Monday, July 31, 2006

Home from Atlanta

I'm home again and exhausted. It was a wonderful trip to RWA (Romance Writers of America) National Conference and I don't even know where to begin telling you about it.

I know it's been weeks and weeks since I blogged. The next time I tried to boot up my computer, while the grandboys were here, it wouldn't boot. It locked up somewhere in the middle and would do absolutely nothing. So I had to leave the son and spouse in command and hustle the machine to The Big City to get it fixed. Meanwhile, I was in charge of taking down names for the Published Authors Special Interest Chapter (PASIC) of RWA for our Editor of the Year reception in Atlanta--and here I was, in the last week before our RSVP deadline with a dead computer and no way to tell the committee chairman what was going on. ACK!! Oh, and the little boys were still here.

We had a great time with them. Took them swimming. Hung around the house. Goofed off. That kind of thing. Then we went to DH's conference in north Plano and gave the boys back to their parents. And went shopping. The conference had golf scheduled in the 102 degree Dallas heat and DH didn't want to play, so we hit the stores. Nice T-shirts for $2.50--yep, I went wild. And finally found something to wear to the Harlequin party in Atlanta at this neat import store in the shopping area near the hotel. A deep blue belly-dancing scarf with silver sequins and trim on it. It adds bling to pretty much anything...

Then we came home and I pretty much went into hibernation. Okay, I re-read ALL of Laurell K. Hamilton's books during the week, besides doing things to get ready to go to Atlanta and send the son back to college--you know, getting him an appointment at the eye doctor for new contacts and going with him to pay for it, finishing revisions on the workshop I was presenting and printing the sucker out--that sort of thing. We still have to find him a small desk to take along...

And then it was time to pack and get ready to go. And I'll tell you more about the trip tomorrow. I need to go rotate laundry, and then I think I'll take a nap. I'm REALLY tired. Later...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cows for Birthdays

The grandboys have come to visit. The Big Guy will be five in a couple of weeks, and the Squirt is a few months over two. Big Guy has a list of things he wants for his birthday, and every day, he wants to know if it's his birthday. He has informed his daddy that he needs a cow for his birthday. I have no idea why, but he says he needs a cow.

So while the boys are at our house out here in very rural west Texas, we're going to try to let them see a real cow, up close and personal. I know where there are some horses they can go visit. But horses aren't actually on the birthday list. He wants a cow, and a sheep and a pig, but not a horse. Maybe he'll be happy with a toy cow...

The Big Guy has also come up with a numbering system for everyone in his life. When you ask him how old he is, he will tell you that he's Number One. Not that he's four years old, or almost five. He's One. Because, after all, he IS the center of his own universe. His daddy is #2, the Squirt is #3, and poor mom is relegated to #4. I'm #11, right after Uncle Bob at #10. Ah well...

They've only been here over one night. The Squirt is old enough now that when he's tired, he realizes that Mama and Daddy aren't around, but he stops crying when Gigi or Grandaddy lie down with him and read him a story, and actually falls asleep before we reach the end of the story. Unlike his daddy, or his aunt or uncle, actually. They stayed awake by sheer determination right to the bitter end.

I might get to the computer a few times this next week, but since I figure I'm going to be spending all my time chasing the boys, I doubt I'll have much to write about. Well, except for the cute stuff they do. It's going to be a fun--and exhausting--week.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The 4th of July

Today is the actual 4th. We've been celebrating since Saturday, but only now it is officially Independence Day.

I heard a bunch of firecrackers go off in the wee hours of last night--because of the drought and the danger of fire, "aerial" fireworks are banned in our county--and most of the counties around us, but I think firecrackers are still legal--though probably not in town. Talking to the local volunteer fire department's son over on the courthouse lawn, I learned that the weekend has been slow, fire-wise. There was one fire Sunday night, after the VFD's 100th anniversary celebration, but it's been quiet since then--knock on wood.

We walked over to the courthouse and had lunch--sponsored by the Shriners, not the Rotary. It's hard to keep all these benevolent organizations straight. When the July 4th barbecue started, 129 years ago (yep, it's been going that long), one of the local ranchers would donate a cow or two and they'd cook it over a firepit and everybody would chow down. These days, the barbecue is catered and we buy tickets, but everybody still finds a favorite spot in the shade and picnic on the lawn. Then we walked home again, to wait for the parade in the air conditioning. It's hot outside. The parade was right on time, with cheerleaders and horses and old cars--and about a dozen firetrucks. I'm amazed such small towns have so many firetrucks, but most of them are for fighting grass fires, with the hose on the front. Our neighbors had a float. Nobody lives there most of the time. Miss Phebe Ann passed away a couple of years ago, and a niece or nephew bought the house for their vacation house. They're having a family reunion this weekend, and they built "Phebe Ann's Phun Phamily Reunion Phloat." Made me grin. And then we walked home again. We have steaks out to grill for supper, and that's our celebration.

Oh, and we have woodpeckers. Several different kinds. Our big redbud tree has some dead limbs, so the woodpeckers have started to show up regularly. Ladder-backed woodpeckers, flickers, and today, I saw a big, gorgeous red-headed woodpecker right outside the kitchen window. I didn't know they came this far west, but apparently so. Yeah, my sister got me into bird-watching a number of years back. I'm not rabid about it, but I do get excited when I see something unusual.

Monday, July 03, 2006


We're still celebrating the 4th around here. It's not done till after tomorrow.

So, after we brought the bean pot home (and the fella washed it without me having to lift a finger, the darlin' man) and rested up all afternoon, we decided to go out to the ranch rodeo.

Now a ranch rodeo is not the same creature as a "regular" rodeo. Generally real, working cowboys compete--guys who spend every day doing these same kinds of activities--and the events are things like "team doctoring" and "sorting" and "team branding." In the saddle bronc riding event, the cowboys use their own saddles, and there are no special rules about holding on or spurs--the guy just has to stick in the saddle as long as he can any way he can.

Since the last son finished his Eagle Scout award and turned 18, and then graduated from high school and went away to college, we haven't had to work at the Boy Scout concession stand at the 4th of July rodeo, and believe me, it's a thrill to know that I can go out to the rodeo grounds and just sit in the stands and take pictures. (One of these days, I really am going to paint a rodeo painting.) Under the stands, in the concessions booth, it's hot as blazes, and you have to stand up the whole time. Especially if you're in the back assembling hamburgers and hot dogs. But we spent many years down there...

Anyway, Saturday night, we got to the rodeo arena in time for the posting of the colors--an impressive sight on horseback. And before the actual events began, they had all the youth events. Little bitty kids riding calves, steers and donkeys. (The bigger ones were on the bigger animals.) I couldn't believe those mamas and papas let their little ones out there to do it--but knowing some of the kids who were out there, I'm actually not surprised--those particular kids would dare anything and get mad if you didn't let them try. Most of them fell off the minute Daddy let go (the calves were small enough, Daddy fit right in the chute with them), but there were a few really little ones with Daddies who never let go, just lifted them right off when they started to slide. Nobody got hurt. A few of them got mad. A couple didn't want to get up off the ground, but that was just mad, or embarrassment.

Still, I was glad when it was over and the grown-ups got to play. I do like watching the cutting horses in the sorting. There's a bunch of ten steers with numbers on them behind a line drawn in the arena with flour, and a four-man team. One man is the sorter, the others hold the herd. The event ended with the "team doctoring." As the sorter crosses the flour line (and I watched them draw the line, so I know they made it with flour), he's given a number, and has to find that steer in the bunch and cut it out of the herd first and chase it to the other side of the line, then the two numbers after that, in order. If the wrong number crosses the line, they lose. If the numbers cross the line in the wrong order, they lose. If one of the numbers already crossed goes back across the line to join the bunch, they lose. Then, they have to rope the last steer they cut out--head and heels--lay it down and mark some part of it they're doctoring. And they're timed, and they only get three tries. Or they lose. It's really easy to get a "no time" in this event. Out of the 7 teams competing on Saturday, I don't think but two got a qualifying time.

I went down to talk to Jiggs and Evelyn in their box--various ranchers in the area have boxes at the front of the stands with aluminum folding chairs--not real comfortable, but they do have backs, which the regular stands don't have. And I could get closer to the action from the box to take my pictures. I don't think Jiggs is his real name, but I've never heard anything else, so I guess it could be. I've met people or called Rip, and Buster, and Buck, and Rabbit. And people's "real" names tend to be a bit out of the ordinary around here too. For instance, I know two Delberts. And they go by Delbert, not Del or Bert. Willard has passed on--he was the sweetest, orneriest fellow. The man who built our house and lived here for years was named Heckle. I love Texas country names.

There's still 4th of July celebrations yet to go. The barbecue lunch is Tuesday at noon on the courthouse lawn. Our county courthouse was recently restored and it's a true gem of the genre. We'll probably walk over, because there's not a whole lot of parking around there, and we're just a block and a half away. Then the parade will come by around two. The courthouse is a block off Kearney, aka Main Street, so I guess downtown has a teensy bit more than one street...The parade starts at the park, goes up Kearney to the highway (if they let us shut down the highway for a little bit), over one block to the courthouse and back down to the park. It'll be fun, if it's not too hot...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Small-town festivities

Independence Day, the 4th of July, is upon us once again, and our little town is celebrating.

I hear people talk about their small town upbringing, or the small town where they live, and when I ask just how small, I get back "Oh, just under 8,000." Which means that their small town is four times the size of MY small town. Not that I'm trying to upstage anybody, but when I say small town, I mean it. ;) Today was the bicycle parade. All the local kids, plus all the grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins and strangers that people can dig up, decorate their bicycles and ride them up Kearney Street (aka Main Street--some people don't know what you mean when you say "Kearney Street") for all three blocks of downtown. Then they gather in the middle of the street in front of the library and the judges pick the best decorated.

I missed the actual parade because I had to run back home to fetch the fella's special recipe cornbread that we saved from the batch he'd already run--along with the beans we cooked all day yesterday--up to the church ministry center next door to the library. (He can't have flour, so I make it without.) I think he got bored sitting at home, because when he took the beans to the ministry center, he stayed to hang out with the guys cooking all the sausages in the parking lot outside between the center and the bank. Anyway, I did get to see all the kids on their bikes clustered beside the post office (where the parade began) and then in front of the library (where it ended). There were a bunch of them, and they sure were cute, so I'm glad I didn't have to judge. They asked me to judge one year, but I was late, and since the parade lasts about thirty seconds from beginning to end, I missed the whole thing, and they've been smart enough not to ask me again.

I thought they were going to have the turtle race today, but even though I saw the sign by the curb in the intersection where the race is held, I didn't see anybody with turtles, so I guess they're having the race on the actual 4th, along with all the stuff on the courthouse square and the "official" parade. Turtles have been pretty scarce this summer, as dry as it's been. I don't know how many they'll have at the race. If we could just get all those folks on the East coast who've had rain, rain and more rain to pack it all up and send it our way, I think we'll all be happy.

The ranch rodeo started last night, and I imagine we'll go tonight. They're having a youth rodeo on Monday, and I think Joe Robinson told me they would be doing bronc riding on Tuesday, on the 4th. This is Texas. Rodeos go with the 4th of July celebration. But fireworks will be scarce. Our whole county has banned aerial fireworks because of the risk of wildfires--and the fireworks association has sued the county--along with about a dozen others. They asked the judge for a restraining order, saying the ban violated freedom of expression. The judge turned them down, saying, essentially, "Freedom of expression, nothing. This is about safety and stopping more million-acre fires." I think there are three sanctioned fireworks displays in the whole Texas/Oklahoma panhandle area. So I guess we may be going into Amarillo to watch fireworks--if we can figure out where the park is...