Friday, December 25, 2015

An unexpected Christmas gift




I head down below the tree line and into the deeper snow. I’m not really a snow type person, loving the sunshine of the Gulf Coast of Texas, but up here the wind keeps it to a minimum. The old stone-strewn trail is barely visible and the snowshoe rabbit tracks are the only indication that anything can live in this wasteland.

It was decided last night that seeing I have the lowest position, I would be the one to find a Christmas tree. I chuckle to myself wondering if this country has anything resembling a real “Christmas” type tree. My heavy coat soon becomes almost too hot and I unzip it to let some sub-zero dry air inside. To sweat out here could be fatal, or so I have been warned.

It’s my first Christmas away from my home town and my forgiving family. I chuckle again looking at my gloved hands. 3 years ago, no one at home would believe that the town hellion would be so far from his home town. 3 years ago, most everyone thought I would be in prison.

“I need to find a Christmas tree,” I mumble and shift my burden to my shoulders. It is bitterly cold and they said there wasn’t much chance I would encounter trouble, but they are back at base camp and safe and I am out here by myself.

It’s one thing to talk tough on the street, but when it is for real and the bad guy would just as soon hang your head on a trophy pole, it brings it into perspective. I hear a stick crack and at this altitude it sounds like a gunshot. I drop down on one knee and feel the adrenaline shoot through me like a hemi-powered hotrod. Totally unaware of my presence a white fox dashes out from under a scrub bush and chases a white rabbit past me.

I slowly exhale, not realizing I was holding my breath. Yea, my homies should see me now. Out here thousands of miles from home looking for a Christmas tree has a whole new meaning to being tough.  I’m not tough – I’m scared. I was tough, or thought I was, but I really had no clue. Being tough has nothing to do with a person’s ability to fight. Being tough is more of a spiritual battle than what can be done with your fists.

That’s really why I am out here by myself. Because of my faith in God, I wanted a tree to express his birthday and finally I was granted my wish. “If you want one so bad young fella, go out and get one.” The guys are all seasoned men and I guess, religious to an extent and what he said wasn’t a command. I know that. One by one they nod at me and I realize they too would like to see a tree. They just don’t want to possibly risk their life or go out in the cold to get one.

We’ve been on this lonely mountain for 3 long weeks and the weather has us socked in or we would have been extracted by now. We are simply waiting it out. I read the small Bible each night and our team leader ignores me, as we are under strict guidelines to not have one in-country. I just couldn’t live without it and I guess he knows that.

I chuckle again thinking about what the judge told me 3 years ago. “Son, you better turn your life around, because the next time you are here will be the last time I am lenient.” I was 17 and soon to have a birthday. Becoming 18 years old makes me accountable and the 11 times I have been arrested already made me known to every cop in town. Now I am getting colder by the minute and every little noise has me almost jumping out of my skin.

Who knew being with this outfit would mean I would be on a mountaintop thousands of miles from home on Christmas looking for a tree? There! I see it! I work my way over a small ridge to a copse of boulders. There in the middle is a small evergreen type bush about 3 feet tall. Removing my gloves, I extract my serrated blade and begin to saw at the base. As I work on it, I spy a slight movement across the narrow gorge.

There, seated by a very small fire is a foreign soldier with his rifle pointed directly at me. I freeze, as my rifle is on the ground beside me. The young man is about my age and his beard is scraggly and bare, as is mine. Being in Special Forces allows me the privilege of not shaving – just like this guy. I’d be lying if I said I’m not scared, but the look on his face is the same as the one on mine.

He stares at me and I at him. We are not more than a hundred feet apart and then – he smiles. He leans forward setting the rifle down and holds a skewer of meat over his small fire and I ever so slowly return to getting my small tree cut down. He points at the sky and then at me and I nod. I stand very slowly letting out my breath and carefully sling my rifle over my shoulder. Grabbing my tree, I take one last look at the young enemy soldier and pointing at the sky, I point at him. Seeing him nod, I head back to camp to observe the birth of the Christ child with my fellow Christian soldiers.

 .

Friday, December 18, 2015

Please show me a real hero




When my son was about 16 he put up a poster of Che Guevara on his bedroom wall. Being a cold warrior who served 4 years in the Strategic Air Command, I was naturally alarmed, but hid it to inquire about his reason for this objectionable show of admiration.

“Che was cool!” was his retort and he punched the stapler in the bottom left corner to finish the installation. I was careful to inquire how much he knew about the man and of course it was very little and honestly, he thought the guy simply looked cool with his wavy black hair.

I gave him a piece of advice I picked up somewhere and it has been a mantra of mine for years. “Be careful who you make into a hero.” In wartime, the difference between a hero and a coward is one solitary action and it may swap the very next day. On top of that, hero status can change drastically.

Take the modern day hero Ronald Reagan for instance. Reagan is often cited as an example of what a real president should be, but I well remember back 30 years ago, people hated that guy. I hated him.  I was laid off from Arco Chemical because of him and I had a “for life” job. Over the years he has become a symbol of doing everything right.

Mahatma Gandhi is another person people love to sing his laurels, but according to the Bible, he was worse than an infidel because he would not care for his own family. His wife would beg him to keep just enough donations that they could eat, but he gave it all away and refused his own children an education. Please don’t take my word for it.  Research it for yourself.

Al Gore was lauded as a hero for bringing to light global warming and Barack Obama for giving the world hope to the point that they were both awarded Nobel Peace prizes.  Both were major failures on nearly everything they promised.

I am not insinuating that there are not real heroes. We are surrounded by them and don’t realize it. No, they don’t sell millions of records, play professional sports, or win Academy Awards. They are those of us that awaken to an alarm clock and get up and go to work every day when we hate every second of it.

It is that mom or dad that corrects their kids when they do wrong and teach them how to behave properly in society. They parent their children by “imposing restrictions” so their kid isn’t a jailbird by the time they can drive. Heroes sacrifice their own lives so others may succeed. If you get nothing more out of this column than that last statement, I have made my point.

Men and women who work 60 plus hours a week so their family can have a few extras and do it year after year are real heroes to me. They change stinky poopie diapers, or tend the sick, or “drag them kids” to the dentist on a regular basis. They dog their children at school and refuse to let them drop out. They set standards and enforce them.

No, a hero isn’t that big guy that can bench press 500 pounds or the woman who wins a national title in a bathing suit. It isn’t the comedian who can make millions laugh or the musical artist with the raunchiest lyrics. Its guys like my friend Don Cunningham who puts his heart into writing daily parables to lift up those around him. It’s Ken Pridgeon who paints with a labor of love all those military heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Unfortunately it has become politically correct to erase the history of some heroes of our country and it is a scary path I hope we do not continue to go down.  A hero of mine is Ben Franklin and in a lot of ways, old Ben was not a hero, but we live a better life because of his scientific experiments.  Did you know Ben Franklin is regarded as the greatest scientist of the 18th century?

Ren Fitts is a hero to me. He is an advocate for Veterans and an unselfish one too. Although battling 100% disability from the things he suffered in Vietnam, he is quick to help any veteran obtain their benefits. He has enough ailments for ten people due to the war, but is so encouraging that I see him as an example of how people should be.

I recently had construction work done at my house by Duane Peterson and his crew. This is the second time I’ve hired him and his attention to detail in a time when no one wants to give you a smidgeon of service bumps him up to near hero status. Is it just me or does anyone else want at least what we are paying for?

Be careful who you elevate to hero status especially in front of your kiddos. Some of these folks stink worse than poopie diapers. It just takes time for them to ferment.
.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Goodbye Concealed Handgun Permit



Come January 1st, anyone with a concealed handgun permit can walk down the street with the holstered weapon in plain sight. This sounds like the Wild West, right? Visions of wild-eyed Tea party radicals swaggering around daring anyone to challenge them is one image that some may conjure up. Another is a mom grabbing her child up by the arm and running from the store because “that man has a gun, mommy”.

I will share my thoughts on the first scenario. It’s scary and I hope I don’t see that fellar.  No one wants to see someone walking around with a gun on their hip acting like an ego starving lunatic. I know a whole slew of people who legally carry and I don’t think any of us plan on carrying any differently that we are right now.

Over many years I have repeated that no time in my history have I seen a time of turmoil to match the 1960’s… until now. In case you are unsure of what I am referring to, I’ll point it out in easy to understand terms and I am not inferring you are incapable of understanding big words like verisimilitude.

The Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr., the emerging drug culture, race riots, the Yuppie movement, and the list goes on. I was a kid who witnessed the racial tension and the war on the nightly news. I was soon to enter the fray upon graduation from high school and I should have been carefree.

The truth is I felt the anxiety many years before I graduated, but being an optimistic kid, I knew I would get through it. Many years have passed between 1970 and 2015 and that old anxiety has came back. I think it slowly began to slip back in about 3 years ago.  Before I write anything else, I want to make it very clear I am not trying specifically to target and bash Obama, even though I think many of his decisions are taking us dangerously close to anarchy, but it is what it is.

I think our government has lost contact with the very people who voted them into a position of choosing what we need. They are no longer a group who is doing the will of the people. The partisan squabbling and resistance to work things out has led us to a President who appears to do whatever he wants and a Secretary of State who is above the law… and no one can or will do anything about it.

I’m not 100% sure here, but I think a great many Vietnam Veterans cringe when they think about John Kerry as the chief foreign affairs adviser. The Obama’s administrations total focus on climate change while ignoring domestic terrorism is a perfect example of the cat chasing its own tail while ignoring the rats creeping in through open holes.

Mr. Obama is predictably going after the guns while him and his family are guarded and will be guarded for the rest of their lives by men with guns. His life matters, but yours evidently does not. It is the most preposterous paradox I have ever seen. Why is it that they cannot see this? They are surrounded by people with guns protecting them, but Mr. Obama and all his cronies want us to give up our right to carry a firearm and protect our families. The bad guys have machine guns and travel in packs and we can only have a long gun that shoots 5 bullets? What? The President’s guys have machine guns and 30 round magazines under their coats. Our lives don’t matter.

It reminds me of the English officer in Last of the Mohicans wondering why Hawkeye can call himself a loyal subject of England and not fight for the king. Hawkeye flat told the officer he didn’t see himself as a subject to any man and that is the direction we are heading. Obama and Hillary are above the very laws they expect us to obey and I am far from being alone in this observation.  Hillary should be in jail right now.

As head of the CIA, General David Petraeus was having an affair. This, as far as I know is not a crime. His crime was that he didn’t tell anyone and this put him in a position of compromise and possibly being blackmailed. For this he was bounced out and disgraced.  “Eventually, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information Petraeus allegedly provided to his mistress and biographer.”

On the other hand, righteous Hillary has violated so many laws concerning classified material and yet is a front runner for President of the United Sates? Really? Seriously?  As an ex-First Lady, she is protected by Secret Service agents for the rest of her life and she’s going after the guns also? The idiocy of her hypocrisy is only hidden to those who blindly disregard her illegal transgressions and will giddily punch her ticket at the voting booth. I swear, the woman could come out saying she killed and ate a baby seal every morning for breakfast and folks would excuse her.

One reason the Second Amendment keeps getting so much attention is veterans of foreign wars know that arming ourselves is no fantasy strategy. War and terrorism on our soil is not only a possibility, but probably coming to our streets. Burying our heads in the sand is not only unrealistic, but living a Utopian dream. No, I will not open carry, but I won’t go out without my usual.
.




Friday, December 04, 2015

Geocachers, The New Outdoorsmen



Geocachers on the Lone Star Trail

When I was a kid living in Michigan, my dad always had a copy of Herter’s catalog.  Inside it was every kind of outdoor gear you can imagine.  If you fished, there was every kind of lure made and components to build your own.  I looked at as much as I looked at the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

By the way, as a young farm boy, the Sears catalog was of special interest due to the fact that it had grown women posing in under clothes, but it also had a huge Christmas section at the end of the year.  I can’t really recall which was more interesting, but I digress.

My dad was in my eyes a true hunter who was woods savvy.  I saw him shoot a flying crow with a .22 rifle one time and he was at home when in the woods.  He never got lost and would often trick my brothers and I by quizzing us about where we were or what we were looking at.  I’ve written about this before, so I will not weary you by repeating.

Suffice it to say, my whole family grew up doing outdoorsy things most people only see on TV or in movies.  We learned more by doing than by actual teaching.  My dad was an awesome man with a lot of book and real life experience, but he was definitely not a teacher in the conventional sense.  He taught by doing and we learned without realizing we were being taught.

Maybe this is the reason I am so passionate about explaining things and this brings me to the subject.  I, as many of my readers know, am a geocacher.  Not to take away from any other hobby especially fishing and hunting, but geocachers are the new outdoors people.  To prove my point, we spend more time in the woods and trails than the other groups combined.  I don’t have hard facts on that, but I’m pretty sure I’m dead on.

Geocachers on Cedar Bayou
The purpose of this argument is not to place one group over the other or to compete, but to make a point.  We have reached an evolution where kids pay more attention to electronic devices than they do the great outdoors.  No wonder so many are overweight and out of shape, right?  Well, guess what?  Geocachers use electronic devices to find hidden geocaches located in city parks, wooded areas, old cemeteries, and hiking trails.

I have a web page set up to explain how it works.  It might be a good idea to stop reading right now and see what this geocaching thingy is before you read further.  I am on the board of the Texas Geocaching Association and represent our area.  I teach free geocaching 101 classes at either the EddieV Gray Wetlands Center or the Baytown Nature Center twice a year.  Everyone is invited to attend and bring your kids. 

It might just save them and you.  You see, there are probably more seniors playing this game than young people and it’s a great way to walk off those holiday pounds.

There are a lot of things vying for our attention and much of it is bad. I can’t think of anything better in the secular world than this game to introduce people to the great big wonderful world out there. I also have a confession here and it’s embarrassing a bit. Geocachers almost to the person are nerdish. I know.  Like I said, it’s embarrassing. We tend to like to read, do math, study statistics, love learning new things – all the things most people hate.  But… there is a treasure hunt here and who doesn’t like to find treasure? 

I know I do and it drives me to go on this geocaching adventure like a person looking for gold.  The gold is nothing more than a piece of paper inside the container that I will sign the date and my geocaching name.  It’s crazy.  Then I will go online to geocaching.com and write a story about the adventure called “a log”. This records my visit and verifies I’ve been to the container. I often post a funny selfie too. 

Register a free account at geocaching.com and download a free App for your phone and you are ready to begin the adventure.  If you get a group together, I will be happy to conduct a free class in how to play the game.
 .




Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Muslim Eye Opener

Peshwar Church bombing by Muslims


Here is a perspective by Dr. Peter Hammond.  He was born in Capetown in 1960, grew up in Rhodesia and converted to Christianity. Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam:

     The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat:

     Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult.  In its fullest form, it is a complete,
     total, 100% system of life.

     Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components.  The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.

     Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate
     for their religious privileges.  When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well..

     Here's how it works:

     As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given
     country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:

     United States -- Muslim 0..6%
     Australia -- Muslim 1.5%
     Canada -- Muslim 1.9%
     China -- Muslim 1.8%
     Italy -- Muslim 1.5%
     Norway -- Muslim 1.8%

     At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and
     disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among
     street gangs.  This is happening in:

     Denmark -- Muslim 2%
     Germany -- Muslim 3.7%
     United Kingdom -- Muslim 2.7%
     Spain -- Muslim 4%
     Thailand -- Muslim 4.6%

     From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their
     percentage of the population.  For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims.

     They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their
     shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply.  This is occurring in:

     France -- Muslim 8%
     Philippines -- 5%
     Sweden -- Muslim 5%
     Switzerland -- Muslim 4.3%
     The Netherlands -- Muslim 5.5%
     Trinidad & Tobago -- Muslim 5.8%

     At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

     When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase
     lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions.  In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam.  Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections, in:

     Guyana -- Muslim 10%
     India -- Muslim 13.4%
     Israel -- Muslim 16%
     Kenya -- Muslim 10%
     Russia -- Muslim 15%

     After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in Ethiopia -- Muslim 32.8%

     At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:

     Bosnia -- Muslim 40%
     Chad -- Muslim 53.1%
     Lebanon -- Muslim 59.7%

     From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:

     Albania -- Muslim 70%
     Malaysia -- Muslim 60.4%
     Qatar -- Muslim 77.5%
     Sudan -- Muslim 70%

     After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:

     Bangladesh -- Muslim 83%
     Egypt -- Muslim 90%
     Gaza -- Muslim 98.7%
     Indonesia -- Muslim 86.1%
     Iran -- Muslim 98%
     Iraq -- Muslim 97%
     Jordan -- Muslim 92%
     Morocco -- Muslim 98.7%
     Pakistan -- Muslim 97%
     Palestine -- Muslim 99%
     Syria -- Muslim 90%
     Tajikistan -- Muslim 90%
     Turkey -- Muslim 99.8%
     United Arab Emirates -- Muslim 96%

     100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' -- the Islamic House of peace. Here there's supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word, such as in:

     Afghanistan -- Muslim 100%
     Saudi Arabia -- Muslim 100%
     Somalia -- Muslim 100%
     Yemen -- Muslim 100%

     Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.

     'Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; the tribe against the world, and all of us against the infidel. -- Leon Uris, 'The Haj'

     It is important to understand that in some countries, with well under 100% Muslim populations, such as France, the minority Muslim populations live in ghettos, within which they are 100% Muslim, and within which they live by Sharia Law.

     The national police do not even enter these ghettos. There are no national courts, nor schools, nor non-Muslim religious facilities.  In such situations, Muslims do not integrate in to the community at large. The children attend madrasses. They learn only the Koran.  To even associate with an infidel is a crime punishable with death.

     Therefore, in some areas of certain nations, Muslim Imams and extremists exercise more power than the national average would indicate.  Today's 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world's population.  But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers.  Muslims will exceed 50% of the world's population by the end of this century.

     Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam:

Friday, November 27, 2015

It’s time to call it like it is


Baytown Citizens Police Academy Graduates Fall 2015

I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet the last two and a half months as I attended almost ten weeks of the Baytown Citizen’s Police Academy. One reason for this is my friend Natalie Whatley covered it a few years back. Another reason is I wanted to experience the entire class before I wrote about it.

I am by nature a bit rebellious and a loner when it comes to joining or endorsing anything. I am a classic skeptic and make no apologies about what I have observed. Back a number of years ago when I headed up Baytown Concerned Citizens, I was criticized for writing in my column that we needed to continuously watch our police department and hold them accountable. My opinion hasn’t changed in that regard.

The police department is ran in a very military manner and I am not only a Veteran, but also a student of military history. Much of what I learned in this citizen’s police academy, I already knew because I read a lot and have studied martial arts and awareness for many years. I don’t get my information from watching the Lethal Weapon series or CSI in its many spin-offs. I have friends in the police department and as I’ve stated before, obey the law.

We were instructed by the people who do the dirty work and although I think the job would jade most people; these men and women were very professional and appeared to enjoy what they do. I’ve often believed that if I was a cop and rubbed shoulders with the seediest element of society, it would turn me to the dark side. I’m sure in some cases it does, but I observed none of that.

A lot of information was taught and as I’ve stated, I found it to be elementary, but did learn a lot of details anyway. Each week an expert in their particular discipline would go into great detail about what it is they do to fight crime and each week I was impressed with the high level of training each officer portrayed.

The class is facilitated by Stewart Beasley and taught in a relaxed manner that the average citizen can easily understand. We learned about the Swat Team, forensics, gangs, use of force, traffic stops, investigations, live fire, and bombs. We also learned that the City of Baytown is one of the most sought after places for law enforcement officers to train. Our facility on any given day has people from all over the country learning how to do it the legal way.

I am not one to be easily drawn into something just because I have been exposed to it. I am already on the Board of the Texas Geocaching association and Keep Baytown Beautiful, so I refrained from becoming active in the Citizen’s on patrol or the Alumni Association, but easily could have endorsed both as worthy endeavors.

Here is my summary on the entire experience. We are being sold a bill of goods to discredit the police department through constant negative news stories. I don’t understand who is behind it, but to put it in words Harry Truman would use, it is bull crap if the Baytown Police are an example. Lawyers and anti-police advocacy groups have made it where almost everything the police department can do to stop crime works against the officer. The professional criminal holds not only the advantage, but practically all the protection they need to get out of nearly everything.

We watched a demonstration where one officer had his gun drawn and pointed and the bad guy had to raise his gun to shoot. Every single time they fired at the same instant. Almost any approach an officer takes can be turned against him, regardless of how cautious they are. In a high percentage of cases, the officer only draws their sidearm when there is an obvious threat.

The Internet, Facebook, and Youtube show small clips of video which at first appear to be police brutality, when the reality in most cases is just the opposite. The cop is like a referee with his nose in the action and sees things we can’t, but everyone is second guessing them these days ready to scream excessive force.

The bottom line is I think I would make a good police officer, but under these circumstances would I want to be one? Heck no! Everything is working against them on all external levels. It doesn’t matter how much they train, the current aggressive mentality of discrediting the police rips apart the fabric of this honorable vocation.

I have lived in Baytown over 40 years and have yet to be jerked out of my automobile and kicked, tased, beaten, or cursed at by an out of control cop. I think the reason for that is I haven’t given them reason to do any of those things. Another reason may also be that as a rule, they simply don’t treat people they arrest or pull over in such a manner. 

I also understand that if the cops chase you to Cut and Shoot and back and you throw yourself out of your car and run, they are most likely going to hurt you when they finally catch you. It serves you right in my book. If you act up with cops, why would you be surprised when they get right back in your face?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What is your geo-name again?



What is your geo-name again? 
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

My geocaching handle is BaytownBert.  It’s confusingly cryptic in that my name is Bert and I live in Baytown, Texas.  Believe it or not one time someone asked me where I lived after we exchanged geo-handles.  To save space on the logbooks, I usually just put BB and the date.

Over the years I’ve observed some really cool names, like Skunkonthefog, FluxVector, and Bigguy In Texas.  I’ve also heard some astoundingly long, bizarre and undecipherable caching names that left me scratching my head in amazement.  It usually goes something like this: “Hi, I’m BaytownBert.”

“Nice to meet you, I’m 382764956thb938rt8743monkeylips-from_Toledo_Texas and I am a newbie to the game.”  I usually refrain from guffawing, but on occasion giggle a little.  My next question is how they plan to sign the log on a nano, but again stop myself.

A geocaching name should be considered not only important, but precious and a player needs to understand that a lot goes along with it.  Take for instance the trail you leave in loggings, hidden caches, event attendance – well you get the picture.  Your logging name is a snapshot of you.  If you do well, people may not notice, but if you do bad, well again it is a historical entity that other cachers will bat around.

“Who hid this one?”

“BaytownBert”

“Ugh, well that means the coords are probably off 40 feet and it needs maintenance…”

“Yea, that and he’s probably writing a scathing log on someone else’s cache as we search for his stupid choice of containers.”

“I hope not, as all his caches are about the worst example of how to play this game.”

“Yea and he’s always ragging on the reviewers saying how awful they are.”

“I bet he doesn’t even bathe…”

This is an extreme example and I do bathe – I promise I do.  You see, you can play this game for a long time gliding under the radar and no one will actually pay you much attention, but the day you hide one is the day where folks will begin to notice you.

Comments you want to read are “Nice hide” not “Needs Maintenance”.  With a total of 300+ hides and events under my belt, it is not uncommon for me to get one to ten NM logs a week.  I’m retired and usually get to them within 48 hours, but even when I worked 12 hour shifts and 60+ hours a week, I did immediate maintenance.

The reason is simple; I did not want my geo-handle to be associated with anything negative.  Now mind you, some folks will find offense at something I did occasionally and that is not what I am talking about here.  What I mean is when your geo-handle is mentioned folks look at each other and nod. 

The next thing out of their mouths should be, “What is the D/T rating,” or “Is there a hint?”

One of my favorite exclamations when I can’t find a cache is an ode to my old caching buddy.  I raise my fist at the sky and shake it while exclaiming, “Curse you AaronBarbee!”  Aaron hid a series of caches in the Baytown area years ago called the Soda Tube Trials.  At each one, you could be killed or injured and I got all of them and paid the painful price on quite a few.

One of his caches was in the middle of a bee hive colony and I went out in a white Mylar suit in the middle of July to replace the missing soda tube with him.  There were thousands of bees around me, as AB stayed back to watch.  I was only stung twice.

Due to this series, Aaron was widely known and in a good way.  Folks came from all over to do his caches.  Since then he’s kind of quit caching, moving into other endeavors, but he left a very positive image of himself to other cachers.

Recently in the Texas Geocaching Association (TXGA.net), we voted 3 people into the Hall of Fame and minted pathtags to commemorate them.  Texas Dreamweaver, HoustonControl, Mrs. Captain Pickard are well known cachers in Texas and deserve the accolades.  These folks have contributed so much to the game that they are examples of how to do it.  Their geo-names are known to many in a very positive way and that is the point of this primer.

Guard your name as it is precious indeed.  Be mindful of how you sign the logs by writing good ones. Come to events and help out, or stage really cool events. Help newbies and do what you can to give back to the game.  Down the road you might find out that you have inspired a goodly number of people to be better players.

One more thing.  Don’t forget to have a lot of fun!

What is more fun than geocaching?



What is more fun than geocaching?
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

“When geocaching is no longer fun, go home folks.”  If you have attended one of my geocaching 101 classes, you have heard me give that advice.  I know what I am talking about here, because in this wonderful game, you will reach this state of mind, guaranteed.  It can happen to us at the first cache too.  Often, we struggle on and possibly get our mojo back, but many times, something will happen that makes us leave the game and head to the house.

In Texas I am fairly well known for having fun playing this game.  I have a high quality prosthetic Bubba set of dentures and a couple different wigs I like to wear at events and I have been known to take an occasional selfie and post it in a log also.

My Bubba teeth had to be adjusted by my dentist last year when I accidentally got my front teeth knocked out after hiding a high terrain geocache in a park near my home in Baytown.  I named it: “BB's Bust Your Chops Cache!” (GC55G1J0)  For a few minutes there, geocaching was no longer fun.

It was a lot of fun the other day at the 2015 TXGA Lone Star Round-up when we were playing an accuracy game called Place the pin.  I acquired the coordinates with my Garmin Oregon 650 and these were announced to the crowd.  Everyone who played placed their red flag where they felt was the most accurate point.  I observed the distinguished Dr. Deborah Burswell (DJBTEX) and friends walk off after placing their flag and I promptly created a sockpuppet name and replaced her flag with it.

I then moved her flag up on a hill 75 feet from the field of flags.  Later just before we revealed who had won, I was talking to her and pointed at the lone flag up on the hill.  We both laughed and she told me, “There is one in every crowd.”  I guess you can imagine her expression when it was revealed she won the booby prize for being farthest from the flag.  It took her all of 2 seconds to look in my direction and since most everyone knew of the prank, it was hilarious.  She has vowed she will get her revenge too.

Now, on my left calve is a brown scar about the size of a dime.  I got that in Pedernales Falls State Park in October 2014. I walked past an underground burrow of bald face hornets and the guard popped me.  Thank the Lord for psycho motor reflexes, because I can’t think that fast.  I took off like the roadrunner and it chased me about a hundred meters before it swerved off.

I’ve had my share of stings, but that was a solid 3 on the Schmidt Pain Index.  Before it really started throbbing, I realized I was at GZ, but the hint was “stump” and feral hogs had rutted all ten stumps to Cut and Shoot and gone, so I hiked back to my Jeep and my sympathetic Bride.  Geocaching was not very fun the rest of the day as my leg throbbed relentlessly.

A group of us were geocaching in George Bush Park on the west side of Houston and I witnessed something I still find hilarious.  Chad Courtney (TAZ427) attempted to cross a log over some cold water and went into what I like to call, a low-speed wobble and not wanting to risk getting his 15 electronic devices wet, he bailed off the log into the shin deep water.  I wish it had sound effects, because it was awesome!

What’s more fun that geocaching with friends who can laugh when you bust your buns? Here’s a little bit of advice; if you know you are going to fall… SCREAM.  It heightens the whole effect and if you don’t get hurt, it makes it much more dramatic.

About 5 years ago, I made a couple of serious mistakes while caching and all of us are guilty of the same stunts.  The good part is I walked away basically unscathed.  See if you can count my mistakes. I was caching alone and no one knew where I was. I did not have a cell phone and was going after a cache that hadn’t been visited in months.  It was slightly raining and about 50 degrees.  I parked my Jeep on a lonely road and hiked about 300 meters down a muddy trail in the East Texas piney woods.

This area was hilly with many declinations and rises.  I located GZ and it was a tree of about 12 inches in diameter and it grew out over a washed out creek that was about 20 feet below.  The tree had slowly been drooping due to erosion and jutted out at a 45 degree angle over the edge.  I could see a tether about 5 feet up and it appeared that there was a hole on the backside of the crotch.

The ground was wet, and I am agile and I pondered it for a while before I leaned out and caught the tree, hugging it.  Well, the tether wasn’t attached to anything, so I did a forceful push-up backwards and regained the path.  I then wondered if it had fallen into the basically empty creek bed, so I took a few steps to the side for a better angle.

My feet started to slide and there I went, down the side of that 20 foot drop off, bumping my butt on the edge, which sent my torso forward into a push-up position.  I slammed into the sandy muck up to my elbows and pants pockets, but otherwise, was okay.  In most parts of the country that would be rocks and probably would have either killed me, or injured me to the point I couldn’t walk out.

I got up and left the area, DNF’ing the cache and leaving a long log on the cache page.  Geocaching wasn’t fun that day and it was my own fault.  These stories are all true, but sometimes it’s the little things that ruin your fun.  Mosquitoes, a blister on your foot, thorns, poison ivy, fear of snakes, spiders and webs, and often, here on the Gulf Coast of Texas, it is high heat and humidity that zap you like a good thrashing.

Remember folks, this game is supposed to be fun and when it ain’t?  Go home.


What happened to geocaching events?



What happened to geocaching events?
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I geocached totally solo for a long time before I attended my first event. The reason was I was introduced to the game at a time when caches were few and far apart.  USMorrows and I worked in the same Chemical Plant, he in the Lab and me in a process unit.  I thought the game would be something my Bride and I could do together, but alas she couldn’t comprehend the idea of looking for something in the woods.

I found a few caches in 2003 & 2004 and then stopped caching.  I was aware of the game, but we pursued other common interests.  In 2009 we experienced a family tragedy and I began to hike miles and miles to try and keep my sanity.  I was on a 16 mile hike in Brazos Bend SP in August and staggering as I made it to my vehicle.  I then had an epiphany.

I could be geocaching instead of just hiking!  I logged into gc.com and sure enough, I was still BaytownBert.  Boy, the game sure had exploded in that 5 years!  I bought an entry level Magellan GPSr unit that you had to hand load each cache into and started caching again. My brother TJBustem and I occasionally teamed up.  We made some funny videos and posted them on youtube too, but I continued on for a couple of years by myself.

I wasn’t part of “the network”, which we all know is essential for success, not to mention the fellowship that goes with sharing ideas and food with other cachers.  I learned about the Houston Geocaching Society and joined the forum.  I asked a lot of questions and listened.  I was invited to go to the 10 year anniversary event of geocaching.com hosted in Baytown, Texas by the guy who has become by mentor; HoustonControl.

HC knows the rules inside and out and which ones can be bent socially acceptably and those that can’t.  I say that because I have a propensity towards rule breaking, albeit self-justified.  He sets me straight and we have enjoyed many hundreds of hours caching together.  Now, what in heckfire does this history have to do with events?  I’ll explain.

For the last 6 years I’ve attended a lot of events and hosted a goodly number also.  What I am seeing is a golden opportunity being lost or spent and I mean spent as in losing it when it comes to events.  Events for the most part mean you are going into a crowded restaurant full of noisy muggles, sit next to 2 or 3 people you can actually hear and probably know well enough to live with them, and spend at least 20 bucks.  That’s an event these days.

As the SETX Rep for the Texas Geocaching Association, I am sounding the alarm and I do every chance I get.  The restaurant scenario should be the exception, surely not the rule.  Here is the formula for a successful event and it works here in Baytown.

Go to your city’s Public Relations and Tourism director and tell them all about geocaching and what it can do to bring people who spend money to your city.  Ask for swag.  Every city has stamped swag to give away.  Get a bag full as often as they will give it to you.  Try to convert them to become geocachers.  Keep in touch with them and give them reports.  Find out if the city will provide you with a place to hold an event in case of rain and you want it free of charge.  The paradigm that geocachers are a liability is no longer there.  We are environmentally aware and we pick-up trash.  We also spend a lot of money.

Take a good hard look at the history and resources your city has and stage an event close by, either to tour afterward, or to tackle that 5/5 cache everyone is afraid to go after.  Make these things optional after the event, so no one is excluded.  The idea is for everyone to enjoy the event including those on walkers and wheelchairs. I like to hide an unactivated geocoin and then hold up the coords at the end of the event.

In the Baytown area we regularly will have an event in a parking lot and then, if folks want to tackle an 11 mile hike, they are most welcome to come along.  Food?  Bring your own food and I promise it won’t cost you 20 bucks either.  I love to stage potluck events!  Mine Gott!  There is so much food it’s embarrassing and everyone knows how much we love to eat.  After our Block Party event in Baytown this year, we left so much food in the Nature Center pantry that they fed students for a couple of days.

A no-brainer quarterly event is Adopt a site CITO.  Just don’t bite off more than you can do by yourself when the shine wears off.  The way to prevent this is coordinate at least one clean-up with the city and all geocachers will get a t-shirt too.  I always bring lots of free city swag to hand-out and consistently have a good turn-out for the stretch we’ve adopted to clean.

“If you build it, they will come”… to your event.  As a challenge, try to do one event per quarter.  Make it an event to remember.  If it is successful, do the same event next year.  Have fun and talk to everyone, not just those seated beside you at the restaurant events.

Travel bugs and geocoins



Travel bugs and geocoins
This is a primer on proper handling of trackable tags, coins, etc.
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

Please bear with me while I lay a little groundwork on this subject.  Surely if you have played this game very long, you know all or most everything there is to know about trackables, but following the principle that no matter how much you think you know, we don’t always do the right thing and we can always learn more.

Trackables have a unique code on them and are logged on geocaching.com to track their travels.  Someone bought the trackable and paid anywhere from $4 to $50 or more for it (in some cases) and having one in our possession necessitates we move it.

Let’s start at the beginning.  You’ve bought a trackable, or someone gave you an unactivated trackable and you want to activate it.  You do this by going to geocaching.com and under PLAY at the top of the menu, you select FIND TRACKABLES.  Looking at the page that loads, select ACTIVATE TRACKABLE and push ENTER.

A page will load with your trackable number and below it reads:  ENTER YOUR TRACKABLE CODE.  This information comes with your trackable, but if not, then click on the link below this box that reads: LOCATE YOUR ACTIVATION CODE.

A Captcha box has to be filled in and then the tracking number found on the trackable you are trying to activate.  This will give you your code and you then activate it. Now it is time to customize your trackable page, so go to VIEW MY TRACKABLE.  To the right is a line that reads: EDIT THIS TRACKABLE.  Click on it and rename your trackable.

In the box’s marked: CURRENT GOAL and ABOUT THIS ITEM, fill them in or not.  I like to give mine a goal/mission and in the bottom box I may say who gave it to me, dedicate it to another geocacher, or tell why I like it.

Now, upload a photograph and make it the default image.  It can be the travel bug with the hitchhiker (whatever you attach to it) or it can be your photo.  It’s your trackable, so you can do whatever you want.

Now.  Here is an important next step.  If you don’t care about mileage and plan to keep this trackable, move it to your COLLECTION.  No one can grab it from you, but can still discover it if they see the code.  It will not pick up mileage either.  That happens when you move the trackable to your INVENTORY.


Now, let’s talk about ethics.  This is one area that can be quite touchy, especially with veterans who know better than to hold on to someone else’s trackable and not move it in a timely matter.  In the USA there is a serious problem with trackables not being logged and moved, or simply put in someone’s collection and not logged.  Trackables do not belong to you unless you paid for them.  I teach students that unless they feel they can move a trackable in a very reasonable amount of time (or have special permission to take to Uganda or some place) to simply DISCOVER it.  You get the same amount of credit for discovering a trackable and none of the responsibility that goes with moving it. 

Smart phones have awesome cameras to record this tiny code and you can log it at work(!) when things are slow, or at home, of course!  Personally I treat trackables like hot potatoes and they bother my poke sack until I can either hand them off at an event or place them in a geocache.

I also clean-up trackables that need it; attach a new hitchhiker when it comes to me without one (usually it’s a city of Baytown key chain which looks real spiffy), and write a good log and take a photo to attach on the trackables page.  I’ve logged over 1800 and own 83 trackables and most of them are out there somewhere.  Some are missing, some are not and here is another point to ponder.

When you release a trackable into the wild, it is akin to releasing a dove.  Don’t obsess over it.  It will just give you heartache or in some cases, jade you against releasing more.  It is like worrying about Elvis.  He’s gone and it is gone the second you drop it off.  I routinely will buy travel bugs with the sole purpose of supporting the game and release them.  I do my part, even though I know I might as well be throwing them in the Houston Ship Channel.

Education is the key here and keeping a TB or geocoin longer than a couple of weeks is simply holding up the game.  Sure, we’ve all been guilty of finding one in our kit bag, or the seat of our car and when we do, we should write the owner and explain and then get that puppy moving!  One last thing; don’t forget that this is just a game and take care to have fun.

So you want to hide a geocache



So you want to hide a geocache
By Bert Marshall (BaytownBert)
Southeast Texas Representative Texas Geocaching Association

I think it is safe to say that after you’ve found a few geocaches you decide it would be awesome to hide one and then watch the thousands of people look for your evil hide.  Of course it will be evil – possibly the most evil geocache ever!  So you grab a thin taco soup plastic container, wrap some expensive camo duct tape you bought for this purpose and bury it under a pile of leaves by a rose bush in front of a super busy business.

You decide it will be a real challenge because the place is open 24 hours a day, so you give it a difficulty rating of 4 and a terrain of 3.5 because the bushes have demonic  thorns.  Figuring out what all is required on the submission page is a hassle, so you leave anything nonessential off and presto, it publishes 2 days later.

However, the day after you hid it the maintenance crews half-destroy your flimsy container and then comes a frog-strangling rain storm.  The FTF geocacher writes a less than flattering needs maintenance log, as the container was not only in terrible shape, the contents were unsignable, and the coordinates were off by 82.5 feet.  Your Smartphone provided the coordinates.

You are floored and seeing that your experience level is so low, you have no idea how to adjust the coordinates on the page or how to post an owner maintenance log.  Your hours at work suddenly keep you from trying to focus on repairing the cache and before you know it, the Reviewer disables and then archives your geocache, as 2TF claims the owner of the business complained. 

This sad scenario happens quite frequently.

I teach geocaching classes and recommend a newbie cacher find a minimum of 50 geocaches before attempting to hide one.  This gives them a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t as far as containers, locations, and camo go.  Geocaching.com has very good instructions on their page about requirements located here: https://www.geocaching.com/guide/  and it is not my intent to cover them in this primer.

I also have a 101 page located here:  http://ourbaytown.com/baytownbert/geocache.htm

What I do suggest is contacting an experienced geocacher in your area through their GC.com profile page and asking for help.  You can also attend a local geocaching event and meet other cachers who will gladly assist you.  I’ve been a geocacher since 2003 and own over 300 hides and I have a mentor.  I learn new stuff about the game all the time.

As far as containers go, let me give a couple of pointers.  Hide as large of a container as you can, avoiding nano and micro containers as much as possible.  Forget being sneaky and evil on your first few hides and remember, whatever you hide – you MUST maintain.  The large pill bottles that hold a 90 day supply are awesome free containers that will hold a travel bug or geocoin and can be listed as a SMALL container.  Attach a monofilament fishing line or a wire to the container and then wrap duct tape around it and spray paint it.

After creating the container, you will have to find a place a minimum of 529 feet away from another geocache.  There is a place for this on the submission page and if it passes this test, you are ready to go to step two and make sure you have permission to place it if it is not public land.  Try to pick a cool place for people to visit.  Spend a lot of time figuring this out.  Avoid trashy ugly areas just because they are open.

Next, remember that you must maintain it, so make sure this is not going to be a problem.  That’s another reason to not make the container too elaborate or spend a lot of money on it.  Now let’s say you live down a dirt road and you hide one at the end pretty close to your house.  There are no caches for 10 miles in any direction.  Don’t be disappointed when no one shows up to find it.  Instead hide one every 529 feet and suddenly you have visitors and it’s just as easy to maintain 10 as it is that lone cache.

Pill bottles are also fairly water-proof, so there is no real reason to put the log (you printed off the Internet) in a baggie.  The tether is to keep the container from walking off.  Follow the old acronym K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) for a number of your first caches and as your experience level increases, you will have the confidence to make them more elaborate.

Add a hint to the cache page.  Something like “knee high” or “ground” to help newbies and those of us who just can’t seem to find it.  Leave the hint blank for your future evil hides.  By all means read everything you can on hiding geocaches before you hide one, but know this; you will soon find out what you did wrong.  Probably the first 20 caches I hid, I had to go back and repair them.  Any large heavy duty plastic container will make a good geocache, just insert a heavy-duty freezer bag inside it to water-proof the contents.

Avoid any vitamin bottle, as they neck down, making it difficult to retrieve the log.  Remember that your geo-name will be associated with your hide and protect it by maintaining your geocache.  When you find a trackable, drop it in your own cache and you will see more activity.  The last thing I want to cover is don’t forget that geocaching is a game and by all means have fun.

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 ...