2021

Adventures in Country Mowing

Our move into the country was completed last Friday. Unpacking and arranging will take a while, likely weeks, to get everything in its proper place, pictures hung, etc. The first order of business on Saturday was mowing the approximately five acres of Bahia grass that surrounds our house and back toward the woods. A zero-turn mower was delivered on Friday, a 54-inch Bad Boy. Yup, that’s the name of it. It fits. A zero-turn mower, often used by yard-maintenance crews, doesn’t have a steering wheel. Instead it has two levers to operate with your hands to go forward, backward and turn. It takes...

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The Hobby Farmer Adventure Begins

It is moving day. Actually, it has been moving day for a few weeks, but by the time you read this (fingers tightly crossed), we should be beginning the process of unpacking and getting used to our new abode, a few miles north of Longview, on 57 acres. The tract is mainly hardwood timber, but there is plenty of grass to mow. The grass will eventually provide sustenance to a hobby farm’s worth of critters. We might even buy a buffalo, because, well, we like looking at them. No horses, though. I still recall what a North Texas horse breeder told us while giving a tour of beautiful, high-dollar horse...

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Music Keeps Me Together

Two of our favorite musicians headlined benefit events in the past few weeks, to which my Beautiful Mystery Companion kindly bought tickets as part of our 10-year wedding anniversary celebration, which we stretched into a month of fun. First, we saw Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris perform at Café Momentum in downtown Dallas. Gauthier (pronounced Go-Shay) has long been one of my favorite singer-songwriters with soulful lyrics and a distinctive voice. Harris is a fresh face, originally from Waco, who opened and then played lead guitar and sang backup while Gauthier performed her set. Before the show...

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Beginning To Feel Boxed In

Two words describe how we spend our days the past few weeks: packing and culling. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I are preparing to move. Our house has sold and will have new owners in just two weeks. Two weeks! I better get in gear. We have lived in this lovely home for nine years and two months. It is the longest I have lived in one house in my entire life. When we blended our families and possessions together, we didn’t do much culling because our current house had plenty of storage and square footage. And in nine years, the stuff accumulated. Books, blankets, CDs, DVDs, dishes,...

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Building A Gateway to the Moon

“This is the only job I’ve ever had.” With that preface, Paul Johnson, president of USM, Inc., begins explaining what goes on inside a nondescript building located in south Houston. about 10 miles from the Johnson Space Center. The company was founded in 1956 by his father, Steve Johnson, and is now run by Paul and his brother, Chris. When founded, it was known as United Scale Models and built models of petrochemical plants and offshore oil platforms, which were used to create the actual product. It is exacting, intricate work. “Before auto-cad, everything that was built used a model...

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Recalling Old Lyrics But Forgetting Passwords

I drove to Houston the other day to deliver some LeTourneau earth-moving models that had been damaged, to a company that specializes in creating these types of scale models — and to have lunch with my middle daughter, Mere. On the way down, I decided to tune in to a satellite radio station that focuses on “mellow” songs from the 1970s and ’80s. By “mellow,” I suppose they mean the songs don’t feature a bunch of screaming guitar chords and indecipherable lyrics. I was never into heavy metal, preferring songs with lyrics I could understand, even if at times the phrases were somewhat...

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Any Day On a Tractor is a Good Day

I am astride a John Deere tractor, swatting away mosquitoes on a 95-degree afternoon, sweat soaking my long-sleeved shirt and streaming down my face, as I carefully weave my way along a fence line, bush-hogging waist-high weeds. This is great, I thought, and grinned. I haven’t been on a tractor in nearly two decades. It’s good to be back in the saddle. My Beautiful Mystery Companion, her brother and his son, our daughter’s boyfriend, and me have all pitched in to help a new acquaintance clean up some fence rows in the woods behind her home. Being the senior citizen of the crowd, I was tapped...

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Feels So Good Feelin’ Good Again

So I strolled across old Main Street Walked down a flight of stairs Stepped into the hall And saw all my friends were there A neon sign was flashin’, “Welcome, come on in” It feels so good feelin’ good again — Feelin’ Good Again by Robert Earl Keen WACO – We sat outside at the Backyard Grill and Stage, along with a few hundred other folks on a gorgeous spring evening, about to indulge in something that has not been possible for more than 15 months – listening to live music. We had reserved seats at a picnic table with four strangers, who quickly introduced themselves as we waited...

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For the Love of the Game

Last year, when the world shut down because of the pandemic, and professional sports pivoted with cut-out spectators, playing in hubs and other necessary measures, I decided to take the year off from paying any attention. I ignored the baseball standings, didn’t watch any games, and did my best to pretend sports did not exist in 2020. It seemed the healthier approach. It was not a difficult decision. The world was topsy turvy (for too many, it still is), so caring about who led the American League east division, or how the Celtics were doing playing in a “bubble,” did not seem to be something...

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Judging Newspaper Contest After a Pandemic

I spent several hours last week judging entries in a Better Newspaper Contest for another state’s press association. Newspaper associations often “swap” judges for these annual contests. Members of the Texas Press Association agreed to judge the entries for this state, and its members will do the same for TPA. I volunteered to judge a few dozen entries in four categories. Entering these newspaper contests used to be a dreary, time-consuming affair back in prehistoric days. Someone in the newsroom, usually me as editor, had to flip through bound books of back issues, select the stories,...

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