Friday, December 26, 2014

Vandalism by our Tenants

Perhaps we should have expected it...

We had these tenants who, when they moved in, promised that their dogs would not bother our livestock. In November, one of their dogs almost killed one of our goats. The veterinary bill for this goat was around $250. She survived, but her neck is not right. Her head is turned to the right and the neck is still stiff and swollen.

After the incident, we asked about the tenant's insurance policy. Having a tenant liability and damage policy is required, in writing, in the lease. This turned out to be only one of the lease violations. The upshot was that we asked them to leave. They refused. We filed for eviction and won. The court said that they had to move out by December 24. Because of their dogs, we could not inspect the unit: those "gentle dogs" were actually pit bulls.

Today, we saw that they had moved out. The yard was trashed. The rear door of the unit was kicked out at the bottom. A bedroom window was broken. Holes had been punched into various walls with a kitchen knife or a hunting knife. In two places, they had kicked holes in the walls, just above the floor. The door between the master bedroom and its bathroom and the entry door to the master bedroom each had a hole punched in it. Casing had been torn off of some of the door frames and one of the door frames had been broken, leaving nothing secure to hang the door on. The unit, which as specified in the lease, is a non-smoking living space, reeked of marijuana. To top it all off, THEY POURED CONCRETE DOWN TWO OF THE TOILETS AND ONE OF THE BATHROOM SINKS!

We called the Sheriff's office and reported it. We also called our insurance company and asked them to send an adjuster.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Polar Express

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 train runs between the depot in Palestine and in nearby Rusk, Texas. The place, although recently built, has an "old timey" feel to it. Along the walls are pictures and display cases showing the recent history of the Texas State Railroad.

When the train arrived, we had to wait while the previous ride disembarked and the crew reset the cars. We walked up to the head end to look at the locomotive that pulled the train in. It was decorated with a few strings of blue lights as shown in the following photograph. We found out that there was also a locomotive at the rear end of the train &em. they were operating in a "push-pull" configuration, both to carry the load of the heavyweight cars and to allow forward operation in either direction.

Once we boarded, we were assigned to a pair of bench seats with a table in between. Once all were aboard, the train moved out. The conductor came through the car, punching tickets. The white tickets issued to adults received a single punch. The children received a gold ticket and the conductor performed the multiple punch routine described in the book. After the conductor, the "cooks" came through issuing mugs of hot chocolate and reading from the book. The mugs were ours to keep as a keepsake. Although we took a number of pictures, only one came out reasonably. The rest were blurred, due to the slow shutter speed, this quick movements of the crew and the vibration and jostling of the car.

Shortly before the Rusk depot, a "Santa's Village" had been set up. With some hoopla, Santa (actually, multiple Santas) boarded the train. This shot is a little shaky because the train had started moving and the low light made for a long exposure.

As the train headed back to the Palestine depot, he walked through each car, talking to the children and giving out silver colored "sleigh bells." True to the story, most of the adults pretended that they could not hear the bells ring as the children shook them.

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

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Sunset in Traffic

Here we are.... stuck in traffic on US 84 at sunset.

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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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