Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Grandma's Lye Soap

Says here in The Paper this blessed drought we're enjoying is a boon to little boogers most of us would rather not think about. Yes, Dear Reader, we Texomans are facing flea and tick season.

When it comes to beating down little nasties like fleas and ticks, it's tough to know which is worse, the disease or the prescribed cure. Our man-made go-to chemical arsenal contains a plethora of toxic products specifically designed to target pests on pets, in the home and on the lawn. But do we really want to bombard our patch and our loved ones with a Cold War mentality of mutually assured destruction?

So, suppose I told you there is a simple solution to stemming the tide of pet pests that is totally non-toxic yet no less lethal. Would you buy it? What if I told you this solution has been used and proven effective for hundreds, if not thousands of years? Are you ready for it?

Grandma's lye soap!

I must insert a disclaimer here: IF you should decide to whip up a batch of lye soap in your kitchen, you will do well to read up on it more here. Lye is a highly alkaline, highly caustic compound that will eat the flesh from your fingers if you do not know what you are doing.

Bottom line is, you can control fleas and ticks on pets and around the house by following a few simple and basic practices. Regularly run the vacuum over the carpets, wash down pets and pet bedding with soap and water, keep your lawn clipped short.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ode to Old High

The Tired Hand

Postcard 1911

Aye, tear her brick and mortar down!
Long has she stood, Old High!
Many a voice has shouted proud
For black and red banners in the sky.
Her halls have sung with Coyote Pride,
Tears shed for fallen sons;
She’s nurtured her charges for 90 years.
Now, they say, her time is done?

Her walls have sheltered Faith City’s hope.
Her banners they held high.
Like loving arms, she welcomed all
And taught them how to fly.
But well worn tiles shall bear no more
The throng of student masses;
No longer shall her signal bells
Rush stragglers to their classes.

Oh, better that her brick so red
Should fall to the wrecker’s ball!
Let sons and daughters claim them then
To mark her final fall.
So cheer, you Coyotes, cheer!
Cheer with all your might!
Buildings in time must tumble down,
Yet Old High spirit goes not gentle into that good night.

So tear her brick and mortar down!
Long has she held us nigh.
We will not forget, no, never forget

Our beloved Wichita Falls High.

Don Cowan to 'Stay With Us'

"I talk to God but the sky is empty." Sylvia Plath

Take a kid raised Hardshell Baptist from birth. Give him a mind equipped for critical thinking, and plant within him a passion for reading. You either get one deeply conflicted and confused sociopath, or the kid finds folks who help him find his way along that lonesome valley.

One of those folks was a music man from Minnesota who rode the U.S. Air Force into River City, fell for a pretty dancer at the old YWCA, decided to stay and began teaching choral music to the first generation of Rock 'n' Rollers.

I am proud to say that Don Cowan remians a friend of mine going on 51 years.

We learned some months back that Mr. Cowan, 81, had been diagnosed with cancer. Multiple cancers, as it turned out, no doubt linked to that iconic pipe he had been sucking on ever since those early days at S.H. Rider High School.

Well, I tell you it wasn't so much that Don got cancer. Once word spread by social media and by word of mouth among The Legacy, it was more like we ALL came down with cancer. His challenge became our challenge. Like so many times before, we would rise as a family to this latest challenge, and together we would overcome it.

Prayers went up immediately and continue to this day. We were kept informed all along the way. First would come a series of chemotherapy treatments. This would be followed by radiation treatments, if necessary. Should that fail to clear out all the malignancies, the rest would be cut out. Not exactly a trip to the Magic Kingdom, but the prognosis for survival was good.

"Talk about being hit with a ton of bricks when my Dr. told me I had cancer," Don told me. 
Then he said 'Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.'

"That is exactly what I did. One test, one x-ray, one CT scan, one MRI, one chemo treatment at a time. I had family and friends who came by the fusion lab where I had my chemo, and they sat with me. The support, emails, cards, phone calls and letters have been so welcome and supportive. How could I not defeat this?"

Now, I've never been big on prayer, personally. Not that I'm above asking for help; it's just that I have my doubts anyone "Up There" is actually there, much less listening to our puny wants. To my mind, the Lord helps those who help themselves. That said....

Word came from Don last week that his cancer is gone. He had a session with his radiologist which included a CT scan. Nothing cancerous showed up anywhere in his body. A few chemo treatments; no radiation, no surgery, nothing more than several hundred former choral singers still considered his "kids" praying for their mentor and friend.

"Whatever you believe, I believe that those prayers and my knowing that I had the Lord's support, helped me beat this insidious disease," Don affirmed.

Good Lord willing and Holliday Creek don't rise, those of us who can will gather together one more time here in River City to celebrate Don's 82nd birthday June 21.

Thank you, Lord!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Water we do when the water is through?

My younger (17 days) brother by another mother, A.D., stopped by yesterday afternoon. Like tried and true cavalry he arrived in the nick of time to help this tired hand move out an old swayback bed and replace it with a much firmer trundle we picked up from Janel over at Bluebonnet Hill. I Pray this morning, Lord, that my back is properly thankful to all who had a hand in switching out the beds.

It's all good when A.D. drops by. We sat awhile in the shade of the Stinky White Tree, watching birds dodge the dogs as they (birds) flitted about the feeders. Sippin' on sweet tea and Dr Pepper, talk turned to our increasingly critical lack of water. Water and the lack thereof is about all anyone talks about these days, what with the drought holding fast.

A.D., bless his heart, is one of those hapless individuals who is either unaware of the caliber of disaster presented by this continuing drought or blissfully chooses to ignore the situation, trusting that it will get better all on its own. He perked up and paid attention, though, when I said River City has less than a year's worth of water remaining in the reservoirs from which we draw.

We are fast approaching a time, a real here-and-now point in history unthinkable back when we all spent summers running through lawn sprinklers. We are within 300-odd days of turning on a tap and nothing coming out.

Three hundred days. Possibly less. If that's not sobering, I don't know what is.

Like I've said before, this drought is bad all over more than anywhere else. Saw in The Paper this morning where the folks down in Corpus Christi are considering sinking $5 million into a test desalination plant in order to tap into Gulf water. San Angelo is the latest Texas town to seriously look at treating waste water and returning it from potty to potable.

Lake Wichita 2013
Here in River City public works people revealed they have tapped into our own treated waste water return pipeline to water greens on the municipal golf course. That certainly has ticked off more than a few folks. Of course, if that water wasn't being used at the golf course, it would be released into the Wichita River for the next few weeks until all the i-dotting and t-crossing is done on the state reuse permits.

All over town "Pray for Rain" yard signs are more numerous than politicians at a pancake feed. More and more folks are shelling out cash by the bucketload to have a well sunk in their yards, while the City of Wichita Falls is paying $50,000 a month to a cloud-seeding outfit.

We've all manner of bans in place, from a ban on using "city" water to water yards to how many days per week car washes may be open for business.

Personally, I think we need one more "ban" and a show of solidarity in recognizing that we are the answer to our crises. We need a ban on shaving -- ALL shaving, ladies -- untill Stage Four restrictions are lifted. Then we can tell by your fuzzy face -- and legs -- that we're all in this together!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A time for shaggy

Front yard at the Homestead, and the natives have violated code.

Saw the first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Saturday afternoon. We were driving a new-to-us dog from the shelter over to the antique store for a meet-and-greet with Mrs. Miller. AnniePie has bested me at spotting Spring's first Scissortail more years than I care to count, so we were tickled, Buddy and I, to get one up on her.

May just be me, but Spring seems early this year. Not that everyone isn't ready for it, judging by remarks heard these past weeks down at the dealership. In my dreams, I record diligently the miriad "firsts" that mark seasonal changes like returning Scissortails and Mississippi Kites. Would that my real world naturalist were so methodical and a little less lazy!

Green may be bursting forth all over, but the venerable old mesquite trees I run with aren't having it. Their leaf buds remain as closed as a Teabagger's mind. Easter is, after all, yet two weeks out.

Received a slow, soaking, half-inch rain delivered all day long Sunday. Yards all across town are going from winter brown to spring green as if a switch had been thrown. Of course, the better part of that green is a mixed salald of what urbanites like to call weeds.

The Prairie Look may be the next big thing in lawns. 
Just exactly what is a weed, anyway? Have you ever wondered about that? Well, turns out a weed can be any plant growing where one or more humans do not want it to grow. By that common law definition, a healthy marijuana plant thriving in the middle of a Roundup Ready, Republican soybean patch is a weed, an undesirable plant growing in a human-controlled location.

Yes, that's my front patch (above and left), so I can talk about it. The first couple of things to know about it are that very little turfgrass grows here and that as it stands now, this patch is in violation of city code.

The other thing you should know is that this is a drought-made yard. No chemicals -- no pesticides, herbicides nor chemical fertilizers -- have been applied here for at least the past five years. No "city" water has been spread over it for the last two years. Code violation is that a majority of the plants here are more than 9" in height.

And it is precisely that social no-no that gives this patch texture and diversity. I also happen to believe this yard to be more drought tolerant than any turfgrass lawn on artificial life support.

My prairie-style yard contains Henbit, Wild Garlic, Dandelions and other LYFs (Little Yellow Flowers) as well as drought-spawned Khaki Weed. This patch also is visited regularly by a host of flying insects, including native bees, butterflies and Gypsy moths.

This unprecedented drought is tough all over more than anywhere else. Barring a rain of biblical proportions, folks here in River City will be up against tougher restrictions on the uses of city water in a matter of days. 

This Prairie Shaggy look that has evolved on my patch may just be the next big thing in yard management.