2018

The Seasons Grow Shorter

Autumn officially arrives on Saturday. In East Texas, the official date doesn’t mean much. Summer heat can linger well into October. I am keeping my eye on a cool front possibly arriving late next week that could drop our highs down into the 70s and lows into the high 50s — practically sweater weather to thin-blooded East Texans. The highs this week have been pushing 100. It is well past time for the dog days to end. Heat notwithstanding, the leaves have begun descending, skittering across the deck when a breeze blows, clogging the swimming pool skimmer, finding their way inside the house...

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Mr. G’s Packed As Closing Looms

I showed up on a rainy Saturday afternoon to take Mr. G’s photograph. “Come about 2,” he said on the phone the day before. “It usually slows down by then.” When I opened the door to Gonzalo’s Mexican Restaurant, about a half-dozen folks turned to see who was entering. They were waiting for a table, while Mr. G. – Gonzolo Hernandez – stood behind the cash register, the three walls behind him covered in snapshots. So much for not being busy. That’s how it has been at Gonzolo’s – which most folks call Mr. G’s – since the 78-year-old owner announced he was closing the restaurant...

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A Little Moxie Goes Long Way

I was walking Sam the Dog the other day, listening to NPR as usual, and a rather lengthy report came across that Coca-Cola had purchased Moxie. One might ask why this would matter if raised anywhere except New England. It is likely most folks in these parts have never heard of Moxie. If I concentrate, I can still summon the bittersweet taste of sipping a can of Moxie soda. Moxie is the official soft drink of Maine. The town of Lisbon hosts an annual Moxie Festival. The beverage is produced in New Hampshire, my native state. It tastes somewhat like root beer, but with a bitter, rather wanky aftertaste....

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A Second-Generation Lumberjack

Forty-five years ago, I first visited the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. My friend Frank had begun college there, and I went down for a visit. I was a senior in high school and intent on attending the University of Texas. But the beauty of the campus – and the lower cost of tuition – caught my attention. I would be paying my own way through college, by both choice and necessity. After a year of night school at Kilgore College, I headed south to Nacogdoches. My SFA experience was fun and fascinating, though I often worked two jobs while squeezing in school. Since I was toting...

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Broken Truck Window And Good Samaritans

A while back, I parked our 1965 Ford F100 in the parking lot of a local business on the loop, with permission, a “For Sale” sign on the windshield. Few folks called. The truck runs great, is mechanically in perfect condition, but doesn’t have power steering or air-conditioning. One young woman, about to get her driver’s license, contacted me. She loved the truck. I asked if she knew how to drive a stick shift and had ever driven a vehicle that didn’t have power steering. The answer was “no” on both counts. I gently suggested she talk to her dad before proceeding further, figuring...

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Trout Fishing in America

RIO COSTILLA, N.M. — We are wearing hip waders and standing nearly knee-deep in cold, running water surrounded by plush pasture filled with fat Angus cows. Lots of cows. The Rio Costilla winds through this 80,000-acre ranch, which provides both fishing, hunting and camping opportunities as well as livestock management. The ranch has been operated by the Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association since 1942, when a group of New Mexicans purchased the property from the state after it had been seized for non-payment of taxes. The water is clear, the riverbed rocky. The Sangre de Cristo mountains...

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Thin Air And A Pretzel-Eating Chipmunk

TAOS SKI VALLEY, N.M. — It was 41 degrees when we awoke on a recent morning in the second-story condo we had rented. The balcony door was open, as were the kitchen windows. When one lives in Texas, it is a luxury to sleep in summer under a blanket, windows open, no air-conditioning whirring. Actually, AC was not an option but at 9,400 feet altitude it was blessedly unnecessary. I had installed an altimeter app on my phone to satisfy my inner-nerd self, and regularly announced the altitude as we traveled through the west. The Arroyo Hondo River runs behind the property where we stayed from...

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‘Just Us Kids in The Parking Lot’ — James McMurtry

EL PRADO, NEW MEXICO — We arrived about 6 p.m. at Taos Mesa Brewing, a funky brewpub called the “Mothership,” since there are two smaller locations. The Mothership is built of rusted steel, glass and translucent plastic, with a large amphitheatre in back. Next door is an RV park filled with old Airstreams and other trailers for rent. El Prado, a rural suburb of Taos, is 10 miles southeast of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the second-highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System. The view from the bridge is beautiful, a bit scary to walk across, with the canyon bottom 650 feet below. Warning...

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My Smart Phone Might Be Too Smart

As do many of us, I own a smart phone. Mine is beginning to act too smart, anticipating where I’m going, and when I’ll arrive. I got in my car to head to the CrossFit gym the other day, as I do most weekdays about lunchtime. My phone buzzed and announced that I would arrive at the gym in seven minutes and that traffic was light. Who asked? Not me. For one thing, it’s Longview, Texas. Odds are overwhelming that traffic is going to be light, even at noon. Second, I do not schedule gym classes on my phone calendar. There’s no need. I know what time class starts and whether I am going...

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We Need Mr. Rogers More Than Ever

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” — Fred Rogers |———| Fifty years ago, a children’s show titled Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was added to what would eventually be known as the Public Broadcasting Service — PBS. The Rev. Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, had been producing and appearing in a number of children’s television shows in Pennsylvania for 15 years. Rogers had a degree in music and was an accomplished pianist and song composer. My two oldest daughters watched and loved Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I remember them sitting...

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