Friday, April 18, 2014

God, Guns, Self-Defense, and Oscar?



I read with great interest the letter written to the Sun by Rick Crotts and I read it about six times.  Other than a missing word, which I filled in, and the unintentional implication in the opening paragraph that a person might use the Oscar Pistorious trial to kill a person, it was definitely food for thought.   Incidentally, I am not following the trial, so I can’t answer any of the six specific trial questions Mr. Crotts posed and I am not sure anyone else can either.
For instance, the question of, “How many times did this man prevent a tragedy using a gun and how many times did he create one instead?” can only be answered by the Almighty.  I say that facetiously, as I see the points he is making in his two question sentence.  The same could be said of anyone using diplomacy instead of a “gun” however.  The answer would be the same, “Who knows?”
The letter was intended to show a parallel between using a handgun for self-defense and outright murder and of the fifteen questions raised in the letter; I am going to address the nine that would apply to me as a concealed handgun permit holder and thus most everyone else who possesses one.  Mr. Crotts’ letter was heavy on questions and equally absent of solutions, but that is my opinion and you may have felt he spoke to your heart.  I do not agree entirely and I’ll explain in a bit.
I do agree with the intent of his letter and that is the “awesome responsibilities associated with using a gun in self defense.”  Back years ago before my physical abilities began to wane, I was a proud black belt martial artist with the confidence to handle most anyone who decided I was a target, but then, there wasn’t the proliferation of armed assailants we are seeing now in the news.
The CHL permits were just becoming available and I put off getting certified for the very reason Mr. Crotts wrote about.  I didn’t want the responsibility of killing someone on my conscience.  For years black belt holders were viewed as loaded weapons, with “registered hands” and the responsibility of not using unjustifiable force was upon us, both socially, legally, and personally.  It was enough and many black belts take this responsibility seriously past the point of fighting. 
In other words, they don’t fight anymore than most CHL owners look for opportunities to “blow someone away”.
Second, I want to take time to say that anyone with a real black belt, after years of study, is fully capable of maiming, crippling, or killing another human being.  Don’t believe the hogwash you see in Hollywood movies where two or more practitioners beat on each other for ten minutes and even the mixed martial arts bouts have many rules to safeguard the fighters.  Real combat is short and swift and if both have skills, both get hurt, regardless of who wins.
About 99% of having the ability to bring severe or fatal harm to a fellow human will be dependent on the mental state of the person with the skills or gun and their confidence level.  As an alpha personality with a black belt and a CHL, I can’t for 100% certainty say I will be up for the confrontation if and when it happens, or if I will make absolutely the right decision.
I, as a degreed self-defense practitioner would like to think I will and I have years of extensive training to possibly bolster my assertion – but I can’t say for a certainty until that time comes and I think that pretty much answers this question, “Does the average individual even act rationally when they are mortally afraid, justifiably or not?”  No one can say for sure they will do the right thing until it happens, regardless of what they tell themselves they will do – unless there are children involved.  The violence is then immediately justified without thought.
On these questions, “What do I do if I wake up in the middle of the night with a loaded gun nearby, hearing an unfamiliar or unanticipated noise? Is that a legitimate reason to shoot somebody?”  The answer to the first one is you arm yourself, hunker down, and call the police.  If it is indeed an intruder and you do not have other people living in your house and they come through the door, you shoot them by aiming for the center of their body.  If you have other people in the house, you are going to be forced to investigate exercising great control.
“If I want to be sure that I don’t make a mistake in shooting, how do I do that? Turn on the lights and get a good look? Do I call out for someone to identify themselves?”  If you don’t have confidence or the ability to identify a noise or intruder, you simply cannot use a firearm to “recon by fire”.  Call the police and hunker down.  Don’t yell out or turn on a light.  Wait for the police.  As far as waking up and thinking straight goes, that is what the hormone adrenaline is for.  It’s God’s auto-pilot to warn and equip us to run from or react to danger.
Unless you are a B.A.S.E. jumper adrenaline equals fear and it should.  Everything in you will make you want to run and this is normal.  Having a gun in your hand doesn’t negate this over-whelming feeling.
“If I observe a crime, even a violent one, out in public, do I really want to blaze away with my gun, perhaps escalating the violence or hurting a bystander? If someone else with a gun sees me firing a gun, what prevents them from seeing me as a threat and joining in, with me as the target?”  I’ll answer the first one, first.  Nope, call the police and hunker down.  Don’t do a thing unless you are personally threatened.  If the armed robber turns their gun on you, you will be forced to engage them or be a victim.
On the second question, if you are observed shooting a gun, you are potentially a bad guy to everyone at the scene regardless and will be treated as such until and when the police arrive.  Put the gun in plain sight and keep your hands out of your pockets until the police can sort it out.  Only talk when spoken to.
Like I said, earlier, I see the gist of what Mr. Crotts is writing and believe I understand he is attempting to educate by getting people to define what they would do and thus my take on it.  Your views may differ from mine, but that’s okay with me.  In the meantime, I will continue to arm myself and as always, stay out of trouble.
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A case study in guns & self defense

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I am posting a letter to the Baytown Sun published 4-15-14 for your consideration.  It poses 15 questions about gun ownership and whether a person should defend themselves.  In the following blog post, I will answer the majority of the questions.

A case study in guns & self defense

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:00 am
Having written recently about the awesome responsibilities associated with using a gun in self defense, I note the trial of Olympian Oscar Pistorius as a case study in the associated issues. Any handgun owner who proposes to use it to kill another person when they deem it necessary should be watching this tragedy closely.
Numerous details surround any use of deadly force in self defense or to prevent a crime. One very important such detail most certainly is the probability of this type tragedy occurring from gun usage the probability that gun usage will actually prevent a tragedy.
How many times did this man prevent a tragedy using a gun and how many times did he create one instead?
Those who encourage more and more private gun ownership as a deterrent to criminally induced mayhem might consider another question right along with the one raised above. As guns proliferate for the purpose of self defense, what is the almost certain result in terms of accidental and later regretted maimings and killings? 
What do I do if I wake up in the middle of the night with a loaded gun nearby, hearing an unfamiliar or unanticipated noise? Is that a legitimate reason to shoot somebody? 
If I want to be sure that I don’t make a mistake in shooting, how do I do that? Turn on the lights and get a good look? Do I call out for someone to identify themselves? 
Do I even wait to wake up good, so I can think straight? 
So many real life questions which maybe I haven’t considered in the rush to arm myself.
Any scenario in which one might propose to use a gun to deter crime has the same issues. 
Serious considerations attach to the use of deadly force by private citizens no matter what the situation. If I observe a crime, even a violent one, out in public, do I really want to blaze away with my gun, perhaps escalating the violence or hurting a bystander? If someone else with a gun sees me firing a gun, what prevents them from seeing me as a threat and joining in, with me as the target? These questions are the essential ones.
There is no need to even worry about the actual facts surrounding the Pistorius trial. 
The issues are all there regardless of whether the defendant is a murderer or the victim of overzealous defense. The young woman remains dead, and he remains scarred for life, even if actually a murderer. 
Even if murder was committed, the claim of fear and the right to self defense, may well absolve Mr. Pistorius of legal responsibility, much as happened in the recent prominent case in Florida. 
There are no witnesses to dispute that claim, so absent some concrete evidence to the contrary, what is a jury to do? Was the defendant rightfully afraid for his life? 
Was he legally justified in trying to protect himself with deadly force? 
Did he exercise the good judgment of the average individual? 
Does the average individual even act rationally when they are mortally afraid, justifiably or not? 
Every last one of these questions and many more are essential to any real discussion of guns. 
As gun owners, we might do well to consider and answer them for ourselves right now instead of later, in the middle of a dark fear filled night. 
Rick Crotts
Baytown
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Local Park guy gets his tractor stuck

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I was over on Tri City Beach Road today, close to SH-99 and passed a young fellow standing by his very stuck John Deere tractor.  He was pulling a brush hog type cutter and was high-centered in a rut.  When a tractor is stuck, it usually means a Jeep is not going to pull it out.

I parked down the road because I was in the covert act of hiding a geocache, but I watched as a second tractor arrived and I thought he would simply pull the other tractor out - but this is not the case.

Now, I do have quite a bit of off-roading experience and have either been pulled out, or have pulled out a large number of very stuck Jeeps and trucks and I could see what the problem was, so I drove down to talk to the two hard-working young fellows.

Anthony Morris was stuck and Tyler Retzer was trying to pull him out and they were talking about it.  I had noted that the stuck tractor was only turning one rear tire and I asked if the vehicle had a locking rear differential.  Anthony was unsure, but Tyler knew it did, so I instructed him to show his buddy how to "Lock it in", which he did.

I then told them that since the stuck tractor was high-centered and the mower couldn't be raised higher, it would be better to pull it from the rear, using the heavy chain they had.  I also cautioned them about having a signal when the tractor came free, so the chain wouldn't be run over.  Everything worked perfectly and I walked along side and whistled and signaled, and both guys came to a halt.

They were very appreciative and introductions went around.  I proceeded to explain how dangerous farm equipment is and the number of serious injuries occur each year with these machines and both guys appeared to be well-versed in safely operating them.  I love to see young men and women working and my hat is off to these two fine Baytownians.

Then just to show-off, I dropped my awesome Jeep in 4 wheel drive and drove through the rut.  Anthony Morris just laughed.
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The Fajita Del Mar Conundrum


Chipotle Shrimp

Have you ever experienced an imbalance in the solar system or a paranormal occurrence when ordering a meal at one our fine Baytown restaurants?  I might not be correctly identifying what we experienced with any degree of accuracy.  It could have been a dub-step in the space-time continuum, or some bizarre sequence of miscommunication on a grand scale; whatever it was, it has never happened before and hopefully, won’t happen again.

My Bride and I had a hankering for some delicious Mexican food and it may be argued that the large restaurant on the main drag with the big sign and the beautiful architecture doesn’t serve authentic Mexican food, but it does indeed, according to my discerning palate. 

We elected to sit out on the patio, as it was about 75 degrees F. out with a nice breeze and low humidity.  “Wow, it is really nice out here,” I said, looking around and my beautiful bride agreed.  It was our first time under the open sky and we liked it already – we just didn’t have a clue that Jupiter, or Mercury, or maybe even Saturn was pulling a strong magnetic invisible force against us.

“I’m starving!” my bride exclaimed.  I knew for a fact that all she had for breakfast was one banana and I forsook from my normal healthy breakfast of boudin, mustard, and onions and ate oatmeal with walnuts and raisins.

“I could eat an entire rack of endangered Sumatran rhinoceros ribs with a side order of whooping crane,” I remarked and thumped my rib cage for effect.  “Where are the chips and dips?” I said; looking around, ready to begin tough-grubbing.  I casually noted the arrival of a steady stream of customers, including an entire tour bus, but not to worry.  We were already seated.  Our chips were surely on their way.

Now on the million other occasions we’ve been there, the chips usually arrive before you can get seated real good and pull out your Smartphone to check your social status.  Fifteen minutes passed and the waitress arrived and we told her we were ready to order.
I’ll be forthright and come out and say that I “don’t order anything I can’t pronounce!” which incidentally isn’t true, but I love to say it to anyone who will listen. 

However, we were literally starving, so I cut out my usual witty anecdotes and butchering the King’s Spanish, I ordered a numbero unoh, and pointed at the chipotle shrimp.  My bride is much more cultured than I and speaking what sounded to me like Castilian Spanish, gave offered her request.  The African-American lady taking the order was impressed, I could tell.

“Uh, we never got the chips and dips, ma’am”  I said and nodded my head side to side, which due to the fact that I was famished, made me nauseous and a bit dizzy.

She assured me she would get on it immediately and departed to get us “some dip”.  Another ten minutes passed and the chips miraculously appeared in the hands of one of the wait staff.  I say that because I didn’t see them until they were standing by the table with the delicious appetizer.
 
We had just about consumed the bowl of tortilla chips and dip when our food arrived at the hands of a new waitress – well, my food arrived.  My bride’s meal was not what she ordered.  Aghast, the waitress announced she would return with the correct meal.  “Uh, we never got our drinks also.  One sweet tea and one unsweet tea, ma’am.”

“Heavens!  I’ll be right back!”  To her credit, she bounded off like a kangaroo, except in a figurative sense.  Ten quick minutes later, her delicious Tex-Mex victuals arrived and five minutes later our drinks.  I could feel a strange quiver of paranormal activity, or maybe some of those CO2 emissions I’ve read so much about in the atmosphere, but ignoring the skin tingles, continued to dig into my numbero unoh meal with gusto.   

As the new waiter set down the drinks, we noticed there were no delicious packets of artificial sweetener on the table, or that there wasn’t no “gwacklemoley or picro de gano”, as I attempted to pronounce it, accompanying my bride’s meal.

The eager to please bringer of our tasty food zipped off and came back about five minutes later and we completed our dining experience without further atmospheric or 6th dimensional disturbances.  I can safely attest that none of these things have ever happened in this finery to my personal knowledge and the food was totally satisfying and delicious.  The obvious answer was the wait staff was simply over-whelmed by the incredible number of patrons – or something very strange was happening in...the Force.

Enter the manager.  When this fine gentleman caught wind of our culinary dilemma, he personally came to our table and explaining the circumstances as extra-ordinary, promptly reduced our bill to the point that it embarrassed my bride.  She placed a ten dollar bill on the table as a generous tip and we left, fat and happy.  Will we be back?  You better believe it!

Friday, April 04, 2014

BB's whoop bunns fast beans and rice dinner!







1# ground chuck
1# Chapel Hill 100% meat sausage
1 whole yellow onion
1 small can green chilies
2 cans Hunts Fire Roasted diced tomatoes
2 cans black beans
1 can tomatoes and chilies
3 tbl spoons real butter
2 cans chicken broth
¾ cup water
1 Family size Zatarain’s red beans & rice

Follow instructions on the package.
In a separate pan, brown the sausage and ground chuck.  Throw in the onions when they are about half brown.   Dump in the tomatoes and chilies on top of the meat and onions when they are soft.  Add the beans to your Zatarain's mix about 5 minutes before the 25 minute timer goes off.  Finally, add it all into the pot, stir and serve. 
Roll that beautiful bean footage!
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What’s more fun than food?

Makins' for taco salad
A friend once said that they would rather have a little bit of something that tastes “real good” than a whole plate of “something that tastes… okay”.  I didn’t understand or agree with that statement twenty years ago, but now that I’m more seasoned, it makes perfect sense.

Back in the day, I was exercising heavily and when it was time to eat, I wanted quantity and lots of it.  That sounds redundant and is, but for those of us who like to eat, it just sounds right.  Food!  Give me lots of food.  Food is fun and it’s more fun if there’s lots of it.  Think Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and after-dinner and snacks and desserts.

Ug-Lee's jambalaya
I wanted “seconds” – or even thirds!  I wanted that great big chicken-fried steak, the one that over-lapped the platter and had the cream gravy slathered over it.  I wanted a heaping pile of buttery corn on the side and a couple of those fist-sized rolls to go with it.

How about a side dish of fried okra to bump it up to just the right place on the culinary scale and a huge glass of sweet tea?  Talk about delicious!

I like boudin or boudain, whatever.  I like it a lot.  In fact, I eat boudin with onions and mustard pretty much every morning.  Not to worry, my cholesterol and blood numbers are right down the middle.  I just like it.  I read one time that onions are so good for your heart, that you should eat them with every meal.  It’s probably the only healthy thing in that breakfast meal, but who’s checking?

Cornish Game hens stuffed with boudin
I used to eat a lot of food and still do, but when I say “a lot of food” I’m talking variety, not quantity.  You see, what my friend told me is apparently true.  In fact, I learned that it’s not what you eat that contributes to a weight problem, but how much.  I knew a guy once who in our times would be considered morbidly obese (he used to just be fat) and came to work with a plan to lose weight.  He was going to eat fish.

Come lunch time, he heated up 24 breaded fish sticks and pulled out a pint of tarter sauce – and ate all of it while we watched.  But forget all that talk about dieting and stuff.  Let’s talk about food and lots of it!

Jalapeno poppers!
My bride and I ate at a restaurant in the French Quarter of Nawlin’s at a place called the Old Coffeepot.  She was openly aghast when I ordered a steaming hot plate of chicken livers, mustard, and buttery grits for breakfast.  Yea, I had eggs and a biscuit and black chicory coffee with it, but it was a memorable breakfast and delicious.  Speaking of that, name three memorable breakfasts in the next thirty seconds.  You can’t?  Try the grits and chicken livers then.

More than once I’ve heard friends object to this food or that and blatantly announce “I would never eat that!”  I always think the same thing.  “You’ve never been hungry enough.”  If you get hungry enough, you will boil leather and try to eat it.  Look in the Old Testament at what people did who were starving to see how low we can go when really hungry.

Jalapeno and cheese stuffed burger
Years ago I read a book about a married couple whose yacht sunk suddenly while out on the Pacific Ocean.  They only had time to save themselves in a canvas raft and floated for 120 plus days before being rescued.  They lived off raw fish that jumped into the raft and any tired bird that landed.  They stayed sane by planning elaborate meals for when they were rescued.  What they wouldn’t have done for a chicken fried steak, boudin, or chicken livers!

One time years ago in Thailand, I ordered pork chops at a local restaurant.  What I was served was one pork chop and one black chunk of meat with a bone through the middle.  My friends and I laughed and inquired what it was to the server.  “Poke chop!”  I sliced a piece of it and ate it and to this day, I attest I’ve tasted dog meat.  Of course I sent it back and in return got a second “poke chop”.  I imagine the people in the back got a good laugh out of it and I got a memory to recall.

Homemade oatmeal and raisin cookies!
What’s the bottom line on all of this you ask?  Don’t believe all that bunk about what you can eat and what you can’t.  Whatever the experts say today, they’ll say something else tomorrow.  Eat whatever you want, just eat in moderation.  Try something new and you might just get a meal worth repeating.
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Local gardener applies for patent for meat cucumbers!



Ekoj Slooflirpa’s story is incredible

I am always on the search for local history or stories and by Jiminy; I found a jewel out Crosby way for this week’s column.  I’ll be honest and say that this beats the socks off anything Jim Finley has written in a while and not to take away from Wanda Orton’s take on history – this particular fellow is going to put the area on the international map.
Bu-cee’s is a big draw you say?  Ha ha ha!  In the ensuing rush, people will whisk through and forget to buy their precious nuggets and buy gas at Bu-cee’s just to come see what this local visionary has grown.
Crosby denizen and horticulturist Ekoj Slooflirpa’s story is incredible in the literal sense and when the rumor of his amazing skills came up on the BaytownTalks.net forum and what he’s growing, I simply had to hear the story and of course bring it mainstream.   What better way than the Baytown Sun, so I asked local contributor Dufresne, who incidentally also brought to my attention the Bead Rattler of Baytown (which is a whole ‘nother story).
Arriving at his proving ground and passing through his elaborate security checkpoint, which is one old bluetick coonhound, I found the man to be a curious mixture of intense passion, combined with a bizarre social awkwardness, most likely caused by long tenuous solo hours working in one of his twenty-two large greenhouses.  For the sake of the patent, I was asked to not disclose the actual whereabouts of his farm and by golly, I am honoring that.  Seeing his operation, I told him like I told Ken “the Dauber” Pridgeon, “”This thing is simply too big!” and “You won’t be able to hide it!” and “Zounds, man!”
“Yah, I going to poot meat veggies on every table in Texas .  You wait and see young fella, dis combo-ski be more popular than fajitas (which he pronounced fajita-in-ski’s).  His accent was rather peculiar and I wasn’t really familiar with it, but when I asked if he was from –maybe  Channelview, he verbally wandered and finally replied to my question:
“Most folks tink people who can grow tings have a green tum.  Seeing I was born wid fingers that resemble hotdogs, but love to garden, I figured I could combine meat and veggies and possibly, mind you, breach de gap and create a meat-eatin’ vegan-type food,” blurted the future award winning gardener and obvious expert.   
“My folks – Gott bless dare souls, were farmers in our home landski – the Czech Republic, but most people brand me as being Polish.  I not Polish!  Why would I live in Crosby if I wast Polish?  Yah, yah!  I know, many Poles are parading as Czech’s here, but let me axe you someting?  Can a Pole grow a meat cucumber?  Can a Pole move his feet like dis?”  He does a rather bizzare upper body dubstep with his furiously moving brogans resembling a cross between someone in a bed of fire ants and the River dance.
I assured him the fleshy brown bumpy tubes look rather difficult to duplicate, at least with conventional methods and he continued.  “My meatumber-inski’s, which by de way ist a patent-pending trade name, can be eaten by de rich folks wid a steak knife and fancy silver fork, tossed on a steamed hotdog bun wid kraut, or for de Tex-Mex loving crowd, gloriously wrapped in a flour tortilla-ski.  Ist de perfect food!”
He claims to have recently perfected the tasty-looking digits and each greenhouse is a work in progress.  “Now deese,” he points at rows of green and pinkish-looking weiner-bearing plants.  “Deese are wad I call greenie-weenies and will replace dose greasy pork sausages in kolache-inski’s.  Did you know the Czech’s invented de word kolach?  No?  Yah and my greenie-weenies will hab only six calories minus de bun and will promote amazing weight loss.”
I found this truly amazing and asked how he knows this, seeing he doesn’t appear to have a board of scientists on his payroll.  “I am gardener sir.  Gardeners know stuff like dis and it is too technical to cover on simple interview.  Hey, let me show you dese tings!”  He lurches wildly ahead of me and it is the dickens to keep up with the tireless man of the dirt.
He points at a huge steaming pile of “magic droppings” and the odor causes my eyes to burn and I cough out a lung.  “De secret is in de manure!” he says and plunges forward.  I pull my t-shirt up around my nose, as my eyes are watering heavily and follow as best as I can.
We wander over to the next greenhouse and the “meatumbers” here resemble of all things, boudain.  When I loudly point this out, Mr. Slooflirpa ducks down and looks around, pushing his hotdog fingers up to my lips and shushes me.  “I do not want dis to get out just nyet!  My Meatumber-dainski has no rice or pork, only my patented meat-veggies.”  He looks warily around and I do too, but I see only the greenhouse and pinkish bumpy meat-laden plants.  Waving his arms around like a rooster about to crow, he tries in vain to say what is obviously on his heart.  Like I said, he’s as socially awkward as many engineers I know.
“If your, ahem, meatumber-inski becomes as popular as you believe, Mr. Slooflirpa, what is your plans for the area, seeing that you will basically be the main attraction in Harris County?”
“I going to push to hab de city renamed to Crosby-inski to honor my heritage and my tuber-ski’s.”  He is quick to point out they are not real tubers, but do indeed “kinda look like dem”.
Well, there you have it folks, breaking news right here in our area.  I declined to take Mr. Slooflirpa up on his offer to actually taste the “delicious-looking” hybrid, as I had already eaten before the interview, but one thing is for sure, it would probably be real tasty with a side order of Kasza gryczana.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The good old days you say?

“Bring back the good old days!  All this here fightin’ and dadburned confusion going on is horrible; what with Russia annexin’ Crimea, a winless war goin’ over in Afghanistan and North Korea fiddin’ to blow up the whole world…”

I looked at the grizzly old timer on the front porch of the country feed store near Bastrop, Texas and taking the bait, I asked him what time period he was referring to.

“What time period you referring to, old timer?”

“You  know.  Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society.  The one where all those civil rights laws were enacted and Texas education got a boost,” he coughed heavily for about 30 seconds and then spit a long brown line of what he called “tabacker juice” into a dull bronze spittoon close to my left Columbia hiking boot.

“The 60’s then?” I inquired.

“Yea, back in the 60’s I left the keys in my Corvair Monza in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly and never worried someone would steal it.  Never gave it a thought.”  He paused for effect and then looking me in the eye, spit again.

I didn’t have the heart to comment it might have been because Ralph Nadar had deemed that car as “unsafe at any speed,” but listened as he ruminated on his version of the Great Society.

“You see young fellar, it was jest better times.  Jest better in every way.  America had respect.  R-E-S-P-E-C-K-T.  Not what we got now; no not at all.”  He paused to expectorate.  “Moms stayed at home and made fixin’s for their families.  The local doctor would come to your home and you could pay them if you had it, and insurance was cheap.”

“Well, you have a good set of points, old man,” I said, but he wasn’t finished and waving his hand like he was casting seed, he continued in his slow drawn out way.

“I learned a trade before I got out of high school, as did my 3 brothers, and we opened a string of auto repair shops that ran as far south as Columbus and as far north as Killeen.  No charity from the Great Society for us.”  He laughed and coughed heavily and went on, “That’s when I bought my first Cadillac.  I was thirty-nine and had saved every penny to git that there car.”

“So, you bought the luxury car after years of struggle?”

“Dadburn right.  These young fellars now live with their parents until they’re 40 years old, but drive a luxury vehicle straight out of high school.  They got it all backerds.  They don’t have no idea they are livin’ the life of a parasite.”  He laughs so hard I have to slap his boney back four of five times before he stops, but he doesn’t miss the spittoon as he resumes.

“Folks growed their own gardens and raised their own chickens.  We never had trouble with chubby kids and slothful children; as they were too busy doing chores and walkin’ to school to get fat.  It was better times I’m sayin’.”  Again he stares at me for effect and then launches the long brown stream of juice into the spittoon.

I wasn’t convinced, as I grew up a teenager in the 60’s, graduating from high school in 1970.  “Well, it wasn’t all good and you have to be honest here old man.  What about the race riots in the streets and the assassination of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin King, and George Wallace being shot?”  He starts to object, but I hold up a finger and continue.

“What about Vietnam?  What about the 58,000+ Americans who died there?  What about the explosion of drugs in this country and people burning their Draft cards?  What about Agent Orange?  What about the rabid overshadowing fear of Communism…?”

When I said the word communism, the old man leaned forward and I saw his eyes clearly focus.  What he said next scared the bejeebers out of me.

“Communism you say?  Communism?  Why that’s exactly why I want to go back.  It’s here.  My God, boy, Ray Charles can see that…”  The look on his face is so sincere and filled with dread that I took a step back.

“Look at what our government has done to this once great nation and tell me otherwise.  We are living in a Socialist country where more people are either employed by the government, or dependent on it.”  He spits again and I note his country twang went straight out the window about 30 seconds before.

“Well, old man, I guess I have to agree with you.  As bad as it was with the assassinations, riots, and Vietnam War, it does appear that in comparison to where we are going, the 60’s were definitely the good old days.

I headed back to my Jeep and the old man to his tobacco chewing and as I drove off, he waved.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

An open appeal to Texas Geocachers



I first joined the Texas Geocaching Association (TXGA) when USMorrows started it and to be honest, never saw much benefit one way or another from the association.  Heck, I knew a number of the Board members for a long time before I even knew they were associated with TXGA.  The subject was never brought up and I believe that is commonplace.  Over the last two or three years I've heard the same thing repeated that there is no benefit to joining the TXGA.  After attending the Challenge, I say there definitely is; it just needs more exposure and more contributing members.

Back 15 years ago, I started the TX4X4 Cyber Club, the first organized 4X4 Internet-based club in Texas.  It grew to about 800 members with 14 chapters before I turned it over to a new President and stepped out of it.  It was hugely popular and we held events all across the state and into Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The reason I stepped out was I was burned out.

What burned me out was the constant complaining by the people who contributed the least.  Yup.  I found that those with the least invested created the most trouble.  I see that to a certain extent in the TXGA.  People with incredible skills sit on the sidelines and take sarcastic potshots, when they could contribute their talents into making the association extremely efficient and successful.

As the new SETX Rep, I am expected to be proactive in working with local, county, and state government officials in educating them and the public about the benefits of geocaching.  How hard can this be?  Why are policemen all across the country still ignorant about the game if we are doing this?  The truth is… we aren't doing a good enough job.

So, what's the immediate fix for this?  I plan to hold a Geocaching 101 class for Instructors in the Baytown Nature Center sometime in July (tentative) and working with the educational branch of the TXGA, it is my vision to create local hotspots across SETX to spread the word.  It's like the old question of how do you cut down an entire forest.  You cut down one tree at a time, so if one bold TXGA person in Cinco Ranch, Vidor, League City, or Tomball makes it their mission to meet with their mayor and set up a program similar to what HC, Juleed, and I have done in Baytown, we can begin this educational process.

Look what one non-geocaching lady has done in Brenham:  

Baby steps.  What I am talking about is a planned, systematic strategy to bring credibility to geocaching and geocachers.  Look at any group across this country that is successful and you will see a simple plan they implemented to bring that success.  Its achievable if we work it.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hear ye, hear ye! Baytown Talks!

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You may well remember that the long time Internet local forum Baytown Talks re-launched January 1, 2014 as baytowntalks.net.  Well, it has taken off, to put it mildly.  We are averaging 100 new subscribers per month.

Some of our notables are Mayor DonCarlos, council members Brandon Capetillo and Terry Sain.  I’ve written each of our councilmen inviting them to join.  After all, it is in their best interest to know what people are talking about, right? 

Professor Susan Cummings came on board yesterday, which to me is an endorsement of sorts.  Susan and I agreed to disagree about ten years ago and both of us enjoy reading what the other writes.  Terry Prothro joined to keep us informed about the nature Center’s activities.

The hand of the king is Anna “Booksie” Singleton.  She is the forum’s number one moderator and keeps everything running smoothly.  Booksie (a nickname I gave her as she is an avid reader) knows what is acceptable on the forum and what is not and watches everything, like a sharp-eyed gentle hawk.

For those who may not know, a forum differs from social networking sites in that those who are members post an email-like question or statement and anyone else on the forum can write a response.  All conversations fall into categories.  It is nothing like Twitter either, as a person can write a tome and it will post – or they can post a video or photograph in the category pertaining to their interest.

Unlike Facebook, where the posts scroll out of sight and are forgotten, the category – say, CRIME, will contain many threads with relevant responses.  The thread will stay until it is way down on the list, or eliminated by the moderator or admin because it is no longer relevant.

One thread that is very popular is:  What are they building?

In this thread (heading), if someone wants to know what is happening on a corner lot in a business zone, they will ask the question.  Often times, our City’s PR person, Patti Jett will post a “fact”.  What, not speculation?  Nope.  She will inform us that such and such a business has filed intentions to build.  Incredible.  Of course, before she posts, any member can speculate and often this is the case, for better or worse.

Read a good book?  Post it in the Books and Reading section.

Have something you want to buy, sell, or simply give away?  There is a section for non-businesses to post it there.

Baytowntalks.net is proud to have ExxonMobil refinery retiree and Vietnam Veteran Ren Fitts come onboard as our military adviser.  If you don’t know this guy, you should and if you have a question about Veteran’s affairs, or just want to toot your son or daughter’s military horn, this is the place to post it.  Ren is the moderator on military affairs on the forum.

Pets.  Who doesn’t love pets?  Or gardening?  What about firearms, or your favorite restaurant?  Yup.  BaytownTalks.net has a section for each of these topics and guess what?  It’s all on a local level.  That’s right; its Baytown area folks talking about our rapidly expanding city. 

Yes, Baytownians talk about the Walking Dead and Revolution (no, the TV program!) and what is showing at the Baytown Little Theater.  Big shot actor Kenny Wade makes sure of it as he is a member of the forum.

There is a section for politics, kitchen talk for sharing recipes, Baytown Business, and a general discussion category where things like computer virus’, the Houston Texans, pet peeves, whether or not it is okay to eat something that falls on the floor if you pick it up within 5 seconds, and should we prep for the coming possible apocalypse.

The theme of the forum is Baytown, Texas - Where friendly people share and after almost three months, it is running smooth as a baby’s bottom.  Can I still use that expression?  Maybe I should create a poll on BT.net and ask our members?

If you want to know what is going on in and around Baytown, simply register on BaytownTalks.net.  You will be instructed to verify your email address, but don’t let this scare you away.  It is strictly to ensure you are not a computer virus and no one including the moderator or admin can see your password.

Baytown is growing in such a manner that soon, we will be so big, even the old timers like me will have to have a tool to know what is going on around town, besides the Baytown Sun and by the way, the Baytown Sun staff watch BT.net also, as it is an excellent way to find out what people are talking about.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The 22 Top Attractions in Baytown!

Pirate's Bay in Baytown, Texas
Hello Baytown Bert, here are the top 22 attractions that I see as important for anyone visiting or living in Baytown. I added one restaurant and one beer company as a 21st and 22nd attraction because we all love to eat and socialize! Instead of providing a list of 22 in order of importance, I decided to divide the attractions and venues into four broad categories. They are not ordered according to importance because different people are interested in different things. Let me know if you need anything else. Thanks!

Birding, Fishing and Outdoors

1.     Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education Center

2.     Baytown Nature Center

3.     Thompson’s Bait Camp (Facebook link)

4.     Bayland Marina and waterfront park (3 Historical markers, boat ramp, fishing pier, etc.)

5.     WL Jenkins Park (disc golf, Bark Park, trails, etc.)

6.     Bicentennial Park (Fireman’s Memorial and the Veteran’s Memorial)

Entertainment and Recreation

1.     Royal Purple Raceway

2.     Pirate’s Bay Waterpark

3.     Cork Grinders (has great entertainment, food)

4.     Evergreen Point Golf Club

5.     Yepez Vineyard

Arts, Culture and Heritage

1.     Portrait of a Warrior Memorial Art Gallery

2.     Republic of Texas Plaza

3.     Lee College Performing Arts Center (can see Baytown Symphony Orchestra and/or Baytown  Little Theater perform on this stage in addition to all of the other shows they bring in)

4.     Baytown Little Theater

5.     Lynchburg Ferry (be sure to read the historical markers)

6.     Baytown Historical Museum

7.     Trophy Barbershop

8.     Fred Hartman Bridge

9.     Art League of Baytown

Restaurants and Nightlife

1.     Pipeline Grill

2.     Dirty Bay Beer Company

 Anna Enderli  Tourism Coordinator  City of Baytown

http://www.baytown.org/about/tourism
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Baytown is Our Baytown

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As the old saying goes, I wasn’t born here, but I came as soon as I heard about it.  Baytown is my town of choice.  I’m not sure if I adopted it, or it adopted me, but one thing is a warm fact – folks call me Baytown Bert and for good reason.

“What is that reason there fella?”
The reason is I promote living here and expanding our parks.  Yea, I have never been guilty of calling Baytown,”the dirty bay”.  In fact, it ain’t a dirty bay at all; not unless you want to call the Gulf of Mexico west of the Mississippi River, the dirty Gulf.  We do have 7 bays and estuaries and these are breeding grounds for all kinds of aquatic life and yes, sometimes due to rainfall there is a good mix of salt and silt in the waters surrounding our town.
Estuaries provide habitats for a large number of organisms and support very high productivity for many fish species. Also, migratory bird populations make essential use of these sanctuaries and this is just one reason dredging Goose Creek could be detrimental.  Sure, I'd love to see it opened up for more kayaking and boating, but it would probably upset a very delicate balance in nature.
Baytown has two fantastic resources to learn about the birds, animals, reptiles, and fish here.  One is dedicated to education and the other is hands-on with many monthly activities and both locations are staffed by experts in nature.  The first is the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center and is a plethora of resources with Tracey Prothro running the educational facility.

The Hand of the Queen, Crissy Butcher rules the Baytown Nature Center and both are very approachable and knowledgeable.  Whatever funding can be gathered to assist this resource should be a major priority.  Every month, Audubon Society members gather from across the entire Gulf Coast to count birds right here in Baytown, as well as those who come to photograph the bald eagles on Tri City Beach Road.
Speaking of that, let’s put down rock over there to facilitate parking.  It’s a muddy mess and creates a negative memory for our visitors.

It might be obvious that my passion is the quality of life here in this oil town.  Sure I care that we have quality restaurants and giant retail outfits moving in.  I put that on a level with big fast-moving superhighways, but does it raise the quality of my life?  Uh, I can say it makes my life a little easier in some ways and more complicated in others and does nothing for my peace of mind or bragging rights.


Imagine this dialogue.  “Hey!  I’m from Baytown and we have a great big bridge, super access to I-10, and an incredibly congested Garth road loaded with all kinds of stores and, oh yea, a Buc-ee’s!”

“Why would I want to go there, except to get out of town and get gas and beaver nuggets?”
Or try this one on for size, “Hey, I’m from Baytown!”

“Wow, isn’t that the city with the water park, incredible disc golf course, and extensive hike and bike trails?”
“Yea, and more parks per capita than any other Texas city.”

“Wow!  Tell me more.”
I am very excited about the Walter Jenkins Park future expansion, where our parks planners develop a network of new trails.  I’ve suggested that they expand it by certifying a true 5K trail with easily identified markers so joggers can train for events and races.

One current councilman flippantly inferred that the real issues about living in Baytown were beyond my small vision and that “worrying about our parks” was what I was good at, so I am going to go with that and let him take on the stuff that really matters…
Wait a second.  Let me think on that a bit.

I was initially against the Blue Heron Parkway expansion and detention/retention pond project, but I changed my tune.  The city planners have created a masterpiece and I am anxiously waiting to see how they develop the pond area.  Gene Green Beltway 8 Park would be worth studying as a blueprint.  We will need a pedestrian bridge connecting the parkway with Jenkins park so we can add the great sidewalks there to our hike/biking.
 The Goose Creek trail needs lighting.  There, I said it.  For the most part, it is a great trail, but folks do not feel secure on it.  I own about fifteen geocaches on it and it gets regular visits by the intrepid game players who are used to remote areas, but it can handle a lot more traffic.

The Goose Creek Park behind the old San Jac Hospital is also going to receive an upgrade and this is good news.  Now we just need to prod the current owner of the old hospital to renovate it so it doesn’t look like the Bates motel.
I own and operate a website about Baytown and its history.  I am always looking for old photographs and memories.  Submit them to:  http://www.ourbaytown.com
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Friday, March 07, 2014

Give me back my phone Mr. Bigshot!


Notice to all current and aspiring politicians: How dare you have the temerity and self-righteous arrogance to vote yourself an exemption to the Do Not Call registry? What? You say you weren’t in on that invasive luxury? Well, how about the intent of the registry? How about those of us that have opted to not receive ANY unsolicited phone calls? How about our right to not receive a phone call we do not want, especially when someone is pushing a product?

Yea, I was as surprised as many of you when non-tangible goods were suddenly labeled products. If you have an idea, or an agenda in these times, it is now labeled a product. It’s hilarious and stupid and unfortunately, it has become the go-to phrase by people selling almost anything. For instance, an insurance policy is now called a product. “You will really like this product, Mr. Marshall!”

“Uh, you mean policy, right?” My question is met with a non-comprehending look.

Back to the danged self-serving politicians calling my house while I’m eating supper and after a hard day’s labor at work (they don’t actually do this. It is a recorded message that comes on after 20 seconds of silence).

I registered to prevent the very call you have taken the liberty to make and I deeply resent it. It is blatant solicitation, and isn’t the purpose of the Do Not Call registry to stop unsolicited phone calls?

Isn’t it enough that they bombard the television stations constantly telling us how awesomely they will represent us? Isn’t it enough that one look at their polished image makes us know automatically that by voting for them they will close the borders or push through that much needed legislation that no one else has ever done?

Heckfire, if this was actually the case, one look at Joe’s big smile and he could sell me a Yugo, and I’d pay list price.

To me and many other Americans, you have less of a product to peddle than the teen selling cheap magazines, and the reason for this is you will most likely make no changes for the good. Not a single danged one. You won’t change anything for the better. History has proved this in spades. Politicians in this country are viewed the same way scribes were in Jesus’ time, as nothing more than interpreters and abusers of the law and this home phone invasion is a perfect example.

If you call my house, I will make a mark by your name and make it a point to vote against you. These characters feel they are so important that they can simply exempt themselves from the very law the past lawmakers passed. They own and operate the law, so they can simply exempt themselves to please not me, but themselves. They forget they are PUBLIC SERVANTS. I wish I could call each of their houses while they are eating supper with their families and ramble on about, well, whatever crosses my mind – after a 20-second pause silence, of course.

On an average, I am receiving four very important phone calls every night to thank me for my future vote for one of these intruders and I have decided that the whole political system is basically representing the political system only and not a single working American. It is a cancer that just keeps getting larger and the doctors are administering the disease.

Back in Rutherford Hayes administration, when you phoned the White House – he answered the phone.

Try to get a state senator or Texas congressman on the line these days and let me know how that goes.

If they do answer, don’t say anything for 20 seconds, and then give them a recorded message of your intentions.

From the bottom to the top official, all we get is promises of change with no results that actually benefit the hard working American. Did we pull out of Guantanamo or Afghanistan the first year our current head official promised (as an example of blatant lemon car selling politics)? Nope. Here we are five years later and more promises that 10 months from now we (read threatening) are again promised we will pull out of a country we invaded 12 or 13 years ago and I might add, has changed nothing, except wound, kill, and mentally wreck our military and their families.

Tell the IRS you’ll send in payment in 12 or 13 years and let me know how that goes, or don’t pay your home taxes for the same amount of time and sadly you’ll be living in a van down by the river.

If you can’t believe the top guy, why on earth would I listen to an intrusive phone call with a 20-second pause while enjoying supper with my family?

Thank you for listening Mr. or Ms. very important current and future law-bending politician.

I’m just another stupid American lemming citizen who unfortunately understands our forefathers fought and died for freedom from a self-serving tyrannical government, and just in case you need a refresher on the word tyranny, I’ll go ahead and dig it up for your future reference: a government in which all power belongs to one person : the rule or authority of a tyrant and/or cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others.

Yea, the phone call is a little thing, but it sets the stage for elitism and that my friend is diametrically opposed to the term public servant.