Columns

The Invaluable Allen Wrench: Assembly Required

I am looking at an Allen wrench on my desk, placed there because I forgot to take it out of my pocket. It was poking me in the leg as I sat at this computer. On the next trip to the shop, this lowly Allen wrench will join a host of others collected over the years while putting together various pieces of furniture. Once again, July became moving month, except this time it was getting daughter Abbie to Denton, where she begins graduate school at the University of North Texas this month. This involved buying her a bed and couch, selling her old bedroom suite, giving away another bed frame to brother...

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I Could Drink a Case of Joni Mitchell

I bought my first Joni Mitchell album in 1971 from the Howard’s Discount Store on Mobberly Avenue in South Longview, across the street from what was then called LeTourneau College (now LeTourneau University). We lived on South Twelfth Street, right behind the college, so I cut through the campus, past the barracks and Speer Chapel on what was about a half-mile walk. Most of the money I earned working at the Longview newspaper — by then as a part-time photographer after starting as a paperboy — was spent on books, albums, and gas for the 1954 Dodge with its PowerGlide automatic transmission...

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Pancho’s Pond Becoming a Reality

Construction of what will be known as Pancho’s Pond is at last underway in the pasture where our donkey spends his days. The only good thing about this dratted drought is that it dried up the land to where Gaylond, our seasoned equipment operator, can actually move the dirt around. Gaylond started in late March, first by running drainage ditches across two pastures to dry out the land, which clearly has at least a couple of underground springs. That worked well, but he suggested we wait until later in the summer. Pushing mud around can get expensive. We’re more interested in it being done...

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Touring Three Pines in the Eastern Townships

EASTERN TOWNSHIP, QUEBEC — Christiane, the raconteur for our Three Pines Tour, arrives at exactly 8 a.m. at our auberge in Sutton, one of the towns in the Eastern Township, which starts about a dozen miles north of the Vermont-Canada. While French is the dominant language in Quebec, this area in large part was settled by Loyalists (as they were called) to Britain in the American Revolution, so English is also commonly spoken. Chris, as she prefers to be called, spent 35 years working for the Royal Mounted Canadian Police in their counter-terrorism division. After retiring, she ended up helping...

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A Perfect Night at Fenway Park

FENWAY PARK, BOSTON — We have returned to the shrine of my youth after a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic and a move to the country in the middle of last summer that precluded any opportunities to travel. It was worth the wait. My Beautiful Mystery Companion and I are seated on the third base side, in prime foul-ball territory about 10 rows from the field. Several of the fans, both adults and children, have brought baseball gloves to the park in hopes of snagging a souvenir. If I somehow catch one, I’ll give it to the cute little boy behind us. (I didn’t.) The Red Sox uniforms...

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Lost in the Woods of Quebec

SOMEWHERE IN THE EASTERN TOWNSHIP, QUEBEC, CANADA — We left Boston after four days and headed north through New Hampshire and Vermont just barely into Canada, to a pleasant village called Sutton in what is known as the Eastern Township. It was settled in large part by colonists loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution. French remains the dominant language, however. I had decided to splurge and rent a BMW SUV. When I arrived at Logan Airport to pick it up, the rental clerk informed me no BMW SUVs were available and offered a Buick SUV. Really? A Buick and not a Beemer? As we talked,...

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Back in Beantown Once Again

BOSTON — Man, I love writing that dateline, at long last, three years since we last stepped out of Logan Airport into temperatures 30 degrees lower than in Texas. We are here on the first day of summer, after enduring, like most of you reading this, a scorching end to spring that presages a torturous next three months. Heck, maybe four. So here we are in our favorite city to visit, my mother’s birthplace, a place steeped in history and so familiar to us by now that it is like returning to an old friend. An expensive friend to be sure. Boston is not a cheap place to visit. After staying home...

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Dirt daubers, wasps and snakes: Country living

Looks like we’re going to have a bumper crop of dirt daubers this summer. They buzz around the shop and in the garage, building their vertical dirt mounds and acting indignant when I use a plastic paint scraper to knock down their nests. Luckily, you would have to step on a dirt dauber with bare feet to get stung. But they are rather annoying. They dive bomb my face while I’m rowing in our mini-CrossFit gym down in the shop. I guess they’re attracted to sweat, and there is plenty of that this summer. Actually, it’s officially still spring as I write this. Sigh. Dirt daubers are members...

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Pancho Gets A Pedicure

My brother-in-law Jim took a look at Pancho the Donkey’s legs last Saturday evening while visiting. “We need to trim his hooves,” he said and promised to return the next afternoon with his trimming equipment and some fence panels to build a temporary pen. We would have to hem Pancho up to perform this process. Neither a donkey nor a horse is going to just stand there and let someone mess with their hooves. Pancho is on permanent loan from Jim, who knows about equine issues. He showed up with his trailer and toolbox with trimming tools. Using the three-sided shed that provides Pancho shelter...

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Amber Waves of Grass: Mowing Season

Mowing season has commenced here on the farm. Actually, it began on May 1 with a first mowing after most of the wildflowers had gone to seed. Clumps of skinny white flowers remained in bloom, so I practiced my zero-turn techniques by shearing circles of Bahia grass while leaving standing the flowers, exotically identified as Prairie Fleabane in the PlantSnap app. Further research indicates the Cherokee and Houma tribes boiled the roots to use as a diuretic, and as a healing aid for kidney ailments or gout. I tucked that factoid back in the memory bank should either ailment arise, and my doctor...

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