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.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

It’s a cold windy day here in Texas and I got to thinking about the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” For those of us who are fans of Sci-Fi and Aliens, this movie is a classic. Even the Library of Congress has recognized it.

When I started my RV Journey back in June of 2014, one of the places I knew I wanted to see was Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is where the aliens landed and where all of the primary characters in the movie got called to visit.

Devils Tower

I have to tell you, I drove into the tower from the west. I had dropped down from Montana back into Wyoming after visiting Little Big Horn and the Custer Memorial. I am very distantly related to Custer, we share a common 7th great grandfather.

Anyway, I expected to see the tower long before I actually did because the surrounding country is wide open. I did not see the tower until I was only few miles from it. The terrain is not as flat as it seems and contours and the path of the road, hid the tower from view. There are actually three towers, but this one is just the most impressive.

Devils Tower is controlled by the National Park Service and as such, is now a typical, sanitized experience with the same expense to get into the park and a visitor center at the top of a one mile road. I got the last spot for RV’s and walked over to the front of the center to get my first up close view of the tower. As I was standing there, I heard many of the people around me saying the same thing I was thinking: there are no references to the movie that literally put the tower on the map.

I walked back across the parking lot and took some additional pictures. There is a walkway you can climb to walk around the base of the tower. Unfortunately, the first 200 or so feet of that path is about a 12% grade and not easy to walk up. I got about half way and could feel both my knees and back screaming, so I went back down. So much for seeing where Richard Dryfess was during the filming.

I drove back down the road and headed east. I was on the road to South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. About 5 miles or so from the tower, there is a restaurant called “Tower View Restaurant.” I stopped there for lunch. The place is run by a father and daughter and I got to have a nice conversation with the father. I asked him about no reference to the movie on the tower. He told me that there had been so many “Kooks and Freaks” come to the mountain right after the movie, that the National Park Service shut the tower down. When it re-opened there were strict rules about keeping certain types out. Even the tours are restricted to one company and they have a multi year contract. So, the potential for Close Encounter Tours is largely muted by the Killjoys of the National Park Service.

So space fans, go ahead and visit the Tower, but leave your Aluminum caps at home. Big Brother won’t let you in if you are wearing one.
If you were thinking about visiting Roswell, don’t get too excited. The City of Roswell is trying to kill everything alien there too. The fools don’t understand the value of alien tourism to what otherwise i a toilet of a town. It was like talking to a wall to try to convince them to leave things alone. The alien museum and a few shops are the only things left to see. Sad……

Alien - Roswell

RV Living

My little RV survived the big storm Sunday, though it did take me a long walk to get those Munchkins to stop following me.
I was driving yesterday and a guy exiting a parking lot waved at me and used his hands to motion something opening and closing.
I just figured him as another Texas Nut.

Today, I decided to open the windows and the roof vents to air out the place. When I opened the bathroom vent it’s lid flipped over backwards. I had to tear apart the whole vent so I could get my hand out far enough to grab the lid and throw it to the ground. It was busted and ready for the trash can.

Luckily I have been staying near D&D Farm and Ranch in Seguin, Tx. They do all sorts of things including Trailers and now RV repair. By sheer luck they had the part for a very reasonable price and had it installed almost immediately. Evidently the thing had been broken off it’s hinge for a while.and the storm just finished the job. There was also a small hole in the lid so now I know I wasn’t imagining drops on my shoulders some mornings.

Once again, good folks came to my rescue. Texas Style!

New Year’s Day – Back In Texas

I spent New Year’s Eve, deep in the Heart of Texas. Specifically in the smaller, but feisty town, just east of San Antonio. I had planned on spending the night at a ranch in Von Ormy, but that just didn’t play out. So I missed my New Year’s Eve with a can of Root Beer, the ball on Times Square and a field full of cattle.

Texas was first my home from 1978 to 1996. We moved here when the mills all closed in Ohio. I have been here several times since buying the RV. I still have family near both Houston and Corpus Christi. I wintered down at Baffin Bay last year and spent some time in North East Texas before that. I know the state well. There are not too many areas of the state I have not been in or lived in. I am as at home in the Pan Handle as I am in this central zone. I’ve driven and visited the coastal areas many times. I got flooded out of the Lake Whitney area, just this last Spring. I spent Memorial Day watching the flood waters rise and drove like a demon west and north to get away from the rains. If you haven’t hydroplaned in an RV, you haven’t lived!

The greatest thing about being back in Texas? It is the home of really super BBQ and Mexican Food. That garbage BBQ in Tennessee almost killed me. Talk about Mohammed going back to the Mountain. I am looking forward to a great year. It has to be better than last year. Trump will be elected, the Clintons will flee the country and all will be well again. Carpe Diem!

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 Internet can be Cool!

I have been on the Internet since the first week it went public. I had the 7th web site that went live. The potential of the technology fascinated me and I wanted to get in on the ground floor.

Over the years, I have designed about twenty different websites for things I was doing and well over 250 sites for customers. I do simple designs that are great for most businesses, especially those who don’t need e-commerce. Along the way, I have had several sites that garnered interest, but none more than one I called “The Cemetery Shop.”  The original intent of the site was to provide a place for people to ask questions about funerals and burials, without having to consult a funeral director.

The site dribbled on for several months and I helped some folks. But it wasn’t a lot of activity. Then one day the Clinton’s let their dog run loose and it got hit by a truck. I wrote an obituary for Buddy and the site popped hundreds of hits over night. Around the same time, the first Iraq mess started and the zoo got bombed and the lion got killed. I wrote an obituary for the Lion and that popped thousands of hits to my site. I sat back in pure wonderment and said, “I wonder what would happen if I did an obituary for a famous person?”

Within a few days, Milton Berle died, so I wrote a full blown obituary and added a picture. The site went nuts! Thank you Uncle Milty! So when the next celebrity died, I added that person and thousands of additional hits. I ran the site from 2000 to 2003 and when I closed it, I had over 4.5 Million Unique visitors a year, the site had been written up in several newspapers and magazines, and some of my obituaries had been read at the celebrity funeral service. I also got to know some celebrities and both George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield were contributors to other sections on the site.

Social Media has far eclipsed the impact my site may have had. Celebrities either Facebook or Twitter and that gives their fans at least an impression of access. I tweeted to lots of people while on Twitter, some of them from the old days at The Cemetery Shop. It was cool to catch up a little and keep track. I stopped Tweeting when I started this blog, so hopefully a new audience will be garnered. I found out just a few days ago, that a son of my friend in London is an actor there. His name is Christopher Keddie and he has  some credits in the U.K. and I think he could do well here in America too. Directors and Producers, take a look!

Celebrities aren’t the only people you can meet on the net, I have corresponded with writers, politicians, athletes, and even some of the top scientists and tech minds in the world. I know people on all continents and dozens of countries,

How Cool !

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.