I have friends from bigger cities that are always commenting on how they would not mind moving to a smaller town for some peace and relaxation. I usually agree with them that it is the life, but all the while I wonder is small town living really that peaceful or relaxing? First, let me state that I love living in a small town. I don’t have to live in one, I choose to. I do like the advantages of knowing school board members and other community leaders personally. I also like the advantage of other people and friends knowing my family and children, and tell me when they see my kids out and about. I tell the kids that there is nothing they can do that someone who knows their mother or me won’t see, and these people will tell on them. This is a truth. I hated it while I was growing up, but now I really like it. I love the pride and spirit of small towns, and I like going to highschool football games an hour early and sitting with a few thousand others, all wearing purple and showing their hometown pride. That being said, I am about as busy and stressed living in a small town as I could ever be living in a city. It is all a matter of perspective. If my life got any busier or more hectic, I would be going to the nut house, and I don’t mean a store that sells almonds. There are twenty four hours in each day, and most of my days are very full. I wake up at 5:30 A.M. most mornings to start my day and don’t go to bed until 10:30 or 11:00 P.M. and I blow and go during the day. My wife is up before me, getting ready for work, and goes to sleep after I do, and she doesn’t slow down during the day. I am not yoked to the same drive, but I am still very busy. Between our activities with Church, school, and civic projects, we are always on the go. The older boys can drive themselves now, and that does take away some of the stresses of life, but it creates others. My friends who live in larger cities that tell me that they don’t know how I can live in a smaller town. They say they need things to do and they would get bored living in a small town. I know that living in a small town is not boring. It is a matter of perspective. Other big city dwellers tell me that they need to be around lots of people, so they could never live in a small town. I agree with them, but I know that I have more friends that I do things with in my small town than most cosmopolitan people do, but that’s Ok. It is a matter of perspective. The same city people do tell me, almost condescendingly, that they envy me living in a place where things are more peaceful and relaxed. I accept there back handed compliment, and move on. I even cause some of these misconceptions. When I go to a bigger city, I will sometimes act the part of country come to town. My speech gets slower, I comment on such things as traffic,(which I legitimately dislike,) noise, and how many people are out. I marvel at the size of shopping centers and the height of skyscrapers. I don’t do this intentionally, but I do it. I guess, I my own way, I am skewing these peoples perspective, I am reinforcing the belief that life in small towns is relaxed and that big cities are exciting. Nothing illustrates perspective better than a story of mine about flying. I am basically a "fraidy-cat." I don’t like heights, roller-coasters or a myriad of other thrilling things. I do however enjoy a few things that scare others, I like white water rafting, and have floated rapids in every nation in North America, and I like to fly. I enjoy flying in almost anything, front jet airliners to very small personal planes. My friend John lives in Taylor ,Texas, and loves to fly as well. He is an amateur pilot and usually has a small plane or two. I used to visit friends in Austin quite frequently, before I had a family, and I would visit John in Taylor on my way. One Saturday I went by his house, but his wife told me that he had bought a new plane and was at the airport working on it. So I drove to the Taylor airport, asked people where John was, and since it was a small town airport, they told me. John was in a hanger finishing up a tune up on his new plane, and when I arrived he asked if I wanted to go up with him and see how it ran. I immediately agreed, and I helped him move this small plane to the runway. This plane was small, I mean real small. It was a tail dragger, meaning it had two wheels under the cock pit and one below the tail. We picked up the back end and pushed the plane to the runway. I was amazed at how easy it was to push the plane, it obviously didn’t weigh much. John went into the office to get take off clearance, and then we stuffed ourselves in the cock pit. The doors on this plane made the doors on a soft top Jeep look sturdy, and I had to really draw up to fit inside the plane. As we started to taxi down the runway, we were going so slow that I wanted to stick my leg outside and try to help push us along, like the Flintstones would. We eventually made it off the ground, just before we ran out of runway. We climbed to an altitude of several thousand feet and looked at the landscape below. Taylor is an area really into farming, and the land below us was covered in a checkerboard of different cotton, corn and grain fields. It was really beautiful, and the fences and creeks made dramatic boundaries. John tried to point out some things to me, but the plane’s motor was between us and it didn’t have a good muffler, so it was very loud inside the cock pit. I yelled to him that I couldn’t hear what he was saying, so he flipped a switch and pulled a button, and the motor quit. "I love to come up here and look around," he told me. "I think it is so peaceful." I was trying to remain calm and listen, but all I could hear was the wind rushing through the plane as we plunged towards the earth below. The only thing louder than the sound of the wind was the sound of my heart trying to beat it’s way out of my chest. I couldn’t take this anymore, so I firmly but calmly told John to "turn that motor back on-NOW!" He did, and after the engine backfired a few times it started again. It was a matter of perspective, gliding through the skies looking at farmland was relaxing for John, but it was very stressful for me. To some, life in a small town would seem very relaxing, and it is. However, life in a small town is life, and sometimes life can be stressful. Peace comes from with-in, and just because there is not a large population around, it doesn’t mean life is relaxing. It is a matter of perspective.
Spring is about to turn to summer here. I should be ready, it is after all mid-April. My Azaleas have stopped blooming, the green flush that hits during spring is beginning to fade, and most of all the temperature are climbing. I spent most of yesterday working in the yard, and that is a job I really do not like. In a few months I will look back on these days where it only got to the mid eighties and dream. *********************************** I do most of the cooking at our home. There are several reasons for this; I have more time, I have more experience, and I enjoy doing it. I like to keep things very simple, however, and I do not follow many elaborate recipes. The main problem I am running into is that sometimes my family will not eat what I cook, so I have stopped cooking some of my favorite dishes. I used to make a sandwich filling with hamburger meat, chopped onions, and cream of mushroom soup. Neither J, A or P like mushrooms, so I stopped making the dish. Last weekend I was struggling to make a meal. J, B and G had some left overs from a restaurant, but I had cleaned my plate there. As I looked through what I had, I realized I had the ingredients for the "mushroom sloppy-Joe’s". Well, I made that and was happy. G did not have enough leftovers to fill him up, so he tried my concoction, and loved it. He ate so much that I did not have enough for a separate meal later. (What do I have to do to have left-overs?") Now I feel loved, and I can add this recipe back to my file. Life is good.
Life in Lufkin is good. This weekend was the Lufkin High School prom. P. Went for his last prom and had a great time. We had negotiated a latter curfew,(3:00 AM) with the understanding that was the absolute latest he could be out. Part of the deal was that he would wake his mother when he got home,(as if she would be asleep,) and tell her how it was. P woke us up at 2:45. I am very proud of him and thankful that he understood the terms and was mature enough to know that he really needed to be home a little earlier. Since I had been the deal broker, this really helped me out. ******** Immigration has made big news in Lufkin, like it has in many places. With the bills in congress now dealing with this subject, the Hispanic community has started to use protest as a tool to get peoples attention. There has already been several demonstrations and marches in Lufkin, and it appears there will be more. The schools are cracking down on students that leave class to protest. They are threatening to issue truancy tickets and fines for people who leave the campus without permission. Many believe that the students don’t even know what or why they are protesting, and this is just an excuse to "skip" school. This may be correct. The schools have a great opportunity to educate here, and we are missing the boat. Obviously, there is some interest in the issues, so lets use this interest to teach. Not just the Hispanic Americans, but all of our kids could learn here. We could teach what the issues are, look for solutions and get real public feedback. We could also teach about the civil rights marches of the 50's and 60's. We could teach how civil dis-obedience in America works, and how it doesn’t. We do not get this opportunity every day, so let’s make the best of it when it comes.
Adios Spikes World. The poorly drawn, sometimes funny cartoon "Spikes World" has made it’s last appearance on this blog, at least for now. Don’t cry, it is moving to it’s own blog! You can see the same unartistic attempts updated almost daily at the new address. Spike’s new home is http://spikes-world.blogspot.com . Go, check him out. He needs the company.
It’s time for me to clean up my act. I don’t mean it’s time to get more material for a stand up act, although that would not be bad. I need to clean my home, and I am not good at house cleaning. I have many talents in life, but cleaning man is not one. This is inherited, my Dad may be the worst house keeper on the planet that is still alive. Even though I would like to blame my condition totally on heredity, I can not in good conscience. I need to point out that I do not mind living in a little clutter, but I do not like filth. J can’t stand to live the way I am accustomed to, and I enjoy peace and harmony more than clutter. Why should you be the one who cleans?, you ask. Isn’t that woman’s work? Maybe, but sense I have a more flexible schedule it is my job. I really don’t mind house cleaning, it is just that I am so bad at it. I can do a "deep" clean on a room, and when J looks at it, she can only shake her head and wonder why she trusts me to do this. I then look at the room, the same room that I would be so proud about it’s cleanliness, and see how messy it still is. I am repenting. I want to change my ways. If there is a twelve step program to help me, I need to start the meetings. "My name is Steve-and I am a slob." The room would then answer, "Hi Steve." The meeting room would be a wreck however, and it would be like holding an AA meeting in the store room of a bar. After all, it would be a room full of slobs. Making amends might be tough. There are many old room mates that I would have to hunt down and apologize to, many of whom would run if they saw or heard me coming. So I will make this change on my on, I will change myself from the inside. I will no longer be a slob in my home. I will no longer be a slacker when it comes to real house cleaning. I will no longer procrastinate when I know I need to clean, clean, clean. I will clean up my act, my room, my home, after I finish doing all the other things I need to do today. After all, the house doesn’t look that bad.
Most people have a vision of high, arid plains when they think of Texas. It shocks folks when they learn that most of Texas is not desert, in fact Lufkin, my home town, is located on the edge of the great southern piney woods. It rains here. Sometimes in the late winter and early spring it rains almost everyday. Kind of like Monsoon season, only with less rice fields. Last year was a dry year however, and this year has not been a real wet one, yet. Being something of a rancher, I like the rain, even when it is raining 10-12 inches a week. Spring came in with a mighty crash Monday, and it came a little early. About 3:00 AM I was awaken by the flashes of lightning. I also heard the crash of thunder in the distance. I don’t like lightning, for several reasons. First; I am a lightning survivor. It is a long story, but a good one. I will have to write about it later, but because I know the pain that a bolt of lighting can cause, I do not want to be hit again. Second; our house is full of electronics. We have four computers, not counting lap tops or hand helds, five televisions, and numerous VCRs and DVD players. If our home received a direct hit from lightning it would look like the fourth of July with all the sparks and flames. Even though I don’t like lightning, Spike hates thunder worse. Spike is basically a little kid, and is scared easily. He sleeps in a large pet carrier known as "Spikes House." He is an inside dog, and when we aren’t around he stays in this house. When the thunder starts, Spike starts to talk. He doesn’t howl long however, he spends the rest of the storm shaking in stark terror. The storm kept me awake, even thought I had a full day that started at 5:00 AM. I did not realize how much it had rained until I went outside the next morning. My back yard was impersonating the Amazon River, something it does when we get lots of rain. By daybreak it seemed that the storm was over, and it would be a normal day. I had a prayer breakfast at church, and I took all the boys,(free breakfast is free breakfast.) I would usually walk Spike before I would leave in the morning, but I left early and Spike does not like to get out of his house too early, especially after being kept awake the night before by the storm. By the time I was returning to the house after dropping off B and G at school, it was getting very dark again. It was almost as if the daylight was going backwards, from early morning light to darkness. Before I could get Spike out to walk, it started to rain. That is not true. It started to POUR! But Spike had to go, and bad. He stood at the door with his little legs crossed looking up at me, wandering why I waited to take him out so long. Had J been around, she would have made me walk him anyway, just me and Spike and an umbrella. To make things worse, the umbrella would be for Spike. She was not home, so Spike and I watched the rain come and waited for it to stop. When it finally let up, we bolted out the front door and Spike barely made it to the lawn before he hiked his leg and let out a big puppy sigh. Yes, it was a rainy day. This is springtime in East Texas, so hopefully there will be more of them.
Sometimes it seems my entire life involves dogs. Spike thinks he runs my house,(and he may be right,) and everyday I see many people walking and taking care of their dogs. Some of the dogs I see have little outfits on, while others just prance around in the suit God gave them. We, as a society, do love our canine friends. And why not? Most are fairly low maintenance, can be trained, and basically want to make us happy. When you find a dog owner, you will find they like to tell stories about their dogs. I am no different. I love dogs. Not just Spike, I really like dogs as a species. I have had great dogs growing up, and I am still blessed with good dogs. I inherited this from my Dad. He has always owned one or more dogs. He has never paid money for a dog,(that I know of,) but rather takes puppies for free when he needs one. He has had many dogs, and many have died due to disease or car collision, and he simply replaces them. The dog he has now was a real hero this week. Her name is Serita. Dad usually doesn’t take female dogs, but for some reason he made an exception with Serita. He had her fixed, and I believe she was the first dog he owned that he ever took to the vet. Serita is a mutt. I don’t use that term in a bad way, most of Dad’s dogs have been mutts. She is of collie descent, but has other breed blood flowing through her as well. She is kind, obedient and loyal. While still young, my Mom backed into her with a car. She hit her in the head and damaged an eye. So she is a friendly one-eyed dog now. This weekend Dad was working on fences with my oldest brother and his step-son. They were working by a creek, trying to keep cattle from escaping from Dad’s farm by way of the creek. Of course, Serita was with them. She goes with Dad whenever he works on the place. I encourage that, he is in his upper seventies and it is nice to have Serita around if something should happen. I know that she would do whatever she could do to protect Dad and keep him safe. If he had a problem, Serita would run a get help, that’s the kind of dog she is. Also with them was a big neighbor dog named Rocky. Rocky is a big, blonde, lab cross. He is friendly to humans, but he is not the brightest star in the sky. While the humans worked, the dogs ran along side the creek bank. Somehow or another, the creek bank gave away under Rocky and he fell into the water. Now Rocky is part lab and can swim well and the creek is not deep, but he panicked. He tried desperately to climb up the bank of the creek, but it was too steep. Before he gave up a drowned, Serita reached down from the top, got his neck in her mouth, and drug him up, twice. (I told you Rocky is not very clever, the first time Serita pulled him up he fell back into the water.) Serita is maybe half of Rocky’s size, but her heart is the size of Texas. She is a hero. She probably will not live to grow old, (few of dad’s dogs do,) but she is exactly what we look for in a dog. She may be a mutt, but aren’t most of us? I would trust her more than I trust some people, and she works for dry dog food. If the place is going to the dogs, that may not be so bad.
It’s nice to get away, but there is truly no place like home. The Fam and I had a great time at Galveston, the weather cooperated, and the twins played in the surf all day Thursday. We visited with J’s sister while we were there and generally took over. That’s what happens when we take our show on the road. We came back home by way of the Bolivar Ferry, and that was taxing. We waited in line for two hours to board the boat. I don’t wait well to begin with, and I had a dinner engagement at Outback back in Lufkin. The longer I waited, the tenser I became. By the time we hit the return road, I had to call and move supper back an hour. We were eating with my parents and oldest brother and wife. The older Dad gets, the earlier he likes to eat. If this goes on much longer he will be eating supper at 3:00 PM. So, moving the time back was really a way to help him delay his supper habit. I only did it to help, that’s just the kind of guy I am. After we got to the house, I unloaded Spike and the rest of the car. After supper I was dead tired. I tried to go to sleep, but between the ‘horns playing a close game in the tournament and my wife reading in bed, I did not fall asleep until after midnight. I heard P come into the house, so I decided to get up and see how his night working at Outback was. As I walked in the darkness that was my kitchen, I was startled by some screams from outside. I rushed to the front door to see who was dying and only saw a bunch of middle school kids walking down my street at 1:00 in the morning. P joined me in investigating the noise, (it had startled him as well,) and then rushed outside when he saw what they were carrying. They had several dozen fresh eggs. It was in the morning, but they were not making omelets. I need to mention now that P has awoken several weekend morning to find his car had been egged the night before. He dashed outside to confront the squealing schoolers and they bolted. They were picked up in a get away car and sped off, with P in pursuit. As I ran outside to offer assistance, I realized it was getting cooler outside, and I was still only wearing my Sponge Bob boxers. That was awkward. Even J got up during all the excitement, but the twins slept through the entire episode,( bliss is wasted on the young.) Eventually I was able to collapse and catch some z’s. At least today was Saturday and I was able to sleep late. Yes, it is fun to visit exotic locations, but for real excitement all I need to do is to stay home.
It may be a little ironic, but here I am writing about how wild life can be in a small town. And the first posting involves vacation. Yes, the fam and I are on vacation during our spring break. The fam is stashed out in Galveston, Texas. This is not our first retreat to the Texas Rivera, but this may be the first spring break we have been in Galveston and actually experienced pleasant weather. I must be living right! My family(the fam) consists of a wife, four boys, and a rat terrier named Spike. Spike runs the fam, we humans have finally understood this fact and it seems to make life easier. Occasionally, the wife tries to tell Spike that he is just a dog, a pet, and does not rule the home. Eventually she quits, and all is well. Spike may think he rules the house, but there is one thing he is very scared of,( actually there are lots of things he is scared of,) and that is water. When we picked Spike to live with us he was just a puppy. P. Bought him with birthday money. We had to venture far into the sticks to get him, when someone from Lufkin, Texas says a place is in the sticks, it is hidden from society. Spike’s birthplace shows up on NASA satellite photos, but I don’t think it has been mapped yet, but I digress. After we rescued Spike from the baby playpen that had been his home,(with ten or so brothers and sisters,) we brought him home. He had fleas, so before he allowed him to set foot on the property he took a bath. At the time he was sure we were killing him, and he hates water to this day. So here we are at the beach with great wether and a freaked out dog. What does a guy do? He has fun at the dog’s expense. I would take him out into ankle deep water and he became so tense you could put a charcoal briquette up his butt and he would turn it into a diamond. Yes, Spike was a little stressed. We would ease away from him and get into the water. He would chase us and bark at the on rushing waves. Yes, we all had a good laugh at Spikes expense. Don’t worry, he will get even. The first day one of the big boys leaves his bedroom door open during the week, they will come home to find that Spike has left them a "treat." Hopefully, they will find the gift before they jump into bed for a good nights sleep. A wet pillow has a tendency to mess up slumber time. We are having a great time, but we eventually will return to the piney woods we call home, and Spike won’t have to endure the ridicule of surf.
I am a Christian family man, Lay Pastor and writer from Deep East Texas. I love life, and I enjoy working with young people. I have published two books; "A Small Mind Among Tall Trees" and "God If You Are Not Too Busy, Can You Give Me a Hand". If you want to obtain a copy drop me an e-mail or go to amazon.com or barnesand noble.com .
I have been a salesman, cowman and athlete in my past. I still have a strong sense of humor and am not afraid to use it.