Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jury Duty

About 2 months ago, I received a summons for jury duty. Well, no one likes serving on a jury. Heck, I resent this intrusion on my busy schedule of doing nothing. But it is our duty to serve. I've been on 3 juries before, 2 criminal and 1 civil. I really don't mind. I find them interesting. In fact, Donna and I have even been thinking about attending a trial just for something to do.

Anyway, I showed up on the appointed day. We were to be there at 9:00, and by 9:05 everyone seemed to be in place. All in all, I roughly counted about 45 or more potential jurors. I also saw court staff in their places, as well as what I thought were 2 attorneys, but very friendly with each other. I figured they must work together.

Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

I was surprised by this, as in all my previous experiences, things run pretty well according to daily schedules in the courts. Yeah, I know about the back logs and stuff, but the daily schedule always seems to work well in my experience.

Finally, about 9:35 or so, the judge appeared. It appears the 2 attorneys I saw represented the state. There was a young man, the defendant, sitting all alone at the defense table. It seems his lawyer did not appear for today's session. The judge was none too happy. He apologized to all of us for wasting our time and thanked us for our service. He then went on to explain that in his long career, something like this had never happened before. He informed the court of actions to take regarding the missing lawyer, then dismissed the jury. I wouldn't want to be that lawyer. Heck, I wouldn't want to be any lawyer -- I have morals!

That was the easiest $6 I ever made.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Member of the Zoo

We meet folks in our subdivision through various methods. Some we meet at the monthly dinners we attend. Some we meet on the trips over to the Manor where we often go for lunch. And some we meet on our walks. In the last couple of months, we've met a friendly gentleman named David. David and I roughly walk about the same time of morning, though lately we've been walking at other times of the day as the weather has started to change some. However, David seems to walk only about 1 or 2 miles, while I normally try to get 4 or 5 miles in each session.

David lives on the northern edge of our subdivision. To his north and west is some open land, so he sees quite a few animals there. When we stop to visit, our conversations often turn to the animals we encounter. Deer and turkeys, of course, are regular sightings for both of us. And I often see skunks. I've noted in this column before that I have even spotted some foxes. But something David said a week or two ago has caused me to reconsider this. All of my fox sightings have been in the dark, so I've really only seen their silhouettes and their bushy tails. I've not seen them very close. But I feel sure they were foxes as we have spotted grey foxes just down the road at the state park on numerous occasions during daylight.

Recently David mentioned that he has been seeing ring tail cats. On our last visit, I asked him about these critters, and he provided some information. Then I came home and did a bit of research.

Last night, I was on the patio with my daughter and son-in-law. We had been watching the deer move along the edge of the mesquites down the street in their regular evening meanderings. We thought the show was over and were getting ready to go inside when I saw something loping along the curb on the street opposite us. At first, I thought it was a cat, as we do have some feral cats out here. Then it entered the light from the street lamp, and I saw the coloring and long tail and recognized it as a ring tail cat.

I won't go through a description of this little critter, as you can find out more on Wikipedia or other online sources: see I will add that the tail makes this nocturnal animal pretty obvious, so I feel confident that it was a ring tail cat I saw. Here are a couple of pictures I downloaded from the internet. Hopefully, I'll be able to snap my own pictures soon.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Night at the Theater: The Boys Next Door

Donna and I returned from our East Texas trip just in time to catch a performance of The Boys Next Door at the Angelo Civic Theater.

The play, written by Tom Griffin, was first produced in the late 1980s. It is set in Boston, where a group of 4 men with varying degrees of mental disabilities live together in a house. The men are cared for by Jack Palmer, a social worker who checks in on the men regularly.

The play focuses on a series of vignettes over a period of about two months. The vignettes are usually comical, yet they reveal the challenges the men encounter as well as their occasional successes. The vignettes also show the emotional toll the job takes on Jack as he increasingly becomes burned out with his job and seeks employment elsewhere.

For the most part, the play is humorous, but it takes a dramatic turn when the abusive father of Barry Klemper, a schizophrenic, comes to visit.

The play does a good job, I think, of providing insight into the struggles of people with various disabilities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fall Has Arrived . . . For the Moment

Ahh, fall has come to West Texas, at least for a day or two. This morning, it is in the low 50s. With the lively breeze, it probably feels like 45 or so out there. There is a light mist, so the sidewalks are wet.

Hopefully, I'll get out later in the day and take a good walk. Now that the nights and early mornings are chilly, I'll shift my walk routine to later in the morning or mid-afternoon. I rather like walking in mid-afternoon instead of early morning. I enjoy getting a slow start to the day. When I walk early, I jump out of bed and hit the road first thing. When I postpone the walk, I'm able to enjoy my coffee, read the paper, and start the day slowly. I like that.

I really enjoy driving the short 2 miles or so to our state park for afternoon walks. Life is slow at San Angelo State Park. We can walk along the park roads out there with very little automobile traffic. If we are really lucky, we can even see some good wildlife, anything from squirrels and deer to fox and bison.

Speaking of wildlife, I sat on our patio last night about 7:30. It starts getting dark about then. I had not been sitting long when 5 deer came trotting along the road across from me. I doubt they even saw me. Just to our south is a vacant area leading to undeveloped land owned by our subdivision. Deer like to browse there among the mesquites and tall grass. Sometimes they come down the street, as this group did, to a small draw behind our community center. A few moments later, another group of 4 deer browsed along the edge of the mesquites along the undeveloped land. A single deer followed behind them, and 4 more followed along a few minutes later. And our turkeys are back. I don't know where they go during the warm months, but now that cooler temperatures have returned, so have the turkeys.

We got our flu shots yesterday. If you haven't done so, I hope you do soon.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Quick and Busy East Texas Trip

Donna and I just returned home from another trip. We've put about 2,500 miles on our worn out old bodies the past 2 weeks. We used to think nothing of crisscrossing the state, but these days, anything over 8 hours really wears us out. I'm looking forward to some stay-at-home time now.

We needed to visit Donna's home town of Conroe. There were some folks in the area we felt the need to visit. We left on Monday and returned on Thursday. We stayed pretty busy the entire time.

After our 8 hour trip on Monday, we met Donna's brother Bill and his wife Jody for supper at Olive Garden in Conroe. We enjoyed a good meal with them. I always get the Ravioli de Portobello at Olive Garden. I really like that sun-dried tomato sauce in that dish.

We were up early Tuesday to drive over to Lake Livingston for a long visit with Donna's half-sister Anita and her husband Keith. It rained on us from the time we left until we returned to the hotel later that day. After visiting Anita and Keith, we drove west to the small town of Montgomery and visited Donna's cousin Pam. We finished the day with a good salad at Panera Bread. I always get the Thai salad there; that dressing is so good.

On Thursday, we started by visiting the cemetery where Donna's mother and father and other family members rest. You can tell you are getting old when visiting cemeteries becomes a part of your itinerary. We did the same back in May when we visited my hometown. We then visited Donna's Uncle Carl, who lives in an assisted living center. At 93 or so, he is still alert and sharp; in fact, he recently wrote a book about his life. I'll download a copy from Amazon soon. We then visited another cemetery where family members rest. We finished the day with a late lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant with Donna's brother David and his wife Sharon.

We were pretty worn after 3 long, busy days. We went to bed early Wednesday night and awoke early the next day, ate a light breakfast at the hotel, then took off west. We routed our trip through Killeen so that we could stop at the In and Out Burger restaurant there for lunch. We really enjoy those little burgers.

It's always nice to see family and old places from our past. But for us, it is always so comforting to cross I-35 and head west. The eastern part of the state is just too congested. It is reaching the point where there is no country left there, just house after house and business after business. We start feeling comfortable when we get about 75 or so miles west of I-35. The farther west we go, the better we feel.

It was good to get home. We sat on our patio that evening, enjoying the dry cool of the evening, thankful we were not in the sticky, wet humid area we had just left. So many in our families have never been able to understand why we enjoy living in the west. As we sat on our patio that evening in our quite neighborhood with a nice breeze drifting over us, there was no question in our minds why we have chosen the west to be our home.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Return from Cripple Creek

For our return trip from Cripple Creek, we backtracked to Dalhart, TX, to spend the night. It rained on us most of the day, starting shortly after we left Cripple Creek. We took our time descending through the mountains on those narrow roads, and were glad to reach Canon City and a 4 lane highway.

Canon City is an interesting town. It is located near the Royal Gorge, among other things. I wouldn't mind spending some time there. Should we ever buy another trailer and full-time, I intend to go there. In fact, there are numerous points of interest from the Raton area to Canon City, including several state parks. All beg for a visit.

But today, we just skirted through Canon City. 35 or so miles later, we were in Pueblo, site of our first stop of the day. We always go around on Highway 45 on the west side of Pueblo. There is a nice McDonalds there where we always stop for drinks. We picked up coffee this cold, rainy day. A mile or two farther down the road, I pulled into a Walmart Neighborhood Market for fuel.

We continued around the loop and hopped on I-25 heading south. The rain continued. It would rain heavy at times, then slack off and just drizzle, but it continued non-stop. As we passed through Trinidad, we began climbing Raton Pass. I was glad to descend on the other side. We made another McDonalds stop in Raton, then headed east on US 87. We had hoped to stop at Capulin Volcano National Monument, but the weather was not cooperating, so we drove on past.

We finally drove out of the rain around Des Moines. For fellow travelers, please note that there is a nice rest area with restrooms located on the north side of the highway about 6 miles east of Des Moines. At Dalhart, we stopped for the night. Early the next morning, while it was still dark, we pulled out. The morning was clear until about Boys Ranch, then the fog moved in. We continued south on US 385. Just south of Vega on I-40, the fog was replaced by drizzle. It would rain on us the rest of the day.

I chose this different route home because Donna and I wanted to do a "memory tour." We were able to detour off this route to drive through towns we formerly lived in. First, we detoured through Olton, where I enjoyed my first full-time teaching job way back in the late 1970s. Courtney, our daughter, was born while we were living there. We drove by our old house, which was old when we lived there and is even older now. The school still looks good. The town itself seems smaller. It appears to have fewer businesses. Olton is a farm town, and life has not been good for our farmers in recent years.

Farther down the road, we detoured through the small community of Wellman, where I taught from 1984 to 1987. Since my time there, the school has consolidated with another country school -- Union -- to become Wellman-Union. It was in Olton and Wellman that I had my best public school teaching experiences, I believe. Those were some good kids. Most of them came from hard working farm families. It was a pleasure and privilege to teach them.

From Wellman, we worked our way home, stopping in Big Spring briefly for a late lunch.

It was good to get back home. I discovered 2.25 inches of rain in my gauge upon our return. Boy, we could use the rain. It continued to rain off and on following our return home.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

On our last full day in Cripple Creek, the skies cleared. We decided to head down the street for a train ride.

The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a short ride on a narrow gauge railroad. The trip is short, lasting only 45 minutes or so. But it does provide a good look at some beautiful mountain country. Please visit the link above for details concerning rates and schedules.

Ticket office and gift shop

Ticket office and loading platform. Since this is a narrow gauge railroad, the rails are only 2 feet apart.

Donna in the gift shop

The depot is at the east end of Bennett Avenue. The small engine pulls two cars, one enclosed in glass and the other open. Donna and I opted for the open car. The ride was quite breezy and cold, but I wanted the open car to provide clearer pictures.

Car nearest is enclosed in glass. Donna and I road at the back of the second car, which is open.
Coal fired engine gives off a unique smell that reminded me of tar.

Before leaving the station, the engineer provided some background information on the train as well as Cripple Creek itself. The track winds south a few miles. At the end, it comes to a complete stop, allowing the engineer to provide more information. We then backed up a short distance so the train could reverse direction on a side track. Near the station, the train then pulled into another side track, which allowed us to back into the station.

We made 3 full stops on the journey, and at other times the train slowed to a crawl while the engineer provided information. He pointed out various old mines located along the route, for example. Below are pictures of the tour.

This is the inside of the car we rode in. We sat at the very back, but were able to move around freely to snap pictures. The engineer is at front center speaking into the handset. Speakers are located on both cars.

Leaving Cripple Creek

We passed through some beautiful mountain country on this short trip. That is the highway heading to Victor, another old mining town south of Cripple Creek.
Along the route, the engineer would point out items of interest, such as this old chute from an old mine.
The track winds through the trees.
More beautiful mountain scenery. Note some of the trees turning color.
I believe the engineer called this the World's Fair mine; I'm not sure. It's a pity to see this beautiful country raped.
Aspens along the track.

Nice color near the end of the ride.

All bundled up for the ride. I'm not good at taking selfies. I can't pose and snap the photo at the same time. No good at multi-tasking these days.