Monday, December 28, 2009

There is a Reason I Didn't Teach Math

Math and I have never been on good terms. Honestly, if TAKS had been around when I was in school, I assure you I would still be there- in high school, I mean- trying to pass the blasted math portion. I took the  most basic math courses in high school, flunked college algebra the first time, passed with a C the second time, a true gift from the professor who took pity on me, no doubt, and squeaked by with a D in trig, but not before driving my tutor to drink. And all these years I have done quite well without upper level math, thank you very much, until I reread my Christmas blog post and realized that I should at least double check my facts with a math-literate person before opening my mouth. For the record, Grandmother did not make a 90 degree turn; it would have been a 180 degree turn. The devil is the details, as I have heard, and to let that detail go uncorrected, well, my anal retentive tendencies kicked in and I just could not let it go. No one but me will know or care, but I wanted it to be right. So I am setting the record straight here, and I also went back and chenged it in the blog post.

The Bright Ligths of Muleshoe regrets the error.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas is a Road Trip

Ben, Colten, and Maya will be celebrating Christmas at Ben and Maya's house in Kyle, Texas, this year. A Christmas tradition that I accidently started a mere two years ago has now become a tradition, for me anyway, of taking a picture of the grandkids in Santa hats by the tree. This one is from last year at our house. I will be lugging the Santa hats to Kyle so we can do it again this year, and wherever Christmas is next year, the hats will be there, too.

Most Christmases of my childhood involved driving all night from Rosenberg to Olney after Daddy closed the shop, about a ten-hour drive back in the days of two-lane highways, 60 mph speed limits, and no big city by-passes. I can remember sleeping in  the sundeck, that wide flat space behind the back seat under the rear window. Sundecks were much bigger in those days. Being the younger child and petite to boot, I was the one who fit the space; my older sister Louise had the whole back seat to herself. So I spent many hours staring into the night sky amid daydreams of horses and made-up melodramas. As we would leave the flat land around home and begin going up and down the hills, Daddy would challenge us to be the first one to spot the lights of the next town as we topped a hill. The winner got a nickel. I think Weesie, as I called her, would usually win, but always gave in to me if I fussed enough.

December in Rosenberg was more often than not warm, if not down right hot. But by the time we would roll into that little North Texas town in the wee small hours on Christmas morning it would be cold. Grandmother's house had two screened-in back porches with double beds that served as bedrooms for overflow holiday crowds, and sometimes the overflow also slept on the floor on pallets. The screens on the back porches would be covered with canvas tarps that rolled down to block out the cold and icy weather in the winter. Fat lot of good that did! Of course the rooms would still be cold as all get-out. Grandmother heaped on the covers, but would also heat up a brick, wrap it in a towel, and put it at the foot of the bed. Louise and I would gingerly crawl into bed and cringe and giggle as we warmed up our spot and stuck our feet on that brick. Then after the spot our bodies touched warmed up, we would carefully move a leg, an arm, to another spot and try to warm it up. Sleep came easily after that.

Christmas morning the house was always full of more people and more presents than we would have had if we had stayed in Rosenberg because of aunts and uncles and cousins who still lived in that area coming to Grandmother and Granddaddy's house. I liked that. I remember Daddy carefully packing all the wrapped gifts from our house so we could open them at Grandmother's and then pack them all back up to bring right back home. And of course, Santa always found us in Olney instead of Rosenberg.

Grandmother's kitchen was so small that she could make a 180 degree turn from the counter on her Hoosier cabinet where she had fixed a dish and be right there to put it in the oven of her cast iron stove. Her sink had about a two-foot square space of counter top on one side so we washed pots and pans as she cooked since there was no where else to put them. We always had enough food to feed Coxey's army, as she was wont to say. Looking back now as I cook with two ovens, a cooktop, a microwave, a dishwasher, and tons of counterspace, I feel like a rank amateur. No, I am a rank amateur.

We did rotate having Christmas at Grandmother's as well as other relatives' houses, but our house wasn't picked that often, so for me Christmas was hitting the road. Looking back on those trips now, just like with Grandmother's kitchen, I had no idea at the time what Mother and Daddy went through to make Christmas enjoyable for us. Mother asked me one time if it ever bothered me not always being at our own house for the holidays, not opening presents in front of our own tree. I assured her that for me, that  was Christmas, the road trip with Santa at the end. I don't blame young parents who want to create their own traditions in their own homes; that is as it should be. If the decision is to go to Grandmother's, the trip might not take as long, and DVD players and iPods now handle the entertainment, but I assure you that wherever your family spends its Christmases, whatever traditions you begin, your kids will just know that is the way Christmas should be. And then some day your kids will make Christmas for their kids, and the cycle will continue.

Merry Christmas, and to borrow a phrase, God bless us Every One!

Another Christams tradition begun by my mother and continued here by Maya; the fancy hand-made ornamment. The big, old Stetson hat box Mother stored hers in and the paraffin-covered cardboard box for frozen chicken that I use to store  my ornaments are almost antiques now and a tradition in themselves. I always know which boxes to get down when I want to use those ornaments.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What's Your Given Name?

Back in the early sixties when I was growing up in Rosenberg and getting ready for school each morning, I would listen to Houston radio station KILT and the Hudson and Harrigan show. This was back in the days when radio stations had actual creative DJs and not satellite feeds with prepackaged scripts. Those guys are another whole story, but one of their running bits was the Jim Bob Jumpback character and his family of good ol' boys who were used to poke fun at Houston city officials and state government and anyone else in the spotlight at the time. Jim Bob's family included his sister Thelma Jean Betty Lou (yes, just one sister) and Uncle James Bob. These characters were immensly popular and  their double names were a big part of their appeal because double names were not that common in the Gulf Coast area. I think the use of double names is pretty much considered a Southern thing, or in Texas, linked with West Texas, so I didn't grow up hearing that many doubles. I did go to school with a Carol Sue, Karen Sue, Karen Gail, Anne Marie, Carl Wayne, Gordon Lee, Billy Owen-wait, maybe it was a more common occurence than I thought! But I didn't know anyone who used a something-Bob combination.

But then we moved to Muleshoe, and suddenly Something Bobs were everywhere. I have already mentioned our good friend Joe Bob Stevenson in the elevator story, and I have another Joe Bob story just to prove the double name thing isn't common everywhere. At one point he had dealings with a grain company whose headquarters were in California. He called for some information one day and identified himself to the girl who answered the phone as just Joe Bob, thinking that was enough. She put him on hold and upon returning to the phone with the requested information, she started out, " Mr. Bob..."

Here, then, is what I am sure is an inadequate and surely incomplete list of names of people I have come in contact with just here in Muleshoe:

               Joe Bob, Jerry Bob, Joe Pat , Jerry Don,  Jean Paul, Gary Mac, Billy Pat, John Paul ,  Carol Ann,  Lela Ann,  Billy Bob,  Joe Don, Gary Don, Jo Ellen, Mary Lou, Jimmy Dale, Mary Alice, Mary Ellen, Mary Hellen , Elizabeth Ann, Ronnie Gail,  Robbie Jan, Bobby Max, Billy Curtis,  Paul David,  John David ,Gracie Lou,  Mary Janice, Jackie Wayne,  Jim Pat, Mary Jo,  Debbie Jo, Billy Don, Odie Mae, Bobbie Jo, Billy Ray, John Drew, Wilma Sue, Lonnie Wayne, Jackie Jean , Hellen Ruth, Louis Wayne, Nola Pearl, Lula Maye, Verna Ray.

When we lived in Edna. also on the Gulf Coast, I coached with a man named Bobby Jack Wright, who married a woman named Bea Strane, which made her name when she married Bea Wright. Say it, don't look at it, and you will smile. Then there was David Egg who married Lou Layden, which made her full name Lou Layden Egg...

And then I was just told a friend here has an aunt whose name was Dora Bell. And then we also had a  Rose Bush, until she married, which changed the whole thing.

Aren't names fun?

        Joe Bob Stevenson

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day-and Then It's Gone

I suppose every state in the union thinks they can lay claim to that cliche about if you don't like the weather, hang around a little while and it will change. Well, maybe not Hawaii; their weather seems a pretty constant 80 something degrees, but I think West Texas must be where the saying originated. Yesterday morning we awoke to a gray, foggy winter wonderland, not much snow on the ground, but a ton of ice on the trees and everything else. School started an hour late. When the sun came out and hit the icy trees, they shone like white neon against the very blue sky. About the time I decided this was a photo op the wind kicked up and started blowing the ice down. Good thing I went out when I did because by the time I finished the trees were a nondescript gray and the snow on the ground had melted.

About an hour later I looked out and discovered it was snowing, great big flakes. When everything looked like a white Christmas again, it started raining and all the snow melted. Then the wind really kicked in and blew the rest of the day. Our reasonably heavy lawn chairs had been blown around, and thank goodness Bill had taken down all the wind chimes or they would have been tangled and torn up beyond repair.

The one constant has been the cold. For the past week the nights have been well below freezing and the day time temperatures have varied from 32 to about 50. This morning at 7 a.m. the computer said it was eleven degrees.

Tune in again next summer, however, and experience the joy of 100+ degrees, rain, wind, and dirt blowing all at the same time.

Welcome to West Texas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Destructo Dog Update

Now I ask you: does this look like the vicious, mean pit bulls we have all heard about? Or is this a cuddly lap dog waiting to be discovered? Mari took it upon herself to jump into Bill's lap the other day, and he made the mistake of allowing her to do it, so now she spends lots of time there. Big surprise. But the fun part is watching this three-legged dog take a running leap and landing pretty gracefully right in his lap.

We are in week three of obedience training, and she has learned the "watch me" command, to sit, and is doing better at walking with a loose leash. She is doing a little better on the chewing, although we have gone through two packages of squeaky balls. The house breaking has its ups and downs, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel. And she still gets in trouble trying to play with the cats, who don't want to play. But we have learned a lot of general information about dog food and how the dog brain works. And she definitely knows the word "no." Well, except when it comes to chasing the cats.

One thing she does well, all on her own, is pass gas. She can clear a room faster than a baby with a full diaper and is perfectly oblivous to the gasping for air all around her. It is excruciatingly stinky. I light candles to try to burn off the gas, without much success, so mostly we laugh and leave the room.

We have snow on the ground right now, and she thinks that is great fun to run in, making huge circles in the back yard. She also likes to take bites of the snow. I don't know what she thinks it is, but it keeps her entertained. 

We go again tomorrow. I'll keep you posted on her progress.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving is a Road Trip

What's a holiday without lots of drive-time? Ours started Wednesday with seven hours to Lake LBJ to break up the trip before going to Kyle on Thursday, which was a short hour and a half drive. But then Friday we managed to turn that hour and a half drive into a six hour scenic stroll back to the lake. Well, part of that was a stop at Cabela's and two cactus nurseries. But that didn't stop us; Colten and I then drove the short fifteen minutes back to Marble Falls that night to see "The Blind Side," which turned out to be well worth the drive, as far as we were concerned, and I highly recommend it. We topped the whole thing off with the seven hours back to Muleshoe on Saturday. My bottom may never be the same.

But I have no cool stories to tell about the trip. Nothing out of the ordinary-food, family, football-the three main topics of Thanksgiving, and we were blessed with an abundance of all three. Life is good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Buried Pedro Jesus Today

Jesus came to live with us after his family made an abrupt move and did not come back for him. His family happened to be of Mexican descent, so we named him Pedro Jesus and affectionately knew him as our bilingual cat. I had him neutered, brought his shots up to date, and he was very content with his new home and his six stepsisters, the six female cats who also found our house as strays and came to claim us as  family. He was a young cat, about a year and a half old, a big, strong, handsome cat. By his actions it became obvious to me that he came to our house as much for the companionship as the free food. He was very friendly and enjoyed being with us outside. He would come greet me every day as I walked on the walk path behind the house.

We found him this morning in front of the barn door, the barn being a place of safety and comfort to him. His only injuries were on his head and mouth, but they were severe. I suppose he was hit by a car somehow, but if so, it was a strange sort of hit. He let us put him in a box and cover him with a towel and let me rub and reassure him as we rushed to the vet's office. Dr. Garten anesthetized him so he wouldn't hurt during the x-ray, which confirmed our worst fears: his jaw was broken, he had skull fractures, which surely meant brain damage,  and most of his teeth were gone. We had no choice. He had made his way back to us for help and putting him to sleep was the only real way to help him.

He is resting comfortably now under the cherry trees. I wrote a good bye letter, sealed it in a plastic bag, and put it with him. He was only with us a few months, but I miss him already.

Godspeed, Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Get My S--- Together Story

Elizabeth Watson was an imposing presence, well over six feet tall with auburn hair. Sort of an Eleanor Roosevelt-looking  kind of woman. She spent 53 years in education, mostly in  Muleshoe, teaching  primarily at the junior high level, and later becoming the curriculum director. She was the curriculum director until the powers that be gave her a promotion and the more impressive-sounding title of Assistant Supterindentent for Instruction. They even renamed the junior high in her honor. She contributed much to the students of Muleshoe over the years and dedicated herself to her job.

Despite her commanding presence and earnestness of purpose,  Mrs. Watson was probably the most naive, innocent person on the school's payroll, which worked in our favor when she invited a woman named Toody Bird (really) to speak to us at the first day faculty inservice session one year. Toody Bird was quite the education icon in her Austin circle of influence, where she was then a counselor at Westlake High School. As short as Mrs. Watson was tall, as outspoken as Mrs. Watson was proper, she was most entertaining as she shared with us the wisdom of her experiences. Mrs. Watson could see the woman had much to teach us, but she was apparently unprepared for Toody's devilish sense of humor and total disregard for worrying about offending someone when she had something to say.

Toody got the ball rolling by telling us that she found a note on a notepad in her motel room that said, "For a good time, call Elizabeth Watson at ..... We all laughed gleefully; Mrs. Watson turned about three shades of red. Then there was Mrs. Bird's comment about not wanting to go to the doctor because they just scared the hell out of her, which brought more laughter, more red face, and Mrs. Watson's  frantic glance at the school board members to see how they were taking all of that profanity.  But then came the coup de grace, the story that lived on way past the inservice day.

Seems there was a student who would show up early to school and sit outside Mrs. Bird's office. She would just sit quietly and pleasantly and then leave when the bell rang. Figuring that she should live up to her title of school counselor, Toody finally asked the girl if she needed something or would like to talk to someone, to which the girl thanked her and said no, she just liked to sit there in the morning before class started so she could, you know.. and at that point she gestured with her hands making the shape of a box. Toody looked at her and frowned, trying to understand. The girl made the box gesture again to no more recognition on Toody's face. She finally gave up and said, "You know, Miz Bird, get my shit together."

Mrs. Watson probably had nightmares for years over that. The faculty, however, relived the moment with gusto for years after that by making the box gesture to get the same point across. There are still a few of us around who can read that sign language. And we all have days like that girl when we need just a little time to organize things so we can handle the crap we might have to deal with on any given day. Which was, of course, the purpose of the story: take the time to prepare for the day and be willing to ask questions to really understand what someone is thinking.

Mrs. Watson died in 2002 at the age of 86, but her legacy lives on.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Joy in Muleville

There is no joy in Muleville; the mighty Mules' winning streak has struck out. River Road dealt a disappointing blow Friday night beating the Mules in the last two minutes of the game. Final score: 25-21.

We missed the kick-off; the ticket line was five people deep and about sixty feet long with a grand total of two ticket windows-kind of like Wal-Mart during rush hour. River Road scored first and ended the first quarter 6-0. The second quarter was no better, in fact worse, since River Road scored again. The half ends with a replay due to a penalty called on the defensive team, River Road, since a time period, or a game, for that matter, can't end on a defensive penalty. The Mules throw a Hail Mary pass that gets intercepted, which could have made things really bad, but thank goodness, the Mules stop the perpetrator, and the half ends 12-0, a situation we have not seen in many a game. Third quarter begins with hope even though the Mules throw an interception that should have been a touchdown. River Road can't make their first down and when they punt, Larry Richardson runs it back 90 yards to score, which was very exciting, and the Mules are back in the game-12-7. Then later we throw another interception but also make an interception  and score early in the 4th quarter. The score is now 12-14 and we are ahead. We even make another touchdown but it is called back on an illegal substitution. But another touchdown is made after River Road is hit with a penalty on a horsecollar tackle and we score, so it is now 12-21, our lead.

So at this point things are looking pretty good, right? Wrong. Fickle momentum leaves our good graces and River Road scores with 3:20 on the clock. It is now 18-21, and we could still win, until we couldn't handle River Road's onside kick, and River Road got the ball back, and yes, they passed for the cementing touchdown, and we are behind 25-21. As I recall, we don't have a good record with onside kicks. We finally got the ball back with barely enough time to create a miracle, but couldn't make a first down and lost the ball; therefore the game was all over with 58.6 left on the clock.

The Mules may have lost the game, but they still built an historic 25-1 winning streak that was great fun for all of us and an experience the players will never forget. Shoot, it is an experience none of us will forget.

Way to be, Mules. We are all proud of you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Playoff Info and The Water Tower Story

The Mules will play River Road in Plainview on Friday, November 13, at 7 pm. Hmm, Friday the 13th... bad for River Road, right?

Now, that water tower story. The game between Friona and Muleshoe in the 2000 football season was no less anticipated than last Friday's game, and the Mules won that one, too, 23-14. Four of the boys on that team, the team that made history by making it to the state semifinals that year, thought that game should also be immortalized in history. Well, that and they wanted to rub it in just a bit. So they did what seemed like a really good idea at the time. They gathered paint, necessary equipment, and left under cover of darkness on a road trip to Friona. And sure enough, the rest is history. That score stayed up there for several years; it's probably still up there for all I know, but I haven't looked lately; the water tower is not on my usual path through town.

It is, however, close to the nursing home, which is how the painters were IDed. Seems some folks at the nursing home were able to get the painters' license plate number and alerted the Friona police department, who alerted the Muleshoe police department, who called the perpetrators in for a little visit. I wasn't there, but it seems restitution was discussed, a fine imposed, and punishment in the form of painting over their own handiwork was considered, but in the end, the original artwork was preserved as motivation for future Chieftain teams when Muleshoe showed up on their schedule again.

Names will not be mentioned to protect the guilty, but I don't think it is any secret in Muleshoe who did it. It is one of those war stories that is remembered fondly. Just ask Lincoln, Jeff, Kyle, or Chance.

Oops. Did I say too much?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The 25th Notch-Mule Mania is Still Alive and Well

We were in the middle of a long line of red taillights streaming from Muleshoe to Friona and arrived thirty minutes before kickoff, and the stands were already full. We managed to find seats, but it was standing room only after that. I dutifully took notes throughout the game, but heck, the game came down to the last 2 minutes. By the end of the first quarter the Mules were behind 7-0, a new experience for them this year. Friona had the ball for more than six minutes that quarter, and we couldn't seem to get things going. Early in the 2nd quarter Friona scored again, but 26 seconds later the Mules scored for the first time, so it is 14-7. Halfway into the 3rd quarter we finally scored again on a nice run, and it is 14-14. After that we got our first break with an interception which led to a touchdown, and the Mules were finally ahead 21-14. The 4th quarter was filled with major fourth down plays by the Mules' defense, and then the Mules made one more touchdown with 2:53 on the clock. The score is now 28-14.

And this is when things got sticky. Friona completed an unexpected pass play and moved down field. The defense held them for two plays and a flag, but Friona still managed to score, so now it is 28-21 I think this is about the time that the clock stopped when it shouldn't have for about 15 seconds, so Friona had the gift of 15 more seconds to work with. Friona, as expected, kicked an on-side kick and recovered it, much to our dismay, with 1:09 on the clock-and here is where 15 more seconds off the clock would have come in handy. It is then 4th and 17 for Friona with 49.9 on the clock. They pass; it's complete. Seventeen seconds on the clock and here comes another pass, only this time it is knocked down. Then another pass knocked down, and another with 13.9 on the clock, another down, and the game is over, thank goodness! Final score: Mules 28, Friona 21.

At this time I am not sure of opponent or place of the upcoming playoff game; we think it will be River Road and play in Amarillo. But if you will check back tomorrow, I will have that information verified. And I will tell you a little tale of another big win over Friona that involves the Friona water tower.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Silence is an Endangered Commodity

So I'm sitting here in my retina doctor's office-vitreoretinal specialist is the official title-laboring with dilated eyes to read an article in Newsweek-yes, that liberal cheerleader magazine whose subscription won't be renewed when it runs out in April but which sometimes has articles I find interesting-while trying to block out the drone of cell phone conversations going on around me, the general noise of people, and the incessant drivel coming from  the ubiquitous waiting room TV. How ironic is it that the topic of the article,"The Devil Loves Cell Phones," by Julia Baird (Newsweek 11-2-09, page 28), is being played out all around me?

Cell phones are bad enough, but it's the unnecessary TVs that drive me crazy, what with the smug talking heads yakking about banal psuedo-news items only occasionally throwing in a real news tidbit. The powers that be always seem to tune into one of the news stations, for fear of offending someone with the choice of an actual show-which would be just as bad because none of it is needed. And the volume is turned up just enough to be irritating and whiny. Nobody really listens; nobody really cares; yet these TVs show up all over the place.  I have been known to mute the set; what I'd really like to do is throw it out the door.

The article's arguments made in favor of more silence in our lives work for me. I do watch certain TV shows, but not at someone else's expense. I have Sirius radio in the car and enjoy it, but there are days when I never turn it on. Driving in solitude is sometimes just what I need to collect my thoughts, get my s--- together (and there is a story behind that, too), or just have the chance to do what Pogo used to do: "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits." It comforts the soul.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

24-0 and Still Counting

Dimmitt fell to the Mules last night, 56-0, which makes the winning streak rise to 24. And yes, I actually took notes, but I have a feeling my sports reporting career won't benefit much from the effort, but at least I will have some names to go with the plays.

Dimmitt started off the game with some pretty hot passes before our defense tightened up. A 15-yard penalty against Dimmitt moved us to their 15-yard line which Juan Sanchez turned into a touchdown, and with the point after we're ahead 7-zip. Dimmitt had the ball for about six minutes but couldn't score. Later Ryan DeLeon caught a great pass, about 70 yards, for the touchdown, but no extra point. We start the 2nd quarter with a touchdown on an Adrian Muniz reception and make the two point conversion. The score is now 21-0. We keep doing this bouncy punt, something called a squib kick, which seems to work better for us than an airborne punt. And it worked well for the Mules all night. Isaac Baca has fun going in for another touchdown, but we miss the PAT again. Bo Avia gives 110% making a tackle and getting up to do it again. And then Adrian Muniz gave everyone a smile when, after dropping a pass, dropping down to give Coach Wood a few push-ups out on the field. And Coach Wood smiled, too. Juan Sanchez carries the ball in for another TD, and with the 2 point conversion, the score is now 35-0. After that, Dimmitt tried a fake punt and made the first down, but had to actually punt after the next three plays. We did nothing great with the next three plays, and we got to punt again, too. Alas, I failed to catch the player's name, but someone made a good catch on a long pass, after which Adrian Muniz catches a 30 yard pass, add the PAT and with 10 seconds left, we have a 42-0 half time score.

This was our rescheduled Homecoming game, so at halftime we were treated to the combined high school and junior high bands and the homecoming queen coronation of Breann Baca (yes, older sister of RB Isaac Baca) and a nice program from the Halloween-costumed Dimmitt band. At this point, what with a 42 point lead and 42 degree or so weather, people exited like they were at a Tech game. We, of course, braved the elements to see how the game played out. I mean, I had notes to take and all...

The Mules started the 3rd quarter with a touchdown thanks to a 30-yard pass to Isaac Baca and a good point after. Skip to the 4th quarter when Baca again makes an amazing run to the 1-yard line, after which we score on a pass to DeLeon, make the point after for what turns out to be the final score of 56-0. And aside from an interception by Beau Avia and a good catch by Jonathan Garcia, the game winds down with the help of the clock running. I didn't know until this game that the decision to let the clock run is in the hands of the referee and the coach of the team that is behind. Makes sense.

Not too many Dimmitt fans made the trip over, but their team never gave up. They tried really hard for four whole quarters and their quarterback, Marty Puga, made some decent yardage and gave us a few scares on several plays. Their small band threw caution to the wind and played and played during the 4th quarter for everyone's enjoyment.

Whew! I don't know if taking notes is such a good idea. Makes for much more reading on your part, doesn't it? More than you really wanted to know, I suspect. Most people will check the newspaper or Internet for all the stats, which I hope to heavens I got right. I found it hard to concentrate on silly little details like what yard line the play started on, how many yards the pass or punt or run made, you know, stuff  that all hardcore football fans expect to be reported correctly. Well, I tried.

Next week is the biggie, the final game against long-time rival Friona. If I haven't bored  you to distraction with this installment, tune in next week for the final hurrah.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Banana Pudding

My daddy, God love him, loved to eat. Of all the good genes he blessed me with, I'm afraid I managed to get that trait. too. But I digress. This story is not about me; it is about him. And banana pudding.

Mother made wonderful banana pudding. Like most cooks, I make things like my mother made them and swear that her recipe for whatever dish is always the best and right way to make it. My family would defend to the death my macaroni and cheese, which naturally, is Mother's macaroni and cheese. I know this because the other day I tried a macaroni and cheese recipe I found in a magazine and no one would eat it. Really. But there I go digressing again.

Anyway, back to the pudding. As a young bride I made banana pudding for Bill, and it always looked and tasted like Mother's, but before it was all eaten, the bananas would turn black and the whole thing would get slimy. I finally asked her about it one day. What am I doing wrong? Why do the bananas get black?  To which she smiled and said, "Mine never has time to turn black. It never lasts long enough. Your father eats it all before then."

So two days ago I made banana pudding. Yesterday it was all gone. Not a black spot in sight. Bill has carried on the tradition well. His mother-in-law would have been pleased and smiled.  His father-in-law would have fought him for the last helping.

Mother's Banana Pudding (in her own words as she wrote it on the index card)

Mix together
     1cup sugar and 3 tbsp. flour-
     add to 3 egg yolks-well beaten-
          add- 2 cups milk
          1 tsp. vanilla
          1/4 tsp. salt
     cook over low heat til thickened
     layer vanilla wafers, bananas and pudding-top with meringue and bake til meringue is lightly brown

(The meringue is just like what you would put on a creme pie- three egg whites, three tablespoons sugar sprinkled in while the egg whites are beating, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar-also Mother's recipe. Beat on high speed til stiff peaks are formed. Brown in an oven set at 400 degrees. We think Cool Whip on top of banana pudding is a travesty-yep, not the way Mother always made it.)

My tip- I mix the ingredients in my glass mixing bowl and put it in the microwave, cooking for two minutes and stirring for as many times as it takes for it to thicken. Sure beats standing over the stove and possibly letting it burn in the pan. And we never put the pudding in the ice box because we think it tastes better at room temp.  It has never spoiled, and I assure you, even if it you put in the refrigerator, it still turns black if it isn't eaten soon enough.

Okay, so if I had been thinking ahead, I would have taken a picture of the pudding. But by the time I had the idea, you guessed it-the pudding was gone. This is the bowl I always use for banana pudding, and macaroni and cheese, for that matter. So we can never have those two dishes at the same meal. Isn't habit a funny thing?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mules Win Again, But It Was Not Pretty

The notch in the jock strap was a little harder to come by tonight. We traveled to Childress after a two-week layoff due to the Tulia forfeit, which may or may not have been the problem. The Mules won 34-26 but were off their game. Fumbled balls, dropped passes, missed passes, poor blocking; it was one of those nights. Momentum was never really on our side, even though the boys were able to capitalize on a few good breaks. I believe it was the second touchdown (I think I am going to have to actually take notes during the game; my memory has a tendency to lose place) that was called back for an illegal receiver down field, so the Mules marched back their fifteen yards and then ran basically the same pass play again and made it again, only the second time it counted. Later in the game we did the same thing- that is, run a pass play again to make up for the one that was called back, for holding that time. One of Isaac Baca's touchdowns was inspiring because he just kept on truckin' and eluding tackles and came up with six. Later in the game we also recovered the ball on about their ten or so yard line and were able to take it in for the score, which was one time the momentum was on our side. All the correct details and finer points can be read in the newspaper write-up because those guys did take notes, so I will stop before I garble too many of the finer points. I think it would be fair to say that Childress really wanted to win that game, but couldn't pull it out. Muleshoe fans showed up in good numbers for such a far away game.

The Mules' record now stands at 23-0.

Next week will be the postponed homecoming game when Dimmitt comes to town. Next week I will take notes...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mari and Me

Perhaps you've heard of the movie "Marley and Me?" Well, we have our own version going these days with a three-legged pit bull pup our grandson adopted. We have all fallen in love with this little dog, but, honestly, nothing is safe around her! Just this afternoon alone she has drug a box charcoal brickets out of the garage-for about the third time-spreading them all over the yard and tearing the box to shreds, also all over the yard; demolished the squeaky toy which was new just yesterday; chewed on tennis shoes; pulled a soaker hose off a shelf and out into the yard, and tried really hard to grab my camera out of my hands when I tried to take some pictures of her. And then there were the two accidents on the carpet. Yes, we are experiencing the joys of potty training again, with limited success today. Over the weekend she took out the screen off a long patio window trying to get in the house with us, literally broke a metal water faucet off its pipe, loosened the other water faucet with the timer on it causing water to go all over the place, chewed up a basket she discovered on a low shelf, mutilated a watering can, and the list just goes on and on. We keep putting things out of her reach-we think-and then she figures out a way to get to them anyway. She delights in trotting down the hall, head high, those oversized jaws displaying trophies found and vandalized from my computer room: skeins of yarn; shoes, socks, trash retrieved from the trash can; trinkets. I looked out to check on her the other day and couldn't find her, only to realize I was looking in the wrong place. She had figured out she could jump from a lawn chair to a small side table to the top of the patio table and have a much better view from there.

I watched the "Marley and Me" movie thinking, these people are crazy to keep a dog like that. And surely they wouldn't actually let him wreck their house that way. Guess what? This crafty little canine can wreak havoc before I realize it and make me love her anyway. Mari lost her leg to an infection, but she doesn't have any idea she's supposed to have a fourth leg. Doesn't slow her down a bit. She digs like a gopher, hops like Pepe LePew when she plays,  is a bit clumsy on sudden stops, but can do a roll back like a reining horse. Her little eyes twinkle and those ears go goofy, and it's really hard to get mad at her.

Mari is Colten's dog, but she spends most of the afternoon at our house during the school day. We would have never chosen a pit bull, mostly due to their violent reputation, I guess, but this one is quite the charmer, always happy to see us, and perfers being in the house with people. Colten and I googled characteristics of pit bulls and found a great website called American Pit Bull-What's Good About 'Em? What's Bad....The format starts with a section labeled "If you want a dog who..." and then goes into "If you don't want to deal with..." which I found very helpful. Among other things it said these dogs are destructive when bored (tell me about it!) and are strong-willed. They require lots of activity and social interaction, which we give her, but apparently she needs more to do-which is when she invents games, like chew up everything in sight,  and see  how many things will fit through the pet door.

So today we made a trip to the pet store for more squeaky balls, a supposedly indestructible chew toy, and picked up information about dog training class. Right now Mari is napping at my feet after a rousing game of squeaky ball keep-away. And tomorrow will be more fun and games. I can hardly wait!

FYI-I do recommend that website. All you have to do is google characteristics of ___ (whatever breed you are interested in) and you will get the same what's good-what's bad information as well as other good facts about the dog you have or want to get.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mules Add Another Win Without Even Sweating

Well, rats. Tulia forfeited the game scheduled  for tonight (October 16th), so I have no exciting game to tell about. Seems they lost kids to injury, sickness, perhaps some low grades, and I don't know what else, and they had to cancel. This was to be our homecoming, too, with a pregame meal, homecoming queen election, mums, the whole bit. But, as Coach Wood philosophically noted, it was one of those things over which we have no control, so just make another mark in the win column and prepare for the next game.

So the Mules now stand at 22-0, even though I fear it will forever have an asterisk beside it, either literally or unconsciously. But, hey, it was Tulia's choice, not ours.

And just so you know for future plans, the pregame meal will now be before the first home district basketball game on December 8th, and homecoming has been moved to October 30th against Dimmitt.

Next Friday the Mules travel the scenic route to Childress (whoever sets up the districts doesn't know how to read a map-Childress is about three hours away) and we'll see what happens then.

High Rise Condo or Grain Elevator?

Any grain producing area will have grain elevators. Since we have lots of land in production and traditionally  grow lots of wheat, corn, and milo, every little West Texas farming town has a skyline that includes one or three or so grain elevators where the grain is stored after harvest until it is sold. Tall buildings plopped down on top of vast expanses of flat land means that these elevators are prominent on the landscape and come into view long before crossing into the city limits.

I understand that early elevators were called  prairie cathedrals. I like this story better: My friend Elaine Bowman, who works for an oil-related company in Houston, came to Amarillo on a business trip. She was accompanied by a co-worker, very much an urban dweller, who was not impressed with our wide-open spaces, probably wouldn't recognize a grain elevator for what it is at the Houston Ship Channel,  and was aghast at what he saw as desolation and isolation until in the distance he spied a structure looming on the horizon. "Finally!" he brightened up, "Civilization at last. I see condos coming up in front of us." I don't remember how Elaine broke it to him that what he was seeing had nothing to do with high rise living accomodations.

Then there was  the man from the Austin area who had to ask if that big building on the highway in Muleshoe was a cotton gin or a grain elevator. There is a world of difference in those two mainstays of agricultural life, so I made sure he was treated to a tour of each.

But I also need to share Joe Bob Stevenson's story about the time he attended a grain convention, also in Amarillo, and struck up a conversation with a sweet young thing in the hotel lobby (this, of course, before he was married) who asked him what he did for a living. They were at a grain convention, right, so all he said was that he ran an elevator-which he did, for King Grain in Muleshoe, thinking she would make the connection-to which she replied, "Doesn't it get boring just riding up and down all day?"

So now fast forward a year or two, and I am on my way to a national Gifted/Talented convention for teachers in New Orleans. The first afternoon I had some time to see the city before the meetings started, so I signed up for a Gray Line bus tour of historical sites. Three men boarded the bus and two of them sat across from me. The third one asked if the empty seat by me was taken, which is wasn't, and I of course offered it to him. We introducted ourselves and established that he was from North Carolina and I was from Texas, and I asked what brought him to town. He said he and his friends were there for an elevator convention. With Joe Bob's story lurking in my memory, I launched into a discussion of crops and blathered on about elevators and agriculture and I forget what else while he is looking at me with a blank expression on his face. When I ask him about crops in his part of the world, he pauses slightly, and says, "You don't understand. I run a regular elevator."

After that I let him initiate the conversation topics. He already thought my elevator didn't go all the way to the top; I saw no need to make it worse.

The first picture was taken looking west from the top of this elevator which is right on highway 84 going through Muleshoe. The building to the left is the Chamber of Commerce office.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mules Roll On

The flu is alive and well in Muleshoe, just like everywhere else, and even though it benched some Mules, the healthy ones persevered and won their first district game with Floydada; the score-46-14. Alas, we committed the two-percenter sin (for those of you not steeped in Aggie lore, two-percenters are those slackers who don't support their team 100 percent; we don't commit that sin very often) and did not travel the two hours to Floydada to cheer them on, but it doesn't look like they missed us. The problem is, though, that I can't very well comment on the game, not having been there. We listened on the radio, but I was in and out of the room too much to really follow the dynamics of the game. Well, I could make something up, but I'm not that good at fiction.

That makes it 21 straight wins for the Mules. Next week Tulia comes to town for our homecoming.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Pity Party Encounters Gloria's Funeral

I spent most of the day Wednesday in bed. I wasn't sick. Oh, no, that would have made sense. Instead, I was doing much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands, sniveling about growing old and having no real reason to get up. What was the point? Sure, I have a family to look after, cooking to do, taxi service to run. But for some reason that day I was emotionally drained and full of despair. And nothing seemed to be going right: I dropped or fumbled everything I picked up; I was peeved at my grandson (and who hasn't been peeved at a 15 year-old boy from time to time?); the pizza I had for lunch didn't seem to taste all that good; and the weather was gray and overcast, which didn't help any. My to-do list was long but mundane. I simply couldn't muster the energy to do anything. I was totally wasting a day of my life, a life that gets precious when there is less of it to waste, as Bonnie Raitt sings in one of her songs.
When I was teaching I used to wish I had unlimited time to work outside, play with my cactus, do needlepoint, make scrapbooks, read just for fun. I retired in 2004 after 31 years of teaching. Now I have all the time I want to play with the cactus, do needlepoint, make scrapbooks, whatever. And guess what? It all seems rather pointless now. At least it did on Wednesday.

And then today I attended the funeral of Gloria Heredia, a member of our church who died after a two year battle against cancer. Heavens- I have wasted more days of my life than she spent actively engaged in battling the cancer. She was 45 years old. Forty-five. Way too young to die. Her daughters, Esther (a former student of mine) and Jennifer (a former student for a brief time before a schedule change) said their mother made the best of every day and never asked "Why [did this happen to] me?" She was one of these rare people who seem to be pleasant and always smiling , a feat I have yet to master.

So about this time I am thinking, shame on me; who am I to think I have no reason to get up in the morning? At least I will have the option to get up in the morning. And then the 23rd Psalm was read as one of her favorite Bible passages. My cup runneth over. Gloria knew her cup runneth over, even with the cancer. We fed family and friends, probably a hundred, after the funeral. She obviously touched many lives. I don't have cancer, so my cup has room for even more stuff. I started making a mental list of all the family, friends, experiences, pets, material possessions, good health, everything I have been blessed with by the grace of God, and realized that my cup was absolutely overflowing with so much more than I deserve. That made all my whining the day before seem petty indeed.

The nurses commented that Gloria died with a smile and an air of contentment about her. Her faith and will to live a full life kept her strong to the end.

So, dear readers, I suspect we all need, from time to time, to look at how our cups do indeed runneth over and make up our minds not to waste even one more glorious day that we will be given. And smile.

Godspeed, Gloria. Thanks for your life; thanks for the lesson.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Invasion of the Cute Little Dinosaurs

For the past ten years I have counted horny toads for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Okay, so they they really aren't toads, nor frogs (sorry, TCU people); they are lizards. I know that. But I grew up calling them horny toads, as I suspect, nearly everyone else in Texas did. So even though I am an official tracker for the Texas Horned Lizard Watch, they will always be horny toads to me. What a tracker does is pick a site, visit it at least three times from April to September, and report on the number of horny toads seen at the time. Parks and Wildlife then compiles the information to learn what they can about the current poopulation numbers, where horny toads still live, what they eat, and causes for the decrease in their numbers.

Why the decrease in population? Well, there are several reasons. Horned lizards eat red carpenter ants. Imported fire ants drive away the carpenter ants, and the lizards won't eat the imported fire ants. So that hurts them. But just plain old civilization has caused a loss of habitat for the little critters as well. And then of course, trying to keep them as pets and doing mean things to them doesn't help either.

Don't move a horny toad to a new location, thinking you are making him safer. Research has shown that they are territorial and memorize, if you will, the location of the ant beds in their area, and if a well-meaning person moves one out of its area, it will most likely starve to death before it finds another ant bed.

The coolest thing the big guys do to study horny toads is to outfit them with the cutest, tiniest little backpacks loaded with a tracking device and then map their movements. This technique led to the discovery that horny toads will actually climb up low branches or trunks of trees to get out of the summer heat on dry, hard, sandy ground in South Texas. Really. Of course, that was not what the researchers set out to discover, but it was a neat surprise nonetheless. What the tracking does tell them is information about movement and territory of the lizards. And other stuff that I don't remember all the details about.

This year I saw a bumper crop of four newborn horny toads, which may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is. Most years I don't see any little ones, so this is major. And they are soooo cute! And tiny. Which may be why I don't see many-they are so bloomin' hard to see. Counting them all, I saw eleven lizards this year, a record number for me, as I recall. I went out more than the required three times, but I didn't see one every time I went looking. But eleven is a good number.

So if you would like to look for horny toads,  contact Lee Ann LInam at Texas Parks and Wildlife, 512-847-9480; , and you, too, can amaze your friends and impress your enemies when they learn that you are an official horned lizard tracker.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mules Do It Again

Tonight the Mules increased their winning streak to 20 by beating Borger 52-26. A little cold front hit about five minutes before kick-off and frustration set in for Borger after kick-off when they fumbled, we recovered, and  it was downhill from there. To Borger's credit, they didn't quit, but couldn't buy a break, and by the end of the third quarter I overheard the comment that if they had been shooting toes, they wouldn't have any left. Because that's about all they did- shoot themselves in the foot - and the Mules made the most of it each time. Which is not to say we didn't make some mistakes as well, but most of our mistakes the coaches adjusted during half time, leading to the Mules scoring 21 points in five minutes during the third quarter. And that's when the frustration really set in for Borger. On one play Borger was assessed a 30-yard penalty for a face mask violation and holding; it was that kind of night. The Mules dropped to their knees the last play of the game and let the clock run out, the victory play, I believe it is called, and the rest, of course, is history.

Next week the Mules are open before starting district play against Floydada on October 9th in Floydada.
Go Mules!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe: The Movie - My Review

Not that  my mentioning it would have been the reason anyone watched the Lifetime TV movie about Georgia O'Keeffe, but since I did mention it, I feel like I should at least make a comment or two.

It is an interesting movie, especially the scenes at the Ghost Ranch and her paintings as realistic props in some scenes, but I found it sad and wished for more about her art and less about her love life. My friend Hellen, who knows more than I do about O'Keeffe, found some discrepancies in some of the information, like the fact that Georgia knew how to drive when she moved to New Mexico, not after, and Hellen had never heard or read anything about a nervous breakdown. The business about the normal school in Texas seemed off, as she did not part from the school on good terms, nor exactly as mentioned  in the movie. And I could blather on but it would just be our word against the screenwriters, and they are supposed to have had access to letters exchanged by O'Keeffe and Stieglitz, so what do we know?

Well, we know that Georgia O'Keeffe was an independent, strong, totally focused, artistically committed, complex woman who was comfortable in her own skin and willing to sacrifice for her art, which completely overshadowed Stieglitz's work. In the beginning of their relationship, Stieglitz was the expert; in the end, he was riding her coattails. which is brought out in the movie. And if he really was like he was protrayed in the movie, I think he was a major league cad. How dare he have a tirade about her behavior as a married woman cavorting in New Mexico while he was carrying on with other women! Husband, indeed.

Enjoy the movie as a movie; it is worth watching, even with the inconsistencies mentioned.  But if Georgia O'Keeffe is of interest to you, her life and body of work deserve more study.

So that's my review. I don't think Ebert and Roeper need to worry about their jobs, but I'd be willing to give it a try.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Mules March On

Last night we drove to neutral site Denver City to watch the Mules earn another notch on the ol' jock strap by beating Crane 21-7, which also means that the perfect season continues: 19-0. This Crane team was good, probably the best the Mules have played so far this year. On paper we were more evenly matched size-wise, but when the teams took the field, we were still smaller. So what else is new? The Mules were smaller all season last year, but that didn't seem to stop them. So far that has been the case this year, so I might as well quit bringing it up. The boys don't seem to notice; they just rise to the occasion and win anyway. The defense won this game. They are sometimes slightly overlooked because the offense always scores big. They made a few mistakes but came through with the big plays time and again and held the Golden Cranes to the lone score. The offense  had a little trouble early on slipping on Denver City's artifical turf (oil money buys lots of stuff), but managed to overcome that and move on. The game was intense; Coach Wood even earned the team a five yard penalty for a little sideline interference...

Next week Borger comes to our house. I'll let you know how that plays out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe Road Trip

Muleshoe is a 3 ½ - 4 hour trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico, depending on speed driven and stops made, so it is a doable destination when the need to get out of Dodge hits. Friends and I go there quite often. This trip was with Hellen Adrian and was to visit the latest exhibit at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Jimson Weed Returns from the White House, and Georgia O’Keeffe: Beyond Our Shores.

Visiting the museum with Hellen is cool because it is like having my own private docent. She is a former art teacher, an artist in her own right, and a fan of O’Keeffe’s work and spirit, so she fills me in on what was going on in O’Keeffe’s life at the time of the paintings and points out details in the design that I, and probably most people, would miss. Art appreciation at its finest.

Then, of course, is the all –important question of “Where do we eat?" And we are really well-versed on that issue! As we drive down Cerrillos Road and can point out that we ate there, and there-and there, and then go down to the Plaza and do the same thing, the case might be made that we spend too much time in Santa Fe. Au contraire! We have merely learned the lay of the land and can now navigate the streets more confidently and can suggest where a visitor might want to eat. I wouldn’t begin to try to name all the places we have tried, most good, some exceptionally good, so I will just tell you that this trip we tried the Guadalupe Café, Gabriel’s, O’Keeffe Café, and Tomasita’s.

Other locations we like to shop and visit are Jackalope, Santa Fe Greenhouses, Manitou Gallery, and the myriad shops on and around the Plaza. We also hit a wonderful photography gallery/shop on the corner down from the O’Keeffe Museum that I can’t remember the name of, but would recommend you visit. And then, of course, there is Canyon Road, which is nothing but gallery after gallery along about a mile of narrow old street, which is also worth your time.

We parked and walked down Canyon Road. Cars were present but slow as they meandered around pedestrians and parked cars. The temperature was pleasant and had its own mountain air quality about it. The colors in the abundant flowers seemed more vibrant than at home, and the foliage was all lush and green. The four-hundred year history of the place becomes apparent in the old adobe structures and Spanish colonial architecture that Santa Feans guard with a vengeance and proudly display. This is the reason to come to Santa Fe-to be enveloped in another world, far from the hassle and noise and worry of our everyday world.

We had to come back home to some of that hassle and noise and worry, but the respite made it seem not so bad any more.

P.S.-For those of you who are Georgia O'Keeffe admirers, a movie about her filmed entirely in New Mexico will be on  this Saturday, September 19, on Lifetime at 8 pm Central,  but check your local listings to be sure.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Perfect Season Continues

Last night the Mules beat Lubbock Cooper 27-7. That extends the winning streak to 18. I asked my favorite armchair quarterback, my husband, for his impression of the game. He said, "It was David and Golaith. David took out his little football, slung it at Goliath, and killed him." Muleshoe, of course, being David. Here is a school district with approximately 4,000 students enrolled- that's almost as much as our entire's town's population! Muleshoe has about 1,400 students, which means that when you start looking for football prospects, they have just a tad more boys than we do from which to choose. And then there's plain old size of the football player. The roster listed 13 Cooper Pirates at 200+ pounds and one at 305. We had a grand total of five 200-pounders and one at 305. Twenty of their players measure 6 feet and over; we have exactly half as many, but our tallest beats their tallest-6'5" vs. 6'4". I do know that football coaches have been known to perhaps stretch the truth a bit when listing height and weight in an effort to pysch out their opponent, but even if either side did that, there was no doubt we were outsized when both teams walked out on the field to warm up. And we could go on here and dwell on size comparison, but the bottom line is who does the most with what they have to work with.

I believe we did...

Next Friday Mule Mania will travel to neutral site Denver City to play Crane in another non-district game.

Go Mules!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Where Does Your Team Play?

The names of football stadiums always have a story. Well, most of them do. I know two of them.

The Muleshoe Mules play in Benny Douglas Stadium. Benny Douglas would have been a senior the next school year, 1950-51. He and two friends were coming home from Clovis, New Mexico, on Highway 84. In those days, it was called Killer 84 and had lots of curves on its narrow two lanes. There was a terrible wreck; three kids, all fellow students, were critically hurt. Benny was killed. He was on the varsity football team, a popular student, his parents were prominent in the community, and he was the first student from the school to be lost in such a tragic accident. So it seemed a fitting tribute to name the stadium after him. The sign is gone now, but everyone still calls it Benny Douglas Stadium. Legend has it that Benny’s ghost lurks about the old locker room and the football field, leaving cool chills on the backs of people as he passes.

The Texas A&M Aggies-yep, I’m an Aggie-don’t play in a stadium. They play at Kyle Field. It seems back in 1904 athletic contests were held on a drill field. Edwin J. Kyle, a young ag instructor, had been given a larger portion of college land for horticultural experiments than he needed. Realizing that future athletic events needed a place of their own, Mr. Kyle bought lumber and fencing materials “on account” and constructed two bleachers that would seat about 500 people. Games were then played on that extra land and fans sat in those bleachers. In 1906, the Corps of Cadets met in the chapel to thank him. So Aggies ever since then have played on Mr. Kyle’s Field. Never mind that TV game commentators call it Kyle Stadium from time to time…apparently they don’t do all their homework. A&M’s board of directors officially named it Kyle Field in 1956. And Kyle Field it will always be. *

*Chapman, David L. “The Kyle Field Chronicle: In the Beginning, Part 1.” Texas A&M Cushing Memorial Library and

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Perfect Season

Out of 1, 339 UIL member high schools in the state of Texas, only eleven football teams finish the season with state championship bragging rights. This is the story of one of those teams.

Muleshoe is a town of around 4,500 intrepid souls in West Texas. Occasionally the wind blows the sand and tumbleweeds in classic dust bowl fashion but can boast spectacular sunrises and sunsets on more days than the wind blows. When a beautiful Chamber of Commerce day occurs, everyone talks about hoping visitors don’t figure out what a good deal we have here. Local myth has it that the only time it is necessary to lock the car is in the summer to keep people from sneaking surplus squash, tomatoes, and okra in the back seat. The agriculturally based economy is primarily cotton and corn farmers with a recent growth in area dairies. The school district fluctuates from time to time between 3A to 2A classification and for the last few years has dropped down to the large end of district 2-2A.

Muleshoe historically has not made headlines on the football field. After an undefeated season in 1938, the record book was pretty empty until the Mules were able to win the district title in 1962. Things picked up for a few years with winning seasons under the leadership of Don Cumpton in 1977, followed by Mike Wartes from 1978-80 and then Windy Williams in 1981-83.

But it takes a few more consecutive successful years than that to establish a winning tradition, and that building process began when David Wood made the decision to take his first head coaching job in Muleshoe in 1996. I talked with Coach Wood about his 2008 state championship team the week after these young men received their state medals and rings. The rock stars-I mean, Mules-gleefully and patiently autographed whatever objects the fans put in front of them and Coach Wood shared a play-by-play of the winning game. But today as we talked he took congratulatory phone calls and supplied his fingers as safe havens for two kids’ shiny new state champ rings while they worked in the weight room.

David and Jody Wood and their four children moved to Muleshoe from Canyon, Texas, to be the head coach. David had interviewed for the head position in Wellington, in the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle, as well as Muleshoe. His dad, Jim Wood, had coached the Calgary Stampeders in Canada and scouted for the New York Giants before moving to Quanah, Texas, where he coached his son as a senior during a twenty year span there as head coach. Jim Wood encouraged his son to take the Muleshoe position when it was offered, but David was to later learn that his dad had reservations about the move since Muleshoe did not have a winning tradition in football. And winning traditions have a subtle but important effect on the fate of future teams, as I was to hear more than once as we visited.

Winning is a mindset change, according to Wood. “You can go anywhere and change it-you went to Quanah and changed it,” Wood remembers telling his dad, when he learned of his father’s concerns. Because of the absence of the winning tradition, his dad feared that David would find himself on a dead-end road. And that could have happened. After they arrived in Muleshoe, David remembers reading a comment in the local newspaper stating that historically Muleshoe head coaches stayed for 2.4 years, so Coach Wood might be two years away from the unemployment line. The lack of respect for Muleshoe football also became apparent to the new coach when he began scheduling games and saw that everyone counted on Muleshoe as an easy win. “We were just a doormat. Everyone wanted us for their homecoming opponent. One year I think we played in five homecoming games.”

That mindset was about to be changed.

Coach Wood believes that kids growing up in a school with a winning tradition will go to the games and experience winning, knowing nothing but success and will come to believe that they, too, can be a part of that experience. It must be true. Senior receiver Victor Vasquez, interviewed after the state-winning victory, put it this way: “We’ve been dreaming about this since we were little kids, and you know, dreams really do come true.”

The winning mindset and expectations start with the coaches and trickle down to the leaders of the team and eventually to all the players, and before long, the fans believe it as well. The seed is planted, and then it gradually makes it way to the younger kids in the community. By the time the 2000 season started, Coach Wood had been changing that mindset by having winning seasons. Most of the boys on this 2008 state championship team grew up with that winning tradition, many of them as far back as kindergarten, while they participated on the same Little League teams, Little Dribblers, the same junior high teams, all the while attending the high school games and being inspired. Coach Wood smiled, “They seemed to have something special, this bunch, and would always say, if we can just grow a little bit we’ll do better, but they never did [grow much] and they still played the same way, which was always good.”

In 2000 the Mules, under Coach Wood, had a 14-1 season, losing the semi-final game to Forney at Texas Stadium in Dallas. “The Year We Made History,” said the T-shirts we all wore to the game. As the first team to make it that far in the playoffs, they had made history. Things had begun to pick up with Wood’s tenure. His first year’s record was an unimpressive but predictable 1-9 season-they had been picked to go 0-10. The second season showed improvement to 5-5. By the third season the Mules were 10-2 which secured the district title. Being scheduled as a homecoming game opponent suddenly began to change. After that the Mules made the playoffs every year but one. Dedicated coaches, hard-working kids, winning mindset. Yes, the winning tradition was in place.

In 2004, the Mules had run out of linemen and found themselves with two good quarterbacks who also had other skills, so in order to utilize the most talent most of the time, a change was needed. Texas Tech’s Mike Leach had been running a successful spread offense which seemed suited to Muleshoe’s talents. Keeping up with the times and latest innovations, Coach Wood made a trip to Lubbock to learn more about this high scoring offense and found it to be a good game plan for his personnel.

“We found it was a simple plan with not very many plays, and we could run it with big or small linemen. For it to work, though, we had to have a good trigger man-a quarterback with a quick pass. The second thing for it to work falls directly on the coaches, who have to be willing to change their philosophy. It’s fun on Saturday to have a [mental] chess match and play with the next opponent, try to figure out the team’s next move. With the spread, once we installed the offense, that was it. Our prep time was cut way down. We don’t know what the [opposing] defense will do and don’t worry about how they will line up. We change plays 30% of the time from what we call on the sidelines. That’s part of our prep time. The third thing is to allow the quarterback to make those changes. You need a smart quarterback you can trust, and he has to be able to do it. We needed at least three good receivers for the spread and the defense can’t key on them that way."

So now after three years, the coaches have embraced the spread philosophy, the trigger man is in place, three receivers are ready to go, and they are all supported by a team with an understanding of what they needed to do, and full of the right mix of confidence and a certain cockiness toward those bigger, stronger teams who were supposed to run over them. They simply weren’t going to be denied. “This bunch had no problems with bigger teams. They actually wanted big teams because they thought they would be slower. So psychologically size was not an issue.” As to taking hard hits, if a hit didn’t ring their bell, it didn’t faze them. If they suffered a bad play, they’d say that’s okay, we’ll make up for it. And then they would.

There was always talk about “mo.” This team always seemed to have the momentum on their side. They never knew what play would trigger the momentum for or against them, but it was always there this championship season. Fans knew when the momentum changed because it was palpable, even to those of us in the stands. These boys made momentum work for them all year, but the Crane game established the real momentum that carried them to the state finals. Scheduling Crane and meeting them halfway in Denver City for the game was a sure sign that Muleshoe had earned a winning reputation. Now Coach Wood was having a hard time filling the non-district slots. That kind of problem is a good thing. “That game gave us a sense of urgency because a team really gets motivated when they play a formidable opponent.” Crane, traditionally a state powerhouse, was ranked number 2 at the time and was blessed with big boys who had lots of speed. Muleshoe was not picked to win, but when the dust settled and the score was Mules 63, Golden Cranes 41, these kids truly believed they would make it all the way.

And make it they did. The final game was played December 13 against the Kirbyville Wildcats at Grand Prairie’s Gopher Bow Stadium. Playing in a bowl stadium was important to Coach Wood so wind would not be a negative factor to the Mules’ passing game. This Kirbyville team was also big and fast. This team also lost, just like the other 14 teams Muleshoe defeated while making it look seemingly easy, and oh, so much fun. Final score: 48-26.

Coach Wood compliments this team for being a cohesive group without a chicken fry in the bunch.

Chicken fry?

“A chicken fry doesn’t get into the game. They are just there for the steak after the game. If they want a free ride, I can deal with that, but I tell them up front that they won’t play much. In crucial situations I won’t ever play one, but they can go along for the ride. But this team didn’t have any chicken fries. They all contributed. All 24 of them.”

The state champs were also a self-motivated team with good leaders. Seniors were known to stop a shaky practice and get things back on track. The team never complained about hard work or doing things over, and it has rubbed off on the off-season crew. Coach says it is usually harder to keep the off-season kids motivated, but it is unbelievable the positive effect the championship year has had. Which, of course, will help with motivation this football season.

Coach Wood credits his off season program for the team being season-ending injury-free for the last three years. The off-season program focuses on knee strength, and the fact that the spread has less contact than other offenses, provides less chance for injury in the first place.

A small town’s football team is many times the heart and soul of the community, especially in Texas, and that winning tradition that is so important to motivate players rubs off on the fans. It certainly rubbed off on the Muleshoe fans, who lined the main highway through town and the elementary and middle school children who lined the playgrounds to see them off as the chartered buses headed to Grand Prairie. Bailey County Electric Company hoisted a banner between two bucket trucks that read “Bailey County Electric says Electrify the Wildcats!” Any vehicle leaving town for the game had to pass the sign erected by fan Nick Bamert which read “Last One Out… Turn out the Lights!” Based on official estimates and tickets sales, about 5500 people attended the game, and at least half of them were for the Mules. Residents, former residents, people who knew residents, people who graduated from or attended Muleshoe High School, people who may have just driven through town decided to come to this game. It was like a family reunion and class reunion rolled into one big happy party, especially when the scoreboard showed no time left. Then of course, the requisite championship-boasting T-shirts were designed and printed by a company in town and 2100 were sold. That's almost half the population, remember. Orders came in from all over Texas and all over the nation, from California to Tennessee. Mule Mania had definitely taken hold and has not let go even now. Cars sported the white shoe polished windows proclaiming “Go Mules,” “Mules State Champs!” “Mules No.1," for months after the game.

Coach Wood has 13 returning lettermen and the shoulder pads of 11 seniors to fill this  season. But he is not worried. In 2006 the Mules averaged 327 yards a game; in 2007, 402 per game; 2008 saw the number jump to 471. “As a coaching staff, we are learning more and more about this offense and are very comfortable with it. If we add 70-75 yards per game to the average this year,” he laughs, “ who knows what the future holds.”

Who knows, indeed. The 2009 season is well under way, and the Mules have extended their undefeated record to 17-0, beating Levelland 27-14, and  Portales, NM  55-14. Mule Mania knows the future looks, well, pretty darn good. Lubbock Cooper is this Friday's challenge. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The bright lights of Muleshoe are shining like diamonds, like ten thousand jewels in a line

Greetings from Muleshoe, the garden spot of West Texas… that’s a joke, for those of you not familiar with West Texas terrain. But since I have a stroll-through cactus garden in my front yard, I feel like I can lay claim to the garden spot of West Texas part.

Since my husband pulled me kicking and screaming into the 21st century with the gift of a wonderful digital camera in 2007 for my trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, I thought I should press on, undaunted, with my walk into the world of technology by starting a blog. So here goes.

Why “The Bright Lights of Muleshoe,” you may ask? Does a town with a name like Muleshoe even have electricity? Well, let me tell you…

We moved from Edna, Texas, to Muleshoe, Texas, in 1980 when Bill, my generous aforementioned husband, took over the CEO position of the Federal Land Bank Association, having been the assistant CEO in the Edna office. I had been teaching and coaching at Edna Junior High and had just finished earning my Master of Education degree from University of Houston, Victoria. My carpool to that campus consisted of the athletic director/head coach, two other high school coaches and an assistant principal, and when one of the coaches drove, the music of choice on the radio was country. Willie Nelson and Wayland Jennings were the order of the day, having made a name for themselves as outlaws of the genre at the time, so I came to enjoy their music as well. And so it was that I was exposed to Willie’s “Red-Headed Stranger” album on those trips.

So on moving day, by the time my family made it to Muleshoe it was no longer day. Night had fallen and as we drove we were encircled with lights in the distance, Portales, NM, to the southwest, Friona to the north, and Muleshoe right in front of us. And then it hit me. The bright lights of Denver were shining like diamonds, like ten thousand jewels in the sky.* I know. It wasn’t Denver and the lights weren’t in the sky, but it fit.

We’ve been here now 29 years and the lights still sparkle all around us every time we come in on Highway 84, just like that first night. Much of Bailey County and Muleshoe are located in Blackwater Valley, which of course, is what allows that line of lights to be so prominently displayed on the horizon. And people think it is just flat up here! Now there are even more lights in a line, mostly from the many dairies that have moved into the area, but the lyrics still fit and the sight is still intriguing.

So if you are interested, dear readers that might stumble onto this blog, I would like to share with you what those bright lights of Muleshoe are all about. Stay with me-football is next. The Mules are the defending state 2A champs, ya’ know.

*”Denver,” from The Red-Headed Stranger; by Willie Nelson. Columbia Records/ CBS, Inc.; 51 W. 52 Street, New York. 1975.