Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvey

Harvey is all over the news, as it should be. What a disaster! Donna is from Conroe (just north of Houston) and I did undergraduate and graduate work in Huntsville at Sam Houston State University, so we are both very familiar with the area. Donna has family in Houston as well as Conroe and that area, so we worry about them. They all seem to be doing well, though.

When Harvey first appeared on the radar, some early models projected that it might move inland from Corpus Christi through the San Antonio area and then out to our area. Although any tropical storm is dangerous, we were somewhat hopeful that it might follow this course. Now, I don't want a deadly, damaging storm wrecking where I live, but we continue to be hopeful for some nice sustained rains to fill our reservoirs.

As Harvey neared the Texas coast, models then began accurately predicting its true course. I find it amazing just how accurately the weather can be predicted. Anyway, most of the rains from Harvey did not go much beyond San Antonio and Austin. We received only half an inch last Saturday from an outer band. We need several inches to fall over several days. Hopefully, such rain would fall gently and slowly, allowing the water to flow into our reservoirs without causing much damage.

We seem to always be living on the edge out here as regards our water. One of these days, I'm sure the rains will come and replenish our area lakes. Until then, we continue to live from year to year.

Until then, my thoughts remain with those in coastal Texas and Louisiana who have received much more rain than they wanted. Folks in those areas have some challenging days ahead of them.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Back Roads Tour: Lake O. H. Ivie

Donna and I were getting a bit restless, so we decided a drive in the country was in order. I had been thinking of a drive over to O. H. Ivie Reservoir lately, so that seemed like the place to go.

We got an early start Thursday, heading to the east edge of town. At Loop 306, we headed east on Highway 380 for about 30 miles to Paint Rock. About 2 or 3 miles east of the loop, we crossed the Concho River, which would then remain just to our north for the remainder of the drive to Paint Rock. The first half of the drive passed through flat, productive farm land. It's summertime, and the cotton is tall out there in Lipan Flats. We passed through the tiny community of Veribest, home of the Falcons of six-man football. There isn't much there, just a post office, some homes, a Baptist church, and the school. I like a country school like this. In fact, I taught in such a place during the 1980s, in little Wellman about 50 miles southwest of Lubbock. It was one of my favorite teaching experiences.

A few miles east of Veribest, the flat farm land began to disappear, replaced by rolling ranch land covered with mesquite and rocks and grass and cactus. Before long, we found ourselves entering the small community of Paint Rock. Though home to fewer than 300 people, it remains the county seat of Concho County. As with Veribest, this is another six-man football school. What a great game six-man football is. If you've never seen the game played, you have missed a great experience.

Paint Rock doesn't have much. Residents probably journey to either nearby Ballinger (16 miles north) or to San Angelo (30 miles west) for most of their shopping. Besides being the county seat, the town is also home to some Indian petroglyphs. Unfortunately, these are located on private land on the north side of the Concho River just north of town, and arrangements must be made with the owners to visit the site.

South side of Concho County courthouse in Paint Rock, Texas

North side of Concho County courthouse, with mostly deserted shops along US 83.

Concho River, taken from US 83 bridge. Notice old bridge support in left of picture among trees.

This is the bridge over the Concho River on Highway 1929. That is a really big house on the bluff. At one time, much of this land was covered with the waters of O. H. Ivie, but that was quite a while ago.
At Paint Rock, we turned north on US 83, crossing the Concho River on the north edge of town. About 3 miles farther, we turned east on Highway 1929, the Ray Stoker, Jr., highway. In 11 miles, we crossed the Concho River again. This is where the reservoir really begins.

O. H. Ivie Reservoir was impounded in 1990. It is formed by waters from the Colorado and Concho Rivers. It has the potential to be a rather large lake, with a potential surface area of almost 20,000 acres and a depth of 119 feet. The lake provides water for a number of West Texas communities, such as Abilene, Ballinger, Big Spring, Midland, Millersview-Doole, Odessa, San Angelo, and Snyder. The lake is owned and operated by the Colorado River Municipal Water District. It has a storage capacity of 554,339 acre feet. It currently has only 117,679 acre feet, so it is at about 20% capacity.

Since we moved to San Angelo in 2011, it seems that the lake has hovered at such levels, even dipping to 15% capacity of so at one time. We just can't seem to get the sustained rains we need to replenish the lake. All of the data above is just that -- data. Numbers are one thing, but when you actually see the lake, they you really realize just how precarious your situation can be. Fortunately, San Angelo has other water sources it can utilize. Still, water remains one of our top concerns.

The lake around the Concho Park area. Not much water out there.

But I digress . . . . . let's get back to the trip.

There is not much development around the reservoir. At one time, I think there was some attempt at development. However, the consistently low water levels have impacted those attempts. There are some parks, such as Concho Park and Kennedy Park. Camping is available, but we found the facilities to be in rather poor condition. The concession at Kennedy Park appears to be for sale and it did not appear to be open. The whole thing is a bit depressing.

Hawk surveying the country from his perch on power pole.
View of the lake from high ground on the highway.
Just before the dam, we came across a scenic area, so we pulled off and I was able to snap some pictures of the dam and lake. From there, we drove along the downriver side of the dam, then continued around the lake. We soon intersected with Highway 503, turned north, and headed to Valera. Along the way, we passed the small community of Voss and the country school of Panther Creek, another six-man football school. I'm so glad to see these small country schools surviving. They do such a wonderful job of teaching the basics.

Lake with dam on right. Picture taken from scenic view area.
View of dam on downstream side.

Colorado River downstream from the dam.

Boat Ramp in Kennedy Park

Old school building in Valera.
At Valera, we turned west on US 67 and headed to Ballinger, where we enjoyed cheeseburgers at Gonzalez Restaurant at the corner of US 67 and North 7th Street.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Patrick Dearen

If you've read my blog much, you know how much I love Texas history. It has been a passion of mine my entire life. I would not say I that I am an amateur Texas historian, but I am well read and quite knowledgeable on certain periods of the subject.

Over the years, I've read all the giants of Texas literature, such as J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and John Graves. And of course, I've read my favorite Texas fiction writers, such as Elmer Kelton and Larry McMurtry. I've even read Frederick Law Olmsted's A Journey through Texas; only serious Texas historians can make that claim. And then there are the less well known Texas writers, such as Hallie Stillwell and Sallie Reynolds Matthews; although not as well known as others, these folks have made a great contribution in recording regional history of our state.

My latest discovery is Patrick Dearen. Now, I've known about Mr. Dearen for many years, at least since 1991 when -- if I recall correctly, -- I attended an event in which he was the guest speaker, but I've simply neglected to read any of his works. A few weeks ago, though, I checked out 2 of his books, and I've been plowing through them since then.

For the most part, Mr. Dearen is a tireless and devoted historian. In his work, he will focus on a specific aspect of Texas history and do some very thorough research, even to the point of hiking to secluded and forgotten spots. Most -- if not all -- of his work seems to center on West Texas, and dwells on topics that have been neglected in the past. For example, I just finished reading Crossing Rio Pecos. This book thoroughly explores the numerous fords and crossings of the once treacherous Pecos River, which at one time formed a formidable barrier to east-west travel in the state.

But Mr. Dearen has also written a few novels. I cannot comment on these, as I've yet to read any. But they are certainly on my list.

If you are a serious student of Texas history, especially of Texas west of the Pecos, then you should really look into Mr. Dearen's work. You will not be disappointed. I'm just sorry it has taken me so long to give his work a chance.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rain and Other Things

We've been blessed with some good rain this past week.

Last weekend, we received slightly more than half an inch. Since then, it has rained lightly several times, but none amounting to more than a tenth or so. But on Thursday night, we had another half inch. So, in the past week, we've had probably an inch and a quarter or so. That's really good for us. We're about where we should be for the year, perhaps an inch or two behind.

An old friend from our Ozona days passed away recently, so we made the trek there last Monday evening to pay our respects. It was good to see old friends and colleagues, some that we have not seen since we left there in 1999. San Angelo is the nearest big shopping town for Ozona, so we do run into folks from there around town, especially places like Walmart and H.E.B. And lots of folks from Ozona retire to Angelo, much like we have, and we see them around town from time to time.

We were glad to see how green things were in Ozona. They have really had good rains there this summer, much more than what we have received in Angelo. That is ranch country down there, and the pastures did look good.

It was also interesting to see the many changes in Ozona. The town seems healthy. It had been a while since our last visit, so we were surprised to see 2 new hotels, a Holiday Inn Express and a Hampton Inn. Ozona is a good place for east/west travelers to stop on Interstate 10. Hotel rates are reasonable, and there a several good places to get a good meal. I'm glad to see the town is doing so well.

We boarded the fun bus to ride to the Manor for lunch on Wednesday. We always enjoy socializing with our fellow inmates, but I have to say, I enjoy the food over there less and less each time I go. It's hard to beat the price of $6.50 for a full meal (drink, entrees, veggies, bread, and dessert), but the quality really lacks.

It's been quite a while since we attended a birthday dinner at the club. It seems we are always traveling when those dates roll around each month.

Aside from that, we just continue our regular routines and look forward to our next trip.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Some Walking Stats

If you've read my blog for very long, you know that I'm an avid walker. I've always enjoyed walking. When I go for a week or so without walking, I just start feeling bad. It is always so good and invigorating to take a good walk after a period of inactivity.

We moved to our new home a little over a year ago. I took my first walk at Rio Concho West on June 25, 2016. I'd like to share some of my walking stats for the past year (June 25, 2016 to June 25, 2017).

I use a GPS tracker every time I walk or hike. Most of the data I'm about to share is from walks, and most of those are from Rio Concho West, where I live. Some of the data comes from hikes we've taken in the past year, and some of the data comes from other walks we've taken, such as out at the state park or other local walking venues. Overall, my GPS tracker works well, but on occasion, it does err. So my data, for the most part, is about 99% reliable. As a result, the data I'm sharing is actually less that what I really walked.

As a rule, I try to walk every other day. However, due to trips we may take, illness, laziness, and other circumstances, I sometimes may miss several days. From June 25, 2016, to June 25, 2017, I walked 397.9 miles on 105 days. So, that means I am actually walking only about every 3.48 days. Well, we do travel quite a bit. And that also means that I average 3.79 miles per walk.

For health purposes, I feel you must walk at a fairly brisk pace for at least 30 minutes to get any true benefit. For me, that means I have set 2 miles as my bare minimum for any walk I take. In reality, I almost always walk at least 3 miles per outing. Health benefits from regular walking include the following:
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. (The main reason for my doctor encouraging me to walk)
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Improve your balance and coordination.
For a while, I was focused on speed and distance. My goal was to walk at least 4 miles at an average clip of less than 17 minutes per mile. I sustained this for a while, but found that this caused my feet to hurt. I tried different things, such as putting cushions in my shoes and using double socks. These measures helped, but the foot pain continued, causing me to miss walking at times.

Today, I am satisfied to walk shorter distances at slower speeds. As a result, I may not walk as far, but I am walking more often with fewer interrupted periods. I am averaging between 3.5 and 4 miles per walk now, and I usually average 17½ to 18 minutes per mile. This seems to be working well for me at this time.

I find that when I stop walking for a period of at least 1 week or more, it is hard for me to get myself restarted. For example, I was ill in May for a while and did not walk for 2 weeks. When I did resume my walks, they were very short, just over 2 miles. Prior to that, I had been averaging more than 4 miles per walk. I am just now getting back to the 4 mile range. Yes, as you get older, it becomes more difficult to recover from down times. But since that time, my walking has been more consistent. For example, from June 28 to July 28, I walked 13 days (that is a walk every 2.3 days as compared to the 3.48 days cited above) for a total of 44.85 miles. If I continued this for a year, my annual total would be 538.2 miles walked on 156 days. I doubt I'll accomplish that due to travel, illness, and other interruptions, but the consistency this past month has certainly been good.

For now, I just plan to keep on walking as often, as far, and as fast as I comfortably can.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Night at the Theater: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Donna and I recently enjoyed a night at our local community theater, Angelo Civic Theater, watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Some of you old timers probably watched the original 1954 film starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell in the lead roles of Adam and Millie. The movie won the Academy award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and was nominated for four other awards, including Best Picture (which was won by On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando).

This particular work is unusual in that it was a movie before appearing as a play on Broadway. Normally, works begin as plays, then become movies if they are popular enough.

The play is set in Oregon in the 1850s. Adam Pontipee ventures into the local town in search of a wife. By the end of the day, he has convinced Millie to marry him, and he takes her home to his farm/ranch in the mountains, where his 6 brothers await, unbeknownst to the new bride. She then sets about teaching the brothers manners and how to court the fairer sex in hopes that they will each get their own wife so that she will not have to care for 6 bachelors as well as her own husband.

The play is a musical, and is famous for its rousing dance numbers set to such natural events as a barn raising. It also has more parts than most plays, using a cast of over 30 actors. For these reasons, it is a challenge for a small theater to put on.

It was an enjoyable evening at the theater.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I have trouble finding a good movie to watch these days. It seems that so much of what Hollywood is currently producing is pure fantasy. For example, here is the list of what is now playing at the theater (Cinemark) that Donna and I frequent. I've labeled each and sometimes provided a blurb from the movie:
  • The Emoji Movie (Animated)
  • Dunkirk
  • Atomic Blonde (Highly choreographed tale. "The crown jewel of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission.")
  • Girls Trip (Raunchy. "there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.")
  • Spider Man: Homecoming (Fantasy)
  • Despicable Me 3 (Animated)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes. (Fantasy)
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Fantasy. "A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets.")
  • Baby Driver (Action/Thriller. "After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.")
  • The Big Sick. (Romantic Comedy. "Bickering parents and a serious health scare threaten the budding relationship between a Pakistani stand-up comic (Kumail Nanjiani) and his American girlfriend (Zoe Kazan).")
  • Wonder Woman (Fantasy)
  • Wish Upon (Fantasy. "A teen girl discovers a magical box that will grant her seven wishes. As she uses her wishes for personal gain, bad things begin to happen to those around her. She discovers an evil entity lives inside the box and may be behind the gruesome deaths.")
  • 47 Meters Down (Thriller. Two thrill seeking sisters get more than they bargained for when the shark cage they are in breaks away and falls to the bottom of the sea in shark infested waters.)
  • The Angry Birds. (Animated)
That is a list of 14 movies currently playing in our theater. Of those, 3 are animated, 3 are about super heroes in highly choreographed (and unbelievable) action scenes, 3 are other types of fantasies, and 1 is simply raunchy and distasteful. That leaves only 4 movies that are anywhere near realistic and believable. Pretty slim pickings.

Now, I'll readily admit that some fantasies are worth watching. The original Star Trek TV series, I thought, put forth some very interesting plots that made you think "what if?". But today, most such fantasy shows dwell more on action than ideas.

It's rare to find a movie that is historically accurate and that portrays realistic human emotions. Dunkirk does that very well. There really is no central character in the movie; rather, the movie follows the actions of several people as allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. There are cowards as well as heroes, men in shock and men who rise to the challenge. The horrors of war are accurately depicted, and human growth is shown. It is a very sound movie that does a good job of recording this often overlooked episode in the early days of World War II, well before America's entry into that conflict.

Sadly, there simply aren't enough movies today that deal with subjects accurately and realistically. Such a movie is a rare gem, indeed.