Monday, December 22, 2014

Earlier this evening, we did something unusual. We took a trip to Palatine, TX to ride on the Texas State Railroad's Polar Express. The Polar Express is a Christmas story for children written by Chris Van Allsburg. In it, a young boy, dressed in his pajamas, takes a trip on the Polar Express to Santa's Workshop at the North Pole on Christmas Eve. It is a charming and fun story which was turned into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

First, we reserved our tickets weeks in advance. By the time we signed up, most of the trips were already sold out.

We drove out to Palestine, Texas, a little early since we did not know exactly where the depot is. In Palestine, we stopped at a Cici's Pizza for dinner. we were a little surprised to see whole families sitting there, in their pajamas, eating dinner! We knew where they were going!

After dinner, we headed to the depot. Parking was really a problem. Thank God for my wife's handicap parking placard! It allowed us to park only a short walk from the depot. We quickly realized that the train was completely sold out!

The train was still out on the trip prior to ours. While we waited, we explored the station. The trains run between the depot in Palestine and in nearby Rusk, Texas.

WE had a lot of fun! We are thinking about doing it again next year!

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Annual Christmas Mart and Parade

There is nothing like a small town Christmas celebration. It is a real home-spun production. The street is lined with little booths, mostly covered by pop-up canapies. In the nearby town, it is called the Kris Kringle Mart. For a not-so-small fee, vendors are assigned a space, provided with electric power and provided with 24-hour police security. They sell food, Christmas decorations and pretty much anything else. Here we have one of the local "cheeer" groups performing for the crowd....

The local organizations, such as the various school bands, theatre groups, school clubs, veterans groups, civic groups and local government organize a parade filled with locally-made floats, local officials and, of course, Santa Claus. Here are some pictures from this year's parade....

This was the first unit. From nearby Fort Hood, the 1st Cavalry Horse team. Standing next to me was a dark blonde haired woman with light brown eyes and three small children, the youngest of which was just a small baby. As this unit passed, the tears streamed down her face. Here children were too absorbed in the parade to notice. I assume she is a blue star wife (deployed service member) or a gold star wife (killed in action service member), but I could be wrong. Around here, there are current and former service members who have come home, but brought the war with them in the form of PTSD.

Ya gotta have the Grinch...

Here is the local high school's FFA group. FFA used to stand for "Future Farmers of America," but the dropped it to just the initials because there is now so much more to agriculture than framing...

Since we are near Fort Hood, many different ethnic groups are represented, including Mexicans, Germans, Philipinos, Koreans, Canadians, Britts, American Samoans, and Japanese to name the larger groups. A perfect unit for the parade is the famous "Dora the Explorer."

Around here, children learn to ride early. Note the little one riding double with Mother...

Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus! Right down the avenue in a fire truck! This is always the children's favorite...

The last unit, and probably the most important: here comes the street sweeper!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Veteran's Day

Last night, I was talking with my children about the wars of the early Twentieth Centry. When I was young, my father was a member of the American Legion and on the wall of the Legion Hall there was a large poster with this poem:

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lone Star Flag

The other day, I wsa listening to the radio as I drove to work. The station was "Shooter FM". A listener requested a song by Pauline Reese: Lone Star Flag. The lyrics run something like:

On a calm day in Texas we chase tornadoes
On a slow day we race our pickup trucks
On a hot day down in Texas we drink Tabasco
And on a bad day we thank God for our good luck

May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly
May the spirit of the Alamo never die
Coach Landry walks the sidelines high up in the sky
May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly

On a straight day in Texas we shoot tequila
On a dry day we wildcat a well
On a tame day in Texas we break a stallion
And on a down day we raise all kinds of hell

May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly
May the spirit of the Alamo never die
Ole Stevie Ray plays guitar up in the sky
May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly

Buddy Holly sings Rave On
Bob Wills still swings to his “Rose of San Antone”

May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly
May the spirit of the Alamo never die
May all our fallen heroes ride high up in the sky
May the Lone Star Flag Forever Fly

Listening to the lyrics, I got to thinking: I have lived in a number of states over the last half-century, but none of them has become a part of me as Texas has.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Another Election Day Has Come and Gone

Another Election Day has come and gone. The Republicans won by a landslide. On the Federal level, they hold a solid majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. On the state level, there was never any doubt both houses of the Texas Legislature are solidly Republican. The disgusting part, however, is that only 37% of the eligible voters bothered to take five minutes and vote.

For the next two years, we will have to listen to the couldn't-be-bothered-to-vote whiners complain about the legislation that the Republicans propose. On the Federal level, we will see President Obama exercising his veto authority heavily. On the state level, the Governor will sign them into law.

Too bad that we cannot enact a law stating that if you don't vote, you can't complain. It would be so much easier on the ears. The First Amendment, however, protects the right of all of us, voters and can't-be-bothered-to-vote alike, to complain about our government.

When I was young, I could not wait to be old enough to vote. In school, we were told that it was our patriotic duty to vote in every election: school district, primary, local, state and Federal. We were taught the each and every vote was important. Our candidates may not always win, but the closeness of the election was important information to the winner.

And listen they did. President Lyndon Baines Johnson chose not to run in 1968 because the 1966 mid-term election told him that his policies were not popular and if he ran, he would be defeated. He remains best known for two things: Civil Rights Legislation and the Vietnam War. It was the Vietnam War that sank his reelection chances. College students, Vietnam War veterans and many of his fellow Democrats turned against his chosen successor, Hubert Humphrey.

More people vote in years when the Presidency is up for grabs. The President is one person, the head of the executive branch of the Federal government. The President does not make Federal laws; Congress does. The Federal government is only the top layer of the tiered government cake. Most of the laws that affect you and I are state and local laws. It is the lower tiers of the cake -- the state, county and municipal governments -- that fixes the roads, educates our children, settles disputes and polices the streets. The people we elect to these levels of government spend or waste more of our tax money than the Federal government. Yet, most of us cannot name our state legislator, our elected county leaders or, in many cases, the name of the mayor of the town we live in.

In today's schools, politics, current events and recent history are not taught. Students are taught what happened but not why it happened. Without an understanding of why events happened and how they tie into current events, the study of history becomes rote memorization of dry facts. Without the why, students cannot see the flow of governmental blunders that lead to war, to bad policies, to bad economics and bad laws. When we vote for our leaders, we are selecting the players whose actions will create the next set of policies, the new laws and cause or prevent the next set of governmental blunders which will lead to the next war.

How do we teach, and more importantly, make people believe that every election and every vote is important?


From Daryl Cagle's blog on Veteran's Day:

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Joys of Rural Commuting

My wife wonders why it takes me so long to drive home from work. Except for the few towns along the way, the speed limit is 70 miles per hour or higher.

Well, here is the most common reason: slow moving farm implements. Take, for example, this cultivator being pulled by a tractor. The tractor's top speed is considerably less than 70 mph. Traffic, thus, builds up behind it. The road is one lane in each direction with enough traffic coming toward you to make passing difficult. One by one, the cars pass. Here, there is one more car between me and the implement:

After miles of moving closer and closer, the tractor finally turns off on to a side road. Here is a better look, as I pass the side road:

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Last Leg and Back to Reality

After breakfast, we got on Interstate 40 eastbound. Tomarrow, I have to be at work. My children have had enough road trip for now. My wife, however, really does not want to go home yet. We must, however, as there are animals to feed and we are running out of money for this trip.

Just before the Texas border, we stopped at Russell's Truck and Travel Center in Glen Rio, NM. This, like any other travel center, has a fuel and a restaurant. It also has an automobile museum that is the size of half of a football field. Here are a pair of images from their web site:

Along the walls of the room are display cases filled with toy cars and trucks and other auto-related paraphenalia. In the center of the room are two long islands filled with automobiles and trucks, from a Model T truck through a modern Corvette.

Here is one of the more whimisical items:

From here, we just cut into Texas and got on US 283 until it intersected with US 190, then onto home. Another vacation comes to an end.

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