Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Colorado Chronicles: The Greeley Grizwalds

Grizwald's Light Show
You know that movie "Christmas Vacation" or whatever the hell it is, with Chevy Chase? He tries like crazy to get his Christmas lights going and hilarity ensues? Well, there's a guy up in Greeley, Colorado that is a real life "Grizwald" without any of the technical snafus and Cousin Eddies to frak things up. I mean this guy, Mike, has it down like James Brown. There are several videos of Mike's handiwork here. I need to give you a little notice that Mike must live out in the country as there are no city lights or artificial light of any kind to get in the way of his light show. The lights are synced to music, so at times things will be dark for a few seconds or only a few lights will "dance" to the music. Just stick with the video. When the music revs up so do the lights. Please keep that in mind as you view the videos. You won't be sorry.

On this page of Mike's web site, you'll find out some really cool information about his Christmas lights display, such ass, there are over 108,000 (!) lights in the display. You'll also find out that Mike has won numerous awards as well. Click the link above and check out the rest of the facts about the show. It's very impressive.

Christmas is a joyous and happy time of year, and it's guys like Mike and the Picketts, who we featured yesterday, that take the joy and happiness of the yuletide season to new levels. Their hard work and attention to detail are overlooked most of the time, but the smiles they put on children's faces when the kids see the fantastic display of lights Mike and the Picketts have labored over, make all the time and labor spent each Christmas season on getting the show together well worth it all. Thanks, Mike and thank you Kevin and Linda. You are truly filled with the Spirit of Christmas.

Maine Minutiae: Christmas By the Sea

Having been in Maine for nearly five years, I'd like to think that I know a little more about the state than when I got here. And I do. But, since starting this blog nearly six months ago, I have learned so much more about Maine, its people and its traditions - including Christmas traditions. Part of the joy of doing a blog is to be able to share what I have learned /am learning with people all over the world.

Maine has about seven bazillion miles of coastline, so it should come as no surprise that many holiday traditions are centered on the ocean, boats and other maritime pursuits. This post is one of those.

Christmas by the Sea in Camden, Rockport and Lincolnville is a prime example of Mainers celebrating Christmas and at the same time, celebrating their heritage which is linked to the sea. Christmas by the Sea takes place this weekend, December 3-5, so you still have a bit of time to insert a visit to Camden, Rockport and/or Lincolnvillle into your schedule. According to the Christmas by the Sea web site, "The Christmas season arrives in Maine’s Midcoast during the first weekend in December, when Santa chugs into the harbor by boat, a parade makes its way down the street, and unique local traditions hit their stride." I just wonder if the boat on which Santa arrives has a big red light on the front of it, like Rudolph's nose.

More from the festival web site:
  •  Trish Moroz–-known locally as the “gingerbread lady”--will transport nearly 130 elaborate gingerbread houses that she has been crafting in her Rockport kitchen since last February from her basement to the holiday fair.
  • Retired firefighter Bob Oxton will make his trek up Mount Battie to light the holiday star that can be seen for miles, as he has for four decades.
  • Carolers and horse-drawn wagons will wind through historic downtown Camden, where the mountains meet the sea, and local shops will offer special items that you won’t find at the mall.
 What a great way to combine the celebration of Christmas with local customs and traditions! I appreciate the symbolism of celebrating Christ's birth and the traditions of the locals and the sea. Somewhere in the Good Book it says something like this: Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Christmas by the Sea not only feeds a man for a day, it also nourishes a man's soul for a lifetime.

Texas Tidbits: Rudolph the Roughneck

To truly celebrate Christmas the Texas Way, you have to come up with an idea that represents Texas in a unique way then "Christmas-fy" it. The crew at Lufkin Industries came up with just such an idea many years ago, thanks to L.I. employee, Guy Croom. Croom heard the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" by fellow Texan, Gene Autry. Croom's idea was to take one of Lufkin Industries' most common products which just happens to represent a part of Texas history and merge it with Christmas to create a Yuletide symbol for the ages. The Lufkin Industries product that Guy Croom "Christmas-fied" was an oil pumping unit, one of the most recognized icons in Texas.

Texasescapes.com  fills us in, "For about four days before Thanksgiving, an electrician installs 1,000 seven-watt light on a selected unit. Another work crew spends another two and a half days putting Rudolph together at his holiday home on the parking lot of Lufkin Mall beside Loop 287 and U.S. 59. Rudolph is actually a fully-operational Lufkin Mark 640 oilfield pump painted red for the season. At his holiday home, he is pulling a 38-foot dump trailer, also made by Lufkin Industries, carrying Santa Claus and a pile of Christmas gifts.Rudolph, naturally, sports lighted antlers and a red nose. The rest of Rudolph's story can be found here. Hence, a star, a Lone Star as it were, is born. Truly unique and truly Texas. Wanna take a peek? There are a number videos starring Rudolph on You Tube. Rudolph lights up the night skies in Lufkin. Here is a compilation of videos showing Rudolph at work.

I hope that Lukin Industires gave Guy Croom a nice Christmas bonus for creating something that combines the celebration of Christmas and an icon of Texas history into a memorable and long-lasting gift to the people of Texas. I think I can speak for Guy Crooms and Lufkin Industries when I say, Merry Christmas, y'all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Colorado Chronicles: Christmas Magic in The Springs

Christmas in the Rockies
Colorado Springs is one of my favorite places in Colorado. Pikes Peak looms 14,000 feet plus over the city to the west and it's just a couple of reindeer jumps to Santa's Workshop on the road to Garden of the Gods. The Springs is situated in an environment that is perfect for celebrating Christmas. Moiuntain, snow, Santa's Worshop...what more could you ask for?

Folks like Kevin and Linda Pickett utilize their Christmas-y setting in Colorado Springs to it's maximum effect. You see, the Picketts, like many other area residents get into the Christmas Spirit every year, but Kevin and Linda take the season a little more seriously than most other people. Sure they decorate their home for Christmas just like millions of other Americans, with lights, yard displays and other Yuletide gizmos. It's just that the Picketts use over 100,000 lights and a sleigh full of technically enhanced Christmas scenes. It is absolutely out of this world! They have the lights and various animated scenes in their yard sync'd to music play over their very own low power FM radio station!  Click here to access the Picketts' web site and see for yourself. I'm as serious as dandruff, it's nuts! In a good way, of course. Once on their home page, you can click links to a photographic history and evolution of the annual Christmas extravaganza. They even have videos of it as it was featured on the Big 3 TV networks! There are also links to other people in the United States who are what Kevin calls 'light gurus" and the "above average" displays they have put together.

This is one of the best Christmas things I have ever seen. The web site has some of the most incredible content of any such web site in the world. drop by Kevin and Linda's site, sign their guest book and take some time to really check out the place. You'll thank me later.

Maine Minutiae: The Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport

Lobster Trap Christmas Tree
Thanksgiving, 2010 is in the books and that means it's now twenty-seven day mad dash to Christmas. All over the country big cities and small towns are all dressed up in their Christmas finery as we await the arrival of good old saint Nick.

One of Maine's most famous cities, Kennebunkport, is celebrating an almost thirty year old celebration called Christmas Prelude. While Christmas Prelude may be a relative newcomer in terms years, it's long on tradition and big on beauty.

The first Christmas Prelude was held in 1982 and "included a tree lighting ceremony, a River Tree Arts concert, a chowder luncheon, candlelight caroling and Santa’s arrival by lobster boat. We now have three tree-lighting ceremonies – Dock Square in Kennebunkport, Lower Village of Kennebunk and the lobster trap tree in Cape Porpoise; about a dozen Art and Craft Fairs; approximately 12 venues serving either breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner; programs sponsored by the Historical Society; and 12 programs of music celebrating the season. Santa still arrives by lobster boat escorted by two very special “lobster elves”. The Kennebunkport Business Association’s Christmas Prelude is now in its 29th year. For each of these years, business people have worked with the community to recreate the spirit and joy of the Christmas season."

Click here to go to the Christmas Prelude web site home page, and you be treated to a beautiful slide show from previous years of the celebration. On that page there are also helpful links about lodging, a schedule of events and contact information for the folks who run the Christmas Prelude. The festivities begin Thursday, December 2, so be sure to check the schedule of events for the day and time of your favorite activity.

Texas Tidbits: A Christmas Display as Big as Texas

Texans do everything big and celebrating Christmas is no different as Marshall puts on one of the biggest Christmas lights displays in the country. Wonderland of Lights is truly spectacle worthy of all the praise heaped upon it. Since 1987, Wonderland of Lights has attracted millions of visitors from East Texas and all over the world. All these visitors gather in Marshall each year starting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to see more than 10 million lights on display including the Courthouse on the square in Downtown Marshall. All told, more than 3000 miles of strung lights took more than 8000 man-hours to get ready for this year's festival.
Holidaytrailoflights.com tells us of some of the other activities taking place during the festival, "You will find a variety of entertainment and activities, including live entertainment in the Old Memorial City Hall Auditorium, Church of the Bells, Carriage Rides, Bus Tours to neighborhoods with elaborate decorations and lighted scenes, driving tour route with displays over 24 ft tall, visits with Santa, the annual “lighted” Christmas Parade and an Outdoor Ice Skating Rink."

This year's Wonderland of Lights continues through January 2, 2011, so there's still time to make plans to see one of the most spectacular displays of the Christmas Spirit you'll find anywhere. It's truly an experience that everyone in your family will be delighted by. I have been to the Wonderland of Lights festival more than once, and I can tell you first-hand that it's every bit as good (or better) as advertised. Marshall is 150 miles east of Dallas on I-20, so it's only a couple hour drive - a drive well worth taking. As an added bonus, it's only 41 miles from Marshall to the casinos in Shreveport. Just sayin'. Any way you choose it, Wonderland of Lights is a great way to say Merry Christmas !!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Funky Old Dude Still Married After 52 Years - A Love Story

A Toast to Bob and Ann
A few days ago I wrote this story about some of the things I'm thankful for, like my wife and kids. Let me give you a very brief recap. I met my wife online. We were friends for quite a while before we actually met face to face. The rest is, as they say, history. I have been with Heather for six years now, so I guess those dipsticks that said she and I would last three months have been proven wrong.

A friend of mine, Bob Zeller at Texas Tweeties, can be beat my record by a few years, By a few, I mean he beats me by forty-six years! And he did it the old fashioned way. By way of the United States Postal Service.

I asked Bob just after I posted my story about meeting Heather to tell me the story of how he met Ann, his wife of FIFTY-TWO years! 
In Bob's own words, here's his tale of romance. It's a great read, so please take a few minutes to read aboutan amazing love story that is 52 years young and still kickin' ass and takin' names. This is one of the best stories ever told. I promise.

Good News Stories About America

The Symbol of the United States of America
First things first. I' like to wish my sister Cheryl, who is one of the toughest (in a good way) women I know, a Happy Birthday. Cheryl is one of the best women I've had the pleasure to know and it's a privilege to be her brother. Happy Birthday, Cher Bug. Today is also Cheryl's daughter Erica's birthday. Erica is a lot like her mother, so she's a keeper, too. Happy Birthday Erica Bob. I love you both very much.

We've reached the end of the long Thanksgiving Weekend, made it through Black Firday and look forward to Cyber Monday tomorrow. A quick reminder, if you are doing some Christmas shopping online, please consider clicking on one of the ads on all three of my blogs. You'll get some great bargains and I'll get a small commssion from each sale. I'd appreciate it. Also on each blog you'll see a "Donate" button. If you are so inclined and would like to make a donation directly to me through PayPal (you don't need a PayPal account), it's a secure transaction and would be a nice reward for all the hard work it takes to run three blogs by myself. besides this blog, I also run Dumbass News, which is quickly becoming very popular with you and other readers around the world. My newest entry into the world of cyber comedy is Because Toby Said So. It, too, is picking up new readers from all over the globe. take a minute or two to look these two blogs. They're actually pretty funny and definitely worth a quick perusal. Thanks in advance. :)

As has become a custom on Sundays, I hopped into the Almost Way Back Time Machine and thoroughly examined the Three States Plus One archives for material worthy of your time and attention. This is what I came up with:
  • Texas Tidbits: Miss Me Yet? Yup. - A short but heartfelt tribute to the 43rd President of the United States - George W. Bush. A few weeks ago, President Bush released his memoirs (and I have signed copy number 47) , which by the way, you can order through a link to Amazon.com on this very page. I disagreed with President Bush on many things, but one of them was not his love for his country and the decisions he made regarding the safety and well-being of her citizens. This short post is an example of what a great man George W. Bush is. Give it a look. You'll see what I mean.
  • Maine Minutiae: Message In a Bottle - I had forgotten about this post and I am glad I found it again. It's about some kids in a school in Castine, Maine who put a message in a bottle then chunked it into the Atlantic Ocean. Somebody found it a very unlikely place. this is a nice, syrupy story that is good to read on a Sunday morning. 
  • Colorado Chronicles: Honey, Can We Move Here? - This post is worth the look just to see the picture at the top of the article. Meeker, Colorado. I could live there.
That's a pretty good line up of Sunday reading right there. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I liked writing it. The posts I have linked you to are a microcosm of America and its people. You have a former President, a group of school kids and the Natural beauty that are America. God bless you and may God continue to bless America.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers and Stuff(ing) UPDATED

UPDATED: Links in the post are now fixed. Sorry about the problems.

 We made it through Black Friday and are full steam ahead into the Christmas Season. My wife is a Christmas Freak, so at my house we are getting into the Spirit of Christmas at warp speed. Yesterday we did some house cleaning and re-arranging of furniture so we could put up the Christmas tree, which we did. We also have this damn five foot tall snowman that dances and sings when somebody walks close enough to it. The kids and Heather love it. Me? Not so much. It was a gift from my father-in-law, so going postal on the stupid thing is out of the question. So far. I guess I could put some duct tape over the motion sensor on it, but I would have to face The Wrath of the Wife if I did, so scratch one great idea. I bring up Christmas because I am gonna make a concerted effort to post Christmas related material on this blog for the next few weeks. With that, let's have another "Best of..." Weekend of some of the most popular posts from recent weeks. 

  • Texas Tidbits: Big Drunk, A Texas Hero - I did this post about three weeks ago on what ended up being a slow blog day, so I figured I'd give it another go today.
  • Maine Minutiae: Haunted Maine, Seguin Island Lighthouse - The posts I have written about lighthouses have proven to be very popular. here's one I wrote just before Halloween. Read it, if you dare.
  • Colorado Chronicles: Unsinkable - The story of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. This is a pretty good post. Look it over, when you can.
That's a good lineup of some of our most popular posts that merit another look. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here's a quick reminder that if you'd like to write a guest post for Three States Plus One, drop me a note or an article at threestatesplusone AT gmail DOT com and I'll look it over and post for both of my readers to see! Don't be shy. I mean, hell, you've read some the crap Pulitzer-worthy material I've written, so your submission would undoubtedly be much better. Send 'em in and be ridiculed by friends and family alike recognized as a literary giant. Have a safe Saturday and watch out for bargain-hunting vicious little old ladies if you dare to brave the world of Christmas shopping today.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday; 3 Posts for the Price of One While Supply Lasts !

I hope and trust that you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving Day, football not withstanding. We had a great one here at The Shoe Box. Heather spent the vast majority of two days preparing an honest to goodness feast for the four of us. We had turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, sweet corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, marinated carrots, gravy, apple pie, pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips, homemade banana bread and damn, I'm still full. Thank you, Heather for all the hard work and love that you put into our Turkey Day Dinner. it was fantastic!

We just finished putting up the Christmas tree and all the attendant bric a brac that goes throughout the house. It looks very festive. Oh!!! I almost forgot, we got our first snow of the season overnight and this morning! We got only an inch or so, but it still looks nice and wintry outside, almost Christmas -y.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of the Holiday Weekend with my family, so I am going to present an encore of some of my favorite posts from the past few months. Aaaaaannnnnnddddd awaaaaayyyyy we go!!!
  • Texas Tidbits: the Greatest of the Greatest Generation - this is an outstanding post on one of the most decorated and celebrated heroes in the history of our country - Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.
  • Maine Minutiae: Tomah Joseph - Legendary American - here I pay tribute to an amazing Native American. It's a reall good story.
  • Colorado Chronicles: The Rio Grande Starts Here - when I first posted this back in early August, it was one of the most viewed posts since the beginning of this blog. It's still in the Top 5 or 6.
Have fun eating leftovers and watching some outstanding football games this weekend. If anything blog-worthy comes up, I'll hop on here and do my usual brilliant reportage and commentary. Adios, y'all!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Five Year Old Cancer Patient Draws on Will to Live

I found the following story at one of my daily pit stops, The Blogmocracy. It's the story about a very brave little boy named Aidan. Aidan is just like any other five year old boy, full of energy, enthusiasm and creativity. The one thing that makes different from other boys his age is that Aidan has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. That's a pretty tough hand to be dealt to anybody, much less a five year old kid.

The Blogmocracy picks up the story there, "On September 13, 2010, 5-year-old Aidan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He was strong and pulled through his first round of chemo all while teasing his nurses and vistors. Although this was a small victory Aidan, unfortunately, must go through 2 to 3 more years of chemo treatments and everything that goes along with that."

This story caught my eye for two reasons. The obvious one is that it's about a five year old boy with a horrible disease. The second is that one of my new grandsons is named Aiden. I shiver at the thought of my Aiden having to deal with such a terrible illness at such a tender age. These two boys are at the age where they should be playing kickball or learning to ride shiny new bikes or even going fishin' with their Dads and Grandpas, not getting brutal chemo treatments for two or three years.

Aidan, the sick boy, is taking the bull by the horns when it comes to his illness. He's drawing pictures like the one at the top of this post, and selling them online to help offset his medical bills, which have to be astronomical. With so much spirit, it's no wonder that Aidan's prognosis looks promising. Promising outlook or not, those medical bills still have got to be paid, so here's a link to Aidan's website where you can purchase one of his drawings! I like the cut of this young man's gib.

Aidan also has a Facebook Page where you can drop him a line of encouragement, as well as a page on his website where you can learn some things about this remarkable young man and his family.

Thanks to savage at The Blogmocracy for posting this story on his site and allowing me to post it here. It's the time of year for giving, so if you are able to buy one of Aidan's drawings, by all means, please do. If not, there's a "donate" button on the home page of his website,where a donation of any size would be much appreciated, I'm sure.

Aidan, you have friend in Maine, my man. I'm here for anything I can do to help a young brotha out. Email me at threestatesplusone AT gmail DOT com anytime, buddy.

To my readers, I ask you to please pass this on to friends and family. Aidan is counting on us all to pitch in, in whatever we can. Thank you and God bless you. And God bless an amazing five year old boy named Aidan.

A Dumbass Thanksgiving

Eat moar chikin

Thanksgiving Thoughts (Lots of Them!)

It's a beautiful, chilly (22 degrees) Thanksgiving morning in New England. I wanted to take just a minute of your time to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Here are some posts that have a lot to say about Thanksgiving.
Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends, from my family to yours!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Friend Recalls Thanksgivings From Years Past

A few years ago my blogging friend n2l wrote a great piece about Thanksgivings from his youth. I wanted to share it with you because it hit home with me and I think it'll do the same to you. Read and enjoy.

A Thanksgiving Message

I was reading my Facebook page this morning and I took notice of a comment made  by a friend of mine in Texas. His name is Joe. It was a short, simple comment that really packed a wallop. Joe said that he wanted to thank his wife, Kim, for all the hard work she's putting into making Thanksgiving a truly special day for him and his family. Those few words hit me like a ton of bricks. With the excitement of the holidays, we (we meaning men) often take for granted the tremendous amount of time and effort that wives, Moms and Grandmas put forth in doing what they do that makes holiday gatherings extra special - cleaning the house, grocery shopping and of course cooking up feasts fit for kings. And the cleaning that follows these get togethers ain't exactly a walk in the park.

As I thumb through the memory pages in my mind recalling some Thanksgivings of yesteryear, I can smell the apricot fried pies Grandma Shoemaker used to make for us kids and the homemade biscuits the size of half loaves of bread that Grandmother Cowger was world famous for, at least with the family and some friends that shared Thanksgiving supper with us. I can hear the joyful sounds of children playing and laughing, oblivious to wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen and the buffet that will soon be served. The buffet that one Thanksgiving somewhere in the future that they'll be talking about with their children, reliving that moment long ago that has stayed with them through the course of their lives. Kinda like I am doing right now. One of my favorite things about those Thanksgivings of my youth was saying grace before diggin' in. The honor of being picked to say grace over Thanksgiving supper was a huge responsibility, but a welcomed one. I don't remember the words, but I do remember some of the most beautiful prayers ever uttered said over the supper - so eloquent and so heartfelt. Words straight from God spoken by one of His children, and God was pleased.

As I type this, Heather is busy in the kitchen getting food prep done for our Thanksgiving Day supper, making memories that some day we'll share with our grandchildren. New smells and new memories in the making that trigger a flashback to the times of my kid hood and those Thanksgivings long since past, but not forgotten. I just hope that the Good Lord will speak through me when I say the grace at our supper tomorrow and give me the words to express just how thankful I am for the blessings in my life that are far more than a wayward son of God deserves. I have forsaken Him many times in my life, but He has never forsaken me. I have been blessed in ways that humble me and remind me that God is always nearby to pick me up when I fall. Nearby when I act like anything but a son of God. Nearby to calm me when life deals me adversity. Nearby to put some wisdom to me when my own "wisdom" fails me. Nearby when I look at my two little girls sleep, dreaming the way only a child can. Nearby when I am less than a good husband or father. Nearby. That's where God is. Nearby.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maine Minutiae: The First Thanksgiving in Maine

The First Thanksgiving
Last week I wrote about the first Thanksgiving in the USA. It took place near El Paso, Texas. As I searched the internet for more history on Thanksgiving, I came a cross an article that chronicled the first Thanksgiving in Maine. This day of thanks took place several years before the Pilgrims held their Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts in 1612.

English explorer George Weymouth had spent the summer of 1605 exploring the coast of Maine. Upon completing his mission, Weymouth returned to England where the news of his voyages excited many of his countrymen including several businessmen. A new venture to Maine was planned and Weymouth again set sail to the New World with about forty-five settlers. The group made landfall in Maine in Augusta, 1607 at the mouth of the Kennebec River at what is now Popham Beach. The article goes on to state "The settlement at Popham Beach lasted only 13 months, but historians Gould and Hatch document that the settlers having safely arrived from England, built their shelters and prepared for the coming winter, held a celebration of Thanksgiving in the fall of 1607, a full five years before Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving."

The reason that the settlement at Popham Beach was so short-lived is chronicled thusly, "In the winter of 1608, the storehouse burned. That winter, the Popham settlement’s president, George Popham, nephew of Sir John Popham, died of unknown causes. Raleigh Gilbert--a relative of the maritime adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh)--succeeded Popham. The following spring, a ship bringing supplies to the Popham settlement also brought Gilbert news that his brother, John, had died in England leaving him a vast fortune. Gilbert returned to England in September of 1608, bringing with him the remainder of the settlers."

So that, in a nutshell is how the first Thanksgiving in New England came to be. With that, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Be sure to take time to really think of all the blessings you have to be thankful for.

Texas Tidbits: Talkin' Turkey

Since we are just a couple of days away from Thanksgiving, I thought we'd take a look at a Texas town that's got a Thanksgiving kind of name. The town? Turkey, Texas. We have talked Turkey before on Three States Plus One right here when we did a feature on Turkey's most famous resident, Bob Wills.

The community was first settled in the early 1890's and was originally called Turkey Roost due to the large numbers of turkeys roosting on nearby Turkey Creek. In 1893, the name was changed to Turkey when the town was granted a post office. The post office was housed in a dugout owned by Alfred Hall, for whom Hall County (Turkey is southeast Hall Co.) is named. A dugout was the primary shelter for the early residents of Turkey because of the lack of trees in the area needed to build houses.

The population of Turkey has gone up and down like a Duncan Yoyo over the years, reaching a high of about 1000 in 1929. It was during this time that a young full time barber and part time fiddle player was cutting hair in the daytime and "fiddlin' around" at night. That young barber would go on to become one of the most famous musicians in history. Bob Wills became the King of Western Swing and a worldwide star. The town of Turkey still celebrates its most famous son with a Bob Wills Museum, parades and displays of Bob Wills memorabilia all through the town. If you want to learn more about Turkey, Texas, just click on the previous link and you'll get a ton of information, and before long, you'll be a able to talk turkey about Turkey.  :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Texas Tidbits: Forty-Seven Years Ago in Dallas...

The 35th President of the United States
Today is one of those dates that when something historic happens, you recall exactly where you were and what you were doing. On November 22, 1963, I was in first grade at Springdale Elementary School in Fort Worth, Mrs. Gill's class. The school is about 32 miles from where the tragedy took place in downtown Dallas. Dallas, Texas, the United States and the world changed forever on that sunny November afternoon 47 years ago. It's a time so long ago, but it is still fresh in our minds, like it happened yesterday.

A young, dynamic President died that day and America, with echoes of I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver ringing in our ears, lost her innocence and the city of Dallas would, for decades, be known as "that place where President Kennedy was killed". Thankfully, Big D would become one of the biggest cities in the country, home to Fortune 500 companies and as well-known for the Dallas Cowboys as it was as "that place where President Kennedy was killed". But the thing that made this horrible incident resonate so loudly with the American people was that it was immediately brought into our living rooms by a still-young medium called television. Never before in our nation's history had a history-making event been brought straight into our living rooms. We could actually see Dealey Plaza and Parkland Hospital, where the President was declared dead. We could see the pink dress the First Lady was wearing, her husband's blood splattered all over it. These images allowed us all to "be there" as events unfolded around the assassination. Two days later, as the nation and the world watched, Jack Ruby mortally wounded the President's accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, on live TV. It was almost surreal. Can this be happening before our very eyes? Or is it a horrible nightmare from which we would awake and everything would be fine?

Years later, I met a man we'll call Bill. Bill was the man who took his neighbor to work on November 22, 1963. That neighbor was carrying a package with him as he got into Bill's car. He said it was curtain rods. The neighbor's name? Lee Harvey Oswald. My friend, Bill, was an unwitting accomplice to history. I knew Bill for many years before moving out of the Metroplex and he never mentioned that day to me. I found out about it through one of Bill's family members, who is still a close friend of mine.

I forgot to mention earlier that my Mom and two sisters were shopping near downtown Fort Worth the day of the assassination and the were amongst hundreds of people who watched the Presidential motorcade as it headed out of Fort Worth after President Kennedy's speech to some group or another. I don't even know if either of them even remember this or not.

Those are my thoughts about November 22, 1963. Please share yours with us in the comments. We'd love to hear from you.

***Thanks for the linkage to The Blogmocray!***

***I deliberately did not link to any video or photographs of the killing of President Kennedy. We've seen them all ad nauseam.***

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Things To Be Grateful For

Life is a crazy thing. Just when you get set in your ways or life gets a bit predictable, WHAM(!), it hits you right in the kisser and all sorts of excitement follows. Excitement like a broken elbow, falling in love, a 2000 mile bus ride, a new daughter (ready made), a new baby and marriage, all in a faraway land. In a nutshell, that's exactly what happened to me starting six years ago today.

It Started Here.
Some background: I used to hang out in the chat rooms on AOL when I had a little free time. And believe or not, I developed some friendships which endure to this day. One of those "friendships" went a little deeper than the others. Twice as deep as a matter of fact. Their names are Heather and Isabella. Heather and I were friend on AOL for a while before we actually spoke to each other on the telephone. That's where the broken elbow comes in. In November, 2004, a few months after my Dad died,  I moved to Colorado to spend some time with and to help my Mom with some stuff. A few weeks later, on the 21st, I called Heather to talk to her for the first time. It's a bit hard to see in the photo, but from that door way on the left, there are twelve steps to the front door of the house. I was at the top of those steps when it happened. I tripped and went assholes and elbows tumbling down them. As I fell, I threw the phone into the street below and I heard it crash. As I'm falling, I am thinking, "Dammit, I just broke Mom's phone!" The fall was in super slow mo, like you see on a football game. After making sure I was still alive, I went inside, my conversation on the phone with Heather obviously over, holding my left elbow and the attendant flood of blood that accompanied it, and my Mom was freaking out when she saw me. Before I go any further, NO I WAS NOT DRUNK!!! Long story short, I broke my elbow in five places. By the way, the phone scattered all over the street below and Mark, my step dad, found all the pieces, re-assembled them and that phone works to this day. Heather later told me that when the phone went dead, she thought that I did not like her much because I hung up on her. Little did she know.

Eighteen months later, in May, I hopped a bus out of Denver and headed east towards Maine. Nobody knew where I was or if I was dead or alive. After a cross country ride, I arrived in Augusta, Maine on Saturday, May 13, 2006. I am still here. Isabella, my ready made little girl, was just shy of four years old. She's now eight years old and I am her Daddy. Bailey was born on February 1, 2007 and Heather and I got married on February 16, 2008. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I got here, but I am grateful to God that things turned out like they did. I never was much for doing things the conventional way.

This story epitomizes that "life thing" I opened this story with. I was a ramblin', gamblin' man (literally...I lived at the casinos in my town in Colorado) one minute, and the next I am 2000 miles away with a new family and a new life and I ain't complainin'.

These last six years have been a blessing that seven years ago seemed impossible. Heather has smoothed some of the "rough edges" that I had before coming here, Isabella has changed my life in ways she won't understand for a few years and Bailey the Three Year Old is Daddy's baby girl.

Thank you Heather for making my life whole again. I love you. Thank you, Issy for being the best first little girl that a Daddy could ever have. I love you. And, Bailey, you have made our little family complete. I love you. And, God, I hope that this story gives another man hope about having a family when life looks like it has passed him by. Let me encourage you, my brothers, I was 49 years old when Heather, Isabella and I became a family, and 50 years old when Bailey completed our little group. Just remember, that God will steer you in the right direction when the time is right, so never lose faith or believe that He has forgotten you. He hasn't, He just does things His way and you have to accept that.

I love all three of my girls and wouldn't trade them for a Kingdom and all it's gold. they are much more precious to me than that. I love you Girls. And, dear God, thank you for such a wonderful gift to celebrate at this time of year.

How Time Flies and a Right Hand Turn

On the Way Out
I got a question for you. Has this year gone by as quick as a hiccup? I ask that because as I get older time seems to zip on by, except when I go shopping with my wife, then five minutes feels like a week and a half. I just looked down at my desktop clock and the date reads "11/21". How can that be? It just doesn't seem possible. Alas, the calendar does not lie.

And numbers don't lie either. Numbers like, you know, Election Results. :) I just feel like reminding the dumbasses that voted for O'Bumbles, that their guy is an unmitigated disaster as our Chief Executive. Unemployment over 9%? Check. Failure of the so called stimulus package? Check. Trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see? Check. Once again, I pose this question, how does that Conservative ass taste you pinheads? Oh... and have a nice day. :)

As you've noticed, I've been writing about my kids quite a bit lately. There's no particular reason, it's just that reasons to do so keep jumping out at me, so I write what I feel. I hope you don't mind. I deliberately put the election results as the first post today. I did it because, I feel like we have gained a little more control of our nation and I'm much more positive about what the future holds for my children. Granted, there is still much work to do, but I like the change of direction we took with the recent electoral enema Obama and his fellow travelers received. But, I ain't gettin' too excited, there's still plenty of shit to be flushed before we can even take a quick breath.

I believe in the people of this country and their desire for the freedoms and liberties we sometimes take for granted. I think that the results of the mid term elections prove that when we see our rights being trampled upon by idjits like the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we, the people, sit up and take notice and then hit the sorry bastards (Liberals) with a clue by four, at which time, they sit up and take notice, then cry about how misunderstood they are. What a bunch of pansies.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Maine Minutiae:Toby Went to School Yesterday (UPDATE)

In this post from yesterday, I told you about how I was the guest reader in my 8 year old daughter's second grade class. I read Merry Christmas, Curious George to the students. I knew a few of the kids because they live in our neighborhood. So, I wasn't too much of a fish out of water.

The children seemed to enjoy my rendition of the book because I changed my voice to match the characters in the book. It seems the kids love a little ham  :)  I kept them in rapt attention.

Upon finishing the book, I opened up the floor for questions from the class. The first question came from Jade. "Will you come back again?" After exchanging a "what do I say here" look with the teacher who nodded her approval, I said that I'd love to come back anytime it was OK with the teacher. The kids seemed to like that answer. I'm thinking to myself at this point, "I got 'em eatin' outta my hand". As it is wont to do, with the next question, reality slapped me up side the head with a clue by four. A cute little girl asked me, "Issy said you brought gingerbread, did you?" A vicious blow to my ego. They just loved me for the gingerbread I brought along for a treat. Ah, what the heck. It's a small price to pay to see all those wide-eyed kids hanging on my every word as I read to them.

I'd like to thank Ms. Smith and her students for having as a guest reader yesterday. It was privilege and an honor to be a part of your class for a few minutes. next time I get the chance to read to you all again, I'll try to make it closer to recess time, so us kids can go out and play kickball together. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Texas Tidbits Extra! Santa Elena Canyon by Bob Zeller

My good friend, Bob, over at Texas Tweeties, has posted one of the most amazing photos I have ever seen. Click on the following link then click on the photo Bob has posted to enlarge it. In the bottom left hand corner (at about 7 o'clock in the photo), you'll see a tiny dark figure. That's a full grown man! Bob has taken what could have been a good photo and made it an amazing work of art. Check it out and you'll see what I mean.

Texas Tidbits: A Look at the Other Side of the Battle of the Alamo

I have always held the Battle of the Alamo in the highest of regard. It was fought by Texicans who were trying to preserve the rights afforded them by the Constitution of Mexico of 1824. We all know the basic facts of the story, but few of us know many details about the battle. One of the best ways to learn about what went on at the Battle of the Alamo is to get the observations of the participants. I found some of these first hand accounts at an interesting web site, texasescapes.com, that has all sorts of fascinating history about Texas. It's worth the time you spend there, so if you find Texas History interesting, you owe it to yourself to stop by the place.

Here's an excerpt from a letter written by a Mexican soldier who was a member of Santa Ana's army, "Mexican Soldier to brothers of the heart - San Antonio de Bexar: The attack was made in four columns, led by General Cos, General Morales, Duque de Estrada, and Romero. I marched under the immediate command of General Cos and tell you what I saw. The rest of the letter can be found here. I never really thought of the way the soldiers of the Mexican Army saw this battle in particular and the Texas Revolution as a whole, but I feel inspired to learn more about that perspective of the war. You'll be able to learn so much more about the Battle of the Alamo right here. There are many resources from which to choose. It's some great stuff.

While we can easily find first hand accounts of the battle from the Mexican side of things, getting an eyewitness account of the fight from the Texican side is a bit more problematic. However, I have a good place for you to start - at this link featuring letters from the Alamo. Incredible stuff there.

I'm sure as it gets closer to March, that I'll repost much of this information and a ton of new stuff as well. The Battle of the Alamo, as tragic as it was for Texas, it was equally important for Mexico. Both sides of the issue deserve a fair shake as to the way they perceived the battle and the war. And we'll do just that in the coming weeks and months.

Maine Minutiae: Toby Goes to School (Again)

Monkey Business in Second Grade
I am going to do something today that if you'd have told me I was going to do it a few years ago, I would have told you that you were nuts. I would have been wrong and you would not be nuts. This is momentous occasion, not only in my life, but in the life of my 8 year old daughter, Isabella. Dear Old Dad (that would be me), is going to Grant Avenue Elementary School this afternoon to read to Isabella's second grade class. For such a special event, Issy her own self, after much study and thought, has chosen for me to read Merry Christmas, Curious George. I was thinking more along the lines of a couple of articles from Bassmasters Magazine, but Issy failed to see the educational value of tying Palomar knots or working a spinner bait parallel to a weed bed. At any rate, Curious George beat out the Bassmasters. I've got to have a long talk with that kid about priorities. Sheesh.

So at 12:45pm EST, I will stand in front of Ms. Smith's second grade class and extol the virtues of Curious George and Christmas for a little while, I'll be coolest Dad in the whole dang second grade. It may not be my rendition of Merry Christmas, Curious George that wins the day with the class, but the chocolate fudge brownies I'm taking with me should earn me a couple of "cool Dad" points.

I have done this sort of thing before, many years ago when I was a radio DJ kinda guy, but oddly enough, I've never done it for one of my own kids' classes. I'm sure it'll be a load of fun.

Now, I've just got to figure out how to incorporate spinner baits and palomar knots into a story about Curious George and Christmas.

***Some names were changed to ensure privacy and safety***

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Texas Tidbits: We Were All Aggies For a While

DISCLAIMER: I am a diehard, 50 plus years fan of the University of Texas Longhorns. But, for one day eleven years ago today, we were all Aggies.

Aggie Bonfire
November 18, 1999 is a day that will live in history not only for Texas A&M University, but for the state of Texas and the rivalry between the Aggies and the Longhorns. It was on that day, that a 90 year old tradition literally went down in flames and the lives of twelve young people were taken in a horrific accident. Twenty-seven others were injured.

It was a tradition that was part of the rivalry between two great legendary college football programs for nine decades. The tradition? A bonfire. Not an ordinary bonfire, a bonfire that stood forty feet tall. A bonfire that symbolized the Aggies' burning desire to beat Texas in their annual football game. After eighty-nine previous bonfires that went on without incidence, a terrible accident happened at the bonfire of 1999. Without notice, the bonfire collapsed and in the process twelve TAMU students died and another twenty-seven were injured. The Aggie Nation was stunned, to say the least and the rest of the state of Texas looked on in disbelief as the accident made headlines all over the world.

In case you didn't know, the Aggie Family is very much like the US Marines Family. Once an Aggie, always an Aggie and if one of your Aggie brothers or sisters are in need, the Aggie Family responds to that need. It's truly an amazing thing to see. The facts that twelve Aggies died that night, is very ironic. The Aggies are also known for the very enthusiastic crowds at TAMU football games. The crowd is known as "The 12th Man", giving the Aggie football team the support  to carry them to victory. Now the 12th Man tradition symbolizes so much more than loud football fans, the 12th Man has come to mean that the young people who died and were injured that night eleven years ago are with Aggies in spirit and urging them on to great heights in their athletic endeavors.

The football Aggies went on to defeat the University of Texas in their gridiron clash. I have NEVER EVER rooted against the University of Texas in any game in any sport and I didn't root against them at this game. I can say however, that I felt a certain pride for the Aggie Nation that day. What that football team accomplished was not just to win a ball game, but summon from somewhere deep inside themselves, the courage and will to defeat a mighty opponent. The Aggie football team must have felt the weight of those emotions from Aggies all over the world, yet somehow they bore that burden and displayed the character and determination to do what needed to be done.

I didn't root for the Aggies that day, but after the game was over, I remember standing up in my living room and giving them a standing ovation. The Aggies made all Texans proud that day. For a while, we were all Aggies. And damn proud to be one. Gig 'em!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Texas Tidbits: Sorry, Massachusetts, The First Thanksgiving Took Place in Texas

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado
I am about to piss some people off, especially those in Massachusetts. The matter at hand is the first Thanksgiving. Sorry, Plymouth Rock, you ain't the home of the first Thanksgiving, maybe not even the second or third Thanksgiving. There are historical records that show that the First Thanksgiving was held in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas a full eighty years before the celebration of thanks at Plymouth Rock. in 1621.

The First Thanksgiving in the New World was held at Palo Duro Canyon on Ascension Thursday, May 23, 1541. On that day, Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men held a day of thanksgiving after "Coronado's expedition had left Mexico in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola, but instead of a mythical city of gold, Coronado and his men found the Llano Estacado, where there were no cities, no trees and very little water." (from homepages.vvm.com)The rest of that story can be found here. This series of events has been verified by historians the world over, so this is the first instance of Thanksgiving as we know it in the New World.

On April 21, 1598, another Thanksgiving took place in Texas. That story can be found here. Now we have two "Thanksgivings" quite a few years before the Pilgrims celebrated their own day of thanks at Plymouth Rock.

I know this story may ruffle a few turkey feathers, but history is history. I don't bring this up to in any way diminish the importance of the Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in 1621 as it was certainly one of the most historic days of the American story. Three groups of people came to the New World for various reasons and independent of each other by miles and by years, found a reason to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in what is now the United States of America, long may She live.

Maine Minutiae: Coop Comes to Visit

Coop - My Newest Fishin' Buddy
I usually write a Texas Tidbits post before everything else, But Maine Minutiae takes precedence today because Coop is coming to see us!!! A quick refresher: Coop is my newest fishin' buddy from my wife's side of the family. He's two days shy of being a month old, so I figure he's ready for lessons on how to pitch a plastic worm on top of a lily pad. Since I don't have a lily pad to pitch to, we'll use a gimme cap. Easy money. Anyway, this will be the first time we've seen Coop since the day he was born and I'm looking forward to it, Heather is thrilled and Bailey the Three Year Old is going ape shit with anticipation.

I'm glad Coop gets to stay with us for a little while. Babies are kinda cool. They're a great audience for stupid faces and silly noises and it just so happens that I am a Master of Stupid Faces and Silly Noises. At least the Coop will be entertained while he's here. I'm searching through my memory bank for the most recent baby boy that I have spent more than a few minutes with. I guess that would to be my nephew Hoss. And Hoss is in his late 20's, so it's been a while. Otherwise, it's been a steady parade of baby girls in my family, including Bailey the Three Year Old. Since Coop is now here as a full fledged member of the male persuasion, I hope that I can teach the boy about bass fishin' and stuff like that. After all, Fish.Fear.Me. Technically, Coop is my cousin, but since I am 54 years old, I'll be like a third grandpa or something...maybe a crazy uncle kind of dude. It really doesn't matter to me, just as long as I can take the boy fishin' once in a while, all with be right with the world..

I just felt like sharing that with you today. As I get older, it seems that I like kids more and more. Don't get me wrong, I have always loved children and I have been the "crazy uncle-type"to dozens of kids over the years, but they are now all grown up and don't need a crazy Uncle Toby, so Coop got here just in time. :)

I gotta run, Coop will be here in a few minutes and I've got rig up a plastic worm on the Mickey Mouse Fishin' Pole. It's never too early to learn about fishin' and soon, Fish.Will.Fear.Coop. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Maine Minutiae: Part Time Mainer Travolta Is a Goofball

Nice People, But Dumbasses.***
I come praise John Travolta, not bury him. By all accounts, John Travolta is a nice man and his wife, Kelly Preston is an equally nice lady. However, being a nice person does not preclude one from being a goofball. And the Travoltas are goofballs of the first order. They are Scientologists. Enough said. I am not here to blast Scientology, but I must tell you that I think it's a bunch of crap. A big steaming pile of crap. I felt it necessary to make that disclaimer, so you understand where I am on Scientology. In a minute you'll see why.

The Travoltas, who are part time residents of Maine, are expecting a new baby and I am very happy for them. There's nothing quite as exciting and to me, as holy as the birth of a child. I have witnessed the birth of two of my kids, Trey (31) and Bailey (3). To see such a miracle as child birth first hand is a humbling and profound experience. Truly a gift from God. I think it's safe to assume that the Travoltas feel the same way about their new baby, Benjamin. Considering the tragic death of one of their other children not so long ago, Benjamin will certainly be a special arrival for John and Kelly.

Here's the goofball part of this story. Baby Benjamin is coming into this world in vacuum of silence. Say what? The newest Travolta will enter this world with nary a sound around him. No shouts of joy. No sounds of happiness and not an "I love you" to be heard. Why? The Travoltas are following Church of Scientology doctrine by having a "silent birth". A family friend says, "The couple will follow the church's guidelines during delivery," a family insider tells me. "No music, no talking and no screaming will be allowed during the pains of labor. Also their new son cannot be prodded for medical tests or spoken to for the first seven days of his life. You don't want to do anything that will haunt them for the rest of their lives." Yep. I can see how all that love and attention a newborn might get from adoring parents, grand parents and siblings could haunt him for the rest of his life. And it would be horrific to run some medical tests that could predict or detect a health problem and the treatment of said problem that could save the baby's life...I mean haunt him for the rest of his life.

I guess I have been celebrating the birth of babies in my family for over fifty years. Had I only known of the Scientology "silent birth" before today, I could have been spared the joy of a newborn crying for its supper. And those pesky 3AM feedings would be a burden, not something to look forward to. I'd hate like hell to bond with my baby in the middle of the night because it might "haunt him for the rest of his life". Seven days of "No music, no talking and no screaming will be allowed during the pains of labor. Also their new son cannot be prodded for medical tests or spoken to for the first seven days of his life. You don't want to do anything that will haunt them for the rest of their lives." I am glad the Church of Scientology straightened me out on how to act at the birth of a child. Without them I might have had, you know, fun, welcoming my son into this world. God bless you, Church of Scientology. Dumbasses.

***Photo from popeater.com***

Texas Tidbits: Central Texas and Glass Bottom Boats

Glass Bottom Boat for Shark-hunting and Spongebob Spotting
I don't know how I could have been writing on this blog for five months now, (five months?...wow!) and not mention once one of my fondest child hood memories. It involved traveling south on I-35 to Austin, San Antonio and San Marcos. I can't recall what we did in Austin, but I think we went to the Capitol Building, which was real cool for a kid my age. I was maybe 6 or 7 at the time. In San Antonio, we of course, went to the Alamo. I still remember being that most sacred of Texas monuments and replaying the Battle of the Alamo, probably recalled from the John Wayne movie about the battle. In my little boy mind, I was Davy Crockett, fighting off the attacking Mexican soldiers with Old Betsy, my trusted long rifle. Bang! I shot one of the bad guys. Smack! A rifle butt to the chops! Davy (me) saves the day! Then reality sets in when my Dad calls me over to look at another exhibit in the mission. From the Alamo went up to San Marcos to visit something called "Aquarena Springs". I wasn't very enthused by having leave the Alamo before Davy Crockett (me) could save the day, but this was my fate. Aquarena Springs it was. I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that the boat we were getting ready to board, had a glass bottom! From Davy Crockett, I was now a miniature Jacque Cousteau, exploring the crystal clear waters of the San Marcos River. Through that galass bottom I could see all manner of fish, soft shell turtles, giant squid and man-eating sharks! I made up the part about sharks and giant squid, but a kid can pretend, can't he? That glass bottom boat was one of the best things I have ever seen in my life! I almost forgot about the diving pig! They put a pig on a diving platform way up in the air and a pig actually dived off of it! Way frakkin' cool. Here it is, almost fifty years later, and I remember that boat ride like it was yesterday, giant squid, sharks and all.  :) My family and I are tryin' like hell to get a trip to Texas to fit into our summer plans next year. Maybe my two little girls will see the magic in that glass bottom boat that I saw on that summer day so long ago. I get this sneaky feeling that Bailey the 3 year old will say something like, "Daddy, I just saw SpongeBob!" And that will probably be her memory of the glass bottom boat fifty years from now. I know I'll believe it. After all, I saw that giant squid and those man-eating sharks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maine Minutiae: A Story With a Valuable Lesson

This is the time of year where the weather is obviously cooler and outdoor activities like hiking become a welcome treat after a long, hot summer in states like Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, etc. Here in New England winter hasn't arrived yet and taking a hike into the woods is a great idea. Exploring in the woods, desert or mountains are a favorite past time of many, but they can become a tragedy for a few. Before setting out to enjoy the gifts God has given us, please remember two words: BE PREPARED!

I am bringing this up today for a very good reason. My good friend Bob at Texas Tweeties was almost one the tragedies of exploring. He and his better half, Ann, nearly became victims of their own passions - hiking and bird watching. I realize it sounds a bit odd that birding can end in tragedy, but it almost did for Bob and Ann, who are both in their 70's.

Here's the story in Bob's own words. Click the link, then come on back and I'll have another word or two about what happened.

I know that when the snow does fall here in Maine, many of you will go hiking or cross country skiing. You may have done either of those a hundred times and not had a problem the scope of Bob's. Please don't be over confident to the point of carelessness. Take all necessary precautions when you set off on your jaunt through the woods. It could save your life!

I am not writing this post to make fun of or ridicule Bob, quite the contrary. I would be heartbroken if something were to happen to him or his bride. I write this as a friendly reminder to all of us (me included) to take an extra few minute to be certain that we are prepared for any contingency. This website gives you some information for assembling a survival kit when you set off into the wild. In addition to that site, here's a "bing" search with a great deal of information on how to be ready for a possible emergency situation.

I hope that you'll find this article useful as a guide to make sure you are better-prepared for you outdoors activities.

Personal to Bob: I'm glad you and Ann are OK. I have a trip to Texas in store and you owe me a margarita or seven.  :)

***photo from hikingworld parks.com***

Texas Tidbits: What's That Name Again?

Kermit or Kermeet?
Howdy, y'all! I found the subject for today's Texas Tidbits like I find many of the posts for this blog - just goofin' around on the internet. But this post is unique. It's more about audio than the written word. let me 'splain.
I am a Native Texan and I have traveled to thousands of nooks and crannies all over the state. I have seen some of the weirdest names of towns you can imagine - Cut and Shoot, Gun Barrel City and Uncertain to name a few. I have also been to places where the name is pronounced completely different than the way it is spelled. Simple names like Colorado City. Easy, right? Not so fast there, diction breath. The correct (at least to the locals) way to pronounce Colorado City is Colla-ray-da City. Weird, huh? What about some other towns in Texas that present a similar dilemma? Mexia? Miami? Gruene? I am not going to give you those pronunciations. I ain't gonna leave you hangin' either.

This is where my Accidental Internet Discovery of the Day comes in. I found a site called Texas Tripper that has a bunch helpful information about Texas. It also has a pronunciation guide to help even the most seasoned Texan avoid those spoken faux pas. Click on the link and scroll down till you see the alphabet written in red letters. Click on a letter and a list of Texas towns whose name begins with that letter will be displayed. Then just hit the "play" button on the media player and a man's voice will give you the correct way to pronounce that city's name. I think it's pretty cool and as smart as I thought I was, I ain't. Give it a go and see how well you do and let me know in the comment section.

Good luck and I'll see you in Palacios !

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Second Chance Sunday: Two Great Men and a Historic Document

I am gonna be busy most of the day tuning up the new blog, Because Toby Said So, so today on Three States Plus One I am using the Not-So-Wayback Time Machine to locate some of the most - read posts from the past few weeks. It's a great time to take a second look at something you enjoyed reading before for some of you. For those who are newer readers or those who missed them the first go round, prepare to be amazed at the bullshit brilliance you are about to witness.
  • I am ashamed of myself, but I had totally forgotten about this post. It's about a true American hero named Captain Dan Luckett. Dan was severely injured when an IED blew up under the Humvee he was in. If you do nothing else today, please take a few minutes to read a story of courage, bravery and the will to survive. It'll make you feel good about being an American and proud of young men and women who serve in our country's Armed Forces.
  • We The People - Need I say more?
  • We are in Week 10 of the NFL Season and I thought it appropriate to remind each of us, that there are far more important things than football. This man was more than a Coach.
Enjoy the games and be thankful to the Almighty that Brent Musburger ain't doing play by play. Drop in here during halftime and look through the archives for plenty of good stuff. Today is also a good day to make story suggestions or drop a comment in the comment section. I'd be thrilled to hear from you. Until next time, adios!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Carefree Dumbass Saturday

Typical Dumbass***
It's a beautiful autumn Saturday here in New England and the whole family is busy doing what we do on such a magnificent day. Heather is in the kitchen making gingerbread (which neither of the kids have had before), the girls are outside making a large pile of leaves suffice as a mattress and I am at my laptop looking out the back windows watching the blue jays, dove, cardinals and chickadees battle for a corner booth at the bird feeder. It hasn't snowed here yet, which is a little surprising to me. But soon enough I'll be telling you about the Nor'easter that blew through and dumped a couple of feet of snow on us. this will be Bailey the Three Year Old's first winter where she'll actually know what snow is all about. That should be a hoot.

Here's a bit of news for you: I am putting together another blog! On it, I'll be writing about whatever crosses my mind, probably about life and the way I see it. No matter the subject, you'll continue to get the type of crap insightful and brilliant commentary that makes you sick to your stomach   you've come to loathe expect from me. On the new blog, I highly encourage you to participate in the comment section. I know you have a lot to say, and all points of view no matter how stupid are welcome. I am still in the design phase of the new place and I hope to have it up and running by Monday. Stay tuned.

I think for this weekend I'll feature some dumbass stories to keep you bored to hell entertained.
  • Let's start with this one about a guy named Leon who ran afoul of the law in Waco, Texas. Let me tell you this. A guy named Leon gettin' busted in Waco will not end up good for Leon. Just sayin'.
  • I don't know about you, but when I hear of a story that involves a a crook and a riding lawnmower, I can almost feel the hilarity that will ensue.
  • This is one of the first stories I posted on my other blog Dumbass News. It features the Wide World of Dumbass Sports and how they can improve your marriage. Hey, I aim to please. 
That lineup of dumbasses ought to keep you nauseous busy for a while. Enjoy them and rejoice in the fact that no matter what you do in life, there's always a bigger dumbass than you. 

***mugshot from The Smoking Gun***

Friday, November 12, 2010

Maine Minutiae: North Pole or Bust!

One of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th Century was Admiral Robert Peary, a resident of Fryeburg, Maine, near Portland. On April 6, 1909, Peary claimed to be the first man to reach the geographic North Pole. This amazing accomplishment had its detractors at the time, and is widely doubted even today. No matter the claim as accurate or not, a feat of this magnitude is simply amazing just considering the "technology" of the day. I realize that a dog sled is a dog sled is a dog sled, but modern technology in just the clothing alone as compared to the clothing worn by Admiral Peary in 1909 and before, is like comparing the Wright Brothers' flight to the space shuttle. I don't know how many of you have spent any time at altitude, but it can be damn cold. I have experienced, live and in living color, 32 degrees BELOW ZERO, with 40 mph winds. What Admiral Peary and his crew experienced at or near the North Pole in 1909 is something that escapes me. Those SOB's were COLD. The navigation equipment in the early 20th Century was a compass and the North Star. Today, GPS devices can pinpoint your exact location to within a foot or so anywhere in the world (!), thanks to satellites orbiting the Earth.

I am not writing this post to debate whether or not, Admiral Peary reached the exact location of the geographic North Pole, but to show that what the man and his crew accomplished is nonetheless historic. They made it to the Top of the World with the hand that was dealt them. The Admiral and his comrades exemplify the Spirit of Maine and of America - the innate urge deep inside the human soul that somehow spurs us to seek and understand the unknown. I believe that urge to explore and discover is something that bring us closer to God. He created this world for the benefit of Man and left it to us to endeavor to understand it so we can understand Him. Otherwise, I think, we would lead a lonely existence on this big blue marble and we would have an empty place in our souls. And God would be irrelevant to us. But He had a much better plan than that, and He gifted us a magical place. A place where our discovery and exploration of such wonders as the North Pole, would give us pause to think and marvel at what we see around us. When we observe the seemingly ordinary things in the world, I think we should look at them through the eyes of a child - with wonder and amazement at how things "work". How does something as innocuous as an acorn create something as majestic as an oak tree? Or how does a seed smaller than the eraser on a pencil evolve into the magnificence that is a tomato.

 I think that is how men like Admiral Peary see the world. For example, the North Pole doesn't represent the top of the world, it represents something much more than that. It's a challenge waiting to be met. An obstacle waiting to be overcome. An army of sorts waiting to be conquered. Simply put, the adventurer that is part of the character of men like the Admiral, seek the most arduous task to complete because...it's there.

Texas Tidbits: A P B & J Experience

Grape Jelly and Smooth Peanut Butter
I was goofing around looking for a subject to post about this morning and actually came across a few neat things quite by accident, so I figured what the heck, go ahead and do a story about one of them?

Small towns in East Texas always have the best local festivals anywhere. We have previously talked about the East Texas Yamboree in Gilmer and today we'll check out another local festival in rural Texas.
  • Our stop will be a place I visited a thousand times as a kid - Grand Saline. And, yes, the "saline" part of the name means salt. There's a huge salt deposit in the area and it is currently being mined by Morton Salt. This year the inaugural  The Great American Peanut Butter Festival will be held in Grand Saline and the featured attraction will be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich being put together by area residents. This is no ordinary pb and j, however. By the time all is said and done, this sandwich will weigh more than 950 pounds! A new World Record! From the festival's website we get a little inside information on what it takes to build a 950 pound pb and j, "We expect the process to take most of the day", says sandwich builder Keith Parsons. "We'll have to wait for the dough to rise, bake the bread in a large oven and then finally we'll spread the peanut butter and jelly onto the bread with long boat oars". And what would a Peanut Butter Festival be without naming a Peanut Butter Queen? Fear not! A Peanut Butter Queen will be named! I just wander if they'll name a Jelly Queen, too?
Community events such as the Great American Peanut Butter Festival make me realize how much I miss living in East Texas. This festivals may seem to be a little silly to some folks, but not to me. I participated in literally thousands of local events like the PB & J Festival when I was a Radio Guy and I always took something home with me after being a part of the festivities. Things that stick out in my mind are: 1)  How much time and effort goes into putting together an event such as this one. Countless hours are put in by people volunteering their time to do something beneficial to the community. Then there's the sigh of relief when the whole thing is over with. Once the festival is over, these same people immediately start thinking about how to make it better for next year. Now, that's dedication. 2) The sounds of children echoing throughout the town square. You can't beat that. 3) The write up in the local newspaper. Whoever reviews these hometown events has the best job in the world for a few days. First, there's the big build up to the event itself. Then the event. And finally the recap of the happenings themselves. The pride and excitement of the event are chronicled with such excitement and pride, you'd think the local baseball team just won the World Series. 4) The aftermath. The local citizenry huddle in groups at the local diner for breakfast and/or coffee on the Monday after the festival to relive their favorite memories and to brag how their child/grand child won the pb & j sandwich eating contest in his/her age group. A good time was had by all.

I think I'll salute the Great American Peanut Butter Festival by slappin' together a pb &j and sharing it with Bailey the three year old. A good time will be had by both.  :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Remembrace Day to Our Canadian Friends!

On November 11, our Canadian neighbors celebrate Remembrance Day to honor military personnel and civilians who died while in service to their country. Remembrance Day is similar to Memorial Day in the USA.

Remembrance Day is celebrated by the countries of The Commonwealth throughout the world. Here's an explanation from Wikipedia "The common British, Canadian, South African, and ANZAC tradition includes either one or two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (11:00 am, 11 November), as that marks the time (in the United Kingdom) when armistice became effective.
The Service of Remembrance in many Commonwealth countries generally includes the sounding of the "Last Post", followed by the period of silence, followed by the sounding of "The Rouse" (often mistakenly referred to as "Reveille"), and finished by a recitation of the "Ode of Remembrance". The "Flowers of the Forest", "O Valiant Hearts", "I Vow to Thee, My Country" and "Jerusalem" are often played during the service. Services also include wreaths laid to honour the fallen, a blessing, and national anthems.[2] Mozambique does not observe the Remembrance Day."

I felt it was only proper to salute our neighbors to the North as our friends and allies in the causes of freedom and liberty. May we always share this common bond that unites us. God bless Canada and those who, in her name, gave their lives in times of war, so that the many may live as free citizens.

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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker