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.