A Lab, Some Land, and a Newborn Baby

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mossI’ve been busier than a Ryan’s Steakhouse bathroom on Chili Mac night.  Coaching two little league teams,swim season, welcoming my fourth baby boy (Finn), picking up a daughter in the form of a cute little yellow lab (we call her Fii, which is short for Fiona or Confit depending on the day), and buying some land near home, leaves me precious little time to write or anything else. IMG_3930finn

Adjustments are hard with your first baby boy.  After three it’s easy.  During the fourth trimester,the 3 months after birth when babies are like larva, it’s pretty simple.  I change a ton of diapers, bathe him and daydream about the whatnot we’ll be doing.  Pretty much fall in love with him now that he’s not in mama’s belly. Finn’s already bonded with my oldest son, and is greatly amused if not a bit scared of his two other brothers, who are 6 and 3.  They adore him.  He’s a happy baby now, and has good reason. His every need is met.  For now, we are in a calm as far as babies are concerned, he’s immobile and quiet.  If he’s like my other progeny, that’ll end in about 4-6 months.

Meanwhile, Fii is assimilating into the family as well.  Her background story is romantic.  Her mother is a working girl for the guide service I used in my hunt with Hank Shaw.  Her father is a registered blue blood master hunter owned by a big wig in Ducks Unlimited.  A few furtive glances, and no doubt sniffs, led to an unpaid for roll in the marsh and pregnancy. Unpaid for being the key term.  See, stud fees for dogs like her father typically run about $2000 and the puppies are sold for anywhere from $1200 to $5000.  Nice gig if you can land it. Her owner couldn’t pony up the stud fee, so she’s without papers. But pedigrees don’t mean much to me, I just want a dog to go get what I shoot and let me scratch her ears. So when my professional dog trainer buddy Robert Murray of Murray’s Kennels, told me about her, I went and picked her up for close to nothing.  Fiona

Since moving to my rural community, I’ve looked for hunting leases and land with little luck.  But a few weeks ago, a Facebook listing on one of our local Buy Sale Trade groups produced a perfect property only 15 minutes from my doorstep.  It has electricity and a well, two ponds, a ton of pecans and oaks.  I saw three deer my first visit and there are pig wallows all over the place.  Should be able to draw in some teal, wood ducks and Mexican whistlers to the ponds and there’s a small but present dove population.  Squirrels and rabbits abound.

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The woods to the north area bout 50-70 acres, which should hold a bunch of game. I plan on planting some grains, greens and more trees to attract even more animals.

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The owner is leaving his pig trap and feeder.

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Fii checking out one of the wallows and many game trails criss crossing the land

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We don’t know if the pond is stocked, but we will soon be making a fishing trip to determine if it is.

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I’m really enjoying life right now, with a wonderful baby boy, a dog and some land to play on.  God has been too good to me and I look forward to writing about my exploits.  Stay tuned.

Tremendous Ten: 10 Reasons to Rodeo

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Last week I got to take my buddy from New York and his Panamanian wife to their first rodeo.  The night before, I took my two oldest boys. Entertainment wise it doesn’t get much better.  There’s danger, speed, power, and finesse.  Beer, bulls and BBQ.  A dose of comic relief and Americana as well. Here are 10 reasons you need to check out the rodeo for yourself.

1. Bull Riding. Ken’s wife, knowing I’m a pretty typical Texan with rural roots, asked if I ever rode a bull.  Of course not I told her, and she asked why.   “I enjoy living.” After the first ride, she understood why. Still, its my favorite.  Bull riding is really three events in one: 1) the challenge of getting the bull to behave while the rider mounts up, 2) the fight between brave, if not psycho, young men fighting to stay atop the spinning 2000 pound wrecking ball of beef, and 3) the battle between the raging bull and the bull fighters over the unseated rider.  Heart pounding stuff.IMG_3983

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Looking for an anger release…

 

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Too bad they don’t use any muscular bulls.

2.  Clowns.  My all time favorite is Quail Dobbs.  There are funny clowns and working clowns, and sometimes funny working clowns.  Barrel-men have form fitting barrels they will get in to distract the bulls and be silly.  Bullfighters are agile athletes who protect the rider once they dismount (elective or otherwise).  The way these guys to jump in the middle of the bulls face is an art.

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Bull rider coming off

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Rider crawling to safety

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Bull spins around to kill the crawling cowboy

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Leaping into the animal’s face, our clown high steps past while slapping a horn.

3. Vendors.  The culture of rural Texas, and no doubt America, is on display at your local county fair and rodeo.  Western themed artisans will be on hand selling you everything from bullwhips to rattlesnake skin boots, belts, and wallets.

4. Future Farmers of America.  Most of the time, a livestock show will be held concurrently.   The stock don’t look like the animals in your average pasture.  A show steer is to a pasture steer, what an NFL linebacker is to an accountant.

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My friend’s son’s steer. Lotta junk in that trunk.

 

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Not a baaaaaaaad goat.

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Another friend sporting his bunny belt buckle with pride. Each winning rabbit sold for over $1000.  I’m in the wrong business.

5. Barrel Racing/Rodeo Queens.  The rodeo isn’t only about men though.  If the ladies in your life like competition, barrel racing features women on Quarter horses racing around three barrels for the fastest time. Definite athletes, there were also a couple women ropers.  If Frozen is more your girl’s thing, a pageant of sorts is held and a local beauty is selected Queen of the rodeo.  She often carries the flag and banners of local sponsors in between events.  She has a court of princesses and gets to dress up in girly whatnot.

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Her Majesty Saddling Up

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Her Grace takes the time to mingle with her fans.

6. Carnival Rides.  Yes, there are carnies…but as long as you keep your wits about you, a lot of fun can be had on the rides.

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A typical “carny” child.  Notice the aggressive behavior displayed: teeth bared, hair unkempt, shoes (when worn) appear on the wrong feet. I wouldn’t feed or make direct eye contact.

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The view from the Ferris’ Wheel.  Next to Pabst Blue Ribbon, the best thing to come out of the 1893 World’s Fair.

7. Food.  I’ve been to many different county fair and rodeos, and each has its own spin on the food.  All of them have funnel cakes and corn dogs, and at most of the Texas ones you’ll find BBQ, fajitas, and deep fried everything.  Being a coastal county, Matagorda had a seafood truck and alligator as well.  I even snagged a gyro one night. 005

8. Saddle Bronc and Bareback.  Classified along with bull riding as a “rough stock” event, these are different than bull riding in that a cowboy has to “mark out” his ride.  This means the cowboys feet are in front of the horses shoulders before the horses front feet hit the ground. If not, the rider’s disqualified or “missed him out.”  These rides create a bunch of work for chiropractors so I enjoy them as well.

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See his turquoise chaps clearly ahead of the horses withers, clearly “marked out.”

9. Horses.  I grew up riding horses, so sometimes I find myself immune to their allure.  County rodeos give you a chance to get up close, pet and talk to the owners about their prized steeds.  If you know the dog family down the street, or the old cat lady next door, (or if you are the old cat lady– Hi Grandma!) horse owners are no less fanatical about their transportation pet and are happy to tell you all about them.

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This color is known as appaloosa, and would make a fine rug….I mean pet.

1o. Seating.  It’s easy to get seats within inches of the action.  I prefer near the chutes where the rough stock action takes place.  Yet, there is a risk of getting dirt and other stuff thrown on you. Emphasis on the “other stuff.”

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Not, mud.  One of the dangers of being too close. You’ve been warned.

This year’s rodeo rocked. Before the last ride of the night, the bull wouldn’t cooperate in the chute.  Alternating horns and legs kept hanging up and it took a good ten minutes to get him and the rider squared away.  Each minute the bull stayed in the chute, the louder and more pissed off he got.  Finally, pried free with a 4×4, away they exploded not 50 feet from us.  Luckily, the rider was not hurt, despite his spur getting hung up in the rope.

If looking for something manly to watch, cancel that dinner and Rom Com date and find yourself a rodeo, Podnuh.

 

Life is

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Getting to say a few words at my father in law’s funeral counts as one of the tremendous moments of my life. Today we officially said goodbye to as fine a fellow as you are like to meet. Below is the brief eulogy I gave:

Earl was one of the best back porch philosophers I’ve ever known. Whenever Earl and I would get really deep talking about time, reality, or what it means when bad things happen to good people, Earl would simply smile, take a swig from his gin and tonic, shrug and say, “Life is.”

I’m honored today to get to share some stories about my father in law. I’ve yet to meet a man who enjoyed serving his family more than Earl, nor anyone who could think and plot his way around a problem quite like him.

Life is work. And he never shied away from work even as a child. When his dad hurt his back in the shipyard, as a young boy Earl provided for his family by fixing up and selling bikes and running 2 paper routes. While others were playing little league, Earl sold his first car at the age of 14. One day, he would purchase his parents a house. Lesser men would have been broken by his difficult childhood. Not Earl. As an adult he was an excellent salesman because, with him, conversation was a joy. He could captivate an audience with stories about his colorful life in New Orleans, his service in the Marines, and during his days working for Union Carbide. And the man loved donuts.

Life is funny, and so was Earl. My first memory of Earl is from the year we met, about June of 2000. Four of us, Susan, her friend, my sister, and I drove to Stephanie’s wedding in Las Vegas. We’d been dating for 6 months and were in love. I teased and questioned Susan during the long drive from Austin about any possible mafia connections I should know about, what with her Dad being Italian and all. Of course, she denied them and rolled her eyes. About 8:00 am, I met Earl and Lorraine. We exchanged the typical pleasantries, and with absolutely no prompting at all, Earl proceeded to regale Bonnie and I with the story of a distant cousin, a Jazz musician who may or may not have had a meeting here years ago with a questionable group of Sicilian businessmen in one of the casinos. My sister and I were rolling in laughter. His charming Irish Channel accent and sideways smile was warm and endearing. With a glint in his eye he told my sister to not look in his trunk.

Life is love. Two years later, I remember sitting on a flower covered back porch in Vancouver Washington asking Earl’s permission to marry his daughter. It proved too much for him, he blushed and while hurrying into the kitchen to pour himself a drink said we can have that discussion later. His reaction mirrored Susan’s reaction when I tried to kiss her for the first time in her apartment during law school. Like father like daughter. We never did have that conversation, but Earl did ask that I help Susan take care of her car for him, change the oil, rotate the tires, etc. He still didn’t know me that well, I guess.

Life is serving. One of my absolute favorite times with Earl happened about two years ago when Earl and Lorraine came with me to New Orleans where I had an anesthesia conference. This particular morning I was free and Earl and I arose early and went to Morning Call for beignets. Several beignets. Anyways, we took a few for the road and began to tour the city. Driving past John McDonough high school, through the French Quarter, and out to Metairie he shared stories of his youth and young adulthood. And he told me a few stories I’m fairly sure he never told his daughters.

He slowed the car down in front of a tire store that was once a grocery store where his mother worked. He talked about how as a boy about Oliver’s age, he’d ride his bike every night to meet his mother as she came off work to make sure she had company and to help with any groceries she brought home. This was the Earl I knew. He was sharing his past with me, giving a part of himself from then, just like he’d given himself to me when he helped me with a project or important decision in my life. Like when he gave me Susan at our wedding.

Life is like a train. While we were sitting behind a street car, Earl told me he felt that life was like a train. At each stop, some people would get on your train and some would step off. This train ride of life is about relationships. Money, status, prestige–none of that matters. It is the people who matter. Like many others, I am better for having Earl Serio on my train of life.

Vita Est

Life is.

Photo Essay: Playing with dead things

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One cool thing about living on the GulfCoast, or any coast for that matter, is what you find when doing other things.  Lately, we’ve been inundated with a several dead things washing up.

 

Of course we then play with them.

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Our favorite so far has been a shark tooth my son found.  All evidence points to it being a Great White.  The tooth is about 5-10 times the size of the state record hammerhead.

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Though not native to the Gulf, its not unheard of to find them here.  This winter we also found an alligator and a porpoise.

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If you find yourself wanting to play with dead things washed up on the beach, don’t let your son fall in the entrails after the necropsy.  And don’t take a picture as he falls…

Dont fall in!