Civilizing the Frontier

It’s been a battle to keep our little living space out here in rural Texas civilized. The spiders and trapping adventures have already been mentioned. You’ve probably noticed the more recent description of how the chest-high grass has been mowed. Now, guess where all the critters, that once lived nearby in chest-high grass went?

That’s right, my shop. The traps went out last night and there were casualties. One trap slipped and smacked my thumb smartly and its a little sore today. However, it was worth it. This morning the number of the enemy is three smaller.

In addition to the field mice, we’ve noticed a yellow-jacket nest that was getting out of hand. The surprise attack was scheduled for sundown. After some minor logistical issues, the enemy was engaged via chemical warfare. Courage and resourcefulness was exhibited on our side because of the need to attack from atop a ladder immediately below enemy lines. Although there were extensive enemy casualties, none were reported on our side. All that remains is an unoccupied bunker.

Can you get a Purple Heart for a purple thumb?

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Three Observations

There were three things that caught my eye today. No…there were three things that AMAZED me. They were simple short snippets of the day that made it interesting. They were such everyday occurances, that no photos were taken. Yet, now in the quiet of evening, they are replayed in my mind. Without further ado…and in reverse order of occurance…

3. While sitting on the front porch and talking to my mother on the phone, the sun was down and a golden glow was fading over the trees lining the pasture behind me. The moon, approaching full, was rising over the front yard and casting shadows off the shredded remains of what once was our high grass. This is the time the toads pour out of their holes and parade to our porches. While talking on the phone, a caterpillar about 2 inches long was slowy ambling diagonally across the porch toward me. Then a toad suddenly changed direction. He saw the caterpillar and headed straight toward him. After several short successive hops, he stopped next to the caterpillar and sat very still. It looked like a stare-down at a gunfight. Then the caterpillar disappeared. It was there. It was gone. The toad was staring at the caterpillar. Then the toad was staring at where the caterpillar was. Just like that. Toads are clumsy-looking, but they’ve got skills.

2. In the shop, the plastic tool box full of bike tools, parts, and oily rags was closed, but not latched. It appeared the plastic in the vicinity of the left latch had been roughly filed. A small slot about 2 inches long and a quarter inch high was left between the bottom and top of the box. That was odd and deserving of further investigation. The tool box was opened. There was a similar area on the plastic tray, same roughly filed look, same missing plastic material. Then the roughly filed appearance started to look more and more like something had chewed the plastic. If something chewed the plastic, did it want to get in my box? Would it still be inside? After carefully inspecting the contents of the tray, it was lifted out of the box. He wiggled his wiskers and stared out from the rags at me with his black beady eyes. A mouse had decided to move in to my toolbox.

1. Pulling into the church parking lot, the car pointed across the parking lot to a row of neighborhood houses. In the short concrete driveway of one house nearby was an older gentleman. He had a stooped posture and was using a walker to help him travel. He had made a trip down the driveway to fetch the newspaper. He was moving extremely slowly. His steps were very deliberate. It looked to be a major effort to move at all, yet by the time he caught my attention, he had arrived at the newspaper. It took considerable effort, balance, and coordination of body and walker to bend and pick up the newspaper. Then it took a surprizing amount of time to position the newspaper in the frame of the walker so that he could use his hands to operate the walker, turn it around, and begin the journey back to the house. As I watched, I was amazed at the amount of planning, work, and time it took for this gentleman to simply fetch the paper. My initial reaction was sadness for cruelty of aging. However, after spending a while watching him, my sadness was transformed into admiration for his initiative, determination, and persistance. This gentleman taught me something today about self-respect and the honor of performing a simple task under enormously difficult circumstances. He did it because he could.

I Ride With My Bride

She went for a bike ride with me recently. Weird, huh? She made me a sandwich for lunch and after eating I asked if she’d like to ride the bike around the 3-mile loop with me. She said she would. So I pumped up the tires on the black ballon tire cruiser and she pushed it up to the road. It was a little hot and windy. Not long after starting (like a quarter mile) she began telling me that her legs were tired and not to take her picture.

But you all know that “no picture” is not an option. Since it is critical to illustrate blog entries, I got a picture that makes her look like she’s having fun and going fast. She was cruising down an empty road, wind in her hair, on a beautiful summer day. How could you not be having fun?

Well…I was having fun.

She Thinks My Tractor is Cute

Me – “Hey, Janet, ya wanna drive the tractor?”

Janet – “Yeah…sorta”

And that was the last I’ve heard from her. I put her on it, gave her the brief instructions I received when it was delivered, and she took off. Wait, I remember, she did say something else as she drove off…”Let’s tame some wilderness!”

The last I saw her, she was almost done with the front…

She’s doing a great job. I think I’ll go get some tea and sit in the shade.

Reunion Ride

It was a reunion ride.

It happened during a recent business trip down to the Houston area. Due to privacy constraints, the exact location of the ride start/stop can’t be given. When this photo was taken, I think his exact words were, “This better not end up on your blog!” So, in the interest of privacy, I have made certain provisions for protecting his identity.

Suffice it to say that it was a great time on the bike and at a local coffee shop with a friend of mine (who could have been anybody), catching up on our respective families and activities. We were able to do a little riding after dark and put the lights to good use again.

Also, to make sure security is not compromised, certain details about how his jersey became grass stained will not be provided. Let me just say that, in some undivulged way, we learned that dogs do not fit between spokes of a rotating front bicycle wheel and that fixed gear bikes take a bit longer to stop. Oh yeah, and one of us learned this lesson by observing and the other learned through the benefit of real life experience.

Hopefully, less time will pass before our next ride together, my (unidentified) friend.

A Ride with Friends

The Saturday morning ride included a couple of extra special aspects today. First, good friend, Terry England, came out to my house to join in on the fun. Terry is a spiritually-minded man and has a family we’ve come to love in our short time up in north Texas. The second thing that made the ride special was a surprise invitation. More on that in a moment.

Terry came by around 7:00 am and the plan was to ride the 13-mile loop. We figured on a conversational pace and it worked out nicely. I kept pestering him with questions so he’d be forced to talk (instead of pedal fast) and maintain a comfortable pace for me.

The other thing that helped me out, this hot and still summer morning, was that Terry was riding a mountain bike. While his bike is a very nice one and well-maintained, I think my higher pressure tires and lack of suspension might have helped me a little on those paved roads.

Just before turning back, we decided to extend the ride slightly and do a short out-and-back on Sam Bass Road. We rode down to where a new bridge was being constructed to (presumably) replace one that was washed-out or damaged by Clear Creek in the early summer rains. On the way back out of the creek valley, we climbed up the road to where a man with a white pick-up truck with an unusual contraption in the back was parked at a pasture gate. Upon closer examination, the contraption began to look more like a two-wheeled horse cart. I pointed and turned to Terry and said, “Janet would love to ride that cart!”

“Go get her and bring her back,” the man replied, “and I’ll give her a ride.”

So I did. After hearing how much fun she had on her last cart ride, I knew this is the kind of invitation we should take advantage of. She seemed comfortable and looked like an expert from the beginning.

Within minutes, the man had her driving the thing all over the pasture. The horse, Sparky, has an interesting story. Due to being blind enough to walk into fences, his life was almost ended. However, since he is so gentle, he was given a chance at cart pulling work. The owner explained because of Sparky’s blindness, he has no trouble trusting the cart driver and readily follows instructions.

Today I was able to ride with three friends. My very best friend, Janet; my new friend, Terry; and a gentle, blind horse named Sparky.

Lighting Made It Happen


Lights are great. They allow those early morning rides to start a little earlier. With the days already starting to get shorter, it sometimes makes sense to start out before sunrise. Today, lights allowed me to squeeze in a ride that I would not have done otherwise.

The ride started just when the eastern sky was just begining to lighten. After about 30 minutes the long summer shadows formed. Because the light is so rich in color in the early morning, I took more photos today. These photos are at locations where I paused and thought about stopping yesterday. Today, the golden color was impossible to ignore. These are the kinds of experiences and sights that generate prayers of thanksgiving.

Unlike the mystery of yesterday’s old structure, this structure is clearly a barn.

This one appears to be a storm shelter…which curious since I didn’t see a house nearby.

Here’s one of the gravel segments of the route. The road that leads me home.

Another delightful early morning ride, and one I would have missed without adequate lighting. I am grateful to have the provisions needed to get outside and experience the morning.