Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Trouble Over Slow Posting

I got in trouble Christmas.
I was told that it shouldn't take 6 months between posts on the story of Billy.
At least I know someone was reading it!

For the one or two of you who might be interested --
I'm working on it.
I will try to post another section of it within the next few days.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Birth - With Interpretive Commentary

From Luke, Chapter 2:

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Now, a more interpretive version:

Way back in the early days the Emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus, became so full of himself that he thought it would be interesting to see how many people were subject to him so he decided to count them. He sent out an announcement that everyone should travel to their hometown and be counted.

So Joe and his girl Mary headed for Bethlehem to be counted. Joe was kin to King David who claimed Bethlehem as his home. Mary went with him because she was pregnant and Joe was the only one who would take care of her. She was in a tough situation because she had agreed to marry Joe before she got pregnant. Joe, being the good guy that he was, decided to go through with the marriage so Mary wouldn't get kicked out on the street.

When they got to Bethlehem they couldn't find a place to stay. Mary was going into labor and so Joe, in desperation, begged an Innkeeper to give them a place for shelter. The Innkeeper didn't have a room but sent them to the cow shed where Mary gave birth to a boy. They wrapped him in cloths and put him in the feed trough where the hay would be soft and keep him warm.

While all this was happening to Joe and Mary, an angel appeared to a bunch of sheepherders who were in a field nearby. They were just minding their business and taking care of the flock so no predators or thieves could get them. But, the angel showed up and about scared them out of their skin before saying, "Chill dudes! I'm bringing good news. You should be happy. Your Savior has just been born over in Bethlehem. Get up and go over there. He's lying in a feed trough in the stable."

When the angel had finished saying this, a whole bunch of his buddies showed up and started singing, "Glory to God in the highest! Peace y'all." And with that, they disappeared.

So, the sheepherders discussed it among themselves and decided they should head into Bethlehem to see if there really was a baby lying in a feed trough. They were having a hard time believing what they just saw and wanted proof.

Well, they went and saw him all right. It was just like the angel said. When they started telling what happened, everyone looked at them like they were crazy. But, Mary and Joe knew. In fact Mary, like most women, remembered the event in detail and verified their presence when this story all got written down.

It didn't matter to the sheepherders that no one believed them. They kept telling the story anyway. It was all so crazy it had to be true.

There are several reasons that I have re-written the story of the birth of Jesus in more common language. The first is this: It hopefully makes one think a little bit about the true conditions surrounding the event. 1) Mary was a pregnant, unwed teenager who was taken in by a good friend. 2) She rode a donkey a pretty good distance while on the verge of giving birth -- I suspect it might have hurried the process. 3) Even heartless people (the Innkeeper) occasionally show a little compassion. 4) People can be resourceful when they have to be (having a baby in a barn, wrapping him in rags, using hay to keep warm). 5) Abortion wasn't an option even for this young, teenage, unwed girl (the course of history would have changed). 6) Common people are often involved in uncommon events (Mary and Joseph, the shepherds).

The second reason is this: If you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit, think about this first Christmas. Things didn't quite go like Joseph had planned. 1) I suspect he planned on staying with relatives or at the Inn. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. 2) I suspect he didn't plan on the baby being born in Bethlehem. The donkey ride probably sped up the process. 3) Joseph most likely would have preferred better conditions for Mary when the baby was born -- at least somewhere other than a barn.

The third reason is this: Miracles, belief in God, acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Messiah, will always be ridiculed -- just as the shepherds were ridiculed for their wild tale. We all should have their attitude of "so what, we believe it and we're telling it just like it happened" anyway!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Perfect Gift

Drives my shopping.
I am not one
Who feels like dropping
In favor of a trip
To the store.
I put it off.

Informs my choice
Of that perfect gift
That the commercials tell us
"Says I love you."
It just isn't in me
To express my feelings
With an object.
I prefer deed.

Describes my feelings
As the day approaches
For which I am
After weeks
Of procrastination
And indecision
Driven shopping.
I am still at loss.

Therefore I settle for less
Than truly expresses
The agonizing desire to please
That has driven me to mental gridlock
And disappointment rather than
Met expectations
Of surprise and pleasure.
It's the thought that counts --

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's That Time of Year

Hustle and bustle,
It's that time of year
When the holiday spirit is free.
We hang up a wreath
And set candles out
Then place presents under a tree.

There's hurry and worry
And shopping to do
With lists that we have to make.
There's all sorts of things
Like candy and pie
And cookies that we need to bake.

We invite over friends
To drink some egg nogg
And talk and laugh by the fire.
But all of this cheer
Just can't do the trick
Of filling our heart's desire.

Love is the thing
That brings us the joy
Of being with family so dear.
And sometimes there's tears
For the ones who are missed
At this special time of year.

In all of our haste
To get everything done
We must not forget the reason.
It is God's only Son
Who came to earth as a babe
That's cause for celebrating the season.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Patient Persistence

Patient persistence
Leads to progress
While others in a hurry
Temporarily leap ahead
Before being sidelined for their folly

The lesson could be applied
To business
But I'm talking about
Interstate 40
And a sheet of ice.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Alone with my thoughts
I think of the day
And the choices made
Along the way.

Some I know
Were the right ones to make
While other results
Some time will take.

So many choices
Result in mistake
But I can't let the past
Cause me to hesitate.

I just keep on choosing
As at the moment seems right
While keeping my goals
Plainly in sight.

Success can be measured
By results good and bad
That come from the making
Of choices we had.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Winter Night Sky

Cold and clear
I walk into the night
Thinking hurry
To the task
For it is cold
And I seek the warmth inside
When suddenly
The quietness,

The blackness,

The brilliance,

Of stars twinkling
Captures me
And stillness

Replaces hurry
With the realization
That I miss the show
While snug within my cave.
It is only when I venture into the cold
That I experience
This gift.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Black anger
Welling in the soul of my despair
Seeks vengeance
On the one by whom I am betrayed
And yet the darkness itself
Wreaks havoc
On my spirit
And hammers me with the blows
Of self demolition
As I dwell within the pit
Of my own creation
For my thoughts
Are egoistic
And not centered
In the One who can save me
From myself.

For those of you who might read too much into the brief expression above -- don't. It rises from a moment of frustration that was simply exaggerated through imagining how some might feel who are consumed with anger -- and then applying my own resolution (yet not my own, but God's) to the problem; namely, that Christ bears all burdens when we allow Him to do so. He can lift even the darkest despair from the shoulders of those who trust in Him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trade Show Season

Trade Show today. I don't know why, but I love doing Trade Shows. I enjoy the interaction with potential customers. I enjoy qualifying the "browsers." I enjoy selling what I do to those who are interested. I enjoy figuring out what makes people "tick." I enjoy the challenge of "unlocking" the potential customer and turning him into a customer. It's like a giant puzzle with tremendous rewards for each piece that you put into place. -- OK, I guess those are the reasons that I like doing Trade Shows.

I have two more days of this current Trade Show. I'm supposed to be at another one -- in another state -- which overlaps with this one. I will decide tomorrow whether to stay here (if it continues to be productive) or go to the other one. Next week is another show in a different state. 'Tis the season for Trade Shows, fa la la la la la la la la.....

I was pleased today when the account representative from the marketing company that we use brought a couple of her colleagues by to see our booth. She started telling them how the way we had done things was the proper way -- then she told them that I probably should be teaching classes on how to work a Trade Show. It made me feel pretty good. I kept waiting for the "shoe to drop" and hear what I wasn't doing correctly but it never came. Yeah, pretty cool.

I'm bringing one of my employees in tomorrow who has never worked a Trade Show. He has a lot of potential. It will be fun "breaking him in." We'll see how well he picks it up.

Hopefully I will get something posted on Billy before the week is out. It's "in-my-head" but I don't have it written out yet. It's difficult for me to get in the right frame of mind for that project while I'm pumped up with the Trade Show. We'll see how the week goes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Been Gone But I'm Back

In case some of you wondered why I haven't posted in a few days, it was because we were traveling last week. We went down to the Houston area to see the in-laws. It was cool and rainy the entire time we were there.

On Saturday I gave a presentation in Bastrop for a customer. Then on Sunday we made the long drive back to the Panhandle. Just a note of interest -- from my house to Omaha, Nebraska, a couple of weeks ago was 625 miles. It was 625 miles to my in-laws house near Sealy, Texas (close to Houston). It helps to put into perspective just how big the state is.

The trip back on Sunday was a little rough. We hit snow between Rising Star and Cross Plains. The traffic was heavy and we came upon one major wreck. We finally ran out of the snow around Snyder. It really slowed the travel.

How about those Aggies??! The Big 12 certainly put a kink in all of the polls this week. And then there's Arkansas. I have a hard time rooting for the Razorbacks, but I'm please they beat LSU. I had Missouri picked to beat the Jayhawks. I've felt all along they had the better team.

This week will be busy again. I have a Trade Show in Amarillo starting tomorrow and then will drive to Wichita, Kansas, on Wednesday night for the Kansas Livestock Association annual convention. No rest for the weary.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Thought

The early morning frost reminds me
Of the approaching end of year
With holidays and gathering
Of the ones that I hold dear.

It is the time of celebration
For the harvest of the fields;
It is a time of giving thanks
For the earth’s abundant yields.

As I think of all the blessings
That my family has received
I marvel that the One above
In whom I have believed

Would look upon me with such favor,
Unworthy as I am
To be honored with such blessing.
And I reflect on how He came

To earth to join in our toil
That is filled with daily strife
And that He gave His very all
That we might have eternal life.

Then I realize this is what
We should truly thank Him for –
He loved us so very much
That He opened heaven’s door

To those who would believe
In God’s only Son
Who toiled upon this earth
Until His work was done.

Now it is the harvest of
The children that He sought
And we should thank Him daily
For our lives which He has bought.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Billy - 9

Billy was headed up the trail for Tom’s wagons by mid-afternoon. He was in no hurry and hoped to catch up to them just before they camped for the night. As he rode up the trail he kept replaying the last few days with Tad in his mind. It was surprising how little he knew about the boy. Usually after several days on the trail you learned a lot about an individual – especially a kid. They liked to talk of their exploits. Not this one. It wasn’t that he was quiet – just evasive. Tad talked big, but the things he described sounded like they were out of a dime novel. Every time Billy had tried to draw him out, the boy had changed the subject.

Billy topped a rise in the trail and could see the wagons ahead of him. Something wasn’t right. The sun was just about to touch the horizon and the wagons were in the shadow of the rise on which he was standing but the light was good enough that he could tell something was wrong. He quickened his pace down the hill.

It occurred to him that there were no mules in sight and it looked like some of the mule skinners were missing. The ones that were there seemed to be hovering over something up against one of the wagons. He spurred to a lope and hurried to see what was happening.

Tom Fanning was lying against the wheel of one of the wagons with his head propped on a bedroll. There was a bloody bandage wrapped around his chest and he was breathing hard. Tom tried to sit up as Billy stepped down from his horse but didn’t seem to have much strength. It was obvious that he wasn’t in very good shape.

“What happened?” asked Billy.

The men all tried to talk at once until they heard Tom speak out in a raspy voice, “They got the boy, Billy.”

“How bad are you hurt, Tom?”

“I think it missed anything vital. I lost enough blood that I’m a bit weak. I’ll be all right though. Jake here tried to dig the bullet out and I think he did more harm than the bullet did. We got it wrapped up just before you rode in. Give me a little bit and I’ll be ready to go.”

“How long since it happened?”

“It’s probably been about an hour,” said Tom. “They ambushed us as we came over that hill up there. Six of them came at us – three from each side. They had us covered before anyone could get their rifle up.”

“Which way did they head?” asked Billy. “I’ll go after them.”

“No, you just hang on and hear me out. They drove off the mules and my horse. A couple of the boys went to look for them. I doubt they drove them very far.”

“Tom, I’ve got my horse and a spare. Why don’t you let me take one of your men with me and we’ll go see if we can find your stock before it gets dark. We’ll drive them back here for the night and then I’ll go after those men.”

“You go get the stock and then you’ll stay here tonight. You need to wait until daybreak to go after them. Those men are experienced and hard. You’ll end up getting killed in the dark if you don’t wait until morning.”

“OK, Tom. I’ll do it your way.”

Houston Davis, one of the mule skinners, rode out with Billy to find the mules and the drivers who had gone looking for them. It was no problem knowing which direction they had driven the animals, there was a wide trail to follow where the mules had been driven across the sandy ground. A couple of miles from the wagons, Billy and Houston came across the two walking drivers. They sent them back down the trail and hurried ahead while there was still enough light to see.

Another mile and they found the stock against the bank of the river where they had been abandoned by the men who had kidnapped Tad. The animals were quietly grazing on the clumps of grass along the banks. The men had apparently crossed the river to the south and left the animals on the near side. It only took a few minutes to gather them and head them back to the wagons.

They overtook the walking drivers when there was barely enough light to see. The mules ran on ahead while the four of them rode double the rest of the way.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stuck Here

Here I am
Stuck in a motel
Wishing that I wasn't
All by myself.

Home is much better,
It's where I prefer,
Instead of stuck here
Out on the road.

It leads me to wonder
How a muscian makes it
Living out on the road
So much of their life.

As much as the wanderlust
Fills up my life
I still need an anchor
A place to call home.

Instead I am stuck here
Out on the road
About twenty-four hours
From home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ethanol's Tangled Web

The article below is one that I recently had published in our local paper. I have posted it on my Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy blog but not here. Several readers have mentioned to me that they are interested in ethanol and so I am re-posting the article here.

Direct subsidies by the U.S. government to gasoline blenders are $0.51/gallon of ethanol. In 2006, the total of these subsidies was $2.5 billion. Such subsidies are the reason behind the ethanol boom that we are experiencing. In 2006, ethanol production earned our country an approximately 1.5% oil independence. According to the USDA, at the maximum practical production level which is likely to be achieved by 2017, corn ethanol would provide 3.7% oil independence.

Ethanol has been around since the first “moonshiner” discovered how to distill corn into whiskey. It is the same thing as 200 proof whiskey. It was used by Henry Ford to power some of the first Model T’s. Today it is fueling a euphoric corn market that has seen prices soar above $3.50/bushel. It has also sent turmoil through the livestock markets as feeders adjust to the realities of higher commodity prices.

The USDA estimates that ethanol yields about 25% more energy than is required to produce it. Most of the energy gain is in the form of co-products available for feed. If you measure the energy equivalence of the ethanol itself, it takes about as much energy to produce it as it yields. One gallon of ethanol contains about 2/3 of the energy of a gallon of gasoline. This means that if your vehicle achieved 30 mpg with gasoline, it would achieve only 20 mpg burning pure ethanol.

Ethanol co-products make excellent cattle feed for inclusion in feedlot rations. Some studies indicate that Wet Distiller’s Grains contain 100-112% of the value of dry rolled corn. Dry Distiller’s Grains however are only about 88% of the feed value of dry rolled corn. In the larger feedlots that primarily utilize steam-flaked corn, the comparative feed value is much lower. That is why the cost of the co-products will be one of the primary determining factors driving its use as a substitution for feeding corn in livestock rations.

One of the most controversial issues surrounding the production of ethanol from corn revolves around concerns over the impact to food prices. Most of the corn produced in the United States is utilized as animal feed. Rising corn prices have already had a significant impact on the cost of feeding livestock.

Most planting decisions are at least somewhat based on relative commodity prices of various crops that are feasible for planting in a particular area. In areas where corn is a viable alternative, significant crop acreage is being shifted to corn production at the expense of other crops. The effect is to lift commodity prices for all crops that are being replaced by corn production. Again, the primary impact will be on crops that are destined for animal feed, such as soybeans and other grains.

As ethanol production capacity increases, the pressure on substituting ethanol fuel crops for other commodities will increase. The result will certainly be upward pressure on the prices of food crops due to the scarcity impact on supply and demand.

Should we be concerned? The U.S. consumer pays a smaller percentage of his income for food (less than 10%) than consumers in any other part of the world (20 – 50% for middle income countries). In countries that struggle at a subsistence level of farming, there will be pressure to divert land utilization for ethanol fuel production. The impact on such economies will depend on government policies related to land ownership and control of production. In some instances, it could help to lift economies above subsistence level by creating the opportunity for higher revenue crops.

Ethanol is only a tiny piece of the energy puzzle. It is a tiny piece that is creating turmoil across the globe in the agricultural sector. Turmoil generally creates opportunities for some and failure for those who do not adapt to changes in the marketplace. It is hoped that new technologies for producing ethanol from plant fibers rather than highly concentrated energy sources such as corn will transform ethanol production in the near future. In the meantime, we can expect commodity prices to remain high which will hopefully be a boon to our rural economy.

Related articles:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Billy - 8

The first leg of the Dodge City trail ran northeast to Little Blue Station at Silas Maley’s farm on Bluff Creek. It would take about three days for the mule-drawn wagons to reach there. The entire trip to Dodge City would take several weeks for the wagons. Billy didn’t plan on staying with the wagons.

After replenishing his pack at the general store, Billy headed over to where Tom was waiting for him and said, “Tom, you go on ahead and I’ll catch up shortly. I want to visit with Henry a minute.”

As the noise of the leaving wagons died down, Billy turned to Henry and said, “Do you have a horse you can spare? I need to buy a horse and rigging before I head out.”

There was no rush for Billy to hurry and catch the wagons. At their slow pace of travel he could easily wait around Tascosa for most of the day before heading after them. He didn’t plan on taking that long but he did want to visit with a few folks around town and find out what he could about the men who had been asking about the boy. The logical place to start was McCormick’s saloon.

McCormick’s was one of the oldest of the several saloons that lined Tascosa’s streets. It was typical for the time. It had been built quickly of lumber freighted in from Las Vegas. Billy didn’t expect to find any customers at the early hour but he hoped to visit with one of the bartenders. It was likely they would be cleaning the place getting ready for another night of harvesting the hard-earned dollars from the local cowboys and hangers-on.

Billy was fortunate that Tuff Hardeman was there. Tuff was polishing off some glasses as Billy walked through the door. He looked up and said, “we’re closed.”

Billy replied, “Tuff, is that any way to treat somebody you haven’t seen in nearly a year?”

“Billy McCall. You sure must have picked up some bad habits to be coming in here at this hour of the morning. Where’ve you been?”

“New Mexico. I’ve been riding some for Pete Maxwell over at Fort Sumner. How are you?”

“Never better. Business is booming, there’s talk we’re going to be the county seat, and I even heard we might get a railroad. Can I buy you a drink?”

“No thanks, Tuff. I’m just lookin’ for some information.”

“OK. What do you want to know?”

“Has there been anybody new in town -- maybe someone askin’ lots of questions?”

“As a matter of fact there was,” said Tuff. “I didn’t know ‘em, but one of Tom’s freighters said he thought they were from over around Fort Griffin. They were asking about some boy. It wasn’t you was it? Heh, heh – you still got that baby face of yours hiding under that mustache.”

“Nope it wasn’t me. But I think I might know who they were looking for. Did they say why they were looking?”

“They said the boy stole something from them and they just wanted to get it back. They wouldn’t say what it was though.”

Billy visited with Tuff a little longer and then headed back over to the general store. Bob Bassinger might have heard something. Everyone that came to town eventually stopped at Bob’s store for some kind of supplies.

After quizzing him thoroughly, Billy learned that Bob didn’t have anything new to add to what he had learned at McCormick’s. The results at a couple of the other saloons and the livery were the same. The men hadn’t stayed in town long and no one seemed to know them. They couldn’t have been part of the Dodge City gang of Hoodoo Brown because most of them were well known and frequent visitors to Tascosa. The one thing that Billy did learn was that the men were well organized and on a couple of occasions made reference to el corazon de Cristo – the Heart of Christ.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cell Phone Ettiquette

One of the most annoying things
Is for a speaker to be interrupted
By a cellphone going off
In the middle of a presentation.

No, annoying isn't the proper word.
Rude would be a better description.
Sometimes I want to just walk over,
Grab the phone and stomp it to pieces.

Almost every program nowdays
Begins with the admonition
"Please turn all cell phones
And pagers to off or to silent."

And yet, they ring anyway.
No, they don't ring. They blare out
"The Imperial March" from Star Wars,
Or some other personal ringtone.

It's never a quiet ring.
It's always turned as loud as possible --
That's for old folks like me
Who need it turned up to hear it.

It just drives me crazy.
The phone rings,
The speaker pauses,
People look around --

Oops. I guess I forgot to turn mine off.....

Sunday, November 11, 2007


It is been difficult to get to blogging lately. It is partly the result of travel, work, social and family demands -- not necessarily in that order -- and attitude. I've just had a hard time wanting to sit down and blog.

I have been continuing to work on "Billy" but not in a disciplined fashion as I had intended. I can usually tell when something is worthwhile because there are suddenly a million things trying to pull me away. That seems to be the case here.

I attended a great conference in Omaha, Nebraska, this past week. The focus of the conference was the impact of ethanol on the beef industry. I will probably be posting some things from the conference in my "Common Sense Agriculture, Conservation and Energy" blog over the coming weeks. I think though, to sum it up, ethanol is here to stay, get used to it. Those who adjust to the new economic realities will thrive and those who don't will fail.

It seems that is the way with everything. As society/culture/economies/knowledge, etc. advance, things are destroyed and new things arise. Hopefully the new is better than the old. Sometimes I doubt it. My optimistic side says that we are advancing. We must always be vigilant however to see that we advance in the proper direction.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Billy - 7

The quiet creaking of the barn door awakened Billy. He could see the furtive figure of Tad slipping silently out into the moonlight. He lay back on his blankets and thought about what might be going through the boy’s mind.

After giving him a couple of minutes to get away, Billy quietly rose and slipped on his boots. He wanted to see which way Tad went. The boy hadn't taken the mule so he had to be on foot.

Peering through the door he could see the shadowy figure slowly fading into the dark toward the river. It looked like he was headed to town. Tomorrow would be soon enough for Billy to try and locate him. There weren’t many places that Tad could hide. More than likely he would try to slip on a freight wagon heading for Dodge City. That would be the best place to try and find him.

Billy rose the next morning when he could hear the faint sounds of clattering pans in the adobe up the hill. Lucinda was up and about cooking breakfast. Soon there would be a call to come and get it but in the meantime Billy decided to slip down to the river and see if he could make certain which way Tad’s tracks led.

It took only a few minutes to see that the boy had definitely headed toward town. The crossing down stream was plenty shallow so it shouldn’t have been difficult for Tad to get over to the other side and into Tascosa. He headed up to the house for a breakfast of eggs, beans and tortillas. It sure was nice to have some good home cooking after being on the trail for the last couple of weeks.

After they had eaten, Juan asked, “How do you plan on finding him Billy?”

“Are there any freighters in town?” he asked in return.

“I think Fernandez may be there. He’s taking the last load of wool to Las Vegas. Tom Fanning is there too. He came in yesterday from south of here with a load of buffalo bones. He’ll be heading to Dodge City with them. That’s about it,” said Juan.

“It would probably be easier for him to slip in with Fernandez to Las Vegas but I have a hunch he’s headed for Dodge. I think I’ll see if I can find Fanning and have him watch out for the boy. I might even see if he’ll let me ride with him to Dodge. Is it OK if I leave that old mule with you? In fact he’s yours. Maybe you can put some meat on him.”

Finding Tom Fanning was no problem. There were five wagons loaded with the bleached white buffalo bones already hitched and lined up in front of the livery. Tom was bellering something about how long it took to shoe a mule to a mountain of a man that could only be Henry Kimball. Henry was the first white man to settle in Tascosa. He had set up shop in 1876 shortly after Romero completed his rambling adobe.

Billy walked up to Tom and said, “Hey, old man. You look like you’ve been robbing graves with all those bones.”

“Well, Billy McCall. How are you boy? I ain’t seen you since you got into that little scrape in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. What have you been up to?”

“I’ve been keeping my nose clean and my saddle polished Tom – just bouncing around a few outfits chasing cows,” replied Billy. “Can you walk over to the store with me a minute and let Henry finish his job without you yelling at him?”

“Sure, Billy. What’s up?”

The two walked down the street past McCormick’s saloon to the general store. Billy filled in Tom about Tad and asked if he’d seen the boy.

Tom said, “Yeah, I seen him. He doesn’t know I did but I seen him. He’s in that third wagon under a pile of bones. I thought I’d get up the trail a ways and then surprise him. I was gonna make sure he had a good walk back to town.”

“Tom, I think this boy is in some trouble and I want to help him. Is it all right if I tag along with you toward Dodge and we’ll flush him out tonight when we make camp?”

“Sure, Billy. Have you got your gear ready? I’d like to head out just as soon as Henry gets that mule shod.”

“Give me a few minutes here in the store Tom. I’m a little low on a couple of things but I’ll probably be ready before your mule is.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Picture

Hopefully some of you out there have noticed the new picture in my header. It is compliments of the creative talents of Hillbilly Willy. If I understand correctly, he merged the poet leaning against the fence into the background scene. I appreciate him sharing it with me. I don't know if he's planning to enter the market as a graphic artist, but you never know. Y'all drop by and give him a shout.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Billy - 6

Tad reluctantly headed for the barn where they could hear him muttering and shifting things around.

Billy said, “What do you think Juan? Is he going to stay the night or make a run for it?”

“I think he will run for it. Then, what will you do? Will you go after him or let him make his own way?”

Billy thought a minute before he replied, “What can you tell me about these men who are looking for him?”

“Not much,” replied Juan. “Ben Sublette, the freighter, says he thinks they are part of The Dodge City Gang out of Las Vegas, New Mexico. He says there are a couple of bad hombres in the bunch.”

“It could be. They were ran out of Las Vegas just last month. I had heard they were headed for Mexico but they might have come this way. That Hoodoo Brown is sure a bad one. They were robbing stagecoaches and settlers on the old trail. Hmm,” said Billy. “I wonder why a bunch like that would be interested in the boy. Do you suppose he might have fallen in with them?”

“I doubt it,” said Juan. “More than likely he has something on them. Maybe he saw something they didn’t want him to see. Now tell me Billy, where did you find that boy?”

“I found him down on Spring Lake. I’ve been over at Fort Sumner working for Pete Maxwell.”

“Ah, and how is Doña Luz?”

“She is well, Juan. Didn’t you once work for Lucien?”

“I didn’t actually work for him, but I lived on his land. He would protect us and buy our wool and we would share part of it with him. Don Luciano was a good man. He’s been gone now – what? -- five years? I hope his son Pete is half the man he was.”

“I didn’t know Señor Maxwell, but Pete is a good man too. I helped him through the spring branding. He didn’t have much else to do so I cut loose from there and was headed over to casas amarillas. Pete said he had heard that Colonel Slaughter was driving a herd up from Big Spring and I was going to try to intercept him. When I got to Spring Lake I ran into the boy. I decided it would be better to head up here to Tascosa where I could leave the boy with somebody. Besides, maybe one of the big outfits around here is hiring.”

“Did he tell you why he was at Spring Lake?”

“He said he had been working for Charlie Goodnight and decided to light out for the Seven Rivers country. He claimed his horse stepped in a prairie dog hole and broke its leg. That’s why he was afoot. Every time I’d try to get more information out of him he would change his story. I knew from the start that he was hiding something, I just didn’t know what. He wasn’t even taking the most logical trail. He should have come through here and over to Las Vegas and then south down the Pecos to Anton Chico and Fort Sumner.”

Juan replied, “We still don’t know what he’s hiding Billy. We may never know. So, what will you do if he runs off during the night?”

“I think I’ll follow him if I can,” said Billy. “Once upon a time I needed someone to help me get through some trouble. Maybe I can repay the favor that was done for me by helping this boy.”

“Yes, I remember the story,” said Juan. “Maybe it is your fate to pass on to this boy the blessing that you received. Let’s turn in for the night. Tomorrow may be a long day.”

Monday, November 5, 2007

Billy - 5

The draw that Billy and Tad had been following passed just to the west of Juan Garcia’s barn. It was fairly shallow by the time it reached the river at the base of the slope and could easily be seen from Juan’s adobe which perched on a slight rise that kept it above the flood plain. Juan was standing on the porch watching as Billy and the boy made their way to the corrals and led their mounts to the water trough.

With the sun setting behind them, it was difficult for Juan to see them well but he called out, “Billy, is that you?”

“Yeah, Juan, it’s me. Do you mind if we turn these flea bags into your corral?”

“Go ahead,” he called back. “Wash up. Lucinda has supper almost ready.”

Billy looked at the boy and said, “Tad, let’s get some grub in us. I don’t see those riders anywhere around so maybe they were lookin’ for somebody else. What do you think?”

“I think I’m hungry. That piece of jerky didn’t last very long. I hope they have something besides beans and tortillas,” he replied.

“Now you be careful of your attitude. These are nice people. They don’t have much but they’re willing to share. Be sure and show some gratitude for whatever they offer. Otherwise, you can have another piece of jerky and muddy river water for supper.”

The two made their way up to the house where Billy introduced Tad to Juan and his family. Besides his wife Lucinda, there were five children. The oldest was Juanita who would celebrate her Quincienera this year. She was turning into a beautiful young lady who would have all the boys calling on her in a few months. Billy thought he might call on her too.

Lucinda had Billy and Tad join Juan at the table while she had the children sit on blankets near the cooking area. She and Juanita served the men large plates of beans with a choice piece of mutton and stacks of tortillas before joining the children. It wasn’t necessarily customary for the women and children to eat separately. It was a matter of space. The home was small and there wasn’t enough room at the table for everyone to sit.

When they had finished eating Juan said to Billy and Tad, “Let’s go out on the porch where it is cool and we can talk.”

After a pleasant exchange of news, Juan looked at Billy and said, “Some men have been in town asking about a boy that sounds a lot like Tad here. They say he stole something of theirs and they want it back. They are offering a reward of $50 in gold.”

Billy looked at Tad and said, “OK, Tad. It’s time you came clean with me. Are those men looking for you?”

Tad said, “I didn’t steal nothing Billy. Honest. I don’t know what they want.”

“Come on Tad. We’re nearly partners after riding together for four days. You’re gonna have to tell me why they’re looking for you.”

“I can’t Billy. If they find out I told anybody they’ll kill me.”

“Told anybody what? What is it you can’t tell or they’ll kill you. How can I help you if I don’t know what’s going on,” said Billy.

“I just can’t tell you,” said Tad, “that’s all.”

Juan looked at Billy with a wink and said, “Billy, maybe it’s none of our business. Those men will be in town tomorrow. We’ll just take Tad to them and be done with it. Fifty dollars is a lot of money.”

“You know Juan, maybe you’re right. We could split it. Maybe it’s a good thing I couldn’t get that old pastorale to keep him.”

Tad was fidgeting as the two talked. It was obvious that he wanted to tell them what was going on but was afraid.

Billy looked at Tad and said, “I’ll tell you what, you sleep on it tonight and in the morning you can decide whether to tell us or not. You and I will bunk in the barn.”

Juan said, “Tad, why don’t you go get settled in for the night. There’s plenty of loose straw in the barn that you can spread your blankets on. I want to visit with Billy for awhile before we turn in for the night.”

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Billy - 4

Billy sat down in the shade of a Hackberry that had taken root in the side of the hill. He could see the riders in the distance and he could see the silvery line of the Canadian river off to the north. It would be awhile before the riders reached the jumble of adobe buildings on the north side of the river where Casimero Ramirez had settled in 1876 and Plaza Atascosa was born. That was the same year that Billy had left Missouri.

It was also the same year that Charlie Goodnight had moved his herd into the Palo Duro Canyon. Some of the cowboys said that Goodnight was forming a Stockman’s Association. He and the other ranchers were tired of losing cattle to the little ranchers who they claimed were branding mavericks from their herds. There was certainly some truth to their claim. How else could a cowboy working for $25 per month end up owning a spread covering several thousand acres?

Just a couple of miles to the west of the ford and on the south side of the river, Billy could see Juan’s place. There wasn’t much to it, just a small adobe with a barn and corrals for his sheep.

Juan had followed Ramirez out of New Mexico to graze the open lands along the Canadian river. Romero was a Comanchero and leading citizen of Mora, New Mexico, before moving his herds to the Texas Panhandle and establishing a new town. He brought around 3,000 sheep with him and they had now increased to almost 5,000 head. His relationship with the local ranches was never secure, but they had learned to live in peace together. There was still plenty of open range available for grazing.

As Billy watched, two more riders headed south across the ford out of Tascosa. It looked like they were going to intercept the riders that he was watching. It seemed strange to Billy. Normally in this open country you didn’t run across many other riders unless you were on one of the main trails. The trails here ran mainly along the river except for the big freight trail headed north out of Tascosa to Dodge City.

The riders he had been watching picked up their pace a little when they saw that they were being met. It looked as though they were expecting it. They quickly drew together and the four of them appeared to be having a heated discussion. He could see the riders that he had been watching pointing in his general direction. It didn’t look good.

It wasn’t long before the group broke up. The pair that he had watched were headed back the direction from which they came. The other two riders headed off to the west up the river. Billy couldn’t think of any reason why, but it looked as though they might be going to circle around him so that he and the kid would be trapped. You could probably chalk it up to four years of wariness over his past, but Billy had found his intuition on such things was usually pretty good.

Billy scrambled back down the slope to where Tad was standing and watching him. He said, “I think those riders are looking for someone and it could be us. Do you know any reason they might have for that?”

Tad looked a little pale but said, “No. I can’t imagine why anyone would be looking for me. Are you an outlaw or something?”

“No, I’m not an outlaw and it may be nothing, but I think we’d better follow this draw and try to stay out of sight. Maybe we can make it to Juan’s before anyone spots us. I’m not in any mood to be answering a bunch of questions from those fellows if they do come across us. Get on that mule and lets get moving.”

The draw provided a small amount of cover for the two as they headed down the slope toward Juan’s place. If their luck held they might not be spotted. It was getting close to sundown and in another thirty minutes the light would start to fade. If those riders weren’t looking for them there would be no harm done. If they were, it would be better to be closer to town so that someone might see them if the riders meant harm.

As they got lower on the slope the danger of being seen would be from behind. If the riders were to get up on the bluff, they would be able to look back toward the river and see them in the draw.

Billy couldn’t help but wonder about the strange behavior of the riders. He couldn’t think of why anyone would be looking for him but he wasn’t sure about the kid. Tad’s behavior had been a little bit suspicious. Why had he been all alone when the horse he had been riding broke his leg? He was too young to be out by himself without someone missing him.

Billy had tried to get the boy to tell him a little about himself but hadn’t had much luck. He was hiding something. His story was consistent, but any time he pressed the boy with questions, he would change the subject. Billy felt sure there was a connection between those riders and the boy. He just needed time to sort it out to make sure he landed on the right side of the issue. He didn’t want to be turning the boy over to someone that meant him harm if it wasn’t well deserved. This country was still pretty lawless. There wasn’t much telling whether the riders had honorable intentions or otherwise.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Billy - 3

Billy had been keeping back from the river in order to avoid anybody that might be taking the main trail. It wasn’t that he was worried about being seen, he had just formed the habit of avoiding a chance encounter with someone who might have known him in Missouri. He had changed considerably since those days. His mustache had grown and he had acquired the style of dress that the local cowboys wore rather than what was normal for Jefferson City. Besides, it had been four years since he left on the run. It wasn’t likely that anyone who knew him then would be able to identify him now. They probably all thought he was dead.

The Texas Panhandle and New Mexico were good places in which to get lost. Perhaps that is why so many individuals whose past wouldn’t stand close scrutiny chose to drift into the area.

It had only been a few years since the Kiowa and Comanche Indians had owned this country. That was before the hunters had wiped out the buffalo. There were still bones scattered all over the prairie where hunters had stripped the hide and left the carcasses to be food for the wolves and coyotes. The only buffalo left were over in the Palo Duro Canyon where Colonel Goodnight had saved a few as pets. Now, what few Indians were left were over at Fort Sill in Indian Territory.

Billy angled off down the slope toward the river. He looked back occasionally to make sure Tad was still following. The kid had a way of drifting off – like he was in another world part of the time. Either his imagination was running wild or he was reliving something from his past. It happened at night too. The first night they had camped after he found Tad, the kid woke up in the middle of the night yelling and fighting at shadows. It unsettled Billy. It took a little while to calm him down and even then, it seemed that Tad didn’t want to get too far away.

It was strange thought Billy. He hadn’t wanted the kid tagging along with him but knew he couldn’t leave him out on the plains without a horse or water. But now, he was beginning to like him. It would be sad to leave him in Tascosa, but he didn’t want to have to take care of him. The kid would be better off in a town living with some family rather than drifting around from ranch to ranch as Billy had done for the last couple of years. He needed a home.

Tad came jogging up on the mule and said, “Billy, I think there’s somebody back there.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Billy.

“There’s somebody back there. I keep seeing dust over to the east. It’s maybe a wagon or something.”

“Well let’s get up on that hill so we can see. I don’t need somebody following us. You never know what kind of characters you might meet out here, but it’s probably just a couple of LX hands wondering why we’re crossing their ranch.”

Billy headed to just below the crest of a low rise and looked back to the southeast. Sure enough, there were a couple of riders drifting along. It didn’t look like they were following him but their trails would cross in another mile or so. They were probably just heading into town the same as he was. It might be a good idea to just stay out of sight until he could decide what they were up to.

He turned and walked his horse back down to the bottom of the draw where Tad was waiting.

“I don’t know who they are but let’s just take a break right here while they ride on past. We’re not in any big hurry. I guess Juan’s daughter will just have to live without me a couple of extra hours,” he told Tad.

There was a small grove of cottonwoods about a hundred yards ahead. They walked their horses down into the low spot where water sometimes stood and dismounted. Billy pulled out a piece of jerky and pitched it to Tad.

“Why don’t you sit here under these trees a bit, Tad. I’m going to walk up the hill there where I can watch those riders. I need to stretch my legs anyway. I’ll be back shortly.”

Tad said, “Billy, why can’t I walk up there with you. I don’t want to sit here by myself.”

“No,” Billy replied, “you wait here. I’ll be back.” With that, he headed up the hill to get a better look.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Billy - 2

OK. Here's another piece of "Billy."

Billy McCall had grown up in Central Missouri in the aftermath of the War Between the States. He never knew his father. His mother told him his pa had died at Shiloh. Jess Oliver, one of the neighbor boys, told him that was a lie. He said old man McCall had rode off with Quantrill but didn’t last long. He heard Quantrill shot him for being drunk when he was supposed to be standing watch. Billy didn’t want to believe Jess but, deep in his heart he knew it was true. Jess wore two black eyes for a week over the remark anyway. If old man Stewart hadn’t broke up the fight Billy might have killed Jess. He didn’t take kindly to somebody running his old man down like that. It just wasn’t right.

It wasn’t long after that before Billy’s mom took up with a slick fellow named Carson that drifted into town one day. He spent more money on her in a week than his pa had in a year. Women take kindly to that kind of treatment. No wonder she was struck by him.

Things went all right for a while. Carson spent most of his time in town gambling with some of the locals. But, it wasn’t long until they got tired of losing what little money they had to him. The pickings in Missouri were mighty slim after the war. Even in a big place like Jeff City where they had moved so his mother could find work.

One night Carson came home drunk and beat Billy’s mom. She was hurt bad and Billy didn’t know what to do. He tried to get the sheriff to do something but was told that since they had been shackin’ up together there wasn’t anything he could do.

Billy decided that if the law wouldn’t take care of it, he would.

Two nights later, Billy stole a pistol from old man Scheller and caught Carson coming out the back of Tom’s saloon. He was so scared he emptied the gun into the gambler before he knew what he was doing. He dropped the gun and ran.

He knew the hills better than the law. He also had kinfolk scattered all over the hills in that part of the state. It wasn’t much trouble to hide out for a couple of weeks until things cooled down. But, he knew he would never be able to go back.

Late one evening old Aunt Clara brought word that his mother had died. It seems the beating that she had got caused some sort of hemorrhage and she just seemed to fade away. The law was looking for Billy and she thought he ought to leave the state. He’d already had one uncle hung and she didn’t want to see him end up the same way.

So, Billy left Missouri on the run.

It was pretty scary at first, but, at fifteen he was considered grown and it wasn’t hard to make his way. There were always odd jobs to be had.

Tad couldn’t stand the silence. “Hey, Billy, what’s Tascosa like? I ain’t never been there.”

“It’s a nice place, Tad. Why, I hear it’s even gonna be the county seat,” replied Billy. “It’s the shipping point for all these big ranches around here. There’s always something to do. Have you heard about the Lincoln County War?”

“Yeah, isn’t that down south of here? I heard somebody named Tunstall got killed.”

“Yep,” said Billy. “Have you heard of Billy the Kid?”

“Who hasn’t! I heard he killed 40 men!” said Tad.

“Well, he was in Tascosa just last year. He had a mare that could run like the wind. He put her up against the best from all the strings around here. He cleaned up on the bets until nobody would run against him.”

“Do you know Billy the Kid?” asked Tad.

“Nope, but I seen him. He even gave me a dollar just for holdin’ his hat while he raced,” said Billy with a grin. “Old Juan didn’t like it much. He said I’d better quit hangin around that crowd or I’d end up hangin’! I don’t know why but I listened to the old man.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Update on "Billy"

Since posting the last entry on the story "Billy" that I had started, I planned on regularly adding sections of it so that it created a series. That is still in the plans. The trouble is, as I began going through it, I found some inconsistencies that needed re-working. I guess that's a good thing. Instead of languishing in the "dustbin" of my computer files, it is now a work-in-progress that is receiving attention.

"Billy" came out of my love of the history of this part of the world. The Texas Panhandle truly was the edge of the "wild-and-woolly" west during its heyday. Characters like Kit Carson, Batt Masterson, Doc Holiday, Charlie Goodnight, Dave Rudabaugh, Casimero Ramirez, Billy the Kid, and other famous and infamous individuals spent time in the area. Place names like Tascosa, Fort Elliott, Adobe Walls, Dodge City, KS, and Las Vegas, NM, are all connected to the Panhandle. It was the home of Kiowa and Comanche Indians until about 1876. It was the "trackless" grassland known only to Plains Indians and Comancheros for many years while areas surrounding it were settled. It was the last stronghold of the Plains Buffalo.

All of this history fits into the story of "Billy." That's why it's taking awhile to prepare the next post. My personality is such that I want the historical setting to be accurate. I want the events to fit neatly into the "real" history of the area. I am a critical reader. When I find events or places in a story that don't fit history, I am at least mildly disappointed and often disgusted if the abuse of accuracy is blatant. Therefore, I will take my time, check my chronology, make sure it all fits together correctly, and then I will post the next section. I'm sure I will miss some things, but I hope to minimize any inaccuracies.

My aim is not to write a "western" novel. My aim is to set a story about a young man struggling with eternal questions of values into a history that is of interest to me. Hopefully it will be interesting to others. Again, any and all feedback will be appreciated.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


A few years ago I started on a story -- maybe it was going to be a novel. I want to share part of it with you. Feedback would be greatly appreciated. It's called "Billy."

“Billy, ain’t we ever gonna get to Tascosa?” asked the skinny, blonde-headed kid on the boney mule plodding along the dry wash.

Billy didn’t answer. He just touched spurs to the sorrel’s sides and trotted out ahead so he wouldn’t have to listen.

It had been a long day. The dust caked on his face was streaked with little muddy rivers where the sweat ran down from beneath his hatband. His shirt was heavy with the sweat and dust that clung to him. July in the Texas Panhandle wasn’t his idea of a holiday.

The little mule hurried to catch up to the sorrel and in doing so, tried to beat the tailbone off the kid clinging to his back. He couldn’t have been more than twelve…the kid that is. The mule must have been going on twenty. It was hard to tell. There wasn’t much left of him but skin and bones.

Billy had found the boy wandering in a draw on the south side of the river four days back. He was scared and hungry. He had tried to give him to a Mexican sheep-herder a couple of days later but the pastorale wouldn’t take him. Well, at least he had traded that old pistol he had found for the mule so Tad wouldn’t have to ride double anymore.

That’s what the kid called himself, Tad. Said it was short for Tadpole. He didn’t know what his given name was. He’d been called Tad as long as he could remember. Until Billy quizzed him about it, he had thought that was his only name.

“Hey, Billy, wait up!” called Tad. “This ole mule’s gonna kill me if you don’t slow down.”

Billy pulled up and waited for him. He couldn’t help but like the kid. He wasn’t that much older himself. His nineteenth birthday was just last month. But, it seemed like he’d been on his own for most of his life.

If they could keep the pace up, they should be into Tascosa sometime before noon tomorrow. He wanted to make Juan’s place by nightfall though, so he was a little impatient with Tad. The boy was cramping his style. He planned on ditching him in Tascosa. Too bad that old sheepherder wouldn’t take him.

“Tad, if you don’t hurry up I might just leave you out here,” said Billy. “Old Juan has a daughter that oughta be ‘bout grown by now. I’ve been hankerin’ to see her since I left here last year. Besides, Juan owes me a favor or two for getting’ him out of a scrape last time I was here.”

“But, Billy, I thought we were going to Tascosa. I don’t want to stay with some Greaser!” griped Tad.

“Just you hush. Me and Juan go back a long time. Why he’s been about as white to me as any man I ever met. Don’t you go bad-mouthin’ him like that again!”

Billy turned and headed off down the wash. He was thinking about the possibilities that a pretty little dark-eyed senorita presented when Tad piped up again, “Billy, you wouldn’t leave me would ya? I ain’t got nobody I can turn to. What would I do?”

Billy thought on that one awhile and then said, “I guess you could get a job or somethin’. Some store clerk or saloon keeper could use a boy like you.”

“I don’t want to work for no saloon keeper Billy. The last one like to have killed me,” said Tad. “I want to be a cowboy. I can’t live in no town!”

Billy laughed at that. A cowboy on a twenty year old mule. Hah! That would be the day. He could just see Tad riding up to Bates at the LX telling him he wanted to cowboy.

“What you laughin’ at Billy? I ain’t said nothing funny,” growled Tad. “I’m old enough to chase cows. Why, if I had me a real horse I’d show you what kind of cowboy I was. I bet I can out cowboy you!”

That got Billy’s attention. “Tad, if you’re such a hotshot cowboy, how come you to be afoot out in the middle of nowhere?” asked Billy.

“I told you what happened,” Tad said. “My horse broke his leg and dumped me. Then I had to walk. I was looking for the river ‘cause I knew there’d be someone along sooner or later to give me a ride. Just my bad luck it was you!”

“Well,“ thought Billy, “at least he was consistent.” He’d stuck by his story for four days now. Although he knew in his gut it wasn’t true, he humored the boy. He figured it more likely he’d escaped from some trader.

“Tad,” said Billy, “you’d better quit cussin’ your luck. If it hadn’t been for me you’d probably be starved or dead by now. Who’d you say you were working for?”

“I didn’t,” said Tad. “I’m between jobs right now. My last job was for Charlie Goodnight.”

“Tell me about Charlie,” said Billy.

“Did I tell you about Dodge City?” asked the boy. “I seen Bat Masterson himself shoot up a whole passle of trail hands one night. Didn’t even break a sweat!”

“I didn’t ask about Dodge City, I asked you about Charlie Goodnight.” The boy was exasperating Billy. He never could stick to a subject. He didn’t figure on ever getting a straight story from him.

They rode on awhile in silence. The clump of horse hooves in the sandy soil was the only sound. A hawk circled high overhead riding the currents. Nothing but skimpy grass and sage between them and the horizon.

Occasionally they could glimpse the red and silver snake of the Canadian river off to their left as they wound along and through the little draws and gullies that sloped off toward the river. Sometimes the scenery was broken by a few scrub cedars clinging to the red hills but, even those were sparse.

If it wasn’t for the water, this could barely be called cow country except down in the bottom and in some of the bigger draws. The real grass was up on the Llano. Too bad there weren’t more creeks up there. This would be some kinda cow country. Grass as far as you can see.

“They say people used to get lost up there and wander for days in a circle before some Comanche would find ‘em and scalp ‘em,” Billy said.

“Huh?!” said Tad. “What are you talkin’ about Billy?”

“Never mind, I guess I was just thinking out loud.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

TCFA Convention

Yesterday was another day of travel. After church and lunch I drove to San Antonio. It is about 530 miles.

On the way down I stopped in Kerrville for a bite to eat and ran into a couple from my home town. They also were headed to the TCFA Convention. Then after checking into the Crowne Plaza I turned around and saw 9 more people that live within 10 miles of me.

I am certain that a majority of the attendees will be from the Texas Panhandle area because that is where most of the cattle feeding occurs within the state. There are feedyards scattered throughout the state but the majority are in the Panhandle.

Some of the "hot" topics for this year's convention are 1) the impact of ethanol on cattle feeding, 2) animal activism and 3) export markets. The first one is really the only "new" topic. It seems like year after year there is concern over export markets and animal activism.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Brief Interlude Between Trips

It is good to be back home after a week of travel. Fortunately, the return trip was uneventful.

The Sunbelt Exposition was a great venue for creating contacts in a region of the country where we have very little business. I picked up a couple of customers and made contact with a number of strong influencers.

Growing a business sometimes is a matter of planting lots of seeds in lots of places. Just like the "Parable of the Sower" in Luke 8, some fall on fertile ground, some on rocky ground, etc. Unlike the "Parable of the Sower," it is my responsibility to nurture those contacts and help them to grow into meaningful business relationships. It requires time, perseverance, patience, and a long-term view of what I'm trying to accomplish.

Many companies push for immediate sales -- often at the expense of long-term relationships. They believe there are more customers where those came from and sometimes view the customer as somewhat expendable. It is a common view among MBA's -- especially Ivy League MBA's. They typically see all parts of a business as expendable/replaceable.

I believe in building solid, long-term relationships. It may mean slower growth in the short-term, but it will mean faster growth in the future because each customer is much more likely to stay as a customer rather than a portion of them "falling out" periodically.

I have spent most of this morning gathering information/working on reports for our ownership. I will be traveling again beginning tomorrow afternoon, so I only have a narrow window for some of this since it is needed Monday afternoon.

This week I'm off to San Antonio to the Texas Cattle Feeders Convention. I always enjoy San Antonio. I just wish that I had more time there. It is a quick trip with return on Tuesday night. I had planned on meeting with several of our customers in Central Texas before returning, but I was summoned for Jury Duty to appear Wednesday morning. Oh, well. It's been over 25 years since I served on a jury -- and maybe this one will settle out of court before we are empanelled. Civic Duty calls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Sunbelt Exposition

The Sunbelt Exposition in Moultrie, Georgia, may be the largest Farm Show in the country. It is certainly the most diverse that I've ever attended. There was equipment and services represented for poultry, swine, dairy, beef, bees, alpacas, cotton, soybeans, corn, vegetables, peanuts, tobacco, pine trees, catfish, shrimp, pecans, hay, grass, large farms, small farms, red fish, blue fish -- wait, that's Dr. Seuss -- anyway, maybe you get the picture. I have posted a few of my favorite pictures from the show below. Maybe you can figure out how they fit into Agriculture.

I think this last one is the one that I want. An air boat would be a blast. The only trouble that I see is that in West Texas it would have to have wheels!

First Day at the Sunbelt Expo

Yesterday was a good day here at the Sunbelt Exposition. It is one of the largest Agricultural Trade Shows that I have ever seen. The diversity of different types of agriculture in the Southeast is much greater than in the Plains.

My very first visitor to our Trade Show booth was turned into a customer. That was a nice positive way to begin. Hopefully it will create a toe-hold for us in this part of the country.

Throughout the day we had numerous visitors to the booth that indicated interest but no one else ready to adapt the technology. The awareness of what we do is very low in this part of the country and the majority of livestock producers (who are typically very small) are unfamiliar with what we do and require extensive education. That's OK. We are beginning the process.

Getting away from the booth is often the best way to scout out potential key contacts. I was able to do that for awhile and made some excellent inroads with key individuals in a couple of the larger organizations that were represented. I think the trip so far has been well worth the effort and expense. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Destination Attained in This Small World

Valdosta, Georgia. Finally. After arriving at Amarillo, Texas, Rick Husband International Airport yesterday morning at 9:00 a.m. to fly to Jacksonville, Florida and then drive to Valdosta, Georgia, for anticipated arrival yesterday around 5:45 p.m., I finally arrived today in Valdosta at about 8:00 p.m. That is 36 hours for the trip that could have been driven in less time.

According to Mapquest, it is 1282 miles from Amarillo to Valdosta. At an average speed of 60 miles per hour it would take a little over 21 hours of driving time. I would have saved 15 hours!!

The weather was the culprit. However, it was exacerbated by the desire of the airlines to be efficient. They have cut flights so that every plane is loaded to capacity. There is absolutely no slack in their scheduling. It doesn't take much of a glitch for the house of cards to come tumbling down. I think next time it would be best to charter a plane.

I love the Southeast. I love the accent -- yeah, I know, I'm the one with the accent -- Texas accent. There is nothing more melodic than English spoken with a deep south accent. It sings. I think it must be in my blood.

Numerous generations ago, my predecessors came out of the hills of northern Georgia after arriving there from South Carolina where they offloaded from ships arriving from Scotland. Tracking the genealogy is difficult because much of it was lost in the War of Northern Aggression when Sherman burned the courthouse in Atlanta. Maybe it's best. What little family history we have shows heavy tracks of a few outlaws in the tree (hanging by their necks -- not their tails as a good friend likes to say). However, there is also a generous mix of a few heroes so I guess that makes me about average. Humph! I never thought of myself as average. Oh, well.

As I checked into the motel here in Valdosta, a gentlemen was standing behind me waiting to speak with the desk clerk. He asked what part of Texas I was from and I told him that it was near Amarillo. He was wearing a Clemson shirt which is where he is currently associated with their Extension Service. It seems that he was from Winters, Texas. I asked him if he knew a particular individual who graduated from High School with me and now lives in Winters. He knew him well. It is a small world.

Travel and Perseverance

Yesterday was a bit trying due to traveling difficulties. The flight on which I was to travel to Dallas and then Jacksonville was cancelled due to inclement weather in Dallas. There were no seats available on any other American flights that would get me to my destination so I transferred to Continental for a trip through Houston which at the time was still open.

After circling off the Texas coast for about 3 times at a location somewhere south of Freeport, the pilot came on and said, "folks, we're getting low on fuel and Houston is socked in by rain so we will be diverting to Corpus Christi."

OK. I like Corpus. It's a great place to visit -- if you're not stuck in a plane on the runway for 2 hours before they decide that it's time to offload and hike to the terminal to wait with the other 30 flights that were diverted there for the afternoon.

My original flight from Amarillo was to leave at 9:55 a.m. and arrive in Jacksonville around 3:40 in the afternoon. I left Amarillo at 1:30 and finally got out of Corpus Christi at 11:15 p.m. After arriving in Houston at Midnight, we learned that the earliest available seats to Jacksonville were on the 2:10 p.m. flight. All motels near the airport were filled so finally we found one about 20 miles away and caught a cab which took us to the "last available room in Houston" where our 2:00 a.m. check-in was salvaged by a night clerk that deserves a 'gold star' in my book. He fitted us with shaving kit, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. and it was off to bed.

I am waiting in the motel for the cab to arrive to deliver me back to the airport. I hope we get to Jacksonville before the storms reach there. The weather map looks like we should, but the way yesterday went, I have my doubts.

Today is a loss because it will be spent waiting and traveling. Once we reach Jacksonville it is about 2 hours by car to our destination in Southern Georgia. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there are 2 days of meetings left before flying out again on Friday. The forecast for Friday doesn't look promising.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." -- Romans 5:3-4

Monday, October 15, 2007

Classy Lady

A nice article about a classy lady and a true Texan.

October 15, 2007

First Lady Raising Her Profile Without Changing Her Image


CRAWFORD, Tex., Oct. 14 — This Saturday, a military jet with the code name “Bright Star” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, bound for a diplomatic mission in the Middle East. It will carry an increasingly outspoken and quietly powerful White House emissary: Laura Bush, the first lady of the United States.

The official purpose of the trip is to promote breast cancer awareness; nobody expects the president’s wife to engage in bare-knuckle negotiations over war and peace. Yet in the twilight of her husband’s presidency, the woman who once made George W. Bush promise she would never have to give a speech is stepping out in a new and unusually substantive way.

At the United Nations General Assembly in late September, Mrs. Bush was in the audience while her husband criticized the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by the military junta in Myanmar, formerly Burma. But three weeks earlier it had been the first lady, not the president, who picked up the phone to call the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

She is now the administration’s leading voice on the matter, denouncing the junta in official statements, Congressional testimony and, last week, an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.

“I think that this is sort of one of those myths,” she told reporters after the call to...(complete article

Sunday, October 14, 2007


What does it mean to be yourself?
Do we accept who we are, or do we wish to change something about ourselves?
Would you rather be someone else?

Once we accept who we are we can become fully productive.
Once we accept who we are we know what we were made to do.
Once we accept who we are we quit trying to be someone else.
Once we accept who we are we recognize that we are made for a purpose.

I am that which I am;
Nothing more and nothing less.
I am unique.
In all the world there is no one else like me.

Isn't that an awesome thought?
No two of us are exactly the same.
Is that just a product of randomness,
Or is there a plan behind it?

When each of us does what he was made to do
Everything gets done.
The talents and abilities of each person
Complement the talents and abilities of others.
Isn't it amazing?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blog Action Day for the Environment

October 15 is Blog Action Day for the Environment. There is a button with link in my sidebar. I would encourage everyone to join in this particular Action Day. Most of you who read this blog are very conservative. So am I. Al Gore receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for his fiction film on Global Warming doesn't sit too well with me. I think it devalues the Nobel. Although, I guess that Jimmy Carter receiving it some years back pretty much soured me on its value anyway.

On this Blog Action Day there will be thousands of posts by liberal environmental activists crying "doom and gloom" about the environment. We need to make certain that more conservative views are represented.

Don't misunderstand me, I do believe that we need to care for the environment. Water, air and other pollution are health hazards. We are commanded by God to be good stewards of the resources that he places in our care -- which is the earth and all that is in it. However, stewardship implies Conservation -- not Preservation. There is a big difference.

Preservationists want to depopulate the earth. They also desire to see those few who are left living in a "natural" state -- being one with nature. It's interesting to me that the only ones they feel deserve to live on this planet are members of their small but very vocal clique. It is a very elitist position. If most of them were placed in nature without their gadgets and gizmos they would starve to death. Many of them are totally dependent on the technology that they condemn. Al Gore is a prime example. What would he do without his jet to travel around the world?

Conservationists on the other hand are focused on sustainability. It is a concept that makes sense. Conservation is caring for resources in a manner that will provide maximum benefit for now and future use. Conservationists are in favor of sustainable hunting and fishing. They believe in the utilization of natural resources such as land for farming and forests for lumber. The idea of conservation walks a fine line just short of Preservation. Conservationists wish to maintain bio-diversity. The demise of species is potentially detrimental to human populations. Therefore they are proponents of natural reservoirs to maintain viable populations of plants and animals. Their view is that such reservoirs provide a research laboratory that may yield future miracle drugs. They also understand the interlocking web of dependence between each and every plant and animal community. I consider myself to be in the Conservation camp -- sounds a lot like Conservative doesn't it?

We all should be sensitive to environmental issues. I'm sure that none of you would choose to live in a cesspool. That is why I believe it is important to get a Common Sense view posted on this Blog Action Day.

Friday, October 12, 2007

R. E. Lee and Other Heroes

Today is the anniversary of Robert E. Lee's death in 1870. Texas Fred has a commemorative post up about him. One of my favorite biographies is R.E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman. I have a nice edition in my home library.

R.E. Lee: A Biography: 4 Volume Set

I don't consider myself a rabid southerner although I believe the War of Northern Aggression -- a.k.a. the Civil War -- was as much about state's rights as about slavery. Slavery was the catalyst that brought the issue of state sovereignty to the test. I do fear the encroachment of the Federal government on certain areas that should be left to the states for determination. But, I do understand the need for a strong Federal government -- otherwise our country would be constantly in danger of secession.

Robert E. Lee was a strong Christian leader and one of the most brilliant military tacticians to ever wear a uniform. If he had been immediately put in command of all Southern forces rather than serving in multiple lesser capacities for the early part of the war, the result could well have been different. Jefferson Davis was slow to relinquish control and slow to recognize Lee's unique abilities.

Lee had the opportunity to serve in a position of command in either army -- North or South. It was his loyalty to his home state of Virginia that tipped the balance in favor of the South. I believe that his role in the South led to the prolonging of the war. Without his leadership the conflict likely would have been shorter and much less bloody. I believe that blood and suffering was necessary for a final resolution of the issue. If the North had quickly rolled over the South, the issue would have continued to raise its head for years to come -- resulting in additional bloody conflict. The war also cemented the relationship of the states to the Federal government and strengthened Federal control.

Robert E. Lee, in spite of the negatives that have been attached to his name by those who would tie him to the slavery issue, was a great and good man. He was a man of honor and one that should be held in high esteem by all. He was truly a hero.

This date also happens to be the birthday of my Grandmother. She also was a hero. She raised 7 kids on a dryland Oklahoma farm by herself after my Grandfather died (when my father was 12) through the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. She died several years ago.

Computer Viruses and Mercy

This has been a week of patience. Last week while traveling, I received a call from one of our offices that they had some "strange things" happening on one of the computers. I suggested a few things to correct the problem but the attempts were unsuccessful.

On Monday of this week when I was at that office, I took it upon myself to try and correct the problem. It was a type of spyware called Ultimate Defender. My McAfee anti-virus software wouldn't touch it so I bought a copy of Norton's System Works to attempt removal. It wouldn't clean it either. I spent part of 3 days trying various things to remove the problem. It would generate pop-ups anytime you did anything on the computer. It was extremely frustrating.

I went in and started manually cleaning everything that I could find. I just couldn't find the file that was re-generating the issue. I finally called Norton and spent $100 to get their help. After about 1 1/2 hours on the phone with a guy in India who had to take control of the computer over the Internet and manually remove the problem it was fixed.

Apparently one of my employees had been visiting some sites that he shouldn't have. I asked the Norton Technician what caused the problem and he said that most commonly this type of virus comes from porn sites or from MySpace/MyWay sites. This particular one came in on a video file. The file was innocent appearing but contained something worse than AIDS.

I called a meeting of my employees and told them plainly that if I ever found one of them visiting a porn site or MySpace/MyWay on a company computer again it would be grounds for immediate dismissal. I knew from the nervous reaction throughout my 2 1/2 days of working on the problem who the guilty party was. He's young and didn't realize the risk. I believe that he got the message.

Sometimes mercy is the best response. If done correctly it can often change behavior. I am thankful that God has mercy on me. I don't deserve it, but His mercy is my only hope of redemption.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Rather Lengthy Meme!

Janie at Sounding Forth has tagged me for a meme.

A) Four jobs that I've held --

1) General Manager
2) Salesman
3) Regional Manager
4) Division Manager
5) Loan Officer

B) Four films I could watch over and over

1) Lord of the Rings (all)
2) Star Wars (all)
3) McClintock
4) Indiana Jones (all)
5) Independence Day

C) Four TV shows I watch

1) Stargate SG1 (occasionally)
2) Eureka (occasionally)
3) NCIS (occasionally)
4) College football if A&M or Texas Tech are playing
5) Dallas Cowboys -- until I fall asleep in my chair

D) Four places I've lived

1) Olton, Texas
2) Muleshoe, Texas
3) Minneola, Kansas
4) Red Cloud, Nebraska
5) Justin, Texas

E) Four favorite foods

1) Chicken fried steak
2) Brisket
3) Ribeye steak
4) Any kind of beef
5) Blue Bell ice cream -- you can tell I'm a healthy eater.

F) Four websites I visit daily

2) Fox News
3) Drudge Report
4) Yahoo
5) iGoogle

G) Four favorite colors

1) Blue
2) Green
3) Red
4) Khaki
5) Maroon

H) Four places I would love to be right now

U.S. Other
1) Red River, New Mexico 1a) Dublin, Ireland
2) Portland, Oregon 2a) Adelaide, Australia
3) Nashville, Tennessee 3a) Fiji
4) Washington, DC 4a) Buenos Aires
5) New York, New York 5a) Jamaica

I) Four names I love but could/would not use for my children

1) Constantinople -- beats me why
2) Luke Skywalker -- it sounds so forceful
3) Obiwan Kenobi -- it really rolls off the tongu
4) Snickerdoodle -- 'cause I like the cookies
5) Jesus -- It is a name I love to hear...

Now I'm supposed to tag four bloggers. I will pass on that, however, if any of you who read this would like to participate, leave a comment and have at it.

Monday, October 8, 2007


In the stillness of the evening
As I reflect upon the day
I first replay the struggles
That I faced along the way

Until exhausted from the thinking
Of how bad they came to be
I stop in realization
They have gained control of me.

So I slowly shift my thoughts
To the good things that occurred
Until the bad on which I'd focused
Is now completely blurred.

The victory of this day
Is when I think about the good
And it changes my perspective
Just the way it should.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." __Philippians 4:8

Sunday, October 7, 2007

First Fantasy Baptist Church

Welcome to the First Fantasy Baptist Church
Read the sign over the door --
At least that's what I was looking for.

Instead I found that once inside
The fantasy I was seeking had died
And in its place were real people.

I expect to be entertained!
Crank up the music;
Put on a show.

But in its place was much too loud
And slightly off key in a place or two
And a prayer that lasted way too long.

Oh, but surely the preacher
Will move me in my pew
And make me see the Pearly Gates.

But about 12:10 as he was finally winding down
The realization set in that
All I got was the same old sermon on gettin' saved.

What's wrong with churches nowadays?
Don't they know that they've got to keep our attention
Or we'll go on down the road?

They expect us to put something in the plate
And be greeters or maybe teachers
Or help out in the nursery.

I even saw a Deacon at the liquor store the other day
And he was leaving with a brown paper bag
Yet they expect me to go visit people?

They're just a bunch of hypocrites in there
That cheat on their taxes
And make too big a profit down at the store.

I think I'll just drop out.
I don't need a church like that.
I can get better on T.V.

Those people outta start livin' like it says in The Good Book.
You know, love your neighbor
And give to the poor.

Why would they expect me to go there
If they can't live
The way The Good Book says?

Besides, they act better'n me.
They all wear fancy clothes
And drive big cars.

Why don't they share some of that wealth?
I could sure do something with it!
I'd give half of it away!

I'll just sit here and listen to the T.V. preacher.
He's better anyway.
They won't even come and visit me.

They're just a bunch of hypocrite holy rollers.
I won't waste my time on them.
Besides, the football game starts at 11:30.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not die but have everlasting life." __ John 3:16

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Turns to apathy
And then remembrance.

A cause
Becomes a lost cause
Until it is an "if only."

Restless energy
Replaced by patient endurance
Rests in tales of past exploits.

Fade into reality
Merging to memories.

Grows to middle-age
And finally the wisdom of the elderly.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Harvest Time

Harvest time
Piles of grain
Changing leaves
Cool mornings
New wheat springing
Rural towns bustling
Kids in school
Hurry in the air
Fruits of summer's of labor
Before the winter rest.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Condensed Trip Summary

Two great meetings and one cancellation -- so went our trip this week. In spite of the cancellation, it was extremely successful. We have a number of new customers as a result and a much closer relationship with the customer that helped to sponsor the trip. It was definitely a win-win-win situation.

The area of the country that we were traveling into was in the midst of corn and soybean harvest. It was the reason that we had the one cancellation. Priorities...

Hopefully, I will be able to get back into a regular routine of posting tomorrow.