A Day in the Saddle

I first visited Texas in 1975, three years before we moved there. I stayed with Uncle Dave and Aunt Betty.
During my visit, they decided to go to Ft. Worth for her mother’s birthday. Betty’s brother Bill was a vet,
who had a ranch with some cattle and horses. She got him to take me horse back riding. How cool was this,
I would get to ride a Texas horse across the Texas Prairie.

On the second day in Ft. Worth, Bill arrives in his truck to take me to the ranch. I was ready, blue jeans
and my first and only cowboy shirt. We get to the ranch and there are two horses ready and waiting.
His sons had been there earlier and had left them almost ready to go. All we had to do was cinch the
saddles and hit the trail.

When I went to cinch mine it decided to suck wind. This is an old horse trick when it wants to make
things miserable for the rider.  I reared back and kicked him in the stomach. He blew the load of wind
and I cinched him him up. I told him, “Nice try horse, you lose.” I mounted the horse who for the purpose of this
story I will call “Silver.”  I don’t remember it’s name. The stirrups were a little low, but when I asked to adjust them,
Bill tells me no, that I should not need to have them higher. He was wrong.

I have ridden horses before this experience. All of the horses I had ridden were trained Western. Pull the reins
left or right, pull back to stop, loosen the reins to go. Texas, western, I made the assumption that Silver was trained this
way too. No such luck. I finally got the hang of guiding Silver down the trail, but since we were going straight, not much needed
to get him going. It was a nice gentle walk, so I used voice commands to get Silver to speed up. While he seemed to
understand English, he was not responding too well.

I asked Bill what was missing and he suggested I give Silver a lite kick. I gave the lightest kick I could muster and
Silver  took off like a bat out of hell. We did about 300 yards in 10 seconds flat. I hung on for dear life and finally did
what I had been taught, I pulled back on the reins. Silver went into Warp Mode. The Starship Enterprise would have had trouble keeping up. For those of you familiar with Star Trek, you know how they always showed the lights streaking to indicate Warp Speed. That’s how the cows looked to me as we flew past them.

Across the prairie we fly, I’m trying to move myself with the horse and I can’t because the stirrups are too low.
I had the reins in one hand and with the other I was alternating between holding onto the saddle and trying to keep my
glasses from flying off. There was a slight grade to the property and then a rise. Silver and I flew up that hill to the next
plateau. Lots more wide open land with a lake straight in front of me.

”Screw this,” I though, you’re not getting me all wet. I decided my only recourse was to jump. I got myself ready for the fall
off this Texas size horse. I knew I was going to get hurt. I threw down the reins and got ready to jump and Silver stops on a dime.
I thought, “What the hell, maybe broke him.” Bill finally rides up and says “Are you OK.?”  “Yes,” I mumbled.  “These horses aren’t trained western are they?”
“No. They’re trained opposite of Western.”
“Thanks for not telling me.”

I picked up the reins and turned Trigger around for home. Once I knew the controls, we had a fine time. I turned him right and left we counted all the cows, looked over the landscape, all with no issues. I did my best John Wayne imitation and horse and I finally
worked as a team. All was well, I was having fun!
Until we got about 500 feet from the barn……

Silver decided he had enough and picked up the pace. I dropped the reins down and said “Whoa!”
Silver huffed to a stop and I made him stand there a minute. Bill sits there laughing and says, “He’s hungry. Just hang on and let him go.” So Silver got his way and as we neared the barn. I almost got a leg full of corral fence. We put the tack away and rubbed down the horses. Then we fed them their evening grub. Bill noted how I did not have to be told how to do any of this. I let him know 4H had taught
me well.

We went back to the house for supper and the whole gang got to laugh at the story. Bill was sitting there and said, “I am so glad I didn’t
have to come back and tell you I killed him.” 

When we moved to Texas a few years later I got to ride a horse on Galveston Island. It was trained Western.

My Favorite Martian vs My Favorite Russian

When I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was “My Favorite Martian” with Bill Bixby and Ray Walston. This was a spoof of what might happen if a Martian actually crashed on earth and tried to live among us. It was a lot of special effect humor from Walston’s Martian combined with the goofy antics of Bixby’s character. The premise was that Walston was Bixby’s Uncle Martin.

In this era, the world was fascinated by evil men from outer space and The Russians. They hype concerning both was almost equal. If the space invaders didn’t attack us, the Russians would. People watched the skies for both possibilities.

In 1982, E.T. finally convinced us that not all aliens were evil and give the right bicycle, we could fly across the moon. In 1987, I finally met my first Russian. I was working near Washington D.C. selling software and many of the embassy personnel liked to frequent my store, including the Russians. I will not use his name, but I can tell you he was roughly mid 30’s with a wife and a couple of kids. I never met his wife, but I did meet his kids. Barring the accent, you’d never know they were not a typical  American Family. Over the months, I got to know them and realized that they were more like me than different from me. Thanks to this fine gentleman, I got to partake in a tasting of Russian Crackers and Beluga Caviar. That was my Christmas Gift for helping him route a journey to Niagara Falls through wine country for their 10th anniversary.

Now, lately we have been assailed with the Russians again. They helped rig the election so Trump would win. If this is true all I want to say is THANK YOU!  Way to go Putin! The last thing this country needed in the White House was Hillary Clinton. If it turns out to be true, every American should send a thank you note to Vladimir.

Now, back to the other kind of aliens, I’ve been to Roswell; Weather Balloon my foot!  I’ve also been to Devil’s Tower where they filmed parts of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  If I was an alien, I would choose to land there, if only to get some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. The “Devil’s Tower View” restaurant is within a few miles of the tower at 476 State Highway 24.

Aliens of all types scare people, especially folks who thrive on religious theology. How sad they miss out on the fun and intrigue of meeting Mr Spock some day. Or enjoying the company of a Tribble. How cool would it be to “Go where no man has gone before” Hopefully Trump will help restart NASA with a vengeance. We need to continue to explore the universe.

Christmas Trivia

Why was Frosty the Snowman always a Jolly Happy Soul?
Check what’s in his pipe.
He has come out of hiding now
His eyes made of coal are safe for now.

Why was Rudolph’s Nose always red? 
Whisky with his Reindeer Chow.

What new Christmas song is based on the Election?
Clinton Got Run Over by the Trump Train

Does anyone know what a Bough of Holly is any more?
Or how to Deck the Halls with It?
We still did that when I was a kid, Holly and Evergreen Cuttings.
And wreaths made out of IBM Punch Cards sprayed silver and gold.

What is a Figgy Pudding?
I had to write a friend in London to find out.
Sounds Yummy!

Yet another new Song!
Here Comes Santa Trump!

Merry Christmas!

Lurch

If you are old enough, when you saw the title you figured I was going to write about the character from “The Addams Family.” Fooled Ya! This article is about my Parrot.

I got Lurch for my birthday in 1974. He was a Yellow Naped Amazon and was rescued from a pet shop in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent his first few days in a dorm room at University of CIncinnati. I don’t know if that had an affect on Lurch or not, but he never spoke clearly and would often make weird sounds for no good reason. My brother indicated that he had been exposed to loud music and the occasional drug fume of one type or another. So, Lurch in a nutshell was a stoner.

When Lurch finally arrived at home, he had a bad eye and a broken toe that had healed badly. He had no band on his leg, so I had to figure he was an illegal alien too. Lurch was also what they called a Bronco. Nice and friendly one minute and would bite a chunk out of anything close the next minute. I still carry scars from a couple of his attacks.

Lurch arrived in a monkey cage and that stayed his home for years. He knew how to open the door and it took several trial runs to find dishes he could not dump on the floor when he wanted attention of a snack. I ended up having to put a flip lock on the cage door and tying down the dishes with electronic cable ties. He would spend lots of time trying to defeat the lock and he would bang the dishes up and down like a prisoner rattling a cup in an old gangster movie. if that didn’t work, he would start screeching at full volume. When we lived in apartments, the police got called twice accusing us of child abuse. When the second officer came, Lurch sat there growing at him very much like Ted Cassidy used to do on “The Addams Family.” That was one of Lurch’s Favorite TV shows.

Lurch loved the noise and pictures of television. He would laugh with me during comedies and when anyone cried on a show, Lurch would cry with them. I had to buy a whole extra box of tissues when we watched “Little House on the Prairie.” Someone was always crying or dying on that show. He really enjoyed westerns and any show with animals. he could do a pretty good horse and dog when he was in the mood.

When I had owned Lurch for around 20 years, he started getting really moody and nasty. I consulted with several sources and the opinion was that Lurch needed a mate. I couldn’t afford one, so I was put in touch with a well known Breeding Farm for parrots. Lurch got a new home and last I heard, he was having the time of his life and I was a bird grandfather many times over. That was about 20 years ago. Since parrots can live a long time, I hope he is still happy and has grandkids and great grandkids of his own.

The Christmas Trees

Every year at Christmas when I was young, we would spend some time at Grandma and Grandpa Sweitzer’s house, eating a huge holiday dinner, enjoying presents and seeing all the Cousins and Aunts and Uncles we had not seen all year. It was a house full of people, screaming kids and usually someone playing the old out of tune upright Player Piano with the player missing.

One of the things us kids always looked forward to was Grandpa’s Christmas tree. It was one of those horrible fake Aluminum trees, with a color wheel.To make it something special, Grandpa drilled a hole into the bottom of it’s wooden core and mounted it on top of an old record player that had one of those metal stems to hold multiple records. Then he set that player to slow and the tree would rotate. The whole thing got placed on his big wooden desk that sat in from of the picture window that faced the street. People from all over the neighborhood would stroll by, just to see Grandpa’s Spinning multi-colored Christmas Tree.

Grandpa decorated the tree with various things and those small candy canes. Us kids would make a game of snatching the candy from the spinning tree. This seems like silly entertainment now, but for 5 and 6 year olds in 1965, it helped pass the time and get us a Sugar Fix too.

Grandma’s contribution to the trees every year was to make a Gumdrop Tree. She used those really huge Gumdrops to make a colorful tree on a Styrofoam Cone base. she’d spend an hour sticking Gumdrops to the tree with toothpicks, so the kids could pick their favorite color and flavor from the tree. She would refill it, so there was always some available for a quick treat. Between the two trees, the kids could make it through what was usually a very long day.

Grandma Sweitzer Toast

When I was a youngster, I stayed at my grandparent’s house quite a bit. Dad and mom both worked, so they would drop me there and sometimes I would get picked up late in the day or sometimes I would spend the night. I had the front room by the attic stairs so I could look out to the traffic going by, or if I was bored, I would sneak up the attic stairs and spend time exploring. Their house was one of those huge old Victorians, four floors from basement to attic.

JACKSON

On the mornings when I spent the night, Grandpa would wake me and I would dash down to the small kitchen at the back of the house and join Grandma while she made breakfast. Usually it was simple stuff like Bacon and Eggs or sometimes Oatmeal, but always on the side was a stack of Grandma Sweitzer Toast. 

Grandma has one of those old all metal toasters. I don’t know what year she got it, but I would suspect somewhere in the 1940’s after WWII. By the time I came along in the 1960’s the poor thing was worn out. It was my job to sit and watch the toaster, to make sure it did not burn the toast. Many times, we would get to talking and laughing and I would forget the toaster until we smelled something burning. Out would pop two slices of burnt, very crispy toast. Grandma would put it on a plate and walk over to the sink. She’d stand there scraping off the burnt part and what was left was usually just a sliver of bread with crust. On this, she would slather a huge amount of fresh butter she got at the farmer’s market. By the time breakfast was served, the toast was very sloppy and chewy and delicious. Some of the slices were so thin, they would collapse in two when you picked them up.

To this day, I like my toast crispy and a little burnt, I always add butter and if I happen to have some, a glob of home made jam or even better some Apple Butter. We did all sorts of things, but the base is always, Grandma Sweitzer Toast.