Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Beau Helps Garden


Here in the high country, we have a short growing season.  In her valiant attempts to have a garden nevertheless, my wife also has to contend with wildlife helping themselves to various delicious plants.  In particular, rabbits eat vegetables and flowers.  Consequently, Miss Sugar has a box, pictured above, to protect her modest garden by raising it above rabbit level.

Sugar’s parents, Bob and Ginger, while visiting from Texas this past week, helped plant some tomatoes, squash, and strawberries.  They are experienced and helpful.  Beau is not experienced in gardening.  Neither is he helpful.

garden dogs

Sadie, our other Yellow Lab,  is not particularly helpful, but, unlike Beau, she does not harm the project.

Beau decided that Bob was being selfish with the hose.  That is one thing with which Beau will not put up.  He wanted a turn with the hose.  He grabbed it.  Bob did not share.  A tug of war commenced.

tug of war

Instead of watering the plants, I wish Beau would chase the rabbits and let Bob do the gardening.  It is a matter of efficiency and recognizing natural talent.  Bob is just no good at chasing rabbits.

Each needs to be aware of his own station in life.

The Answer Man

The premium for my private health insurance went up $150.00 per month.  I learned about it when I called to pay with a “check by phone.”

Me:  That can’t be right.  My insurance has paid nothing for me this year.  How can the premium increase so much?

Premium Collector:  That is a decision made in underwriting.

Me:  I don’t see the basis for an increase.  Based on my health history and lack of claims, you are already making 100% profit on me.  Please transfer me to Underwriting.

Customer Service (after a delay in getting transferred):  Customer service.  How can I help you?

Me:  I was holding for someone in underwriting.

Customer Service:  Perhaps I can help.  What is your question?

Me:  Why did my premium go up $150 per month?

Customer Service:  That is determined by underwriters.

Me:  What did they determine about me?  I have had no claim.  You have paid nothing.  Even if I had a claim, I would have to use up my deductible before you’d pay.

Customer Service:  That is out of my department.  Have I answered all your questions satisfactorily?

Me:  No.  May I speak with someone in underwriting?

Customer Service:  No.  Have I answered all your questions?  Would you like to participate in a brief survey to give us valuable feedback about your experience calling our office today?

Me:  No.  Please connect me with your supervisor.

Customer Service:  Certainly, but first, would you like to conveniently pay your premium by phone, using the bank account information in our system, drafted from the account ending in 1234?

Me:  No.  Like I said, I want to talk to someone who can explain my premium increase.

Customer Service:  Please hold while I connect you.

Supervisor:  How can I assist you?  It is our goal to provide excellent customer service.

Me:  That is a wonderful goal.  I hope that you can do that for me.  I am wondering about my recent rate increase because nothing has been paid under my policy.

Supervisor:  Pursuant to HIPPA regulations, I cannot disclose personal information about your health history.

Me:  It is my health history.  You don’t have to tell me about it.  I can tell you that no claims were made or paid.  I don’t smoke or drink much or go out with girls who do.  I’m healthy as a horse.  Why the increase?

Supervisor:  It might not be you at all.  You are in a pool of all other people, some of whom have very poor health, so we have to raise your rates.

Me:  If I had poor health you would not insure me in the first place.  Isn’t that why I had to apply and give you my medical history going way back to when I had my tonsils out 45 years ago?

Supervisor:  Under the new health insurance laws we will not be able to exclude people and we are required to provide coverage for types of benefits that you might have not purchased in the past, such as maternity benefits.

Me:  I’m glad you brought that up.  Please do not charge us for maternity coverage.  We are past that stage of life.

Supervisor:  You must have maternity benefits in your policy.  You have no choice.

Me:  Just because some 92 year old in Paraguay had a baby doesn’t mean we will.  She is in the Guinness Record Book.  Do you charge people even older than us for maternity coverage?  What if we were 70 or 80 years old?

Supervisor:  Then you would be on Medicare.

Me:  I can hardly wait.

Mitigating Scandals By Passing The Buck

A few weeks ago I wrote a few pieces about my pre-campaign for political office, probably the U.S. Senate then, but now I aspire for higher office.  My pre-campaign is like pre-approval for a credit card — it is not yet approved and my campaign is not yet announced.  However, I have been learning a lot by observing the current administration’s approach to what lesser politicians would perceive as criticism.  President Nixon could take lessons from President Obama.

President Nixon thought he had to admit or deny accusations about Watergate.  President Obama is way more cool than that.  He actually jumps on the bandwagon of the accusers.  He embraces the opportunity to empathize with his critics.  He is very upset by what has happened in Benghazi, what has been done by the I.R.S., and what has been done by the F.B.I.  He is appalled, just like the rest of us.

President Nixon was concerned that the famous “buck” which President Truman had said stopped in the Oval Office actually did stop there.  President Obama has a very different viewpoint.

He is unapologetic about not protecting the ambassador killed at our embassy in Libya.  He is appalled that it happened and he is appalled that anyone would blame the State Department or the military or him.  He wasn’t at fault because he did not really know what all was going on that fateful night.  It was his night off.

Apparently, the buck has not stopped at all.  It was no one’s fault, not even terrorists.  The people who attacked the embassy might not have been terrorists as we commonly use the word.  They were terrorists in a very complicated sense of the word “terrorist” that is so complicated that the denial of this tragedy being caused by terrorists for too long was, well, due to a misunderstanding.  It is complicated, like I said.

What I have gotten out of it is that there are real Al Qaeda terrorists, whom President Obama assumed we all were suspecting, when in actuality the terrorists who performed the terrorism at Benghazi were merely wannabe terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda without being official card-carrying members.  It is an important distinction to our president but I’m not smart enough to understand the distinction or why it is important.  Initially we were told that it was a mob upset by a movie.  Then it was a terrorist act by non-terrorists.  Now it is terrorists who are responsible, but not Al Qaeda terrorists — they know better than to do any terrorist acts now that President Obama has Al Qaeda on the run.

President Obama is also appalled by the I.R.S. having targeted conservative groups.  Some might say that was done under his watch, making him responsible.   Those who say that are silly Trumanites who still believe the buck stops with the President of the United States.  This president is appalled just like the rest of us who are not the president.  He is just like us.  He read about it in the papers.  No one told him what was going on.  He is very appalled.  He is not to blame, of course.  He don’t know nuthin’ about it.  Ignorance is bliss, they say.

Well, President Truman did not say that ignorance is bliss.  He said, “The buck stops here.”  He should have said, if only he was not so dang forthright, “I only know what I read in the papers and now that I read what my administration has been doing, I am appalled.”  That is smart politics.    I am catching on to the modern style of leadership.  Accountability is out of style.  Empathy — that is the ticket!

Don’t say that you are sorry for what you have done or not done.  Instead, say that you understand how those of us in the general public “feel” because you feel however they feel.

President Obama and I, a pre-candidate, feel the same.  We feel the same as each other and we feel the same as the general public feels.   We have empathy.  It is easier than leadership because it is reflective and reactive.

President Obama is a lawyer.  So is the Attorney General, Eric Holder.  So am I.  The President, Attorney General and I are all appalled that the F.B.I. violated the privacy of Associated Press reporters.  We all agree that should not have been done.  We did not know and, now that we do know, the three of us are feeling sad even though we are not at fault.   I am under the impression that the F.B.I. is a rogue organization that none of the three of us control.

When I am elected, I too will make it a point to not know about such things.  I would make it my job to not know.  Whoever is in charge of the Justice Department should do something, if we only knew who is in charge.  I used to think the President and the Attorney General were in charge of the Justice Department, including the F.B.I., but it was long ago that I took American Government in high school, Political Science in college, and Constitutional Law in law school.  I was probably absent the day the teachers and professors covered the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

I am not (yet) in the chain of command, but it is comforting to know that if I become Attorney General or President, I will not be to blame for anything as long as I am suitably appalled by what my subordinates did, or failed to do, which I won’t know about until I read it in the papers.  And, to go beyond my mentor, if elected, I pledge to never read newspapers or listen to the news.

I am also practicing my best sincere look with appropriate body language.  In the photo below I am demonstrating my transparency by gesturing with an open hand, indicating my, you know, openness and, I guess, honesty.  Who wouldn’t vote for an honest-looking cowboy who empathizes with how every American feels?


Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day

flags1Today we remember the people who died serving our country.  We also remember those who served our country and died.  We also remember loved ones who have died, whether or not they served in the military.

My father was an Army veteran, who served in World War II.  When he was merely eighteen, a troop ship transported him across the Atlantic Ocean to England.  He later crossed the English Channel to France.  One of his cousins died on a beach in Normandy on D-Day, as described in The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.  Those were brave young men who arrived in France to push back the Nazis.  Dad was in France and Belgium until the surrender of Germany and then was in California, preparing to be sent to the Pacific, when Japan surrendered.  He liked to say that they heard he was coming and gave up.

My father did not die in the war or I would not be here to tell you about him.  When he died in 2003, the military gave him a 21 gun salute, which choked me up.  My mother has the flag that was given to her as part of the ceremony.

On Friday, I attended the funeral of my Russian friend, Slava.  At his funeral, one of the speakers told of how Slava was five years old when he was injured by bombing of Russia in 1942, before America was in the war.  Slava came to the United States with his wife and child after he was a respected physicist in Russia.  He came here for freedom.

Both men loved America.  I miss them both.  I remember them both as honorable men such as countless others whom we honor on this day.

“It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” A.Lincoln

Who Let The Dogs Out?

beaumodelMiss Sugar, as usual, out-did herself.  She made about nine pies, including pecan, sweet potato, and apple pie, more than one of each kind.  Plus, some of the guests contributed to the dessert table.  Sugar made enough side dishes, such as potato salad, Oklahoma caviar (black beans with something good), baked beans with sausage, cole slaw, cornbread, deviled eggs, and corn casserole, to cover a long serving counter.  I think she put out twelve different dishes that she calls “the fixins”  when she invites our guests to enjoy Texas Bar B Que with all the fixins.  She made her special Texas barbeque sauce.  After last year’s party, she chose to not make three bean salad.

kitchenmargbotelloIt was all pretty good, but what folks will likely remember is that I served the pulled pork by expertly dumping it onto their sesame buns.  Although I am generally modest about my accomplishments, for historical accuracy, allow me to point out that I am the one who mowed the lawn and I am the one who put the chairs and tables out on the lawn.  (I would also claim credit for putting up the open tent canopy thing for shade, but, to be fully truthful, I must report that Sugar showed me how to do it and then when it blew over, helped me raise it again.  Then Mitch fixed it right.  He also set up the stakes for horseshoes and provided the horseshoes.)

Oh, and another thing, before the festivities commenced, I put the dogs in a stall in the barn because, for reasons that should be obvious and will become more obvious, they were not invited to the party, especially the aspect of the party involving food.

We had over 50 attendees during the course of the afternoon.  A good time was had by all, it seemed, young (a nine day old baby pictured with Sugar and his father) and older.  Baby Colton is the only person whose age will be specified.

Coltonyoung and oldbentonamigorodneylolly and gingerLuckyDL Roberts

We even had live music provided by four talented musicians.

Alexis and StevePatrick and Jennifer

My father-in-law, Bob the Barkeep, served the adult beverages in addition to Miss Sugar’s sweet tea and her friend Jeanie’s lemonade.


The weather was perfect.  That and the beautiful scenery was provided by God.

I said above that a good time was had by all.  That was true until Beau, our exuberant Yellow Lab, joined the party.

Some folks visited Beau and Sadie while they were imprisoned in the barn.  Miss Sugar was begged to let them out.  After all, most everyone was finished eating and were just listening to the musicians.  Yellow Labs are inherently “party animals.”  Miss Sugar succumbed to the pleas.  Free Beau and Sadie!  Free Beau and Sadie!  So she did.

Later, the story was told to me that as soon as Beau emerged from the barn, the cowboy hat of our friend, Mitch, blew off his head.  (I know I said we had perfect weather.  Really, we pretty much did.)


So I was sitting under the canopy with other guests, enjoying the performance on the back deck serving as an elevated stage, when Beau came running up to me with a hat in his mouth.  Apparently, Mitch’s hat looks enough like mine that Beau confused it for mine and helpfully brought it to me.

Al HatAs you can see, our hats are similar.

Perhaps as you read this you are thinking that Beau is a wonderful animal.  Of course, if you read other posts such as Doggone Bad Dog Gone,, or The Usual Suspect,, or Jail Bird Dog,, you can surmise where this is going.

Okay, you do not have to surmise where this is going.  I will tell you what happened next.  Next, one of our neighbors who was at the party came over to where I was sitting, enjoying the performance, as I said, and told me to “Come quick.”  So I did.

Outside of the courtyard area, I saw a woman laying on the ground.  Just moments before, this very same nice lady had thanked me for inviting her and her husband, and then left to go to their car.  We offer plenty of free parking, but we do not provide a parking valet.  She probably had a good time at the party until Beau came running after Mitch’s hat and, in the process, knocked her down.  She was easy to knock down because she already had one leg in a “walking cast.”  So really she just had the one good leg, the one that Beau clipped, sending her into the gravel on the lane.  Poor lady!  Bad dog!

We hope she will recover soon.  We haven’t heard how she is doing since her husband took her home.

Mitch’s hat is somewhat the worse for wear, thanks to Beau.  We are praying that the lady’s leg comes out of her contact with Beau better than the hat did.

Sunset, Sunrise


The world turns.  The sun sets and rises and sets and rises.

Each day there are tragedies and there are victories.

There are births and there are deaths.

There is happiness and sadness and emotions in between.

Every day.

Two days ago the world was aghast at the devastation and the deaths caused by the tornadoes in Oklahoma.  I felt very sad watching the news about the destruction.  I was horrified that two elementary schools were leveled.  Those poor children!

Yesterday, I called the home number of a friend to see if he and his wife were coming to our John Wayne party on Saturday, as I had not gotten a response to the e-vite that we sent to them.

The wife answered.  I cheerfully asked her, like we often do in starting a conversation, how she was doing.

The usual response is something like, “Fine.  How are you?”

She was not fine.  She told me that her husband “died last night.”

While people died in the tornado in Oklahoma, he died in Colorado, of cancer.  He had told me that he was doing chemotherapy.  A few weeks ago, in our last phone conversation, he said it would be completed in three more sessions and we could get together in May when he would have more energy.

While my wife and I prepared for a party, my friend was breathing his final breaths.

His daughter got on the phone.  She had flown in from New York City, where she is attending graduate school.  She had been with her parents for the past week, for the last week with her father.  She told me the services will be Friday.  She asked me to say a few words.  Of course, I am willing to do so.  I want to show my respect.  I want to honor her father’s memory.

I will go to the funeral on Friday, which is my birthday.

On Saturday we will have our annual John Wayne Party at the ranch.  The party that my friend attended in other years.

“There is a time to be born and a time to die…  A time to mourn and a time to dance… A time to weep and a time to laugh….”  Ecclesiastes 3.

Life goes on as we each feel different emotions in ever-changing moments when the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Who is with us in all those experiences.

Miss Sugar’s Lemonade

The car accident was two years ago this week.

It seems like yesterday that I drove up to the scene on the highway and saw the flashing lights of two ambulances and the State Patrol car amongst the three smashed vehicles.

I had gotten there as quickly as I could after my wife called me at the law office.

She said, “Mom and I were in a bad accident by the lumberyard.  Please come.”

So, of course, I left immediately.  I did not know what to expect.  I prayed as I drove.

When I arrived at the scene, traffic was backed up.  I went around the line of cars, driving past the State Patrolman directing traffic and parked on the side of the road right by the ambulance, as if my pickup was an emergency vehicle too.

Karen (aka Miss Sugar) was on the gurney and was being lifted into the ambulance.  She saw me and reached out her left hand.  I naturally gave it a reassuring squeeze.  She grimaced in pain and pulled it away.  (We learned in ER that she had fractured a bone in that hand).  Blood was running from her broken nose.

She said, “We are still having the party on Saturday.  Don’t cancel it.”

The accident was on Monday, May 23rd.  The party was to be Saturday, May 28th.  We had invited dozens of people for our annual John Wayne Birthday Party since the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1907.  This would be our fifth John Wayne Party.  Sugar works for weeks getting ready, baking pies and making side dishes that can be frozen.  On the day of the party we serve Texas-style Bar B Que with all the fixins.  She did not want to cancel.

I don’t recall what I said.  Something non-responsive to her order about the party.  Something like, “I love you.”

After they put Sugar in one ambulance, I went over to our car.  My mother-in-law, Ginger, was still in there because the passenger door was jammed shut.  The emergency personnel used a crowbar to open that door.   The crowbar damaged the paint job.  That’s a joke.  The car was clearly unrepairable.  The hood was so smashed that if I did not know better, I would have expected the accident was fatal.


Ginger said that she couldn’t breathe.  The airbags had deployed, leaving a gunpowder smell.  I suspect that it was the driver seat airbag that broke Sugar’s nose.


The accident occurred because a northbound car crossed the center line on a curve and struck the southbound car that was immediately ahead of our car.  That first collision caused the northbound vehicle to spin into the front of our car, resulting in the head-on collision.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital.  In the ER, I alternated between Sugar and her mother.

The fifth metacarpal in Sugar’s left hand had suffered a spiral fracture, known as a “boxer’s fracture.”  Her hand was swollen and painful.  She also sprained her neck and tore the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

Sugar was treated and released from the ER.  Her mother was admitted to the hospital, but she got out on Friday, in time for Saturday’s party.

Yes, we still had the party, as Sugar insisted.  She wore a neck brace, soft cast on her hand, and limped.  She had to sit down a lot.  She was a brave and stubborn hostess.

But now let’s think about me.  Just because I wasn’t injured, I had to serve the barbeque sandwiches and even help clean-up.  I think that there were 60 or so attendees.  That’s a lot of work for someone as inept as me.  In truth, we had good help from many kind souls, including Karen’s father.  Her mother was no help at all.  She did not attend.  Eventually she had back surgery.  Party-pooper!


Back to the title about lemonade.  We did serve lemonade, as well as sweet tea and adult beverages, but that is not what the title is about.  It is about the old phrase, “When life serves you lemons, make lemonade.”

After about six weeks, the broken bone healed and Sugar started physical therapy.  Despite all that, her left little finger stuck out at an angle like a Star Trek greeting from Mr. Spock. Sugar is a very high energy, positive, and creative person. She is an artist and musician.  She had won a piano scholarship in her younger years, but she did not play the guitar.

As a way of making lemonade, Sugar decided to take guitar lessons so as to force herself to strengthen that broken left hand and to use that disfigured finger by forcing it to hold down strings.

Now she is a pretty good guitarist.  Surprise!  Surprise!

Another plus is that she can use that left hand dexterity for plumbing tasks, a reference to my prior post called Do-It-Herself Plumbing.

neck brace (2)

Do-It-Herself Plumbing

rainbow bunkMy wife, Miss Sugar, descended from a line of plumbers.  Her Italian grandfather was a plumber in New Jersey.  He taught the trade to her father, who moved to Texas to not be a plumber.

Yesterday, we turned on the water in the bunkhouse, which had been winterized until then.  The pipe behind the shower leaked.  So I called a plumber.  We have company coming in a few days and the bunkhouse is our guesthouse.

The plumber was booked until Monday.  (This occurred on Friday.)  So I called another plumber.  He could come Monday afternoon.  So I called the first guy back and scheduled for Monday morning.  That might work because our guests arrive on Tuesday.

However, Miss Sugar is not one to wait.

I was in Denver most of the day.  As a lawyer, I frequently go there for cases.  This was my second day this week that I had to go there.  Denver is about 80 miles from our ranch.

I did not get home until 7:00 p.m.  During those hours when I was away, Miss Sugar turned off the water in the bunkhouse, which involves laying on the floor by the toilet and reaching back behind the shower to the “gate valve” where water comes into the building, or not (if turned off for the winter), removed the brass elbow joint that was leaking, drove to a hardware store twenty miles away, and got a “shark bite adapter” to connect flexible plastic pipe to the brass elbow joint.  She also got plumber’s tape and plumber’s putty to seal the connection between the pipe and the joint behind the shower.  On the first trip, she did not get all the parts she needed because the handyman who made the shower connection last fall did not use the same pipe threads, so she had to make a second trip in order to get universal threads.







While waiting for the plumber’s putty to dry, Sugar used her spare time to create a mosaic around the base of the toilet, which is not something that I had planned to do.  I suspect that if we hired a plumber, the mosaic would not have been included.

By the time I got home, Sugar was finished with her complicated plumbing tasks and with the mosaic artwork.  I was no help at all.  Well, maybe I helped by being in Denver, out of her way.

So this morning, Sugar asked me to check the bunkhouse to see if it was leaking behind the shower anymore.  It was not.  Success!

Sugar is a real good handyman — for a girl.  Supergirl!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhorse and dallas days

Multi-Tasking — A Dog For All Seasons

Beau hat


I have heard that Rat Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers are very efficient at killing rats.  They don’t stop to eat them.  They break the neck of a rat by shaking it and then move on.  They don’t have to be taught to perform such a task.  It is in the DNA of such breeds.

Beau is a Yellow Labrador Retriever.  His lineage is bred to retrieve birds that have been shot by hunters who do not want to look in the brush for birds or swim out for birds that land in water.   They are supposed to gently carry the birds in their soft mouths.

Recently I wrote about herding dogs and Beau’s interest in being a cow dog despite a lack of encouragement from my wife, Miss Sugar.

Today he ventured into the line of work for which terriers are genetically programmed.  My that Beau is a dog with many interests!

Miss Sugar noticed that Beau was carrying something in his gentle mouth.  It was not a bird.  It was furry.  It was a bunny rabbit.  It was alive.  Beau had made a new friend.  Or not.  Sugar called to Beau.  He looked right at her and shook the bunny, which caused it to cross this vale of tears into bunny heaven.  Apparently, Beau watched a program about Rat Terriers on the Animal Planet TV channel and learned the technique.

Shortly after that alarming display of terrier skills, Sugar saw that Beau had captured another young rabbit.  Again, Sugar did not approve.  She commanded that he drop it.  (He does drop balls that he has retrieved so he knows the word.)  To her amazement, Beau dropped this second bunny.  He dropped it without first shaking it.  As a result, it actually hopped away.  What a good dog!

When I came home and Sugar relayed the stories of the two bunnies, which stories had opposite endings, I looked out on the deck.  Sadie was laying there.  Beau was laying there.  Next to Beau, laying very, very still, was a little bunny.  I got a shovel, planning to be the undertaker.

You see where this is going, gentle readers.  You are thinking that this bunny had passed away like his peer did earlier in the day.   Beau picked up his bunny when I opened the door and went down the steps from the deck to the ground.  Miss Sugar brought out a treat.    Sugar told me to get the bunny as Beau came over for his treat, but I did not.

I did not scoop up the bunny because when Beau dropped it in order to get Sugar’s treat, it hopped away to the woodpile from whence it likely came.

Maybe Beau isn’t cut out to be a good terrier.


Suggestions From A Searcher — Part Twelve

This is the twelfth section of Suggestions From A Searcher.  It is about the paradox of freedom through structure by persevering in daily disciplines.

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