Posted by: morrowsl | August 3, 2019

Chanticleer, the Good Father

I knew from reading about them that Carolina Wrens build nests in the most unusual and awkward spots. Still, when I found bits of grass and leaves and sticks poking out from the space between Chanticleer’s tail and back, I had no thought that it might be a bird nest. I even pulled some of the bedding loose before it dawned on me that I was wrecking some poor little bird couple’s home! A peek between the two metal “tail feathers” confirmed my suspicions. Inside was a cup-shaped nest with an overhang.

Chanticleer was going to be a father!

Okay, technically he was only going to act as the site for incubation. But still…

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Initially, I counted four eggs. Carolina Wrens will lay four to six eggs and the mother won’t start sitting on them until the penultimate or final egg has been added. No mother in sight and no fussing from the nearby trees. Apparently, they weren’t finished.

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Sure enough, a check the following day confirmed that mama was still adding eggs.

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But then we had that snake in the chicken coop and I became alarmingly aware of how vulnerable this little nest really was. A check the day after the snake incident caused alarm. There were only four eggs in the wren’s nest. I just knew that snake had snacked.

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When I peeked in the next time, I got a face full of mad Mama Wren and much fussing and flapping from overhead by Daddy. But, thankfully, the little eggs counted five once more. I resolved to leave them alone so Mama could have as much peace as can be had living in a metal rooster tail adjacent to a chicken run populated with chatty hens and one transgender bird who half-crows at odd hours.

It seemed the least I could do.

I was busy enough to almost forget there were baby birds. But, every now and then, I would get scolded for passing too close to Chanticleer as I changed out the water in the chicken run or turned on the soaker hose for the flowerbed. I watched as Daddy Wren did his best to distract me and refocus my attention elsewhere. He was a good decoy!

Then last week, I decided it was time to check on the progress of the little family. In the nest I found several newly-hatched baby birds and at least one unhatched egg.

BABIES!!

Now I began to worry about the predators that posed a threat to the new littles.

I tried not to obsess over the nest. I would listen closely, or as closely as possible considering the noise my chickens make the moment they realize I’m at the run. I could hear little cheeps but had no idea if they were truly coming from Chanticleer’s tail or if there were other nests I hadn’t discovered nearby. I was only ever fussed at by one pair of adults, so chances are I was indeed hearing the hungry calls from these five. I was determined to leave them be. And have been busy enough to keep my promise.

Then Thursday afternoon I came home late and went out to give the girls some fresh cold water. I went in the coop door at least twice, opening it wide as I came out the first time with the water container to wash out and again when I took it back in to fill. When I came back out, I noticed something to my right just beyond the closing door. It was a baby bird, tiny and distressed, flapping and hopping to get away from me! In a panic, I scooped it up and took off for the the house, only realizing when I got there that my two cats would be more than happy to “help” me take care of this defenseless little creature!

I retreated to the safety of the yard and frantically dialed my sweet friend and self-admitted bird nerd, Judi. Unfortunately, I got her voicemail. I left a quick message and began to think as logically as possible about how to help the newly fledged baby.
I went back to the nest, thinking I’d just shove it in beside its siblings and the parents could deal with it when they returned. Inside the nest, none of the other babies were moving. Again, I panicked, thinking the string of triple digits heat indices we’ve had must have baked these little guys inside their metal framed home. My stomach began to flip.

Thankfully, my phone rang at that exact moment and I retreated to the shade, baby bird still cradled in my palm, to extract advice from an expert.

At Judi’s urging, I found a box, stuffed it with leaves and twigs, and returned to the tree closest to Chanticleer’s bird mortuary. Just as I stepped down into the entrance area of the chicken run, another tiny bird began to flap and hop around at my feet.

GOOD GRIEF!!

At least I had the box to put the second one in. Otherwise, I was out of hands and the chickens had begun to focus hungry eyes on the would-be treat.

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I shoved the box, not ironically a Dos Equis box, into the crotch of the Crape Myrtle and retreated to the porch swing to send Judi a photo and call her back with an update. As I was walking away, I heard the tell tale scolding of an adult Wren and stopped. Sure enough, one of the parents had returned with a tasty bug to feed the babies. It could hear the two in the box calling, but was confused on why they were no longer in the nest. It hopped around for a few minutes until it located them and flew down into the box. When it flew back out, minus the bug, I felt like I’d done all I could do to help and went to the house to call my friend.

As luck would have it, I had to be away from home again on Friday and had only enough time in the morning to feed the chickens before I left. I didn’t take the time to check the nest or box before I had to leave.
I did have time once I got back home so, after getting fresh water for the girls, and not finding any more babies, alive or dead, on the ground near Chanticleer’s feet, I pulled the box down from its perch in the tree. Inside, two sleeping baby wrens – I nudged them to make sure and was greeted with open eyes and lots of scrambling to get away!
I went ’round to have another look in the nest, thinking I’d pull the dead babies out and dispose of the whole mess.

All I found was baby bird poop and some bug wings!

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Still holding the box, I started trying to think where a bird couple might go with their newly fledged brood and why they wouldn’t take the two from the box with them.

From the woods across the dirt lane that leads to the barn, I could hear an adult wren calling and a baby calling in return. I headed that direction and was just in time to see a baby, about the same size as the two in the box, hopping toward a brush pile where an adult was perched and calling out instructions. A bit closer to the brush pile was yet another baby. And in the pile of leaves just at the base of the brush pile, I discovered a third baby resting up.
I started picking leaves out of the box to uncover my two, then lifted them out and popped them atop the leaves, pointing in the direction the others had hopped.

It took less than a minute for the final two babies to reunite with their siblings and parents and, before I had time to pull my phone out and record the reunion, they were all gone.

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I did go back and pull the nest out of Chanticleer’s tail. I told him he’d done a great job, harboring the little family and seeing them safely away to a new adventure. Then I explained that maybe his tail did offer a good nesting spot. Or at least as good as the hopper on the wood chipper or the top of the outdoor lights can boast. He had little to offer on the subject.55783773_10161604961760201_3580915891979681792_n

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Posted by: morrowsl | July 26, 2019

The Silencing

More and more these days, I find myself moving away from all the noise and chaos that is “out there” and looking for places of peace and quiet.

There is much to be seen, if you open your eyes and look beyond the dash board.

We tend toward the images that others want to show us. We are lazy. Lemmings.

In the hustle and bustle of every day living, I challenge you to find your own peace.

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Posted by: morrowsl | July 16, 2019

Maybe In Distance…

66685714_10162043855435201_776879177763651584_nI should have known when the box appeared in the mailbox and I knew I hadn’t ordered anything.
Mike asked, “What’s that?”, to which I shook my head, as puzzled as he. The return label bore a man’s name, foreign and unfamiliar. Nothing to do but open it and see.
Inside the box was a coffee mug. On the mug the story of a friendship.

We “met” online so many years ago I can’t count them. It took a few of those years for us to actually meet face-to-face, but the friendship would have been just as strong had we never found ourselves in the same spot at the same time.
From the start we had enough in common to feel a connection and enough differences to keep things interesting. She is from New Jersey, born and raised. I am from Texas by way of Oklahoma. She had one marriage and one child. I had three of each. She is careful with her appearance, always looking fresh and stylish. I am happy if I remember deodorant and to brush my teeth.

But we work!

I’ve visited her and we’ve vacationed together. So, when Mike and I moved to Remote and our guest accommodations increased, it was assured that she and her husband would visit me and mine. Hopefully, we’ll be trading visits for many years to come.

This year they brought their daughter and her family. We would have a week, but we could pack a lot into seven days. There will be repeat visits and new things to explore.

In fact, we were so busy, I took almost no pictures. Thankfully, everyone else did!

The day after their arrival we had a home-cooked Tex Mex fiesta with most of our family. Mike made salsa and that pretty much sealed the deal for future visits.
Monday we tootled around our little town, working our way down the list of “must see” spots (Petrified Wood CampThe Waggoner Mansion,) from their previous visit and those added by their daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons in their research before arrival (Old Stone Prison, NRS, longhorns and buffalo).

We had a coffee from the Trinity Street Coffee Bar, ate at Rooster’s since we were already in town, and the boys found a sweet spot at Hey Sugar.

We didn’t see nearly everything, but we saw what we could with the time available.

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Finding time to get in touch, old school.

With our bellies full and our feet restless, we moved on down the road.

It is possible to visit Texas and spend a lifetime trying to see it all. The cities are filled with cultural wonders and the backroads wind through decades of rich history. Unfortunately, our friends weren’t going to be here that long. So, we opted to attempt to hit the high spots and promised to fill in the gaps on subsequent trips.

No visit to Texas can be called complete without at least one stop at Buc-ee’s. It just so happens that there are two of these, equidistant from our door. There were buffalo and pump jacks and old cars along the way.

My own first encounter was a cross between visiting a Texas version of Disneyland minus the rides and costumed characters and a trip to the largest gas station food counter in all the land. Buc-ee’s has at least one of everything and a shitload of the rest. Pulling in, you will never wait for a gas pump to be available because there are never less than 80 pumps to choose from. You’ll never have to ask for a clean up in bathroom stall four because Buc-ee’s has the cleanest bathrooms in the world. It’s true!
Our friends thought I was kidding when I told them that one local Buc-ee’s serves as the main gathering spot for local teens on date night. If you doubt me, check out the Buc-ee’s location near Texas Motor Speedway on a Friday night. The northeast parking area fills up with pickup trucks and it’s best to just pull on around the corner to park.

All in all, I think they enjoyed themselves. At the least, it was surely their first real encounter with a solid wall of jerky.

Dinner was The Prairie House and time with the rest of the family not already met.

Tuesday was for planning and packing up for a couple of days and nights on Lake Bridgeport, “glamping” and fishing and playing UNO Attack. We’d rented a pontoon boat, so fishing was not exactly keen, but we did try. The day was sunny, but not overly hot. The breeze was strong and the anchor weak. The lake wasn’t busy and we were relaxed.

SOME of us succeeded splendidly! One very nice Crappie went home for dinner.

The rest of the week was spent closer to Remote and catching up. We intended to see a rodeo, but didn’t want to chance the late night ahead of an early morning wake-up call and a flight home. And, as it turned out, that was our best decision since their destination airport shut down due to weather and they were diverted. Nothing like heading home on a three-hour flight and not arriving until a day later!

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Suddenly, they were gone. The house was eerily quiet. Neither of us seemed to know what to do next, so we didn’t do much of anything.
Going out to fetch eggs wasn’t half as much fun without the boys tagging along and asking to help. Sipping coffee in silence isn’t nearly so interesting as coffee and conversation. Washing dishes alone, I kept catching myself moving over to make room. I didn’t go upstairs until sometime on Monday, and that was only because I had to use the computer. Lonely doesn’t quite cover the feeling, but it gets pretty damn close.

 

Posted by: morrowsl | May 28, 2019

Reason Not to Mow #2

Mike gets irritated by the sight of tall grass in places where he normally would mow. For the first year or two, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. We mowed everything without wondering how much we were stealing from the bunnies and bees and birds. In our defense, we’d lived over thirty years in a place where not mowing could cost you a pretty hefty fine along with the hairy eyeball from the neighbors!
Once the greenhouse was built and I conned him into letting me have a small area to attempt a pollinator meadow, my view of the landscape around us changed. Usually, we get bunnies in the yard. They have begun to feel safe enough that they no longer vanish the second the door opens. And I have been leaving dandelions for them to munch. I’m reasonably sure there’s an entire rabbit community in the stone planter in the front yard. It’s overgrown with a huge Quince and a Live Oak tree and various other rather large leafy things, so it makes the perfect place for a bunny village.
Likewise the birds feel right at home here with the various feeders up and us never pulling their nests down. I’ve even managed a couple of birdhouses and the bird baths are rarely dry.

When we first moved to Remote, we kept the three deer feeders filled, to the tune of about 150 pounds of deer corn a week. Which would have been fine had we not also been feeding an insane number of feral hogs! We stopped filling the feeders at times when natural food sources would be readily available for the deer. Unfortunately, that meant we stopped seeing deer making the circuit from feeder to feeder several times a day. But it kept the yard and flowerbeds intact.

So.

Normally, when I walk from the coop to the greenhouse, I have my eyes on the ground. This comes from YEARS of tripping over small objects and doing damage to my body. Around here, it also assures that I’ll see a snake, scorpion, or ant hill well before I step on it.

Such was the case yesterday.

I had been working in the coop and needed to get a rake and shovel out of the pump house near the garden. The walk is uphill and the ground is uneven, plus it’s well into snake season, so I had my head down. The danger here is that I usually end up running into any low-hanging tree limb, but I’ve walked this particular path in this particular manner enough now that all the limbs have pretty much been hit and broken off.

In my head, I was sorting through the list of things yet to do and calculating how much longer I thought I might be able to take the rising heat when suddenly, on the ground less than a foot from my foot, I saw this:

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I jumped a bit and said, “OH!” and increased my speed up the hill to the top. Once there, I looked back and saw absolutely nothing. In fact, the nothing was so complete I decided I hadn’t seen anything at all because my mind had been busily compiling a list and my eyes had been busily looking for snakes and I couldn’t possibly have seen a tiny deer in the tall grass.

I came back down the hill with my tools and turned again to see if I could spot the baby anywhere along my path.

Nope.

Nada.

Nothing.

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I worked a bit more, but it bothered me that I could find the baby and I needed to know an approximate location so I wouldn’t accidentally walk so close to it again. And I wanted  Mike to know in case he was out in the same area. So I slowly retraced my previous path back up the hill until I came even with the disk, which is the outermost implement in the field. I knew I’d been about even with that before I saw the deer, so I stopped there and began to scan a grid across the tall grass until, finally, I spotted the baby lying flat.

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I made sure it was breathing, then got to the house and my camera before his or her mom came back to retrieve her youngster. I told Mike and Sheli I had a surprise for them, then went out to snap pictures.
When I went back inside, I made a plea to Mike to not mow at all until we were sure the babies had gotten old enough that they were moving with the rest of the deer. He agreed!

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We won’t be mowing anytime too soon. I’m thinking sometime in November will work.

Posted by: morrowsl | May 24, 2019

On Creativity. And Cardboard.

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One of the Five Nights at Freddy’s characters

We realized early on that, if given enough cardboard and tape, our grandson could create just about anything. His imagination is well-developed and his determination is fierce. I have actually given him rolls of packing tape for Christmas. He LOVED it!

When we moved to Remote, he very quickly laid claim to the “boy” bedroom upstairs and I offered to keep some of our moving boxes in the storage closet in that room so he’d have material to work with. He has spent countless hours in the floor or at the desk, tape and scissors close to hand, markers scattered all about, eyes and mind focused on his creation. Light sabers, masks, body armor, swords, dinosaur habitats, Ninja throwing stars, signs, hats, space helmet, shields, nunchucks, vehicle armor and tow bars. The mind boggles at the sheer usefulness of cardboard and tape to a pre-teen lad.

His mastery of cardboard and tape came in very handy last summer when his summer camp class made full-size Indy cars to race in the gym. Of course, his car came to Remote afterward. As did a robot he built from Lego boxes and duct tape.

The only problem, aside from clean up after a particularly creative weekend, is the ever growing pile of box remnants and scrap. Well, there’s also the tendency to collect bits of tape on your socks when you walk across the room. And a trashcan filled with rejects.

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Indy car and robot along with piles of scraps.

We are having company in late June and the cardboard closet will be needed to store suitcases and such. So, I ventured upstairs yesterday and began to sort my way through the pile and organize what is useful and what is recyclable. I was generous, but not overly so. I want him to feel free to create whatever comes to mind when he is here. I also want him to understand that only so many tiny scraps are needed for projects. New boxes arrive almost monthly. And our local dump does an amazing job with recycling.

So.

I’m not sure he will be as appreciative as I am with my reorganization. He’ll get over it.

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The organized cardboard closet!

Posted by: morrowsl | May 19, 2019

Strawberry Fields Forever

I made a delightful discovery recently. I saw an add for a Pick Your Own strawberry farm in a town about an hour from Remote. It seems that everything is an hour from Remote!
When we lived in the city, we were an hourish from a Pick Your Own blueberry farm and I managed to get out there a few times.

Unlike blueberries, which don’t fully ripen until the extreme heat of July, strawberries are more of a cool-weather fruit. So I hatched a plan to go berry picking and invited Mike along.

He did go with me once to get blueberries.

It was not his favorite adventure.

So, I was completely and pleasantly surprised to hear him say he’d go. I think maybe he was curious to see Pilot Point and if the only way to do that was to join me or go alone, he opted to have company on the trip.

Pecan Creek Strawberry Farm was everything it claimed to be. Easy to find. Easy to navigate. Overflowing with ripe strawberries ready to be harvested. Staffed by super friendly people.

There were, however, some drawbacks. None of which were the result of any wrongdoing on the part of the farmers.

To start, Pick Your Own farms are a favorite of moms worldwide as places to kill a couple of hours obtaining sustenance for their family while providing entertainment for the youngsters. And burning off the supercharged energy of all children, regardless of age.
Not to mention a chance to get some really adorable photographs to share.

The parking area was getting pretty full when we arrived, in spite of the fact that the farm had been open less than half an hour. Free parking though in the grass field near the entrance.

There were two lines. One for buying berry baskets ($3.00, reusable, buy once and bring with you on subsequent picking trips), and one for weighing and paying. We bought our baskets and asked for suggestions on finding berries. We were told that most people seemed to be drawn to the fields on the right, so we went left.

A quick stop to read the house rules and assess the best rows for starting.

I’ve said it now many times. We’ve had a lot of rain this spring. We had a lot of rain last weekend. When you get too much rain, no matter how dry the soil may have been before or how much sand is in the soil to aid in absorption, the ground simply stops taking it in. When you create gullies and it rains a lot, the water is going to collect in the gullies. If the soil has any clay at all, it isn’t going to drain very well.
We quickly realized that all of those things factored into our ability to reach any plants that hadn’t already been picked over by those unwilling to work very hard. We walked on.
Eventually, the rows became less irrigation ditches and more drying mud beds, so we took a hard left and entered a row about halfway down the field. I very quickly regretted my decision to leave my waterproof boots at home. But, tennis shoes are washable. As are socks and feet.

Mike bent over one row, I bent over the other. Together we picked in silence while all around us kids were squealing, babies were crying, mommies were offering encouragement and teenagers were being grossed out and overjoyed by the deep mud.
Most of the ripe berries were on the smallish side, but we’d been assured the little ones were just as tasty as the big ones. Every so often, I’d find one that had been left too long and had gotten squishy.
More than once I thought how much the chickens would love berry picking!

Coming to an area so filled with water I had to stop, I straightened up and looked for Mike. I realized that he was probably getting hot and tired, and that we’d both need water soon. More importantly, I needed a bathroom! So, I asked if he was about done. My basket was a bit fuller than his, so we switched and started working our way toward done. He stepped over the row to pick on the next one (rule breaker!) and I navigated my way across the small pond between picked and untouched to finish out the row.

My basket was overfull long before I finished the row. Stepping out, I was met by a group of giggly, wiggly teenage girls trying hard not to get totally muddy, but stepping in all the worst spots. I directed them to the row I’d just vacated and told them there were plenty of big berries for all of them. I just about landed on my ass in their rush to be first picker!

The grass was tall enough to allow for some shoe clean-up.  The weigh and pay line was short. But behind us stood a mom who’d overdressed (strappy pants outfit and sandals) with a toddler boy who was likely too hot and too hungry to be as sweet as he looked. In his fist was a huge strawberry. He was trying his best to wrestle a basket full of equally large berries, with long stems for chocolate dipping, from his mother’s grip. Nothing she said was penetrating his determination or the high pitched wail. I made eye contact and suggested she go ahead of us.

She was grateful.

So was Mike!

In the hour we were there we picked ten pounds of berries that, once processed, yielded about eight pounds of fruit. I froze the largest ones whole and made two versions of sauce out of the rest. Five half-pint jars of sauce and three bags of chopped and sweetened. And two bags of hulls and mushy berries to freeze for the chickens.

All in all, a pleasant experience and one I know will be repeated in the years to come!

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Posted by: morrowsl | May 10, 2019

On Doing A Thing

By now, anyone who knows me knows I make a big deal about my Meat Fight family and the MS Ride in Dallas every May. The “Ride” is a two-day cycling event that covers 130 miles between Frisco and Ft Worth, TX.  There is an additional route that adds 24 miles, known as the “Century” route. The focus of the event is to raise awareness of, and funding for research for, Multiple Sclerosis. There are currently sixty-two rides nationwide.

I got involved with the ride as a Meat Fight volunteer four years ago and I’ve tried to be there every year since. It is truly a rewarding experience.

This year was different. In many ways. For me and for Meat Fight as well. Lots of firsts.

Not long after I got involved, my oldest daughter started volunteering as well. Almost immediately, she was bitten by the cycling bug. Before I knew it, she was talking about buying a bike and joining the team.
Last year was her first time to be on the Start Line with Team Meat Fight. Her son and I were there to see her take off and to cheer her on. It was incredible to be there and experience the hum of energy that moves through the crowd. Once they were on the road, we followed them to the first rest stop and watched as they rolled away again. It’s a big deal to watch your non-athletic kid find a sport that offers a chance for so much. Cycling is one of the best exercises available. Plus, it offers a chance for team and individual involvement as well as indoor training when the weather is disagreeable. It often leads to additional sports. More than a handful of Meat Fight cyclists now participate in marathons and even the Iron Man events.
Last year, Sheli took a nasty fall and called it a day much earlier than she wanted. But she was determined to be back this year to ride more and fall less.

For the first time, I took a video of the start and no photos. My camera was in the car.

Another first this year was having my cousin, Ebby, in the ride with Team Meat Fight. Her mom and I are first cousins and grew up practically in each others pockets. I knew of Karen’s daughters and saw them when we all managed to make a family reunion.

Or attend a family funeral.

Those limited opportunities don’t usually allow enough time for getting to know a first cousin, once removed. When I read that Ebby had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I started sending Karen information on Meat Fight’s Meat Bike program. I knew she would qualify. I wanted her to have every chance to kick MS curbside.

Not only did she qualify, she and her mom came to Frisco for the ride this year and she rode with her second cousin!
Another first, since they’d never met in person until this weekend.

Historically, Meat Fight sets up a team tent at the Day One Finish Line. I usually volunteer to help with set up and take down, and to do whatever needs doing in between. Usually, we also manage the final Rest Stop on Day Two, which is where it all started for me initially. This year, for the first time, we managed the Lunch Stop instead.

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Our first rider wheeled in at 9:08am.

I volunteered to help at the lunch tent with plans to be at the start and finish lines before and after lunch. Contrary to most years, there just wasn’t a lot to do. The food was donated by Fred’s Texas Cafe, which is amazing and a must visit if you find yourself in the area. The tents were set up prior to our arrival. There were MS Society volunteers everywhere, setting up chairs and snacks and drinks. Instead of the big Ryder truck driven by a Meat Fight volunteer being greeted by a hoard of other Meat Fight volunteers, there were half a dozen or so of us with only the one tent and table to tend. We had a smoker on stand-by for hot dogs. Other people were manning the hydration tent.

There are always riders that hit the stops well ahead of the pack. Our first cyclist made the turn-in a good hour earlier than expected. Luckily, he wasn’t interested in eating!
All the same, Paul and company fired up the smoker and started throwing the add-on hot dogs on the coals. By the time the bulk of the riders arrived, there were more than enough people under the tent to serve so, for the first time, I spent my time out in the sunshine greeting riders, holding bikes, and answering questions. It was a beautiful “blue bird” day with just enough cloud cover to offer shade, just enough sunshine to warm your back, and just enough cool breeze to keep you comfortable.

By the time Sheli rolled in, lunch was about done, so I ferried her and another rider to the team tent. Another first. I normally stay where I start and volunteer for the day. The tent was well attended and didn’t seem to need an extra person. Lunch would finish long before the last rider, called the “turtle” would be announced at the Day One Finish Line.

Thanks to the torrential rain we’ve been having, the entire grounds around the finish line were marshy, so my camera stayed tucked into its spot in the car.
The team tent was already beginning to dwindle by the time we arrived. Most of the riders were heading back to their overnight accommodations to an early bed followed by an insanely early wake up call on Sunday. We hung around a couple of hours, served a couple dozen margaritas, and tried to make sure we weren’t bailing out on clean up.

Still, it felt foreign to be leaving before the truck was loaded and pointed homeward.

Day Two came much earlier than I expected!

Since we wouldn’t be managing a Rest Stop this year, I had the opportunity to be at the Finish Line in Sundance Square. Yet another first.

A small group of riders, admittedly slower and somewhat unwilling to attempt the full day two route, had decided to meet up and depart from the last rest stop instead. The group would meet a couple of blocks from the rest stop and ride in.
Along the drive from home to Michelle’s Express Stop, we passed so many riders! It hits home, when you are driving the same route with cyclists an arm’s length from you, just how dangerous this thing can be. There are ride marshals and motorcycle cops scattered along the route, hopefully stopping traffic at red lights and protecting riders in trouble. But still, when it is all boiled down, it’s just a person on a bike versus a car on those roads. We topped a hill to find a fallen rider scrambling to clear their body from the roadside before another, much worse, accident could happen. It was chilling to see.

Then too, we passed a good number of team members and it was truly exciting and totally gratifying to roll down the windows and scream “MEAT FIGHT” at them!

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L to R: Sheli, Eduardo, Stacey, Lynne, Michelle, Ali, Caroleigh, Brandon, Ebby, Katie. Ready to depart Michelle’s Express Stop.

The group leaving Michelle’s were relaxed and laughing, as I imagined they might be before a practice ride. Once at the rest stop, this smaller band would join the larger group departing for the finish and make their own pace to the end.

I am used to seeing riders at the rest stop where many wrestle with the idea of not only another eleven miles to ride, but making it up “That Hill” and across the Main Street Bridge over the Trinity River. We would do our best to rally and encourage them with visual images of rolling onto the bricks into Sundance Square to the cheers of the crowd. Until this year, I was talking out my ass. I have no idea what either feels like. After this year, I have a much clearer understanding. And so much more respect for those who cross both.

As luck would have it, I missed the chance to photograph Sheli as she passed under the Finish banner. It was hard to know exactly where to be. Next year, I’ll make up for my ignorance. I did catch her celebrating with her core group.

And it was incredible to see her so happy!

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Ali, Sheli, Sheli, and Stacey

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Ali (57), Sheli (180), and Stacey (138)

I missed seeing Ebby cross the finish as well. I did finally spot her and got a chance to celebrate with her and her mom.

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Ebby

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Ebby and Karen

Once they were done, they were still not done. As much as it means to cross the finish and get the medal, it means so much more to be congratulated by team members and to ride that high with friends who share the experience.


Likewise, there’s always one story that stands out. Always one act of kindness that resonates. Always someone in need and someone willing to help.

This year was no exception.

KJ has been struggling this past year. But she refused to let MS stop her from being in the ride. Jake is a new team member but, for evermore, he will be KJ’s hero. And pretty much everyone else’s too. When it came time to take the hill, Jake handed off his bike, donned his runner’s shoes, and followed KJ up the hill. He said she asked him not to help her unless she asked. She didn’t. Neither did he. He had her back all the way.

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KJ and Jake

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Kim, Stacey, KJ, Ali, Caroleigh, Jake, and Sheli

Another Bike MS is history. This one though, is historical for me. I wasn’t as involved as a volunteer as I usually am.

Even so, being a spectator has its rewards.

I have a greater appreciation for the planning and logistics that go into an event of this magnitude.
I have a better understanding of the mental awareness it takes to be a rider. And the sheer terror that likely rides with each of these cyclists as they pedal alongside traffic.
I made new friends. I reinforced old friendships. I renewed a family bond.

And I have a HUGE amount of respect for the ride marshals, especially those on motorcycles. Yet another first for this year, I knew three of those personally. I didn’t get photos of all of them, but that’s just one goal of many for next year.

These guys are invaluable. And appreciated far more than words can ever say.

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Ride Marshal Mike Buran

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Ride Marshal Anthony Perry, aka Capt Neighbor Boy

Posted by: morrowsl | April 24, 2019

These Little Wonders

I think I have been rushing Spring almost since the last of the New Year revelry died down. I am in no hurry for summer to arrive with its hot dry days and breezeless nights. Instead, I have been anxiously awaiting the first green leaves in the canopies around our house and the fresh scent of new blossoms in our flowerbeds.

Winter seemed to want to hang around this year. We would get a warming trend that was almost, but not quite, spring. Then a front would blow in and we were plunging back into almost freezing nights. I would take the walls off the coop in the morning only to hang them back up in the late afternoon. It seemed I would never get to take down the tarps. And forget a good power washing!

When we finally did start the warm up, there was a rush to get so much done. We needed to protect our garden with a good gate. Then we needed to supplement our garden soil with something to help break up the clay soil. The spot for the meadow had to be sited and scraped and seeded. The compost bin had to be relocated. The tractor needed repair.

The list has been endless.

To add misery to the mix, Mother Nature has been on a watering kick. As soon as the temperatures started coming up, our Spring weather pattern emerged. Dark green, deep red, and bright magenta on the radar are a North Texan’s signal colors for heavy rainfall, severe storms, and large hail. The entrance to the chicken run floods. Ruts appear in the driveway. Water stands in all the depressions. Standing water means the incessant buzz of mosquitos. West Nile. Malaria. Armageddon!
I appreciate the fullness of our little lake. But I’m not so sure we need to meet our peak annual rainfall in one season.

In between, we have managed to get some much-needed work completed. The garden has been planted for about a month. The beds around the chicken run are filling up. The meadow and butterfly gardens are sprouting. We’ve had to mow twice already.
I try to get outside first thing most mornings. I walk the porch from end to end, moving things that the wind, or nightly four-footed visitors, relocates. I check for signs that last year’s perennial additions are emerging. I watch to make sure nothing is being dug up or eaten or otherwise destroyed.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of a warm up that wasn’t really all that warm, I spotted a frog, or possibly a toad, warming itself in the bright sunshine. The wind was biting cold and incessant. But, in the sheltered spots, the sun was warm enough. I watched for a good while, just to see if he (or she) would move on. Not only did it not climb back down from its little perch, it never even shifted!
Just before I went back inside for the day, I checked and found the limb abandoned.

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Initially, I though it was a flower bud.

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It never moved an inch.

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I think it may have been snoozing.

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And it had a grip the wind couldn’t budge.

I do hope I see my little friend in the flowerbeds again.

Posted by: morrowsl | April 24, 2019

Road Trip to Spring

About this time last year, as our mother was moving through the final weeks of her journey here on the big blue ball, I decided that, whatever was coming, my sister and I would some day have time to meander and play again. We had always included Mom in such events, taking her to see the bluebonnets in bloom or to eat a juicy burger at a stop along the road, strolling through garden centers and nurseries or combing the aisles of antique stores.
But I knew Mom wasn’t going to be with us when we went the next time.

I made a point to make sure there would be a next time.

Thankfully, we recently got a rare overnight trip south and a good friend to join us. It was an adventure filled with shenanigans and laughter. Very much the sort of thing I imagined when Sister and I were sitting at Mom’s kitchen table in her little apartment making notes about pills and water intake and output while the world spun around without us.

There is nothing like a sick room to make you long to be outdoors.

And nothing quite like springtime in Texas to make you happy you’re not sick!

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B is the driver and Nira the navigator. I, for once, just get to ride!

Our destination was the Spring native plant sale at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. We would shop on Saturday as non-members. So we drove down on Friday and spent the night in Buda.
None of us are fans to I35 with its ugly roadside piles of junk and perennial construction. So we opted for the slower pace of US67. This ribbon of asphalt has been as much a part of Sister’s and my life as is our family name. It was the highway that led to our grandparents’ little house on the Brazos River. And later to our parents’ house on Lake Whitney. As teens we took fishing and camping trips to the banks of that river and lake. It is as familiar as the veins in the back of my hand. Eventually we’d leave US67 for smaller roads we were less familiar with and towns we’d only heard names of but had never visited.

Our lunch stop on the trip down was in Hico. I’d heard of it from a co-worker years ago, but wasn’t ready for just how cool this little spot really is!

We shopped a bit (too expensive!) and ate lunch outdoors on a huge slab of stone near a little log house. The day was sunny and cool, with a bit of a breeze. Perfect!

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B and Nira, enjoying the sunshine.

On the road again and heading for our hotel in Buda. We saw so much we wanted to stop and explore, but we’d already spent so much time just making the halfway point.

We had dinner and a swim and some hoots in the hot tub (big enough for a party of twenty) then showered and settled in for a good sleep. That lasted until 2:00am when we were all awake and trying not to disturb each other.

Three Gray Hairs on a spree!

On with the TV and a three-hour movie to lull us back to sleep. Worked like a charm for me. I woke to an empty room and daylight streaming in the window. B had gone down to look for my glasses (misplaced, but found in short order) and they’d brought me coffee. I could travel like this ALL the time!

The skies were threatening and we knew it could end up a washout, but Nira had the forethought to get us all rain ponchos at the dollar store and we were determined.
We checked out of our hotel paradise and made our way back up MoPac to LaCrosse. Of course I drove into the parking lot from the wrong direction. And of course the skies darkened as soon as we stepped from the car. But we bought our tickets and pulled our little wagon along the walkway lined with so many healthy native plants.

I wanted one of everything!

Nira, who we’ve known since High School, is a master gardener and madly successful at pretty much everything she attempts. She has utilized every square inch of her back yard and patio already, so her buying was limited to only those things she’d have space for.
Sister wanted trees. But a few perennials found their way into her box as well.
I didn’t buy one of everything after all, since the sale includes succulents and I always manage to kill them with overwatering. But I did find a box full of natives to add to my beds.

Shopping done, it was time to explore! The rain held off, giving us a good hour to walk and ooh and ahh our way through seventy-five percent of the space.

Having been before, I had a couple of “favorite” spots to check. On my last trip, I don’t recall nearly as many bluebonnets and tons more butterflies. So the gardens are as diverse and changing here as they are most anywhere. Quite a lot has been added since my last trip more than three years ago. And it looks like quite a lot is yet to come. I am thinking this means I’ll have to go back in another two or three years, just to see!

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This is the door leading out of a restroom shelter. It looks entirely different from the last time I took this same image. But just as lovely.

All too soon, the skies darkened and the wind picked up, signaling us to load our purchases and head north again. Sure enough, we no sooner got in the car than the rain began to pour. The radar for the area showed us driving out of the deluge about a third of the way home. So, we settled in and made the most of it. A quick jaunt into Saturday morning Austin traffic to make us grateful for our time among the flowers and for Lady Bird’s vision of beauty all around. If you live in Texas or are planning a visit, I highly suggest you put the Wildflower Center on your agenda. You will not be disappointed.

Eventually, B spied a sign along the road boasting the best pie in all of Texas.

Challenge accepted!!

We found the Florence Diner on Main Street in Florence, Texas, easily enough. The town is a tiny pin dot on the map and the diner is just about the only thing there. The waitress was really friendly. But her news, not so much. The pie used to be the best in Texas. Now, with new ownership, the pie is store bought instead of homemade. And the choices were limited to two. B opted for cherry. She also order the stuffed avocado (avocado half stuffed with chicken salad), while Nira ordered a chicken salad plate and I got the chicken fried steak sandwich (which, according to the sign inside the restaurant, was also the best in Texas). I happen to be a CFS sandwich snob, so I was curious about this.

While I hesitate to dis a restaurant in a small town, I do have to say that not much about what was said held true. If store bought cherry pie and a greasy CFS is the best Texas has to offer, we need to move to someplace else.

FAST!!

I think the pictures tell the tale.

Back on the road, the storms had moved east and the skies were clean and fresh. We saw field after field of wildflowers that surely looked like carpets of color from a higher vantage point.

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If only that bush hadn’t photobombed.

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Somewhere between where we’d been and where we were going.

Finally back on home turf, we unloaded our treasures and agreed we’d go back again. There’s another sale in the fall!

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A bit damp, but damn happy!

Posted by: morrowsl | January 30, 2019

Building a Good Human

When I was unpacking the last of the totes we’d moved to Remote from the city house, I found the remnants of a building project. To raise money to send our son to the Boy Scout Jamboree one year, Mike had helped Marc make Wren and Bluebird houses to sell. I have no idea how many they made. Or if the sales covered the costs. Or if they made enough profit to pay for the trip. I do know everyone in our family had one or two. My parents and Mike’s had several. And the last of them ended up in our garage to be moved to Remote all these years later.

My son joined the Cub Scouts while in grade school and somehow landed in the company of a great group of boys under strong leadership. The troop was well supported by one of the local churches. The parents, and especially the fathers, were dedicated to guiding these boys, but also to letting them navigate the twists and turns and obstacles of growing up at their own pace and in their own manner. My husband eventually became involved, as did I to a smaller degree.

Our son went on to become an Eagle Scout. All of the effort and time and money and joy and frustrations that went into the progression from Cub to Eagle have been repaid in spades. He became a fireman and has grown his career into a life-long dedication to helping his community and standing with his brothers in the department.

Those early lessons haven’t left him. He still loves the outdoors. Is still willing to try almost anything at least once. As a boy, he threw caution to the wind in exchange for the adrenaline rush of going faster or higher. His first extreme injury required stitches, to his forehead. The scar is still there. As is the scar from a split chin that cost him a baby tooth. He has had knee surgery on both knees from soccer injuries. He once came home from batting practice with a chipped tooth, but no split lip. He told me he did that because he was smiling at the baseball. I’m sure there are other stories I don’t know.
Thankfully, the adrenaline dependence has been tempered slightly with age. I suspect running into burning buildings or rushing to save someone’s life may be enough of a rush these days.

He is raising two daughters. Twins. There was never a question he would have kids eventually. The only real question was, would he raise his girls in the same manner as his boys, should he have the choice. We’ll never know. When they realized they were getting twins, it was decided that those would be their only two children, regardless.

I have watched my son as a father and I am exceedingly proud of how he handles it. His daughters have been taught from the very beginning to be loving and fair, but also strong and brave. As toddlers, they were taken outdoors in their snowsuits to slide down icy slopes. They learned to swim, then spent as many days in water over their heads as summer could offer. They started playing soccer as soon as they could join a league. They are still on the same outdoor team, still the only girls on the team, still in the boy league.
And they are on a competition team in Jiu Jitsu. They love to fish. And play in the dirt.
At the same time, they recently got their ears pierced. They love wearing pretty dresses and fancy shoes. They are just about old enough to learn to cook. They already know how to wash dishes. They draw pictures of hearts and flowers. They love butterflies.

If you had told me, thirty-odd years ago, that the boy I was raising would some day have twin daughters, I would probably have laughed and possibly have even snorted. When I looked down the road my son was running, all I could see was a never-ending list of medical bills and scars.

It’s good to know I was wrong on that one.

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Birdhouse built by Marc and Mike.

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