Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bluebonnets, Paint Brushes, and Galardias,Oh My!

Every few years the stars align, the weather gods comply, and the wild flowers in the Hill Country just go crazy. This was one of those years. The Adrians joined us and we took off Friday to see the show. And it was spectacular.

We wandered around the Burnet/Llano area and were rewarded with tons of color. Bill would pull off the highway and Lonnie, Hellen, and I would tramp around in the ditch and stand in the middle of the road taking pictures, you know, doing the typical tourist-here-they-are-in-the-way-again thing and enjoyed every minute of it. It was obvious, however, that the bluebonnets had probably actually peaked last week because I would come across large areas where the flowers had already turned into seed pods. And that's okay-preparation for next year's show. We finally just had to quit stopping for the pictures or we would still be there because every bend in the road seemed better than the last. And really, pictures just don't do the flowers justice.

But if the flowers were on the downhill side for us, imagine what they were a week or so ago. Goodness, the hills were alive with color even now. And the scent! We were enveloped with a wonderful, sweet, can't be duplicated by anything man-made aroma as we ambled around in all that beauty.

Saturday we went in the direction of Austin and found that the flowers were mostly to the northwest of the city, so we headed back that direction, but not before making our way to the Pappadeaux's on I-35 for lunch. While I waited for everyone to finish their last minute chores, I watched a squirrel in a tree by the parking lot.  Apparently he felt his territory in jeopardy because he became very defensive, standing on a lower branch of the tree staring at me defiantly in a very aggressive posture, flipping and jerking his tail to let me know I should move on. When that didn't work, he sat up like a chipmunk, glared at me almost with a smirk on his face, and thrust his private parts at me, just to make sure I got the message. And he just kept flashing me! Dirty little squirrel-man. By the time everyone showed up at the car, the little pervert had scampered off to a higher limb, and no one believed me. Naturally the camera was locked in the car all this time so I didn't get a picture, but then, I was so taken aback by his actions I didn't even think about a photo op. I wished I had taken a picture of the little devil to prove it, but then I couldn't use it in this blog or I would be arrested for putting animal pornography on the Internet. Really. Beware of male squirrels in the spring.

We found many more wildflowers on Highway 71 and smaller county roads and again had to look both ways to keep from being a traffic fatality as we stood in the middle of the road for the best shots and panoramic views. But it was worth it. I offer just a few of the 150 shots I took to share the experience with you. I know there are emails of bluebonnets going around right now, so mine will just be more of the same. But they are so lovely, perhaps you won't find it difficult to look at yet one more picture.

If you have never made a wildflower run to the Hill Country and/or the Brenham area, mark your calendar and plan next year to see God's work in all its radiant splendor.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mules Hit the Links for Regional Golf

Our grandson, Colten, played golf this year, and the team won district, which qualified them to travel to Odessa for the regional tournament. Being retired allowed us to go watch, which we didn't get to do when his mother was on the golf team, so we did.

Bo, Colten, and Coach Cary Sudduth in the back at the breakfast send-off.

We all gathered at the Dinner Bell Sunday morning to send them off with full tummies and encouraging words. They played that afternoon to become familiar with the course and enjoyed nice, sunny weather.

Bo Avila, Tyson Turnbow, Coach Sudduth, Colten in front, before they leave for Odessa.
Cooper Washington met them there.

Now, the trip from Muleshoe to Odessa is not known for its natural beauty in good weather; in fog and rain in early spring before green sets in it is positively depressing. When Bill and I left at 7 am, the fog was out in full force, complete with drizzle and absolutely no sun. And I'm sorry; even in the best of weather, oil towns just aren't very pretty. I know, the money's nice, but oil is dirty. To be fair, not many towns are pretty when seen from the highway; most of their prettier parts are off the highway. But flat land, very few trees,oil field junk, and abandoned buildings don't  make the Texas Highways list of scenic drives. So we drove for three hours through the dismal fog and sad surroundings to arrive at Ratliff Ranch Golf Links for the tournament, which seemed appropriate since golf links aren't in the game for beauty.

So we followed Colten around on foot and bugged him to death, me taking pictures and his grandfather making too many audible comments. By the time all the groups finished, there came the sun. But it was a good day for Colten in spite of us; he shot a 98, for him a personal best.

The second day started out just like the first, only foggier. But by the time we arrived at the links, the sun was out in force. So we geared up to continue to fulfill our mission in life, to embarrass our grandson at every oppportunity. I mean, it's in the contract, right? And we did an admirable job until he and his grandfather had words, and I thought it best that we leave him alone a while. We tailgated for lunch and then parked ourselves at a strategic green and sat, waiting for each of the boys to play through so I could bother them by taking their picture, too. When Colten came through we stayed with him again till the last hole. He managed to beat his score from yesterday with a 92, in spite of us, so he is learning to deal with unruly spectators.

Colten putting. You can see typical links landscaping design, all the beautiful scrubby mesquite trees instead of beautiful sprawling oak trees.

Bo teeing off.

Cooper getting out of the rough.

Tyson teeing off.

The Mules' A player, Tyson Turnbow, missed qualifying for state by two strokes, a tough break, and the team didn't make the cut, either, so their golf season is over for this year. But they have much to look forward to next year, as Tyson, Beau Avila, Cooper Washington, and Jonathan Perez (who didn't get to make this meet) are all juniors with one more year of eligibility, and Colten as a freshman, has three. They seem to all have a good time together, so next year offers another chance. Making it to regionals was a feather in their caps; playing next year-priceless.

And I will have to say that the drive home this time, with the sun and all, wasn't half bad. It is amazing what a little bright light can do to highlight the winter wheat now up for grazing and the green grass and weeds in the ditches that didn't show in the fog. By the time we made it to the Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge area and a few rolling hills, the contrast between the white bleached out dead grass, some green pasture, and the blue sky made a rather pretty picture.

Not such a bad trip after all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Rocket Man Still Rocks

I have seen Elton John in concert three previous times: 1995 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden with Billy Joel in the Face to Face Tour; 1998 at the Erwin Center in Austin in the Big Picture Tour; 2000 in Lubbock in the newly completed United Spirit Arena for An Evening With Elton John. Friday night I saw him for the fourth time, also in Lubbock at the United Spirit Arena, Elton John with his Band. The Rocket Man can still rock the house. 

Caroline and I left Muleshoe in what we thought was plenty of time to run two errands, which were right on our way, and to eat before the concert. We should have known better. Our second errand took us to the west end of 19th Street, which was convenient since the arena is at 19th and Indiana. Our first choice for  supper was Jazz, also conveniently located on 19th. Apparently everyone else going to the concert had the same idea because the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. No problem. We decided Gardski's was a good second choice and reasonably close, so we drove down there to find a full parking lot and a 40 minute wait. Okay, River Smith's is right down the road on Avenue Q, so we tried that. The line was slow and everyone was being given one of those vibrator things with the red lights to signal their turn. By this time we were getting a bit antsy, so it seemed prudent to walk over to the Taco Bell next door and do the fast food thing. Prudent choice, as I think only two other people were in there when we walked in, but they were doing a banner business at the drive-up window. So while we were ordering, Caroline's phone rang and without realizing how it would sound, she proceeded to tell Neil how we drove to three nice restaurants and wound up at Taco Bell, to which the poor little girl waiting on us was not sure how to react. I added that Taco Bell was a perfectly nice place, too. We ate our food quickly and hurried back down 19th to wait 30 more minutes to park.

You'd think after all those concerts I would know the dress code  for an Elton John concert. Alas, apparently I did not. Pink feather boas and pink glasses with matching feathers at the temples and flashing red light Elton John-style glasses were streaming in all around us. And it was neat to see not just fans my age-the old guard-but people of all ages coming to pay homage to a rock and roll  legend who had bothered to come to an out of the way, and by most rock concert standards, small venue to entertain us once again.

And entertain he did. He came to Lubbock the first time, he said, because of Buddy Holly's influence on his music, which I guess was part of the reason for this follow-up tour. He had also done his homework, as he was dressed in a black tux with Rocket Man designs glittering on the back and a red shirt, and he asked quietly after he greeted everyone, "So how are my colors tonight, okay?"

I dutifully listed the songs in my little notepad as they were performed because I wondered how in the world he choose songs for a greatest hits concert from a career that has spanned, what, 40 going on 50 years? He and the five-man band played 25 songs, including all the signature hits one might expect as well as a few pieces not as familiar to all the audience. Heck, I liked them all,  but you will quit reading long before I finish sharing a blow by blow account of every song, so just let me make a few personal observations of a few things I found interesting.

The curtain of digital lights hanging behind the stage did not, for me at least, add much interest to the show, but was used to good effect during  Philadelphia Freedom with lots of red, white, and blue patterns flashing during the song. Crocodile Rock had good lighting effects with a cartoon crocodile, and for several songs the curtain was just a display of tiny colored dots, like so many multicolored stars behind the musicians, and that wasn't bad. I liked the extended version of Rocket Man and The Bitch is Back. In every concert I have attended he always brings the audience to its feet with Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me; this time was no exception. I liked one of the lesser known, older songs, All the Girls Love Alice, but then I would since my name is in it, right?

A couple of time Elton played without backup, those fat little fingers never missing a key, his face intent on the music, as if he and the piano were the only ones in the room, partners in nourishing the soul. I think his next career should be piano player in an old honky tonk using no amplification, just the piano and him. He could do blues that would make B.B. King proud.

Sir Elton and the guys played for almost three hours and when he left the stage a little before 11 pm, one song was noticeably missing. I knew what the encore would just have to be. He came back on stage to patiently sign autographs for a few minutes before sitting down at that shiny Yamaha and saying that this last song is one he doesn't play that often and then said, "-to hell with it. I'm going to sing it tonight," and  gave us, with no accompaniment, Circle of Life.

And then as simply as he had come in, he left.

Elton John's music will always be part of the circle of my life.

Here is the play list, just to let you know what you didn't get to enjoy if you weren't there:
     Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
     Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
     Madman Across the Water
     Tiny Dancer
     Philadelphia Freedom
     Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
     Rocket Man
     I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
     Sad Songs (Say So Much)
     Take Me to the Pilot
     Something About the Way You Look Tonight
     Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
     Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
     Candle in the Wind
     Honky Cat
     All the Girls Love Alice
     Burn Down the Mission
     Bennie and the Jets
     The Bitch is Back
     I'm Still Standing
     Crocodile Rock
     Your Song
     Circle of Life

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Three Main Topics

Back when we lived in Edna and I was teaching 6th grade language arts and coaching junior high girls (see my Archives: "The bright lights of Muleshoe are shining like diamonds...," September 4, 2009) several of us carpooled the drive to Victoria to work on our Master's degrees at University of Houston Victoria: two coaches, one assistant principal, the athletic director/head coach, and me. I was outnumbered four to one when it came to music choices and topics of conversation.

We hadn't made but one or two trips over when I started talking about something, who knows what after all this time, that was of no interest to my fellow male commuters, and I was sort of politely interrupted by head coach Bud Jackson. "We can't talk about that."

"Why not?" I asked, falling right into his trap.

"It's not one of the three main topics," Bud said, dead serious.

Well, I knew it was expected of me and I was hooked by now, so I asked, "Okay, then, what are the three main topics?"

The twinkle in his eye told me it was all he could do to keep from smiling when he said, "Football, sex, and drinking, not necessarily in that order..."

We made that drive twice a week that semester, and I tried really hard to make sure the topics I brought up fit the criteria in some way or another, and sometimes it was a real stretch. If I had known I would have a reason to share any of those conversations, and some of them were doozies, I would have written them down, but alas, I had no idea I would ever have an audience with whom to share them. Later  after an unpleasant confrontation with some insufferable jerk, someone added gilded anal orifices to the list, which broadened our horizons a bit, because we all had stories dealing with that subject. Imagine, a bunch of coaches coming up with an almost politically correct euphemism way before  political correctness wormed its way into our lexicon.

When the sports seasons changed, the football component changed to whatever was being coached at the time-football was always their favorite, though-they took the Edna Cowboys to the state semi-final game in 1979, after all- but we never seemed to be at a loss for something to talk about to help us pass the time over and back on those nights. Some nights, and this was back before open container laws and all, someone would spring for a six-pack to share on the trip home, and that always seeemed to bring up drinking stories. And six shared by five kept us from doing anything stupid. The sex part, well, that one was a bit trickier, and they saved  the best stories for the coaches' office, so I didn't get to hear those.

To this day, I remember those trips as being happy and pleasant, and the three main topics concept is still a relevant idea. The topics changed, of course, but I find three main topics to be a handy way to organize thoughts, scrapbooks, chit-chat, to-do lists, serious discussion, whatever. Now I have a hard time limiting it to just three topics, but that's okay, too. Narrowing down to three helps to focus on what's really important.

What are your main topics?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Snuck in Overnight-or Did It?

The grass was still brown, the trees for the most part were bare, the temperature still dropped to the low 30s at night, and in general things still seemed dreary and dead. Then I walked out into the big cactus garden and a bright mound of pink caught my eye. There it was-the first hint of Spring! An alpine variety of delosperma had defied the weather and bloomed, the first thing in the garden to come to life. There, amid all the freeze -damaged prickly pear and dead leftovers was this hint of things to come. Then in a day or two the cactus I brought back from Wyoming started to bloom as well. Ornamental fruit trees and redbuds started showing off, too, and I swear, after one hot day this week the grass turned up green and the elm trees suddenly looked green.

And then I watched the weather last night and the weatherman predicted a low of 30 for Saturday night! Of course, Easter will be this weekend and Easter is sometimes a marker for the real arrival of Spring, so maybe next week everything will start waking up from the long winter nap.

Or maybe not. Once again, welcome to West Texas...