Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poor Brother Bundy, Bless His Heart!

Here's the thing, folks; I was raised by a racist. Back then they were called bigots, and the English Major in me still prefers that word over racist. To wit:

:  a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Key words here, to me, being obstinate, intolerant, devoted, opinions, prejudice, group, racial, ethnic, hatred, intolerance.

If one or more of these key words pinches your toes, as they somewhat do mine, maybe it's time to consider new moccasins.


My addiction grows worse, I fear. I find myself actually enjoying fingering through the bran flakes to pick out and segregate the raisins.


Killdeer "Easter" eggs and chicks
Sunday last had to be the #1 top Easter blowout of all time and nary a hard-boiled egg in sight. The dogs helped kick things off with backyard chores, before AnniePie and I set off for the Texas Bluebonnet Trail down in Ellis County.



Don Cowan's 82nd Birthday
is set for Saturday, June 21, at Park Place Christian Church, kicking off about 11 am. All Legacy people (you know who you are) are reminded to bring their Legacy music. If you ever sang in an S.H. Rider High School choir or otherwise had your life touched by Don, message me for more dope on how to get an invite.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Community Garden is a Sociable Plot

A first for River City
It's all good down at the Smith Street Community Garden, the first ever community garden here in River City. An idea long overdue, this town plot came into being right at the tail end of Stage Four water restrictions imposed because of the longest, driest drought in River City memory. Seems we had the space in which to grow; just no water to apply.

A test well was drilled last week. Sampling from the well shows the water to be safe for the community garden to use. With this final water hurdle cleared, plans for the plots are again moving toward opening the gardens to folks eager to put seeds in the ground.

The Paper this morning ran a pretty good piece on our community garden, "Gardens reinforce fabric of society." I would have liked it better had The Paper given credit for authorship where credit is deservedly due.

Perhaps I haven't been paying attention, but I find it somewhat sad that this Smith Street project seems to be one of River City's best kept secrets. The physical infrastructure for the garden plots have been in place since November of last year when the project was officially blessed and dedicated by all parties concerned.

Selling plots to actual patrons, however, remains on hold, last I heard, until a water distribution system to deliver water from the well head and from stored rain water to individual plots is worked out. If anyone else out there, Dear Readers, has heard differently, please let me know. I do appreciate it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Water We Thinking!?!

Read in The Post this morning how one of my favorite cities in America flushed an entire reservoir -- 38 million gallons -- of clean water because some kid peed in it. Is it just me, Dear Reader, or has the entire country gone bat crap crazy over water?

Peter Gleick, author of The Post piece Throwing Away Good Water seems to think so. "This incident shows, in many ways, why our relationship to, and understanding of, our water system needs to change."

Nowhere is that more true than right here in River City. After all, we are whom Americans are watching, because we will soon be drinking our own pee, right? Hell, the Big Boys from The Weather Channel are in town as I type documenting our delimmas.

About this widely held hysteria over "drinking potty water"; Get Over It! While we are up to our asses in alligators, the last thing we need is hysteria.

Fact is, folks the world over have been recycling and consuming so-called waste water daily ever since there have been folks. We can't help it; it's the nature of the system we call the water cycle.

If we had a decent education system -- one that works half as well as our water cycle -- everyone would know this basic science stuff. I used to introduce my primary students at River Bend Nature Center to the water cycle by asking a simple question: Did you know that you brushed your teeth with dinosaur pee this morning? First, it got their attention. Second, they quickly grasped how water works on their home planet.

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.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Just a lookin' for a home

Stinky White Tree

The Stinky White Tree is particularly pungent this evening. High cirrus clouds and sunset smear pastel swaths across the western sky, and, Good Lord, what is that smell?

Tell me, again, it’s Friday. Dinner is done (if not entirely cleared away), all the domestic stock (two dogs, four cats) are fed and watered, all outside feeding and watering stations topped off. The trio of dogs across Cement Creek are squabbling noisily amongst themselves, while our two, Lazlo and the Bean, chase one another hell bent for election ‘round and ‘round Ol’ Stinky...the tree...not to be confused with Stinky Cat, our feral house cat.

Move my chair and sweet tea a bit farther from both tree and dogs and nearer the Pot Garden construction site. Scarcely do I get settled in before one of the male cardinals alights on a fence wire near the Pot Garden Snack Bar. Moments later a female joins him, landing on the feeder. The pair are no more than seven, eight feet from me.

While I can’t identify them as distinct individuals yet, they are two among some dozen cardinals who have been scouting out and dining on our patch for the past few weeks. Last evening as Annie and I sat out, I noticed one or more of the males showing dominant territorial behavior, chasing away any other male venturing into the yard or its air space.

Courting season is open.

Staking out his claim

These two tonight were showing signs of having bonded. He would come into the feeder, while she held a higher vantage point some distance away. Then she would come in for a quick bite, and he would dart to a lookout post over her.

This dance continued for several rounds until a damned old dove came swooping through a bit close, startling the cardinal couple. She was off like a shot to the nearest cover, while her guy immediately dropped to a clearing on the ground. He stood resolutely in the open, his brilliant red coat lighting him up like a target while his partner escaped.

He stood his ground for quite some time. Much longer than I would have, at any rate. Then he did something that struck me as odd. While his mate softly cheeped at him from above and across the ditch, Big Red commenced a casual stroll of the grounds. He seemed to show a particular interest in the underneath side of the shrub thicket beside the house.

His inspection lasted a couple or three minutes, I suppose, before she came back. She dropped down a few feet from him; he immediately returned to the pecan tree overhanging the Pot Garden. She came up beside him, and the two flew off together into the dusk.

What was he up to, I wondered, hopping under the greenery and looking this way, then that? He looked for all the world like he was shopping. Was this his version of the Home Depot now that nesting -- and that stinking tree -- fills the air?

On stinking white trees

Taking the Earth-Kind Challenge isn’t your standard Aggie exam. No 12th man is gonna come screaming out of the stands if you fail to score. But if you want to get a handle on how compatible your patch is with evolving practices for a sustainable environment, take the test and see if you can beat my score, 56 (out of a possible 100).

I gotta tell you up front that “Earth-Kind” and related logos are registered trademarks of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. So if you should steal them for whatever god-alone-knows reason, please give a nod to the Aggies, okay?

I see the Hardshell Hippies out there already shaking their shaggy heads.

Hardshell Hippies ~ old-school back-to-Nature
types holding extremist distrust for “Big” entities
belonging to the Man; a.k.a. Tree Hugger

Chill, dudes, and hear me out. I share your skepticism. Aggies aren’t only about corporate farming and selling toxins anymore; so sit back, take a toke and read up.

I googled into this whole space, looking to identify what we call the “stinky white tree” in our backyard, and NO, it is NOT a Bradford Pear nor any of Brad’s pungent cousins. I’m thinking rusty blackhaw at the moment, but I could be wrong. Whatever its name, it certainly does not smell sweet, and its kind are scattered throughout Brook.

The search led to Aggie Land straight away and the Earth-Kind Landscaping package.

“Earth-Kind Landscaping uses research-proven techniques to provide maximum garden and landscape enjoyment while preserving and protecting the environment.” according to the website. “The objective of Earth-Kind Landscaping is to combine the best of organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles to create a horticultural system based on real world effectiveness and environmental responsibility.”

My score of 56 is a soft D showing much room for improvement. We'll work on that. Meanwhile, name a tree with large clusters of stinky white blossoms, red berries, dark glossy green leaves and can be found throughout our neck of the Rolling Plains?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March Madness & the April Fool

Blackbirds gather for sunset.
Grackles group and gripe high in Sra Cruz’s border cedars.
These venerable trees stand tall against the drought,
but for how much longer is anyone’s guess.
Starlings assemble in the top of that old sweet gum down at the end of the drive,
naked limbs all askew and stark against a scudded, waning sky.
Just for giggles, I suppose, grackles glide en masse from there to there,
quietly intimidating their crossyard rivals.
Red-wings -- a sentimental favorite now that their lake is all but gone --
blend in around the edges of deepening dusk, spread out on perches of opportunity.
You hear them more than you see them.
Too windy for a fire, and that’s less than heartbreaking.
Perhaps the gusts have grounded the cardinals and finches,
conspicuous in their absence.
Or perhaps I’ve been overstocking the bird buffet?