Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Square Peg - Time to Get My Cowboy On

The Square Peg - Time to Get My Cowboy On
© S. Bradley Stoner

Let’s rodeo San Antonio! Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time to get out the boots, polish the spurs, and dust off the hat. It’s only a week and a half away. Used to be all I had to do was walk out the door. I was already dressed for rodeo. I kind of had one on my place in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana every day. If not there, then on one of the ranches I worked on. So, boots, spurs, jeans, denim shirt, broad brimmed hat, and sheepskin vest were pretty much the wardrobe of the day... every day. Now, not so much.

There was a time when I swore you’d never catch me in a pair of shorts. Time and Texas heat made a liar out of me. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Oh, I still like my boots and jeans, but around the old homestead shorts and a t-shirt are just way more practical. Besides, I don’t have a back forty or any critters any more. I kind of miss them. My horses were not only my friends, they were transportation and working animals. I rode them hunting. I chased cows on them... even roped from them. To look at me today, you’d never believe that, but it’s true.

A couple of decades of riding a desk and airplane seats have ruined by girlish figure. And no matter how much I walk, how many sit-ups I do, or how many reps on my weight bench I struggle through, it just isn’t coming back. !@#$ it! If only I didn’t like to eat so much. I’m thinking I could benefit greatly from getting back to country living. I never had any trouble keeping weight off there. And, believe me when I tell you this, I ate a lot back then. Conservatively, about twice what I eat now. I just burned it all up. Either that or the tractors and other equipment bounced it off me. Either way... But I digress.

It’s been a couple of years since I went to the rodeo down here. The last time I went, we sat in the nose bleed section. Bulls don’t look nearly as intimidating from that range. I tried bull riding once when I was young. Just once. Those critters are a lot more intimidating up close and personal. The one I got on, gave me a baleful walleyed look as I cinched up the bull rope I’d borrowed from a friend. Well, maybe he wasn’t such a good friend. He was the one who urged me to, “Give it a shot.”

Three or four seconds after the gate opened, I wanted to shoot the bull... and my friend. That critter tossed me so far, so fast that you’d have thought I’d been launched at Kennedy Space Center. And, like they say, “It ain’t the fall that kills ya.” Nope, it’s that sawdust covered arena that feels like a boulder field when you land. I’m not sure what hurt worse, my ribs from the wrenching, my butt from the landing, or my pride as I ran from that snot blowing apparition that decided he wasn’t done with me. Oh and that clown that’s supposed to help riders by distracting those evil bovines? He was too busy laughing. I hate it when that happens.

So, I went back to riding saddle broncs at our local rodeo, which really wasn’t much of a challenge for me since I broke horses for a guy down the road. They didn’t all buck... I actually preferred that they didn’t, but others were twisters, faders, rank, or crow hoppers. After a few weeks of that, you pretty much had a feel for what the cayuse was going to do before he did it. I stayed in the saddle, but I never did make a lot of style points on my rodeo rides. Guess my spurring wasn’t flashy enough. Yeah, yeah, I know... I wandered off subject a little. Not much, though... this is rodeo stuff, isn’t it?

I think I’ll wait until the second week of rodeo to go. When we last went, we saw a concert after the rodeo events. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd... lots of old favorites sung. This year they have a lineup of a bunch of folks I’ve never heard of, but that’s not saying much. I really don’t keep up. But, among those luminaries there are a couple I’d like to see. John Fogerty and Willie Nelson. I keep missing Willie when I go to Lukenbach. And yeah, he and Waylon Jennings show up there from time to time.

Y’all have a nice weekend, now, y’hear?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Square Peg - Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The Square Peg - Unsportsmanlike Conduct
© S. Bradley Stoner

It’s playoff time again. I thought last year was bad. Compared to this year, it was a cake walk. Yep, the boys are at it again. They tried to rope me in. Unfortunately I didn’t have a horse (pardon the pun) in the race since Denver didn’t make the playoffs. Their arch rivals, the KC Chiefs did. Me? I’m rooting for Pittsburg, but I’m not sharing that with Bingo Bob or Duncan Donutz. I’m sitting this year’s battle out.

Now ya’ll might remember that Bob is a Seattle fan. Well, last year he was a Panthers fan because Seattle didn’t make it... and he’s still seething about their loss to the Patriots two years ago. I’m for anyone who whups the Seahawks... except the Pats. Seattle was an AFC rival of the Broncos until they switched to the NFC where they at least stood a chance of winning the division. Seattle and the Raiders were teams Bronco fans loved to hate, if you know what I mean. The Pats are a great team, but come on, doesn’t Brady have enough of those rings? I mean, if he wore them all at one time, his right arm would be three inches longer than his left. Hmmm.... maybe it is. That could account for those whip-like deliveries of underinflated fast balls to his wide outs. Oh, sure, like you don’t make fun of Deflategate... so knock off the groans.

In any case, it all got started early this morning. I heard the shouting. While it didn’t shatter my Saturday morning, it did upset the birds and that pee-oed Paula Pettingzoo, who hollered some very unladylike phrases at Duncan and Bob. I was shocked. Since I somehow got appointed referee after the Wildcard round, I felt duty bound to step in and keep the peace. I saw Duncan jump the count and quickly flagged him for offsides unabated to the armchair quarterback. I got it in time to prevent a call of roughing the gasser. Bob was grateful, but Duncan was pissed.

“I was drawn off, bozo!” he shouted.

“Watch it, bub,” I replied, “talking to the ref like that could cost you another ten...”

Bob decided it was the perfect time to run a counter play, and that’s never a good thing.

“You tell him, ref!” he hollered, rushing up.

That kind of ticked me off, so I flagged Bob just on general principles. “Unnecessary gruffness. Those penalties will offset. Get back to your own side of the line of scrimmage. Replay the down!”

They retreated to their own side of the street, standing on their respective curbs and glaring at each other. Then Bob committed the arch error of insulting both Texas teams, but really laid it on the Texans. That’s something you just don’t do in San Antonio... or anywhere else in Texas. Just as I was reaching for the flag, Duncan delivered a devastating comeback.

“You’ll put a sock in that Jersey Boy mouth, or I’ll do it for you. I’m sick of those Beantown Bimbos dancing their way to the big one. Houston is going to be Mercilus on those Patriot...” Well, it was a not so nice epithet, so I’ll just leave it unsaid. And that Mercilus thing... I put that spelling in... I couldn’t resist it. Whitney Mercilus is a heck of a good outside linebacker for the Texans.

Anyway, I thought that last epithet was kind of uncalled for. I was about flag them both for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, when they both started to cross the street... and that’s encroachment! Out came the yellow flag. It looked so pretty floating in the gap between them, until they closed the gap and the weighted end bounced off Duncan’s forehead and smacked Bob right in the nose. Duncan rubbed his head, Bob rubbed his nose and they both turned to glare at me.

“Double unsportsmanlike conduct,” I shouted. “Double ejection... each of you go to your locker room.”

They continued to glare at me. I did the wise thing... “Game time,” I yelled and beat a quick retreat.

Oh, and hey! If both the Texans and Cowboys win their conference championships.... yeah, that’ll never happen, but a Texan can dream can’t he?

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Winter Came to South Texas

The Square Peg - Winter Came to South Texas
© S. Bradley Stoner

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. I am not a complete heliophile, and no, I did not make that word up. It’s obscure, but I didn’t invent it. Basically, it means sun lover. Don’t get me wrong, I like sunny weather, especially warm, sunny weather. Just not all the time. Into every life, some rain must fall isn’t just an adage, it’s a freaking necessity. Considering we humans are mostly water, we’d be in pretty sad shape if the rain stopped permanently. Sorry... the old choo-choo left the rails for a moment there. Back to the subject at hand, namely our cold snap last week.

After days of balmy 70 degree temperatures, we got what is called a “blue norther” here. It starts out with a kind of westerly wind that suddenly switches to a northerly wind as a front from Minnesota or some other God forsaken ice ball city descends on us. When that front passes to the south, temperatures plummet. It went down to 21 for heaven’s sake. Oh, I know, that’s nothing like temps up north, but for us a 50+ degree drop in less than 24 hours is a shock to the system, not to mention a shock to the vegetation. All the leaves dropped off my chocolate tree. It’s a naked skeleton now. And all the Mexican fire bushes? Let’s just say their fire went out. I could go on, but you get the idea.

It’s fun to watch Texans when it gets what northerners would call chilly. Down here, they all turn into Eskimos. Down coats suddenly appear. Walmart sells out of mittens and ski gloves. I’d guess clothing stores make a fortune during the Texas winter. And cars won’t start... at least some of them won’t. I’m guessing really cheap batteries are the cause of that. AAA and tow trucks do a lot of business when this happens... oh, and Walmart’s battery sales skyrocket. Smart folks have heavy duty batteries. They give rides to folks who bought cheap ones. It’s a good way to get to know your neighbors.

Being from Colorado and living in Montana for the better part of our lives, my lady and I did just fine, thank you very much. We still have our Montana coats and, well, we don’t consider 21 degrees mitten weather. It’s just a bit nippy. Consequently, we don’t pile on extra clothes or hibernate inside. Things go on pretty much as normal. At least, our version of normal, with a few slight deviations. For example, we have two fountains on our stone patio we keep running for the birds and other critters, When we get a hard freeze, they have to be shut down and the critters find out what “hard” water really is. That pee-oed the grackles no end. When their water isn’t on, they come knocking at my back door. Literally.

The first time it happened, it about drove me nuts trying to figure out the source of the tapping. It wasn’t loud enough for a woodpecker. It was just a light “tap, tap, tap,” pause, “tap, tap, tap.” When I finally pinpointed where it was coming from, I opened the curtains to behold a big male grackle staring up at me like, “Well... where’s our water?” Yes, sir, if Edgar Alan Poe had lived in Texas, we’d have a poem called The Grackle...

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when of a sudden I discovered,
Out there standing a purpled Grackle staring up, and really sore;
His black eyes flashed, his feathers ruffled, voice disturbing;
For the fount was silent, its pump but resting from its daily chore,
The tap, tap, tapping at my door to start the water and make it pour,
To slake his thirst, and nothing more.

Sorry, Edgar.

Oh, and the cold snap? It’s over. It lasted three days. It’ll be 65 today and in the 70s the rest of the week before the next front comes through this weekend. It’ll drop the temps into the 50s. Brrrr.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Square Peg - Happy New Year - We Had a Blast!

The Square Peg - Happy New Year - We Had a Blast!
© S. Bradley Stoner

2016 is in the books. Yes sir, we are free from all those political ads, the political robocalls, and the pleas for money... except maybe for those save the whatever folks. You know, the ones with the simpering woman or a sad-eyed puppy, or that sappy guy pleading with you to contribute, “...only 60 cents a day, that’s only 18 dollars a month...” They’ll even send you a picture and a T-shirt. I got to wondering just how much it would cost a person if they answered all of those supplications. Turns out it’s more than most people make, and it would put your grandma, living on a fixed income, out on the street. The upside to that is that those professional pleaders would have one more cause with which they could accost your wallet. Sigh.

Lest you get the idea that I’m a skinflint as well as a curmudgeon, let me set the record straight. Our family has contributed to charities of one sort or another all of our lives, sometimes when we really couldn’t afford it. We do it anonymously. We don’t take it off our taxes. And we don’t want recognition. So, keep your pictures, your T-shirts, your brochures, and the fees you pay your pitchmen... the money you spend on those would go a long way to helping whatever or whoever you’re trying to help.

Well, heck fire! That took a left turn from what I wanted to write about. Don’t you hate it when your fingers ignore your brain and wander off on their own? If I hadn’t done that all of my life, I’d be worried that I might have lost a marble or two. Not the case. I’m fine, thank you very much! And HAPPY TEXAS NEW YEAR, y’all! Yessiree Bob, we birthed 2017 with a bang, and we had a blast doing it!

First off I need to note that San Antonio passed an Ordinance prohibiting the shooting of fireworks inside the city limits, unless of course you obtain a permit for a special event... a year in advance. (I don’t know if the latter is true, but it seems reasonable given the time it takes to get any kind of a permit down here). So, of course everyone in the neighborhood went down and got the proper paperwork... NOT. This is the South (and yes I capitalized it) and, most importantly, it’s Texas! That’s a double-whammy on the rebel thing. Second, 2016 was a remarkably wet year... we got 57 inches of rain. Couple that with the 77 inches we got in 2015 and... well, let’s just say the fire danger is nil.

Soooo.... Yep, the smoke hung heavy over the city. A feller could hear pops and booms from near and far starting at sundown. Anxious kids, I suppose. Let’s face it, the serious, hardcore powder men don’t start cranking it up until about eleven thirty, building to a crescendo at midnight. Bingo Bob wasn’t alone this year... he had lot’s of company. I began to wonder if I had missed some bulletin announcing a competition. Bob told me later that no such thing had happened. He did say he met several of our neighbors out at the fireworks stand. From the results of that, I’m betting those little stands made enough to send their owners on vacation until the end of June... getting them back just in time to sell more boomers for the Fourth of July.

Since it was a balmy 70 degrees in good old San Antonio, we spent a lot of the evening outside. We celebrated the incoming year with surf and turf. Yep, they had those sea going cockroaches and steaks on sale at the local supermarket. We splurged. Grilled steak and lobster... a little piece of heaven right here in Texas. Then we sat back in our deck chairs to watch the show as things started to heat up around 11:30. Somebody would fire an artillery shell and a red starburst would bloom above our house. Then somebody else would fire one and a shower of golden trailers would pop and sputter. We were surrounded. Those suckers were coming from every point on the compass.

Around two minutes to midnight, they all cut loose with a barrage of star shells that kept up a continuous din until about five after. It was AWESOME! It drowned out Winona Whiner who, if she ran true to form, was threatening to call the police because the racket was scaring the crap out of her Peekapoo. She would have probably had a heart attack if she knew that there were tell-tale smoke trails that appeared to be coming from the Constable’s driveway. I won’t swear they were, but... a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, don’t you think?

Yes sir, it’s going to be a good year!