Saturday, March 17, 2018

Jill camping

"Jill, the lone camper"
Jill's pose when confronting a bear

            I had no idea that a polar bear could smell a seal carcass buried a foot in the snow from 20 miles away. Did you know that? Unfortunately, that tidbit of info isn’t going to help Jill one bit. 

            I’ve being doing some research for my kid sister, because she’s about to go on a camping trip. By herself.  Jill likes to camp. I don’t know why. Just shocks the daylights out of me.

     Two weeks ago she went camping with Dennis and Al and their wives. Dennis and Al each have a camping trailer. Jill has a tent. One of those small, round things that practically pops up when you throw it on the ground. I saw a tent do that once on Youtube, but I’ve never seen Jill’s tent do that, because I’ve never gone camping with her. Don’t intend to.   

            When she visited last weekend I took her to Sam’s where she bought a two-room tent with a porch.  Got it for $150. Jill now has a bigger and better tent, but nobody to go camping with. I hate that, but not enough to go with her. So, I’m doing the second best thing. I’m going to teach her some surviving skills.

            There are a number of wild creatures one may encounter in the great outdoors. Some of ‘em are just as nice and cute as can be. Others? On average, three to five people are killed by wild animals in North America each year. Death by shark attack is included in that number. In Australia, half the population is bitten, clawed, swallowed or poisoned by creatures and plants each week.That’s a guesstimate based on the movies I’ve seen.

            I haven’t read about that many bear attacks in Australia. Aussies have discovered it's best to steer clear of the koala.  But, there have been some serious bear attacks here in the US of A.  The bear Jill would face would be a black bear. I think there are about three of ‘em left in East Texas. I just read up on what to do when confronted by a grizzly. I’m pretty sure the safety measures are similar to those one should apply when facing a black bear. Only difference being, the safety measures may actually work on a black bear.  

            Step 1: If Jill encounters a bear on the path between her and the campground’s restroom facility, she must stay calm. -- Example: Okay, I’m on this path because I had to wee. But, that was before I saw the bear. That situation has now become moot.

            Step 2: Evaluate the situation: The bear is just staring at me. It’s apparently taking time to do its own evaluation. At this point it’s time for Jill to introduce herself to the bear. She needs to speak calmly, so as to let the bear know that she is a human who holds no animosity toward any creature great or small. Caution – Don’t bother walking over to shake hands. (I threw that in just in case Jill tries to sue me after her bear introduction step.)

            Step 3: Begin walking away from the bear. Slowly!: Be sure to keep your eyes on the bear and on the path while exiting the area. The guy who wrote the bear book didn’t say anything about watching where you’re going. He’s going to get his pants sued off.  If I’m a bear, and I see someone trip, I immediately calculate the number of meals I can get out of the idiot who is thrashing around on the ground. I speak for most bears when I say that.

Joey Heatherton
            In truth, there are a number of things to fear while camping. I have done no research on encounters of the snake kind. I don’t like to look snakes. If I see a picture of a snake before bedtime, I’ll dream of snakes. That used to happen to me with Joey Heatherton.

            But, let’s forget snakes and bears and Joey. While doing my research, I discovered that wild animals are the least of one’s concern while camping. One thing I need to mention to Jill is the chance encounter of a vending machine near the showers or pavilion. On average, 3 people are killed by vending machines each year. (Seriously)

            I must also urge Jill to fight the urge to climb any trees around her campsite. In this country alone, 100 people die each year from falling out of trees. Seven hundred as a result of falling from ladders and scaffolding. Riding lawnmowers cause, on average, 95 deaths per year. Jill is to bring none of those things with her.
            Bottom line, in this wild and crazy world we have many concerns.  Christmas trees, bread clips, flip flops, umbrellas… each of these items have inflicted pain and death. If one were to explain how it’s possible for each of those to kill you, there would be thousands of deaths reported the next day. Most of ‘em in Missouri. (Show me State)

            No, we must at all times maintain our cool. That’s my advice to Jill. Regardless of the situation, she needs to stay calm while making an assessment. I’m not saying that’s what I’d do. But, then I’m not the one camping out i – If I get any news about Jill’s camping experience, I’ll pass it along.

n a tent! Criminee!

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Thursday, March 8, 2018

How to

“Close Encounter”
    My La-Z-Boy rocker/recliner makes noises that have been used in many Sci-Fi movies. Each time I lean back, you’d think the giant flying saucer from Close Encounters was hovering above the house. Kay has the identical recliner in a different color, but she got the quiet model. I had no idea they had different noise settings.

    Some of the parts of my La-Z-Boy have a life-time warranty. I’m assuming it covers the parts that don’t make noise. It matters not. I am not the kind of guy who adheres to all of the specifications necessary to validate a life-time warranty. -- “Have you ever changed a light bulb while standing in your La-Z-Boy? Did you ever try to do a handstand while the chair was rocking?

    Expecting no help from Lazy-Boy, I went to YouTube. I keyed in “Squeaking Lazy-Boy rocker/recliner.” Voila! (Pronounced Wall-Ah by children and Mark.) One YouTuber told me to locate wing nuts on the chair’s left and right undercarriage. Tighten the nuts a half a turn.

    Easily done. I sat back down and – It worked! It worked! – It stopped working! I shoved that buddy over and tightened 'em even more. Still nothing. I tightened  one and loosened the other. No help. I’m fairly sure all of the tightening and loosing further negated my warranty.

    Another YouTuber told me to upend the chair and spray every metal part with WD-40. I did that. And, it worked! For three minutes. Neither the wing nut guy, nor the oil guy had a Plan B. I kept looking. 

    One person cautioned against using WD-40. He said the stuff got on his dog, his rug and his chair. Unfortuntley, he owned no cats. One YouTube helper said that WD-40 when applied to gears and stuff will eventually leave a coating of grunge that can actually acerbate the problem… and who likes acerbation?

    One guy said the problem could be solved with a treatment called Leather Vital.  He said the sound was caused by the leather chair making poo poo noises when I sit down. I don’t buy leather or faux leather recliners. You know why? They make poo poo noises. My fabric chair was making “alien invasion” noises. Not the same.

    So the Internet was no help with the chair. None whatsoever… up until this morning. When I tried it this morning, the squeak was gone. It came back just awhile ago, so I coated the chair and rug the chair and rug with real oil. The 3-in-One stuff. I'm sure to have a success story on which to report later. Reasonably sure. Slightly sure. I'm void of confidence.

    But, let’s put that aside so I can ask a rather personal question. Have you ever had issues with your toilet? If not, you’re still a using a hole in the ground. The homes built in our subdivision each come with Eco-Friendly toilets that use the same amount of water as a cappuccino maker. A dead cricket will clog my toilet. 
    A lady on YouTube showed me how to unclog a toilet using a quarter cup of dishwashing liquid and boiling water. It actually does work on some clogs, but I was actually looking for a solution that would PREVENT clogs. I found it. The solution is probably against the law, so I refuse to go into much detail. Let me just say that, the solution requires more water in the tank. You can trick the tank into taking on more water, by messing with the intimidating flushing tower. The towers are designed to scare you, but don’t let ‘em. Oh, and when you flush, hold the handle down longer. Know what I’m sayin’? – By the way, if you have kids, forget everything I’ve said,. I don't care what you do, kids are going to clog your toilets. 
    Sidebar: The next time you’re in the McKenzie’s BBQ over on Frazier in Conroe, go to the Men’s Room and flush the toilet. McKenzie’s has the most powerful flusher in the Western Hemisphere. If they had McKenzie toilets on cruise ships, the captain would be unable to maintain a steady course. I don’t normally commiserate with others while in men’s room, but after hearing that toilet flush, I had to bump fists with the guy next to me at the sink.

    As you can see my success rate is 500. -- Just a second. Let me go check my recliner. Maybe the 3-in-One did the trick.  Back in a flash. --  I was right the first time. I'm batting 500. 

   Still, I have so much appreciation for people in this country who selflessly try to help one another. I would like to thank the masked man on YouTube who showed me how to fix my toilets. I would also like to thank those who urged the use of oil to stop the squeak in my recliner. You didn't help, but it was nice of you to care enough to try. Regardless, the chair still makes a noise, and Kay read me the riot act after discovering all the oil on the rug. 

   My response: "So, do you want change chairs?"


Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Is this a great country or what?

“A lot of swearing going on" 

            One morning last week, Kay encroached upon my sense of solitude in order to ask, “Should I put honey or jelly on my toast?”

            Why would she ask such a question? I suppose it’s because her husband is a control freak and she must clear everything with him. -- Excuse me a second. – “No, Darling, my wallet is on the cabinet, next to the Keurig. Please leave me enough to tip the Sonic girl.”

            Where was I? Yes, honey or jelly? I didn’t want to complicate the stupidity—uh, the simplicity of the question, so I said, “Use honey, Honey.”

            During my next sip of coffee, Kay said, “But, I had honey last time.” Whoa. Here we have a case where a husband makes a decision before doing any research. I had paid no attention to Kay’s previous selection of toast spread. So, I had nothing on which to base my answer other than my own particular preference, which would’ve been butter. However, butter, not being offered as a choice, I went with honey. I got it wrong.

            By the way, Kay was merely playing along with my habit of coming up with stupid questions for her, last one being, “Who would win in a fight between Batman and Flash?” Before answering, Kay carefully weighed the abilities of each superhero. She said, “Is Batman George Clooney or Ben Afleck?”

            Illogic drives me right up the wall. I told Kay that the Batman character is the same, regardless of who plays the part. And that Flash could undress Batman, then run to a Walmart in Tornonto, come back and dress the Cape Crusader in Batman pajamas, eliminating his access to his little metal bat throwing things, or bullet deflecting gloves or anything that could protect him.

            Now, Kay just gave us an example of someone using an irrelevant truth on which to base her opinion, which begs the question, where am I going with all of this? Deep, my friend. From the toast-thought to the depths of political-thought.

            For most of our lives, we’ve been witness to decisions made and opinions formed by people (like us) who don’t know all of the truths surrounding a given situation. A close friend of mine agreed to spend Super Bowl weekend with us just so I’d have someone to watch the game with. He had sworn off pro-football because of some players kneeling during the National Anthem. They’re making millions of dollars, yet have the gall to show their disrespect for the greatest country in the world.

            Even though football season is over, the anger persists, and the hue and cry is for something to be done so the behavior doesn’t show itself again.

            I must say that any demonstration in our country over issues, real or imagined, should give us increased pride in this country of ours. After all, a million or so Americans have fought and died to secure our right of peaceful protest. Today there are several million American citizens and non-citizens, whom, after having sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United State, are out there right now doing just that.

            That’s the only thing federal workers must swear or affirm -- to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Not, the nation, its people, our churches, our immigrants or our institutions. Just the Constitution, because in defending and protecting the oldest working Constitution on earth, they are protecting every person in this nation right now the right of life, liberty and property.

            The Presidential  oath is a little different in that he also swears to “preserve” the Constitution. Congress doesn't have to “preserve” anything, however they must swear to protect, defend and “support” the Constitution. A lot of swearing going on in the halls of government.

            In doing so, our government officials are assuring the rights of all of us to peacefully demonstrate against any governmental action or inaction. I’m not saying there will be no repercussion for demonstrating. Your employer might fire you for demonstrating, but he will need to show a federal judge that he has a Constitutional right to do so, and the Supreme Court can change the judge’s ruling if it feels it was wrongly rendered.  More than likely you’ll lose a few friends who don’t agree with your stance on an issue.

            Regardless, continue to boycott football. And, if you have a suspicion that Starbucks is trying to steal Christmas from you by not using cups with the proper colors, boycott ‘em!  Persecute the daylights out of ‘em, but please, do it in a godly manner.

            Bottom line, after researching the truth surrounding something that we view as unacceptable, we have the right to be angry, to share our anger and to raise a big stink against whatever we see as wrong. But, perhaps we should also take a moment to recognize the wisdom of our founding fathers in preventing our government from taking action against those who legally demonstrate their displeasure in the way things are run.

            We each have the right to voice our grievances. We can demonstrate against some of the actions or inaction of our government officials, and we have the right to demonstrate against those who are demonstrating. Is this country great or what! – And, to think, this all started with a question about toast. 


Mark can be contacted at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


"The Age of A-scared"

            Seven years ago, America’s last veteran of WWI passed away at the age of 110. Name was Frank Buckles of West Virginia. His record for being the Last Living WWI veteran will never be bested… which is generally the case when you’re the “last” of something.

            Everything that ever was or ever will be has a last. Someone will end up winning the last Academy Award for Best Actress. Hopefully, she has yet to be born. The last person to pay for gasoline with cash is probably out there right now.

            There is someone in our midst right now who will be the last person to ever live in a neighborhood where no one ever locked their doors. Right now there are a few million Americans who claim that distinction, but most of them are making up stuff.

            Of course, I’m not lying when I tell you that during most of my childhood in Pasadena, Texas, we seldom locked our doors. Dennis locked the door on me one night when David Stone and I were camping out at his house. Dennis knew I’d get a-scared and come running home before morning, so he locked the door. (By the way, when I was a young, I was never afraid. “Afraid” was not strong enough. I was always “a-scared.” We all were.)

            Zoom forward a few decades and we find ourselves no longer a-scared. Fearful is what we are. Fear has pretty much captured this country. Have you noticed? If you want to get elected to any political office you’d best preach FEAR. 

            Americans didn’t used to be quite as afraid of foreigners as we are now. Of course, some white people have always feared people of color; people of color fear the cops; everyone fears airports and the flu. A North Korean named Kim Jung-Whatever is a person of major concern, as is anyone who walks into a bank or Valero with a hoodie pulled down over a ball cap and sunshades. The only people we’ve been told not to fear are the Russians. 

            Yep, fear is big. And, it’s expensive. The proposed National Budget calls for an $160 billion increase in military spending for a country that spends about $16 billion more on its military than the next eight countries combined. The budget calls for $40 billion for the continued construction of a wall that will cost upwards of $1.5 trillion dollars to complete. If Mexico weren’t paying for it, we’d be in a real mess. 

            Fear apparently has no bounds, nor does its price. When Kay and I moved into our new house, we were besieged by door to door salespersons. Pest control people raised fear over termites and roaches. Salesmen preached fear of water. They offered to test our tap water for free. They apparently wanted to scare us with findings of biological contaminants and mineral deposits.

            The only salesperson I spent time with was the guy selling security systems. Over the course of our marriage, Kay and I have been burgled three times. When we first moved to Conroe, we were driving a Ford Falcon that belonged to Kay’s Dad. He had just put new speakers in the thing and asked me to be sure to keep the car doors locked. I was so unused to locking car doors that I forgot. The first night we were in the apartment someone stole Uncle Ray's radio and speakers.

            When we were living in our first house in Conroe, somebody broke a window and stole our Video Tape Player. They also got Uncle Ray's IBM computer that he loaned me. While Uncle Ray hated to lose the speakers out of his car, he didn’t mind the computer so much. That was the most complicated technical device known to man. If NASA scientists had used it instead of their slide rules during the Apollo 11 mission, we would’ve never made it to the moon.  

            A month to the day later, the burglar(s) shattered the same window and took our new Video Tape Player. They unplugged our old stereo system, but decided against taking it. I felt more insulted than angry about that. The police went to the trouble of getting a palm print, but said they doubted they’d ever catch the thief. They guessed right.

            I don’t know what kind of security systems they had in the early ‘80s, but it didn’t matter because I wouldn’t have bought one. The thing would’ve been as complicated as the IBM we lost. But, over the past 35 years, they’ve no doubt improved.

            And, they may be cheaper than they used to be, but they’re still expensive. The cheapest security package the salesman offered us included devices on every window and door, and alarms in every room. Once activated, the alarms had to be shut off individually. I'd have to keep a stepladder handy.  For a lot of extra money, you can have cameras set up anywhere inside or outside the house. I asked the salesman if they were the same cameras used to take those blurry photos of Big Foot. He smiled... or smirked. It was hard to tell.

            I mentioned Big Foot, just to demonstrate that I’m a person who is able to maintain a sense of humor during the Age of Fear. And, I have every confidence that the last person to have a sense of humor has yet to be born. We’ll get through this… until we don’t. And, fear not, this is not the time we don’t. (Isaiah 41:10) – Next time.

Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at