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.

Monday, March 03, 2014

BB donates animal mounts to the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center

Baytown advocate Bert Marshall donated 2 animal mounts to the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center.  One is a javelina (collared peccary) and the other is a  pronghorn antelope.  Both animals are native to Texas and will be used as educational tools. BNC Naturalist Crissy Butcher accepts the two animal mounts.
Baytown Bert and Naturalist Crissy Butcher
Each year, thousands of visitors and school children come to the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education and Recreation Center in Baytown to learn about the importance of wetlands and their inhabitants. It is an official site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
Other educational offerings include The Wetlands Wagon program taken to schools, libraries, clubs and businesses to educate students and the public on the importance and preservation of wetlands.
Hours and fees
The Wetlands Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except holidays. Entry is free. Guided tours and educational programs are offered for a fee. Phone 281-420-7128 for more information and reservations.
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Horse on W. Cedar Bayou Lynchburg and E. Road


The painted and tether horse close to Wal-Mart

 Am I the only one who has spied the painted horse standing by a tree on W. Cedar Bayou Lynchburg and E. Road?  No?  I didn’t think so and like you I wondered if this was a case of neglect, or there is reason and purpose for tethering a lone horse in what appeared to be a small plot of land.

Is this a case of animal cruelty?  Should the humane society, PETA, Houston SPCA, or Marvin Zindler be called?

Well, I thought I would just go over and see if I could talk to someone before I jumped to conclusions.  Hopping in my venerable 4X4 Jeep I call, "The Choppa", I drove over to take photos and possibly get the truth about the situation and this is what I discovered. 

"Get to Tha Choppa!"  Arnold Schwarzenegger
As I drove over Sunday morning, camera in hand, I planned at the very least to get a few photos.  Yesterday, I passed by and the horse was lying down.  At the time I wondered if it was dead.  There were two men and two women unsuccessfully trying to push out a rent truck close to the horse, so I jumped the curb in my Jeep and pulled them out, then inquired about the horse. 

Boy, did I get an education and a good one and on this adventure, I made four friends.

The horse has been in rehabilitation since they acquired it and quarantined from their other horses and for good reason.  The horse was near starvation with bones showing  before it was staked here.  It is on a very special diet to rehab it and they’ve posted no trespassing signs to keep people away, but well-meaning people have been feeding the horse anyway, thinking the horse was starving.

The horse folks building the corral
They showed me on the tree where numerous signs had been posted and each of them had been torn loose.  One of the ladies owns the horse and told me she is a horse person and has other horses and the people secretly feeding this horse are hurting it’s recovery, as it requires a special diet. 

They applied for a permit to build a corral and this has taken much longer than they anticipated.  They delivered the necessary materials today to begin the process of fencing it in and that is how I found them, stuck and muddy truck and all. 

I asked or expected no remuneration for pulling out the truck and after three refusals accepted their money, as they were very sincere about their gratitude.  They were in a great big hurry to build the corral and return the rent truck, so I did not get their names, but I liked every one of them.
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We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...