Friday, May 19, 2017


Chance let me hang a small rope around his neck earlier this week. Yesterday and today, he let me scratch his belly. That's the one place a horse can't get to. 

I can rub his back, his sides. He lets me pick up his front feet. That's essential for the farrier to trim/shoe them.

My goal is to have him accepting a halter and lead rope by the time Mallory foals. She's due around June 8. When the vet comes to check the foal, he can examine Chance and give him his shots. 

I showed Chance's photo to a fellow horsewoman. She has raised sevens foals from birth. She believes his straight spine indicates that he's young. If so, perhaps his skittishness is because he was never really handled. In person, however, his spine doesn't always look so straight. The vet can tell more by looking at his teeth.

He still won't let me approach him outright. He walks away, stops, turns, snorts, looks back at me. Or looks sideways. Then, if I have his food, he approaches cautiously to within a few feet. With outstretched hand, I walk up to him. I pet him. I talk softly to him. I try not to make any sudden moves that might scare him.

I wonder how someone got him into a trailer to haul him to my neighbor's farm. That scenario makes me shudder.

He's fattening up. His hip bones are less prominent. You can still see his ribs, but not so much as when I got him. He's quite handsome, too. 

Will he make a good trail horse?

Time, and a good trainer, will tell.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Second Chance

Chance. That's the name I gave my new gelding. With me, he has another chance. A chance for trusting and bonding with humans again, a chance to eat enough to stop his ribs from showing.

We've made great progress over the past two weeks.

 He follows me to wherever I take his food. I started holding it at arm's length, forcing him to eat with the smell of my fingers so near. Now I can hold the bowl against my body. Sometimes, he'll even take food from my hand.

It took a couple of days for him to allow me to stroke his head and cheeks while he eats. Now he lets me rub his neck, too.

He still won't let me approach him. I have to wait for him to come to me. He won't let me touch him until the food is profered. Even then, he usually snorts and turns his head a time or two before accepting my touch.

It's not much, but when you're trying to gain the trust of a skittish horse that has been abused by humans, it's a great start.

Friday, May 5, 2017

R.I.P. Betsy

My barnyard menagerie is smaller now by one. Betsy, my goat, died yesterday. My handyman, Floyd, and I spent two and a half hours burying her. Floyd dug. I shoveled some. Mostly, I just watched, in shock at the turn of events. 

I had taken her to the vet for a mastectomy. Dr. Jason Coe at Animal Hospital P.C. in Oneonta said she had balloon teats (common name). Wacky hormones caused them to fill with milk. They were dragging the ground when I got her in late 2013. Dr. Coe drained them, and said a mastectomy might be in her future.

Gradually, one of them filled again. Dr. Coe drained it February 14, the day he preg-checked my mare. He said if it filled up within a few weeks, surgery would be on the docket. 

This time, it filled more rapidly.

It hurt me to watch her walk. The enlarged teat obviously got in her way. She had to spread her back legs to run. She had dragged the bag over something, because she developed a wound on it. 

Floyd had come up Thursday morning to help me load her. I had a wire dog crate on the back of my dually. She was so scared inside that she was shaking. (Despite appearances in photo above, she wasn't tied to the crate.)

We arrived at the clinic 45 minutes early. I sat in the bed of the truck next to her. Rubbing her. Making soothing small talk. I assured her she would be okay, that she would feel so much better when this was over.

She came through the surgery fine. Dr. Coe heard her gasp. Cardiac arrest. They got her heart started again, placed an oxygen mask on her face. She would not take a breath. Respiratory failure. Coe and staff did all they could. It wasn’t their fault. These things happen in animals and humans. We do not always know why.

I’m already missing this goat who thought she was a dog. When I would bend over to clean my mare’s hooves, she would lick my face and nibble my hair. If I were standing up, she might put her hooves on my chest and look me in the eyes to get my attention. Her hooves were like rough concrete. Dr. Coe was going to trim them after the operation.

I had to lock her or the llamas up during feeding times. She gobbled her ration faster than they did. If I didn’t separate them, she’d shove them out of the way and finish their food. It never dawned on the llamas or bothered Betsy that she was a third their size.

As Johnny Cash once sang about a lost love,  “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.”

Yeah, they do.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rescuing The Rescue

He doesn’t have a name yet. I have no idea how old he is. Not sure of his breed, either. My farrier thinks he’s a racking horse, claims he watched him rack across my pasture. 

He has long legs, and a long forelock that hangs in his eyes and makes him look like a wild stallion. He’s a gelding, though. He is still shedding his winter coat, or else he has Cushing’s Disease. Cant get close enough to tell.

He’s very skittish, distrustful to say the least. Somewhere in his past, a human must have caused him pain. He accepts the food I give him, but won’t let me touch him.

He was one of three horses and three miniature donkeys that a neighbor rescued a couple of  years ago. Two of the donkeys were pregnant. Now there are five. The mare died. My registered TWH mare, Mallory, is carrying the stud’s foal. Big Red, the neighbor called him. He’s gone, though. The neighbor got rid of him. He wants some cows.

I borrowed the gelding, with my neighbor’s blessing, to keep Mallory company. When I asked the neighbor about shots, he said the only thing he had done was to worm him. How do you worm a horse you can’t catch? My vet said not to worry, because my mare is up-to-date on her shots. Meanwhile, the gelding’s feet are in bad need of trimming. His hip bones are too prominent. 

So when my neighbor offered to gift him, I accepted.

I’m trying to win his trust. It will take time. Time spent feeding him, talking to him. Time just sitting in the pasture watching him graze as he watches me sit. 

I’m not normally a patient person, but I see something in his eyes that makes me want to be. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bee Season

Carpenter bees love the two bottom steps.

It’s that time of year again. It’s carpenter bee season. It starts in early March and extends to the end of September. My annual spring battle is on.

I first wrote about these pesky insects two years ago.The problem hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t gotten better.

I had my azalea bushes cut down to the ground. I was hoping that without sustenance, the worrisome winged varmints would go away. Not a chance. They draw on wildflowers, like my oak leaf hydrangeas and soon, my dogwood trees. 

Last spring, or maybe it was fall, I called Battle Creek Log Homes about how to prevent squirrels from chewing on my log home. They had never heard of such a thing. In our conversation, they mentioned something about sealing the logs. It was the first time in the 15 years I had lived here that I knew sealing was necessary.

My handyman pressure-washed my log house, then sprayed a clear sealant on it. It looked great until the sealant was totally absorbed. In other words, about two or three months. He used a brand meant for decks and porches. It doesn’t work well for log homes. Now it’s got to be done again. I’m willing to pay a little more and use a product meant for logs homes. Also, there’s an additive I’ve read about that will deter the bees for two years. Gotta get me some of that!

I don’t know about squirrels, but carpenter bees aren’t bothered much by sealants. Paint keeps them out, but I don’t want to paint my logs. The bees won’t bore through fine-mesh, wire screens, either. So a few years ago I bought a roll of wire screen material and had my tenant put pieces under each step of my front porch. The bees prefer drilling holes under steps and porch rails, because they’re protected from the rain. Trouble is, my tenant  didn’t install the screen all the way to the front edge at the two bottom steps, and that’s where I have the biggest problem. The 6.5-inch long nozzle of my dust sprayer isn’t flexible, so I can’t spray Drione dust into the holes under those two steps. Their bottoms are too close to the ground.

I’m getting desperate. I think about having my wooden steps ripped out and replaced with stone or concrete. I may do just the two bottom steps. We’ll see.

Every year, I say I’m going to start spraying the logs early. I have a liquid chemical that needs to be sprayed once a month during peak bee season (early Spring). As I’ve written here before, March is the time to start. March is a windy month. That means the spray flies back into my face. So I procrastinate. 

Sometimes, I don’t do anything except hang more bee traps. I like swatting  bees with my flyswatter, too. I have to find where one lands, though, and step on it. Swatting only stuns it.

I know that their numbers are legion. Swatting a few is like pulling weeds. There are always more to take their place.  Nevertheless, I find it immensely satisfying.

I just wish I were as resilient as those $%*#+@ bees!

Saturday, March 25, 2017


I’m going to be a grandmother again. Neither of my daughters is pregnant, though. This will be a four-legged addition to my family. It’s coming with a tail and a mane. 

My TWH mare, Mallory, is pregnant. I found out Valentine’s Day. How romantic.

As best I can calculate, she’s due the first week of June. Horses gestate 11 months. When the vet preg-checked her February 14, he said she was about seven-and-a-half to eight months along. Flashback to my July 8, 2016, blog about her getting hung up on my fence, with her back half in my neighbor’s pasture, her front half in mine. Picture my neighbor’s stud munching contentedly as we worked to free her. Yep, that must have been the day.

“He took advantage of her while she was in a vulnerable position,” my youngest daughter said, when I told her the news.

“Are you kidding? “ I replied. “The shameless hussy backed up to him. How do you think she got into that position in the first place?”

My feelings are mixed. Yes, I’m excited. I’ve thought about getting a foal out of Mallory. I’ve thought about the fun of raising one. Foals are cute from Day One. They come out all legs. They stand on wobbly stilts within an hour of birth. 

Someone told me it would be difficult for her to get pregnant for the first time at her age. (She’ll be 15 in April.) So much for that argument.

Raising a foal is a lot of work. You have to handle it from Day One. You have to gentle it. You have to feed it. You have to train it. All of that takes time and money. I know nothing about the daddy’s side of the family — he was a rescue with no papers. Even when you know the lineage, you can’t be sure you’ll get a good horse out of the deal. 

Mixed emotions aside, I’ve been thinking about names. Ever since I watched Richard Boone in the 1950s television show, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” I’ve wanted a black horse named Paladin. If Mallory’s foal is a black colt, that will be his name. It might be even if he isn’t black. His daddy was red, so who knows? I’m contemplating “Cheyanne” if it’s a philly. I’m not set on that one.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Texas In Our Rear-View Mirror

Nothing makes a road trip more enjoyable than connecting with old friends and making new ones. Lucy and Ethyl left Boerne, Texas, Monday morning, March 13, bound for home after a stop in the Houston area. Judy Salyer, a friend from Ashville, moved there about a year and a half ago, along with her mother, to be near her sister. By the time we got home, we had made a new friend, although we’ll probably never see him again.

We wore our new road trip shirts purchased from Buc-ee’s, a convenience store that is spreading like prickly-pear cactus all over Texas. We already had road-trip tees from Gruene, TX, but they had a small logo on the front and a large one on the back. Our new ones feature an old pickup truck with the words “country deep” on its tail gate, “Luv N” on its license plate, and “Road Trippin” in huge letters on the front. Now we can face the camera head-on instead of looking back over our shoulders. Much less awkward.
Elaine & Judy in front of her apartment

 We arrived at Judy’s apartment in Kingwood, a Houston suburb, about 2 p.m., and there were plenty of hugs to go around. Her complex has lots of activities for residents, including weekly movies, water aerobics, dancing to live music and its own fitness center. Judy teaches a painting class, attends a local church that picks her up on Sundays, and goes to Bible study at another church at least once a week. She has a more active social life than I do! “I’m the happiest now that I’ve ever been,” she remarked. She was disappointed that we could stay only two hours, but we wanted to get to Carthage by nightfall. We had an adventure planned for the next day. 

Ethyl had discovered an obscure piece of Texas history that was smack dab on the border between Louisiana and Texas, off FM 31 if you’re leaving The Lone Star State. A relic from the days when Logansport, Louisiana, was the western edge of the American southwest, it is the only known international boundary marker in the United States. It was placed there in 1841 to separate the Republic of Texas from the U.S. The Texas Historical Foundation purchased this site to provide public access to the early boundary marker. If you’re a history buff, it’s worth hitting the back roads to see it.

When we made a pit stop at the Mississippi welcome center on I-20 (we don’t always take the back roads home), I spotted a young Asian man fiddling with his camera. There was no one with him, so I offered to take his photo in front of the “Welcome to Mississippi” sign, with the mighty river in the background. He readily agreed, then took pictures of Lucy and Ethyl with our cell phones and his own camera. Imagine our surprise when he flagged us down a few hours later at the Alabama welcome center! He seemed genuinely happy to see us, and we made another round of photos in front of the “Welcome to Alabama” sign.

Instead of stopping for lunch, Ethyl and I snacked on the remaining cheese, nuts and summer sausage I had brought from home in a cooler. Dinner would be our meal of the day, and when I mentioned Tuscaloosa, Ethyl said she’d like to try Dreamland Barbecue. We found the original location, and we weren’t disappointed. In the beginning, the joint served only ribs and white bread, but it has added traditional sides such as cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad to its menu over the years. Each if us had a half-slab of ribs; Ethyl accompanied hers with potato salad, I had the slaw. Yum!

We arrived home about 8 p.m., and after feeding my barn critters, we decided to try a shot of the Códego 1530 tequila I had purchased in Texas. George Strait is a brand partner and investor in this top-shelf tequila that was until recently a private, nameless product distilled for four generations by the same family in Amatitán, Mexico. There are five tiers in the brand, and I bought the middle one, the reposado. Frankly, it isn’t worth the price, at least not when sipped au natural. Maybe I should reserve my judgment until I’ve had it in a margarita. Then again, maybe my taste buds just aren’t as refined as those of King George.

The next planned adventure of the Back Roads Babes isn’t until next December, when we’ll see George in concert in Las Vegas and attend the National Rodeo Finals. Yee-haw!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Let's Go To Luckenbach, Texas

Sunday was a leisurely day of sleeping late and taking our own sweet time getting ready. We were tired from five days of traveling and two days at the roping, and the time change didn't help any.

We hit the road for Fredericksburg about 10 a.m., stopping just inside the city limits at Das Peach Haus. Established in 1969 as a roadside fruit stand at a peach orchard, the little store is built of logs from a 147-year-old German cabin. The store sells its own gourmet sauces, salsas, jams, jellies and more. They had samples of some of their sauces poured over blocks of cream cheese. Spread onto crackers, they were delicious. They had a "Buy three, get our Original Roasted Raspberry Chipolte Sauce free" special, so I bought Harvest Peach & Hatch Pepper, Whiskey-Soaked Cherry Pasilla,  and Smokey Ancho Cherry. Annette bought a small piece of pottery that could be used for pouring syrup or cream.

Fredericksburg was covered up with tourists, and we had to park on a back street. It was safe, though, because it was across the street from the Lutheran church and right in front of the pastor's home. He walked up and welcomed us to town. Probably hoped we might be new congregants.

This is our third visit to Fredericksburg. On our first Texas Road Trip in 2015, I bought a beautiful watch with colorful stone inlays there. It was designed by New Mexico artist Calvin Begay. The fastener keeps catching on open-weave fabrics, so I went back to look for one with purple stones on a stretch band. Big mistake. I came out with a silver chain, gorgeous horse pendant and, yep, the watch I had hoped to find. The guy made me a deal, "giving" me the pendant (also made by Begay) and chain for buying the watch because I was a repeat customer. I'm sure he didn't lose any money, though. He probably has a hefty markup.

We stopped in another fabric shop, where Annette bought some western-print cloth to make a boot-themed quilt. I bought some western-print flannel to make winter lounging pants. We got out for a lot less money than what I spent in the jewelry store.

Elaine at Luckenbach
After leaving Fredericksburg, we swung by Luckenbach, the town made famous by the Willie Nelson-Waylon Jennings song, long enough to take photos in front of the old post office sign. Believe it or not, we didn't even go inside the souvenir shop. We wanted to get to Wildseed Farms before it closed at 5 p.m. Annette got two more prints by Georgetown, Texas, watercolor artist Kathleen McElwaine, and a table runner with bluebonnets on it. She had bought one of McElwaine's longhorn prints there last year, and I had managed to snag one of her originals at a gallery in Kerrville. I swear I didn't buy a single thing at Wildseed.

Annette in Wildseed's bluebonnet patch

Monday we left for home, perhaps stopping to visit a friend who moved from Ashville to a Houston suburb about a year and a half ago. We got home Tuesday about 8:30 a.m., spent Wednesday in a hazy and did absolutely nothing but download photos. I'll tell you about our two-day return trip in tomorrow's blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Technical Difficulties

Dear Reader:

Due to technical difficulties -- the computer room at the Comfort Inn where we're staying in Boerne has been dismantled for remodeling -- I won't be able to do another post until I get home. I have today's blog written, but can't upload the photos via my iPad. We should arrive in Ashvillle late Tuesday, and I'll catch up Wednesday. Stand by.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Between the hats and hinies, the colorful ropes and the $567,000 payout, not to mention the King of Country Music himself, there was plenty of cowboy candy to go around at the San Antonio Rose Palace this weekend. If you're looking for a cowboy, a team roping event is the place to be.

It was the 35th annual George Strait Team Roping Classic (GSTRC), March 10-11 this year. Take 541 teams and multiply by two, because each team has a header and a heeler, and you'll have the number of cowboys in the roping. That doesn't count flag men, the announcers, the onlookers in the bleachers and the cowboys at the booths that served beer and margaritas. Even James Pickens Jr., the actor who played Dr. Richard Webber on TV's Grey's Anatomy, was spotted in the crowd. And every cowboy you spoke to said, "Yes m'am."

Friday was rather boring, but that allowed for a lot of shopping time in the vendor section. Today was much more exciting. The top 50 teams from yesterday's competition returned for three rotations. The winning team, Clay Cooper and Aaron Tsinigine, had a combined total of 14.47 seconds for their three, which enabled them to take home a 2017 Chevrolet Silverado dually and Bruton Strait X-Treme bumper-pull horse trailer each, plus $203,200 in cash between them.

What made Saturday so exciting was watching the last six or eight teams in the third rotation.  Each was faster than the one before it, with the announcer saying something like, "These guys need a 6.3 (or a 5.8, or whatever) to put them in first place." And each team kept beating
the necessary time.
The King of  Country Music

I had always thought of ropes as being a neutral color, like hay, but some of the GSTRC entrants used aqua, pink and even lavender ones to rope their steers. I never could find out why. Maybe the colors made them easier to see while in motion, but who would have thought cowboys could be as colorful as little girls' Easter dresses.

The camaraderie among fans grew as the hours passed. By the time today's finals were over around 2 p.m., those of us who had sat together for two days were old buddies. The jokes and puns were flying. One guy's girlfriend told him to fasten the snap on his shirt at his belly. I turned around and told him if he were going to undo a button, he should start at the top so I could see his chest. Later, as he was returning from lunch, he leaned over, unbuttoned his top two buttons to reveal some gray hairs, and said, "This is for you." We all had a great laugh over that, except for his girlfriend, who wasn't sure what all the commotion was about.

Steers in a holding pen
Another guy sitting next to me from Pflugerville, TX, near Austin, had a Nikon camera with an 80x zoom lens. He was getting some great photos of George and family, who were sitting in the glass-enclosed VIP box across the arena. He showed me those, along with some photos he had taken at his home. When I commented on the photo of a full moon, he quipped, "We have full moons in Pflugerville, too." Then I pretended to stand up, turned my backside his way, and announced, "I'll show you a full moon!" Everyone around us laughed hysterically, and his face turned beet red. "You got me," he said, good-naturedly.

Of course, most folks came to see George Strait. He doesn't perform at this event any more, unless you can call riding his horse around the arena at the opening the second day while thanking the sponsors a performance. Guess it was, because folks were hanging off the rails just to touch his hand as he rode by.

Ride 'em cowboy

One of the truck-dully teams awarded the winners

Thursday, March 9, 2017


"Cross The Brazos at Waco, ride on and I make it by dawn; Cross the Brazos at Waco, I'm safe when I reach San Antone."

Those lyrics, recorded by Billy Walker and Marty Robbins, kept playing in my head as we approached Waco last night, and again when we got up this morning. We came here to see Magnolia Market, but it wasn't nearly as interesting to this old cowgirl as the sculptures of the wranglers and longhorns beside the Brazos River.
Magnolia Market is a group of buildings housing a home-decor market, small bakery and flower/ seed shop. Owned and operated by HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines, the compound includes a playground for children and two old grain silos that the couple has plans for later. The market didn't move me, because I'm not into decorating with silk flowers, cotton bolls and milk cans. It was a bit pricey, too, but folks were lined up at the door half an hour before it's 9 a.m. opening. They pawed over dinnerware and table linens, bought tee shirts and magnets, signs and magnolia-scented candles. I purchased a rectangular butter dish because I needed one, and a Magnolia Market magnet. It was just another upscale decorator's shop to me, because I like to fill my home with objects d'art that have special meaning to me. To each his own.

When we left the market, we circled back to the banks of the Brazos River to see a group of bronze longhorn cattle and drovers by Texas sculptor Robert Summers called, "The Waco Chisholm Trail Heritage." The sculptures are on one side of the historic Waco Suspension Bridge, where cattlemen used to drive their herds across the river. It's a single-span suspension bridge that's now used by pedestrians and bicyclists, and naturally I had to walk across just to say I had crossed the Brazos at Waco. 

The sculptures were marvelous in their depiction of a vaquero, a black drover and a trail boss. Cowboys, their horses and the longhorns were caught in motion, as if the men really were driving the cattle across the river.

We took I-35 South down to Boerne, and again were rewarded by the wildflowers. Texas Bluebonnets, the state flower, are in bloom, and it was worth putting up with interstate traffic just to see them.

Tomorrow the George Strait Team Roping Classic starts, and we need to have the truck in line at the San Antonio Rose Palace by 7 a.m. I probably won't post again until Saturday night, so I can sum up the team roping. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Along The Old Chisholm Trail

We rode, we shopped, we drove, then we stopped.

Annette came up with that summation of today's leg of our Texas Road Trip, and it's a pretty good one.

Elaine and Maggie
This time last year we came to Fort Worth expressly to ride horseback on the old Chisholm Trail.  But the recent rains had left the trail too muddy to ride. It was a great disappointment. So we came back this year to try again. Annette did a half-hour ride, while I did an hour. She went out first because there was only one guide on duty at that time. A second one showed up before she was finished, and the two of us passed Annette and her guide, Levi, as they were coming in and we were going out. Her mule tried to turn around and follow his buddies, but she managed to keep him pointed toward the stables.

Annette and Gracie
We rode alongside Cypress Creek, where a group of turtles were basking in the sun on top of a long rock. Southern Cypress trees lined our trail for a while, then clumps of mesquite, until we reached the Trinity River. Near the one-mile marker, right before we turned around and headed back, my guide, Trevor, pointed out the skyline of Fort Worth looming across the river.

A half hour was plenty for Annette, but I could have ridden another hour or two.

After our ride, we had lunch, shopped about an hour, then headed down to Waco. Taking the interstate to make better time, we were rewarded by the sight of Indian Paint Brush blooming along the highway. We stopped in West for some kolaches, a type of Czechoslovakian pastry, at the Czech Stop Bakery. We bought a dozen fruit-filled varieties, such as apricot and peach, and one chocolate, along with three sausage-filled kolaches that were sort of like pigs-in-a-blanket. We woofed down a piggy each and halved an apricot kolache in the truck. Then Annette went back in and bought another dozen of the fruity ones and two more chocolates for me. We plan to munch on them over the next few days.

Once in Waco, about 17 miles from West, we made a beeline for Magnolia Market, a group of home decor shops owned by Chip and Johanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Uppers." We didn't go in, just wanted to find it see where it was so it would be easier to find it Thursday. If we find any  bargains, I'll let you know.

Now we're bedded down at the Courtyard Marriott, hoping to get a good night's sleep so we can be at the market when it opens tomorrow at 9 a.m. Nighty-night.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Press Buddies and Paintings in Denison

Who knew there was so much to see and do in Denison, Texas?

Our first stop was another quilt shop,  Home A La Mode. It was an eclectic place housed in an old hospital that later became a private residence. The upstairs rooms are now sleeping quarters for quilters who want to do a weekend  retreat. Downstairs there was some fabric mixed with old box fans, jewelry and Toy Story collectibles. In the back was a tea room where breakfast and lunch are served. Like I said, it was an eclectic place.

Eisenhower's birthplace in Denison.

My Texas Press Women (TPW) and NFPW buddy Kay Casey was a wonderful hostess and guide. She met us at the quilt shop and took us on a tour of the business and residential districts, including a drive-by of the old Katy railroad station (Denison was founded as a railroad town), before taking us to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's birthplace. 

Then she dropped me off at the local library to post photos on my Monday blog and took Annette back downtown for some shopping. An hour later, she picked me up and we had lunch at the tea room in Home A La Mode, joined by another TPW/NFPW member, Donna Hunt. Donna writes a twice-weekly local newspaper column and said Annette and I would be her next subjects. I guess we'll be famous in Denison, huh?

Kay and Donna have lived in Denison so long they know just about everyone there, and everyone knows them. Kay is a retired high school journalism teacher, while Donna is a former newspaper reporter who later helped turn Eisenhower's birthplace into a tourist site, then ran it for six years. Everywhere we went, Kay called shop owners by their first names, and everyone knew Donna from her popular columns. Annette and I just basked in their glow.
Elaine, Donna & Kay

While I was at the library, Annette went shopping at a local artisans' shop called Kaboodles and an antique mall. After lunch, she took a siesta in my truck while I went to Kaboodles. I never got to the antique mall because I bought two original, western water color paintings by local artist Ron Speed, and had to visit an ATM for some cash. I got a better price that way. I was hoping to meet the artist, but he had stepped out and wasn't due to return for a while. So I had my paintings packed up and stuffed them into my truck. The store manager promised to take a photo of Speed and email it to me.

It was almost 3 p.m. by the time we left Denison, headed for Fort Worth. Traffic was heavy approaching the city, so we didn't arrive until 7 p.m. We decided to splurge and stay at the Stockyards Hotel. We splurged again and had dinner in the adjoining H3 Restaurant, where we had eaten lunch last year. (See last March's Texas blogs for details about the hotel.)

Be sure to check out my Monday blog, posted this morning, even if you have already read it. I did manage to get some pictures posted while on the library computer.

Wednesday, I hope to do a horseback ride along the Chisolm Trail, while Annette rests and does some more retail therapy. Then we'll head south to West and Waco.

Talk to you Wednesday night.

Miles and Miles of Miles and Miles

Monday was one of those serendipitous days full of out-of-the way adventures, most of them related to shopping. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a quilt shop that served wine.

First, though, we had to leave Marshall, Texas. Before we could get out of the parking lot of the EconoLodge, we spied our first shopping mecca. It was Texas Gates, just across the street. With its wrought-iron gates, fire pits, Texas stars, cedar swings and metal replicas of bluebonnets, it called to us like the voice of sirens. Or maybe the yodel of singing cowboys. So instead of getting back on the interstate, we whipped across the street to take a gander. Believe it or not, we got out without spending a dime.

After a few short miles on I-20 West, we finally hit the backroads at Longview. We took U.S. Highway 80 West via the 281 Loop. We passed a veterinary sign proclaiming the Best Little Hound House in Texas, metal-work shops with gaily-painted roosters, and rusty oil derricks, many of them pumping away. Wisteria hung from roadside trees and the redbuds were in bloom, right alongside dilapidated houses with yards piled
with old cars and other assorted junk. Many businesses and homeowners displayed their pride in their state by flying the Texas flag or sporting a Texas star on a wall. We passed a sign for a washateria, a word Ethyl hasn't seen in years, and one that said, "Jesus welcomes you to Hawkins." When I spotted a sign in Gladewater pointing to an antique district, Ethyl had to hold onto the steering wheel to keep me from making a detour.

We were bound for Mineola, where she wanted to visit a quilt shop called Stitchin' Heaven. She had joined its block-of-the-month club after discovering the shop on the internet, and wanted to see it in person. As soon as she opened the front door, a friendly sales clerk welcomed her and offered to give her a tour. There were thousands of bolts of beautiful fabric, and just about that many quilt and runner kits and notions. Ethyl spent almost $200 there, most of it using a gift card, while I managed to get away for $12. I bought a pattern for a boot-shaped wine bottle tote and a magnetic book marker.

The most fascinating aspect of the store to me, however, was its beverage center. I wanted a cup of coffee, but a small sign said bottled water, soda and a glass of wine were available. Betcha can't guess what I had! Actually, I only had a few sips of the white zin, which came pre-packaged in a small plastic "glass," then capped it to save for dinner. After all, I was driving.

Here's to quilt shops!
We spent more than an hour in the quilt shop, then headed up U.S. 69 North toward Denison. I have two NFPW (media organization) buddies there that I had planned to visit. We managed to get as far as Emory before spotting a batch of windmills at the Potts Feed Store. They looked like a field of exotic flowers fluttering in the wind. They were pricey, ranging from $269 for the shortest to $500 for the largest. I could have gotten just the windmill section and hired my handyman to build the wooden tower, but wasn't sure where to get a pattern. However, I understand you can find windmills all over Texas, so I may get one before leaving the state.

Annette, Kay & Elaine
Once we hit the road again, we passed cows and horses grazing in pastures on ranches with names like The Double R, the CF, the WW Rock and Willow Creek. It was after 2 p.m. by the time we rolled into Denison, where my friend Kay Casey was waiting for us at CJ's Cafe. Even though Ethyl and Lucy had snacked a little bit, we were starved. Kay and I split a bacon and cheese panini, along with a huge piece of Chocolate Heath Bar Cake, which Kay kept insisting was a Health Bar Cake. That name assuaged her guilt.

Although we had hoped to reach Fort Worth by sundown, we decided there was so much to see in Denison that we'd spend the night there and do some moseying around town on Tuesday. We had a mechanical problem to solve first, however. My air conditioner wasn't blowing cool air, so I asked Kay to help me find a reputable mechanic. We wound up at A-A Tire & Auto Sales, where Tony Owens replenished my freon for a fair price and had me on my way in less than half an hour. We went to the Denison Dam to watch the sun set over Texoma Lake, and ventured on into Oklahoma across the dam just because we could. It was Ethyl's first time in the Sooner State.

Tuesday we hope my other NFPW buddy from Denison, Donna Hunt, will join us for lunch. We also plan to see a railroad museum, Dwight D. Eisenhower's birthplace and you'll never guess what else -- another quilt shop.

(Note: I may be switching to WordPress if I keep having trouble posting pictures with this blog on my iPad!!)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"T" for TEXAS

Lucy and Ethyl, a..k.a. The Back-Roads Babes, hit the highways again this morning (Sunday) for our third annual Texas or Bust Road Trip. Our excuse, as usual, is the George Strait Team Roping Classic in San Antonio, but we like to leave the interstates and meander a bit going and coming back.

We got off to a late start, and having to go back for my earrings three miles down the road didn't help any. It wasn't a very exciting day, unless you call finding a man in a woman's bathroom exciting. No, he wasn't transgender, he just wasn't paying attention. Annette slipped past him to the stall next door and stayed as quiet as she could until he left. I was entering as he emerged, and he was as surprised as I was. Looking up at the sign over the door, he laughed and shook his head.

That was at the Kewanee 1 Truck Stop in Toomsuba, Mississippi, our first pit and fuel stop. But diesel was $2.89 a gallon there, so we just got 10 gallons. We had brought along a cooler filled with baked chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, water, apple juice, cheese, cherry tomatoes, summer sausage and fruit. We also had a sack full of snacks and some bowls and plastic cutlery.  It was about 2 p.m. by then, and we were starved, so we picnicked in the truck before leaving the truck stop.

About 100 miles later, we saw a sign for diesel at $2.27 at the Clinton exit, so we stopped and filled up the dually. We were six miles down the road before Annette happened to see a sign saying, "I-20 East." We had been gabbing so much we didn't realize we had gotten back on the interstate going the wrong way. We do like to talk.

It started raining shortly after we headed west again, but that didn't slow us down much. We made one more potty stop, and the cashier didn't understand, much less appreciate, my comment about giving her the tail-end of our business. By the time darkness fell, I was getting tired and my back was hurting, so we decided to stop for the night on the eastern side of Shreveport so we would miss the Monday-morning rush-hour traffic. As Bossier City melted into Shreveport, we decided to try to hit Texas before bedding down for the night. After all, the state line was but 19 miles away. About 8 p.m. we made it into Marshall, Texas,  where we dragged our butts and our suitcases into an Econolodge. Dinner was another picnic, but in our room this time.

We hope to have some adventures tomorrow, because we're going to leave I-20 behind at Longview and hit U.S. Highway 69. Then it's own to Mineola and a quilt shop, then Denison to visit some NFPW friends. With luck, we might make it to Fort Worth by tomorrow night.

If I'm not too tired, I'll update this post daily. Maybe by I can figure out how to add photos to this blog via my iPad and Blogger. It just doesn't work the same as on my MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Boogie Toes, Part III: Dancing the New Year In

There’s great camaraderie and a blurring of racial and ethnic lines at the dance halls in Southwest Louisiana. Too bad that doesn’t happen on a broader scale.

During our New Year’s Eve Zydeco week, we danced with African-Americans, Caucasians, Creoles, Cajuns, a Mexican, a Frenchman and even an Arab. There were no cliques there. Everybody danced with everybody.

Jean Pritchard displays rice stalks.
We didn’t start the day off dancing on Friday (December 30), though. We visited Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia, America's oldest working rice mill, established 1912. Some of its machines are almost as old as the mill itself, others date from the 1960s. There are only a  handful of rice mills remaining in LA, the largest being in Crowley, according to tour guide Jean Pritchard, who has been showing visitors around the Conrad mill since 1996. Neither Carol not I could resist buying their Wild Pecan Rice, an all-natural Konriko brand brown rice that contains no wild rice or pecans, at the company store. The smell of it wafting from a small crock pot, combined with its nutty flavor, made it irresistible. 

Our lunch at Duffy’s Diner, on Center Street in New Iberia, introduced us to another delicacy: corn-on-the cob that had been battered and deep-fried.The chicken-and-sausage gumbo was a bit spicy, but tasty and full of meat.

We took a brief detour through Cal’s Western Store, but didn’t buy anything. However, the clerk gave me two George Strait 2007 tour posters when I couldn’t talk him out of the GS life-size cardboard stand-up. After a short rest back at the hotel, we headed for the Blue Dog Cafe nearby. It was far and away the best meal of the week. The seafood wontons appetizer was to die for, and pairing it with their veggie of the day, sautéed squash & onions, made a complete meal for me. The wontons consist of an array of seafood surrounded by Monterrey-jack and parmesan cheeses, fried in a wonton skin and accompanied by a plum sauce for dipping. Their “wonton specialist” comes in once a week and makes 900 wontons in three hours!

My drink was the Blue Dog Martini, a delicious tropical balance of alcohol and sweetness: Grey Goose L’Orange vodka with pineapple juice and a splash of blue curaçao topped off with an orange slice and cherry. However, their bread pudding won’t become a favorite. It was topped with a pecan praline sauce, which we should have noted on the menu. There weren’t any raisins, the sauce was too sweet and we missed the taste of rum often found in these sauces. Their comment card asked us, “How could we better serve you?” We both answered, “Open a rest in Birmingham!”

 Friday night, we danced at La Poussiere again, this time to the music of world-renowned CajunZydeco artist Horace Trahan and the Ossun Express. 

Saturday morning Buck and Johnny’s in Breaux Bridge was serving up Zydeco with its breakfast, but several folks were eating at the hotel and then going to dance. B&J’s replaced Cafe Des Amis, a local tradition that is closed. — temporarily, we hope. A sign in its window said the Cafe would reopen this month (January). 

David and Carol at Vermilionville
We wanted to save our strength for NYE, because we had two places to go that night, so we didn’t dance that morning. We went shopping instead. Both of us wanted new Western boots for dancing, so we hit Cavender’s and Boot Barn. We didn’t find what we wanted, but I managed to spend about $80 on end-of-season clothes at each place. Lunch was in the car in Cavender’s parking lot. We had sandwiches we made from Carol’s leftover rolls and pork loin from dinner the night before at Blue Dog.

Elaine & Dale celebrate NY

After almost a week of nightly dancing, New Year’s Eve seemed like an anti-climax. We had dinner at Randol’s again so we could get in some more Cajun music. We enjoyed dancing again with David Pendergrass of Phoenix, AZ, one of the few dancers that week who, like me, preferred Cajun over Zydeco.  It was raining turtles and alligators outside. We barely got inside before the bottom fell out. The din of the storm was so loud you could barely here the band from the dining room next to the dance floor.

We danced for an hour to the sounds of Lee Benoit, then left for Vermilionville to dance to Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. Geno plays a more traditional form of Zydeco that isn’t quite as frenetic as modern versions. One guy described him as “monotonic,” and but each squeeze box only plays in one key. Geno started about 9:30, and I gave out of steam around 11 and sat out the remainder of the dances. But I love his music, so didn’t mind just listening. At midnight, we had champagne, then scurried back to the hotel to pack and sleep. Sunday's drive through the pouring rain was long and arduous, but we made it safe and sound.

Click on the YouTube link below and watch for me at 2:23, waltzing by the stage in my shiny new purple-sequined top and waving to Geno (I'm dancing with guy in white shirt and black cap). Stay tuned a few more seconds (2:30) to see Carol with a man in a red cowboy hat.

Friday, January 20, 2017

BOOGIE TOES, PART TWO: History, Culture and More Zydeco

You just can’t do Lafayette and its surrounding towns in a day or two. Carol and I spent almost a week there, and barely skimmed the surface of an area steeped in a rich, cultural heritage.

It was primarily a dance trip, but we like to absorb the culture and history of the places we visit. I wrote about our first night and full day, Tuesday and Wednesday, in last week’s post. Thursday, it was on to New Iberia, where we toured an 1834 mansion and a small local history museum before more Zydeco dancing at two locations.

Built for a wealthy sugar planter, Shadows-on-the-Teche was home to four generations before becoming a National Trust Historic Site. Live oaks draped with Spanish moss cast shadows on the house, gardens and Bayou Teche (pronounced Tesh), which its back door faces. It was an interesting tour, but unremarkable.

We had lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall called Bon Creole. Not being in the mood for Cajun food, I opted for a green salad topped with fried chicken. After lunch, we toured the small Bayou Teche museum, where we learned a lot about the history of New Iberia. It was the only Spanish settlement in Louisiana, and its 11 sugar mills produce more sugar than any of Louisiana’s other 21 parishes. The inner portion of the cane is processed for sugar, but the outer bark is re-used as fuel for the sugar refineries. Molasses and brown sugar are extracted in the four-kettle process. Molasses goes to Wisconsin and into animal feeds, according to our guide Catherine Segura, whose last name matches that of one of the original seven families of New Iberia.
Bon Creole Cafe

That night, we danced at the Feed & Seed and at Warehouse 535, both in Lafayette. Four Zydeco bands played to an enthusiastic crowd at the F&S, a rustic setting that actually started life as a warehouse but is now used for all kinds of events. We were supposed to get food at 7 p.m., but it didn’t arrive until 7:45 and we were famished. However, the scrumptious Cajun fare, cooked by locals just outside the back door, made up for the delay. The price made for quite a bargain, too. A small bowl of red beans and rice with a fried-chicken thigh was just $4; a larger bowl was $6. It was the best RB&R I’ve ever tasted, including my own home-cooked version. 

The high-energy music created an electric-charged atmosphere that made for great dancing at this seventh annual tribute to the man who had such a tremendous influence in his field. The bands playing were Dikki Du and The Zydeco Krewe; Double Trouble, a young Zydeco band fronted by twin brothers; The Corey Ledet Zydeco Band; and Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys, all well-known in these parts.

A highlight of the evening was seeing 85-year-old Zydeco legend Willis Prudhomme join Zydeco Trouble onstage for a song. As accordionist and vocalist, Willis had his own band in 1970, before most on stage tonight were born, as fellow blogger Paul Tamburello Jr. pointed out. (Click on this link to see his dance article: .) His style was more traditional rhythm & bluesy, with plenty of waltzes, which is the way I prefer my Zydeco. The music used to be slower and the dance steps more subtle, because the dances started in Creole living rooms where folks were elbow-to-elbow. I recall my first trip to SW Louisiana back in the late 1990s, when I danced at several clubs with an elderly African-American gentleman who wore a black cowboy hat and string tie. He steps were so subtle and understated that I had to pay close attention to know when he started.

Nowadays, most of the music is so high-energy you can’t help but break a sweat after two or three dances. I’ve seen local (Birmingham-area) guys with do-rags tucked into their pockets or wrapped around their heads like bandanas. Every dancer seems to have his own individual style, and many of the high-steppers and arm-flingers don’t understand that they need to reign it in when on a crowded dance floor. I can’t count the number of times during this week of dancing that I got hit with an elbow or a woman’s flying hair! The latter feels a lot like getting swatted in the face by a horse’s tail!

We were hungry for some Cajun music, so we left a fun party at the F&S to hear Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys at Warehouse 535. It was a big disappointment for a Cajun fan. I thought of Riley as a modern Cajun band, but this night he was all bluesy Christmas songs and funky swamp pop. We should have stayed at the F&S, where we were dancing our tootsies off with folks we had come to know. 

The F&S charged $20 for its tribute to Roy Carrier, while other venues were only $15 that week. We had heard that the extra money would go toward reopening the OffShore Lounge in Lawtell. Dance organizer Dick Brainard says that was the original premise seven years ago, but it’s a lost cause now, because that venue is in such terrible shape. The tribute is what it is — a nod to the man who started the Offshore and used it to help up-and-coming musicians learn their craft by allowing them to play with the pros. There are no extra monies anyway. Even though Dikki Du (a.k.a Troy Carrier, Roy’s son, who uses his childhood nickname as his professional moniker) plays for free, others have to be paid, along with the sound man and the Warehouse owners. Brainard has had to kick in extra money in years past to meet expenses. I just wish we hadn’t left the place early, because we wasted $15 at the Warehouse 535.  

My hat is off to Brainard and Troy Carrier, alias Dikki Du, for planning this annual event.

I promised I'd give you a peek of my own dancing style. If interested, click on the arrow in the dance photo. It takes you to John Moran's YouTube channel. Look for me about 5:37 into the video. I’m toward the right, in the background, dancing with a man in a black shirt and white pants. Enjoy!