Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Reluctant Saviour

Those who have read many of my posts are well aware that my trophy bride, Miss Sugar, has a very soft heart, much softer than mine.  She  is a good influence on me and often makes me behave better than I otherwise would.

So today we were driving home, where I intended to watch the Broncos’ game against the Raiders, scheduled to commence at 2:00 p. m. Mountain Time, and it was 1:55 p.m., but I knew we could make it if we stayed the course.  We did not stay the course.

Instead, I spent some time in my church clothes wrestling a goat in distress.  Why would I do that?  The answer is simple.  Miss Sugar has a soft heart.

A few minutes before I was in the goat pen of a stranger, my trophy wife and I were driving past a ranch about five miles from our place.  These ranchers have cattle mostly, but they also have a herd of goats.  It is a fairly big operation.  There are many pens, like a feedlot, loading chutes, and many buildings, including a large equipment shed, barns, other outbuildings, and three houses.  I don’t know if they are occupied by family members only or if hired help reside there as well.  There were many vehicles parked by the houses, probably six or seven, not including the camper,  horse trailers, stock trailers, and the semi-tractor.  In other words, it is not an abandoned ghost town.  It is an active livestock operation.

It is, however, not active nor observant enough of a livestock operation to suit Miss Sugar.  She noticed a goat as we drove by that appeared to her to have his head caught in a wire fence.  She commented on her observation.  I drove on.  We could make it home in time for the football game, you understand.  Right?  You understand that the goat is not my goat and it lives where many caretakers are very near.  Neither is it Miss Sugar’s goat.  And the game and all should be considered.  And, I was all dressed up.

So I drove about two miles past the goat to an intersection.  Then and there, I asked Miss Sugar,  “Do you want me to turn around?”  Actually, it was not a question.  It was a statement of recognition.  “You want me to turn around.”

Yes, she did want me to go back to the goat because we should never ignore animals suffering when we can help.  (Apparently, the people who live on the ranch rely on Miss Sugar to tell them when their animals need help.)

So we went back to the goat and, indeed, Miss Sugar was correct, it did have its head stuck in the fence.  It was now laying down.  Other goats around it were licking it, for comfort she supposed.  I am not recognized as an expert in goat emotions and the manners in which they are displayed, but I did not argue with her.

So we drove up the lane, past the many vehicles, and parked by the newest house.  Miss Sugar went up to the door and knocked.  The game was on the radio so I stayed in the car, listening, but I would have noticed if Miss Sugar had been abducted or otherwise in harm’s way.  She rang the bell and knocked, but no one came to the door.  She walked to the second house.  No one was home.  (Or they were watching the game.)  I drove the car to the third house.  Again, there was no response.  Well, there was a response, just not by the occupants.  The response was by me.

I got out of the car, walked fifty yards to the goat fence, and up to the subject goat. who scrambled to its feet, while leaving its head on the opposite side of the fence from where it kept its feet.  I suppose it was glad to see me, but, like I said, I am no expert on goats.  Someone even less aware of subtleties of goat communication might think the goat did not fully appreciate my efforts.

I analyzed the problem.   The wire fence was one with rectangles (designed for safety, no doubt).  The distressed goat had somehow gotten its entire head into one rectangle in a manner not recommended by the manufacturer of the fence, nor by the manufacturer of the goat.  Because the goat’s horns extend from its head at a widening angle, it was easier for it to get its head and horns into the rectangle than out.  In fact, the horns were curved past the top wire of the troublesome rectangle and back into the rectangle above, preventing the head from getting out.

That’s where I came in.  I skillfully got one horn back into the same rectangle as the rest of the goat head and the panicky goat somehow got the other horn out and scampered away.

I watched the critter run back to its friends, fully expecting expressions of gratitude from all.  Unfortunately, like I said, I am not an expert at interpreting goat emotions, so I suppose I missed those expressions of goat gratitude.  I would like to say that I could see it in those goat eyes, but I could not.

“C’mon, Miss Sugar, let’s get out of here before someone shoots us.”

We missed most of the first quarter of the game, but it is still on as I write this.  I’m glad I rescued that goat for Miss Sugar because whatever pleases her tickles me plumb to death.”

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse was a Sioux war leader who was never defeated in battle.  He was one of the strategists at the Battle of Little Big Horn, where General Custer was wiped out by an alliance of Indian tribes. 

He fought to protect his home in the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota.  He was never defeated, but he did surrender and was taken to Fort Robinson, in the Pine Ridge area of Nebraska.  Sadly, he was murdered there, stabbed in the back by a bayonet, to the shame of his captors.

He died in 1877.  Many years later, Indian leaders persuaded an award winning sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, to build a monument such as Mount Rushmore, honoring Crazy Horse.  The “monumental” job was undertaken by the artist in 1948, but is still not completed.  Mr. Ziolkowski died in 1982.  His family continues the task.  So far, after six decades, only the face of Crazy Horse is recognizable.  It is not really a task of sculpting because a mountain is being carved by dynamite primarily.  There is a sculpture done by the artist which is being recreated on a much larger scale.  It is a daunting task. 

I recommend that you visit the monument, which is near Custer, South Dakota.  There is no hurry though.  Take your time.


Yesterday I wrote about our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota last weekend.  Actually, that post was more about our misadventures with the trailer we rented.  This one will be more positive and well illustrated with American Bison, also known as Buffaloes, so if you are not enthused about such critters, back off immediately.

Buffaloes were central to the culture of Plains Indians, including the Lakota Sioux people, many of whom still live in South Dakota.  I have previously written about the Pine Ridge Reservation.  Tomorrow, I intend to write about a famous Lakota leader, Crazy Horse.

There is a large buffalo herd in Custer State Park.  Yesterday was the annual buffalo round-up there.  During the weekend prior to that event, when we were visiting, the town of Custer celebrated the importance of buffalo to the area in many ways.  On street corners throughout downtown Custer were life-size model buffaloes that had been painted creatively by artists.  On Friday evening was a reception at a bank at which the public could meet the artists and get a preview of their artwork, which was auctioned off the next day.  Not only were the full sized buffaloes auctioned, but also smaller sculptures of buffaloes and paintings of buffaloes.  Lots of buffalo art!   Since our home is decorated with western art, and since Miss Sugar is an artist and art teacher, the art auction was of great interest to us.   I’d like to say that we picked this weekend so that we could attend, but it was simply good luck that we happened to be there.

Now you are probably wondering what art we purchased.  The answer is that the bidders were out of our league.  However, we did buy a buffalo skull from a booth of such items.  It was not part of the auction but it was part of the buffalo festival. 

We’d like to go back to Custer, South Dakota next September for the buffalo weekend.

Stinky Slinky and Miss Sugar (and me)

For all of ya’all who have been awaiting my next blog with bated breath, you may unbate your respective breaths because I am back.  I am back from where I have been, which is The Black Hills of South Dakota, USA.

Miss Sugar and I made reservations at a private campground which shall, as they say, remain nameless.  Now when I say “remain nameless” I am not exactly accurate because it is not nameless at all.  I am not going to tell you the name in order to protect the innocent.  It has a name and Miss Sugar and I know the name and we went there and camped.  We ran into some difficulties there, however, some of which I am fixin’ to relate to you, gentle reader(s).

First off, understand that we do not own a camper aka RV trailer or any other kind of RV.  What we done was rent one, which was costly.  Let us say one can stay at a pretty nice motel for $130 per night, which for three nights is approximately $390.  On the other hand, one can pay $300 to rent a trailer, plus a $45 set up fee, plus a $500 deposit, which is approximately $845.  Which is a better deal?

I know what you are thinking — it is about the same if you get the security deposit back.  That would be true, provided the security deposit is returned, which it was not in our case.  Not yet, anyways.

Another difference is that the campground charges too.  In our case, the charge was $35 per night.  If you are keeping up on the math, that is $115 added to the $845, which is approximately $960.  I say approximately because due to circumstances on our trip, I paid the RV park manager another $20 for helping us get in our trailer after one of us, a very attractive person, broke off the key.  The resulting circumstances were that we could not get inside of our $960 trailer.  Of course we could have just looked at it and enjoyed the view, but we actually desired to sleep, so our choices were to break in or stay at one of those $130 motels.  We chose to enlist the assistance of the manager of the RV park, who helped us break in by removing the lock from the door with his power drill, hence the extra $20 expense in the form of a tip.  Consequently, we could get in but we could not lock the door ever again.  Nor can anyone else unless the folks who rented us the trailer fix the lock and replace the key, which they will do and take it out of our security deposit.  We don’t know yet how much that will be, but our $500 is no longer intact.

That might not be so bad, you are thinking.  However, you do not know the rest of the story.  Part of the rest of the story is that one of us, a pretty big guy with little finesse in things mechanical, despite having hitched up trailers hundreds of times, this time broke off the handle for the jack which raises and lowers the trailer so it can be attached to or unattached from the hitch on the back of the truck hauling the trailer.  Our predicament was that I could not unattach our truck from their trailer without the jack operating correctly and it was not operating at all.

Since we needed to either leave our truck with the rental company or self-tattle, the rental company is fully aware of the broken jack handle and has the power to deduct  from the deposit the cost of repair of the jack and replacement of the handle.

Now, those of you who have stayed at motels likely have never been required to perform any plumbing tasks at the motel.  When one rents a travel trailer with a bathroom, one must not only return it clean without benefit of maid service, but also empty what we shall call sewage.  That task is performed by hooking up a sewer hose running from the trailer into a sewage dump or drain, which I done did without pleasure.  The seven children who occupied the Class A motorhome parked next to us informed us that they call the sewer hose a “stinky slinky.”

Our rental company expected us to return our sewer hose/stinky slinky with the trailer.  We fully intended to do so.  But alas, we did not.  The stinky slinky is cleverly stored in a hollow bumper and each end is supposed to be capped off.  We put our stinky slinky in the bumper and capped each end.  Then we drove 300 miles.  When we returned the trailer and confessed to breaking the key, breaking the jack and handle, and damaging the lock, we did not confess to losing the stinky slinky because we were unaware that it was no longer in the hollow bumper.  The rental person checked out our returned trailer and discovered the loss.  No big deal for her.  She has a $500 deposit, you will recall.  We left without the deposit but still hoping some of it will be returned.

Guess what!  We were driving back on Highway 287 when Miss Sugar saw a big hose on the side of the road and claimed it was ours.  So I got out, risked my life crossing the highway, and picked up the large hose.  Sure enough, it was our stinky slinky.  So we drove back and returned it, quite proud of ourselves.  Our pride was diminished by the lady’s unenthusiastic reaction.  She said, “I still have to charge you for it because someone ran over the hose.”  Apparently, dented hoses are unacceptable.  Therefore, the deposit will take another hit.

So what have we learned from this camping experience?  We had so much fun that we are talking about purchasing our own trailer.

P.S.  The manager of the RV park who helped with the lock was wearing a holster on his hip which contained a handgun.  He explained that he did not need a concealed carry permit because his pistol was not concealed.  Indeed it was not, hence the tip.

P.P.S.  He also introduced me to his wife, a lovely woman.  He shared with me that this is his 8th wife.  It has been done before.  You have heard about Henry the 8th.

P.P.P.S.  While sitting in his workshop as he worked on the lock by removing parts in order to ensure it would never lock again, he generously brought out a bottle of actual moonshine.  He showed me his copper tubing and still.  I had never had moonshine before.  I learned that it is to be drunk from the bottle and passed back and forth.  He seemed pleased to have me as his new friend.  He said, “You and me could get into some trouble.”  I reckon so.  I can get into trouble with or without him.

Political Ambitions

My favorite election victories were won without running.  I was honored when classmates voted me “Most Likely to Succeed” because there was no campaign, simply a blank ballot for which each vote had to be a write-in.  Similarly,  homecoming royalty elections involved no posters, no speech, no campaign.   Passive popularity is cool. 

Another level for schoolkids is the familiar process of nominating classmates and then having the election on the spot.  

In small groups there is the advantage of familiarity and little need to campaign.   Obviously,  grown-up elections require campaigns and campaigns require money.

That is where I draw the line.  Money.  I ain’t gonna beg for money so I can run for election.  If the voters don’t write in my name, then, well, I guess they won’t have the leadership of Boy Mostly Likely to Succeed.

Independence from the Sandmen

Last night, a friend showed me his new electric car, a Chevy Volt.  He has put 10,000 miles on the vehicle and used two gallons of gasoline, which is 5,000 miles per gallon.

The Arab nations seem to rely upon exporting oil for their importance in the world economy.  If that is correct, then the loss of  their market of oil importers would take away their economic power.  If the U.S.A. stops buying oil from Arab nations, and relies upon its own oil production and alternative energy sources, then we can leave them to enjoy their own natural resources without America depleting them.

That might be an unrealistic goal, however.  Even if we are able to do without Mideast oil, we will still need to fill our sandboxes.

Diplomatic Protection


Libya is hundreds of years behind the times, demonstrating that it does not understand modern diplomacy or even civilized behavior.  The attack on the United States embassy there yesterday and the murder of our ambassador was just plain primitive. 

Rules of diplomacy have evolved over hundreds of years.  Embassies and ambassadors in each others’ countries are supposed to be provided special protections, including even immunity from criminal prosecution.  The rationale is that the embassy is actually the property of the country it represents rather than of the host nation.  In other words, the attack on our embassy is considered an attack on American soil. 

Granted, the government of Libya has been in upheaval, still, if it is to be considered a sovereign nation, it ought to act like one and follow the rules of diplomacy.  Imagine the opposite — that a mob in Washington, D.C. attacked the Libyan embassy.  Would the police look the other way?  Wouldn’t our military assist if necessary? 

It was the duty of Libya to protect our embassy.  It did not fulfill its duty.  Now what do we do?

I do not recommend that we murder the Libyan ambassador for revenge, but maybe we ought to kick him out of the U.S.A. and cut off diplomatic relations with Libya until it catches up with the rest of the civilized world here in the 21st century.


Watching TV specials commemorating the 11th anniversary of  the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the highjacked Flight 93, appropriately reminds us of the victims, their families, and the heroes. 

Our nation was attacked by enemies who were cowards because they targeted innocent civilians rather than engage our military in battle.  It reminds me of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, except the Japanese bombed ships and planes.  Of course, there was collateral damage in Pearl Harbor, and I should not rank evil, yet 9/11 did not occur during a war between nations; instead, it was more like a drive-by shooting of innocents by criminals.

The tragedy united Americans, as tragedies seem to do.  I remember the words of President Lincoln at Gettysburg:  “…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. “

Accidental Coach

Olympian 020

When I first started training to swim in the Senior Olympics, and was going to the pool a lot, a man in the lane next to me one day was waiting for me to complete a lap.  When I stopped to rest, he gave me a tip about how to improve my butterfly stroke, which was his specialty.

His advice to me, though unsolicited, was not unwanted.  I truly wanted to get better.  I wanted to qualify for the national championship.  So I thanked the man, who introduced himself as Slava.  He is from Russia.  He used to be a swimming coach there.

As we saw each other at the pool on other days, Slava continued to critique my swimming.  He complimented my breaststroke, which had been strongest event as a competitive swimmer in my younger years.  He helped me tweek my freestyle.  He gave me training tips on conditioning.  Mostly he taught me how to swim butterfly better.  I appreciated it all and told him so.

One of the things that he told me was that I better lose weight.  He said, “You are a powerful man, but you are too big here.”  He pointed to my stomach.   He is very direct, more direct than is considered polite in our culture, but he was right.  He told me to do other exercises besides swimming.  He asked me to guess how many pushups he can do.  The answer is 115.  He is 73 years old.  He does not have an ounce of fat on him.  He swims every day.

When I slack off, he sends me emails.  “I do not see you at the pool.”

With Slava’s help, I have qualified for the national championships three times, in several events, including butterfly and individual medley, which starts with butterfly.  My butterfly is still not as good as Slava’s, but was good enough for a silver medal at the Huntsman World Games. It is a good thing that Slava was not competing, at least not in my age group.  There I met some Russian cosmonauts who were competing.  Slava told me that a friend of his was coming from Russia to swim in those games, but had gotten sick.  I wish that Slava had come with me, but he did not.

Slava and his wife, Ludmylla, have become friends with me and my wife, Sugar.  We have been to each others’ homes, including spending Russian Orthodox Easter together this year.

I thank the Lord that He had me swim in that lane that day when Slava criticized my butterfly technique.

P.S.  In the photo above, I was close to 250 lbs.  I got down to 215 lbs.  Slava was right, it helped me improve my swimming times, but I became concerned that the N.F.L. scouts thought I was then too light to play linebacker.  That is probably why I am still an undrafted, unsigned free agent.  What a dilemma!  So, as a compromise, I have elevated my weight to 225 lbs.  Now I am more “well-rounded” as an elite multi-sport athlete.  However, if someone tells me that I would be more competitive as a marathon runner if I got down to 160 lbs, I will not listen.  That is where I draw the line. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

People Are Funny Critters

“People are funny critters.”  Walt Garrison

Walt Garrison is a cowboy in more than one sense.  He played college football for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, pro ball for the Dallas Cowboys, and he also competed as a rodeo cowboy.   Quite a guy! His signing bonus with Dallas included a horse trailer.  After nine seasons in the NFL, his football career was ended by a knee injury sustained while bulldogging at a rodeo.  I doubt any current NFL players have a contract provision allowing rodeo participation in the off-season, or want one.

He himself a “funny critter,” Mr. Garrison’s observation above is a helpful reminder to be tolerant of the quirkiness that crops up amongst members of the human species.

I do not know the context within which Walt originally said those quoted words, but it does not matter to me.  I like to repeat those words in many contexts.

Individuals are often inconsistent in behavior or beliefs and those inconsistencies can be explained by recognizing they are “funny critters.”

Nations throughout history have changed in many ways, often unpredictable, because they are populated by and led by “funny critters.”

Politicians are often funny critters, some funnier than others.  We would do well to have leaders with down to earth common sense.  Walt Garrison for President!

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