Friday, January 30, 2015

The Four Cache Loop Phoon




This past Saturday I joined 12 geocachers to do the amazing Four Cache Loop geocache hike up east of Huntsville, Texas on the Lone Star Trail.  13 miles of hiking, the often muddy trail with 20 something water crossings.  It rained Wednesday and Thursday and some who planned to attend dropped out figuring the waterways would be impassible.

They missed an excellent fairly dry, cool weather hike.  Of course, along the way, buns hit the ground numerous times, including my own.

The perfect sunny weather was a calm-winded 32 degrees when we started and rose to the low 50’s at end, 7 hours later.  One of our group wasn’t really prepared for the rigors of the trip and became a walking casualty about 2 miles in.  Since I organized the first half of the trek, I refused to leave her side and by the 6 mile mark, I was pushing her along with my hand in the middle of her back just to keep her going.

She was game, but hopelessly out of shape and I warned her to half her next challenge… and then half it again.  The trail is 11 miles with often elevation changes and water crossings.  At the halfway point, we planned a detour to get the infamous D.B. Cooper cache, which was off the trail a ways and added a mile or more.

For some time I urged her on, telling her it was only one more half mile, when it was actually triple that.  She gave it her all, but every so often, she would flat stop.  Brian Miles (better known in geocaching circles as 4 Miles) and I would chat about geocaching and hiking while she rested and we would start again.  The main group would travel a good ways and then wait for us, as we only move as fast as the slowest hiker.

Eventually we arrived at the designated lunch location, which meant sitting on a forest road. Originally I had convinced our weakest hiker she would get a one hour rest before we tackled the last 6 miles.  But after the struggle to get here, it was quite apparent there was no way she could finish the hike.  Fortunately, another group of geocachers arrived from the east, only showing up to do D.B. Cooper and after we ate and relaxed, she followed them back a mile or so to their vehicles.

In the spirit of spontaneity, before we parted ways, we posed for a mass Phoon photo.  Phooning is described as “To stand motionless on one foot, tilted forward at the waist, with one bent arm held in front and the other bent arm held behind.”

Now mind you, this is an intrepid bunch of people who would rather ford streams and climb slippery banks, then invest their time watching the Ellen DeGeneres show.  We phooned to create a historical moment in time that we can relive again and again.  Not to mention we can rub the photo in the face of our friends who didn’t come “due to the weather”.

From here on we moved at about a 3.5 mile an hour pace and about 2 miles up the trail, we began to encounter a large group of maybe 50 college-age hikers coming towards us.  Another Houston area geocacher and Lone Star Trail volunteer named Tom, who we all know as Great Birds, was leading an over-night hike and camp group towards us and we stopped and chatted with Tom briefly.

As I passed by the many young hikers, I blurted the great line from the movie Airplane, “Everyone who ate the fish got sick” and the old timeless staple, “You can’t get there from here.”  Both silly lines may have been lost on them, but maybe not.  They looked pretty bright.

Canine Queen was leading us and she bumped up the gait to about 4 miles an hour and I dogged her every step.  FYI:  Our median group age was probably 50 years old, give or take and this group was taking no prisoners.  Split evenly between men and women, I will never be found guilty of making jokes about the female gender’s ability to bang their feet on the ground (or race on a stationary bike).  By the by, I think Canine Queen is close to 50, but I feared to ask.  She’s an alpha female after all and even though I can hold my own; there are some paths I would rather not trod.

Our next phoon photo will be taken at the Baytown Nature Center Nurture Nature Series just before Chrissy Butcher’s survival class.  Maybe you would like to join us at 9:45am on February 7th to join in the fun?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Scar tissue is our roadmap.

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Like you, I have my share of scars.  I’ve been fortunate enough in all my adventures to still have all ten fingers and toes, so I’m doing okay.  I’m going to pick my left leg out as an example and focus only on the area below my knee and above the ankle.  I have 4 very visible scars and three of them have happened while geocaching.

The oldest I received in an injury about 50 years ago and it is about 2 inches long and looks like a knife wound.  I haven’t recalled what caused it in so long, that the memory is lost.  The most recent happened this past year when I was stung by a ground hornet in Pedernales Falls State Park.  It happened on October 24th and appears now as a dime-size brown spot.  I imagine it will remain that way, just like the spider bite above it.

I got that one 3 years ago, also while geocaching.  The hornet sting is a ditto of it.  Right at the top of my calf is a 3 inch long slice scar I got while geocaching in palmetto plants over close to Beaumont.  Did you know that stuff will slice you like a hot knife in warm butter?  It will.

None of these have left a mental scar on me though and that’s a good thing.  The dang hornet is one I don’t want to repeat, but I haven’t lost any sleep over it.  My friend Larry Houston is fond of repeating my quote about wearing shorts when in the woods, “If the British can conquer the whole world in shorts, I can go geocaching in them.”  He is a long pant advocate when stomping through grass that is often over our heads..

“Well, it’s danged hot here on the Gulf Coast of Texas” I am fond of retorting, but I imagine my legs look more beat-up than his.  Now mind you, only an MMA fighter, spelunker, BASE jumper, or bank robber goes into their activity wondering what it is going to feel like if everything goes wrong.  I don’t.  I prepare the best I can for my activity and eliminate as many potentially dangerous obstacles in advance.

Then I begin my adventure.  Make a note here I am talking about driving on Garth Road at noon.  Not really, but every one of us that gets behind the wheel of a car needs to remember it might be our last normal day on earth.  As a side note, nearly every day I watch someone run through a red light to save one meaningless minute of travel time.

Your scars and mine define who we are and where we’ve been.  They are a roadmap of our adventures, albeit painful ones.  I have one between my eyes by my nose where I ran headlong into an aquarium in the dark when I was in Junior High.  It opened me up like a machete on a can of Spam.  I looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster.  Man, I still remember the impact.  I don’t think a ball bat to the head would hurt any more than that did.

These physical scars prepare us for the worst kind of injuries life will bring – the emotional kind.  As bad as the physical wounds are, they often pale to what life drops on our noggin.  Just like the hornet and spider injuries, we must pick ourselves up and go on.  No one can do it for us.  Only time can heal both types of injuries, but rest assured, the scars will remain.

This week I had a dear lady drop off a couple of computers for me to repair and in the course of chatting, she revealed she had lost her boyfriend 2 months ago and in a moment of sympathy, I blurted, “Why, you are still wounded.”  Both of us began to cry, as I too have experienced loss.  The hurt is deep, real deep.  She apologized and I then told her my own story.

What I told her is the deepest truth.  Although I had suffered loss, it was not the same as hers and I couldn’t rightly tell her I know what she is going through.  No one can at a time like this.  I did however tell her that as time passed, it would get better, but only if she worked at it.  “No one can pull you out of loss and depression but you.”  Mind you I am not saying God won’t be there for you, because he will if you lean on him.  I am talking about friends and family.  Try as they might, only you can pull you back to happiness.

She said “I think about him every minute of every day.”  I told her one day she will be shocked to realize 30 minutes has passed.  “How long does this take?”

I told her it was up to her, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t take a year or two, or three.  You see, the scar is there for life, but we can learn to bear it and continue on.  Our scars are what define us and if we do not break, they make us stronger.
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Is anarchy in our near future?



I was on the phone with a Harris County Deputy Sheriff the other day for 35 minutes.  The initial reason for his call was he needs his computer repaired.  We are longtime friends, as I've known him since he was a kid. 

Eventually the conversation turned to the state of affairs of police shootings and the general unrest across the country.  Now being a Harris County cop and according to him, he literally wrestles with someone every day.  The reason for this is because they fail to follow his instructions and he is forced to make them obey.  It’s as simple as that.

They become argumentative and combative and ultimately it is because they are prone to violence, have something on them that is illegal, or they have warrants.  To a bystander, it often appears the cop is being too aggressive, but what they fail to realize is the cop often has inside information that makes them very wary of the person they are attempting to arrest.  Or, their body language alerts the cop that everything is not as it may appear.

I know this guy.  I know him and I know he isn’t out there trying to bully anyone.  He explained to me the mountains of rules and regulations he and every cop must conform to.  He said it is almost impossible to remember everything they are told to learn.  Due to these restrictions in almost every instance, the criminal has the advantage.

I told him I believe we are on the brink of anarchy.  All it takes for anarchy to evolve is for the police department to be unable to answer calls and maintain law and order.  We saw this after Hurricane Katrina and in Ferguson, Missouri.  Can you imagine this happening all across the country?  These giant demonstrations draw police away from their duties allowing the criminal element to act with near impunity.  He agreed that a few simple acts of terrorism could create this environment.

Mass irrational terror, organized and violent demonstrations, and the criminal element run amok and we suddenly are reduced to a Third World environment.  Armed citizens will be territorial and jumpy as grasshoppers.  Criminals will prey on the weak and the few cops who are still able to patrol will be drawn back to their own families to stand ground.  Nighttime will be ruled by the violent and our streets will be empty.

It’s a horrifying scenario to be sure, but to believe it couldn’t happen here is just plain ignorant and frankly, stupid.  In the recent December demonstrations in New York City, 25,000 demonstrators drew almost every cop in the large city away from actual crime related issues.  Does anyone believe that criminal activity outside of this area actually decreased?  Heck no and the proof is there.

Many of the signs being carried by the protesters of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” demonstrators are provided by RevCom.us (which is printed at the bottom of the signs).  “RevCom” is short for “The voice of the revolutionary Communist Party, USA”.  RevCom is using social unrest to further their own goal of over-throwing the government and no one in the assembly seems to be aware.  They make no bones about it on their website.

I am for peaceful demonstrations, but understand they drain police resources.  Be very cautious what causes you support.  Quanell X loves to be portrayed as a human rights activist and proponent, but in reality is a member of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the New Black Muslim Movement with their own agendas.  According to Wikipedia, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights consider the New Black Panthers to be a hate group.

Anarchy can be prevented in the USA, but it will take a revelation like the one Reverend Jarrett Maupin got in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a local civil rights activist outraged over the Maricopa County police shooting of an unarmed man, he accepted a request by the PD to attend a shoot /don’t shoot class.  

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“I didn’t understand how important compliance was… people need to comply with the orders of law enforcement officers, for their own safety.”   And that is the solution to stop anarchy.

If our country falls under terrorist attack, as France did the past few days, stay calm and assist the police department until a safe and friendly environment is restored.  This is not the time to make a social statement or collect a debt.  People will be skittish and the criminal element will be active and by all means, do what the police tell you to do without argument.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Cold weather? No thanks.





I remember almost freezing to death as a teenager deer hunting in North Georgia.  I was about 15 and I went with my dad and our church’s pastor.  I was good to go the night before, but when the alarm went off at the very ungodly hour of 5am, I tried to talk dad out of taking me.  Nope.  Dad was going to take me dead or alive.  It came dangerously close to the former before 10am

Now I was no stranger to being cold.  I lived in Michigan and Ohio as a kid and it gets as cold as a mother in law’s love in them parts, trust me.  One winter in Hillsdale, Michigan, my dad made an actual igloo out of blocks of snow that stayed for much of the winter.  Our German Sheppard slept on a blanket in it at night.

In Dundee, Michigan, my 3 brothers and I made a near tragic mistake of skating up the Little Raisin, as the wind was at our backs and four hours later, unable to fight the wind to get back, we stepped out on the road about 10 miles from home.  We were near frozen solid and a good Samaritan brought us home.

In 1965, the “Marshall boys”, as we were known, skated out and across the great Ottawa river in Toledo, Ohio.  TJ, brother number 3 got so hypothermic that he lay down on the ice and refused to move.   We were all so cold, we knew that to lay down was to die and somehow we made it back to shore, dragging TJ and crying, walked the 11 blocks, on skates, back to our house.

When I was about 10 or so, my brothers and I followed a teenage boy far out in the woods in Morgan, Utah and came back near death and I say that without exaggeration, as it was about 10 degrees.  The 60 degree water in the tub felt like boiling water.  Now, before you judge my parents, let me say that back in the 1960’s kids were a heartier bunch and the times were different.  Kids spent hours unsupervised out of doors.

For every time something bad happened, fifteens of hundreds of other times, we pulled it off.  Sometimes we didn’t.  My brothers and I spent a lot of time on adventures in the woods and would venture out 4 or 5 miles at a time. I remember squirrel hunting by myself with my shotgun in Georgia 4 miles from home, more than once and I was only 15.

The 2 years I spent in the Strategic Air Command at Malmstrom Air Force base, in Great Falls, Montana was the icicle that broke the polar bear’s back though.  As Louis L’Amour put it in one of his great novels about an American Indian in Siberia, “I haven’t felt cold like this since I was in Montana”.

In the winter in Montana, the sun comes up on the horizon, goes up about a foot, and sets a short time later on the horizon. I hated it.  The wind blows non-stop and even in summer, you have to wear a jacket when the weak sun sets.  To put it in perspective, when I was there in 1971, it snowed on the 4th of July.

To get back on my Georgia deer hunting occurrence, I wasn’t experienced with sitting on a ground stand in sub-freezing weather, so I did not dress for it.  Instead, I had an orange plastic-type suit that I drew over my jacket and jeans.  It was uncomfortably hot in the car and when dad asked if I had on enough to keep warm, I nodded a sleepy yes.

I slept all the way there in fact and when we got out, I donned the suit.  It was toasty.  I loaded the 16 gauge shotgun with number one buckshot and walked off to find a place to hunt.  There was no such thing as a lease back then and on government land, first come first served.  It was bitterly cold and I did not have gloves and I laid the gun in the crook of my arm and tried to keep warm as the wind picked up.  Each minute that passed, I grew colder.

The weak winter sun finally arrived and I was shaking violently.  I was just an hour into it and I was so cold, all I could think about was how cold I was.  As a son of the generation which fought World War II, I didn’t dare to interrupt our hunt though and besides that, I had no idea where my dad was or our pastor.  By 10am or so, I was beyond caring and stumbling to my feet, I headed back to the car.  Snow was falling and the wind began to abate, but I was so stiff, movement was difficult.  All I wanted to do was get in the car… but it was locked.  I began to cry.

I had reached the place where I was out of options and I did everything in my power, to get the safety off, so I could fire 3 warning shots, which I finally did with frozen unfeeling digits.  I waited what I felt like was a long time and fired 3 more.  This brought both my dad and my pastor and immediately seeing the sad shape I was in, they quickly loaded me up for an emergency trip home.

I just know I disappointed my dad, but he never said anything to confirm it.  What I got out of it was I never want to be that cold again, or disappoint dad.  Unlike being too hot, being too cold is a very painful thing.  Being too hot is uncomfortable.  Thawing out from hypothermia can kill a person.  With all these swings in temperature we are experiencing these days, bundle up.  Take a good hot shower.  Put a coat on.  Stay warm and thank the Good Lord above for the shelter we often take for granted.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Gym bullys, yes, there are gym bullys


What follows is an actual conversation at the gym today with a guy who slams weights around and ties up 3 machines, making it his personal gym. I pegged the guy as a bully the first time I saw him. I was using a machine and I got up in between sets and he came up and laid a towel on the machine, a bottle of water on another, and began to work out on a 3rd machine.

I detest bullies and rather than avoid them, I, for some twisted reason like to get in their path. I know. It’s a weakness in my personality, but I learned years ago that placating a bully only empowers them. Besides, I like a bit of drama now and again, but who doesn’t?

The machine I wanted to use, or was using was a shoulder press and I sat down, facing his towel, which he had draped to claim ownership. Immediately, like a wasp guarding his nest, he walks up and says, “Really dude?”

He had on Beats headphones, as he is very fashionably conscious and I looked at him and spit out, “What? You think you own this machine?” He turned and walked away.

When I am in between sets, I walk. I don’t sit and pass time. If someone is actually on the machine when I come back, I get an alternate machine – they abound, but no one can claim ownership of a machine they are not using.
I finished what I was doing and walked to the front and talked to the manager. He was incensed and asked who the guy was and I fricken pointed him out. Sue me, but it sure beats the alternative of me taking the guy to ground.
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Friday, January 02, 2015

Me and J.J. – two of a kind!




Recently my bride laughed at me when I told her I was every bit the macho awesome athlete J.J. Watt is and I half meant it.  You see, it’s not all hyperbole on my part, as the older I get, the better I used to be, both for real and in my memory.

I can prove it too, starting right now.  Like J.J. Watt, when I was a younger man, say, to the age of about 50; I was devilishly handsome.  Now, not so much, but still a contender according to my friends on Facebook and Wikipedia – both plethora’s of hard factoids. 

Like Mr. Watt, I can and/or could lift heavy things.  He weighs 292 pounds and I can still push that much with my feet at the gym with the name sounding like a clock.  He has a 55 inch vertical leap and I also have an impressive leap, especially when goosed. Truth is, I haven’t been goosed lately, but I assure you, its way up there, trust me.

J. J. worked as a pizza delivery boy and once again, I can top that, as I worked INSIDE making pizzas.  I was a pizza making dude and he was the doo-dah pizza delivery boy.  Sometimes I even impress myself with my accomplishments.

The stellar Texan played tight-end at Central Michigan with only eight catches for the year.  Well in 1963, while living in Dundee, Michigan, as a 6th grader,  I won the coveted Fords Punt, Pass, & Kick contest beating every classmate above me and took home the varsity jacket, much to their dismay.  We moved to California and I never played football, but All-Star baseball as a shortstop.

J.J. gave up his scholarship to CMU and I never bothered to get one, so we are pretty much even there also.  The giant defensive player has a younger brother named T.J. and so do I.  His younger brother plays football and mine lives it vicariously.  Even Steven again!  Wait, there’s more.  The similarities are frankly – amazing.

Mr. Watt is extremely charitable and so am I.  I repaired and gave away over 40 computers to the homeless (most of them are divorced men whose wives have taken them to the cleaners).  He likes HEB and so do I.  He likes to crush things with his hands – I like to break bricks with mine.  He salutes like crazy and I did that too in the Air Force! 

His favorite sport is hockey and I love to yell that word out when listening to the Democratic party promises or people defending their policies!  Again!  It just keeps getting real here.

Last week the monster Texan set a record for 20 sacks per season for two consecutive seasons.  I yawned when I heard that to tell you the truth.  My first year as a bagger in a grocery store in Georgia, I sacked close to 5000 customers in one season alone.  I was working for $5 a day and pennies for tips. I didn’t bother to count the second year how many I sacked.

The humongous defensive lineman loves to rush out of a hole with smoke coming out all around him.  Who doesn’t?  I went through the smokehouse and fought fires at Texas A&M fire field more times than I can remember in my glorious years at the work-20 and often with a great amount of fanfare from my fellow firefighters.  Been there, done that.

And the real kicker to all this is, that he only has something like 9% body fat.  9%!  Geeze Louise, I got that one beat by a long margin.  I’m like 14% or so.  So, my beautiful bride is now set straight, as she should be.  She got herself a ringer in me about 37 years ago and maybe now, when she reads this, she’ll finally see I am everything the big man is and more.
 


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 ...