Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Think I Just Made Them Mad

The skeeters have been getting a little “uppity” lately. The evenings have been fairly windy, so they have been getting not fogged the past week and a half.

Bad move on my part.

I have been thinking about it, but couldn’t quite get out there and smite them properly. It happened kinda suddenly I guess. However it happened, it happened quickly. Just this moment as I am typing, a mosquito flew close past my face and one bit me on the nape of my neck. I have killed them in the shower and the kitchen. I killed another only moments ago on my arm and another on the back of my neck.

I Black Flagged them last evening, and they weren’t swarming me. I thought I was in pretty good shape, catching them a little early.

Turns out they were just in someone else’s yard at the time, and came home to roost this morning. I should have known that they were back en force when I saw the horse on the front lawn, completely drained of blood.

I am going to get out there again just before nightfall; I am tired of going to bed with mosquito repellent on my ears.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This Almost Didn't Happen

I almost didn’t go. I had set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. I hadn’t slept well last night, and that time of the morning is awful early, and today would have been an ideal day to sleep in. But the sound of the little crack of dawn kept me awake, and the stillness of the past few mornings called me toward the bayou.

So I dragged my carcass out of the bed and got dressed. I grabbed a couple of Cutie Pies and a couple of bottles of water. Loaded everything into the car and hit the road to Highla—er, my “secret fishing spot”. In the growing daylight, I constantly monitored the breeze; I watched the grass at the sides of Highway 6 for the sign of increasing wind, the tops of the trees were eyeballed for any extra movement. All seemed calm for the time being.

When I arrived at the appointed spot, there was only a breath of a breeze with a slight Northerly component. I walked up the gravel road and over the levee to survey and choose my line for the day. On a whim and a bit of experienced impression, I decided to head West, into the corner. I know that the redfish tend to congregate in that spot up there, and so I set out to get into the water to wade to my destination.

At this point, I must confess that I had made the trip down to the water on Wednesday morning, which was the first time since last August. I wasn’t sure about what Ike did to my favorite spot. Would there be a lot of debris in the water? Did it change the shoreline any? Were there any dead animals in the water that I would (shudder) snag on? Worse?

I wore my long pants to protect my legs in the event of lawn furniture or a fence or something just under the surface of the water. Wednesday I chickened out. I wasn’t sure of the bottom, or anything, and when I saw a furry form in the grass at the edge of the shallow water, I froze. On closer inspection, it was small chunk of carpet rolled up. That did it, I decided to hike around to the road and fished a little on either side of the railroad track. Then I went home. The wind was strong out of the East, and the old rhyme came into my head, “Wind from the West, fishing’s the best; wind from the East, fishing’s the least.” That, coupled with the mullet playing around in the water was an indication to me that they were unconcerned with any local predators. I was unwilling to get into the high tide, up to my back pockets in the water and have to drive home in wet pants with no fish.

Today was a different story. I charged into the water on a mission. I made some casts in my trek to the corner, but had the feeling that they were in vain. I waded through the mud and the rising tide, water that was usually knee deep on me, was now at my mid-to upper thigh. Maybe Ike had something to do with that, I didn’t know. What I did know was that the regular sneakers I wore on my feet were NOT the wading shoes that I usually wore. They were neoprene with a zipper up the side and they came up past the ankle. I write of them in the past tense, for alas, they are no more. They only lasted about twelve years.

About halfway to the corner, I was pleasantly surprised by a strike on my line. I use soft plastic lures on a lead head jig. The strike was not a big “WHAM” like a redfish usually makes, yet it wasn’t a flounder, either. Turned out to be a 17 inch redfish. Under Texas law, the red drum must be between 20 and 28 inches for a fisherman to keep it. So I let it go, as prescribed by law. But my heart was light since that is what I had come for.

After nearly losing a shoe in mud up to the middle of my calf, I arrived within casting range of my target area. I sent a cast just past an old post standing in the water. My retrieve was medium speed and with a couple of yanks on the rod. In just a few seconds, the whole tone of the morning took an exciting (for me, not necessarily for you) turn.

My lure paused for a split second, then took off in a different direction. I yanked on the line hard, and the fight was on. The big fish ran like a torpedo (not actually “running” since it lacked legs) and I did my best to turn and reel him in. The fight was spectacular, with me grinning and laughing like a big idiot. At times when trying to slow his progress, my line started to sing from stretching so hard. I am impressed that it held together, but for a few seconds I was in doubt.

I finally got the fish into my net, removed from the line and put on the stringer. He was a hefty, strong and by now, tired 26 inch red drum. During the fight with the behemoth, I saw other reds take off out of the vicinity; so they WERE there!

I fished for another hour and a half, and in total, hooked 12 fish; three that I kept, five that were undersized (but very strong and vigorous fighters) and four that broke my line in several creative ways.

I have to say, fish breaking the line is not too uncommon, but I have never had four of them in one fishing trip. The first ran up on a partly submerged fencepost and broke the line. Next, one of my hook eyes broke the line that went through it (the knot was still intact when the slack line flew back in my face). The third one used his brothers on the stringer to break the line by diving beneath them at three-quarter speed. The most ingenious was the last one.

After a fierce fight, line singing, rod bent in a big “C”, me laughing and straining to keep my foe away from that fencepost (yes, that one again) the creature made a run at me. At the last second, he dodged left and ran to the fish on the stringer. I was smart enough not to let that happen again, but the angle was nearly impossible to turn a fish this strong. He ran under my stringer, turned right and circled my right leg. I felt the line through my Wranglers and eventually it gave way with a muffled “ping”.

I was only a little aggravated, it was a sizeable fish and I would have liked to put the tape measure on him before I let him go. I already had my limit of three reds on the stringer, and another big one would have just been illegal.

My Dad later asked how big that last fish was, and since he broke off, I told him it was as big as I wanted it to be. I’ll say it was 32, no 52 inches long.

The epilogue to this “best day of saltwater fishing ever” is that I cooked the big one for dinner this evening.

Twelve hundred and fifty words to say, “I had a great day and a great meal today”.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Berry Good Times

Blackberries are among my favorite forms of produce. Especially the extra large Brazos blackberries that my parents grow. They are juicy and tart, and this year there is a higher proportion of really sweet ones. Many are the size of a pigeon egg. No lie.

They are coming to the peak of their season now; a couple of gallon buckets every couple of days. I went to the Soderberg Farm and Chicken Resort and picked on Saturday after our fishing trip. My mother and Dad and I went back there with our little one-gallon buckets ready to harvest some of the easy picks. It was around noon, and the shade was gone by that time. Though it makes the berries easier to see and pick, the bright sun drains the impetus from the picker.

As the picking progressed, there were some just too full of juice to allow them to be crushed by their own family. These I had to eat immediately. I checked each one destined for the gullet, having learned my lesson too well a while back. And not one berry passes my lips without the thought of something unseen that may be in there haunting me. You see, there are bugs that lay eggs in a berry to ensure that their offspring has a great first meal. There is always the danger (read “probability”) that I am eating some insect’s progeny, but I usually justify it by allowing that the extra protein would be beneficial. And you can’t taste them. Mostly I try not to think about it.

I never even knew about the worms, and thus never worried about it with all of the dewberries that we picked when GranMommy and GranDaddy took us to the wild berry patches when we were kids. The short version is that in the spring, they would take us to San Leon near the railroad tracks and pick berries till our fingers were purple and there were gallons of dewberries ready for use. We had our little Coke case stools, buckets, hats and a snake stick, all issued by the ramrod of the operation. I remember once when I was taking a break; drinking water out of the bleach bottle under the seat of the Dart and then laying on the back seat. When I shut my eyes, I saw berry vines. And berries. Just an image burned into my retinas. And I learned that some of the berries just needed to get eaten right away. We were never scolded or admonished for this; part of the reward for stooping, crouching and kneeling in the sticker, ant and mythical snake-infested berry patch was the joy of popping in a nice, fat, perfectly ripe dewberry.

I’m sure there were larval passengers in them as well, but I never was a witness to them. These days my parents soak their berries in the buckets for ten or fifteen minutes when they bring them into the kitchen to evict the interloping worms. With a few minutes under water, the poor little guys begin to wriggle and float to the surface for a breath of air. That’s when they’re nabbed. Either plucked out and squished or simply washed (warshed) down the drain.

So we always soak the berries. When I got my parcel of about five pounds of them home Saturday, I soaked them dutifully. After the required amount of time, I checked to see how many bug children were present. My mother’s statement from a few days back, “We didn’t have hardly any when we soaked them the other day…” rang in my ears as I watched probably ten or twelve of the little buggers float to the surface. Some were small; less than an eighth of an inch. Others, however looked as though they were outside the slot limit for length governing the harvest of black bass in some Texas lakes! Writhing eels, anacondas, mostly not the pearly white of their smaller cousins, nay, these were long purple colored streamers with a heft and ominous look overall.

They weren’t really all THAT big, only about a quarter of an inch long, but still I was glad there were no game wardens in the area. You never can be too sure.

I made a great cobbler out of three cups of our little purple friends, and there are others refrigerated for eating on cereal in the morning, or just to snack on.

And I am secure in the knowledge that the rest of the big Brazos blackberries that are harvested at the Soderberg Farm are destined for delicious, worm-free blackberry jelly. This goes well on PawPaw’s angel biscuits.

Are you hungry yet?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

You Call THAT Music?

What passes for music these days.
NOW I know what the geezers from my past were talking about. The music that kids listen to today barely qualifies as music.

Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of artists out there on the popular music scene who can actually make music. John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Grace Potter, and a few others are first-rate musicians and songwriters. These guys are not the focus of this rant.

And I guess that’s what it is that bothers me so badly. A new band may actually have a decent song; tolerable lyrics, lead singer that’s not too annoyingly “urgent” and some musicians who can actually play their instruments. The most maddening detail is the drummer, pounding incessantly on the cymbal with each and every beat with no variation or sense of rhythmic patterns. Just banging on the cymbal. Sometimes through the chorus or even the verse. I hate it. I have even unwittingly ruined a band or two for my oldest daughter. Sorry. But this is a widespread problem, a disturbing trend, and the stuff of geezer chronicle.

Apparently the only requirement to be a drummer these days is to have a drum kit and a pair of sticks. Oh, and enough brain power to carry a beat. But that’s where it ends.

No more Neal Peart, Richie Hayward, Mick Fleetwood or the other greats who could play complex patterns of interesting rhythms, and keep a steady beat at the same time.

These guys were back in the day when guitar players actually played the whole way through the song, not just little breaks at the appropriate places, then a fifteen second bridge. Paul Barrere of Little Feat (a band that many have not heard of, but who were very cutting-edge and influential in the 70s) was a phenomenal guitarist whether playing lead or rhythm. Most of the songs, he is just playing behind the vocals, not just chords, but complex rhythms that are hard to hear unless you are listening with headphones or at volumes to make the neighbors a little angry.

My point is, that musicianship is getting passed over for a decent hook, over-produced music and a cute face/fancy dance moves. The old guys, and I’m going way back to Tommy Dorsey and Bob Wills, the 1930’s and 40’s, were definitely not lookers, nor did they even have singing voices that were beautiful, but they could play their respective instruments and assemble others who could technically and creatively complement them.

Now all you need is an aggressive manager and a good producer.

I don't know the band in the picture, I just wanted to show the young, vapid musicians prowling around these days. They look like they would play the kind of tripe that I described above. For all I know, they could be the next band of geniuseses that make the Moody Blues look like a bar band. Just judging the book by the cover. Geezer stuff.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I am a Victim.

A victim of Warner Brothers cartoons, specifically Bugs Bunny. I enter into evidence the fact that Monday, while dutifully working on workish work, I was listening to Rossini’s Barber of Seville. There was a concrete job being done in the parking lot by a guy using a jackhammer.

The problem is, that even while working on workish work, my mind conjured the image of the unseen worker in the parking lot, manically wielding a giant jackhammer, with his feet coming off the ground, bouncing all around, in time to the music. Purely unintentional, but some of the pauses in his hammering coincided with the pace of the music. I was watching a cartoon in my head.

I also saw Bugs Bunny abusing poor Elmer Fudd with the mud pack on his face in the barber chair, cracking it with the chisel and hammer. Which progressed to the scalp massage, fertilizer and flowers sprouting from Elmer’s head. The chase scene in the barber chairs. And “You’re so next”…

This is my life. Fully 25% of my observations are easily relatable or reminiscent of some Warner Brothers animated situation. A quote, a picture, anything.

Everybody has a burden to bear. If mine is to be a giant 11 year-old that likes a 75 year-old rabbit, then so be it. I guess there are worse things I could be.

Like Daffy Duck. Now there’s a jerk…

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wordy Guy X

That's "X" as in "Ten", not something naughty. You guys know me better than that...

Yes, looking back, it was back in June '08 since last we heard from our Wordy Guy. Here is his latest puzzle-ette.

Answer in the comments, first correct answer in order gets bragging rights and not really much else. As if "bragging rights" for this blog is not an oxymoron. Anyhow, no cheating.

A. A sleeveless garment worn as an apron or a dress

B. A light sailing ship

C. A thin, light-weight saber

Well, knowing the author and readers of this blog, I suppose a straight answer would be outside the realm of possibility.
Innominatus seems to be the unclear winner, he confessed to looking up the answer, but his mini-narrative was hilarious. I almost prefer it to the real answer, which up until the time I read the first entry was a simple B, a light sailing ship. In fact, I am contemplating changing the rules. The entries should/might/could be accompanied by a sentence putting the word in question to good use, made up or not.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Epic Battle

Saturday was the first day of battle. The enemy troops have been massing since a couple of days after the kittens tried to invade. There was an inch of water in out back yard for a few days; the flower beds have gotten out of hand. The gerber daisies are nearly three feet tall, the ornamental boxwood is more like an ornamental crate, the trumpet vine could open its own jazz club.

The mosquito queens did their job well. Laying thousands of eggs that hatch into millions of larvae, that metamorphose into billions of sinlge-minded bloodsuckers that waited to descend on the human population at once.

May 2 was the day of the beginning of the epic summer struggle; man vs mosquito. The mosquitoes had numbers, a hollow proboscis and an unquenchable hunger for hemoglobin.

I have a Black Flag fogger. It took a try or two to find the ammunition for it. Walmart sold out yesterday. Dang it. I went to Stanton’s and found what I was after. I got two jugs of it.

I got home and devised my battle plans. I would wait a little until the blasting South wind died down a little. My trigger finger got itchy. I needed to test the amount of propane in my weapon. It was still a bit early, and since my foe is mentally unsophisticated, I decided to chance a test fire. I filled the reservoir with my toxic ammo, opened the propane valve and heard the hollow hiss. Yes! I touched the igniter and after a quick “pop-poof”, my instrument of war was warming up. After another minute for the fogger to be fully ready, according to the directions that I read and understood, I was ready for the test firing.

The wind was still a bit strong, and knowing that the most intelligent and resourceful of my quarry liked to stay in the garage, I fogged in there first.

Great, it worked. Worked really well, as a matter of fact. So I loaded the agave plant with smoke. I just rounded the corner and fogged along the side in front of the gate. The wind was lower over there, lets just see what will happen along the side of the house. The mosquitoes rose in clouds to meet me in combat. I squeezed the trigger and sent forth a beautiful plume of poison. I could see the silhouettes of my enemy against the white haze.

None of them dropped immediately, that would have been very rewarding, and I should not have gone after individual fliers since they don’t immediately succumb. A couple of the bravest got a puff to themselves anyhow. The back yard, with all the vegetation and shielded from the as yet strong breeze beckoned me forward. I sprayed the daisies, the caladiums, the trumpet vine. I even sprayed the cracks in the deck.

I continued around the house, and then to the front yard, and the neighbors’ yards. The sense of purpose that drove me around was very fulfilling. So fulfilling, in fact, I repeated the entire exercise when the wind did die down. And I plan on repeating it this evening as well.

Our little winged enemy, small though it may be, comes in innumerable throngs. Culicidae is the army, the divisions are many; Aedes, Culex, Anopheles. Some are small and aggressive, others are large and frightening. They all must die.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “I will fight them in the front yard, I will fight them in the backyard, I will fog under the deck and under the shed, I will never surrender, I will never give up.”