Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Headless Horseman of Copperas Cove

The chilling wind blew straight through the cracks in the door and flimsy walls of the tiny cabin in the mountains. The four children huddled inside were waiting for the eldest to come in from his expedition. Fear gripped them, because they had heard someone gallop by, again and again.

OK, it wasn’t a cabin, it was a travel trailer. And it wasn’t cold, it was a warm summer night in Central Texas. But there were four of us waiting for my oldest cousin to come back in from the house. Only one was afraid, though. And this is his story.

We were visiting our cousins in Copperas Cove, a small community a short distance from Fort Hood in the heart of Texas. My uncle was a major in the U.S. Army, and they lived in the suburbs. The back yard held their travel trailer, in which we kids hung out to escape the adults. Mike, Shaun and Kevin, along with their then baby sister were the ones that were in and out of Germany over the course of several years. We were the homebodies from good ol’ Texas City. They usually came down to the coast, but something precluded the trek; perhaps their inherent disgust of Texas City water or the brutal humidity. Or possibly it was just that we all needed a change of venue. I don’t know. I was only about eleven or twelve. My sister is nearly three years older than I, Shaun, a year older than her and Mike was two years older than anyone. Kevin would have been eight or so at the time, and while I didn’t mind so much his being there (it kept ME from being the youngest), his brothers quickly became weary of his constant questions and remarks.

Mike had gone into the house to procure some of the Tunnel of Fudge cake that my mother had baked for this reunion. It was her signature baked good. And boy, was it good! Chocolate cake with a melty, gooey core of fudge running through the center of each slice, since it was baked in a bundt pan.

The other four of us waited in the trailer, listening to Shaun’s stories of their adventures in Germany. It was getting late, and as the stories waned, Kevin’s observations seemed to increase. We had the lights out, to preserve the mysterious and semi-private air of our adult-free zone. Shaun began drumming his fingers impatiently on the pillowcase on the front bed. Kevin was on the top bunk, and he became aware of the rhythmic drumming. He asked what it was. Shaun’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, and he said, with great drama, “It’s the Headless Horseman”.

That silenced the flow of inquiry and comment from the top bunk. Shaun varied the volume and speed of the “hoofbeats”, softening them to simulate the passing of a great steed. After a time, he would begin again, very softly. “Do you hear that?” “Yeah, I think it’s him...”, all the while, building quickly and to an astonishing volume (for fingers thumping on a pillow). Then they would slow and stop. Right next to the trailer. Shaun’s low voice intoned urgent instructions for the young boy to remain still and perfectly quiet. It worked. Like a spell.

As Kevin lay there petrified and barely breathing, my sister and I stifled laughter till we thought we would explode. I am not sure how we didn’t give away the prank, since the process went on for probably fifteen minutes.

At the height of suspense, Mike appeared at the door, ripping it open with a thunderous “RAAAAAARR!”. To underscore the effect, he had a mouthful of Tunnel of Fudge cake, blotting out most of his teeth, leaving only the impression of fangs or broken, scary daggers.

Immediately following Michael’s bellow, Kevin shrieked, then dove out of the top bunk and grabbed Mike by the neck and clung to him for dear life. “MIKE, YOU SCARED ME!” the normally fearless lad growled at his brother. Mike, on the receiving end of such an outburst, was bewildered and a little shocked himself.

Meanwhile, Shaun, my sister and I were blowing gales of pent up laughter, intoxicated by the serendipity of the cake-mouthed punchline to the headless horseman’s patrol outside.

Friday, October 19, 2007

YaY! Wordy Guy IV

You know the rules by now, they're simple: Guess which is the real definition, don't cheat, answer in the comments. A baby could do it.

A) A rich dessert made of molasses or brown sugar sprinkled with a crumbly mixture of flour, sugar and butter.

B) A young guinea fowl.

C) Tiny fish found mainly in the Black Sea, often used as bait fish.

If you're in our office, please guess to yourself until at least a COUPLE of others have can brag later if you get it right. And that's a big IF.

The players expressed a range of fear, confidence and integrity...they are all correct, it's B, a young guinea fowl, which I have no problem with. When they get older, they are the most obnoxious, annoying and just plain wrong-looking of domestic fowl.

Thanks for playing, and there's more where this came from.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eat at the Naked Rib

This last Friday, my youngest and I were the only ones in the family in close proximity to one another, and it was time to eat. She didn’t want Mexican food, I didn’t want Taco Bell (notice that they’re NOT the same thing) or Whataburger. We drove through downtown Alvin suggesting and dismissing, sometimes in unison (ex. Jack-In-the-Box). I turned on Highway 6 and we passed over several other establishments. The farther we got down 6, as anyone who has ever been there will know, the slimmer the possibilities became. We sailed through Manvel and I was just about to give up on what we wanted and settle for just not going to bed hungry. Give in to McDonald’s? Never.

It came to me in a flash, being so far out highway 6, that the Naked Rib was just down the road, only a couple of miles from 288. I offered the possibility to my passenger knowing that novelty and proximity would likely win her over.

It did. We rolled into the caliche parking lot with only a Manvel Police car and a couple of trucks, which were parked farther from the door. That indicated to me that they belonged to employees.

I was not put off by the lack of cars in the lot, Friday night is a funny night in restaurant terms, especially in towns that have a high stake in high school athletics. And this was right in the middle of game-time. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, except for the police officer and a female friend of his.

I walked in slowly, trying to take in the ambience of the place: the walls were screened, with the (thankfully) cool night air circulating with the help of ceiling fans and a large floor fan. There were many different icons, crafts and interesting items on the walls and ceiling, most of them having to do with pigs.

As we approached the counter, a friendly face, later introduced as Liz, greeted us from the door of the kitchen. We “Howdy-ed” in return and I asked what the procedure was, since there were numerous signs and a large blackboard filled with interesting and certainly delicious offerings. There was a dizzying plethora of choices. One sign in particular attracted my attention, and I inquired, “What IS a Brisket Pie?” Liz gladly recited the cast of characters; Fritos, chopped brisket, sour cream, cheese and a drink, all for only $6.50. At first I must admit, I didn’t know how to react. As I stood and ruminated on the ramifications of such a combination, my daughter chose the meat plate with two sides. The idea of a Frito pie with smoked brisket instead of chili began to intrigue me, and so I figured, “what the heck, I’ll be an adventurer”, and placed my order.

When we got our food and sat down, neither of us were disappointed. The brisket was perfect; tender, hickory smoky and delicious. Cole slaw and fried okra were her sides. The sauce was more tangy than sweet, which is a contrast to Joe’s, a welcome departure. My Brisket Pie was a delight, crunchy and smoky, a study in contrasts of flavor and texture. The coolness of the sour cream was a very refreshing addition.

After consuming my “pie”, I went up and talked to Liz for a bit about what I liked about the joint. She explained that the name “the Naked Rib” derived from the fact that the ribs were so good you could eat them naked…after which she paused, and added, “that means you can eat them without any sauce”. I was relieved to hear that. Up until that explanation, I wondered if that was why the police were there. “Uh, remind me NOT to order ribs when there are cop cars in the parking lot!”.

She also told me that she made the sauce from her Dad’s recipe, five gallons at a time, twice a week. More of her story was about how her Dad would collect and try as many different barbeque sauce recipes as he could. Wherever they were in the country, up North, out West, in South America or apparently many other places, he would educate the locals on the finer points of barbeque. And now, the smell of the sauce reminds her of him every time, too, and that’s right in line with the GeezerChron, as you well know. Liz proceeded to show me around a little: the giant Oyler Barbecue Pit, the Houston Chronicle restaurant review, and a little history of the Naked Rib, opened October 25, 2003.

I also got a bit of inside information, they have a special rub made up that they put on the ribs before they smoke them, and that the brisket goes in raw with no additional seasonings. The hickory works the magic on the meat. She said that when she goes home, she smells of hickory smoke. That’s not a bad scent to wear, and she didn’t seem to be complaining.

As we left, I promised myself that I would return and try the ribs sometime, fully clothed, or maybe just wearing a poncho made from napkins.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NOW it feels like October

Low humidity, cooler temps, a little mist in the ditches and on any bodies of water. This is what we've all been waiting for.

And as a photographer, my favorite time of the day is between 5:46 p.m. and 6:37 p.m. That's when the light takes on the gold tones that are so complimentary to peoples' faces and hair. Heck, even I'd look good in a photo at that time. A photo would be preferable to being in person, mostly because a photo doesn't make dumb jokes and bad, reaching puns.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wordy Guy III

OK kids, you know the rules...let the play begin. Tomorrow I'll post the answer and the winner. Heck, I know, you'll all have checked the dictionary by then, but I'll make it official.


A. Ineffective

B. A beggar

C. Characterized by deception or dishonesty


So am I to believe that all three of you chose correctly without "research"? WELL, it's true, at least the part about choosing correctly. Congratulations to you smart people.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Salute To Travis Waldrep, 18

Travis is an austute and perceptive young man, possessing wisdom far beyond the mere 18 years his birth certificate indicates.

This story will prove it.

Roy and I had a contract to shoot a motorcycle gang one Saturday, and Travis went along to help. Now, it isn’t QUITE what it sounds like; we snagged a gig taking pictures of about 150 baby boomers and their motorcycles. Yeah, yeah, ANYHOW, as we were driving up to the “gang’s headquarters”, Roy and I proceeded into our usual banter, trying hard NOT to be funny, but it’s something we just can’t help.

Travis noted, totally unprompted, that “63% of what you guys say is funny…”. Now, coming from a teenager, that is pretty high praise, and the unusually high percentage he gave us (which is somewhat lower than OUR estimates of 76%) indicates a firm grasp of the English language and the clever subtleties and refined nuance that a couple of masters can inflict upon the spoken word. And we can write it even better.

So here’s to one of the 14 teenagers that I can stand for more than 3 minutes at a time: Travis Jamison Waldrep, Congratulations!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Night of the Six Foot Hot Dog

The weather is cooling off and we’re heading into what we all hope is autumn. It reminds me of the night of the six foot hot dog.

In our first year of marriage, we decided to move out of an apartment and move into a “cute” little rent house. It was very small. It also lacked air conditioning and adequate heat. It even lacked insulation. Of any kind. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter. October and November weren’t so bad, until what passes for winter around here decided to set in.

When the nights got cold, we broke out the dual control queen size electric blanket. What a wonderful device. Especially considering there were two different styles of sleeping in one bed.

We would huddle around the gas space heater in the living room until it was just about time to hit the hay. While I was brushing my teeth, I would go turn my side of the blanket on to about five or six, depending on the relative temperature. When the time came to bury ourselves under the covers, my side was toasty warm, and I turned the control down to a comfy two or three. My wife’s side was nothing. So she would turn the dial up to 10 and the little indicator light would throb in the dark, trying to warm the blanket and my spouse all at once.

One night, as we lay sleeping, I became aware of my shoulder starting to draw up and getting tighter. As I came more conscious, the sensation of uncomfortable heat became nearly unbearable. When I became fully awake, I noticed that from the middle of my head all the way down to my feet, half of the electric blanket was rolled neatly in a tube, and the control was still apparently pulsating on 10. The heat was cooking my back, and I am not sure if the heat was causing my muscles to spasm, or if the electromagnetic field generated by the blanket was interrupting my neural impulses. Whichever it was, I was very uncomfortable with all the twitching and sweating.

As I extracted myself from the giant bratwurst cooker, I stole a glance at my bride, sleeping quietly and contentedly with naught but a sheet and quilt on her, free of the throbbing mantle of heat. It looked as if she had rolled the electric blanket up neatly and placed it alongside me.

I thought new brides were supposed to derive pleasure from cooking
FOR their new husband.