Friday, July 25, 2014

Alarmed citizen, or grumpy old man?


I’m becoming a curmudgeon and it’s not entirely my fault.  It’s the fault of all the idiots on the roads who are using 25% - or less of their cognizance to actually operate their motor vehicle.  I do not see myself as a bad-tempered or surly person when I’m behind the wheel of my venerable 4X4 Jeep.  I see myself as a conscientious driver with a proven track record of no tickets and 46 years without running into someone.

I use my blinker and actually come to a complete stop at stop signs and red lights.  Please do not run into me in your haste to get somewhere you deem important.

My Bride is the one who has brought my current angry status to my attention and she is right.  I have become a very angry driver.  My patience has worn thin and I have a gut-feeling, it is only going to get worse.
4 car wreck at Garth and Rollingbrook in Baytown
To reopen a giant sore spot of past citizen concern, I want to reintroduce what I thought (and still do) was a good idea – the red light cameras.  Yes, yes, I understand that the money was leaving town and that folks felt like Big Brother was watching them and all of this is and was true and being a Sci-fi buff, I understand the full implications of that…however, just as I predicted, people are now blowing through red lights as if they were cautionary instead of what they are – red lights.  You are supposed to come to a complete stop.

It is happening at every instance and intersection.  I often wonder who taught these traffic offenders Drivers education?  A driver can’t blindly proceed through an intersection on a green light in the far right lane, because someone is going to come flying up and take a right on red and barely tap their brakes.  Add into it that they are eating or have an electronic device up against the side of their head and safe passage is jeopardized.

Pulling up to a red light, any red light and the electronic device distraction is in full force.  The person closest to the red light gets my 118 decibel horn blast after three long seconds of green light and this is after I restrain myself and my bride pleads with me to be patient.  Often all two or three lanes have distracted drivers and everyone behind them is caught waiting for them to go.

The other day I was on Baker Road by San Jacinto Methodist heading east and the guy in front of me comes to a complete halt in the road to look at his phone.  I eased out from around him to pass and he lays the phone down and speeds up to the red light and takes a right on red without stopping.  Arhggg!

This kind of erratic and irresponsible driving used to be a rare occurrence, but not any more.  It has become so common, it is expected and thus my dilemma.  Do I simply go with the flow or should I get on Prozac?  I think I need something stronger, like Librium, or Valium, Diazepam, Alprazolam, or Lorazepam.  Heck, if I don’t get a hold on it, I fear my bride is going to send me to anger management.

Wait a second.  What if the general population were to lay down their phones when driving or waiting for a red light and actually operate their motor vehicles and drive the way they were trained?  What if people actually took responsibility for their careless, dangerous, and distracted driving and stopped doing the things they are doing that can get them and others killed?

I sent a photo to the Baytown Sun last week of a 4 car accident on Garth road where one car stopped for a red light and the next three cars plowed into the back of their car.  In case these people have forgotten what they learned in Drivers Education, if you run into the car in front of you – you are too close.  If you are continually tapping your brakes because of the car in front of you – you are too close.

If you are looking at your cell phone while driving, you are too close to the car in front of you regardless.  If you take a right on red without stopping and kill someone, you will face Capital murder charges, or at the very least criminal negligent homicide, trust me on that one. 
I’ll make a deal with all of you good citizens that are distracted by your communications devices and inability to come to a complete stop before turning.  I’ll keep my road rage in check and try my best not to point out your irresponsible driving habits to my bride if you will do your part to obey the traffic laws and put your phone where you can’t reach it when you’re driving.

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.

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