment and that they used deception with the media by writing their own story through video for what was in reality a non-event, just to get a headline.  They are both misguided and dishonest.

Just my thoughts......

Chris

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Texas Music in Kansas

I'm sitting in a motel room in Kansas listening to and watching a show on Smoky Hills Public Broadcasting that is a musical tribute to Buddy Holly.  Currently, Boz Scaggs is playing.  I find it interesting that the show is broadcast from London.  Scaggs is from Texas.  Holly is from Texas.  I am from Texas. 

I learned awhile back that Texas Country is very popular in Manhattan, Kansas, among the Kansas State University students.  One of the favorite performers is Robert Earl Keen who was one of my classmates at Texas A&M.

Yep, Texas music cuts a pretty wide swath.....

Just my thoughts.

Chris

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Election Prediction

The election for the next President is now less than a year away.  It has been interesting so far.  It is not just politics as usual though; it seems to me that it has already been politics on steroids -- and I'm not just referring to the battle for the Republican nomination.

The Campaigner in Chief has been lavishly using our taxes to fund his campaign jaunts across the country.  I am growing weary of the need to counter every headline afforded to a Republican candidate with a headline of the CIC -- often at a similar venue or on the same subject.  It is understandable that he would wish to maintain parity in the campaign, but to use taxpayer funding to do so is not right in my humble (OK, maybe not so humble) opinion.

I think that we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg though.  I believe the tempo and vitriol of the rhetoric will only grow as we continue toward next November.  It may be the sleaziest in history before all is said and done.

My prediction?  In an attempt to appeal to the greatest number of voters, the Republicans will self-destruct.  The Campaigner in Chief will continue the great deception and return for another round.

Just my thoughts for now.....it's a long time until the election though......

Chris

Monday, November 28, 2011

Planning Ahead

In this instant world
It seems
Only the moment counts.

Beyond tomorrow's task
Are dreams
So why prepare for them?

Entertain me now by
Any means
For it is all that matters.

The future shimmers palely
In scenes
That have no meaning.

So, why should I plan ahead?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Clarity and Leadership

The extended version of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is on television.  It goes on and on and on......

I read the books many years ago while in college.  I have read them several times since.  The movies are good, but the first releases left out many good scenes that were in the books.  The extended version restores many of those scenes and added some that were not in the books but are Jackson's interpretation.  I only wish it wasn't so long.  I suppose I have been touched by the instant gratification bug of this generation.

The movies are a visual masterpiece and do justice to Tolkien's works.  His fertile mind provided us with an amazing saga of good and evil that held true to the values of his Christian awakening. 

Although many have drawn parallels between the highly popular Harry Potter series and this master work, there is truly no comparison.  The Potter tales draw no clear delineation between that which is right and good and that which is evil.  Some would say they are a better reflection of society as we know it.  I agree.  This world is permeated with evil and even those who would claim moral superiority are tainted with it.  Our sense of clarity in regard to the two is clouded by the atmosphere of deceit promulgated by the Great Deceiver.  The distinction between black and white is as sharp as ever; our perception of them has changed.  We instead see shades of gray where there should be none.

We need men of courage to step forward and combat the evil which confronts us.  Instead, we choose from among those who would lead by selecting the one we feel would do the least harm.  It may seem a bit corny, but we need a Frodo, or better yet, an Aragorn.  With a shave and trim of his hair he could even meet that seeming requisite for a successful candidacy.

Just my thoughts.....

Chris

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rainy Afternoon

It is raining like I haven't seen in what seems forever.  It is the time of year when rain doesn't provide the immediate relief that we so longed for during the summer, but, it may actually do more good.  This one will be good for my pine trees.  Maybe it will replenish some of the soil moisture that was baked out over the summer.

We are listening to an eclectic mix of music as provided by my son and his iPhone on random and run through our surround sound system.  It is just a little while until the LSU and Arkansas game starts.  That's what we are waiting for.

The Aggies and Longhorns played last night.  I was very disappointed in the outcome.  It seems the season has been one of disappointments and poorly played second halves.  The Aggies have a tremendous amount of talent but, for whatever reason, have lost by slim margins in far too many games.  It's as though the other teams adjust at half and they don't.  Hmmmm......makes you think coaching issues.

It is the end of a long rivalry -- or not.  The two teams will play again although it currently looks as though the schedules will not allow it for several years.  I wonder if the War Hymn will be re-written.......

This is definitely the year of the Southeastern Conference.  The top three teams in the BCS poll are SEC.  A&M will be part of that conference next year.  They are going to need to step it up a notch to be a contender. 

This season was long.  Next season may last forever......

Chris

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

I thought today it would be appropriate to write something profound.  After all, it is a special day for most families.  It is the day we come together and share.  It is a day that we partake of the culinary delights of the season (I'm referring here to the pies -- I'm not a big fan of turkey).  It is a day in which we gather around the television and watch football.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving always meant quail hunting.  Quail are my absolute favorite game bird -- both for hunting and for eating.  I think of quail as Biblical.  They certainly helped to feed the wandering Israelites for 40 years.

It is also the day of the big rivalry game between Texas A&M and t.u. (that's the University of Texas for all you non-Aggies).  This is the last year for that rivalry game.  When t.u. got greedy with the television rights, the rest of the conference went looking for a better deal.  After all, college football is big business and the revenue to the schools is huge.  A&M's move to the SEC was about the money -- television rights -- and what it would put into the coffers of the school.

In 2009 I went to Niger.  In January of this year I went to Kenya.  I have been to inner-city America and I have seen the poverty of the southern border.  Yet, here we sit in our abundance, over-eating, watching football (which is all about the money) and never thinking of those elsewhere who are struggling to feed themselves and their children.

I know today is about giving thanks, yet, I wonder if we are giving thanks for the right things.  We thank God for our many blessings, but, I have to ask, do we really understand what it means to be blessed by God?  It isn't about material possessions.  It is about Jesus who provides a way for us to escape the corruption of this world.  If God places an abundance of material possessions in our care it is so that we can help meet the needs of others who don't have such.  Those possessions aren't the blessing, it is the trust He places in us to use them for the work of His Kingdom that is the blessing.  If we fail to do so, we have succumbed to the corruption of this world and those possessions are no longer the source of blessing but, become a curse and a condemnation of our life.  After all, it's not about us (me), it is about Him (Jesus).

But, we make excuses and we justify our behavior.  I'm no different.  I think this year I'll use another Biblical reference.  My son is home from college.  No, he's not a prodigal, but, I think it is a great excuse since he is home to have a celebration.  It's time to kill the fattened calf -- er, turkey and ham and potatoes and green bean casserole and on and on and on......

Feeling a little guilty.....

Chris

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Debt Super Committee Failure

I'm shocked.  Who would have thought that our Congressional Leaders would lack the political will to attack the excessive spending of, uh, themselves?  That's what it is -- a lack of political will.

I am tempted to enter into a lengthy discourse on why the committee was doomed to failure from the beginning, but, I think I will try to distill it down to something a bit shorter.  Let me see if I can put it in bullet points.

  • Money drives politics.
    • It fuels political races.
    • It buys influence with politicians.
    • It buys votes.
    • It lines the pockets of politicians who always leave office wealthier than when elected.
  • There are no true Statesmen in government any more, only politicians.
    • Compromise is impossible when self-interest drives the process
    • Politicians are all about holding office, not about serving the people.
  • There is no common moral compass to provide guidance. 
  • The people of this country are divided.
    • There are those who do what it takes to survive and those who wait for someone to take care of them.
    • There are those who think government should redistribute wealth and there are those who wish to be free to create wealth and keep it.
    • There are those who feel defeated and those who will fight to overcome.
    • There are those who think government is the solution and those who think it is the problem.
  • There are creators and there are takers.
Ultimately, it is the last point that has shaped the debate.  It is a difference in philosophical approaches to life.  There are those who seek to create in everything they do whether it be business or social work.  They are those who wish to empower people to succeed.  The converse is the group whose philosophy is to take what they want from those who have it already.  They are very numerous in Washington these days.  They don't create, they take -- through taxes, through legislation, through regulation, through the courts, and by impeding creation.

The problem with the Super Committee was rooted in this point.  The trouble though wasn't the difference between the creators and the takers, it was much worse than that.  They couldn't decide on the best way to take from the creators -- the American people.  Rest assured, they'll figure it out.

Just my thoughts.....

Chris

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Following The River

Sometimes my travels are done with very short notice.  If you had asked me early in the week if I would be traveling my answer would have been, "Not likely!"  However, plans change.  Wednesday evening it became a possibility.  Thursday morning it was a certainty.  A quick trip to East Texas was in order.

It was a good trip.  The Fall weather was cool and large stretches of my route have been blessed with recent rains.  I saw more cattle grazing than I have for a long time in any part of Texas.  The Fall rains have finally provided a measure of relief to some areas.  Hopefully there will be adequate winter moisture to bring a good Spring to cattle country.

My route lay primarily along the Red River.  Canyon, Texas, where I live, sits on the headwaters of the Red River.  Less than a mile from my house is the confluence of Rita Blanca Creek and Palo Duro Creek.  The two flow together and tumble into Palo Duro Canyon before continuing eastward where, joined by several other streams of no consequence, become the Red River which borders Texas and Oklahoma.

From Canyon, I traveled by Farm-to-Market Road to the thriving Panhandle metropolis of Claude where I entered onto U.S. 287 which took me to Clarendon, Memphis, Quanah, Vernon and Wichita Falls.  (My pardon to the smaller burgs along the way -- such as Hedley and Chillicothe, Goodnight and Goodlett and many others.)  East of Wichita Falls I left U.S. 287 at the town of Henrietta and then proceeded along U.S. Highway 82 until exiting at Bells where I left my river route and entered into the wilds of East Texas.

I can't help but think of historical events that occurred along the routes I travel.  I guess it is the way that I am wired.  The rolling plains of the eastern Texas Panhandle were once covered with buffalo (or, American Bison if you prefer) that were slaughtered for hides, for meat and ultimately as a way to tame the Comanche and Kiowa Indians of the Southern Plains.  The town of Goodnight was named for Charles Goodnight who drove the first herd of cattle into the Texas Panhandle after the Indians had been mostly moved to the reservations in Oklahoma.  The town of Quanah was named for a half-breed Kiowa chief, the son of kidnapped Texas frontier daughter, Cynthia Anne Parker and Nocona, one of the most renowned chiefs of the Kiowa nation.  All three are commemorated by place names.  The towns of Quanah and Nocona and the Parker county are tokens to their memory.

To the east of Nocona is the little town of Saint Jo.  It is also known as Trail Town, one of the infamous stops along the great Chisholm Cattle Trail which stretched from the wilderness of the South Texas Brush Country to the frontier towns of Newton and Abilene in Kansas.  Later, when Oklahoma closed its borders to Texas cattle due to the Texas Fever Tick, the trail branched in that vicinity and angled westward before crossing the river near Doane's store and heading north along the western border of Oklahoma and eventually to the new trail town of Dodge City, Kansas, which was formerly a hide shipping point for the buffalo that were slaughtered in the Panhandle.

Just to the north of my route is the location of Spanish Fort which wasn't really Spanish at all.  It dates from the 1700's and is the site of an infamous battle long before Texas declared independence from Mexico.  You can read about it if you follow the above link.

What can I say.  I could go on and on but, that's enough for now......

Chris

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shuffle

Many times as I work in my home office I will have iTunes playing in the background.  I usually leave it on "shuffle" so that I get a mix.  Sometimes the songs fall in a way that is humorous and sometimes they almost fit together to tell a story.  I'm not sure how many are in my library, but, something over 1,000.  They are from many different genre of music.

Right now I'm listening to "The Minnow and The Trout" by A Fine Frenzy.  A few minutes ago it was Brad Paisley's "The Cigar Song" and who knows what will be next.  It could be Rachmaninov.

I guess it's a good illustration of what life throws at us.  We never know what might be coming next but, we know it will be interesting!

OK, it wasn't Rachmaninov, it's "Whatever" by Steven Curtis Chapman......appropriate.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Games on the Computer

Why, oh, why do they put games on computers and on Facebook and other sites on the Internet?  Why are kids and teenagers and young adults and even some supposedly mature adults obsessed with video games?  Why are we driven to constant, mindless entertainment like those games or television?

I think it was Ben Franklin who said, "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."  I think idle minds are the Devil's workshop and video and computer games are his tool to put them in idle!

I frequently find myself playing games.  I like Bejewelled Blitz on Facebook and I like Spyder or Mah Jong on my laptop.  The first is merely mind-numbing, the second requires a minor amount of thought in Expert mode and the third at least requires a modicum of strategic thinking.  None of them are productive.  All of them are addictive.

I am attempting to limit my time spent on games.  Maybe that's why I'm writing today -- because I need something to occupy my mind that gives me a break from strictly work-related activity.

I usually, although not always, start my work day fairly early.  I often get a lot done before 8:00 a.m.  It seems that interruptions after that magic "start-the-workday" time make it difficult to focus on tasks requiring sustained thought.  I generally fill the "in-between-interruptions" time with minor tasks that require less focus.  If there is a project that needs uninterrupted attention, I shut off the phone and e-mail and whatever else might distract for extended blocks of time.  There is rarely anything so urgent that it can't wait an hour or so.

I got into the habit of keeping a game such as Solitaire or Spyder up on my computer as something to do during phone calls.  Prior to such diversions I would often Doodle.  We don't realize how much unengaged time our minds have during a conversation.  That's why we are often thinking of what we are going to say or of something totally unrelated while in the middle of a conversation.  It is the rare individual who is fully engaged in a conversation so that it is their only focus.  In fact, I think that I am a better listener if I am playing a game or Doodling than if I'm not.  Otherwise, my mind drifts and I find that I have missed something that was said.

What if we could utilize all of that idle thought time -- or at least a big chunk of it -- in something productive?  Maybe that's what differentiates the truly successful from the also-ran.  As for me, I think I will try to fill it with a variety of things such as writing and work-related tasks that are perhaps, a little more strategic in focus.

As Captain Kirk of Star Trek always said when heading out on a new journey, "Engage!"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Watching College Football

Yesterday was the ultimate in baseball with the World Series.  Today is college football.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys are looking pretty good against Baylor, but, I still think it is a Geaux Tigers kind of year.

Anyone who reads this blog occasionally knows that I'm a Texas Aggie fan.  I have to be loyal.  After all, when you have a diploma from there it is required.  This wasn't a good day for the Ags.  We have struggled with playing both halves of the game all year long.  I can't believe we let Mizzou do that to us.

My son is at LSU.  The Aggies are heading to the SEC.  If we don't get our act together before next year, I anticipate a bit of gloating on the part of my son.

I probably should be watching Oklahoma and K-State.  It looks like a better game from the score. 

What am I saying?  Why am I vegetating in front of the television?  I could be taking a nap instead......

Friday, October 28, 2011

Watching the World Series

I don't normally watch much baseball.  I don't necessarily dislike it, I just don't usually watch it.  It seems there is always something else to do that I prefer.

I've been watching the World Series pretty closely though.  Yes, I admit it's because the Texas Rangers are in it.  I am watching Game 7 right now.  It is the bottom of the 7th and the score is St. Louis 5, Texas 2.  There is 1 out and the count is 3-1.

I grew up with baseball.  My dad absolutely loved the sport.  He always coached -- everything from Pee-Wee to Little League to Jr. Babe Ruth to Senior Babe Ruth.  He was frequently the league President in our little town.  He worked hard to keep the sport alive, even when it seemed to elicit little interest from many of the parents who were so self-absorbed they didn't take the time to encourage their kids to become involved.  They would rather have their own fun and let the kids hang out and watch them.

If it wasn't for Dad, baseball in our little town might have died.  However, we spent hours working to get the ball parks in shape.  Dad took a lot of pride in making sure everything was perfect.  The parks in our little town became well-known for the quality of the facilities and the program.  Enough so that our little town hosted the state Senior Babe Ruth Tournament.

I wasn't a particularly gifted athlete.  Small, slow and less-than-perfect eyes generally relegated me to the bench.  But, I could keep score.  If we got way ahead I might get into right field for half of an inning.  That was about it.  But, I knew the game.  I knew the rules and I could kee score.

Many times I ended up as the official score keeper or as the announcer -- not when my team was playing, but, when someone else played I often went to the press box -- or, scorekeeper/announcer's box in our little town. 

I never grew to love the sport as Dad did but, as I sit here watching the Rangers, I realize that deep down, a little of that love for the sport must have permeated my bones. 

Last year my little home town honored Dad by admitting him into their baseball hall of fame.  They gave him a nice plaque and took his photo.  It was truly a gift to him. 

He still loves the game.  He doesn't get around like he used to so he sits in his chair and watches it on television.  It's one of the few things that engages him now.  It is a rare contact with the present.

Well, the 7th is finally over.  The score is now 6 to 2.  I have to watch but, I must admit that my feelings about this one resemble a sinking pitch on the outside corner. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Office Time

I'm getting in a little office time from the motel today.  While I have been working, I've been listening to the news.  The more I listen the more I think people are crazy.  Or, perhaps more accurately, reactionary.  They react to things about which they know nothing in a way that makes no sense if they knew anything about it.  OK, I'm talking about the protests and rhetoric about the new fees being imposed by many of the big banks.  They don't need to be protesting Wall Street, they need to be protesting the folks in Washington.  You know, the ones who changed the rules that basically forced the banks to recover the loss of income due to those rules changes.  Oh, the banks even told them before they enacted the legislation.  Duh.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Delete

I hate it when I start a post and decided to not finish it.  Especially when I get several paragraphs completed before deciding that 1) I didn't like what I wrote because it was poorly done or 2) I probably shouldn't have written what I did for a public blog in the first place -- not that I would ever do such a thing.....

But, sometimes I just write and write what is on my mind and then when I finally stop and read it I think, hmmmm......delete.  At least it was therapeutic for a moment!

Chris

Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Unusual Encounter (3)

Below is installment number 3 of this piece of fiction.  I probably won't post any more here.  Again, your comments, feedback and criticism are appreciated.

An Unusual Encounter (3)

Chance paused as he shook the old man’s hand and said, “Mr. O’Malley, I can’t imagine who it is that I remind you of.  I grew up a good bit east of here in Southwestern Oklahoma.  As far as I know I don’t have any relatives out this way.  Maybe I just have a common face.”

“Son, do you have any relatives by the name of Charles and Nancy Hunter?”

The muscles on Chance’s face tightened at the names.  It had been many years since he’d thought about his parents who died in a wreck back in the 60’s.  He had been raised by an aunt and uncle in Oklahoma after his parents were killed.  He could barely remember them.

The wreck had occurred on some back country road in the Texas Panhandle.  His parents had been on a vacation in northern New Mexico and were on their way home.  Chance and his sister Katie had been left with their aunt and uncle who eventually became their foster parents.  The casket wasn’t even opened at the funeral because, his aunt told him, it wouldn’t do to remember them this way.  His uncle later told him they had been so mutilated by the wreck that the mortician couldn’t make them look normal.  So, Chance’s last memory of his mother and father was a tearful farewell as they pulled away from the old farmhouse where his aunt and uncle lived.  He never understood why he and Katie couldn’t go with them to New Mexico.

The old man waited as the faraway look slowly faded from Chance’s eyes.  He knew the answer even before the soft reply, “That was my parent’s names.”

“Well, I thought it might be.  You look just like your father except your eyes.  They look like your mother’s eyes.”

“You knew my parents?”

“Yep, it was a long time ago.  Your dad, Charlie, and I were partners in a little adventure back in the mid 50’s.  When he and your mom got hitched, I got to know her too.  We were good friends even though I was nearly 30 years older than him.  I even saw you once when you were a baby.  You were born at the hospital in Hobart weren’t you?  I came and visited your folk’s right after that.”

“Chance, I’ve got a lot to tell you and it’s gonna take some time.  Why don’t you order something to eat and I’ll start.  We’ll see where things go from there.”

Chance grabbed the menu, relieved to have a minute to collect his thoughts.  He was having a hard time focusing on the items because his mind was reeling at the idea that this old man knew his parents.  He finally flagged the bartender and ordered a hamburger and fries.

The old man said, “Bring us a couple more beers with that if you would.  We may be here awhile.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Unusual Encounter (2)

Below is a continuation of the piece of fiction that I posted here yesterday.  I'm still waiting for input!


An Unusual Encounter (2)

Upon closer inspection, Chance noticed a few things about the old gentleman that made him quickly realize this was no ordinary individual.  The Levi jeans were ordinary, but the cuffs were turned up and he wore a pair of slightly scuffed black cowboy boots that were hooked on the rounds of the stool.  A pair of rainbow colored suspenders stretched over a rounded belly and connected the jeans to the rest of his body.  The long-sleeved white shirt was of the finest Egyptian cotton and probably cost a couple of hundred dollars.  On the lapel was a small gold cloverleaf and the cuffs were adorned with a matching pair of the same.  But the thing that caught Chance’s eye was the large nugget ring on the right hand.  It’s a wonder he can lift his hand was the thought that flashed through his mind.

The old man saw Chance glance at the ring and smiled.  He said, “Son, what’re you drinking?  I’m in the mood for some company and if you’ll sit and visit awhile the drinks are on me.”

“I’ll just have one of those like you’re drinking.  It looks like it ought to quench my thirst.”

The bartender brought the tall glass of Irish Ale and the two raised their glasses and said, “Cheers.”

For a while the two sat in silence listening to the quiet murmurings coming from the various customers in the pub.  The bartender brought a menu and told Chance to let him know if he wanted something to eat.

Chance pushed the menu to the side and continued to sip on his Ale.  He wasn’t sure how to begin a conversation with the quiet old man sitting beside him but, he felt that it was someone he needed to know.  It was one of those feelings that occasionally come over a person yet nothing he could put his finger on.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to; the old man did it for him.

Turning to Chance, the old man said, “Pat O’Malley is my name.  I own this old pub.  What brings you to town?”

“I’m just passing through.  I like to eat here in Old Town when I’m in the area, but, usually it’s Mexican food.  Tonight I just wasn’t in the mood.  My name’s Chance, by the way, Chance Hunter.”

“Good to meet you Chance,” said the old man, sticking out his hand.  “You remind me of someone I knew about 50 years ago -- spotted it when you walked in the door.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Unusual Encounter

A while back I indicated that I would be including an occasional piece of fiction on this blog.  Below is the beginning of one.  Your feedback in the comments section would be greatly appreciated.  Where should I go with the story?  What adventure will this encounter lead to? 


An Unusual Encounter

The little old man at the bar appeared as though he was pushing a hundred.  Perched on the stool with a tall glass of some dark beer in front of him, he looked a bit like a garden gnome except he didn’t wear a pointed hat.  But, the white beard and shaggy white hair peeking from under the black Fedora perched on his head made him look like a fictional character from a 50’s era movie – or, a garden gnome out of costume.

Chance Hunter was just passing through town.  It had been years since he had been in Albuquerque, but, here he was again.  Old Town had been calling his name ever since leaving Grants and he needed something to quench his thirst as well as his appetite.  He just wasn’t in the mood for New Mexico style Mexican food so he ducked into what looked like an Irish Pub.  Surely they would have a sandwich or something to go with a good drink.

Originally, Chance had intended to make it to Amarillo before stopping for the night, but, a flat tire had altered the plan.  It didn’t take long to change it, but, getting it fixed in Grants took a little longer than expected.

The transition from the bright sunshine of the New Mexico day into the darkness of the pub caused Chance to pause briefly just inside the door.  It was a typical pub with tables and booths of some dark wood and various signs clinging dustily to the walls advertising an eclectic collection of ales and stouts, most of which no longer existed except in memory.  The bar looked inviting and since there was only one other patron sitting there, it was easy enough to find a stool.

Chance eyed the little old man with curiosity.  The look wasn’t unnoticed.  With a twinkle that reflected a deep-felt joy with life, the old man said, “Sit down youngster and take a load off.”

“I don’t mind if I do,” said Chance.

So began an encounter that would change the life of Chance Hunter forever.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grandchildren

Last week we had my daughter and grandchildren here all week.  I'm suffering from withdrawal already!

I still haven't figured this Grandpa bit out though.  I'm obviously not old enough to be a grandfather.  I look in the mirror and see the same person I've always seen, yet, when I look at my classmates or peers, I see people who are aging quickly!  But, in spite of the fact that I'm too young to be a grandfather, my classmates/peers obviously are not.  So, logically, in spite of how I feel, I must be old enough.  Besides, it sure is a lot of fun.

The other thing that really throws me off about the grandchildren thing is that I just can't seem to keep up anymore.  I'm actually in pretty good shape physically, yet, they can wear me out!  How can they have so much energy?!  I found that as the week went on my arms began to get really sore.  It took me awhile to figure out why.  At first I thought it was from picking them up.  But, no, I think it was from pushing the swing!  They couldn't get enough.

What is it about grandchildren that make them such a joy?  I'm sure there is some deep reason that is tied to our genetic need to replicate and perpetuate, but, surely there is a simple answer.  Maybe it is just God's gift to us that says, "Hey, you didn't do such a bad job with your own kids after all!"

Just thinking.....

Chris

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oh, My Achin' Foot!

I hurt my foot the other day,
Now it's all black and blue.
It was because of something stupid
That I knew I shouldn't do.

I was working in the attic
Where it was nice and warm,
Stapling up some insulation
And doing no one harm.

When I came upon a place
Right beside the open door
Where the ladder came right up
From below there on the floor.

I placed a board across the opening,
Just a place on which to stand,
As I hung the insulation
On the wall that was at hand.

And as I was reaching upward
Just as high as I could see
The board I'd placed down under
Seemed no longer to hold me.

And I came crashing down
Where my foot hit on the ladder
While the rest of me fell farther
But, it could have been much badder

For as I was passing through
The hole from which I fell
Both arms caught chunks of lumber
And now don't feel too well.

I guess I should be thankful
For the ladder that was there
'Cause it cushioned me while falling
Through about eight feet of air.

But, now I have to fix it
'Cause I guess I'm gaining weight
And the place wheron I hit it
Is now in a broken state.

And my foot just keeps on hurting
Though the swelling has gone down
And I'm too cheap to get it checked
By the doctor here in town.

So, I guess I'll quit complainin'
And hope the pain just goes away
'Cause every time I do I hear,
"Go and get an X-ray!"

Friday, August 12, 2011

Miles and Miles

"I saw miles and miles of Texas...."

Yep, another day of driving.  From Canyon to Shreveport dragging a trailer at 60 mph.  It was a long day and still about 5 hours from our destination.

It was a nice, cool morning when we left.  Most of the day though, we saw the temperature hover between 103 and 106.  The northern part of Texas is dry.  I didn't see much in the way of green grass anywhere.  Oh, there were occasional spots where water had collected in a low spot that had enough moisture to be a little green, but, in general, it was bad even in East Texas.

There are burns all across the state.  In fact, this afternoon the traffic was backed up several miles on I-30 due to grass fires east of Longview.  They were fairly well contained to the roadside, but, if the wind had been blowing like it does in West Texas, a lot of timber would have gone up in smoke!  There were close to a dozen fire-fighting vehicles working to contain it.

I sure hope tomorrow is cooler since we will be unloading the trailer.  I guess a little sweat cleanses the pores.....

Chris

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moody Recreational Writer

Sometimes writing just requires the right frame of mind.  It's not so much sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper -- uh, blank computer screen -- and experiencing that feeling that is often described as writer's block, it's more a matter of mental relaxation for me.  I'm sure that professional writer's occasionally struggle with getting going but, it's their job, they sometimes just "force" it to happen.  With us non-professionals (recreational writer might be a good term) it is more about being in the mood to write.

I haven't been there in a few weeks.

I suppose that might be obvious to those who follow this blog because I haven't written anything in awhile.  At first I blamed it on my travel schedule, but, that hasn't really stopped me in the past.  Then I blamed it on too much work load from my real job, but, really, it isn't much different than normal.  Then, of course, I used the usual excuse of "nothing" to write about (yeah, I know, it should say -- "nothing" about which to write) but, that's not true either.  I could write about a pen lying on my desk if I chose.  No, it's just that I haven't felt like it.

So, being the analytical sort that I am, I try to figure out why.  No luck.  I just haven't felt like it.  Oh, well.  Maybe this random post will break the logjam and get me back in the mode, er, mood, er, whatever.

Chris

Friday, July 22, 2011

Monument Hill

On a bluff overlooking the Colorado River and the city of La Grange, Texas, stands a monument that marks the location as hallowed ground.  The bluff is situated above a river crossing on what was once known as "El Camino de la Bahia" or The Bay Trail.  It was a trade route from present day Goliad to Nacodoches long before German and Czech settlers created the town of La Grange in the bend of the river below.


Although Texas gained its independence in 1836, on September 11, 1842, Mexican forces under Brigadier General Adrian Woll captured the city of San Antonio.  Texan forces under the command of Matthew Caldwell gathered at Salado Creek in order to repel the invading Mexican army.  Colonel Caldwell's troops were succeeding in the battle of Saldo Creek on September 18th, but, in response to his call for volunteers, a group of 53 Fayette county volunteers under the command of Captain Nicholas M. Dawson were marching down from La Grange to join in the battle. 

A short distance from the battle at Salado Creek, Dawson's group was intercepted by 500 mounted Mexican cavalry and pinned down.  In the ensuing battle, 36 were killed, 15 taken prisoner and 2 escaped.  A more detailed account of the battle can be read here.

In the winter of 1842, Texans set out to avenge the brutal Dawson Massace.  Over 300 soldiers ignored official orders and marched south down the Rio Grande and attacked the border town of Ciudad Mier.  In the battle, 250 Texans were captured and marched toward Mexico City.  Within 6 weeks of captivity 181 escaped.  176 of them only to be recaptured a few days later while attempting to cross the harsh Mexican desert.  These prisoners who were not executed were taken to the Perote Prison, the same prison where the 15 captives from the Dawson Massacre were being held.

In his outrage over the defiance of the Texans, Santa Anna ordered that 10% of the re-captured prisoners be put to death.  A lottery was held to determine who would live and who would die.  The escapees were forced to draw a bean from a pot in which had been placed 159 white beans and 17 black beans.  Those who drew black beans were executed.

The remains lying beneath the monument on the bluff overlooking La Grange are of the 36 who died in the Dawson Massacre as well as those 15 who were executed in the black-bean incident by Santa Anna.  You can read more about the black-bean death lottery here.










Thursday, July 14, 2011

Changing Times

This is one of those days that I want to post but, don't know what to say.  In fact, this is my fourth start on a post.  I deleted the previous attempts.

I guess the thing that is on my mind is what I have seen this week.  It really is nothing new but, for some reason it stood out to me.

We have been holding educational meetings for ranchers in South and Central Texas.  The attendance has been good.  The faces are the thing that caught my attention.

I've been doing or attending these types of meetings for a lot of years.  It used to be that your crowd was going to be the old, grizzled, lived in the sun all his life rancher and his wife whose hands were just as work-worn and weary as his.  That's not the case anymore.  Oh, there are still a few sprinkled in the crowd, but, today I see bankers and lawyers and real-estate tycoons, environmentalists, city folk with a few acres in the country......well, I guess the best description is a lot of hobby ranchers.

The questions always amaze me.  Some of them are obviously coming from a person with little or no understanding of the cattle business.  Others come from a deep "book" knowledge but, little real-world experience.  And, yes, there are questions from the old guy who has lived it all his life.

Sometimes it is easy to tell which group a person falls into simply based on their question.  You know immediately whether they are a serious, make-your-living-off-the-land, in-it-for-life rancher, or a hobbyist.  Not always.

I am always amazed that there is occasionally one -- frequently a woman -- who asks exactly the right questions.  It is obvious that they are interested and knowledgeable.  You immediately think of, "she left him at home working and she's out gathering information to make it easier."  You think maybe she's the business side of the business and her husband is the get-it-done side.

Rarely is that actually the case.  More often than not, she has 3 cows, 2 llamas, and a couple of horses.  All of them have names like Daisy and Buttercup.  Her husband is a lawyer.  They live on an "estate" in the country.  They have no children.  Her animals are her life. 

This old world, it is a changin'.  I'm not sure it's for the better.

Chris

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Across the Cradle

Yesterday morning as I headed out of College Station and drove to El Campo, I crossed the "Cradle of Texas Liberty" which is basically the area of the original anglo colonies between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers.

My route lay through some beautiful country graced with huge oak trees of many varieties.  My favorites though, are probably the live oak.

Some of the places I passed through:

Snook, where I sometimes went for kolaches made at the Snook Bakery when I was in school at A&M.  The community applied for its first Post Office in 1895.

Independence, founded in 1835, near Washington on the Brazos which is where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed.  It is the original home of Baylor University.  Sam Houston and his family lived there in the 1850's.

Brenham, home of the Bluebell Creamery (best ice cream in the world), was originally known as the community of Hickory Grove before changing its name to Brenham in 1843.

Industry, was the first permanent German settlement in Texas.  It was established in the grant to Johann Friederich Ernst in 1831 (5 years before independence was declared).

New Ulm, originally known as Duff's Settlement, was re-named when the local settlers petitioned for a post office around 1840.  It was named after Ulm, Germany.

Columbus, established in 1821 by some of Austin's original 300 on the site of what was believed to be Montezuma's legendary Indian village.  One of the first ferrys across the Colorado River was operated there by Benjamin Beeson in 1822.

El Campo began as Prairie Switch when the Texas, New York, and Mexican Railway located a switch there in 1882.

El Campo was my destination for the afternoon.  We put on a producer meeting for the area ranchers.  It was very well attended and considered successful by all involved.

More to come.....

Chris

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fox News In The Morning

I woke up in College Station this morning.  I figure that's a good thing since that's where I went to sleep last night!

This place certainly brings back lots of memories.  It is the home of my Alma mater.

I was a little bit of what is referred to as a 2-percenter when I was here.  The rebellious part of my nature kept me from selling out 100% to the traditions.  I tended to stay a little on the outside.  Sometime after I graduated that changed.  I think in many ways I bleed maroon now.

A&M was always a place of conservative values, although I know it isn't quite as conservative as it once was.  I knew I was home though when they had Fox News going in the breakfast area of the motel I am staying in.  It seems like most places to which I travel tune to CNN or even MSNBC.  I guess many of the hotels are owned by those of a more liberal persuasion.  Strange.  I would think the entrepreneurial types would be conservative.  Maybe hotel/motel owners like all the government travellers.....

Just thinking.

Chris

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Entering Into the Imaginary

The imagination is a wonderful thing.  It creates possibilities and dreams from experiences and knowledge.  It takes us to places we have been or to where we want to go.  It can take the daily reality and fill it with excitement.

Imagination is important to a writer.  Even when writing about real-world experiences it is necessary to allow the imagination to fill in the gaps of our mental pictures.  It can make the ordinary into something extraordinary.

I have written very little creative fiction in years.  Most of what is in this blog is based on something that occurred or, in the ordinary, everyday fabric of living.  Perhaps I will inject a little fiction into this over the coming months.  I will attempt to make note when I do so.  I certainly wouldn't want someone confusing some grand adventure with my ordinary life.....

Stay tuned.

Chris

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Minute Preparation

Last minute preparation;
Things left undone.
Information untendendered;
Time becomes a gun.

Frantic dispositions
Become the moment's task
While thinking most acutely
Of what we failed to ask.

Have faith my child,
There's naught of fear
That makes a bit of difference
As the date draws near.

Your worry is no matter
In the greater scheme of things;
For it shall be what it becomes
When the fat gal finally sings.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Silence Found Here

Sometimes when I seek
A quiet place of peace
I struggle with the sounds
That seem to never cease

The television plays
In a room that's much to near
And the hum of electronics
Is forever in my ear

All I want is silence
In which to contemplate
The things of this day's passage
Before it gets too late

So, here I sit composing
Seeking that which is profound
But, my thoughts are disconnected
And just go round and round

I think if it was quieter
I could likely do much more
But, then there in the quietness
I might just close my eyes and snore.....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Moving Pianos

If you have moved many pianos you will know what I am talking about.  If not, you may think I'm crazy.

The grand piano in our church is down for repairs.  It has taken a pounding for years and needed a good deal of TLC.  It is going to be out for awhile because several parts had to be ordered.  It will be as good-as-new (we hope) when repaired.

In the meantime, we needed a stand-in piano.  Tonight, after choir rehearsal, we moved one of the studio pianos from the choir rehearsal room downstairs to the sanctuary.  Our trusty director asked for 6 or 7 volunteers.  Too many!!

It is easier for two men to move a studio piano than it is for six.  It is designed to be moved by two.  there is a handle at the end on the back for one hand and you can grip under the keyboard with the other.  One person on each end.  Besides, we rolled it the entire way except for the steps up to the stage.  With people on the sides (like a casket) you have problems with corners, with doors, with needing a wide passage, with coordination.....with one on each end, you just roll it to the steps, lift and carry.

Of course there was a short elevator ride in the middle to get from the basement level to the sanctuary level.  How many can you cram into an elevator along with a piano?  Too many.  Oh well, we got it moved.

I'm sure there is a life lesson in there somewhere.  Committees come to mind.  Too many chiefs and not enough Indians also comes to mind.  You need the right number of people to do a job -- not more than enough and not less than enough.

It doesn't look quite as nice as the grand piano, but, I'm sure it will do the job.....

Chris

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The List, ummmm....Lists!

I woke up this morning with the infamous "list" in my head.  You know, the never-ending, forever being worked on list of things that I need to get done.  I was thinking of all the things that I knew HAD to be done this week -- many of which weren't even on the list last week.  Thank you, holiday.

I hate it when that happens!  Four o'clock in the morning, the day after a day off, and I wake up thinking of what I need to get done.  So, before most sane people were at work, I was working on my list.  The list isn't the Master List -- it's the "This Week/Right Now" list.  The Master List is the big projects that are basically on-going, works-in-progress.  I guess you could call it my goals list.  I was just working on the gotta-get-it-done-right-now list and it was daunting.

How do you approach your list?  Do you start with the "easy" ones?  -- the ones you know you can get checked off fairly quickly?  -- or, do you pick the worst bugger on there and tackle it first?  Me, I go for a few easy ones.  That way, when I get them marked off it looks like progress.  Well, I marked 5 off and marked 5 others as having progress made on them.  Not bad for Tuesday after a holiday weekend.  Fortunately, everyone else must have been working on their list too because my phone was fairly quiet.  Tomorrow may be a different story!

Chris

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Like most United States citizens, I celebrate this day as one commemorating the establishment of this country.  It is the day that we have chosen as a nation to honor our separation from Great Britain, to stand or fall on our own as an independent nation.

The process of establishing our independence was just that, a process.  It did not happen in a day.  In fact, this day, July 4th, was not the day the declaration of independence was signed, nor, is it the day the writing of it was completed, but, it is the day in which the Continental Congress voted to accept the document as a declaration of our separation from Great Britain.  The official signing ceremony was almost a month later.

The 4th is celebrated with many symbols of this great republic -- note that I said, "Republic" not democracy.  We see flags scattered everywhere, we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we sing The Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs.  These are wonderful symbols, but, none of them existed on July 4, 1776.  The "Pledge" was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and included the following:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all."

It is interesting to note that Bellamy was a Baptist minister and a Christian Socialist.  The words "under God" were added in 1954 by Congress after a campaign  by the Knights of Columbus.

The first "Flag Act" of the Continental Congress was passed on June 14, 1777. 

"Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."


The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key after U.S. soldiers at Fort Henry, near Baltimore, raised a large flag during the war of 1812.  The flag they raised consisted of 15 stars and 15 stripes.
 
I think our founding fathers would be gratified to see the celebration of our nation on this day, however, they would be concerned by the lack of knowledge of our citizenry and likely mortified by the present state of our nation.  After all, a tyrannical government was the object of their revolt.  Thankfully, they created a government structure that contains the tools for correcting any tyranny that may develop.  The key one being the vote. 
 
I am proud to be a citizen of this country, but, I am saddened by its current state.  My celebration this year will be somewhat subdued.
 
Chris

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I'm Out of Superlatives

In normal years it is only the crop farmers that pray for rain.  In a drought year the ranchers also pray for rain to fill the tanks (ponds for all you non-Texans).  In a severe drought the ranchers pray for rain so the grass will grow.  In extreme drought the ranchers pray for rain to put out the fires that are racing across the land.  I don't know what superlative to attach to this year's drought, even the town folk are praying for rain!

Maybe some of those prayers are working.  Blessed drops of water are falling on my roof as I type this.  Praise be to God who brings the rain in its season.

"I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit." __ Leviticus 26:4

Keep on prayin' folks, it seems to be doing some good.

Chris

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Locks and Keys

I had to change out a doorknob this morning.  It quit working correctly a few days ago.  Actually, it worked OK if you turned it counter-clockwise, but, didn't work if you turned it clockwise.  Kind of strange.  Normally if they are going to go out, it seems to me that they don't work no matter how you turn them.

Anyway, I went down to the local hardware store and purchased a new one this morning.  It was only about a 5 minute job to switch it out.  Not a big chore, but, something that had to be done.

When I made my purchase, the clerk asked if I would like it keyed to any particular key.  I thought for a moment and said, "No, just leave it with the keys that came with it."

I realized at that moment that I didn't know which key in my keyring was the correct one for that door, or, for that matter, for any of the other doors to my house.  I don't ever use the key.  I come through the garage.  Then, upon further reflection, I realized that the few times I did need to use a key, it took multiple tries to find the correct one. 

You see, I carry quite a few keys.  Some unlock offices scattered across various states.  Some are for padlocks, post office boxes, lock boxes, cars, and on and on.  I had to search for the correct key to match the lock that was being replaced.  It only opened that one door.  I pulled it off of my key ring and replaced it with the new one.

As I looked at the keys on my ring I realized that I didn't know what all of them went to.  Oh, I had a vague idea, but, I suspect that a couple are to locks that no longer exist.  I hate to throw away the ones I'm not sure about because I fear I will need them some day.  You'd think I would have them labeled or something.  I've never taken the time.

I have keys in a box in my dresser drawer.  Some of them are for special things, like the Jeep and various things attached to, or, associated with it.  Most are of the unknown variety.  Again, why do I keep them?  Fear of needing them someday for some forgotten lock I guess.

We are a society of locks and keys.  We have so much yet we fear loss of what we have.  Or, we fear someone gaining access to us or our possessions without our permission.  When I went to Niger a few years ago, there were a lot fewer locks.  Oh, you would see them here and there, but, many homes didn't have much of a door, let alone one with a locking knob, or, even a padlock.

But, there are other kinds of locks and keys in our lives.  We keep our thoughts and emotions locked away.  Sometimes I think we even forget how to unlock them.  The locks are rusted closed and it takes a lot to get into those closed and musty places.  I don't think that's the way God meant it to be.  After all, He is constantly asking us to open those closed places to Him.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." __ Revelation 3:20

I don't think I really need all that many keys.....

Chris

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pushing Electrons

I fear that my attitude is lousy today.  I guess I've been doing way too much office work lately.  That's just not my thing.  I need to be out talking to customers or potential customers.  I need something besides pushing electrons to keep me engaged.

I laugh at that thought.  When I'm on the road for week-after-week I get sick and tired of that too.  I shouldn't complain.  I have one of the best jobs imaginable.  I get to do lots of different things.  I travel.  I pretty much set my own schedule -- subject of course to industry functions, etc.  I can delegate a lot of projects to others -- but, some can't be delegated.  In fact, I've said before that I would have the perfect job if I could be home every night.  It just usually doesn't work that way.

"Pushing electrons" is what made me laugh.  I used a manual typewriter in High School.  They wouldn't even let us use the electric ones in typing class.  Then, at college, I started learning about computers by writing code and punching cards.  I saw some of the very first desktop computers when they came out.  From Apple.  Then there were the Texas Instruments versions.  IBM held off entry into that market until others had pioneered it.  Now, laptops and smartphones are the thing.  Couldn't do without 'em.

I guess I ought to quit complaining.

Chris

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesdays are Choir Days

It's Wednesday and I am not traveling.  That's actually fairly rare during the biggest part of the year.  I frequently travel during the middle of the week.  It varies, of course.  There are times that I miss part of the weekend on the road, but, for the most part, my travel starts on Monday and ends on Friday.

It doesn't seem like a big deal that I am home on Wednesday, but, it is the day we have choir rehearsal for the church choir.  I usually make it for Sunday service but, frequently miss rehearsals during the middle of the week.  I am fortunate in that I make enough rehearsals that I've usually at least seen the piece(s) we are doing on Sunday but, sometimes that isn't the case.  There have been a few times I am sight-reading on Sunday morning.

I enjoy choir.  It is an escape.  Having rehearsal in the middle of the week is great because it is an interruption in the ho-hum that allows me an hour and a half of enjoyment (when I can make it).  You see, for those of you who don't sing, music is the language of the soul -- the heart.  It is a way to touch something divine for just a short period.

When we listen to music we want it to be good.  When we sing, it is often far less than perfect.  But, in a choral setting that doesn't really matter as much as you might think.  The combined voices often mask individual imperfections and the overall effect can be excellent even when the individuals involved are not. 

It's too bad that choral music is rarely heard any more.  Most churches have gone to praise bands.  Don't get me wrong, I like praise and worship music, but, often as not, praise bands aren't all that good.  They become exclusive because there are so few in the ensemble that only the "top" singers are selected to sing in them.  That leaves many very good singers out.  Choirs are not that way.  It is only in the very largest of churches that there is a level of exclusivity because of numbers.  In which case tryouts determine who joins and who does not.

Any way.  Tonight is choir practice.  I get to enjoy a tiny slice of the divine for awhile.  Maybe I'll even know the music!

"Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing."  Psalms 100:1-2


Chris

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reboot

Don't you hate it when the world conspires against you?  OK, that might be a little bit strong.  It was only a minor glitch.  I just don't like to say, "stop."

I managed to volunteer (I use the term loosely) to set up a series of meetings across the state for educating cattlemen.  We did a few of these meetings last year and they went over well.  A group of private companies along with some industry organizations cooperating to bring programs for educating cattlemen on new technology isn't a new thing, but, we did it in a slightly different way than had ever been done before.  It worked.  The people involved were happy and the cattlemen felt like it was time well spent based on the feedback we received.

This year I drew the short straw.  I was put in charge.  It seems strange, because generally I like to be in charge, but, I didn't want to head up this project.  Scheduling 12 meetings in 12 different locations on 12 different days over a 2-month period and coordinating speakers for 6 different time slots -- oh, not always the same speakers -- is challenging to say the least.  Plus, the world doesn't stand still so, these had to fit into already packed schedules for all involved.  And, we got a late start.  Maybe that was my fault.  Maybe it was just circumstances.  I don't know.

Anyway, to make a long story short, one of the meetings for the first week is going to have to be re-scheduled.  Circumstances beyond my control -- or, for that matter, beyond the control of anyone involved -- for a change.  I'm more of a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" type.  But, that strategy won't work this time.  Oh, well.  One out of 12 isn't too bad.....

Chris

Monday, June 27, 2011

Editing Video Clips

This afternoon was spent doing something that was new to me.  I was editing video clips.  Or, rather, I was directing the process of editing video clips.

Some time back (I think I posted about it) I was involved in the recording of about 2 1/2 hours of testimonial video from one of our customers.  The recording, etc. was funded by one of our suppliers who then used that video to create promotional DVD's about what we do.  They recently gave us access to the raw footage so that we could use it for our own purposes.

I am trying to do a couple of things with the video.  The first is to make a brief testimonial video that we can hand out to prospective customers.  Secondly, I want to cut a number of very brief -- 10 to 30 second -- sound bites from it to use in presentations or on our website.

It was a very interesting exercise in listening.  I would listen to the video and then stop the technician when there was a sound bite that I wanted to keep.  There are plenty that are great illustrations of points that I use in presentations.  The problem was more in discarding rather than in keeping.  The DVD needs to be brief.  When our supplier made their original DVD, they reduced the 2 1/2 hours of material to about 22 minutes.  I wanted something in the neighborhood of 3 to 6 minutes.  I got it down to a little over 9 minutes.  I don't know what else to cut!

It was an interesting process watching Rick (the technician) clip the video snippets that I wanted to keep.  He even took out a single word that didn't belong at one point.  I was impressed.  It went much more quickly than I anticipated.

Now, Rick will send me a link to the file that I can further evaluate.  I probably will change the order of some of what was said and think about how we will insert voice-over transitions in a few spots.  All-in-all, it was a much better afternoon than I expected.  I honestly dreaded it.  Sometimes it's good to be wrong....

Chris

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Healing Reign

I had resolved a few weeks ago to quit writing about the extreme heat and wind.  I'm breaking my resolution.  At 3:53 p.m today it was 110 degrees in Amarillo with winds at 21 gusting to 31 and relative humidity of 4%.  I'm seriously considering a trip to Phoenix to cool off.  It is miserable outside.

I walked outside earlier to take care of a couple of things that needed done and decided to beat a retreat back in the house.  I don't think I left any skin, but, in a matter of minutes I probably lost 3 lbs. through evaporation!  I think it would be a cinch making jerky out there.  Just hang it on the fence for a couple of hours......

I was thinking earlier that it was probably a lot like this during the dust bowl.  There were a couple of differences then; the air was filled with blowing dirt because of poor farming practices and they didn't have air conditioning.  I'm wondering if maybe we shouldn't do some plowing to increase the particulate matter in the air so maybe a raindrop would have a chance of forming!  Well, with 4% humidity that's not likely.  Especially when you consider the dew point is at 20 F.  I don't think it's going to form any dew tonight let alone a raindrop.

Water restrictions are becoming common across the area.  So far most cities and towns are at stage one.  It won't be long until they move to stage 2 though if the weather doesn't break soon.  That will mean mandatory restrictions. 

Floods in the north, tornadoes across the eastern half of the nation, unprecedented drought in Texas and other parts of the Southwest; sounds a bit apocalyptic doesn't it?  Perhaps it is a sign that God wants us to turn to Him for relief.  I know that in this part of the world the prayers are going up pretty regularly.  The problem is, it is mostly prayers for rain, not a true healing of this land.  Maybe God would listen more if we didn't look to Him as a "Genie" to grant our wishes and instead saw Him as the sovereign Creator that He is.  We need to seek forgiveness and healing, not just rain.  That will come when we fall to our knees before Him and submit to His reign -- not our own.

Chris

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trees, Birds and the Heat

We have a number of different trees on our place -- all planted.  Nothing native.  Oh, there are no trees native to the Texas Panhandle.  It's no wonder in a year like this.  Nothing can survive without supplemental care.

It has been a challenge keeping enough water on my trees this year so, I was out this morning giving them a drink before the heat became unbearable.  I decided to call it good at 11:00 a.m. when the temperature hit 99.3.  I figured that's warm enough.  Besides, they all got a drink that needed the extra.  It's expected to hit as high as 108 today.  Yuck.

A few weeks ago -- back when it wouldn't hit 100 until around 4:00 p.m. -- I built berms around my pine trees so it would be easier to get extra water to them.  Here's a photo:


Notice how dry the pasture is around it and in the distance.  Not much green until you hit town in the distance where there are trees growing.

But, in reality, I guess I do have a few trees on the place that weren't planted by me or the previous owner.  The birds plant them.  Here's a photo:


This is a Russian Olive.  They are considered a nuisance tree by most people.  However, I like the way they look, they are hardy and they help form a good windbreak.  Notice how this one is growing in the fence row.  It's because that's where the bird sat that planted it.  These trees are great for wildlife because of the small, hard olives that they bear.



The birds eat the olives.  The passage of the seed through the acids in their alimentary canal softens the coat so that, given adequate water and soil, it will sprout and grow another generation. 

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" __ Matthew 6:26

Kinda cool huh!

Chris

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pleasant Surprises

We all need a surprise at times.  We need something that interrupts the hum-drum ho-hum of the day that frequently is the mode in which we operate.  Something that breaks the routine can change one from uninspired automaton to a smiling dynamo.

It often doesn't take much to flip that switch.  It can be an unexpected smile or a compliment.  It can be a phone call that is upbeat and positive, or, it can be a chance encounter with someone you haven't seen in awhile.

Knowing the positive impact those little surprises can have on you, do you take the time to spring them on those around you?  Do you put a little sunshine into other people's lives upon occasion?  If not, why not?  It doesn't take much effort and the rewards can be great.  After all, I've noticed that it's contagious.  It might just come back to you.

Chris

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Day In The Office

It was back into the routine today.  I guess.  Although it might be argued that I don't have much of a routine.  Unless you consider too much travel to be routine!

What I mean is that I spent the day in the office.  Or, at least, my temporary office while we are waiting on new carpet to be laid so that I can get into a more permanent setting. 

Since I started working from home -- only logical because of all the travel -- I have been in a temporary setup while we completed a re-model project.  It is taking a lot longer than intended.  Carpet.  Ordered.  Delayed.  Wrong.  Re-ordered.  Waiting.  Frustrated.

After being gone for a week and a half, I spent a big chunk of the day just getting through all the e-mails that had received only cursory treatment while on the road but, that needed more.  Then, at one point this morning, I had 32 new e-mails hit within a very brief span of time.  I guess all the ones I was sending out, along with the junk I can't seem to get stopped, received responses all at once.  Crazy.  Is the rest of the world all on the same clock and it's only me that's different?

It seems like no matter how much I am able to deal with from the road there are always things that need an office to get done.  Oh, well.

A few days and it will be back to a manageable level.....

Chris

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mobile blogging.

I'm gonna see how well this blogging from my cell phone works. I got out earlier this morning and took a drive. It is cool and rainy and not the ideal for outdoor activities.

The cattlemen are starting to arrive here at the hotel. It is refreshing to see the hats in the Sheraton lobby. I suspect they don't see many hats -- except the trendy kind.

Aren't trends funny? It amazes me how fads come and go. I guess people are just like sheep. They like to hang together, be told what to do, and follow a so-called leader without question.

You know, on my drive this morning I took the perfect photo for this short blog....


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Adventure Worth It

I believe in having adventures.  I mean, what would life be without a little adventure thrown in now and again.  Boring.  Just plain boring.

Now, most people dread adventure because typically that means something went wrong.  You know, getting lost, or having some kind of mishap.  So, most people tend to stay on the beaten path.  The easy way.  The highway.

Me, I like the dirt roads.  The back roads.  The, uh oh, there's grass growing in the middle kinda roads.  So, I took one today.

It was Forest Road 895 in the Routt National Forest, just a few miles south of the Wyoming line.  I headed west.....er, north, no south.....anyway, it wound around and around.  I had my trusty Garmin with me so I figured I could just keep following forest roads until the next highway on the way to Steamboat.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love my Garmin, but, I've found that it is nearly useless when you get off the well-traveled path.

I was doing great.  The road was good.  There was no one around -- which was perfect.  So I went on and on and was probably about 10 miles off the highway.  The Garmin showed that I would wind around awhile and end up on the highway I started on but, a good bit further south.  I didn't notice the North Platte River on the map.

The further I got, the less well-traveled the road appeared to be.  There have been recent rains and there were occasional rivulets of water (probably snow melt) and sometimes a pothole or rut filled with water.  But, the Garmin said all was good.  I kept going.

I crossed a cattle guard and the road was even less traveled but, still not too bad.  The occasional pothole with water became more frequent but, I was able to go around.  The scenery was gorgeous.  Open meadows surrounded by aspen and fir.  The occasional mud holes were getting a little worse and I was beginning to think I should turn back.  But, Garmin said it's good!

Then, I reached another cattle guard beyond which was a muddy morass.  I backed up until I could turn around and started back to the highway in defeat.  Oh, well, it was worth it just for the scenery and the quiet.  Then, ahead of me was one of those mud holes that worried me a bit on the way in.  I knew that if I kept to the high side I should be OK.  So, on I charged when, whoomp! the bottom fell out and I was stuck.  Not just a little stuck.  Seriously, to the frame, stuck. 

I got out and assessed my options.  Not good.  There was plenty of downed wood and rocks so I thought maybe I could dig down enough to build a bed in the bottom of the mud hole with the rocks and possible get enough traction to get out.  However, I was high centered and that presented a problem I wasn't sure how to address.  But, optimist that I am, and it being a long hike back to the last place I saw a human being, I started to dig and see if I could get unstuck.

I worked and worked and worked but, as fast as I could scoop the mud out of the hole, the more flowed in.  After about an hour I decided it was hopeless and started walking.

I walked about 3 miles before I met a Wyoming native in a 4WD Nissan Titan pickup.  I flagged him down to see if he would give me a ride into town (quite a few miles) to find someone to come pull me out.  He thought he could do it with his trusty Titan but, I doubted it given the depth of the hole that I was all too familiar with.  So, we drove back to where I was stuck and he said, "I think I can pull it out.  We'll hook onto the back with a chain (he just happened to have 2) and see if we can't pull you out the way you went in."  He then maneuvered around me on the high side and I got down in the mud and hooked the chain.  I think I need a Titan pickup.  It pulled me out without even spinning a tire.  I was impressed.

I then had to drive around the mud hole -- which I was able to do -- and back to the highway.  I offered to pay Matt (my Good Samaritan) but, he wouldn't take anything.  He then followed me to the highway to make sure I stayed out of any more mud holes.

Oh, did I tell you?  When I was walking up the road, I came upon a young moose munching Aspen leaves on the side of the road.  I walked to within about 100 ft. before she took off in her crazy, awkward gait into the forest.  A few photos of the trip below.  No, none of me stuck....

The moose.

A beaver lodge.

Just some scenery.

I think it was worth getting stuck.

Chris

It's Been Awhile

I am in Laramie, Wyoming, this morning.  I was just thinking about the last time that I was here.  I was twelve years old.

It was a memorable trip.  We had gone to see my grandmother and other family in Oklahoma.  My uncle and his family were preparing for a trip to Yellowstone.  They convinced my parents that we should go too.

We made a Walmart run.  Probably the first Walmart I had ever been in.  They were not nearly as wide-spread at that time.  We bought camping supplies that my uncle didn't have extras he could loan.  Then we loaded up the cars and drove.  And drove.  And drove.  Kids sleeping in the floor or on top of luggage.  We were piled in pretty tight.

We stopped in Laramie for lunch along the way.  I ate my first buffalo burger.  That is my memory of Laramie.

The time camping in Yellowstone was memorable.  It would take too much space to write about it here, but, perhaps I will add to the story in time.  Let me just say that we fished, we hiked, we saw wildlife and mountains, we were rained on, we chased off bears, we had a great time. 

Laramie.  It sure doesn't look like I remembered it.  It's kinda grown up a bit.  Much bigger.  I think the population sign showed something over 27,000.

From here I head to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  I am looking forward to the drive and plan to take my time.  Maybe tomorrow there will be photos for the blog.  It will depend on the weather.

Chris
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