Friday, July 18, 2014

Merit badges and the future of our boys

This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of being included in a Boy Scout merit badge training session at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands center.  The instructor is my friend, Chrissy Butcher and if you haven’t met this lady with the cherub-like disposition and quick smile, you need to. 

I arrived early, as I am wont to do and set up a few items common to the particular subject being covered and we chatted a bit as the boys began to filter in.  Now I have a bit of a teachers background and am pretty far removed from what little Boy Scout training I’ve had and immediately I saw that my mentality towards training needed to slow way down and I mean way down.

In order from left to right: Andrew Beck. Jase Fowers. Caden Crooks, Baytown Bert,
Robert Lopez, Kolton Wingate, Austin Gary, Ricky Shepherd, Nate Eitel, Justyn Putnam 
I have a bull in a china shop mentality when it comes to most everything I approach and rarely take breaks once I start.  For merit badge training, the BSA has a lot of criteria and pages of material to satisfy and Chrissy teaches quite a few of these qualifications and after the usual roll call type stuff was over, she began.

I sat off to the side and watched.  Just guessing mind you and not wanting to insult any of the Scouts, I would put their ages around 12 years; some more, some less.  One boy in particular was enjoying himself above and beyond the others and liked to talk.  I imagine his little score card at school has a lot of marks on it and I was the same way when I was his age –happy go lucky.

This class was all about the – you guessed it, right?  The geocaching merit badge and what they are expected to learn frankly surprised me.  The game is simply not as difficult as the Scout leaders have outlined, but then again, this brings up another observation.

These boys have no idea how much information is being placed before them through this Boy Scout program training.

It became obvious to me 10 minutes into the class and prompted me to quip more than once, “Geeze, boys, the answer is basic Scouting.”  Chrissy graciously allowed my outbursts, as she knew what she was in for with me present, as this is not our first class together.  As I’ve related in my other columns, my Dad was a woodsman of tremendous experience and knowledge and taught my siblings and I a whole bunch of outdoor savvy, without us realizing we were being taught.  Just like the Scouts.

Add into it my own experience I’ve gathered as a hunter, certification as an Emergency Care Attendant, and Hunter Education Instructor training under Judge Jimmy Johnson and I know a thing or two about the outdoors, survival, and woodsmanship – now plus in the thousands of hours I’ve spent in the woods with snakes, spiders, ticks, chiggers, skeeters, and thorns and throw in some feral hogs – all of this learned the old fashioned geocaching way and I rapidly saw the boys did not fully recognize how they are being prepared for the future.

They were there mostly to get the geocaching merit badge – so seeing I had to make a trip to Texas City, Chrissy once again let me off the leash.

The boys are good boys.  I know; I see no tell tale negative sign despite our modern times.  These boys, if they stick with the program and avoid the pitfalls of our worldly culture, are truly the future hope for America.

Each portion of the training had a cause, effect, and remedy section and Chrissy meticulously covered each division, asking the young Scouts for input.  The boys were free to offer solutions and often their lack of putting the dots together would cause my discomfort.  Now mind you, these are 12 year old boys and that is something I had to keep telling myself.

For instance, when first aid was mentioned, they would mumble out an offering like this particular instance was unique and most of them had the First Aid Merit Badge.  Now here is where I saw the gaps.  They saw first aid as separate for each merit badge or dilemma.  First aid is first aid and a whole lot of it is the same regardless if you are camping or on the back porch.  Burns, cuts, shock, CPR, and the list rambles on like a Led Zeppelin song. 

Nate Eitel, Crissy Butcher, and Jase Flowers.  These boys are from Troop 105, 208, and 264.
I’ve said this for years and I’ll repeat it here; teach someone 3 things and if they can put the dots together, you just taught them 10 things.  This dot connects to this dot to this dot.  Some call it common sense.

The same goes for safety.  If you learn about safety and get a merit badge for it and five years later use a Weed-eater without ear plugs and safety glasses, you didn’t connect the dots.

Like I said before, I am not criticizing the Scouts or their marvelous program and I’m especially impressed with Chrissy’s ability to teach the boys with a mother’s touch – something I certainly wouldn’t have recognized as necessary.  I even got her jokes which went right over the boys heads.

Be prepared.  The Boy Scout motto is a good one and probably the one thing I truly retained with my brief brush with the organization, but being prepared not only means having the tools, it means taking the training to heart and connecting the dots.  No one can truly teach the dots part; it has to be acquired on your own, in the field, at home, or in the workplace.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Crazy wild guys and gals

On August 2nd, a large group of geocachers are meeting somewhere northeast of Baytown to hike into some of the most inhospitable section of woods in East Texas for the soul purpose of finding 4 geocaches, one of which is 15 feet up in a tree.  It will be very hot and humid and potentially dangerous and that is exactly why these intrepid people are drawn to it.

It is what is known in geocaching circles as an “Event”.  An event is a gathering of geocachers to do something and this usually means they are going to eat, chat, share stories, and trackable items, called travel bugs and geocoins.

This particular event is to meet to do all of these things, except maybe the eat part if you exclude the boxes of donuts and kolaches.  Afterward, machetes in hand, they will tackle the wild and when I say wild, Borneo has nothing on East Texas when it comes to brambles and thorns.  The snakes are a trade-off and there will be snakes, feral hogs, spiders, and if there is water, maybe a gator or three.
2 men - 3 women event/11 mile hike

If you think this is a men only event, think again.  Chances are there will be an even split between males and females, as the geo-women will pert-near go any place a geocache resides.  I know one lady who tackled the One Huge Smiley series of caches in George Bush Park by herself; an 11-mile hike through deep vegetation.  This is a hike very few people will attempt by themselves, as GB Park is primitive, potentially hostile, and full of thorns.

I can say it is an extreme feat because I did it solo back in 2010.

There are only 4 geocaches hidden in this vast stretch of woods and when they published 2 years ago, the original 2 turned back the first to find hunters, then sent the next 2 geocachers to the hospital due to dehydration.  One very experienced geocacher from Beaumont left an online log of his experience and here it is: 

“Came over with Cache Control to try for this one. Parked at the listed parking coordinates to start our hike out from there and actually made it to ground zero without too much trouble. However, finding the cache was another thing all together. We looked for a good hour and a half, climbed every tree, looked in every hollow, and even used our scuba equipment in the nearby watered down area. All I can say is that the cache got the better of us.”

“Heading back towards the truck was where our bushwhacking skills were put to the test. We chose to do some exploring while we were there and found that the route we chose was not a good one at all. Briars, thickets, gullies, and more briars were the obstacles of the day on this trek. We eventually made
it back to the truck but not without pain and the shedding of much lost blood.”
Finally, an ex-Marine from Baytown named Ricky Rodriguez – who works for the city and goes by the geocaching handle Muddy Bones, on his second attempt, got the first to find honors:  “FTF @ 9:00 pm. When Cache Control first posted it as found, I figured only a Devil Dog would do this at night and in the rain...Semper Fi.  But, since it was changed to a note I knew that I had to go in and try my hand after work.  My oldest son and I got to the parking area about 1 1/2 hours after somebody else left (who had reportedly been there "all day"). At that, we figured we'd be second but wanted to give it a shot since we were already there. Sure was nice to find the blank log!  This one is definitely for those who prefer the road less traveled. Will get a favorite point.”
Now bear in mind, he wrote this in February.  We are going into the woods in August.  I’ve put out a call for a couple of paramedics or EMT’s to be on hand and my Jeep will be available to traverse the nearby pipeline in the sad likelihood someone will need medical attention.

The reason I am asking for medical help and offering my Jeep is because I organized this Bataan Death March type event.  Some folks want to jump off of bridges, cliffs, and buildings to get an adrenaline rush.  Geocachers simply want to challenge themselves in the woods over difficult to get to caches, or hard to find caches in parks, cemeteries, and trails.

Another reason they are coming is a couple of us are going to document the adventure with a video camera and post it on

This one is not for everyone and is not meant to be, but the sweet feeling of success that will come from finding these 4 geocaches and logging close to 4 miles in the dense woods in August’s extreme heat will make it worth all the blood, sweat, and tears that are shed getting there and back again.  I’m pretty much sure I’ll write about it after the fact – if I survive.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Abandoning dogs is murder.

Geocaching here today:   N 30° 05.705 W 094° 58.557   My Bride and I walked up to the heavily overgrown area only to encounter deep growling in the bushes in front of us.  We backed out very quickly and two scraggly abandoned dogs limped out.  Seeing they were starving, we emptied out everything edible for them, plus water.  We called every possible animal control agency, but seeing it is out in Liberty County, no one will take responsibility for the poor animals, so I called the Cache Owner, MarineBuck.  He assured me he would rescue the dogs if there is any possible way.  My Bride cried most of the way home over these poor animals.  People need to realize turning a domesticated animal loose in the country dooms them to starvation.  This was off of 1960 on FM615 between Dayton and Huffman.

Update: This is terrible. She has a gash so deep that I can see her skull. The other one wouldn't come anywhere near me. I've been here an hour...but she wouldn't have let me grab her. I left them a temporary shelter, a huge bowl of food and water. Can someone check on them tomorrow for me? I'll be at church and won't be able to.  Tracey Mullins
Update:  A man has rescued these dogs and taken them in for treatment!!!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Book Review: “Two cents worth ...thoughts of an old Georgia Boy: by Charlie Farrar

This is Baytown Bert in Baytown, Texas on July 5th, 2014 and this is podcast 02

 Book Review: “Two cents worth ...thoughts of an old Georgia Boy: by Charlie Farrar 

Recently I repaired Charlie’s laptop and in the true spirit of the south, he asked me if I wanted to barter on the repair cost. Well, I love a good barter, so I quickly agreed. To my pleasant surprise, he produced an autographed copy of his book, “Two cents worth ...thoughts of an old Georgia Boy” as partial payment.

Two cents worth is an anthology of his articles which appeared in the Highlands Star, Star-Courier, and the Barbers Hill Dayton Press from 1993 to 2001.

Charlie is possibly a couple years older than I, and a Coastie – a Coast Guard man and I almost always automatically relate to a fellow Veteran on many topics, so I took it upon myself to read the compilation of his columns seeing I am a columnist myself.

Each night before I dozed off to sleep I would read one or more and this morning, I finished the book.  I need to mention that I read aloud to my Bride numerous times due to the Georgia boy’s peculiar wording and phrases. I need to say at the onset that I lived in North Georgia in the mid to late 60’s attending high school from the 9th to 11th grade and have ran a mailing list for the last 14 years for my fellow schoolmates in Canton Georgia, so I am well versed (for a Texan anyway) with Georgia phraseology.

Please understand that this next sentence isn’t a criticism. Charlie breaks so many rules in his writing that I told him he is either the worst writer I’ve ever read, or a genius. Using words I’ve heard many times, but rarely seen written, he jumps from subject to subject with reckless abandon – or so it appears at first. Fairly often I would have to reread the sentence to get the context right. When I would read it aloud, it made better sense than reading it. His book has a Huck Finn feel to it.

After finishing his book, I think he is... a genius.  While writing my columns, I do my dead level best to watch each and every word and comma, while he simply writes how he speaks and makes no apology that I can see – and it works. It works wonderfully well.

Much of his writing is about his fishing camp on Day Lake close to Liberty, Texas and I have a good friend who lives there as I write this, so again, I can relate. He loves to cook up chow-chow, which evidentially is so hot; you could remove grease from your driveway with a spoonfull of the stuff.

The book is for sale on Amazon and I’ve linked it if you want to get a copy for your collection or you could ask about it on, as Charlie is a subscriber. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars for it unapologetic style and the uniqueness of the interesting content.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Baseball, hotdogs, and double time

Today is Independence Day for the United States of America, or sadly what it has become known as – the 4th of July.  To be honest, I don’t know what it was like to live under British rule and taxation without representation…oops!  Maybe I should leave that one alone.
I am thrilled that our Congress, which satisfactorily represents us doesn’t mess with my religious rights by telling preachers what they can or can’t say, or strong-arm and manipulate the press and newspapers to skew the truth.  I am especially giddy how our government addresses the will of the people over global and Capitalistic goals.   

I’m rolling my eyes so much as I write this that I’m getting as dippy as Nancy Pelosi.

Our forefathers gave us law-abiding citizens the right to own firearms and to form militias for one reason and one reason alone.  Because under British rule, the citizens had been abused and they knew our right to bear arms was so we could rise up, if need be, and expel our leaders – read: overlords.  Thankfully, our elected officials know this and wholeheartedly agree with the 2nd amendment of the Bill of Rights.  Right?  Help me here.

Way back there when the Bill of Rights was enacted, people had the right to a speedy and public trial.  The public part is still there for the most part, but the speedy has left the building.  Lawyers.  Rules.  Laws.  Anything and everything to stall going to trial is the rule of the day; then there is the sentencing and if a person is actually sentenced to death row, wait another 14 years and maybe they will get a stay of execution to prolong their sentence.

Back in the Bible days, lawyers were called scribes.  Weren’t scribes one of the three vocations Jesus was always condemning?  Scribes, Pharisees, and publicans – yup.  Nothing has changed there.  Lawyers, self-righteous religious leaders, and tax-collectors are still a bone of contention to most.

Sorry Judge Don Coffey; there’s bound to be a hotdog, or a baseball in this column somewhere, I swear.  No personal offense intended.  Don is a friend and a major fact contributor to and much appreciated.  He is just one of a number of city officials and experts who make the new forum a wonderful source of information.

And I’ve voted for Stephen DonCarlos for mayor of Baytown... 6 times when I was a Democrat.

Now we get to this danged 10th amendment. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  Geeze, is it me, or should we just go ahead and bury this one?  I mean, come on.  Does our Federal government still have a copy of this amendment?  Can I call the White House and talk to the president and ask him?

“Hello, this is Grover Cleveland, the President of the United States.  May I help you?”

“Mr. President, are your people still using the Bill of Rights to make sure they don’t violate the will of the people?”

“Yuppers, we sure are.  Gotta go; got another call coming in.”

I remember growing up playing baseball and eating hotdogs in and around Independence Day.  It was very happy times.  I was blissfully ignorant about the Middle East and our dependence on fossil fuels, which by the way is about the only real reason we are fighting over there.  Folks like to believe it is about our support for Israel, but it’s not.  It’s about global selfish interests and the bottom line.

As a kid, I lived the life of the boys in the movie, “Sandlot” to the tee.  Fireworks, sunshine, the shaky grill with burgers and dogs, corn on the cob, and lots of soda waters, which at the time we called Pop, was what the 4th of July was to me.  This was before I learned about double time, or double time and a half, or the US military and being stationed in a far away country on holidays.

Independence Day became a work holiday for me and just another day where my hourly wage was doubled or more and for many years, this was all it was – like Christmas, sadly.  Sure, we flew our flag at home, but most of the time, it was flown without me, as I was always working. 

For the first time in my life, the 4th of July will truly be Independence Day, as I am now my own boss and happily retired.  Today will not pay me anything extra except the satisfaction of knowing I am blessed to live in this wonderful country.  A country whose independence was bought with blood and sacrifice of those who went before me into battle to secure those rights I am writing about.  I am also happy to say I contributed to our freedom in the U.S. Air Force.

No longer blissfully ignorant and like you I watch our Federal government and wonder if the 2nd amendment isn’t more relevant than ever.  I would love to return to the days of hotdogs and baseball, but unless things begin to change, I’m afraid that is about as likely as Barry answering the White House phone.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The great wide open world of words

Jumping Jehoshaphat, it is exciting times living in and around Baytown, Texas!  I have to confess, I can’t recall ever writing that old phrase, but in the almost total absence of colorful expressions in our present speech, its purpose is to make a point.  Oh, we have colorful expressions all right, but most of them can’t be uttered in the presence of children and refined folks.  Jumping Jehoshaphat surely can and if you, like me are bombarded daily with expletive-laced conversation, any expression absent of vulgar rhetoric is a refreshing change.

Each and every day we make the decision on what comes out of our mouth.  Not only what words we will use, but what information we pass to another person.  Some of us are very guarded while others “let er (bleeping) rip” and recklessly babble on like a used car salesman eager to make a sale and saying whatever unfiltered nonsense that comes to mind.

We know wonderful people who open their mouth and enlighten others with their opinions and personal experiences abounding with interesting topics, while other friends, work mates, and acquaintances are as an open septic tank, spewing verbal waste like a sewer pipe.  We tolerate them because they are our friends and coworkers, but are they someone we want our kids to listen to and imitate their speech habits?  Most likely not.
The television will supply all the negative speech they can soak up and if that’s not enough, the music industry will lend a hand.  As parents, the only tools we have to teach our children a higher form of speech are what we teach them and our personal example.  If you are a member of a religious assembly, there is a strong third source.

If you are the kind of person who guards their speech, you find it perplexing when people curse, swear, or use profanity with unguarded emphatic zeal.  It’s F-this and F-that from the time they open their mouth until you are far enough away from them that you can’t hear it.  I hardened myself to it a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean I like it.  I will arrive at my place of employment and within 5 minutes, I’ve heard enough cursing to last the whole day – more than I will hear in the 4 days I am off work.

What I hear in just a few minutes after arriving are friends who have long ago lost their ability to insert colorful and descriptive adverbs and adjectives in their speech.  The more expletives they use, the easier it is to substitute a (bleep) for an actual adjective.  Before long one of their sentences, minus the curse words, wouldn’t even make sense and there is no apparent desire by them to cease speaking in this manner.  I’ve often thought I should record one of these conversations and then play it back to them, bleeping out all the trash words.

I do believe they would say, "(Bleeeeeep!) I had no idea; I (bleeeeping) talked like that".  What would be more amazing is if they said, “Holey Macarena!”  I’m not going to hold my breath on that though.  Now let me back up and say that a colorful curse word does have a certain place at just the right time, although to be honest, I do not indulge, but sometimes it is downright funny when certain people blurt one out by accident.

A certain lady saw a mouse and before she could stop herself, out came, “Bleep!”  That was certainly fitting and indeed hilarious – and most unexpected.  One time I heard a preacher get so fired up about a witch that he accidently dropped the W and substituted a B.  It was stunned silence in the congregation until he said, “Well, she was!”  I can’t recall laughing any harder than I did that day.

If I remember correctly, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that any comedian, who uses a lot of profanity in their skit, simply doesn’t have enough good material, or something along those lines.  This isn’t always true mind you, but I agree with it.  Cursing has lost its shock value, which incidentally used to make people feel uncomfortable and hence, they laughed.  They laughed because they were embarrassed or uncomfortable in mixed company.  It’s no longer true and some “ladies” now curse way more than the historically vulgar-talking men around them.

The Daily Show’s host Jon Stewart regularly uses the F word in his show and his audience thinks it’s just fine.  His show is cutting edge with top notch writers and exposes a plethora of political wrongs, but I don’t watch it period.  It’s too much cursing for my palate.  Drop the GD and F-laden humor all you want John, but give me the humor and satire without it please or I will not watch.

I’m not a holier than thou Johnny do-good guy - or a Miss Priss; I just prefer to not hear it, so I don’t use it even when I am angry or distressed.  That’s right; I do not. People know I am angry when out of my mouth come words which describe what I am angry about and I can be very descriptive.

I remember when the Watergate/White House tapes were made public, way back in the Stoned Age of peace, love, and dope.  No one could believe that the President of the United States had such a filthy mouth.  Richard Nixon cursed like a sailor – as the old expression goes.  Normal conversation would include “Wow!” and “Far out, man!”   These days, many feel the need to bump it up a couple of expletive notches to get the same effect.

What does all of this mean and why am I writing it?  Each and every day we make the decision on what comes out of our mouth and what we listen to.  Every sentence and utterance we offer is our choice alone.  Dwell on that and ruminate.  Chew the cud a bit.  Is it bitter or sweet?  Rediscover adjectives and adverbs and you will discover a great wide open world of words you now have available.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Achieving true happiness

Do you consider yourself to basically be a happy person or do you feel that there is a giant invisible hand holding you back where you cannot truly enjoy life? In the deep recesses of your mind, do you believe that winning the lotto, hiking the Rockies, or getting that dream all expense paid vacation will unlock the shackles that deprive you of inner peace? You are not alone, I assure you, but sadly, none of these illusive desires will give you what you want for more than a few days.  
The money will be spent, the hike will conclude, and the voyage on the seas will come to an end and you will find yourself back at work and in the doldrums. Then the old problems will resurface and once again you will wish for relief.
I have a good friend who in a very frustrated state and on a daily basis will explain to me why he is no longer happy at work. “It’s not the job, it’s” – and he has a long list of complaints. “I won’t ever be happy here,” he angrily vocalizes and I sit and listen and know in y heart he is sadly lacking a revelation that I can’t give him.’
He will have to see it for himself.  He needs an epiphany, an awakening of sorts and other than the possibility of a divine intervention, it is up to him.
He truly believes he will get a job somewhere that the current issues simply do not exist. I try to explain to him that he is living a fantasy, because the identical issues that bug him here are at every job site, everywhere, but he is so caught up in believing that his happiness is dependent on finding another place to work, that my words fall on deaf ears.
Now mind you, when I talk about our workplace, I am not talking about a hostile environment and if that describes where you work, then maybe in your case, leaving is a good option – but not here. Here happens to be a good work atmosphere for the most part. I know. I’ve toiled at this place of employment a long time. People are people and people have a myriad of personalities. There is no getting around that unless you work completely solo and those jobs are rare, so managing your interaction with those around you is essential to peace on the job, but honestly, has little to do with your personal happiness.
Our personal happiness is almost one hundred percent our responsibility and in our control. Whether you are a believer of the Christian Bible or not, no one could argue with the Apostle Paul’s statement found in Philippians 4:11 and I paraphrase, that I learned to be happy, no matter the circumstances.
Inner peace can be achieved regardless of who bugs you at work and is our responsibility to develop and nurture. We simply cannot depend on circumstances, or the lack thereof or the people around us to dictate our state of mind and the sooner we take command of our own well being, the sooner we can achieve what appears to be elusive to so many.
My Dad was a hard-working family provider.  He was always at work.  He was not a particularly gregarious man and had a very low tolerance for what he termed “idiots”.  He spent many years in industry as a tool and die maker and in his later years told me he hated every minute of it.  This surprised me very much as I do not recall hearing him complain about work.  His real pleasure was to go off fishing in his boat and be gone for hours.  As he aged, the trips grew more frequent and the largest percentage of the time, he went by himself.
One day I asked him why he went alone and he told me, “I enjoy my own company.”  His simple answer has never left me and over the years I have developed the same sentiment with one exception.  When I can, I want my bride with me.  If she can’t go, or has other plans, I simply happily go by myself.
Working in the chemical industry for almost 40 years I have thousands and thousands of hours in my wake of being someplace I’d rather not have been, but do I hate it; am I unhappy; or have I numbly became hardened to the task?  Has all of this work made me an unhappy person?
The answer is no; I am not unhappy and for the most part, I am not only content, but enjoy myself a great deal of the time, even at work.  Seeing I have to be there, I simply make the best of it.  You see, I learned a long time ago that no one can dictate whether I am happy or not – only me.  So, I simply choose to be happy and content and enjoy my own company.

Are US Troops and Vets going to Hell?

 According to this "revelatory preacher" in Baytown, Texas, they are for the most part and so are you for supporting the troops, both living and fallen.

Rick Crotts is the spiritual leader of Sjolander Fellowship.  Anything he writes or submits to the newspaper is full of wild speculation and condemnation of orthodox Christians and imply we/they have their head so deep in the sand that they/we are simply blind.  According to HIS theology, God pretty much wrapped everything up a couple of thousand years ago and admission to heaven is wonderfully open for all. 

Here is another example of his constant attack on anything that doesn't share his revelation.  He implies that Christian support for Veterans and military that died as a result of combat will all burn in hell.  I guess Rick Crotts is a pacifist also and believes the bad guys can take everything he has including the lives of his family and then sit down on the right hand of God (right next to Rick, by the way).

In today's letter to the editor, he asks a question about the average member of a orthodox church and again suggests they are mentally retarded.

No Mr. Crotts, it's not everyone else who is wrong.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

RV resort special-use permit disagreeement

The Baytown Sun
Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:00 am
Bert Marshall Baytown

Well, thank the good Lord district 5 has a councilman who actually wants to honor his district’s concerns over the almighty dollar bottom line. Highway 146 is becoming a madhouse of traffic, so when Rev. Raymond Van Buskirk threw out valid concerns about the RV Park’s impact, who in the world is Mercedes Renteria to tell Bob Hoskins that he shouldn’t investigate the Reverend’s concerns? Chris Presley thought it was common sense. Mr. Renteria is quoted as saying, “When somebody comes in our city and wants to spend their money and develop, then who are we as council to tell them they can’t develop?”

I’ll answer that for Bob. The council we citizens elect to listen to our concerns; that’s who. Of all the councilmen I’ve had over the last 20 years living in District 5, Bob is the only one who has repeatedly asked my opinion or answered my questions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Single Houston Dating site now online!
Now that summer is here it's time to get out and meet new people. But what do you do if you work a lot of hours or have children that keep you tied up all day? Many people are looking online for that special someone and now people around Houston have their very own site: is only for people around Houston that want to meet other local singles. Unlike most dating sites Single Houston limits their members to a 75 mile radius of the city. That way your mail box isn't getting bombarded with messages from people from Boston or Tampa who you really won't be able to meet up with and connect. With this feature dating men or women around town just got a lot easier.

June is the perfect time to meet someone and an Astros game is always a great idea for a first date. So what are you waiting for? Someone around Houston is looking for someone like you.

This post is sponsored by our newest partner, Single Houston. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Oh dirt road, where have you gone?

Getting off work at 4pm this past Tuesday, I made my way onto Independence Parkway, which will forever be known as Battleground Road, but renamed on a grand scheme to announce our historical past and increase visitors to the San Jacinto Monument, I was told.  I can’t say with any certainty that it changed a danged thing, except to confuse people.  This is the beginning of the rush hour going home traffic.

The wise Loves people up in Oklahoma City decided SH225 and Independence Parkway would be the perfect place to build a giant truck stop.  This is where G’s Icehouse was at one time and along with the truck terminal back on the bend across the road from Akzo Nobel, they’ve effectively created a traffic nightmare of 18-wheelers dragging long trailers across the path of thousands of shift workers and tourists either going or coming.

Crossing over SH-225, I nervously enter the violent fray of NASCAR wannabes, except I am in a lifted Jeep Wrangler and determined to stay within the speed limit of 65 miles per hour.  This causes a terrific amount of stress on my drive home, as no less than a half dozen near rear end collisions will be encountered before the flyovers to SH-146 going north and south.

Therein lies the problem.  In order to gain any and all lane advantages, the wannabe racers (read lifted pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and everything in between) will use any and all lanes prior to the flyovers and then cut across in front of anyone in their path to make their exit.  Now add about 15 miles per hour above the other 75 mile per hour vehicles to the equation and you have what one woman we know describes as a mi-ra-tion. 

The word does not officially exist in any dictionary, but a miration it is and a very stressful and dangerous miration to boot.

The flyover heading north off of SH225 is posted at 45 mph.  I can take it at 65 on cruise if I pay close attention and because I drive it often.  At 65 I will have a vehicle so close to my back window that all I can see is their windshield.  At the bottom of the flyover, the speed limit drops to 60 mph, but Lord help anyone who would dare to go that slow!  The long unbroken white line on your left side no longer is heeded and the speeding vehicles boil out from behind me, crossing the line like Petty and Foyt.

The race is on!  I try to make my way to the third lane from the right because I am not going to go down business 146 which is at the bottom of the Fred Hartman Bridge and the racing trucks and cars are weaving in and around me like rockets, causing brake lights to flash their warning and deadly potential.  I’m still on cruise doing 65 – I dare not go slower, as I am often ten miles per hour slower than everyone else even though I am breaking the law doing 5 over.

Why don’t I simply join them in exhilarating and reckless abandon you may wonder?  Because no matter how fast I go, it won’t be fast enough.  I simply do not want to get “runned over”.  Okay, as I come down the bridge, it may appear that the race is over, but noooo!  Now it gets into a mad rush to get to the Spur 330 flyover and the inconsiderate and rude jet-propelled wannabees use the two left lanes to pass as many vehicles as they can so they can dangerously rip across the lanes and fly op the raised road to Veterans Highway.

The 4pm crowd is  only the beginning of the rush and by 5pm, it is much worse as more and more rabidly foamy-mouthed drivers elbow their way through the fast-moving traffic so they can get home and sit on the couch.  At one time I complained that certain cops parking on the bridge were actually creating a problem, but no more.  I’ve reversed my stance on that one for sure.

We have evolved into an arrogant and rudely distracted society where dark-tinted windows have empowered many obnoxious drivers.  They obviously feel they can do whatever they dang well please without accountability.  If you don’t like it, tough noogies.  Now get out of my way!
I finally begin my exit onto the North Main feeder road only to have a car whip in front of me and guess what, Smartphone in hand, they immediately slow to 35 mph.  To my right are 3 rapidly approaching cars wanting to get on SH-146 and a quick assessment tells me we are all going to arrive at the exit/entrance at the same time.  The Smartphone driver is so distracted, they slow to 25 mph by the time they get to the feeder and a white Honda Accord shoots the small gap between my Jeep and the black sedan.  All I can do is blow my horn in protest.

I punch the accelerator to get past the near miss and the black car’s driver is now down to about 15 mph and cruises over to the right lane never taking their eyes off their phone.  Shaking my head in disgust, I stop at North Main’s red light.  A quick survey to the four cars around me reveals 3 out of the 4 are already texting.  The light turns green and I make a hard left and glancing at my mirror shows all the cars, except the ones behind me are still at the light.  The drivers don’t know the light has changed.

I make it all the way to Bob Smith Road before another light stops me.  As I roll up beside the cars to my left, I note the first and third car’s driver’s are texting.  I catch the Massey Tompkins light green and enjoy the last mile or two before I am home distraction free.  It was the only part of the 16 mile commute that resembled a peaceful drive on a dirt road.  Mercy.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Ahoy there, Mr. Castaway?

 I have 12 working days until retirement.  12 working days.  12-12’s as they say.  4 on, 4 off, 4 on, 4 off, 4 on, and then 4 off...  Off.  Finally off from work since I started at the ripe age of 14, sacking groceries in Woodstock, Georgia.  14 and sacking groceries for five dollars a day and .40 cents total tips for the day.  Often less.

Sunday morning, I will sit up on the side of my bed about 0315 - before my alarm clock sounds the dreaded “cherry picker backing up sound”. I detest it, but faithfully set it each night and to be honest, rarely does it actually get to blast its obnoxious siren.  You see, I have the curious affliction my fellow process operators suffer from, the one where the fear of oversleeping causes us to wake up before the alarm sounds and begin the “look at the clock routine 5 times and finally shut it off before it alarms” syndrome.  Daylights get a bad rap for 99% of shift workers for this reason.  We just don’t get enough sleep.

If you are one of the hundreds – maybe thousands of workers who work a rotating shift schedule in this old oil town listen to me on this.  The secret to getting up in the dead of the night… is to go to bed early.  Get out your pad of paper and pencil and write this down.  Go to bed.  Don’t cheat yourself.  You will lose my friend.  Trust me on this.

37 plus years of this rotating vortex of shift work is now almost in my wake.  Add in 200 to 500 hours overtime each year and I’ve somehow crammed anywhere from 13 and a half months to almost 16 months of labor inside of 365 days.  Wait!  Am I saying what I’ve done is unique amongst shift workers? Not at all.  My experience is typical in so many ways of the wear and tear shift workers routinely endure.  God bless their sleep-deprived souls.

I feel so alive, but at the same time a bit of trepidation perched on the bow of my boat as I row for the final work berth.  Will I be a castaway at journeys end?  Some, like many of my peers, will be thrown or fall off the boat for whatever reason.  I choose to be the one who dives off and swims with strong strokes and my fellow travelers watch and say, “Now that’s how its done”! 

I hope so and to be honest, that’s pretty much how it’s going.

Lord, what a compliment from my peers!  To think I could actually spend all those long shifts and walk out of there feeling good about myself and the many coworkers I know endorse me and the work I’ve done and retain a feeling of accomplishment to boot?  Wow.  Simply wow and that is how I choose to believe it, see it and accomplish it. 

Once ashore though, will I be a castaway, a person who has been shipwrecked and stranded in an isolated place because I now have no work detail or purpose?  I know guys who won’t retire for this very reason.  They won’t come out and say it, but in the secret locker of their heart, they feel they will no longer be needed.  I guess the answer to this is up to me, right? 

Well, over the years I’ve watched my peers retire and all too often, it’s been ugly and I have to be honest and say I am going out kicking and on my own terms.  In the manner of my USMC buds, I am going to do a beach landing on retirement, semper fidelis.  In other words, I’m going out, like Chuck Norris would ready to kick butt and take names later.  I’m jumping overboard and swishing my arms through the warm Gulf waters, Forrest Gump style.  “That’s my boat”. 

Most go out totally rung out, or hospital out of the job.  They limp to the gate looking like their head wore out 3 bodies.  It’s true; why say otherwise?  They look old and tired and are most likely mad about something or someone.  Shoot; I can still run 5 miles if need be and dang it, I might just do it on my last day to stuff it down the throat of the man to prove it.  I came in kicking and I’ll go out the same way and on my own terms.  By the, the man is this mysterious entity that can be blamed for most anything we dislike about a job.

“Mighty big talk for a one-eyed fat man.”  Yea, maybe.  Maybe.  However, there’s still a lot of the crusty salt left in this old Nomex uniform.  I like to think there is anyway and that’s good for something.  Maybe a blueberry cake donut at the Doughnut Wheel at the corner of Garth and Rollingbrook.  I’ll ask my friend there and find out if it is. 

I have a co-worker who is about 30 who has been studying Jujitsu for about 5 years.  He told me he would like to spar me – he calls it rolling.  I told him he would lose either way.  “What?  How is that,” he asked.  He is 30 years my junior and full of vinegar.

“If you beat me, you can tell everyone you beat up a 62 year old man.  If you lose….”

Come July 1st, I’ll begin my first full month of retirement.  I’ll be hiking, biking, geocaching, or at the gym.  Look me up.  I’ll be the one with a look on my face that my life is just now beginning.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones iconic classic, Gimme Shelter has been played so many times,, its beyond counting and yet I listen to it completely every time its played. A lesser known cover of the song by Grand funk is just as pleasing to me and after searching youtube, I found a couple more that are incredible... but which one is the best? You vote and it will be settled, but before you do, all I ask is you give each version a listen.

Please vote in the comments section and leave a reason why one is better than the other.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bogus warrant scam uncovered!

A Montgomery Deputy Sheriff called my house and told me I had a warrant for missing a court date (Bench Warrant) . It came from this name and number: Huerta Maria 281-761-9112  The officer was very professional and believable.   However, the longer we talked the alarm bells began to ring.  He said my vehicle had been photographed by a red light camera and "the judge has flagged my offense, believing the infraction as bogus".  However, I had missed my court date and it was rescheduled for June 12th, in Richmond Texas.

Richmond Texas?  One thing after another sounded wrong, so I hung up and called the number back.  This time I got a different officer, who passed me off to a Lieutenant Stevens who gave me his badge number.  He explained it in great detail and it seemed legitimate and I am not usually fooled.  I told the officer I had never received notice of the infraction and this and that and the fine was $473, which I could pay with a credit card.  I slammed down the phone and wrote an email to my old friend Robocop, better known as Assistant Chief of police David Alford.  He's my goto source when I need something involving police work explained and totally trustworthy, in my book.

We passed an email or two, then talked on the phone.  It sounded fishy to him too and he verified I did NOT have a warrant.  here is the letter I received today from Lieutenant Eric Freed.
Mr. Marshall,

I applaud your gut instinct to reach out to Assistant Chief Alford and verify Lt. Stevens’ request for payment.  I wish more people would follow your lead when they get a suspicious call.

The calls you received are a scam to get your money.  You do not have warrants for your arrest.  This fact has been confirmed with both the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department as well as our own local, state and federal government databases.

I spoke with Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department (F.B.C.S.O) Organized Crime Unit Sergeant David Schultz and he is already aware of this scam.  One of Sergeant Schultz’ detectives is tasked with investigating a number of reports involving calls received from the fictitious Lt. Stevens #2443 demanding payment for non-existent warrants.  F.B.C.S.O. has issued a subpoena for the number that called you.  They have discovered it is a voice over internet number that shows a Cleveland, TX origin but is actually being made via computer somewhere else.  This complicates tracing the origin but sometimes the good guys catch a break.  F.B.C.S.O. actually had a detective call the number and the suspect cursed the investigator out!  Folks get brave when they are anonymous.  I have shared your experience and your contact information with Sergeant Schultz and he is adding it to his detective’s case.  The non-emergency number to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division is 281-341-4686.

If you receive further calls from Lt. Stevens or one of his fictitious coworkers, you have options: 

-        If you do not want to be bothered, you may ignore them or block the calls by contacting your service provider.

-        If you are a curious soul, you may log the time and date and share it with Assistant Chief Alford or myself.

I do not recommend talking to the suspect(s) because they might continue to pry or even harass you.

If you have any questions about this matter, feel free to contact me.  I hope we have been able to help you today,

Lieutenant Eric Freed

Investigations Division
City of Baytown Police Department

Blue Heron Parkway Revisited

 The Blue Heron Parkway is a total success story and I openly admit I not only voted against the expansion, but I was wrong in thinking it was stupid.  I also confess that I will stop and ask for directions when I’m lost.  Actually, as a geocacher, I’m never lost, but my first declaration of guilt is true.
When the issue of expanding Baker Road through what has traditionally been known as Honda Hills, and then crossing Barkuloo Road into the virgin woods behind Chaparral Village and intersecting with Sjolander Road was proposed, our town was experiencing tepid growth and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why so many people wanted to get to Sjolander Road.  Whew!  That was a long sentence.

Boy, I was short-sighted.  Strike two!  I’ve suspected for years that Baytown would experience exponential growth, but it arrived like an unexpected blue norther and caught our citizens with their back flaps down.  If you think the 45 minute wait at Cheddars is bad now, guess what?  We ain’t seen nothin’ yet

I listened to the Mayor of our fair city on Channel 16, whom I support wholeheartedly, talk about the traffic and speed of our motorists and what is to come and I wonder if Baytownians can fathom the congestion we are to experience over the next 5 years, as construction crews and support people flood our roads.  Add into the equation the sad fact that a great number of motorists are looking at a small electronic device in their hands as they drive and we have a King Kong-sized monkey of a problem.

Now I understand why the Blue Heron Parkway was a look into the future of Baytown and applaud the city for having a futuristic vision.  Let’s take a look at it.  Behind Chaparral Village subdivision is a beautiful hike and bike cement sidewalk which intersects with the retention/detention pond and I read in the Baytown Sun this week that additional money has been found to run the sidewalk around the giant well-sculpted pond.

In addition is a letter I received from Parks Superintendent Scott Johnson where he assures me this new trail will be lighted with solar powered LED lighting!  The trail and the 10 foot wide sidewalk on the south side of Blue Heron Parkway offers walkers, joggers, and cyclists over 4 miles of new lighted trails.

Geocachers on the back trail.
Seeing that I love the hi-tech game of geocaching, I have already saturated this addition and parkway with geocaches, a total of 16 to be exact and it has already attracted geocachers from Beaumont, Katy, Anahuac, and Houston.   Geocachers love to eat and they spend their hard-earned money here when they come, so it is another win for Baytown.  There are so many geocaches in the Baytown, that people come down from Dallas and distant cities and spend the night here, just to find the bulk of them.

I sat down with Mayor Stephen DonCarlos, Public Affairs Coordinator Patti Jett, and Tourism Director Anna Enderli a few weeks ago and it is in the plans to make Baytown an official Geotour city.  There is only one in Texas with others planned, but the general idea is, it is a mechanism to attract tourists (geocachers primarily) to our city where they visit all the key historic and interesting sites and boost our local economy.  It was decided to go full bore ahead and with the help of Larry Houston, we may be a Geotour city sometime in 2015.
Our newest road Blue Heron Parkway also has a wonderful 10 foot wide sidewalk on the south side.  Now, it is my understanding that any time a sidewalk of this dimension is placed as a hike/bike trail, it pretty much closes the land beside it to driveways and this is not only my hope, but all of us in Chaparral Village who live on Buffalo Trail and El Rancho Drive.

The Parkway is beautifully done, but cutting down the trees south of it to pour concrete will make it ugly and ruin the last sanctuary of forest for wildlife that lived there prior to the expansion.  As we develop our city, we need to aggressively plan reforesting every available patch of public land with Texas natives and xeriscape plants.  Defoliating our city has so many negative effects; it would take an additional 650 words to list them.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of driving on the Parkway, take a tour.  However, try to avoid when Ross Sterling high school lets out, as the young studs in their fast cars and trucks like to rip down it to impress the other young studs.  The girls of course couldn’t care less.