Friday, February 27, 2009

Smiley Face

My wife Jennifer is a Montessori Pre-School teacher. How she has the patience to handle a classroom full of three and four-year-olds is beyond me. She often tells me funny stories about things the kids said or did and today I'm going to share one of them with y'all.

While learning to draw circles one little girl made a huge happy face that covered her entire sheet of paper. She turned to me wife and said, "Miss. Jennifer, is this a boy happy face or a girl happy face."

My wife responded with, "Do you want it to be a boy or a girl."
And of course she emphatically said , "A girl."
"Okay then make it a girl," answered my wife.

Seconds ticked by and yet the girl did not add to her drawing so Jennifer asked," What's wrong?"
To which the little girl said, "I don't have enough room to add in her boobs."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Choppin' Wood

Once upon a time, in a far away northern land, lived a boy. By day, this boys toiled in the cold and snow along with the others in his village, but it was the nights he lived for. For at night, the elders of his lodge always built a fire. Some built big roaring fires out of huge logs that lasted all the way through the night. Other elders stoked smaller blazes from smaller limbs. These had to be continually tended, but they offered a charm that the big fires did not. And some elders spent hours stacking their limbs and logs in just such a way that they they kept things glowing hot.

The boy spent much time near the fires. He liked the way some of them popped and cracked, while others quietly sizzled. He liked to stare at the mystical shapes that sometimes appeared. He liked how sometimes the flames danced recklessly while others they licked the wood rather sedately. And of course he loved the smells. Pinon, oak, Aspen. The woodsmoke varied depending on the tree, but each tickled his nose and pleased him with their aroma.

Despite the differences, all of the fires kept the boy warm and happy. Oh how he loved the fires.

Over time the boy grew older. He became one of the elders. Yet, he never built a fire for the others in his tribe. He wanted to. He even believed he could. And a time or two he went so far as to sneak off in the snowy woods to practice. He cut logs. He laid them out combining the techniques of his favorite fire builders. He longed to be a fire builder.

One day, the boy, who was now a man, was too sick to go outside and work in the cold. He stared at the woodpile by the door. He eyed the communal fire pit. He reached for some kindling. Then a log and before he knew it, he'd built a very intricate stack of wood in the pit. But as time neared for the tribe to cease their work and come inside he got scared.

What if his stack of wood collapsed too fast and put out the flame? What if he couldn't get it lit at all? What if it failed to warm anyone but himself?

No it was easier not to put himself out there. Let some one else build the fire. Then he could sit by the amber flames without fear. So as the sun set, he ripped apart his creation and restacked the wood he'd used by the door.


Yeah, I'm talking to you and you and you. My fellow writers.

Finish what you're writing. Send it off to that agent, or magazine, or editor. Don't watch your dreams smolder at the bottom of someone else's pit. Grab the matches, a can of gasoline and roast your own damn marshmallows.

And if you gotta ask, if this was directed at you, then YES it is.

And for the record this is a reminder to myself, as well as any of you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Practical Demonkeeping -- A Book Review in Threes

As evidenced by all these reviews I've been doing more reading than writing. The latest novel I read tracks a ninety-year-old ex-seminarian named Travis. Despite his age Travis has the body of a twenty year old. He also has an invisible sidekick. A demon he accidentally summoned from hell some seventy odd years ago. He's been trying to get shed of the monster ever since and now he just might have found a way to reclaim his solitary life. But, excuse the pun, the demon is hell-bent to remain on earth.

Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

first published in 1992 by St Martin's Press

3 Reasons to like this Book

1) It's hilarious. I picked it up after a friend told me that Christopher Moore was one of the funniest authors he's ever read. An accurate description. The novel is chocked full of great lines and laughter inducing descriptions.

2) Great characters. Christopher Moore does a great job of weaving in the stories of multiple characters and an even better job of having each one play a vital role in the plot. Sure some of the characters are absurd but given that the entire plot is absurd, they are right at home.

3) As I said, the very premise of this novel is absurd, yet I read as if my life depended on it. The last few chapters had me in breathless anticipation. I finished the book on a day and a half because I simply could not put it down and walk away.

3 Reasons not to like this book

1) You are easily offended. As you will see from the page 33 excerpt, there is plenty of crude language and offensive material. It's funny as heck, but definitely not for virginal eyes.

2)You are unable to suspend your belief. Of course if you have no imagination, or toleration for those who do, what the heck are you doing reading fiction?

3) You do not like books that use a plethora of POVs. I found it easy to follow, but the author does hop around a good bit and it's not always easily evident where the story is headed when he first introduces a new character, but in the end it all comes together. If you don't like to keep track of a dozen or more POV characters this might not be your kind of novel.

3 Lines beginning with the 3rd sentence on page 33 of the novel.

"Look Pancho. I'm hungover, my wife just threw me out, and my life is not worth a shit. So if you want me to take messages, you can damn well tell me who the fuck you are. ..."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Burger From Hell -- A My Town Monday Post

A few days ago, February 17th to be exact marked the one year mark for My Town Monday. I can't believe that much time has gone by. I've missed some weeks as this post makes the 40th MTM I have put up. In honor of the occasion I'm going to go back this week and take a closer look at a place I've mentioned before. Actually that is a lie I'm taking the easy way out and posting a video of someone else taking a closer look.

Last August when I posted my 25th My Town Monday post I did a little MTM questionnaire. In it I listed Coyote Bluff as one of my favorite places to eat here in town.

Well, Adam Richman from the Travel Channel's Man Versus Food show recently did an episode on Amarillo. And one of the places he hit was Coyote Bluff. This fine establishment is less than a mile from my workplace and we head that way for lunch as often as we can. This video oughta explain my ample waistline.

And for the record, no I do not order the Burger From Hell. Y'all should no better given my vow to never eat anything green. Repeat after me Lettuce is the Devil, and all other veggies are his evil disciples. Forget that junk that grows in the garden. I do my grocery shopping at the butchers counter, therefore I up the meat factor and order the bacon cheeseburger, with meat and cheese only. Coyote Bluff doesn't skimp on the bacon either. You saw how they heap that cheese on. It's the same way with those tasty little pork strips that I find irresistible. And yes, I do order the cheese fries with my burger. Trust me when i say you will not find better fries anywhere.

Who's hungry?

Dine on more My Town Monday Posts below.

Jenn Jilks -- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Chris -- Hong Kong, China
Mary Nix -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Debra -- Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada
Patti Abbott -- Detroit, Michigan
Barrie Summy -- San Diego, California
Clair Dickson -- Brighton, Michigan
Cloudia -- Honolulu, Hawaii
Passage of Woman -- Kingston, Tennessee
Lyzzydee -- Stanley Durham, England
Melanie Avila -- Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Paul Brazill -- Hartlepool, England
J Winter -- Cincinnati, Ohio
J.L. Kreuger -- Kabul, Afghanistan
Junosmom -- Kentucky

Friday, February 20, 2009


We bought a house.

I can finally reveal the news though in truth that may have been the worse kept secret ever. We actually put an offer in ten days ago, the offer was accepted and then we had to get inspections and what not all this last week. I didn't blog about any of it because their was an option period where either we as the buyers or the sellers could back out. that option period ended today, so now I can let all of you in on the big secret.

We are all excited. The boys have already started planning out the design of their new bedrooms.

T, our 8yo wants a Nebraska Cornhusker room. He was leaning toward a rock and roll theme right up until he spied a nifty Herbie the Husker bean bag chair and suddenly he had a new vision. I'm a diehard Nebraska fan so I think it's cool that he likes them as well.

Z, our 6yo has never wavered. He wants a shark/pirate room. He wanted a flag that had a skull and crossbones with the words Surrender the Booty underneath, but I didn't think that was appropriate for a little boys room so we'll have to find him another flag once we move in.

I have nice office space with a built in desk in which to write. It's going to be a much better set up to write in than I've ever had and I am as excited as the boys. I'll post pics when I get it set up to my liking. Again, I want to say thanks to all of you. We never could be this far along without all of you.

Anyway we close on March 12th. We get the keys the same day. The backyard is huge which will make the transition from our acreage in the boonies to town. And the previous owners had a hot tub which they are leaving so when we get settled there will be a hearty backyard bash. Who's coming?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Forgotten Book Friday -- Prey

I haven't participated in Patti Abbott's outstanding blog creation Forgotten Book Friday in quite some time. I always mean to, but never seem to get an actual post up. Now it's even harder for me to do it since the forgotten books in my collection are now not only forgotten, but firewood as well.

Nevertheless I'm gonna do one by memory. (With a tad of cheating by looking it up on Amazon) I'm also cheating by posting mine about five hours early.

Back in the 1993 I was a college student. My major was wildlife biology and I was still trying to decide if I wanted to go the law enforcement route and become a game warden or go the science route. Funny, postal worker was no where in the equation.

Anyway, long about this time I picked up a paperback by author Ken Goddard titled, Prey.

The novel's protagonist was Henry Lightstone, a covert special agent of the Us Fish and Wildlife service. Of course he battled all kinds of bad guys, from crazy Cajun poachers, to corrupt CEOs of big businesses. The character appeared in future books and always the setting had to do with hunting, the outdoors and the environment. Needless to say I ate it up. There were several books in the series and I read them all, but Prey was the one that got me hooked. Check it out of you can find a copy. There area f ew lsited on Amazon.

Adding credibility to the stories was the fact that the author, Ken Goddard was the director of The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Never Trust a Man With a Pinky Ring

Lots of you have been asking me about our house plans, so i wanted to provide a bit of news on that front.

Rather than rebuild a home on our land out in the boonies we have decided to become townies. The half hour fire department response time raised some concerns, especially with my wife, and questions about what would happen should we ever need an ambulance. Besides, I'm not sure I have the emotional strength or the patience to go through everything involved with building a home.

Our search for a new home has been fruitful and I will deliver more news on that front whenever every last detail is finalized this Friday. Again, let me take the time to thank all of you as we would not be in this position so fast without all of the amazing support y'all gave my family. I will forever be grateful.

Now to some random craziness that I've observed while house hunting and preparing to start over.


Green shag is more popular than you think. As is it's cousins pumpkin colored shag, and burgundy shag. (By the way if I ever write a story with a James Bond-esque villainesse I'm naming her Burgundy Shag.)

Just because you read a newspaper article about some one's house burning down doesn't mean they want you to be their realtor. Ambulances have their lawyers, and fire trucks have their realtors. Before we know it grocers are gonna be chasing Septic trucks.


Scented candles through the house does not disguise the fact you have 8 thousand cats living in your home. Just because Pine Sol has ammonia in it does not mean Pine Breeze aroma goes well with cat piss.

You can list you home as quirky but that does not mean it's okay to leave underwear drying on the shower rod when the realtor shows your home.


Tighten the screws on all you kitchen cabinets before you list your home. It's not a good selling point when a prospective buyer touches a door and has it fall clean off in his hands. Also it is more than irritating when it takes him ten minutes to get the thing balanced well enough that it will stay put.


And realtors, when there is an 8 track stereo in the living room with 8 tracks from Kenny Rogers and Anne Murray sitting on top you really don't need to tell me an elderly couple owns the home.


You do not have a big backyard if I can spit from the back door and have it land in the alley. Nor can you describe it as a spacious lot if it's possible to knock on the next door neighbors bathroom window from inside your own house.


There are more red walls in the city of Amarillo than reality shows on television. Step away from the HGTV people. Step away.


Friday people. Friday. I will have more news then.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Graveyard Book -- A Review in Threes

Time for another book review. As usual I'll be using my three tiered method.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

published in 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers.

3 Reasons to like this Book

1) Gaiman pays homage to Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book in the acknowledgments and rightfully so but this book is more than The Jungle Book set in a graveyard. Nobody Owens is a boys raised in an abandoned cemetery by the otherworldly inhabitants, but the tale of his growing up is so fabulously spun that even the most grounded non-believer will think twice on their next visit to the graveyard.

2) The Graveyard Book is the latest Newbery Medal winner. An award richly deserved. If you are a fan of children's books or simply literature in general you would be doing yourself a disservice by not reading this novel. Yes, it is that good.

3) If I were going to attempt to teach a writing class, I would use The Graveyard Book as the manual for the concept of show versus tell. Not wishing to give anything away I will not say more, but Gaiman's handling of Nobody's guardian Silas is as good as writing gets.

3 Reasons not to like this book

1) You have some philosophical opposition to the very idea of the supernatural. I know there are people out there unwilling to suspend their own beliefs even for a moment and I pity them for the wonders that they will miss out on in this world.

2) It's too short. I hope this isn't the last we hear of Nobody Owen's as he is the type of character that cries for a series.

3) I honestly cannot think of a third reason.

3 Lines beginning with the 3rd sentence on page 33 of the novel. (I have to break my own rule here as the 3rd line on page 33 is the final sentence of the chapter, so instead here are the first three of the next chapter.)

Bod was a quiet child with sober grey eyes and a mop of tousled, mouse-colored hair He was for the most part, obedient. He learned how to talk, and, once he had learned, he would pester the graveyard folk with questions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dust Bowl Daddy - A My Town Monday Post

Times are hard for lots of folks right now. Yet they were harder still for those trying to get along back in the 30's. However, for one Texas Panhandle boom town, the Great Depression was of little consequence .

Gushing with money from the oil and gas reserves below ground, Pampa, Texas barely noticed the bust. The same cannot be said about the dust.

Wind erosion and drought decimated the southern plains and deepened the depression in those areas that relied solely on agriculture to get by, but boom towns like Pampa thrived and swelled as hungry, desperate people poured in from surrounding states.

One such person was a fellow named Charles who was forced to leave his family behind in the town of Okemah, Oklahoma. Charles eventually settled in Pampa and sent for his family, including his oldest son Woodrow who was named after President Woodrow Wilson.

Woodrow was a young man of 19 when he arrived in Pampa, Texas, but despite his dad's efforts, his heart wasn't in oil field work. He preferred to while away his time with a harmonica, but did manage to save enough money doing the occasional job to eventually buy a guitar.

Woodrow fell in love with a girl named Mary, the younger sister of a fellow musician and in 1933 they were married. Along with his brother-in-law and another man, Woodrow formed a musical group called The Corncob Trio. Later they added more members and changed their name to the Pampa Junior Chamber of Commerce Band.

But as the depression worsened and the the dust storms became more frequent, Woodrow struggled to support his growing family.

In 1937, he took to the road. Like his dad a few years earlier, Woodrow was forced to leave behind his wife and kids. They stayed in Pampa.

Traveling along Route 66 with other dust bowl refugees, Woodrow took whatever odd jobs he could find. He hitchhiked, hopped freight trains and walked until he reached California. Never without his guitar, he often played and wrote songs in saloons and in appreciation for a place to sleep at night.

In California, he faced anger and scorn from those who opposed the influx of "Okie" outsiders, but eventually he landed a job playing old time traditional songs at a Los Angeles radio station. Woodrow was an instant hit among the thousands of dust bowl refugees living in cardboard cities as the sound of his voice reminded them of home.

As his audience grew, he began to intersperse political commentary into his program. Soon his criticism of corrupt politicians and business men began to come out his his songs. As did his passionate support of the union organizers for migrant farm workers and other humanist principles.

But Woodrow wasn't the type to hang out in one place. He was the kind of man that had to keep moving so he decided to try his luck in New York City. He arrived in the Big Apple in 1940 and that same year John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer for The Grapes of Wrath. Here was Woodrow, the spitting image of a Steinbeck character in real life. Woodrow was quickly embraced for his musical authenticity, especially by those in the leftist movement. His popularity grew and finally he had the financial means to send for his family who were still living back in the Texas Panhandle town of Pampa, Texas.

It was also during this time that Woodrow, better known as Woody Guthrie, wrote his most famous song ...

There is much more to Woody's life than I am able to include in this post, but I wanted to highlight Woody's connection to the Texas Panhandle and how his early life shaped the creation of that song that every American has sung at one point or another, and was sung by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen at Barack Obama's recent inauguration.

Knowing the history of his life, I can almost picture him plodding along dusty Route 66. A guitar is slung over his back, his thumb is in the air, the soles of his shoes are tattered and flapping to the steady rhythm of his stride ... and deep in his brain, the words of this land are taking seed.

Please check back for more My Town Monday links

Mary Nix -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Debra -- Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Patti Abbott -- Detroit, Michigan
Jenn Jilks -- Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada
Chris -- Hong Kong, China
Barrie Summy -- San Diego, California
Lyzzydee -- Stanley County Durham, England
Linda McLaughlin -- Anaheim, California
Reb -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Kyles -- Orara River Australia
Clare2E -- Larchmont, New York
Lauren -- Chicago, Illinois
PreTzel -- Iowa
Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada
Passage of a Woman -- Kingston, Tennessee
Britta Coleman -- Fort Worth, Texas
Paul Brazill -- Hartlepool, England
Clair Dickson -- Livingston County, Michigan

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I've Been Arrowed

This one is for my lovely wife, Jennifer.

07 Valentine's Day

07 Valentine's Day from

For the rest of you, here's hoping you have someone special to hold hands with today, and if not may you find them soon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear John

I just read this story in the USA Today.

An Ohio fourth grade teacher, who moonlighted as a prostitute, arranged an afternoon tryst on her school computer. They ditched a class to go meet her John.

Talk about a wide range in career choices. Maybe she just really got into that old Van Halen song Hot For Teacher. In the video for that one the teacher was an stripper or exotic dancer of you want me to be politically correct.

I suppose this is yet another sign of the times.

In other news, house hunting is no fun. I wanted to say it sucks, heck given the lead in for this post I wanted to say it sucks harder than a 4th grade teacher with a second job, but I thought no, that's not appropriate. Of course now I've gone over that bridge anyway.

I did enter my novel Plundered Booty (geeze I didn't realize how bad this random post was going to get when I started writing it but the theme just won't die) in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. I'll find out sometime around March 16th of I made the cut from 10,000 down to 500.

In other writing news , I've gotten back to work on my creative nonfiction project that is based on my old feedstore chronicle stories. Writing humor has been good for my mood though it's not the easiest task when you have a million things on your mind.

In other randomness my oldest son had his first communion last Saturday night. The first time he put on his suit he proudly looked at himself in the mirror and proclaimed, "I look like money."

And now that I've covered Elementary School hookers, the vacuum that is house hunting, Plundered Booty, and well clothed Catholicism I'm going to bow out. Doesn't get much more random than that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nocturnal Nuggets

I love my wife. Truly I do. She is the perfect match for me. I wouldn't want to spend my life with anyone else. I just wish things were better in bed.

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. I'm not talking about that. I'm not the kind of guy to kiss and tell, so let me explain what I am talking about.

My wife is a worrier, and especially a night time worrier. Come bedtime she nearly always finds something to fret about. I wonder if all wives do this sort of thing. Let me lay out how it goes.

We'll be in bed. I'll be right on the verge of sleep in that time when my eyelids are heavy and my thoughts are fuzzy ...

... and she'll ask, "Did you lock the front door?"


I drift back to my drowsy state before she utters, "What about the back?"


Another couple of minutes and then she'll say, "I think I left my purse in the car, and I bet you didn't lock it."

"Your purse was on the kitchen table, and yes I locked the car."

Over the years we have also played the I think I left the oven on, What was that noise, and the all too popular Someone is outside game.

I hate them all. Come bedtime, I simply wanna shut my brain down and drift off to dreamland. I'm not worried about someone carrying me off in the night. There are few people with backs strong enough to pick my big butt up. I just wanna sleep.

There are also the times she wakes me up in the middle of the night. I'll be the first to admit that I'm worthless once I've actually dropped into lala land. Once asleep it takes a lot to wake me up and get me stirring again. About the only sound that can make me hop out of bed in rapid fashion is the retching of a kid. Especially a child sleeping in my bed. I've blogged before that alarm clocks should spund like a kid puking a sthat is a sound you won't hit the snooze button on.

But back to my wife's nocturnal fretting. I have a million stories from our years of marriage and maybe I'll share some later. Middle of the night questions about giant tennis balls, the aroma of ketchup, and cat burglar with a fascination of windup baby swings, but for now, I want to share a story from two nights ago.

There I was in bed. Nearly asleep as the midnight hour fast approached. Outside the first rain in several months was falling. The wind was howling, and occasionally a bit of thunder rumbled.

I was mere minutes from blissful peace when Jennifer remembered our oldest son's homework project.

When was it due?
Was it tomorrow?

She got up in a panic, but couldn't find the paperwork. Then she remembered throwing away a stack of papers and she was pretty certain the information along with the assignment was in that stack of papers.

Guess who got elected to climb put of a nice warm bed? To get dressed and go outside in the rain to dig through the dumpster in the alley. YES I DID.

I found the papers, soggy and slightly encrusted with refried beans. And the project was due when ... February 18th.

Oh the joys of married life in bed.

So ladies, do you torture your significant other in the same manner? And for you men out there, do you find yourself making the midnight rounds checking locks and noises to satisfy your wife? Or do you roll over and go to sleep offering up the time honored explanations of It was the wind or Must have been the cat?

I use both, but the latter no longer works since we haven't had a cat in about six years.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bigger Ain't Always Better -- A My Town Monday Post

Okay, the tile of this post kinda goes against the Texas stereotype, but facts are facts. and don't worry this post is not about the Texas woman who just established a world record for bust size. Heck, even we Texans got some standards on decency when it comes to over doing it. Which is why she had to travel top Brazil for her latest enhancement.

But as I said this post isn't about her, though it does have to deal with boobs. At least that's where it starts. With the boobs down in Austin, better known as politicians. Back in 1876 the Texas legislature decided they needed some fancy new digs in order to conduct their business. official decided they need a new dwelling. Problem was they didn't have an extra 3.7 million in the coffers to fund the project.

It took a number of years before progress was made, but it was finally decided that the state would trade away 3,000,000 acres of panhandle land in exchange for the cost of the granite capitol that is still the largest state capitol in North America. A syndicate led by two brothers, Charles and John Farwell accepted the land as payment for construction costs.

That land became known as the XIT Ranch and covered all or part of ten panhandle counties, but contrary to popular belief XIT did not stand for Ten In Texas a reference to the number of counties. The name actually came about because the brand was easy to make, yet was not easily altered by rustlers. North the South the ranch spanned 220 miles and was on average 30 miles wide. The ranch encompassed more land than three entire states, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut. It was the largest ranch in world and had over 1500 miles of fence.

But the ranch's size wound up working against it. Rustlers cut fences, wolves preyed on calves, and the area was too vast to watch over. The timing was also bad since cattle prices crashed in 1886 and 1887. By 1888, the ranch was unable to sell its cattle and break even.

In 1901, the syndicate that owned the ranch was forced off the land to pay off foreign investors as the bonds became due. By 1905, most of the land had been subdivided. The last of the XIT cattle were sold on November 1, 1912.

Charles Farwell died in 1903 and his brother John passed away in 1908.

The city of Dalhart Texas hosts an XIT days rodeo and reunion every August. There is live music, a rodeo, and what is billed as the worlds largest free barbecue.

I guess you could say the state got the best end of the deal since the capitol is still around whereas the massive ranch crumbled. But a dollar an acre seems awfully cheap to me, even for those times, but my guess is that the state legislature considered The Panhandle as no man's land. Sometimes it seems as if they still do.

Why? Because ranch headquarters was closer to six other state capitals than to Texas' capital of Austin -- Santa Fe, New Mexico, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Denver Colorado, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Topeka, Kansas, and Lincoln, Nebraska.

By the way, I'm posting this MTM extra early because I'm going to be way from the computer most of the day. I will post links when I can but most likely not until late this evening.

Links to other My Town Mondayers

Jenn Jilks has a bit of snowmobile trouble in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.

Monnik introduces us to small town life in Alleman, Iowa.

Lyzzydee frolics about in Welwyn Garden City, England's winter wonderland.

Chris takes on dragons in Hong Kong.

Debra fends off cabin fever in Village of Peninsula, Ohio.

Passage of Woman dips into the well in Kingston, Tennessee.

Barbara Martin takes us to school in Toronto, Canada.

Reb rocks along from Okotoks, Alberta, Canada.

Cloudia constructs another all pro post from Waikiki, Hawaii.

Chuck blogs of a church united in La Grange, Kentucky.

Paul Brazill looks at a Hartlepool, England icon.

Barrie Summy has a date in Indio, California.

Linda McLaughlin posts about the state of California's woeful budget.

J Winter compares the WKRP Cincinnati, Ohio to the version he now calls home.

Lauren elevates her Chicago, Illinois posts.

Clair Dickson spins the record from Livingston County, Michigan.

Clare2E hangs with superheroes at New York City's Comic Con.

Mary shows us that water isn't the only thing falling in Olmsted Falls, Ohio.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

By The Straps

I bought 'em in the fall of '92. Shortly after I hired on at the post office. I was young, a few months shy of twenty. I had money to burn and good times to have.

The ten inch tops were the same shade of red as you'll find on the Texas Flag.

The lower portion was the same shade as harvest ready wheat.

They were made by the Anderson Bean boot company.They were double stitched with a rounded tow and a low heel. They were the perfect pair of cowboy boots.

Now I'm no cowboy. I've never owned a horse. I couldn't rope a three legged goat much less a wild steer, and I got no desire to be bucked off of anything.

But I am a Texan, a westerner and I don't do fancy dress shoes and pressed slacks. Boots, jeans, a button down shirt. That is my idea of dressing up and that pair with the red tops were the best ones I ever had.

They were on my feet that chilly January night back in '93 when I first met my wife. They served me well as we two-stepped our way around the rodeo arena that night. Yes, I met my wife at the after dance of a bull riding event.

They were on my feet the day I said I Do. I wore starched black Wranglers and a Tuxedo top at my wedding.

They scooted around many a dance floor, took in many a good concert, and had more than a few drops of beer spilled on them.

They were the footwear I reached for when I had to attend a wedding, funeral, or writer's conference.

They were on my feet the night I danced the Hokey Pokey with Kensington editor Hilary Sares. Hilary is my favorite New Yorker, but I haven't totally forgiven her for making me put my right foot in and shake it all about. In public, before God and everybody. The next time she came to town me and my boots took her to a true Texas dive called the Golden Light Cantina since I knew damn good and well they wouldn't play the Hokey Pokey.

Those boots were what I wore to a week long writing workshop in Arizona where I met what have become great writing pals, Alex Keto and Cicily Janus.

They carried me to the graves of a few friends and both my grandpas. They danced at friend's weddings, and they had seen their share of Texas dirt.

I had 'em resoled half a dozen times, but for better than 16 years they carried on through the good times and the bad. The one thing they couldn't survive was fire.

Earlier this week one of my best friends from high school lost her dad. He succumbed tohis battle with cancer. The funeral in later this morning. I hadn't thought of my old boots until I knew I would be attending a funeral. Truth is I didn't wear often anymore. Only when I had to. The left one had been a might tight ever since I broke my ankle playing roller hockey. But despite that they were always there waiting in the closet when I needed them.

Last night I went out and found me a new pair. They are made by the same company, but quite a bit different. Styles have changed. I have changed, but I can only hope this new pair of boots serves me as well int eh coming years. and here's hoping they see lots more weddings, dances, and beer sloshes than they do funeral and tears.

Aren't they purty?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Awards, Gifts and Catching up

I never seem to quite be caught up. Not in the everyday aspects of my life, not on my writing, and not on my blog rounds.

Today is one of those kill a few birds with one post kind of days.

In the last month or so I've been fortunate enough to garner a lot of blog praise. Y'all have said many things things, given me quite a few awards, and tagged em with numerous memes. I had every last one of them saved in my Google Reader and I had every intention of responding with a post for each one. Then I screwed up and accidentally marked all of my saved posts as read and now they are gone. I could scour the blogosphere and fins some of them I suppose, but like I said I'm already struggling to get everything done, so y'all are gonna have to accept my most humble of apologies. I also want to say thanks for the awards and for reading and complimenting the crazy notions I spew forth here.

And while I am saying thanks, let me again express say that the generosity and kindness y'all have shown my family has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. Y'all will never know how much it has helped and meant to our spirits. I have tried to thank everyone individually but I am sure I've overlooked some and there were quite a few that I had no blog or email address for. So please know that everything y'all have done is greatly appreciated.

Now I want to give a meager something back. This year I was fortunate enough to be included in the Bylines Calender. I have a few copies left that I would like to give away by random drawing.

Two to those whose names appear as donors on the brick site started by Erica and Stephen. a person couldn't ask for two better advocates. To to those who mailed packages and well-wished for my family and I, and two to those who have signed up as followers over on the right sidebar. Incredibly, many of you are on all three lists.

Via random drawing here are the winners.

1.) Debra Frazier (No link since, I'm not positive who this is. Maybe Stephen or Erica can help since they donated to the brick site)
2.) Laura K from (Women of Mystery)
3.) Shauna
4. ) Janie
5.) Aerin
6.) Rebecca

Anyway, I will need mailing addresses for y'all so i can get these out to you. Send me an email at travis at traviserwin dot com.

I'm sorry that I can't give everyone of you a copy, but if you really want one they are available for order here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Saddle Up -- A My Town Monday Post

Chances are the name Clarence Hailey Long, Jr. does not mean a thing to you. He went by the initials C.H. but I doubt that rings a bell either. So who was he? Only the inspiration behind one of the most iconic figures of the last century.

But before we get there let me give you a bit more background on Mr. Long. He was born in 1910 in the small town of Paducah, which is located at the southern edge of the Texas Panhandle. During World War II he served with the United States Navy in the South Pacific. Upon his return to the states, C.H. went to work non the massive JA Ranch just south of Amarillo. The JA was founded by John George Adair and Charles Goodnight. I have talked about those men before in a My Town Monday post.

In 1949 Long was foreman of the ranch when LIFE magazine photographer Leonard McComb visited the ranch to take pictures for a series on ranching in the American west.

Thirty-nine year-old, 150-pound Long became the primary subject of those photographs. He was described as "a silent man, unassuming and shy, to the point of bashfulness [with a] face sunburned to the color of saddle leather [with cowpuncher's] wrinkles radiating from pale blue eyes."

Those pictures caught the attention of an ad executive named Leo Burnett who was desperately trying to spin his clients product in a new direction. In 1954, using the rugged face of Texan Panhandle cowboy Clarence Hailey Long, Jr as their poster boy, Marlboro cigarettes shed their "Mild as May" slogan in favor of the handsome Marlboro Man. until then they'd been regarded as a feminine cigarette. The campaign was an immediate success and for the next 45 years a variety of men portrayed the Marlboro Man.

Long's Marlboro photographs led to marriage proposals from across the nation, but he rejected them all. Instead he wed Ellen Theresa Rogers, a nurse from back East that had been hired to care for young Cornelia Wadsworth "Ninia" Ritchie, daughter of ranch manager Montgomery Harrison Wadsworth "Montie" Ritchie. The Longs had five sons: Clarence, Roger, Walt, Grant, and John and remained married until his death in 1978. No he did not die of lung cancer as some report. Though a later Marlboro Man model did die from the disease.

Mr. long was a devout Baptist and true to his faith he repeatedly rejected an offer from a beer company that would have paid him more than $20,ooo grand a year. A lot of money for a cowboy in the fifties.

Long is quoted as once saying, "If it weren’t for a good horse, a woman would be the sweetest thing in the world."

One can point out the ill-effects of smoking and pontificate the damage caused by Phillip Morris's successful campaign. Maybe you can even make a case that many boys and men started smoking because they wanted to be like the Marlboro man, but I don't think you can argue that Clarence Hailey Long, Jr. was anything but a man of the west, a cowboy who preferred the Hereford cattle he was in charge of to the fame and notoriety his image produced. He was what his image portrayed him to be ... a man's man.

(I'm uncertain if that first picture is of C.H. Long or a later model, and the second photograph is from LIFE magazine in 1960 when they did a follow up story on Mr. Long. Sadly i could not find any images from the original LIFE series.)

Check back for links from other My Town Monday participants, but due to the Super Bowl I may be slower than normal updating the links.

Lyzzydee takes us for a sleigh ride in Welwyn Garden City, England.
Wendy lets us stroll along as she takes a walk around her New York City neighborhood.
Debra lays it from Village of Peninsula, Ohio.
Chris takes a broad approach and salutes a world ambassador.
Jenn Jilks explores the eco-friendly Balls Falls this week.
Clair Dickson introduces is to Livingston County, Michigan's Woody the Woodchuck.
Barbara Martin fires off a post about the Long Branch are near Toronto, Canada.
Barrie Summy serves up a tasty post from her Southern California area.
Reb discusses the fine people of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Kyles heads down the highway between Sydney and Brisbane, Australia.
Mary takes a nostalgic look at bygone train trips across the west from Olmsted Falls, Ohio to Oregon.
Clare2E is bucking and tumbling from Atlanta, Georgia.
Patti Abbott takes us to the Detroit Historical Museum.
J Winter sprays us with a knowledge of his town, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Paul Brazill monkeys around with a post from Hartlepool, England
Passage of a Woman is singing from her winter wonderland in Kingston, Tennessee