Thursday, March 31, 2011

Texas Tidbits: A Chicken Fried Steak Festival!

Send. Me Some.
I just learned something that doesn't surprise me, but I don't think I've ever heard of it before. Being a Texan, I have of course been to Chili Cookoffs and Bar B Q competitions, but until just a short time ago, I have never heard of a Chicken Fried Steak Cookoff! Well, now I have! CFS is one of my favorite vegetables and the good people of Lamesa, Texas have captured a special place in my heart for Eternity by holding Lamesa's Original Chicken Fried Steak Festival on April 30. I bring this particular event up so far in advance because there is some stiff competition from other outstanding events all over Texas, but you must not miss the CFS Cookoff if at all possible. There are few foods of any ethnicity that rival a good chicken fried steak covered with creamy white gravy. Throw in some smashed taters and some juicy, buttered up sweet corn and I would slap my own Mama away from the table to stuff myself like a Thanksgiving turkey. Sadly, I am 2000 miles away from Lamesa, but I'll damn sure be there in heart...and stomach. has more info on CFS Festival. There are a ton of activities besides the cookoff...things like "the sounds of local talents, relax under shade trees, eating great food from vendors, classic car show, kids games, pony rides, and take a tour of our very own Delaney Vineyard Winery. Chicken Fried Steak Cook-Off, Team Roping, 5K Run, Classic Car Show, Childrens Costume Contest, Pet Costume Contest, Live Entertainement, Food booths, Art & Craft Booths, and so much more. Vendors and Booth Registration call 806-872-4322 or 806-872-4345".

If you can't have fun at a party like that, then you need to have your pulse checked. Lamesa is a great setting for such a gathering and I know that the town's folks would love to see you there. They'll treat you so many ways, you're bound to like one of 'em. Oh, yeah...a personal request here. Somebody Fed Ex me some Chicken Fried steak !!! Thank you.  :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Passport to Texas History! Celebrate and Learn!

A New Republic Was Born
As you may have noticed if you were reading this blog during February when did a two week series of posts on the Texas Revolution, 2011 marks the 175th Anniversary of the Revolution and the Texas Declaration of Independence. In honor of this historic occasion, the State of Texas has come up with an utterly brilliant idea. The Passport to Texas History. Texas Highways magazine urges you to "show your Texas colors by obtaining a “Passport to Texas History,” and have it stamped at seven sites associated with the Texas Revolution. If you collect stamps from all seven sites by December 31, 2011, you’ll receive a commemorative gift from the Texas Independence Trail Region..." San has more great info on the seven sites mentioned above, which are sites along the Texas Independence Trail. (Download a PDF of the Texas Independence Trail brochure here) The sites are:

  •  Gonzales - When Mexican soldiers tried to steal the settlers' cannon - the fight was on!

  • San Felipe - Where Stephe F. Austin established his colony in 1823.  It was considered the social, economic and political center of the region.
  • San Antonio - Five Catholic missions were built here in the early 1700s to convert the native popluation.  In 1836, defenders at the Mission San Antonio de Valero (Alamo) were defeated by Mexican soldiers and the battle cry "Remember the Alamo" was born.
  • Washington-on-the-Brazos - Where representatives of Texas settlements met to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico in early March 1836.
  • Goliad - In late March 1835, Colonel Fannin's forces were imprisoned after surrendering in defeat.  They were then shot outside their prison cell in Goliad, marking this as the largest single loss of life during the days of the Texas Revolution.
  • La Porte (22 miles east of Houston) - The San Jacinto Monument stands as the world's tallest memorial stone column on the site where Mexican rule over Texas came to a dramitic close on April 21, 1836.
Best of all? The Passport to Texas History is FREE and downloadable! Is that cool or what? This promises to be an adventure that you and your family will never forget. The feeling of being at the locations that played such a major role in Texas History and Independence where true Texas heroes fought and died for the dual causes of Liberty and Freedom. What a great experience this will be.

If I were back in Texas, I would teaching my little girls about the place where Daddy grew up and express to them how important it is to always stand up for their beliefs, like the men at the Alamo. An honorable death standing up for what is just, is preferable to the scourge of oppression. I want them to feel the pride when I explain what they are looking at and why it is a sacred place to so many of us. At this point, i'd like to leave you with a quote from John Steinbeck. "Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word." Amen, brother. Amen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Texas Sand Fest!

It's spring time in Texas and that means that there will be festivals of every stripe throughout the state over the next several months. One of the most popular activities will be heading to the beach at the local lake or somewhere along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. For those of you in or near Port Aransas, it's almost time for the Annual Texas Sand Fest.

2011 will be the 15th year of the Sand Fest and in that period of time, it has grown into the biggest sand sculpting event in the United States. You and over 100,000 other party-minded Texans will cruise the beach and check out some incredible works of art made from the sand on the beach. there will also be plenty of live music, free sand sculpting lessons for the younguns, amateur sand sculpting and then of course, the professionals will do stuff with sand that you woulkd never believe if you didn't see it for yourself. This year's Texas Sand Fest will take place April 15-17 in Port Aransas. For a complete schedule of events at the Sand Fest, click here.

Even if you were to make the drive from Dallas, Houston, Austin or San Antonio, it would be well worth the time and gas money invested. You'll love it, your spouse will love it and the kids will go nuts over it. Some photos of past Texas Sand Fests can be found here. Get a load of that and then tell me you wouldn't like to be there.

Here's the kind of guy I am. I'll even lay the the link to the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce on ya. At that link you can get motel and hotel as well as resturant information so you can plan accordingly. It's just a couple of weeks away, so you'd better get on the ball and make those reservations today!
Sands of the Pioneers

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Texas Tidbits: A Master of the Lens, Bob Zeller

Sunset at the Lajitas House , Big Bend
Many of you are familiar with my very good friend in San Angelo, Texas, Bob "The Funky Old Dude" Zeller. Bob has a website of some of the most amazing photographs of Nature, specifically birds, but he has some outstanding shots of the landscape of West Texas as well. Over the last few months Bob has made a couple of trips to the Big Bend area of way out there West Texas and each time he has come back with some awe-inspiring photos of the place. If you've never been to the Big Bend or if have have never even seen it, be prepared to be astounded and make sure you have a pillow on the ground for when your chin hits the floor after viewing these photographic pieces of art. Incredible. Speaking of art...the following photo is one of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.
Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend, Texas
Take a peek. At the bottom of the photo, just above the last "a" in the word "Santa", is a black "dot". That "dot" is actually a man hiking in the canyon! That one small detail shows the massive size of the canyon walls in contrast to a full grown man. I still marvel at this photo.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Bob's main photographic subjects are birds. I beilive, and Bob can correct me if I'm wrong, that he has documented over 200 speices of birds! Like these and this. Skip on over to Bob's blog, Texas Tweeties and browse around. You will be stunned at some the shots that Bob has taken. Did I tell you that Bob's photograpsh have been featured at museums and in various publications in Texas? They have. Any doubts about Bob's keen eye to frame a shot that is more than just a photograph will be quelled with one look at the photos below of the American Kestrel.
The Hunt

Be sure to bookmark Texas Tweeties because you'll be sayin' to yourself, "How can a funky old dude who married way up to a chickadee (pun intended) like Ann, be an award-winning photographer?" I'm just sayin'. :)

The Lunch

Texas Tidbits: A Texas Primer Reprise

Here's a post that we put up every couple of months . We post it because this blog is picking up readers at an amazing pace. We are now read in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, plus EIGHTY-SEVEN countries around the world! Precisely because we get new readers so quickly, I like to fill them in on what Texas is all about, so they'll have an idea of why we write the things we do on Three States Plus One. Newer readers, enjoy this post and the link to the Texas Primer. You'll tank me later.  :)

Thanks to you, the reader, Three States Plus One is growing in leaps and bounds. We are barely three months old and we now have friends in forty-five of the fifty states in the USA and twenty nine countries around the world. Our overseas readers are from a diverse group of nations, including, our newest country, Serbia. Other readers hail from Italy, Spain, Israel, Russia, Australia, Taiwan, Mexico, the Philippines, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, our neighbors to the north, Canada, the Mother Country, Great Britain and so many more. Thank you to you all for being a part of our Global Community of Readers and showing an interest in my home state of Texas. I was thinking that since we have so many new readers, it might be a good time to familiarize them with some facts about Texas, including a brief look at its history. So, I located a primer about Texas that has some basic information that the newer readers might find useful. It's good stuff and I believe that many of you from around the globe who have struggled and fought in order to live in a country free of tyranny and governmental control over your daily lives, will find the story of Texas an inspirational one, not unlike your own.

 Texas is one of the most recognizable places on Earth, if not for the sheer size of the place, then definitely for its unique profile. Almost anyone can look at a map and find Texas once they know what it looks like and the Lone Star flag is equally recognizable as a symbol of Texas by people from around the world. Many people unfamiliar with modern Texas still think of oil wells and cowboys as the mainstays of Texan culture. And they would be right. Oil and cowboys are as much a part of Texas as the Alamo. But the Texas of today is much more than that. Many Fortune 500 and high tech companies call today's Texas home making Texas a new kind of frontier for the 21st Century.

 I am not going to excerpt the Texas Primer for you here as I can't do it justice, so please take a few minutes to read it and you'll have a basic understanding of what is so special about this place called Texas.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Willie and Me, The Next Great Country Duo

The Red Headed Stranger
James Ott said to me in the comments of my post on Buddy Holly, " Just think what this country would be like without Texas. A ship without a rudder or engine!!!" James hit the proverbial nail on the head with that statement. We'd also be without one of the greatest recording artists, and I do mean artist, singer-songwriters, humanitarian and all around cool dude - Willie Hugh Nelson.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had the good fortune of spending some time with Willie after one of his shows in Wichita Falls about 30 years ago. It was a dark and stormy night...I mean, it was raining like hell that night as Willie and I led his band members to his bus for the interview. I was the first one on the bus, followed by Willie, who was followed by his lead guitar player, Jody Payne. As I stepped onto the the bus, Willie not so subtly asked, "Hey, Toby. You got a joint?" I wasn't exactly stunned. I replied, "No, Willie, I wish I did". No sooner had I answered Willie's question when Jody stepped on board and stated, "Don't worry, I got one". Hilarity and an interview ensued. When I asked Willie why he did so many duets, he told me that he just loved to sing, then he promptly invited meto record a duet with him! Funny thing is, I think he was dead serious. Or stoned. Or both. At the conclusion of our little pow wow, while saying our adios's, Willie gifted to me the leftovers of a partially smoked "tamale". This laid back guy is as real in person as he is on TV or in a movie. This is Willie Nelson for cryin' out loud. Willie wasn't always a superstar. He struggled for twenty years as a singer/songwriter in order to become an "overnight sensation". Willie has written some of the best-known country music classics ever : Hello Walls (Faron Young), Crazy (Patsy Cline), Funny How Time Slips Away (Billy Walker), Pretty Paper(Roy Orbison), Always On My Mind (Elvis & many others) Night Life (Ray Price), etc.,etc.,etc. The Red Headed Stranger is one of the most critically acclaimed albums in the history of music, period. Willie has sung with many country music legends including, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams, Jr., Ray Price and his brother from another mother, Waylon. Besides being a prolific singer/songwriter, Willie has been in several feature films - The Electric Horseman, Barbarosa, Honeysuckle Rose andThe Dukes of Hazzard. How many people do you know that would bail you out of a $16million debt to the I.R.S.? Of their own free will, without being asked? That's what friends of Willie did for him back in the 80's. I have a feeling that these folks knew that Willie would have done exactly the same thing for each and every one of them, if the need arose. There's enough material on Willie that I could write a book about it, so I'm sure I left plenty out of this short post. If you've got a Willie story, please share it in the comments. Now, Willie, about that duet.....

Friday, March 25, 2011

Texas Tidbits: W, Loving His Country and Its Warriors

You Damn Right I Do
It was September 27, 2010 when I posted this. I picked this particular post to rerun because I want us all to remember that we have men and women who serve this country with the singleminded determination to keep Her safe from the dumbfucks who would do Her or Her citizens harm. Men and women who love this country and who sacrifice a "normal" life with family and friends to fulfill an oath to "keep Her safe from all enemies, foreign and domestic. George W. Bush is one of these men.

It seems like forever ago that we had a man in the White House that respected and loved this country and the men and women who served in its Armed Forces. Agree or disagree with him, there was no doubt that George W. Bush did what he thought was right for the United States and he stuck to his guns. His wife, Laura was the epitome of class, grace and dignity while representing our nation as First Lady. You damn right I miss them. Why? Read on and you'll understand.

The last Sunday in September is designated as Gold Star Mothers Day, a day set aside for Mothers who've lost a son or daughter who died in service to his/her country in the US Armed Forces. This past Saturday, George W. and Laura Bush held a reception at their Dallas home for Gold Star and Blue Star Moms. Blue Star Mothers are Moms who have a child serving the country right now. About 80 women showed up at the Bush's house for this very special occasion. Cynthia Garcia, whose son, Corporal Adam Garcia, died in Iraq, was one of those women. At the link, in her own words, is Mrs.Garcias' touching account of her time with the former President and First Lady at their Dallas home.

This is a man who was vilified and demonized by the Leftist assholes and the media, but I repeat myself, as stupid, out of touch and a war criminal amongst other "niceties". Let me tell you what, if being stupid, out of touch and a war criminal means being a man like George W. Bush, count me in. And the Left can kiss my stupid, out of touch, war criminal ass.    

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Can Smell the Sammie's BarBQ from Maine

Number Uno BBQ
A recent post left me a bit nostalgic for The Lone Star State. I figured that since moving back to Texas ain't gonna happen anytime soon, I got to thinking about a solution to this dilemma. I found one. If I can't go to Texas, I'll bring part of Texas to Maine! Off the top of my head, I came up with a short list of things back home that I'd like to bring to The Pine Tree State.

  • Mexican Food made by real Mexicans - I have eaten Mexican food all over the country. None of it is as good as Tex-Mex. End of story. There are many Mexican eateries around the USA that have great food, but none compare, according to my taste buds, to La Cocina Mexicana in Tyler. Probably the best Mexican food I have ever eaten. La Cocina, Spanish for kitchen, has the usual array of menu items you'll find at most Mexican Restarants. But even their "ordinary" stuff is better than most others' best stuff. For instance, beef tacos made with steak instead of hamburger. Slap me down and call me shorty, those tacos are flat good. One item on the menu at La Cocina Mexicanathat stands out, even amongst all the authentic and outstanding cuisine, is the cactus tacos. Si, cactus tacos. With fresh cantaloupe juice for your drink. If you are a fence-sitter on the subject of God, one dose of these cactus tacos and all doubt will be forever removed from your mind. These things are inspired by the Almighty His Own Self. I almost forgot! When you first enter the place there is a pastry case with fresh homemade Mexican desserts, pan dulce (sweet bread), and other pastries that are mama-slappin' good. Even if you are just passing by La Cocina Mexicana, stop by just to open the front door and get a whiff olfactory awesomness. La Cocina Mexicana is located on Gentry Parkway in the barrio in northeast (?) Tyler, just north of downtown. Friendly advice : go hungry, veryhungry.
  • Bar B Que - Not much for Bar B Que up here. I 'd importany roadside BBQ stand in Texas to Maine. I have eaten at this sort of BBQ stand all over Texas and they neverdisappoint me. Even the bad stuff is good. The one BBQ restaurant in Texas that I'd relocate to Maine is Sammie's Bar B Que in Fort Worth. This place is/was (I don't know if they are still open for business). Sammie's had been in business for many years when I was a kid and if they are still open, I wouldn't be one bit surprised. This joint reeked of Texas Bar B Que. A section of picnic tables lined up side by side, some regular restaurant tables, sawdust on the floor, baskets of peanuts on every table, a jukebox, beer, a Budweiser clock with a waterfall and the Clydesdales in it (!) and of course there's the food. Brisket so sweet and tender, ribs cooked to perfection, red beans, cole slaw, onion rings, french fries the size of small baseball bats...hungry yet?UPDATE! : Sammie's is still open! I found their website also! Get a drool napkin and click here to slobber like a teething baby. You're welcome.
This is one of those posts that I could easily turn into a novel, so I'll pick up on this subject another time. Anyway, La Cocina Mexicana and Sammie's Bar B Que, a little taste of Texas that I can taste just thinkin' about it. And believe me, I am thinkin' about itreal hard right now. Somebody please pass the rib plate!
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Texas Tidbits: One Big Ass Rock

You know when you're on a road trip and on the way to your destination, you see an interesting road sign or billboard that says something like : "Visit Podunk, Home of Podunkin Donuts"? I have seen a million of those signs and have always said, "Next time I come through here, I am gonna visit Podunk and have me some Podunkin Donuts". Inevitably, you go past the same sign months later and vow to visit Podunk for some Podunkin Donuts. But you never do. Then 35 years down the road, you still haven't visited Podunk for some Podunkin Donuts, but by now you are over 2000 miles away in a foreign land - like Maine. The next best thing to do at this point is to remind those who are near enough to Podunk, to visit Podunk and try some Podunkin Donuts. That is my task today. Except it isn't exactly Podunk I am talking about, it's Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. If you substitute "Enchanted Rock State Natural Area" for "Podunk" above, you'll see what I'm talking about here. I have passed signs that extol the virtues of ERSNA a gazillion times and have never followed them. I am a dumbass - a dumbass that sits over 2000 miles from Enchanted Rock, with little prospect of seeing it soon. Enchanted Rock is located near Fredericksburg in the Hill Country. ER is an outcrop of pink granite that sits in the center of a never-erupted volcano and rises 425 above the surrounding terrain and covers about 640 acres. That's a B.F.R. (big frakkin rock)! In the photo above, Enchanted Rock doesn't look that big , but look at this picture and you'll see the enormity of this magnificent monadnock. The Comanche, Apache and Tonkawa tribes that once inhabited the area around the rock believed it possessed mystical and magical powers. Today, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a mecca for rock climbers and hikers from all over the place. Take a peek at this page of short videos to learn and see more of ERSNA. I could kick myself in the butt for not stopping at least once to absorb the majesty that the Indians of hundreds of years ago saw in Enchanted Rock. The next time you are headed down I-35 and see the sign that invites you to visit Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, do it! Don't pass it by or you could end up a never-have-seen-Enchanted-Rock dumbass like me.Or you could end up in Podunk and Podunkin Donuts will be closed. Damn the bad luck.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Plus One:Trojan Condoms Are Here to Help You Choose a College for Your Kid. Seriously.

No.1 Condom for "Enlightened" Universities
Howdy, y'all! I am still having a very rough time with my friend Arthur Itis and his cousin, Fibro Myaglia, so I am re-running this post from January, 2011. Thank you all for your overwhelming support while I have been under the weather. You are the best! 
There is a sure-fire new criterium for choosing a college for your kids. Once I tell you about this amazing school-choosing tool, you'll quickly dismiss things such as graduation rates and curriculum as old fashioned and unnecessary. And to think, this new factor in determining an institution of higher learning for your kid (and your hard-earned money) has been right in front of you (pun intended, you'll see why in a second) The answer to this age old question is condoms! See? I told you the answer was right in front of you. But I digress. Those dumbass bastions of virtue at Trojan Condoms have, at great expense (and free samples, I'm sure), done a study that, with great fanfare, has ranked the thirteen colleges in the United States that are the most "sexually healthy" in the whole damn country! Now that's a study we can all get behind! Another pun! I am on a roll! I ain't makin' this stuff up. Here's a short paragraph directly from the article on "Trojan. The condom giant just released its fifth annual Sexual Health Report Card, which looked at 141 colleges and ranked them according to the quality and accessibility of their sexual health resources. The report zeroes in on 12 categories ranging from contraceptive availability and STD testing to sexual assault programs, according to a news release. Each school was given a "GPA" based on its average in the areas, with 4.0, naturally, being the highest possible rating." I know I feel much better now that Trojan is on the ball.

I am going to present the rankings exactly as they appear in the Parent Dish article.You might need a stiff drink (another pun! hahahahaha) after reading this, so prepare yourself. I hate to copy and paste too much, but if I didn't, you'd think I was drunk or something. Here's what I mean: "Columbia University in New York City topped the honor roll with a 3.70, distinguishing itself with Go Ask Alice, a comprehensive website that allows students to submit questions anonymously. Current topics span the health scope: "Keeping the flow with a condom," "Numbing lube safety for anal sex" and "Quick and healthy bag lunches."

Michigan State was ranked second with a 3.61, followed by Ohio State University. Also making the honor roll: University of Michigan, 3.55; Brown University, 3.50; University of Iowa, 3.49; University of Oregon, 3.44; Princeton University, 3.41; Rutgers, 3,38; University of Minnesota, 3.37; Western Michigan University, 3.28; Cornell, 3.22; and Yale, 3.17." See? You would have thought I was hammered! I guess that all the fine Universities of the South must be sexually unhealthy. There's not one in the Top 13! Dumbass Rednecks! I am telling you people of the South to get busy with the cousin' humpin' You are losing out to a bunch of Yankees for Pete's sake! Oh, wait. Could it be that many colleges in the South are more conservative than their more "enlightened" (read : liberal) Northern brethren and sex before marriage is not something to be condoned? I mean, many places pass out free hypodermic needles to drug users and miraculously all intravenous drug use and the spread of aids have stopped! Oh, that's right they haven't. What a dumbass I am. I must admit that I am , by virtue of this study, more well-prepared to have a frank talk with my daughters about condom usage and "keeping the flow" as well as the use of 'numbing lube safety for anal sex". Abstinence, schmabstinence. Who needs to wait to be married to have sex? Use a condom and some ass-numbing lube and be sexually liberated! Excuse me while I go puke. Dumbasses.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Cops Caught Dunkin More Than Donuts

Happy First Full Day of Spring! It's garden time! Yay! The post you are about to read was originally posted on September 7, 2010. It's funny as hell and deserves to be posted again, especially for readers who have been with us for only a little while. It's also worth a re-read, so jump right in!

Happy Labor Day Weekend, 2010, y'all! Since it is a holiday weekend, and all of you will be in the mood for fun, froth and frivolity, not earth-shattering news about stuff like Mexican Food and Bar B Que or the story of a guy who finds a missile launcher in his garden (!), you want some lighter fare that fits the occasion. Ask and ye shall receive. The torrid typing of the Texas Tidbits Teletype produces these gems (or BS, depending on your point of view) :

Nice Donuts You've Got There
  • Midland - The Sheriff's Department of Midland County sounds like a great place to work. The "perks" are really cool...til you get caught. It seems that five of Midland's finest were enjoying a little fellowship and discussing pressing law enforcement issues at an establishment named "Twin Peaks". I don't don't know about you, but as a bachelor and man of the world for most of my adult life (until I met Heather), when a place of business is named "Twin Peaks", two things leap to mind. Mountains or scantily clad young women. Being that this episode took place in Midland, mountains are ruled out immediately. That leaves what's behind door number two : scanitly clad young women. Having said that, the name of a place alone is not necessarily an indication of what kind of business it is. However, and that's a big however, when the business' motto is “fun, friendly and sometimes flirty atmosphere!”, red flags (and scantily clad young women) go up like they were shot out of a thirty-aught-six. The scenario : These five cops were having a couple of beers at Twin Peaks. They befriended one of the scantily clad young women who works there and one of the Men in Blue invited the scantily clad young woman outside for a few snapshots. Nothing good could come from that. Even I have never been so inebriated as to do such a dumabass thing, plenty of other dumbass things but nothing this dumbass. Anyway, as if taking this girl outside for a few pictures isn't dumbass enough, one of the cops gives her an AK-47 AR-15! (thanks to anonymous in the comments for the correction-Toby) to pose with on his squad car! Epic.Fail. The High Sheriff of Midland County failed to see the humor in this little incident and took appropriate disciplinary action against the officers. In all this skullduggery and debauchery (and harmless law enforcement fun), there is a two word moral to the story for the gentlemen involved : Dunkin. Donuts.
There's your heart-warming human interest story for this week. Be sure to tune in next week when we'll have a blockbuster of a tale when the Midland Sheriff's Department spurns the lure of the scantily clad young women at Twin Peaks and opt for buffalo wings, beer and scantily clad young women at Hooters. You don't wanna miss it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Plus One Special: Alan Eugene Jackson

My old buddy Arthur Itis is still visiting me today and he's got me confined to the couch or bed, so I looked back through the "Three States Plus One" archives and found a very popular post from Country Music Month last October. It's definitely worth another look, so have fun reading about and listening to....Alan Jackson!

If Alan ain't country you can kiss know
 Every so often Country Music seems to lose its focus and veer toward the Pop side of things. To clarify, when I said "Country Music" in the opening sentence, I meant the dumbasses in charge of the record companies who make the decisions as to what's going to be released. At the same time, there always seems to be an artist or two who remain loyal to their country roots and play, you know, actual Country Music. Imagine that. One such artist who has done exactly that for over two decades and is still going strong answers to the name Alan Eugene Jackson.

Alan Jackson burst on to the Country Music scene with his first major release, Here In the Real World and has never looked back. As of this writing, Jackson has had over 50 singles in the Billboard Magazine charts and twenty-five of those have been Number 1's. And every damned one of those chart singles have been COUNTRY. Alan and another Country Legend, George Strait, lambasted the idiots who pour out all this Pop pablum and try to market it as Country in Murder On Music Row. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! Between Strait and Jackson, they have about 75 Number 1's and probably 100 million album sales, plus over 50 years combined as major Country stars, and the dumbasses in Nashville just don't seem to get it. Simply amazing.

The following songs are why Alan Jackson records will be played on the radio long after we leave this world. Classics, every damned one of them. Because I said so.  :)
After listening to the songs on the list above, I realized that I need to crank up some Alan Jackson way more often. The man is incredible. His song writing is outstanding and the people who do his back up vocals are mo' betta than good. In case you couldn't tell, I really like this guy. :) For another 40 or 50 hits by Alan Jackson, here's the YouTube page for you. Listen to 'em all. You'll thank me later.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Bob Heads to Big Bend Again

I am still in quite a bit of discomfort in my back and knees, so I am once again digging up some of my favorite posts over the last few months. My friend in San Angelo, Texas, Bob Zeller, is taking another trip to the Big Bend area of Texas. So, I wanted to re-post this article as Bob and his lovely bride of 56 years, Ann, get packed up and ready to hit the road again. I can assure you that Bob will return with a great story of his trip as well as some outstanding photos of this incredible part of Texas. In the meantime, enjoy this great account of Bob's last trip to Big Bend and the stunning photos he took while there.

This post originally appeared on "Three States Plus One" on November 6, 2010
Photo from Bob's Big Bend Adventure**

Texas is about 267,000 square miles of Bad Ass. I have traveled about four-fifths of those 267,000 square miles. The one-fifth of Texas I haven't seen is the area in and around the Big Bend. Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, I'll make that trip with wife and little girls next summer. However, a good friend of mine, Bob Zeller at Texas Tweeties recently took a trip to the Big Bend with his lovely wife, Ann. I like Bob and all, but I gotta tell you, he married up.Way up. :) Now where was I? Bob...trip...Ann....oh,yeah, so Bob and Ann take this trip to the Big Bend. Bob wrote a bit of commentary about the trip and he took loads of photos that illustrate the rugged, unspoiled beauty of this part of Texas and serialized it on his blog. So far, there are five installments of Bob' writings and photos, with each one more breathtaking than the last. If you've never been to this part of Texas or if you've been a hundred times, you are sure to find something new in Bob's posts. Give 'em a read and let your imagination run wild with thoughts of cowboys and the Indians that roamed these mountains and prairies that are still just as wild and untamed as they were hundreds of years ago.

Here are the keys to Bob's Place:

Go forth and explore Bob's Big Adventure to the Big Bend and check out the outstanding photos. And while you're over at Bob' place, I think you'd like to think about ordering one of his Texas Tweeties 2011 calendars. Aside from the magnificent photography you'd expect from Bob, the calendars are very sturdy, not that cheap ass paper you get at your local retailer. Just to remind you, I do not receive any remunerations for hawking Bob's calendar. 1) I have one so I know of what I speak when I describe it. 2) Bob put in countless hours getting the photos in the calendar. Birds ain't like a dog, they don't come to you when you whistle. 3) Bob is my friend and having gotten to know him over the last couple months, I have great respect and admiration for him 4) He's from Michigan, yet he chooses to be a Texan. That alone is reason enough to respect the man.
5) I am all about helping a friend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Three of My Favorite Letters - P, B and J

This post was originally published on November 12, 2010. I'm not feeling so hot today and this post just has a "feel good" component to it. What's not to like about P B and J? :)

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, March 17, 2011

Texas Tidbits: St. Patty's Day in Shamrock, Texas

As a former on-air Radio Guy, I can't tell you how many hundreds, probably thousands, of small town festivals I attended over those fifteen years. I was at 'em from Pampa to Galveston and Big Spring to Marshall. That covers quite a few miles. There is one, however, that I never had the good fortune to attend. - the Shamrock (TX) St. Patrick's Day Festival. I mean, what goes together more than a shamrock and St. Patty's Day?. OK, besides green beer. :)

Shamrock is a town of about 2000 hardy souls in Wheeler County in the Eastern Texas Panhandle, near the Oklahoma border. Each year, the town holds a great St. Patrick's Day Festival that brings in residents of Texas and Oklahoma for a weekend of fun that only a town named Shamrock could have.

Here's this years Schedule of Events:

2011 St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Schedule of Events
Thursday, March 17
3:30 p.m. -- 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Invitational Track Meet at El Paso Stadium
Friday, March 18
3 p.m. -- Shamrock Alumni baseball game
4 p.m. -- Carnival opens behind Bartlett’s Hardware & Lumber
6:30 p.m. -- “Kickoff Banquet” featuring vocalist, Ashley Nicole Wheeler; Tickets $15 in advance; $20 at the door
Following the banquet -- Dance to THE RUSTY COOPER BAND at the Shamrock Country Club, $10 cover charge.  Must be 21.
Saturday, March 19
8:00 a.m. -- 5 K Fun Run, starting at Water Tower Plaza sponsored by Knights of Columbus
9:30 a.m. -- Arts and Craft Show at the Shamrock Junior High gymnasium
10 a.m. -- Donegal Beard Contest at the parade review stand, first place prize is $100
10 a.m. -- Old Settlers’ Reunion at the Shamrock Volunteer Fire Department
10 a.m. -- Roping at Shamrock Rodeo Grounds sponsored by ST Productions
10 a.m. - 3 p.m. -- St. Patrick’s Health Fair • Exclusively sponsored by Accolade Home Care @
    First Baptist Church Family Life Center
10:30 a.m. -- Parade will begin in the 800 block of North Main Street and proceed south to El Sombrero
Noon -- Carnival opens behind Bartlett’s
Noon -- Motorcycle rally at the Shamrock Area Community Center sponsored by the Shamrock Rotary Club
1 p.m. -- Antique, Classic Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show at the U-Drop Inn, judging to begin at 2 p.m.
3 p.m. -- Crowning of Miss Irish Rose at the Shamrock High School Auditorium
7 p.m. -- Shamrock Ministerial Alliance program at the First United Methodist Church Sanctuary
   7 p.m. -- Greater Faith Mission Church program at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
8-11 p.m. -- Area youth night at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center
8:30 p.m.-midnight -- Dance featuring recording star Ty Herndon; Matt Martindale Band opening. Tickets $15 in advance; $20 at the door.
Sunday, March 20
Noon -- Carnvial opens behind Bartlett’s
Noon to 4 p.m. -- Arts and Crafts show will continue at the junior high school gymnasium
1 p.m. -- Lad ‘n’ Lassie Beauty Pageant at the Shamrock High School Auditorium

That's quite a lineup with something to do for each member of your family. I love the camaraderie that functions like this St. Patty's Day gig bring to the table. And a small town like Shamrock is the perfect setting for such an event. I'd take this one over anything any big city has to offer. There's just something about country folks that makes the experience of a celebration like the Shamrock St. Patrick's Day Festival feel like you're having fun with old friends. And by the time the festival is over, you are bound to have made some friends and memories that'll last a lifetime. Good on ya, Shamrock and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Texas Tidbits; Germans Throw a Helluva Party

A while back I enrolled for a few weeks trial of and was blown away by some of the information I discovered. I am a distant relative to some of the most famous people in history. I am sure that many people can say that too, but it's still kind of neat to find out who's in the ole Family Tree. My ancestors on both sides of my family were nearly all of German extraction, with a little Dutch on my maternal grandfather's side thrown in for good measure. I bring this up at the time because spring is nigh and family vacations are not far behind that. I thought throwing out ideas for your vacation or just a weekend jaunt might steer you in a different direction, a direction you might have considered before. This is where my point about my German heritage comes in.

One of the biggest and best German heritage festivals in Texas takes place in Tomball, about 40 miles north of Houston on I-45, March 25-27. Tomball German Heritage Festival was started eleven years a go with an oompah band on a low-boy trailer hauled by a pickup truck. Each year thousands of people gather in Tomball to celebrate the area's strong German Heritage, which began with the  first German settlers in 1840. looking over the festival's website, I found out "It is a Music/Street festival celebrating German and ethnic heritage with 4 stages of live music entertainment "happy music for happy people", ethnic and festival food, beer, wine, 150 street vendors, all kinds of German souvenirs and clothing, arts crafts, antiques, Heritage Center, German church service, fireworks, carnival, pony ride, petting zoo, strolling music makers, street performers, and much more. Like Oktoberfest in March! Huge fun for the whole family! You do not have to be German to enjoy this festival. It is fun for everyone, and there is no admission or parking fees." <------see that? No admission or parking fees! No doubt the price is right. The Tomball German Heritage Festival is a "Sister City" celebration bringing the local flaovor of Tomball's Sister City, Telgte, Germany. This thing sounds like a hoot!

I hope you can make it to the TGHF this year, even if you aren't of German heritage. I'll tell you what. If I was within driving range of Tomball, I'd be there so fast , it would make my head spin. All the contact info can be found on the TGHF website. if you think you might attend, it would be a good idea to make a hotel reservation ahead of time. If you go, drop me a line at threestatesplusone AT gmail DOT com.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Chili, It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

Breakfast of Champions
Chili. There are as many ways to make it as there are cooks. Getting these cooks to convene at one place at one time is called a Chili Cook Off. There must be thousands of these cook offs every year in Texas, and some of them are serious business. With cash and prestige on the line, the competition is fierce. The recipes for the best chili at these cook offs are guarded like the gold at Fort Knox. Or like the Top Secret Crabby Patty Formula at the Krusty Krab. I love Spongebob. The arrival of Spring signals the beginning of the Chili Cook Off season in Texas. Below I'll list a few links to some of the more popular and well-known chili cook offs in the state.
  • 2011 Lone Star Chili Cook Off  - Believe it or not, this cook off takes place in New York City! It won't come as such a big surprise that it is held by the Texas Exes and the New York a & M Club. The one time that Longhorns and Aggies come together as one.  :)
  • "Texas Men's Chili Cook Off and BBQ Championship - From the cook off website: Blanco County Fairgrounds in Johnson City. This Texas tradition is fun for the whole family on the banks of the Pedernales River. Cooking begins Friday evening. On Saturday vendors will offer treats and treasures from throughout the Hill Country, while the cooking continues. Live music on Saturday, 42 domino tournaments. Fun for the whole family. Come early to judge or just taste chili, barbecue, beans, and hot wings made by the best in Texas. Sponsored by CASI". 
  • Terlingua International Chili Championship - This is the Grand Daddy of them all. Enough said. 
This is, of course, a very short list of the Chili Cook Offs held in Texas each year. I used Google Fu to find a list of many of the Chili Cook Offs going on in Texas throughout the year. I'm sure that I'll locate more chili cook offs over the course of time, and when I do, you'll be the first to hear of them.

If you know of a bad ass chili recipe, please feel free to send it to me at threestatesplusone AT gmail DOT com. I'll be more than happy to share it with the rest of the world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Texas Tidbits: The Call of the Wild (flowers)

Bluebonnet Carpet
One of the things I enjoyed when I set out on a fishing trip was the trip itself. Say what? Yeah. The trip itself. All over Texas this time of year wildflowers are either in bloom or are on the verge of blooming. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes and many other varieties of wildflowers. And the dogwood trees. I love the dogwood trees of East Texas. as a matter of fact, there several festivals held in East Texas during the dogwood blooming season. One of the best Dogwood Festivals is held in Woodville.  There are tons of events held each year at the Tyler County (Woodville) Dogwood Festival - parades, food, games and of course, the beauty queens. I attended a few of the Tyler Conty Dogwood Festivals and the really are a lot of fun and they'll kick of the 2011 version of The Dogwood Festival this weekend. See the link above for all the info.

I must say however, driving down the highway and seeing a field of acre upon acre of bluebonnets carpeting the ground is my favorite wildflower sight. Simply gorgeous. I found a website that takes us on a trip through the Bluebonnet Trail in Texas. It has three parts so it's a bit of a read, but it's very cool and is certainly worth your time. Here's an excerpt from the site, "It really doesn't matter much which roads you take because this year the wild flowers are likely to be thick practically everywhere.  Highways 1431, 29, 281, 71, 29, 2323 and 16 are the main thoroughfares and you can't but help to travel those; but it's best to branch out and explore.
       If you're looking for Bluebonnets, they're most plentiful in the northern part of the Hill Country.  If you're traveling from Fredericksburg to Llano take highway 16.   Beginning at Willow City the Bluebonnets don't confine themselves to the bar ditches, but spread out into the fields."

There are thousands of miles of prime wildflower sight seeing in Texas and Touring Texas has the scoop on many of them. Enjoy the virtual tour of the Bluebonnet Trail. Now get off your ass and take a drive this weekend! The spring time beauty of our state is waiting for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Week in Review & Daylight Savings Time

The week that just ended yesterday has, overall, been one of the best weeks ever for Three States Plus One. I want to thank you for the outstanding support you continue to give us. All of you are the Shiznit, or something.

If you missed some of the award-worthy posts of last week, I am gonna post some links to them so you can catch up with the rest of the class. Or you can re-read them, as the case may be.

All those stories were very popular last week, so give them a perusal when you get a chance. The whole of the archives hold some pretty good stuff and they would be worth a little review for you as well.

If you haven't already, SET YOUR CLOCKS FORWARD AN HOUR! Daylight Savings Time began this morning at 2AM. I have some outstanding information to pass on to you in the coming days, so be sure to check in every once in a while so you don't miss a thing!

Have a GREAT Sunday!!!

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: Lake Whitney State Park

    It's the weekend! Years ago, i spent many a weekend at Lake Whitney with my then brother in law, James Jessup. I am sad to say that James died a few years ago, but I carry some great memories with me of the time James, his family (his Dad, brother,etc.) and I spent slaying the crappie at Lake Whitney. I always looked forward to those trips because I knew they meant fishing, cold beer and lots of cooking.

    Today, I am going to pass on to you some information about a great place to spend some time with your friends and/or family. Whitney is known for great fishing for sand bass, stripers and crappie. A good place to have as your vacation headquarters is Lake Whitney State Park.With that said, Lake Whitney State Park is not all about just fishing. For example, "Facilities include restrooms with and without showers; picnic sites with and without shade shelters; campsites with water, with and without shade shelters; campsites (pull-through) without shade shelters, with water, electricity, and sewer; campsites (pull-through) with and without shade shelters, with water and electricity (special rates available); an airstrip (2000-foot paved runway - unlighted, unattended, left hand pattern, call traffic on 122.9 MHz); a trailer dump station; a group recreation hall with a kitchen, attic fans, central heating and air-conditioning; a group camp with a dining hall and 8 screened shelters; a Texas State Park Store; a youth group area with fire rings and picnic tables - no drinking water or restrooms near; a fish-cleaning facility; a launching ramp; a playground; and 2 trails of approximately 1 mile each - one for hikers only and one multi-use trail for hikers and bicyclists" See what I mean? There's plenty to do , so can enjoy some fishing early in the morning, take a hike in the afternoon, cook up some good grub and slay the fishi again starting about an hour before sundown.

    Lake Whitney is easily accessible from anywhere in the Metroplex and Central texas and it's certainly worth the trip no matter how far you have to drive. After your trip, be sure to let me know how you did while fishing! Have a safe trip!

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: Lake Fairfield State Park!

    The Best Fisherman on Lake Fairfield

    I just checked in with and it looks like that all my rowdy friends in the Metroplex and all of North Texas will be having a beautiful weekend for enjoying outdoor activities. There's a State Park just down I-45 from Dallas that is worthy of your attention. Fairfield State Park offers some good amenities spending a day or a week - lakeside camp sites, electricity, lighted fishing pier and more. We'll get back to the fishing pier in a minute.

    From the Park website, here's a 3 minute video, that gives you some great information about Lake Fairfield and all the stuff you can look forward to when you visit. Another good thing about Lake Fairfield is that is a power plant lake, so the water of the lake stays warm even during the coldest of times. Another cool thing is that there are freshwater redfish in them thar waters. Redfish are a saltwater species but they were bred to adapt the to fresh water of Lake Fairfield. let me tell you that when you latch onto one of those big bad boys, you know that you have something at the other end of your fishing line. As a matter of fact, a good size redfish on the business end of your line feels somewhat like trying to haul in a compact automobile. And they taste GREAT when cooked properly. This is where the lighted fishing pier comes into play. Besides redfish, you can catch bass, crappie and catfish as well as panfish like bream.

    To me, a park like Fairfield is all about the fishing, but for some reason unknown to the brightest minds in this room (that would be me), some of you are heathens and don't like to fish. I call you "heathens" with love in my heart.  :) There are other things to do besides fishing for you heathens that don't fish, again I say that with love in heart, like "A six-mile trail has connected an older 9-mile trail to provide a continuous 15 miles of trailways that provide multi-use (hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian) access from one end of the park to the other. Much of the trail is adjacent to the 2400-acre Fairfield Lake. There is also a 2-mile nature trail and 1 mile of bird watching trail." Attention Bob Zeller of Texas Tweeties! There's birding at Fairfield State Park!

    The park is about halfway between Dallas and Huntsville and if my math and memory serve me well, that's about 85 miles or so from the Big D. It's well worth the drive just to escape the Rat Race, which by the way, the rats are winning, to Fairfield for the peace and quiet of a relaxing weekend of doing what the hell ever you feel like doing, even if it's nothing.

    MASSIVE 8.9 QUAKE LEVELS JAPAN! UPDATED! (scroll down for updates)

    This kind of story is out of the scope of stories that I normally cover on this blog, but it's too major to not at least mention. 

    An 8.9 earthquake shook Japan this morning at 2:46am local Japan time. The temblor is the largest quake to EVER strike Japan and the 7th largest ever recorded anywhere. The quake generated a tsunami that has hit the coast of the island nation with waves estimated to as high as 30 feet. the West Coast of the United States is under a Tsunami Warning with a wall of water ranging from a couple of feet in Southern California to mas high as 6 feet in the Pacific Northwest and in Hawaii.

    US Military personnel in Okinawa are all safe and unaffected by the quake and they stand at the ready to assist in any sort of search and rescue or recovery operations in the quake ravaged zone. President Obama has also notified FEMA to be ready to assist the Japanese government as needed.

    At least 51 people in Japan have died as a result of the massive earthquake with that death toll expected to skyrocket as the wave from the tsunami recedes and rescue personnel gain access to the affected areas. Nuclear power plants have been shut down leaving at least 4 million homes in Tokyo alone are without electricity. These nuke plants are reported to be completely safe with no radioactive material released as a result of the quake.

    These story is changing by the minute and the information along with it is doing the same, so I'll leave you with the information I have as of 7:20 am EST.

    I will update as events warrant. If you are so inclined, please say a prayer for the lost lives in this disaster and a prayer of strength for the survivors.

    UPDATE: At least 200 bodies found by rescue workers in northeast Japan.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: First Monday Trade Days in Canton!

    This is a post I've been wanting to write for quite a while. I have been holding off doing so until just the right moment. This is just the right moment.

    Spring is just a few days away and that of course means that folks will be once again enjoying the beautiful outdoors of our great country and day trips will again be the rule rather than the exception. The place I am going to write about today is a place I have been to many times, especially as a kid. Mom, Dad and my sisters and me would all pile into the Family Hoopty and head east in I-20 to Canton and the First Monday Trade Days! If you've never been to First Monday or if it's been a while since your last visit, this is definitely something you'll want to do a few times this spring and summer. From those who have never experienced First Monday, I am hearing a question being shouted in unison, "What the hell is First Monday Trade Days?". The short answer is First Monday is a flea market. A real BIG flea market. If it can be bought or sold, chances are you'll find it at First Monday. There's acre after acre of merchandise on display. Here's a quick look at First Monday from their website.

    The history of First Monday gives us a little more insight as to why it has been around for over 150 years! 
    "In the 1850s when the circuit judge stopped in Canton on the first Monday of each month to hold court, people from across Van Zandt and surrounding counties came to the Courthouse square to watch court proceedings and take care of business. Many brought their own goods to sell or trade, including produce, farm equipment and livestock. It was common to see wild horses, which were rounded up in the region, for sale on Trade Day. Canton's First Monday earned a statewide reputation as the best place to buy a good horse." I never knew that until a few minutes ago and I think that it's pretty cool. There's a lot more First Monday history as well as info on being a vendor, places to park an RV and so on, so be sure to check it out. While you're on their website, click on all the links they provide and you'll find out about the food, fun things and other stuff that First Monday in Canton has to offer you!

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: Inks Lake State Park, A Well-Kept Secret

    A Hidden Jewel
    A few days a go I talked of how I am little homesick. It's this time of year when the fishin' heats up as many species are going through their annual spawning rituals and the likelihood of landing a wall-hanger increases exponentially. In prior years, I didn't much of an excuse to just go where ever and whenever I wanted to. Traveling a few hundred miles to go fishin' in a new spot, or a trusted old spot, was as common for me as going to WalMart was for everybody else.

    One such "Man, that looks like a great spot to try" fishin' holes was Inks lake located in Burnet County. I don't remember exactly how I found Inks Lake but it was probably in write up in the Dallas newspaper. I am glad I found it. The lake isn't very big at a touch over 1200 acres, but man, was it loaded with good keeper sized largemouth bass. I didn't have a boat so I was limited to walking the bank looking for likely places to encounter and decimate some fish. When fishing unfamiliar water, I first check out the surface for obvious signs of "fishability"...things like tree stumps, weed beds, fallen trees in the water, cliffs, etc. I then put Texas Rigged plastic worm to good use. I have been fishing with plastic worms for well over 30 years and there's nothing I'd rather have in my tackle box. Period. one of the reasons I like to use the plastic worm is because it becomes my "underwater eyes" as I probe the bottom of the lake for tell tale signs of fish habitat. Each feature on the bottom of a body of water has a distinct "feel" to it as the worm makes contact with it. That? that was a rock. That? A clump weeds. And that? An underwater log. See what I mean? It's as if the worm has a tiny camera transmitting video to my brain. Another reason that Fish.Fear.Me.

    At any rate, Inks Lake is a great place for a day trip of fishing or a week's vacation. It has all the amenities, or is relatively close to a place that has what you may need, like food. Inks Lake State Park also has showers for public use as well as a few limited use cabins. Let's just hop on over to the website that contains plenty of info on Inks Lake. Look it over here. One of the things I like about Inks Lake is the fact that it is so close to other parks in the Texas State Park family.

    It's that time of year, so you'd better make plans now for your trip to Inks Lake State Park. With the economy still in the crapper, I've got a feeling that many people will be taking vacation trips a little closer to home than they otherwise might and Inks Lake is a little-known gem right in your own back yard.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Plus One: Regent, North Dakota UPDATED!

    Regent, North Dakota? Yes, Regent, North Dakota. Regent is a rockin' place. I have never been to North Dakota, much less Regent, but I found a news story about Regent and I am all over it like a duck on a June bug. I originally posted the story on Because Toby Said So, but I am so enamored with Regent that I am adopting it as my Honorary Home Town. Read the post below and you'll see why I am, if they'll have me, A Son of Regent.

    Sculpture by Gary Greff, Regent, ND
    I hate like hell to start off a post with a disclaimer, but I think it's the right thing to do on this occasion. Disclaimer: I love small towns. The smaller, the better. Good fences make good neighbors and all that. I'd give my eye teeth to live in a small town yesterday if it were possible and I had the okie dokie from my wife. So both of you in Regent, North Dakota, I'd love to visit your town at any time. You wanna pony up for a trip from Maine to Regent for me, my wife and two children, I am all in. I'll do a "play by play", as it were, of the trip on this very blog , if you so desire. Email me at tobysaidso AT gmail DOT com with travel arrangements. I'm just sayin'. End of disclaimer.

    The aforementioned Regent, North Dakota has as one of its citizens, a man named Gary Greff. Mr. Greff is renown around Regent as a sculptor. his work with iron has been transformed into deer, fish, grasshoppers and other animals and those works of art adorn a road called the Enchanted Highway. Sounds like a cool deal. Mr. Greff has now set his sights on a new sculpture that he hopes will bring in some much-needed cash flow from tourists traveling to the Annual Sturgis (SD) Motorcycle Extravaganza and Drunken Brawl. This new piece of art, a motorcycle, will be displayed on Main Street in Regent if all goes well. Greff plans for the bike to be 102 feet from tire to tire and 42 feet from ground to handlebars. The hope is that Greff can assemble motorcycle during the winter of 2011-2012, with the aim of getting it displayed in the summer of 2012. I think I love the town of Regent, North Dakota and I really like Gary Greff. Here's why: instead of bitchin' and moanin' and squawlin' and bawlin', the town and Gary Greff yanked up their collective boot straps and did and are doing a great thing by finding their own solution to their own problem. The best part is they did NOT call anyone in the State or Federal gubmint and ask for one single frakkin' dime! These people could be Texans, like me!  :) There are only 211 people who live in Regent and I want to salute every last one of them for their "do-it-yourself" attitude. That attitude is also known by the moniker of the American Way. I wish I could buy all 211 Regent-ites(?) the beverage his or her choice. Kick ass and take names, Regent!

    If there's anything at all that I can help you with - PR, planned fund raisers, bake sales, ANYTHING, I will be more than glad to help. I run six blogs that get more than a few page hits every day and, if I need to, I can go All Regent, All the Time. OK, I made up that last part about All Regent, All the Time, but I am serious about helping you out if I can. The email address is in the "disclaimer" at the top of this post. Please feel free to use it anytime. You've got a big fan in Augusta, Maine.

    Because Toby said so.

    UPDATE: I found a website that features Gary Greff's magnificent sculpture work and it has some of the details on each one. This stuff is sick (in a good way). See for yourself here . I have Mr. Greff's phone number and will be contacting him either today or tomorrow. I am on a mission, please join me in sharing the news about Regent, North Dakota and The Enchanted Highway.

    UPDATE 2 : There is a "Donation" button on the Enchanted Highway website. Please help out the folks in Regent, North Dakota. NO I DON'T GET A DIME AND DON'T WANT ONE FROM THE ENCHANTED HIGHWAY SITE. I AM PROMOTING THIS CAUSE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN IT. NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS. NOW SEND THEM SOME MONEY!!!!

    Posts Will Be Late Today

    I have some personal business as well as some medical stuff to take care of this morning, so posts will be up late today. Check out the archives for some good stuff you may have missed!


    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: Pancho Villa, the KKK and My Grandmother

    Brewster County, Emory Peak, Elevation 7825 ft above sea level
    Wow! Have we covered a ton of Texas History in the last couple of weeks or what? I kind of wanted to take a break from that for at least a few days to rest my brain. I thought today that we'd take a trip to Nowhere. And by Nowhere, I mean Brewster County located waaaaayyyyy out west, home to Big Bend National Park and the City of Alpine. My maternal Grandmother grew up in Alpine and she would sometimes talk about how life was when she was a child in the late teens and 1920s.

    Grandmother once told me a story about a group of Mexican banditos who would occasionally come to her home when she was a little girl. This particular group of men was led by an hombre called Pancho. Pancho Villa. As I remember, she said that Pancho Villa and his men would come for food and water and stuff like that. I don't remember the whole story, but I do remember her saying that Pancho and his men didn't seem like a bunch of bad guys and he and his men treated my Grandmother's family with respect. I'll have to get in touch with my aunt (Grandmother's youngest kid) and see if I can get more details of the story. Anyway, I thought that was the coolest thing when I was a little boy. Pancho Villa! At my Grandmother's house! Wow!

    I remember another story that she told me only one time and I never heard another word about it. Grandmother and her family were very devout Catholics, as am I and the rest of the maternal side of my family. The story involved men in white sheets burning a cross on Grandmother's front yard when she was just a small child. Yup. The dickweeds of the KKK did it. Is it just me, or is it ironic that an outlaw like Pancho Villa treated her family with great respect and the "good guys" (excuse me while I go puke) of the Klan would do something as vile as a cross-burning in her front yard simply because they were Catholic? I can only imagine what that must have been like for a little girl to witness such a cowardly yet terrifying thing. Pardon me for a moment while I send a heartfelt, personal message to the boys in the KKK. FUCK YOU AND ROT IN HELL YOU PUSSIES! Other than that, have a nice day, assholes. :) END OF PERSONAL MESSAGE TO THE KLAN. There. I feel better.

    My intent when I decided to write about Brewster County was to actually write about Brewster County, but I got so into the stories my Grandmother told me when I was a kid that it kinda veered off in that direction. I was and still am very proud of my Grandmother. She is probably the toughest human being I have ever met, and I have met some dandies, trust me. She was about 5 foot nothin' and about 90 pounds soaking wet and tough as an acre of snakes. I have some more stories from her that I could tell you about but let's save that for another time.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Texas Tidbits: Remember the Alamo!

    It 175 years ago today that, after thirteen days, the Alamo and all its combatants fell to the Mexican Army of General Santa Anna. Outnumbered by more than 10 to 1, the defenders of the Alamo were no match for the better-equipped Mexicans. The siege of the Alamo was over.

    For the definitive last word on this subject, we go to The Handbook of Texas Online. "On March 5, day twelve of the siege, Santa Anna announced an assault for the following day. This sudden declaration stunned his officers. The enemy's walls were crumbling. No Texan relief column had appeared. When the provisions ran out, surrender would remain the rebels' only option. There was simply no valid military justification for the costly attack on a stronghold bristling with cannons. But ignoring these reasonable objections, Santa Anna stubbornly insisted on storming the Alamo. Around 5:00 A.M. on Sunday, March 6, he hurled his columns at the battered walls from four directions. Texan gunners stood by their artillery. As about 1,800 assault troops advanced into range, canister ripped through their ranks. Staggered by the concentrated cannon and rifle fire, the Mexican soldiers halted, reformed, and drove forward. Soon they were past the defensive perimeter. Travis, among the first to die, fell on the north bastion. Abandoning the walls, defenders withdrew to the dim rooms of the Long Barracks. There some of the bloodiest hand-to-hand fighting occurred. Bowie, too ravaged by illness to rise from his bed, found no pity. The chapel fell last. By dawn the Centralists had carried the works. The assault had lasted no more than ninety minutes. As many as seven defenders survived the battle, but Santa Anna ordered their summary execution." More details on the conclusion of this extraordinary story can be found at the Texas State Historical Association website.

    The bottom line is that the Alamo was lost to the Mexican Army, but the bravery of her defenders bought time for the fledgling Nation to officially declare its independence from its oppressors in Mexico, write a Constitution and put together an Army that was capable of defending Texas, her people and their Liberty. With the Alamo lost, a rallying cry for Texian troops was born. Remember the Alamo! And less than two months later at San Jacinto, a new Nation would emerge from the nearby bayous...the Republic of Texas was born.

    God bless Texas!

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    All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker