Tuesday, March 29, 2011

George, Reba, and Lee Ann Sing for Us

We attended a modern county music lover’s dream concert last Saturday night in Lubbock at Texas Tech’s United Spirit Arena. Lee Ann Womack opened the concert, followed by Reba McEntire, and ending with George Strait. What a deal!

The day tickets went on sale I had errands to run in Clovis, so with trusty cell phone in hand, and yes, I called as I drove, I started calling the box office when they opened at 9 am and Bill started trying to get through on the website on the computer at home. For the next six, count ‘em, six hours, I pressed the dialed calls icon, pressed the last number called, listened to the recording that all representatives were busy, ended the call, and started the process over. And over. And over. After my last stop before I pulled out of the parking lot, I called one more time and was nearly speechless when I actually heard a human voice answer the phone!

Are there any tickets left, I asked. Yes, but not four together, which is what I needed as we had invited Caroline and Neil to go with us. It was executive decision-making time as I was told I could get four tickets in the same section, but not together. I could get them in sets of two, each with one seat in front of the other. Not a very good set-up, but hey, we would be in the house and could hear the music, so I took them. I didn’t stay on that blasted phone for six hours to come up empty-handed, after all.

So when Saturday came, it turned out that the Tech football team was having their Spring scrimmage that day and the Tech baseball team had a game that day, and all of this was to take place in the same general area on the Tech campus. Parking was going to be a nightmare. And the concert had sold out, so go early was the advice of the day.

And we did. We left Muleshoe at 4, ate at Rosie’s at 5:15, and were parked by 5:40. We were in a steady stream of cars entering the lot, but the walk to the arena wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Then we got to stand in line till 6 when the doors opened, which wasn’t that bad. We were seated by 6":15 and sat side by side until we had to move when the other ticket holders came in. Turned out, though, that Caroline and Neil sat side-by-side for most of the concert, as the people by them didn’t stay for the whole thing.

I saw people, mostly women, wearing cowboy boots that probably had never worn them before, or had dug them out from some dark corner of someone’s closet or found them at the resale shop just for this concert. I and maybe 1,000 other people didn’t wear boots; the other 15,000 did. Of those 15,000, 14, 000 of them would have been better dressed if they had left the boots at home. And that’s all they had on that was even remotely country and western wear. Most looked like they were vying to win the prize for the best tacky costume of the night, not best-dressed concert-goer.  Really gaudy boots with shorts, skirts, tank tops, tights, and really tacky dresses-it was amazing. They, of course, were happy as pigs in mud just to be there, so my job as fashion police is a mute point. But still…

The concert actually started on time, 7 pm, with Lee Ann Womack singing for 30 minutes. She is from the Lubbock area, so it must have been a bit disheartening, although   probably predictable,  for her to look out over the crowd and see lots of empty seats due to people choosing not to come until the big names came out. We had a hard time hearing her singing over the thump-thump of the bass, but she did do a good job with “San Antonio Rose.”

A 20-minute break followed as they prepared for Reba. The seats had filled considerably and the camera flashes were blinding and the noise deafening when she made her entrance. I will have to digress here and tell you about  the first time I saw Reba McEntire on stage. The year was 1984 and B.J. Thomas was going to be in Clovis for a concert. New friend Jan King was a B.J. fan, and I grew up going to B.J.Thomas and the Triumphs dances at Riverside Hall in East Bernard, so we decided to go. Turns out the opening act was newcomer Reba McEntire. I knew nothing about her, but I asked for and received her autograph anyway. I don’t remember any of her songs, but I do remember she put on a show, all flash and smoke. B.J. came out and just sang. So now here we are and she is the big name and B.J.  is not. And the style is still there; she put on a show and George just sang.

One part of her performance I really enjoyed was “I Want a Cowboy,” with its images of famous cowboys shown on the video screen as she sang. One part I didn’t enjoy was when TV co-star Melissa Peterman came out, and Reba graciously gave up the spotlight to her.  About five minutes of her drivel  might have been fine; fifteen was way over good taste. Reba did bring the house down, however, with her encore, which had her re-enter the arena in a yellow taxi and fancy red dress to sing “Fancy.”

Reba sang for an hour and forty minutes.  After she left, another twenty minute break came to get ready for George. The seats were full this time, and he, too, was given a huge welcome. In true George Strait style, cowboy hat and Wranglers, guitar in hand, he rotated around the stage singing four songs and then moving to the next corner through 28 songs before making his exit and coming back for a rousing encore. To compensate for his laid-back style in comparison to Reba’s, I guess, lights and video images  flashed  throughout his performance, which, for my  money were unnecessary. Just let him sing. His songs are easy to sing along with, and lots of people did, but when he started “All My Exes Live in Texas,” everybody, and I mean everybody, including me, sang with him. That was fun. He said “Amarillo by Morning” is still the favorite song he has ever recorded, but he didn’t sing “Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?’ which I missed. He ended his encore with [that’s when] “The Cowboy Rides Away,” a fitting finale, I thought.

Four and a half hours of country music, but cowboy hats didn’t show up till George Strait showed up,  the women were all sequins, and the loud bass and background music could have been mistaken for a rock concert. Times have changed. But this night,  good music remained.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cedar Posts Story


Conventional wisdom claims  that no good deed goes unpunished. I offer this situation for your consideration.

We spent part of Spring Break at Lake LBJ in the heart of the Hill Country and offered to bring back cedar posts for our son-in-law to build a new fence for his and Caroline’s growing herd of longhorn cattle. We were hauling two pieces of furniture down there and would be coming back with an empty trailer, so it seemed the expeditious  thing to do.

Now for those of you not familiar with the Hill Country, it is overrun with cedar trees, trees that are not native to the area, I have been told, and they have taken over. So an enterprising group informally known as cedar choppers saw a way to make a living clearing the cedar trees and selling the wood for fence posts and lumber, which is a good deal because it helps to clear out the unwanted cedar trees that suck all the moisture out of the ground and produce that nasty pollen that gives everyone cedar fever down there.

Before we were in the market for cedar posts, it seemed like cedar choppers were  everywhere.  Now that we needed one, they were nowhere to be found. After many calls and dead ends, we decided to re-route the trip home through Lampasas where we had remembered passing a big cedar lumber yard before, and sure enough there it was, Myers Cedar, but with a chain across the entrance. It was Sunday, after all. Two phone numbers were posted, so Bill called one of them. We could hear the office phone ringing amid the stacks of cedar posts. Before Bill could call the other number, a man appeared magically to help us. Augustine was his name, and he called the boss using one of his  two cell phones, and we were in business.

If I had known I was going to write about this experience, I would have taken a picture of Augustine to share with you, but he might have taken it the wrong way, so maybe it is just as well. He was a small man, probably in his late 50s,  but sturdy and strong after nineteen years of cutting, stacking and loading cedar. A red bandana served as a sweat band and held some of his mop of hair out of his eyes. Carrying his cell phones  on either side of his head attached to some sort of make-shift  headband was no doubt his invention, a pretty clever one, I thought. Surely that made it easier to hear them ring if he was using a saw and made them handy to carry and just reach up to answer. I wandered around while he and Bill loaded 40 poles on our trailer and found his work hat, a large straw hat that would surely protect even his shoulders from the sun, it was so big. Next to it was his food for the day, a half-gallon of milk, a bag of flour tortillas, and another bag with fillings for the tortillas. His backpack lay on the ground and his bicycle was propped up against a stack of poles. I suspect this was a typical work day for him.

In a short time the poles were loaded and we were on our way. Sort of. As luck would have it, I too had some wood I wanted to take home, some tree stumps I found at the lake that would make great plant stands. We had loaded them to the front of the trailer and had a ladder and packing materials neatly arranged behind them. This little trailer is just a single axle utility trailer and 40  6-inch cedar posts filled it and then some. The tires were pushed down almost flat as we gingerly made our way into town to find an air compressor.

My tree stumps were no match for the weight of the poles, so of course as we pulled out onto the highway, the trailer started whipping back and forth. Too much weight toward the back of the trailer. We reached a top speed of 45 mph before pulling into a convenience store to air up the tires and realized that there really was no way around the fact that the weight in the trailer would have to be redistributed or we would roll into Muleshoe sometime late the next day.

There just happen to be a big shade tree next to the curb behind the convenience store. Thank goodness it wasn’t middle of the summer hot and humid yet, but the shade helped. To complicate matters, Colten wasn’t up to speed because he had caught a stomach bug the day before and was throwing up. Mari had to be contained in the vehicle, as she had made the trip with us. Stuff from the back of the Yukon had to be unloaded to find the work gloves, and we only had two pair, so I stood idly by and watched, but I did take pictures and bought water.

The unloading:


IMG_3726IMG_3724  IMG_3727IMG_3729

Naturally everything had to be taken off the trailer and put back on with the weight more evenly distributed to the front. Then more stuff from the back of the Yukon had to come out to find more tie-downs to secure the load. An hour and a half later I took the final picture, picked up not only our trash but the other plastic bag of empty beer bottles that was there when we got there-I figured we would be accused of leaving the place a mess-and we were off at the blazing speed of 60-65 mph. But the trailer pulled nicely and the tires weren’t quite so flat.

The re-loading:





When we finally rolled into Muleshoe at 7:45, butt-weary and bleary- eyed, we were just thrilled that we hadn’t had a flat along the way to add to the adventure.  Counting the whole trip from start to finish, we managed to take a normally 7-hour drive and turn it into roughly a 10-hour odyssey, which may not sound too bad, but I assure you the extra three hours and second set of  unloading and reloading had taken their toll. My behind is still sore from all the sitting, and Bill gets to look forward to unloading those posts one more time at Neil’s house.

But that’s okay. We were glad to do it, and it makes a good story. ‘Course, now Colten looks forward to digging all those post holes this summer…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Praise of Skilled Craftsmen

Ray and Alex came to install the new sink and faucet the other day. I watched as they figured out what went where and worked out all the kinks in a job that looked incomprehensible to me. These are the same men, remember, who moved a wall, rebuilt a closet, put up crown molding and baseboard that they also stained, helped lay tile, installed lights, added a full-length window by the door, put up the corbels and captials; in short, anything that needed to be done. And they knew how to do it all. Like magic. I never cease to be amazed at people who know how to build things and do stuff like that.

Then I thought of Chase who had all the redecorating ideas and did the painting and finish work. He, too, knew all the steps and procedures to do a professional job. I remembered Israel and his helpers who layed the tile.

All of these young men do quality work, are in great demand around here, and they need never be out of a job unless they choose to be. Which begs the question: why are we trying to send every kid to college when we have a real need for skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, painters, you name it. And we have plenty of kids who would love to work at jobs like that, would enjoy the satisfaction of a well-finished product, and could make a nice living doing it.

I started to get on my soap box about the need for more vocational training and two-year technical colleges for a variety of other hands-on careers, which we do need, but I realized what I really wanted to say is that somewhere along the way we have devalued what used to be called manual labor blue-collar jobs and instead made kids think they should all be college graduates with white-collar jobs. I am all for a liberal education in the old sense; a college education broadens one's horizons and offers new worlds and  experiences. But we have a passel of kids out there who would much rather be working with their hands creating something than holding a book in their hands, and we have done them a disservice to make them think that the trades are somehow second-class jobs. All I have to do is look at my updated and beautiful home to know that the world needs those kinds of professionals along with the white-collar workers.

Our society needs all kinds of people to fill all kinds of jobs. All work that is honest and well-done is valuable and necessary and deserves to be respected. I used to tell my students that whatever job they chose to do, to perform it in the very best way they can. Be they a doctor or a ditch-digger, be the very best doctor or ditch-digger they can be. Take pride in what they do.

I used to have a poster in my classroom, now in my barn/greenhouse, of Will Rogers that quotes him as saying "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." Which means then, that  everybody is smart, only on different subjects. I know how to teach English. I am glad Chase and Ray and Alex know how to work on houses.

Thanks, guys. Everything looks beautiful.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stinky Dog


On Friends Phoebe sang about Smelly Cat. Well, now we talk about  Stinky Dog, a.k.a. the Skunkanator.  Little Miss Destructo Dog   has confronted a skunk not once, or twice, but three times now, the last two within two weeks of each other, and I suspect she will attack  yet again when she gets the opportunity. That’s just what dogs with scent amnesia do. And spray is what skunks do. After all, what’s a little guy to do when confronted by a larger animal who seems to want to do  harm?   I fear the skunks win the confrontations, though,  as with each encounter the Skunkanator runs  home, tail tucked, head down, and she  rolls and rubs against everything in sight in a futile attempt to rid herself of the scent of eau de Pepe le Pew.

You will notice I don’t have a picture to share of any of the unfortunate encounters. Thank goodness I didn’t have the camera handy and therefore wasn’t tempted to get close enough for a shot. Heck, I don’t much like to drink tomato juice, let alone take a bath in it. 

I can report, however, that the old tomato juice rub-down followed by a Dawn detergent bath does help cut the smell. Not completely, mind you, but enough that Stinky Dog has been allowed back into the house. Time is about the only real remedy. A faint reminder lingers around her, but as you can see, she has reclaimed  her spot on the sofa.


Good girl, Mari. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remodeling is Done; Divorce Didn’t Happen

Well, we made it through without having to consult a lawyer! Forty-one days later, give or take a few days for packing up, unpacking, and re-hanging pictures, and we now have a fresh, clean, new look to the heart of the house. And Bill likes it more than he thought he would. I think he has even grown accustomed, if not fond, of the pesky turquoise bookcase and cabinet he was not so sure about in the beginning.

I was going to share before and after pictures with you, but on viewing the before pictures I realized I did a really bad job of taking them;  you may get more after shots to view with nothing to compare. Then when I started taking the after pictures, I also realized we really aren’t through just yet. The area rugs aren’t in, the new sink and faucet are still sitting in their boxes, and putting the pictures back up on the wall? Well, that’s a work in progress. I get really anal when forced to put a nail hole in those beautiful, textured, freshly painted walls. I agonize over where each picture will be hung. What if I change my mind and have to move it?

So let me give you a less than perfect tour.I am purposely leaving out bare walls, but you will get the general idea.

The entry before.

The entry after.

This is also the entry, and even though it is a bit dark, you can see the area has been widened because  we knocked out part of a closet and added a floor-length window beside the door. Oh, yes, there’s one more thing not completely finished. The front door still needs to be painted.

Here you can see the new light fixture and the freshly painted server and mirror that were Mother’s. And you can see the one wall of color we added.

The kitchen before.

The kitchen after. Note that the pot rack is gone, a tile backsplash has been added, wood trim added on edge of counter and top of cabinets, a ceramic mosaic tile picture took the place of cabinets and shelves over the sink, and of course the color changed.

Close-up of the mosaic tile picture. Bill’s mother was a decorator, and we carted around five boxes of tiles for her for years, not knowing what we really had. Hellen figured out that each box was its own picture, and this is one of them.

This is still not the greatest picture of the backsplash, but I wanted to show you a close-up of the tile. I really like it and am trying really hard to keep the counter clean of clutter so it shows up nicely. In fact, after I purged the cabinets of unused items when we moved back into the kitchen, I now have space to put things in the cabinets that should have in a cabinet in the first place. I highly recommend the purging process.

The living room and bookcase before.

The living room and bookcase after. Note the backsplash is the porcelain floor tile, the crown molding is new, and the wood counter and mantle are stained to match the corbels and capitals marking the passageways between the kitchen and dining area and living room and patio.

Looking into the patio before.

Looking into the patio after. I took this picture at night, not the best choice of timing, but you can see the corbels and capitals in the corners of the entryway and that the three square windows are gone.

The corbels and capitals in the corners of the room passageways really change the look of things. Fred Lopez  and his son Rick of Clovis designed them.  Now I can say the style of our house is Contemporary Southwest.

Okay, so there you are. I left out some views and didn’t show much of the patio, or the nice tile backsplash and fresh paint job in the utility room, but you get the picture. In a month or so things will look even better because  pictures will be up, the shelves will be a bit fuller,  and more plants will have been moved back in, but it was time to have closure on our adventure in remodeling. 

Yes, and now comes the adventure of the garage sale of all those things I purged out of the kitchen, the closets, the attic, the barn…