Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “Texas”


Beau’s trip to E.R., described in my prior post, reminded me of another Yellow Lab’s experience at a summer party.

Shootin' the Breeze

              It was high noon.  Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, was fussing in the kitchen when she hollered, “Big Bronc, they’re coming!  Lots of ‘em.  You better be ready.  I’m gittin plumb nervous.”

           Soon they commenced to coming up our lane to the ranch house.  Dozens of folks arrived in waves.  We was surrounded.  

            Me and Texas Bob took our stations, him by the cantina, me peeking out from inside the house.  We was ready, providin’ there warn’t too many of ‘em.  I lost count at 65.  That seemed about right for me and the little woman and Texas Bob.

            Also, Texas Bob had brung a woman with him, as was his way.  She was a spunky redhead, a fancy dresser, name of Ginger.  I’d seen her before.  Once down in Fort Worth Stockyards, at the Cattlemen’s Club, Bob and Ginger was there with me and Sugar and…

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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

The title to this post is a famous quote from Cool Hand Luke.  It was said by the warden.  He was not referring to language differences.  I am. 

We have a rental property which was, as I have written recently, damaged by pot-growing tenants.  As a consequence, we made an insurance claim.  The adjuster sent us a check.  The check is payable to my wife and me, of course, as we are the policyholders.  However, the house has a mortgage, so another payee is on the check — the mortgage company, as “an additional insured.”  Therefore, that third payee has to endorse the check for it to do us any good.  

Now, if the mortgage was held by a local bank, as is the mortgage on the ranch, we could go to the bank and have an authorized officer of the bank endorse the check in order for us to have the money for the agreed repairs.  Sadly, our mortgage on the rental house was sold to a lender we do not know, which is headquartered in another state, and which, obviously, is staffed by persons for whom English is not their primary language.  Apparently, the customer service department has been out-sourced to another continent.  I whispered to Miss Sugar, “This gal ain’t from around these parts.”

Before the politically correct amongst us attack me for a failure to value diversity, allow me to point out that the purpose of a customer service department is to, well, serve customers.  When the service is performed by the telephone, it is valuable to speak the same language.  I don’t mind (most) accents.  I even kinda prefer Southern accents, based on having married a Texas bride.  I can understand Boston, New York, and Joisey accents.  I can understand the Fargo accent in the movie of that name.  I usually understand those who speak English with a Spanish accent.  I cannot identify the accent of the lady who was in our mortgage company’s service department, which is why I truly believe that she is presently in another continent, not that she came from a faraway land and culture, but she is clearly still there, yet has been hired to help, via telephone, customers in America, 

Miss Sugar took the phone and sweetly tried to obtain the address where we were to send the insurance check for endorsement and to inquire about the process and whether it may be expedited.  The two ladies talked for several minutes.  Sugar tried to write information on a sheet of paper.  I noticed that Sugar repeated herself a lot.  Poor Sugar, the mortgage lady does not speak Texan.  I doubt she understood, “Ah preciate y’all’s hep.” 

Sugar endeavored to repeat the spelling of the street name; however, to do so, it is vital that the letters of the alphabet be mutually understood. 

We have some information.  It is not entirely reliable.  I am not clear on whether the check is to go to Ohio or Iowa.  Miss Sugar cannot say for certain; i.e. “shuh.” 

Maybe we should just put Pakistan on the envelope and hope it gets to the proper person in Customer Service. 

Lost and Found

Apache and me

When Sugar was 13 years old, living in Texas, she got a yearling Appaloosa gelding which she named Apache.

She trained Apache and competed in barrel racing at local rodeos.  She used him when she was a rodeo queen contestant and rode in parades.  She taught him tricks — bowing, counting, smiling and more.  She taught him to come when called by name.  (This literary technique is called foreshadowing).

It was sad for Sugar to sell Apache when she was a freshman in college, but it was not practical to take Apache to school with her.  Apache was four or five years old by then I calculate.

Years later, maybe six, when Sugar was out of college, she and her father drove past a place in Texas and she noticed an Appaloosa horse in the pasture.  She told her Dad that she thought it was Apache.  He doubted it, but stopped nevertheless.

Sugar got out of the car and walked to the fence.  The horse was quite far from the fence.  She called Apache by name, the way she had trained him to come, and he came running to the fence to greet her.  (Remember the foreshadowing?) It was like a Disney movie.

Apache looked the worse for wear.  His ribs showed.  He no longer looked like the athlete he had formerly been.

Sugar and her father went to the house and offered to buy the horse.  The owner agreed to sell him for $200.00.  He commented that the dang horse kept getting out.  Sugar knew better than to say it, but she thought, “He is trying to get out to get something to eat.”

There was no doubt the horse was indeed Apache.

When Sugar moved to Colorado from Texas, she brought Apache.

During the summers, when off duty from teaching school, Sugar gave horse-back riding lessons to children, accompanied by a little red-headed girl who called her “Mom.”  Sugar and Apache (and Michelle) taught dozens of kids to ride each summer, teaching approximately three or four lessons a day, maybe eighteen lessons a week, for several summers.

Apache lived to be 32.  Probably 150 or more children, now adults, remember learning to ride a horse named Apache.

Apache is in heaven now.  No doubt about it.

Denver’s Got Talent

  (click to enlarge and view slideshow)

In her spare time, Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, makes jewelry.  We just got back from an event in Denver called 16th Street Fair.  It featured various vendors in tents on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.

On the 16th Street Mall, there are two or three pianos spaced a block apart, outside so anyone can play them.  Our booth was right by one of the pianos.During the day, we were entertained by four pianists — Phillip, Billie, Michael and Franco.  Each was very talented.  Each had an interesting story.  We made friends.

Phillip told us that he is homeless.  He smiled a lot.  He has a quick wit.  For instance, when Billie and Michael were sitting on the bench together and playing a duet, Phillip quipped, “Ebony and Ivory.”  Sugar gave him a rattlesnake bracelet.  He was very grateful.

They had a plastic cup on top of the painted piano, weighted down with a rock, into which passersby occasionally put in tips.  They shared the same tip cup.  They did not keep track of who was playing when a particular tip came in.  They would wait until there was enough money, then someone would go get cigarettes to share.  Other times, they divided the money.  Phillip had a good day on Friday.  He said he went to McDonald’s three times.

We learned that Billie is from Texas, like Sugar.  It turns out that they graduated from the same university, where he got a Masters degree in Jazz Performance.  Billie said his cousin wrote “Amarillo By Morning,”  a George Strait hit.  He played with Chris LeDoux.  He also told us that he spent time in prison.  He was in prison when his wife died.  He too is homeless.  He told me he likes to sleep in the woods.  He was drinking out of a brown paper bag.  He started singing louder and his speech got more slurred as the day progressed.

Franco did not say whether he was homeless, and, of course, we did not ask.  (Billie and Phillip had volunteered that information.)  Franco  told me about his artistic inspirations.  He is not just a musician, he said.  He also paints, he said.  He told me that he is very particular about his appearance.  He carries a hand-mirror in his bag.  I know that because when Sugar gave him a manly pendant of rough turquoise, although grateful, after looking at it in the mirror, he explained that he could not wear it with the outfit he had on and hoped that would not hurt her feelings.  He said he liked it and might hang it on something.  Then he asked if she would replace the chain with a leather string, which she did.  She had four choices of colors of leather.  It was a big decision for Franco.

Michael was a newcomer.  He did not know the other guys.  His hair was in neat cornrows and he was wearing a nice Hawaiian shirt.  He just stopped to listen to them play.  Phillip asked Michael whether he played and if he wanted a turn.  He did.

Michael played classical music like a concert pianist.  He told us he had tried out for X Factor when the show was in Denver recently, but they would not let him play the piano.  They wanted him to sing instead.  He was disappointed that he did not make it.

Sugar guessed that Michael had been playing from a young age.  He told us that when he was born, his hands were deformed.  His mother started him on piano lessons when he was only three.  She thought it would help straighten out his hands and give him dexterity.  It did.

The second day, Saturday, Phillip was the first to arrive.  He was happy.  It had rained Friday night but he was not sleeping in the rain.  He had called a buddy who has a place, told his buddy that he had money from tips and would buy him a couple beers if he could crash at his place.

Billie was not there on Saturday morning but  Michael came back.  Apparently he had fun the day before because he brought a friend, a young woman, and they were later joined by another young woman who had a guitar and also sang.  She had a beautiful alto voice.  They had met at X Factor try-outs.  They sang some gospel songs.  Michael told us that he plays at his church.  I don’t think that he is homeless.  The woman with the guitar told us that she had moved to Denver just weeks ago.  She came from Newport News, Virginia.  I commented that Michael Vick is from there.  She said, “Yeah, but I don’t like what he did to those dogs.”

Franco did not arrive until late in the afternoon on Saturday.  He patiently waited for a turn to play the piano.  Billie never showed up on Saturday.

I am glad that Denver has pianos outside on 16th Street.  I appreciated the talent of the entertainers.  Sugar and I made some new friends.  Phillip asked when we might be coming back for another show.  Sugar told him there is one in August that we might come to.  He shook my hand.  Sugar hugged him.  It was sad to say goodbye after spending two days together, laughing and joking around.

At the end of the day, Michael told Sugar that he made $30.  The lady with the booth next to us said that he earned it.  She said the folks who just hold up cardboard signs bother her.

If I was homeless, I would probably have to just hold a sign.  I am not  a musician.  However, I can juggle three tennis balls, a little trick I picked up in my youth as I spent many hours at tennis courts waiting for matches.   Sugar, on the other hand, could be a street entertainer.  She can sing and play piano — the signs of a misspent youth, and now she is learning guitar.  She can do face-painting and make balloon animals too.  I would have to depend on her many skills if we needed tips to buy food.  We could buy more food by not buying cigarettes and booze.

On our way home, Sugar commented, “I miss Phillip.  Also, I hope Billie is okay.  I worry that he did not come around today.”

The Lord knows of every sparrow who falls from the nest.  We just met some wonderful people who have fallen from their nests.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

T-Shirt Geography Lesson

Taxing Sin — Win Win

Yesterday I pre-announced my pre-candidacy for the U.S. Senate, launching my pre-campaign.   Today I will start taking applications for pre-campaign volunteers.  For those interested, I am pleased to assure you that you are pre-approved.

Although I am (almost) running for a Senate seat in Colorado, I invite Americans from across the continent to hop on my bandwagon.  (Texas is “a whole other country.”  Nevertheless, even Texans are welcome to pre-campaign for me.  My wife is a former Texan so I’m pretty tolerant.  She is not, however, affiliated with Oklahoma, so that is where I draw the line.)

So, unless you are from Oklahoma, please keep reading about my exciting pre-campaign ideas.

Here in Colorado, we recently legalized marijuana despite it being illegal under federal law.    Apparently Colorado and Washington are so special that they can ignore federal law, which is, after all, intended merely for the general public, not everyone nor every state.  Maybe it is Colorado that is a whole other country.  Washington too.

During the campaign to amend Colorado’s state constitution to allow marijuana, an argument was frequently made that if stores can sell marijuana, the sales can be taxed, bringing increased revenue to the state, not to mention tourism dollars from drug-motivated tourists.

That got me to thinking about other taxes that Coloradans are presently missing out on.  Sure, we tax cigarettes and alcohol already.  We also sell lottery tickets.  We have gambling districts in Central City and Blackhawk, where casinos are allowed.  Why stop there?

Colorado is not as progressive as Nevada when it comes to prostitution.  Isn’t that something we could tax?  Wouldn’t that bring in more tourists, that niche interested in sex outside of marriage?

Are you paying attention, Oklahoma?  The Bible Belt is missing out.  Sin is a big moneymaker!

As a lawmaker in the U.S. Senate, I could show the way to the backward states and sponsor federal legislation to legalize drugs and prostitution, as well as gambling, on a national basis.  Also, I know how to overcome the objections of goody two-shoes types who want to impose their morals on folks unshackled by such things.

Back where I come from, Colorado, we have figgered that out.  My unoriginal idea for selling this legislation is to make it a win/win situation.  Since everyone should care about our children, the future of America, I say we use the new tax on prostitution to fund education.  The fine religious people who might not approve of prostitution will see the light when they realize that promoting prostitution helps our schools.

We have a diversity of values in America, but can’t we come together and agree on the importance of education?  Do it for the children!

Why stop at marijuana?  There is a lot of money in cocaine, heroin and meth.  I would tie taxes on each to popular causes.  I realize that all this will be debated on the floor of the Senate.  I would just be one voice among 100 Senators.  However, wait until my future colleagues get a load of this:  I suggest cocaine revenue goes to cancer research, maybe heroin taxes should be used to fund National Parks, and meth taxes could go to something like paying for the military.  Do you have a problem with healthcare, national parks or the military?  If so, I question your patriotism.  As a Senator, I will tell the F.B.I. to look into such citizens.  Maybe make ’em register as non-compliant.  Certainly, take their guns.

My pre-campaign values diversity.  I’m okay.  You’re okay.  And, let’s be open-minded and say that drug dealers and prostitutes are okay too.   Well, they are okay as long as they pay taxes.

Please support my pre-campaign by liking me on facebook.

Everyone is welcome!  Well, almost everyone.  I am fixin’ to open it up to Oklahomans in the near future.  For now, hold your horses, Okies.

My Delayed But Inevitable Entry Into The Cowboy Hall of Fame

Many of you dear readers have undoubtedly wondered when I would be admitted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

You might have criticized the nominating committee.  You might have felt the process was unfairly rigged.   In defense of the committee, I want to remind you that Peyton Manning is not yet in the National Football League Hall of Fame.  The reason is that Peyton is still playing.  When his career is finished, there is a waiting period for eligibility before his admission into the NFL Hall of Fame will be voted upon.  I believe that his induction is inevitable.  He must be patient, as was I concerning the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

My career as a cowboy is not concluded.  Nevertheless, the waiting period since I won a competitive event has been sufficient for eligibility.  If I make a comeback, it will just be icing on the cake.

Last Friday, I was pleased to get there, finally, as captured in the photo below, taken in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, located in the historic Stockyards.

I would have gone inside too, if only I had the $5 for the admission ticket.  I think next I will see if I can get into the NFL Hall of Fame, then the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Heck, I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs.  I better start saving up for the price of admission.

Multilingual, Multicultural, and Cool

Air travel and television and the internet and other technological advances have made many more opportunites to communicate with people who do not live in your own area, thus exposing one another to different cultures and languages.

Now let’s talk about me and why I am multilingual and multicultural and, consequently, very cool.

One of my grandmothers could only speak Swedish until she started school because her parents were immigrants and she was the oldest of six children.  She learned English because she had to do so, living in Nebraska, U.S.A.  So I took Swedish as my foreign language in college in order to please Gramma.  Unfortunately, there is not much call for me to speak Swedish in Colorado, nor am I fluent, but, it might make me a little cooler.  For where I live, Spanish would have been a better choice.

My father learned French when he was a young man serving in WWII because he was in France and Belgium from D-Day until the end of the war.  So I took French in junior high in order to please Dad.  Unfortunately, one half hour of class time twice a week in 7th and 8th grade did not make me fluent in French either.   However, I am a better person for having met Mademoiselle Conn, my teacher.

Mademoiselle Conn was young, with wild red hair.  Miss Peterson was old, with well-controlled white hair.  She was my Latin teacher in high school.  I took Latin because I had a premonition that I might go to law school, I suppose, or seminary.  I’m not sorry I had two years of Latin, but I wish Mademoiselle Conn had taught it rather than Miss Peterson.  Again, Spanish would have been more useful as I have had few opportunities to converse with Roman emperors.  But you never know………..  I might get a ticket on a time machine.

You can’t tell by looking at me, but prior to starting law school, I had a “trial year in seminary.”  There I learned a little Hebrew (very little) as part of an Old Testament course, and a little Greek (very little) in a course of a few weeks that was remedial in nature for those who had not taken Greek in college.  Oh, and I took a wonderful course called “Concentration in Cross Cultural Communication” which was mostly for seminarians preparing to be missionaries.

The courses I mentioned above did little to prepare me for my greatest cross-cultural experience:  being married to Miss Sugar.

My wife was raised in Texas, which is, as its tourism ads used to admit, “a whole other country.”  Despite having lived in Colorado for nearly three decades, Sugar still spices up her speech with phrases such as “y’all,” and “fixin’ to,” which I kinda like.

Our marriage has also brought me into another cross-cultural experience, which is joining into an Italian family without being Italian.  It kinda makes me wish I was.

That, y’all readers, is how I became multilingual, multicultural, and, well, just plain cool.  Having a cool pickup and hot trophy wife don’t hurt none neither.

After the PowWow

Previously, I wrote about my introduction to Native American people, aka Indians.  Now I will tell you the rest of the story. 

As a dedicated young cowboy, interested in the American West, I enjoyed family trips  to places like Fort Robinson, where Crazy Horse was assassinated, and the Black Hills, sacred to the Sioux.  The Pine Ridge Reservation is in South Dakota on the border of Nebraska.  We visited Wounded Knee in the Pine Ridge. 

So, when I had to pick an 8th grade history project, I wrote about American Indians and learned a lot in the process.

Later, during my higher education, I signed up for a class called “Concentration in Cross Cultural Communication”  because it included a three week field trip as part of the requirement.  Some of my classmates went to Africa.  I arranged to go to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  In preparation, I read Dee Brown’s book, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.  Unfortunately, at the time I was to go there in the spring of 1975, the American Indian Movement folks like Russell Means had a standoff with FBI agents and took some hostages.  So, I was told that it was not a good time to visit.

Instead, I redirected my field trip to New Mexico, where I stayed at Ghost Ranch near Abiqui.  I was there three weeks.  I visited the seven northern Pueblos, including the Taos Pueblo.  I enjoyed the experience, meeting some nice folks and learning a lot.  As it turns out, many years later, I still enjoy northern New Mexico.  My trophy wife, Miss Sugar, and I frequently make trips to Santa Fe, Taos, Abiqui and Ojo Caliente. 

Miss Sugar has made friends with some artisans in that area and gets materials such as turquoise and silver to use in her own jewelry making business.  She likes the SouthWest stuff.  So do I.  Actually, our log house on the ranch is decorated with cowboy decor, including SouthWest items.  Plus, I use guns and antlers in much of my decorating.

Fortunately, Miss Sugar shares, no, improves upon my taste in decor.  Of course, there is a good reason why.  Not only did she grow up in Texas, but she is an Indian princess, no less than 1/16th Shoshone.  Get a load of that.  That first powwow became my destiny.

The Visitor

Our nephew Max is visiting from Texas.  Lucky for him, and us, we have a Texas Lone Star flag to help him feel at home.

Max is fifteen.  He flew up here to Colorado all by himself and took the shuttle from Denver to Fort Collins to save us having to go to the airport, which I appreciated.

Max is a very polite young man.  He says, “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’m.”  He is so polite that he wanted to attend my Senior Olympics swim meet today.   Swim meets take a long time because there are many events.  He sat with me until my events and even took videos of me swimming, which was an extra incentive to win, so I did.

Our guest house is an old bunk house.  Max is staying there, but not alone, as our dog Rover is his room mate.  They have really hit it off.

He also has been hanging out with the horses.  Unfortunately, he is banned from riding horses this trip due to a sports-related back injury that happened earlier this summer, causing him to wear a body cast for a fractured vertebra.  I doubt his folks would appreciate it if we allowed an activity that might aggravate his condition.

This weekend is New West Fest in Fort Collins, so that will be another activity we can share with him.  And, as I have mentioned many times in other posts, Miss Sugar is a pretty good cook, which is a good attribute for an aunt to have.

It is a joy for us to host Max and we will miss him when he returns to Texas.  Maybe he will miss us, or at least the hot tub, and certainly Rover.

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