Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

Beau Makes Friends, Or Not


Those readers who have read this blog for awhile are familiar with a certain Yellow Labrador Retriever named Beau because he has been the subject of many posts.  Here we go again.

Today, Sugar pointed out to me a sight she saw while looking out the dining room window.  The sight she shared with me was a view of Beau making friends with two horses who are already friends.  It reminded me of the old saying, “Two is company; three is a crowd.” 

Beau was obviously the “odd man out.”  He does not look like the horses and they noticed that.  You will notice too in the photo above.  

One of the horses was laying down, taking a nap in the sun, I guess.  The other was standing guard, a frequent phenomenom among livestock who are herd animals.  Well, this guard did not do an adequate job.  He allowed Beau to bother the other gelding.  The photo shows just one instant.  I can report that Beau stayed on the task of bothering the two geldings for over fifteen minutes.  He could not take the hint that he was not welcome. 

Should we attribute his cluelessness to supreme confidence or to lack of sensitivity about the feelings of others or does he just enjoy ticking off everyone in his life? 

War of the Winds

Shootin' the Breeze

War of the Winds
The flames fascinate,
Bringing comfort
As I contemplate,
Staring at the fire.
Winds rudely attack
My reverie,
By a chilly draft
Tresspassing inside.
Noisy blowing cold,
Being too bold
Invading our home.
Logs and chinking
And metal roof
Try protecting
Us from this weather.
Some windows rattle.
Walls are shaking.
It’s a battle,
Testing our shelter.
Like evil v. good,
Hostile forces
War with the wood
In our fiery stove.
Burning wood’s heat
Challenges wind
As they compete
On temperature.
The brave cabin
Resists the force
As we stay in —
Safe from blowing rage.
With loud gales outside,
My wife hugs me,
Snuggling by my side.
I don’t mind the wind.

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I have never admired tattletales, but some things are serious enough to warrant reporting to the proper authorities.  Today I realized that I am obligated under federal law to report my boss, Miss Sugar, to the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) folks.

This morning, as I put out hay for the horses, the wind blew some pieces of hay into my left eye. Very painful! It could have been prevented. I have not researched the OSHA regulations as they apply to feeding livestock on rural properties, but I expect that my boss, Miss Sugar, is obligated to provide me with safety goggles.  Since she did not, I had to make the call. I regret that it has come to this.

I do not know the number for OSHA, but I have the White House on speed-dial. I am confident that President Obama will be very disappointed in Sugar and will use the power of the federal government to impose sanctions on her. There can be no mercy on people like her who exploit farm workers such as myself.

Fortunately for Sugar, the White House switchboard is closed today for Presidents Day. The Wage and Hours Department is closed today too. Sugar has a brief reprieve. She better use today to make the necessary corrections. I do not believe that spousal immunity applies.


Karma on a Romantic Stroll

We went to church in the pick-up truck so that I could get some hay on the way home. 

Sugar brought her gym bag.  She said that I could drop her off at the gym while I was getting the hay.  Then after church, she changed her mind, as is her right and privilege. 

Sugar said, “Don’t take me to the gym.  It is such a nice day, let’s go for a walk when we get home.”  Where we live, on a ranch, there are many beautiful places to hike without seeing another soul.  (See the About page for a link to photos of the ranch taken by Sugar.)

So when we got home the wind was blowing so hard that we mutually agreed that it would not be pleasant to go for a walk.

Then, an hour or two later, it was still just as windy, yet Sugar determined that we should go for a walk anyway.  So I agreed to go with her (because I have learned it is wise to be compliant).

The dogs were happy to accompany us.  We walked along the river, hoping the trees would block the wind.  They did not.  The dogs ran into the mud and water because they are Labrador Retrievers and that is how they have fun.

Sugar was looking for the owl WHOm (get it?) we have been hearing hoot in the early morning hours.  The wise old owl was staying out of the wind. 

We climbed down into a little area where a rock ledge has caves.  We believe they are coyote dens because there are bones and fur by the openings.  The rocks did not protect us from the wind either. 

As we climbed out to get back up to the path, Sugar suggested that we gather some dead branches for firewood, which, in compliance, I did.  With my arms full of wood, I tripped on a rock or branch, and a normal human being would likely have fallen; however, by a miracle of balance, despite my bum knees, I regained my footing and continued climbing up the steep hillside.

Sugar noticed and felt the need to comment.  She said, “I was thinking that if you fell I would not be able to carry you out, but I would bring you some food every couple of days.” She laughed and laughed.

God has a similar sense of humor. God noticed what Sugar said and decided to teach her a lesson about compassion.  Sugar fell flat on her face.  She banged her shin on a branch and almost struck her teeth on a rock.  She laid there for awhile.  I politely and sincerely inquired about her health.  She told me that she was hurt.

All together now, let us all say what you know I said.  “I will bring you food every couple of days!”  It was really funny.  You should have been there.

Sugar did get up after awhile, gathered her wood, and we limped home.  We would have held hands, but our arms were full of dead branches.

I Got It Wrong

The following won’t make sense unless you read yesterday’s post.

Sugar told me that it is not being the best Mark you can be; it is being the Mark that you want to be.  The Mark that Mark wants to be is thinner than the Mark he was. 

“Oh,” I said, “the Mark you want to be might not be the best Mark you can be.  You might want to be a more relaxed Mark.”

“It is not about Mark.  You are supposed to substitute your own name,” Sugar said with that instructional tone she uses as a teacher.

“Okay.  Well, the Al I want to be plays with Peyton Manning.”

“That is delusional.  Pick another Al you want to be.”

This is too confusing.  I will give Peyton a call and ask whether he is being the best Peyton that he can be or simply the Peyton that he wants to be. I think they are the same. 

Being the Best He Can Be

So, like I said yesterday, Sugar and I went with another couple to eat at a nice restaurant on Valentine’s Day.  It was a Brazilian steakhouse.  They had a special for only $110.00 per couple.  I made sure that I got my money’s worth.  It is easy to get enough to eat because these servers called “gauchos” bring skewers of various meats to the table.  They keep coming until a diner says “uncle” by turning over the wooden thing on the table from green to red, signifying stop.

While gorging ourselves, the subject of weight came up.  Mark’s wife told us proudly that Mark had lost nearly 50 lbs. in two years.  We asked how he did it.  I asked just to be polite because, as those of you who are loyal readers already know, I am the perfect size for an NFL linebacker.  Being the perfect size means that losing weight could jeopardize my NFL career, so I diligently work to keep my weight up. 

Mark, on the other hand, was a high school wrestler, and had experience “making weight.”  I helpfully told him that he should have just wrestled at whatever weight he was at the time.  I told him about my cousin Bob, who used to be a wrestling coach and did not push his wrestlers to lose weight.  I don’t know why that is so rare.

Anyway, Mark has not wrestled for a few decades, so his attempt to lose weight in recent years was for another reason.  I suppose it was healthy.  It might have been for vanity.  I do not relate to either of those reasons to lose weight, but to be polite I listened to his explanation.

In a nutshell, he said he had read some article in a magazine that inspired him because it was not about dieting but, rather, what he took from it was “to be the best Mark that he could be.”  He got the magazine in Boulder, Colorado, which means it is obviously some kind of liberal peace and love, I’m okay, you’re okay, I’d like to teach the world to sing publication.  Personally, I look to Mike Ditka for advice on how to live.

Anyway, it worked for Mark to each day ask himself what he should do to be the best Mark he could be.  Apparently, the best Mark he could be is lighter than the earlier version of Mark. 

Sugar was impressed.  She made some crack about my bum knees and how putting less weight on them would be a good idea.  I listened attentively and ordered flaun covered with caramel for dessert. 

Today she wondered if I got anything out of the inspirational message from Mark.  I told her that I did indeed and I am being the best Mark that I can be.  I decided that Mark won’t make it in the NFL unless he puts on about 50 lbs, so I am eating accordingly. 

“But, Al,” Sugar said with frustration, “you missed the whole point.  You are supposed to be the best Al that you can be, not the best Mark.”

“Oh, why didn’t he say so?  Please pass the sugar, Sugar.” 

“All my coaches, without exception, told me that I was already the best that I could be. I don’t really consider myself perfect, but apparently they all did.”

“They did not tell you that you are perfect.” Sugar was skeptical. Even negative.

“Well, maybe not using that word. How would the other, less talented, players feel, hearing that? They said, ‘Al, we are not seeing any improvement whatsoever!'”

Thanks, Coach. I know! It is just the way I am — can’t get any better!

Valentine’s Day


Sugar and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day.  I know what you are thinking — how unoriginal!  Yeah, I suppose Groundhog Day would have been more unique, but I am part of The General Public, and many of us in The General Public think it is romantic to propose on Valentine’s Day.

It is also a convenient way to remember the day of engagement for those who mark anniversaries of important events.  If we had gotten engaged on Super Bowl Sunday, for example, it would be difficult to keep track of the specific date, since the NFL has changed it over the years.  The Super Bowl used to be in January.  So if we had gotten engaged on a Sunday in January for the Super Bowl, the date would not always fall on a Sunday and if I waited for the Super Bowl in February to recognize the anniversary of our engagement, I would be sorely tardy and that ain’t good.  So, my advice to single men is to get engaged on Valentine’s Day.  It worked for me.

Sugar said “Yes” when I proposed.  That made me very happy and I am still happy.

I asked her to go out to dinner with me tonight and she said “Yes” again.  However, this year we are going on a double-date with another couple.  I don’t recommend proposing on a double-date, but when a couple is married, it is acceptable to go out with another couple on Valentine’s Day.  At least I hope it is.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Our wedding anniversary is in October.  We got married on a Saturday, but the date does not always fall on a Saturday, so I have to remember a specific date that is not advertised throughout America.  We should have gotten married on Christmas because it always is December 25th and is well advertised.  But I couldn’t wait any longer to marry Sugar, so I just have to remember on my own, which I do.

I will never forget that day.  I was very happy and I am still happy. 

Now here is some advice to younger men contemplating marriage. Don’t get married because you want a wife who will make you happy. If you are fortunate enough to find a woman whom you truly love, marry her to make her happy. If you are each unselfish, you will make each other happy. That is not an idea I invented. It is simply the truth as experienced by many devoted couples.

That’s what I had in mind when I said “I do.”



Beau Shares Breakfast


Michelle is a world traveler.  She recently returned from four months in Nepal, where she climbed to base camp for Mount Everest and stayed to volunteer at a monastery, teaching English.  She lived with a Nepali family.  I think eight people slept in one room.  The bathroom facilities consist of a hole in the floor and cold water.  She has experienced many diverse cultures, having traveled to foreign lands around the globe, including South America, Central America, Europe,Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and even California.

Last week, she came to our ranch in Colorado to visit for a few days of hardship.  It was below zero the whole time.  Plus, our internet is slow.

Sugar cooked a good breakfast on the first morning of Michelle’s visit.  Sadly, Michelle, the world traveler, is not equipped to cope with the rigors of our kitchen.  She made a cultural mistake.  She failed to adequately guard her plate when she briefly turned her attention elsewhere, foolishly abandoning her post at the kitchen counter in order to get juice from the refrigerator. It was a rookie move. She paid the price. She needs to learn to be quick.

“Mom,” (that is what Michelle calls Sugar, who is presumed to be Michelle’s biological mother pending the results of DNA testing),she cried out with frustration, “Beau ate my breakfast.  He is the worst-behaved dog in the world.”  Remember, Michelle has been around the world, so she is qualified to express her opinion in that matter, and she is likely very correct.

Beau enjoyed Michelle’s visit.  She was an easy target.  On her previous visit, Beau stole one of her shoes. When recovered, it was slightly damaged, or so Michelle claimed. Even though Michelle has an Ivy League degree from Columbia University in New York City, to Beau, she is not as smart as him.  He took it upon himself to train her to be more aware of her surroundings.  He wants her to be on guard, as any world traveler needs to be. 

Michelle returned to New York City and is planning to go back to Nepal if she gets a Fulbright grant.  In Nepal, they have some wild monkeys, and, in comparison, the monkeys are better behaved than Beau, Michelle opines.  I do not doubt that, but can the monkeys swim in the river and fetch as well as labrador retrievers can?



Throughout history, in every culture, loyalty is a quality that is admired.

 Loyalty to one’s country is called patriotism.  Disloyalty is called treason and carries the death penalty.

There are people who are loyal to their religious faith, some enduring torture or even death.  We call them martyrs.  Judas, on the other hand, is infamous for betraying Jesus Christ.  (Peter denied Him three times, then repented and turned out to be loyal.)

Married people vow to be faithful to their spouses for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live.  Unfaithfulness is called adultery.  It is not admired.

Even in the Mafia, Hell’s Angels, and street gangs, loyalty, although misplaced, is expected and valued.  Disloyalty has grave consequences.

In childhood friendships, as with friendships throughout life, it hurts when someone thought to be a friend talks bad behind one’s back.  That is disloyal.  On the other hand, Westerns give us the phrase, “I’ve got your back.”  That means protection.  In contrast, shooting someone in the back is not admired.  That is cowardly and low.

There are loyal fans for sports teams.  There is school spirit.  There is loyalty to teammates.  Throwing a game or fight spoils what should be competitive fair play.  Cheating ruins sportsmanship. 

 Loyalty to the tribe came before the existence of nation-states.  Loyalty to family existed before that even.

 There are people in prison who are visited by family members.  The family might be ashamed of the crimes, but do not stop loving their parents, siblings, children, etc. whom they support through the tough period of imprisonment.  I suppose that is unconditional love.

 We see close families in many TV shows and holiday specials.  Think Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, It’s a Wonderful Life, Father Knows Best, and Leave it to Beaver. 

When a person’s family is not like that, but instead is disloyal, it is extra hard to take.  One thinks, “What is wrong with me that my family does not love me enough to be loyal to me?”

Children should be protected by parents and family.  When they are abused by those who should protect them, we are appalled.  That goes against nature.  That is taboo. Everywhere.  That is a type of disloyalty to those innocents to whom we owe a duty to protect.

Parents and grandparents should be treated with respect.  There is a commandment about that – Honor your father and mother.

When old folks in nursing homes are never or seldom visited by family, it is very sad.  The family is being disloyal.

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  It is tough to do, but it is important.  Nothing is more important except loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you do that, how can you not love your family, tribe, school, team, country?


Prayer might not change the person you are praying for, but it changes you so that you start to see these imperfect people as God does.

Beyond Customer Service

Sugar makes friends wherever she goes.  One of the places she goes is to a local, family-owned pharmacy. 

The pharmacy was started by a husband and wife, Charles and Sylvia.  Charles was a pharmacist.  Two children, Berni and Barbara, followed in his footsteps and also became pharmacists who work in the family business.  Sylvia runs the cash register and the store pretty much.  She has a cute German accent.  She runs a tight ship. 

Charles died a year or two ago after a tragic medical problem left him incapacitated for several years.  Sylvia misses him greatly.  So do his adult children, of course.

When Sugar goes into the store to pick up a prescription, she might stay for a half hour.  She visits with Sylvia, Berni and Barb.  They let her hang artwork on a wall by the front door.  Sugar has some local artists in a rotation.

Yesterday, Sugar went in to pick up a prescription while I waited in the car — for half an hour.  When Sugar came out, she told me something extraordinary. 

She said to me that Sylvia, who is aware of some difficult issues that Sugar has been dealing with, told Sugar that she has been praying for her and that she fasted for two days as she prayed earnestly and constantly for Sugar.  Wow!

People often say, when they hear of an illness or death of a loved one, that you are in their thoughts and prayers.  That is nice.  It is probably true.

No one has ever told me that they were fasting and praying for two days — for me. 

Sugar was obviously touched.  The word “amazing” is overused.  This act of intercessory prayer for Sugar by Sylvia was indeed amazing. 

There is a song with lyrics that include:  “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know that we are Christians by our love.”

  Sylvia is a powerful prayer warrior.  Sugar had kind of a break-through yesterday.

To God be the glory, but I give Sylvia some credit too.  She knew Who has the correct prescription.

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