Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dust-and Now Ice!

Was it just a mere week ago that we had dust, dirt, and 50 mph winds? Yes, it was. Yesterday the temperature made it all the way to 69 sunny pleasant degrees. But today, January 28th, I am looking out the window at ice-encrusted tree limbs bouncing in the wind, white ground, white everywhere, and snow coming down. An hour ago it was raining and icing everything over. Minnie the cat was very local  telling me she was the only one of our six cats not inside. Apparently her heat lamp basket in the garage just wasn't good enough. I gave in. She is snuggled down and  content in a dining room chair. Peaches is curled up in her basket on the computer printer; Kitty is in one of the clothes baskets; Sophie is curled up in a corner against the wall; Perla and Little Cat are sleeping undisturbed in the heated barn. Mari is inside at Colten's house with Colten, since school was called off-after all the kids showed up only to be sent home. Bill succumbed to the bed monster and is warm and toasty back in bed. Snow day it is.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dust Storm-and It's Not Even Spring

Dairy January 22, 2010

Dairy January 23, 2010

January 22, 2010; our first big dust storm of the new year, and it's a doozy. Mari and I were smart enough to take our three mile walk early this morning because by 9:00 the wind hit, and it was downhill from there. Or should I say ridiculously windy from there. I decided to drive to Littlefield (30 miles) to pick up the dry cleaning since it was not a pleasant day to do anything outside anyway. In the car was bad enough; I couldn't just kick back and cruise to the music. I had to steer with both hands firmly on the wheel, be careful when going over the overpasses,  and try to dodge tumbleweeds while squinting to have any visibility through the dust in front of me. When I passed a dairy outside of Littlefield, I was enveloped in a cloud of solid brown dirt crossing the highway and slowed down considerably for fear of running up on an unseen car that might be obscured in front of me. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me, so I don't have proof to show you just how bad the dirt was.

Dirt Road January 22, 2010

But I did have the camera once I make it back home, so  Bill and I took a little trip west of Muleshoe where there is another dairy, knowing it too would be blowing across the highway. Apparently this generation of dairy farmers who have migrated here from California have not heard of soil conservation techniques or didn't have to deal with wind in California, because when you drive past any of the new dairies, the topsoil is blowing across the highway on its way to Oklahoma or Kansas or somewhere. This dairy, however, was not blowing away as much as the other one I drove past near Littlefield.

Ditch of Tumbleweeds January 22, 2010

Then we went south of town and were able to catch some tumbleweeds making their way across the highway, hunting for a new place to alight and wait for the next wind to come from the other direction on another day and blow them back across the highway again, or to pile up with their bretheren to make a really big mess. I mentioned dodging tumbleweeds as I drove to Littlefield; well, you don't really dodge them,; they have a mind of their own and tend to change directions just about the time you think you aren't going to make contact. And while it's not terrible to hit them since they shatter, the bigger ones can do damage to a car's paint job.

Tumbleweed January 22,2010

Tumbleweeds start life growing as Russian thistles. When they dry up and die, the wind uproots them and they blow hither and yon in search of other tumbleweeds to latch onto. If they are not burned off or physically removed, over time and more dust storms, the dirt collects and fills in and they become little hills or berms. Or if the tumbleweeds collect up against a fence, they will become solid with the dirt and the cattle can just walk over what used to be a fence. Those lucky enough to be town tumbleweeds wind up in the corners of backyard fences, in patios, on porches, or up against any structure, like this one under this carport , and have to be gathered and disposed of. Then of course, in the spring, it becomes apparent that Mother Nature's plan of using them to disperse the thistle seeds was quite effective when I spend my time the rest of the growing season pulling thistle seedings out of every square inch of ground in the cactus garden.

Town Tumbleweed January 22, 2010

Farm House January 22, 2010

Farm House January 23, 2010

The sky will be brown and tan way up on the horizon, trash will blow relentlessly, dust will coat you and everything in your house, and when sunset comes, the wind usually dies down. Notice I said usually; not always. But on most mornings after, we arise to blue sky, little wind, sunshine, and a lovely day with no humidilty to curl hair and make skin sticky. It is then that the old timers agree that since it wasn't an earthquake (shades of Haiti), a tsunami, a hurricane (Land-locked West Texans fear hurricanes more than tornadoes), volcanic eruption, or some other catacylsmic disaster, they will be glad to put up with a little dirt and wind. After all, if it weren't for that, everyone would want to live up here.

Tolk Station January 22, 2010

Tolk Station January 23, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fast Food Workers Get No Respect

We walked into a fast food chain over the weekend to be greeted by a pleasant hello from the young woman behind the counter. I placed my order for a small cheeseburger, mustard and mayonnaise, no ketchup. I knew I was in trouble when she had to ask her supervisor a question, and when she returned to the register, she had to ask me again what I wanted. She punched around on her register/computer screen a few times.

"You wanted all the vegetables, right?"

"Right." Vegetables had not been mentioned up until then. "I don't want any ketchup."

"Oh, right."

Then it was Bill's turn. He always asks for no pickles and then usually gets to pick them off as he is griping about how no one ever gets the order right.

Well, this time the pickles were left off, but while my cheeseburger had no ketchup, it also had no vegetables and only a smidgeon of mustard and no mayonnaise that I could find. But it filled my empty spot and wasn't worth fussing about.

And then I started thinking about all the grief fast food workers take because of their mistakes, and yes, there are  many. I hear lots of negative comments about the intelligence level of kids who work at fast food places. And then I come home and fight with my computer and wonder how many mistakes I would make on that little thing they use to  send the orders back to the kitchen. I really have to wonder how well those of us who complain would do behind the counter. I suspect each restaurant, and even bigger, presumably better eating places, has its own system that kids have to learn each time they move to yet another food service job. I also suspect that it really isn't as much of a no-brainer to work in those places as those of us who have never tried it will ever know.

Of course, we will also never know how many of the botched orders are the fault of the person who takes the order or the kids in the back putting the order together. So perhaps the people who take the heat aren't always the guilty ones.

And what we all should remember is if these kids who get no respect get fed up with getting no respect, who will take those jobs? Who will be there to pour up that senior coffee for us? Who can we take out our frustrations on when we have had a bad day? (And what about when the workers have a bad day? Who gives them any sympathy?) Who will fix our food, even if doesn't come out exactly right?

Bottom line? Working at fast food chains keeps these people off the unemployment rolls, out of trouble, gives them a purpose in life, and yes, fills a real need- feeding people. These are perfectly decent and good jobs. There is a place for everyone in the world of jobs and people who need different kinds of jobs.

So think about that the next time you get bad service. Bad service, unfortunately, is rampant everywhere these days, so why should the kids in caps behind the counters take all the heat? Flip a few burgers before fussing too loudly.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Destructo Dog Graduates

For eight grueling weeks we braved  highway 84, survived one potty training accident, spent a fortune every time we stepped foot into PetsMart, and finished the course with a diploma and a picture (of sorts) and a happy little puppy who now knows how to sit, lie down, watch me, roll over, and stay. She also knows to leave it, take it, and has a new appreciated for doggy treats and rawhide strips. The chewing thing has gotten better but hasn't gone away. Her squeaky balls don't squeak but a short time before the squeaker is demolished, and the rawhide strips last about a day. But the really important thing she learned is what "go pee pee" means.

The trainer had a little puppy-sized mortar board for all the dogs to wear for their commencement picture. amd I had visions of this cute and sweet little picture of Mari wearing this cap. Hah. You'll notice that wearing a hat and posing for a picture are not in that list of skills she learned. We tried with only limited success to take an award-winning graduation picture, but to no avail, as you can see here. She behaved just the way some high school graduates have been known to-more or less out of control.

But, really, the classes did do Mari a world of good, and we learned how to better handle her. So I would recommend positive reinforcement training for your dog. It just so happened that I caught a horse training program on PBS last weekend and watched a trainer use a handful of oats to train a horse past his bad hoof trimming behavior. I have a good idea that positive reinforcement would work on just about any animal; cats, kids...husbands.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

TV is Going to Ruin Football-Or Has it Already?

Okay, this post  is just me venting a little bit. In the newspaper it would be called an op-ed piece, so maybe I could get away with calling it that. Probably not.

 I'm a true Texan schooled in the pleasures of  football.  My dad was a high school football star. I grew up watching A&M and Texas duke it out on Thanksgiving Day. I enjoy the thrill of a completed Hail Mary pass. My husband played football and gets passionate about the game. My son played football. My daughter was a cheerleader (okay, she didn't play, but cheerleaders are a part of football, right?). My grandson plays football. I am a loyal fan of the Muleshoe Mules.

So now,  for the past hour and a half I have been patiently waiting, sort of,  for the kickoff of this year's BCS championship game. The talking heads have been hyping it since end of the regular season, during the other bowl games, and all day today. This last 90 minutes have they blathered on and on, and for what? What have they accomplished? Everything said has been speculation and hyperbole. Honestly, you'd think it was the second coming of Christ instead of a football game.

And then we will  have to endure the same quest to fill dead air with dreaful drivel as Super Bowl time arrives. Ah, yes, that quintessential example of greed run amuck at the expense of the game. It will be discussed ad nauseum for an even longer time since it has been delayed till February. If the teams were just allowed to entertain people the old fashioned way, playing football, I would like it much better. But then what would all those lip-syncing halftime singers do for a week-end gig? Between the halftime carnival and the ridiculoulsy expensive ads, the game is almost beside the point.

Of course, I am just a  party of one, and I am sure most people watching the game don't see a thing wrong with this overkill system that has developed. I realize all the hype means more money for the schools, in the case of the college games, but rest assured their take is a pittance compared to what the TV networks, refreshment companies, merchandising manufacturers, advertisers, et. al.  will rake in. Football is big business, not a sport anymore.

I do like football. Really. Go back and read my earlier posts about football. And I like to watch games on TV. I just get tired of all the overkill. That's right, I'm a grouchy old person...

...The game just ended, 'Bama won, and now we get the insipid, banal, unnecessary questions in the post-game interviews. How do you think Colt McCoy felt not getting to finish the game? Duh. How does it feel to win? Gee, good, maybe? Okay, okay, I'll quit.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year from Wolf Creek

I have heard it said that when oil got to $50 a barrel, Texas would just buy Colorado and make it into a state park. Well, $50 a barrel oil has come and gone and we still haven't bought Colorado, but based on our ski trip experience over New Year's, it is our state park anyway. Half the state was there.

When we moved to Muleshoe, we bribed the kids with the promise of learning to snow ski. So when the Methodist church we joined had a ski trip for the kids that year, we signed up and had our first snow skiing experience at Wolf Creek Pass, between Pagosa Springs and South Fork, Colorado. When no one else has snow, Wolf Creek always does, as was the case this year, so that's where we decided to go. And we weren't disappointed.

At 10,850 feet, Wolf Creek is not the highest ski mountain around, but is blessed with all the right stuff to always have good snow and be very cold. By the time we drove into the parking lot Thursday morning, the car themometer registered -10. Cold it was, but it was a perfect day for skiing. Little or no wind, beautiful blue sky, reasonable crowds-mostly from Texas-and piles of powder.
The snowboarders and little kid skiers were out in force. As a group, snowboarders tend to be young, which means they are also reckless, fast, and seem to lack ski manners. Or maybe I am just jealous that they can make snowboarding look so easy, and I can barely handle the intermediate runs. But they go whizzing past at ninety miles an hour with no warning or fall in front of me and scare me to death. And then there are the little kids, all of three feet tall , maybe less, moseying along with no poles and no fear, making pizza slices with their skis while tackling moguls on runs I avoid like the plague.

Well, avoided that is, until my grandson lured me down Thumper, an intermediate run that surprised us both with nothing but deep, hard moguls. And it was way too long, so I managed to fall more than once and lose my religion more than once before finally making it down to flatter ground. I don't have style and I don't have grace, but I don't fall often on my face, and I didn't fall on other harder runs. Well, except for Kaa the Snake, an intermediate I actually liked, but it wasn't so hard to get back up like it was on Thumper when I was trying to put skis back on and get up, all while gravity was sliding me down the mountain. That's the thing about skiing: it wears you out dragging around all that awkward-to-carry equipment, dealing with putting on and walking around in ski boots, having to practically undress in all those layers of clothes to go to the bathroom, and then the final insult, falling and looking like an uncoordinated beached whale while little kids are shussing past without a care in the world.

And yet we will go back and do it again and call it fun. Gluttons for punishment, you say? Yep. But when you slide off that lift and look at all God's creation in those spectacular mountain peaks, the snow glittering like diamond dust, the deep blue sky with jet trails across it, and then make your way down in the crisp air, well, it's all worth it.

A Most Unusual Christmas Present

My daughter Caroline found a time when we were out of the house and snuck in a huge box, nicely wrapped, and tucked it under the Christmas tree. Well, tucked might be a stretch; it was so big she just sort of set it down beside the tree. She told me I was going to really like it, that it was something I had wished for while talking to her boy friend, Neil. So two days before Christmas I get to open it early since we are going to our son's house for Christmas, and this box would have taken up all the room in the vehicle.

Now I don't know what kind of fancy, soft and silky, or high tech things you might like to get for presents, but I couldn't have been more pleased when I open it up to find a perfect buffalo skull for my cactus garden. It's beautiful! Clean and smooth, all parts in tact, treated for protection from the weather; in fact, too perfect to put outside. And what if a dog carried it off, or someone else decided they wanted it? But Caroline and Neil didn't have any problem with it going outside; after all, that is why they gave it to me.

So when springtime comes, I will be having a great time preparing a special place for the skull. And I'll bet you thought your Christmas present was unique...ha!