Sunday, August 23, 2015

We Like to See Wildlife

Donna and I love watching animals, whether it be birds at our feeders, dogs romping in the neighborhood, or wild animals in their own environment. We see quite a bit of wildlife on our walks. Even in our neighborhood, I've spotted a good many deer in areas along the edge of development.

We took a 4.5 mile walk in San Angelo State Park yesterday (Saturday). About a mile into the walk, a young white tail buck burst onto the road about 50 yards ahead of us, then leisurely trotted down the road away from us for about 100 yards. We watched as his fluffy white tail bounced in the air before he finally turned from the road and scampered away into the thick brush.

About a half mile later, I spotted a slight movement in the tall grass ahead of us and to the left of the road. I saw the dark silhouette of a head peaking up from the grass, and thought it looked like a fox. I made note of the location of the animal, then we continued walking along the road in his general direction. I then saw a rush of movement to our left, and noticed 3 or 4 deer in the brush. They had spotted us and were darting away. I lost sight of the unknown animal, but as we neared the sight where I had last seen it, I spotted movement again. Sure enough, a small grey fox was wending its way through the brush. He stopped and sat for a moment. He appeared to look at us, but he didn't seem afraid. In a moment, he got back on his feet and continued on his way in the general direction the deer had taken.

Near the end of our hike, we came across the park's bison herd in their contained area off the main park road. It is very unusual for them to be so close to the road. They are such magnificent creatures. I'm truly thankful that some of their ancestors escaped the carnage of the hide hunters of the 1860s and 1870s so that we can see these huge and powerful animals today.

Seeing all of these animals just whets my appetite to be out in the country someplace. I guess it's time we took a trip in our trailer.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Been Quiet Here

I've not published in the past week simply because there has been nothing to share.

The weather continues to be hot in San Angelo, topping out at 100 or so nearly every day. We've now had almost 30 days of 100-plus temps for the summer, and we're not done yet. We've had no rain for about a month and a half as well, so everything is very dry. There have been two wildfires south of San Angelo in the past week. We could use some rain. A front moved through the area yesterday. Our self-pronounced "weather authority" predicted rain for this week, but we not received any yet, and I don't think we will. At least the temperatures have cooled off for a day or two, though. I'm sure they will return to 100 or so in the next few days.

Donna and I have been to the movies twice in the past week. First, we saw Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation with Tom Cruise. It offers the normal excitement of other entries in the Mission Impossible series, so if you are a fan, you'll probably enjoy this one. Personally, I tire of watching improbable and impossible stunts, all choreographed beyond any possibility of reality. And because of that, I enjoyed the second movie we attended, The Gift, with Jason Bateman. Normally, Bateman is cast in comedies, but he really did a good job in this psychological thriller. The movie carries the viewer along a series of twists to the unexpected ending, and the supporting actors also did a wonderful job.

And we continue to walk. Since it is so warm now, we try to get out early, around 6:30 or so. Most of our walks are in the 4 mile range, often along the O. C. Fisher Dam but sometimes in San Angelo State Park and even in our neighborhood. On our 4.5 mile walk yesterday morning, we saw about 8 deer. It is always a pleasure to view wildlife. A few mornings ago, two wild pigs crossed over the dam in front of us.

Classes resume in most Texas schools next week, and that is when we like to travel. Once the young 'uns get back in the classroom, the parks empty out and travel becomes more enjoyable for us. I'll be posting some new trip reports soon.

I hope everyone has had an enjoyable summer. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to fall, my favorite time of the year.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elmer Kelton's "Sons of Texas" Series

If you've read my blog for long, you know I am an avid fan of Elmer Kelton and his novels. (See "Good Reads: Elmer Kelton's Texas Rangers Series" from February 2012, for example.) I've mentioned before what I believe to be Kelton's greatest strength as a writer, which is characterization. I've just completed reading his "Sons of Texas" series, and was impressed by his historical accuracy.

If you love Texas history, pick up a Kelton novel; it's a great way to learn the history of this state. Personally, I've always loved the Texas colonial period, which lasted from 1821 to 1836 when Texas gained its independence from Mexico. While a history book can teach you the facts of that period, Kelton's "Son of Texas" series can whisk you away into the everyday life of that tumultuous time.

The "Sons of Texas" series consists of 3 books that revolve around the Lewis brothers.

The first book, Sons of Texas, follows Michael Lewis, second oldest son of Mordecai and Patience Lewis of Tennessee. He first comes to Texas with his father when the elder Lewis leads a group of men to this unknown part of the world on a horse hunting expedition in 1816. Later, Michael and his younger brother Andrew return to Texas in 1821 to settle in Stephen F. Austin's colony along the Colorado River.

The second book, The Raiders, picks up 3 years later, in 1824 after Mexico achieved independence from Spain. This second book primarily follows Andrew's activities, though Michael and his young family also are spotlighted. The Raiders ends shortly after the Fredonian Rebellion of 1826-27.

The final book, The Rebels, follows the growing Lewis clan during the turbulent years of 1830 through independence in 1836. This book mainly follows James Lewis, younger brother of Michael and Andrew, when he, his sister Annie, and their cousin Frank and his family come to Texas to settle near Michael and Andrew and their families.

Each book deals accurately and realistically with historical events of the time. Among these are the Fredonian Rebellion mentioned above, the restrictions on American immigration into Mexican Texas, the battles of Velasquez and Anuhuac in 1832, and the major battles of the Texas war for independence. These incidents are vividly brought to life and are humanized for modern audiences. Difficulty of travel in this time when roads were primitive or non-existent is realistically depicted. Especially noteworthy is travel during the Runaway Scrape as settlers fled Santa Anna and his approaching army in 1836. Perhaps most importantly, the reasons for the war are developed, with views from both sides clearly shown.

If you want to learn about this period of Texas history, turn to an Elmer Kelton novel. You won't be able to put it down.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It's Hot in San Angelo

We enjoyed a mild and wet spring in San Angelo. Temperatures stayed comfortable all the way through June, mainly because of the generous rains we received.

All that changed once July arrived. For the past month or so, it has been hot and dry. Since early July, we've had about 25 days with temperatures over 100, and we've not had a drop of rain. The forecast calls for more of the same. Our record year of 100 degree weather was 2011, the year Donna and I retired to San Angelo. That year, we had 100 or more days of temperatures in excess of 100. We won't reach that number this year, but we are already above our yearly average number of days in excess of 100 degrees.

We've been more uncomfortable with the heat this year, too. Donna normally welcomes the sun and the heat, but this year she has expressed some discomfort with it. It doesn't seem to cool off much at night either, with our nightly lows well into the 70s. I've always enjoyed the cool nights in the West. Cool nights bring crisp mornings, but right now our mornings are already warm and a bit muggy. As a rule, the West has always been hot but very dry, making it much more comfortable than the eastern parts of Texas where Donna and I grew up. But when we get out early and walk now, the air seems a bit more oppressive than what I remember from previous years.

So, I'm ready for fall to blow in, bringing in some cooler temperatures. Until then, I might look for a place to spend a week or two, a place with some cooler temperatures.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

We Did a Bit of Gambling

Donna and I just returned from a gambling trip to "the boats" in Shreveport. Actually, we only visited the Eldorado. It was a good trip. We broke about even (Donna won, I lost), enjoyed some good food, and stopped in to see my brother and his wife on the return trip.

On our arrival, we headed straight to Athena Greek and Lebanese Grill on Line Avenue in Shreveport. We've been eating here for years. Donna had the gyro salad while I had the gyro plate. We love that tender gyro meat.

We spent 3 nights at the Eldorado. We've always enjoyed being able to park the truck and just leave it for a few days. Although we had free food offers at the Eldorado, we did walk down the street one day to enjoy lunch at the Blind Tiger. Donna had some sort of salad again, while I indulged in a shrimp Po-boy sandwich. They do serve a good Po-boy.

The rest of the time, we just stayed at the Eldorado. We enjoy the relaxed nature of staying in a casino. You can go downstairs and gamble whenever you want, then return to your room for a nap. We had their buffet (comped) and a meal or two in the Sportsman's Cafe (also comped). I normally don't care for buffets, but when they are free, I can find something to my liking. Most buffet foot is not tasty to me, but I do like the red velvet cake the Eldorado has on their buffet.

We left Shreveport early one morning on our return trip. We took what I call the "northern route", which loops to the north of the Metroplex, as my brother lives in the far north part of Ft. Worth. We arrived at his house about noon, and enjoyed a 2 day visit with him and his wife.