Saturday, April 21, 2018

backyard with Kay

“Gardens, drones and fans”

            BACKYARD – I’m fairly sure the temperature today is the coolest it will be till November. I’m wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, and I feel the least bit chilled. Don’t turn around, but Kay’s sitting behind you wearing jeans and a plaid, long-sleeved shirt, and drinking hot tea. She’s in a zone.

            There’s been a lot of activity since our last backyard visit. Do you remember Harley, the dog next door? He’s just a pup, but he’s big. Looks like a boxer-rhino mix. Nice dog, but he’s a digger.

            Mary came home from work the other day and found Harley sitting on the driveway waiting for her. At some point during the day, he decided to take a walk, so he dug a hole under the gate, toured the neighborhood, and then returned home. The hole under the gate was big and deep. It had to be or else Harley would’ve gotten stuck.

            To prevent Harley from duplicating his adventure, Mary stuck a heavy metal lawn chair in the hole Harley had dug. Sensing that Mary didn’t want to have a lawn chair permanently  blocking her gate, I got a couple bags of concrete and, with Kay’s help, poured some rocks and concrete into the hole under the gate. Problem solved, but not for long.

            Two days later, Harley was sitting on the driveway waiting for Mary to get home. He had dug another hole next to the gate. Mary put the lawn chair over that hole, but the next day, Harley dug another hole next to the lawn chair. Harley is now camped out in the garage.

            Excuse me a second. Kay needs my attention  – What? No, Dear, I was just telling readers about Harley. Yes, I’ll keep you out of the article. Nothing to see here. Just keep reading. – Sorry. Where was I?

            Oh, right. So, Kay told Mary that she needed to shovel some fresh Harley poop in the holes that Harley dug, and toss some dirt on top of it. She saw a trainer on one of her dog shows do that, and it worked perfectly. Unlike cats, dogs don’t like to dig in their own poop.  

            If Mary runs out of Harley poop, she can get some out of our yard, because Harley makes our yard one of his stopovers during his walks.

            I’m sorry. Kay’s got something else to share. I’ll turn up her volume.  – “Honey, do you remember that vine that we couldn’t identify? The one with five lobed leaves?” --  Yes, sweetie. – It’s a Virginia Creeper. I found it on my Kindle.” – Well, thank you, doll. By the way, you’re now in the article.

            Okay, what else has happened? Oh yeah, we’ve got a drone in the house. Hank, one of our other neighbors bought a drone, but didn’t know how to assemble it, so he asked me. I turned him down, because he had no instructions. A few days later, Hank commissioned Kay to put the thing together.  That girl is such a pushover. Excuse me. – “I’m a what?” – Pushover. – “I know you are, but what am I?” --  I’m sorry I ever let you watch Pee Wee Herman.

            You’ve no doubt noticed the new gardens here in the backyard. Kay did the one next to the house by herself. I was taking a nap at the time, so couldn’t help. I did help her dig the garden right in front of us. The two rose bushes were full of blooms until Kay moved ‘em from the first garden and replanted ‘em here. She had planted them right under the drip-line of the house. They got pounded during the last thunderstorm. Excuse me again. – No, darling. I said “drip-line” not “zip line.” And, yes, I know you once went on a zip-line. And, yes, I’ll let readers know.

            Uh, Kay once went on a zip-line. So, where was I? No, I’m tired of gardens. Ceiling fan. Kay and I installed another ceiling fan. We put this one in our bedroom. It took us six hours, but only because I had to take it down and rewire it. We’re still not completely through, because the fan has a tremendous wobble when set on “high.” All I have to do is find out which of the five blades is out of kilter and put a weight on it. The part of the instructions printed in English are as understandable as the ones printed in Portuguese.

             Oh, and get this.  Both of our fans are remote controlled and both remotes are keyed to the same “1234” code. I didn’t see that as a problem until I discovered that when I turn the bedroom fan off, it also turns off the one in the living room. The signal from the remote creeps through the walls. I could change the code, but then I’d have to take the fan down and disassemble it to get to the code box.

            Hold on a second. – Yes, Smoocher Cakes? – “Did you know that poison ivy and poison oak are the same thing?” – No, I didn’t, darling, because they're not.
            I’m sorry. This may take awhile. Let’s get back together next week. – No, Sweetie, they both have three leaves, but the poison oak has leaves that look similar to the leaves of a post oak. Thus, the name ‘poison oak.’  – “That’s not what it says here. – Look, I’m a forester. I know these things.  – “Oh, yeah? Well I’ve been on a zip-line!”

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

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Strange facts

“Weird Stuff”

            I’d like to start a contest with the few of you out there who have been classified by society as senior citizens. What I need you to do is start exercising moderately. Nothing rigorous. Do that for five years, while I continue my regimen of not exercising for five years.

            At the end of that time, someone at the University of Miami will see which one of our brains looks 10 years younger. Considering the brain autopsy, I know this is a whale of a sacrifice, but I need it to prove a point. Point being: is it true that exercise is conducive to a young brain?

            That’s what scientists at the U of Miami think they’ve proved. They picked 876 senior citizens and had half of them exercise for five years, and the other half replace the exercise program with naps. Something tells me they started out with 1000 senior citizens. The exercisers who survived the test, had brains that looked 10 years younger than the nappers. (I was joking about the dissection thing. I imagine they used an MRI instead of a skull-saw to inspect the brains.)  

            Each day I try to read weird stuff like that in my attempt to learn new things. I’m failing miserably in my attempt, because the only way I can remember stuff is to write it down. I’ve got it bad, but not as bad as Frankie Muniz. Muniz is the boy who played the lead role in the TV serious “Malcolm in the Middle”.

            This week I learned that Muniz has had a total of 9 concussions while playing soccer, basketball, football, and while racing cars. Since 2012 he’s had 15 mini-strokes. The young man (early 30s) is still active and healthy, but he’s lost much of his long-term memory, including the part about when he was on “Malcolm in the Middle.” I now consider it a blessing that I was a lousy basketball player, never played soccer, and only got my bell rung a half dozen times in football. Oh, and I’ve yet to wreck my race car.

            Speaking of exercise, look at this: Barbells and dumbbells in a gym have 362 times more bacteria on them than a toilet seat. The only thing with more bacteria would be the toilet seat in a gym. I’m just guessing at that. At times when I think we have nothing left to contribute to society, somebody comes up with staggering info like that.

            Here’s a fact I discovered on my own: British impersonators aren’t nearly as funny as American impersonators. While looking on YouTube for a girl who sang one of the songs on the sound track of the movie about the three billboards in Missouri, I got hung up on comedian impressionists. The Brit comedians would speak in an accent that sounded to me like any other British accent, yet the audience would go wild. I had no idea who they sounded like. What a waste of talent.

            I also saw some Americans impersonate Country Western singers. One guy did 20 impersonations in four minutes. I only recognized the names of eight of ‘em. It was obvious that each impersonator had a lot of talent, in that they could play a guitar and sing in a multitude of different twangs, but it’s wasted on a person who doesn’t know the person they’re impersonating.

            By the way, the lady singer I was searching for was Iris DeMent. She has the twangiest female country voice on the planet. Turns out she wasn’t the one singing the song on the billboard movie. Still, I love her song “Our Town.” (Here it is)

            I wrote down on my note pad the words “soil improver.” It came from a commercial about a garden fertilizer. It took me too long to find the remote to fast-forward through the commercial, so I had to hear the commercial voice say that the fertilizer contained a “soil improver.” Do advertisers have so little respect for us that they think we’d fall for something like that? Now the people who make canned chili will throw in a line about their chili having an additional chili improver in each can. Just beats all.

            Oops. This just in. “All Bran contains only 87% bran.” I have yet to run across anything that shows the amount of bran in 40% Bran, so I shall withhold my judgment. But, I’ve gotta say, if All Bran only has 87% bran in it, I don’t want to taste the stuff that has the full 100%.

            Do you tend to forget a person’s name right after he tells you? What you’re experiencing is something called the next-in-line effect. After asking a person his or her name, my mind instantly starts searching for something to follow, thus not taking time to register the person’s name in your brain… which rhymes with train and stands for fool. Regardless, from now on, we’ll listen for the name and then take a five-second pause to think up something to say.

            Okay, here’s the one you’ve been looking for. The last one. After a seven year study, scientists at the University of Alberta, found that human urine contains 3,079 chemical compounds. Those Canadians aren’t sitting on their laurels. Not to be outdone, professors at Northeastern Southern University in Central TX, discovered that the number of chemical compounds in urine shoots up to 3218 for those using the restroom in a gym. (I’m fairly sure that the NES University finding was the only fabricated fact.)     

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Apple Springs

“The Old House in Apple Springs”
            Last week, Kay and I took a day trip to Nacogdoches with my longtime friend Johnny Sutton.  Johnny and I are Lumberjacks. Not in the sense that we can really swing an axe, but in the sense that we both graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University, home of the Fighting Lumberjacks.

            Kay can’t even swing an axe, but she’s also a Lumberjack, having spent her senior year at SFA. At the time, Kay and I were dating. I never technically asked her to marry me, but I did give her a promissory ring. That alone speaks volumes. She probably hocked it along with our high school graduation rings back when the price of gold shot up. If the ring was worth its weight in gold, she might’ve gotten $30 for it.

            So, the three of us were on the road to Nacogdoches for the purpose of revisiting the campus of SFA. (Try to keep up with me.) But, we first had to make a stop in Apple Springs (Just west of Lufkin), because I wanted to see an old house where a college friend of mine, Gail Odom, once lived.

            Gail and I first met in speech class at SFA. She was an accounting major, but looked to be more of a cowgirl than accountant. She was blond, tall and lanky. Lanky in the sense that she was a loose walker. Not a stiff joint in her body. She could’ve been the cover girl for Country Girl Magazine. Assuming there is one.

            She had and has a great sense of humor. I don’t think she ever had a boring encounter in her life. At SFA we really hit it off. We started walking across campus together after class.  On the weekends that we stayed on campus we generally found things to do together. There was nothing romantic going on. In describing our relationship to someone, she said that kissing me would be like “kissing that window over yonder.” Personally, I would’ve pointed at the tree.

            I think it was in early spring when Gail invited me to spend the weekend at her house in Apple Springs. We would go to the Apple Springs gym for the girls’ basketball game on Friday night, spend the night at her family’s home, and go back to campus the next day. It was one of the more memorable weekends of my life.

            Gail was a basketball star during her days at Apple Springs High (ASH), so she ended up glad-handing practically everyone in the gym. It didn’t really take all that long, because ASH is a 1A school. I don’t remember much about the game itself or what all we did Saturday. I mostly remember the house. It was what you call a “dog trot.” That’s where the house is divided in the middle by an open hallway, which made a perfect avenue for a morning and evening breeze. On the left side were two bedrooms, and on the right was the living room and kitchen. I don’t remember which side the bathroom was on, but I’m pretty sure there was one.

            In front of the house was a ridge-like mound of petrified wood. The step up to the porch was a big chunk of a petrified tree. Gail said the area was full of the stuff. It’s likely the closest thing to the Petrified Forest I’ll ever see. The house sat on a grassy meadow that would’ve been a great setting for many a Western... had Hollywood ever run out of deserts in which to film. (High Chaparral, Range Rider, every John Wayne Western…)

            In an area west of the house was a small, well-kept cemetery. We didn’t have time to visit it this trip, but Gail told me that the man who built the house was buried there. His name was Benjamin Burke, and he constructed the house shortly after the Civil War.   
            The flooring and roof of the house is now rotted and weak. But, the walls and ceiling and floor joists were sturdy, made of 4” x 14” pine lumber. The house was pretty much gutted, but that didn’t deter a family of buzzards from roosting in the attic. You could hear ‘em shuffle around, but we couldn’t see ‘em, and never heard a buzzardly word out of ‘em.

            The petrified wood had been removed, but a few trees had sprung up, a couple of which were married to the house. The scene didn’t exactly match my memory, but I didn’t expect it would. Regardless, we ended up spending more time at the dog trot than at the campus.

            As one might guess, the campus at SFA had changed a bunch since the Class of ’71 had graduated. Unlike the old dog trot, it had been significantly renovated. The place was bustling, and the roads cutting across campus had been blocked by the addition of walkways and structures. A lot of the massive pines that I used to sit under during late evenings were removed to make room for progress. So many new buildings. For those currently enrolled, it was a grand improvement over what had been there. But, for old alums, it was a despairing change. Seems progress and sentimentality have trouble getting along?

            It was still a wonderful outing for the three of us. Made all the better by a burger at Butcher Boys in Nacogdoches. I highly recommend the place. And, by the way, when Kay joined me at SFA her senior year, she roomed with Gail. Whatever Gail said about me, didn’t deter Kay from wanting to marry me, showing that she felt really committed after the promissory ring. -- Incidentally, after editing this, Kay left the room and came back wearing her promissory ring. Those things signify some serious commitment.
Mark can be contacted at An archive of Hayter’s articles can be found at

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ground level

The way it used to be

“Ground Level”

            BACKYARD – I had every intention of us meeting on the rooftop. A beautiful, clear day like today is perfect for a roof-sit. But, I had to weigh the trouble of getting up there against the value of the experience.

            It’s not nearly as easy to get on top of this roof as it was where we used to live. I’ve got to drag the extension ladder out, and haul up my big sitting pillow, tablet and coffee mug, and situate all of it on the second steepest roof I’ve ever sat on. This roof was likely designed by some company headquartered in the Alps.
            We’ve got a lot of time and money invested in this place. And, sweat. A lot of sweat. You should’ve seen me yesterday. I bought and installed a hose roller upper. Phyllis is sitting on it. -- Phyllis, get up for a second. -- See that beauty? No, Ernie, the box. You don’t just throw a contraption like that on the ground and start reeling in your hose. There’s work involved.  – You can sit down now, Phyllis.

            Just a second. – “What, Sweetpea? Oh, okay. I’ll be right there. -- I’m sorry about that. Kay found something on YouTube that she has to show me. I will need to act interested. I’ll be right back. -- Ernie, behave. --

            Well, that was cute. Two parrots playing basketball on top of a lady’s bar. Not a lot of defense in a basketball game between two birds. Isn’t this a great to time to be alive? Just Google “parrots playing basketball” and there they are. (After reading this, go to YouTube and key in “Parrot crying like a baby.” Don’t have any heavy toss-able objects nearby, 'cause that parrot can really cry.

            By the way, if we were on the rooftop today, I wouldn’t have gone inside to watch the parrots play basketball. That’s a big drawback to having to sit at ground level. Kay can interrupt stuff.  

            There’s something else about this roof that doesn’t sit well with me. The view is not very good. All the houses around here have cedar fences skirting their backyards. So, from the roof, most of the view is of my neighbor’s backyards. Cedar fences are put up so you can sit outside in a lawn chair in your underwear if you want. At least, that’s the thought of one of my neighbors. (I’m joking)

            When I was a kid, a wooden fence was seldom considered. I’m not even sure they were invented yet. Every house had a chain-link fence. This gave the neighborhood dogs a much better view of what they were barking at. – “It’s me, Manfred! You know me, so shut up!”

            In my old neighborhood, if somebody put up a cedar fence people would consider it rude. An obvious attempt to keep something hidden.  – “What are they doing over there at the Johnson's? Do you think they’re putting in an above ground pool? Skippy, take your brother and check it out. Report back here after Bonanza to give me the poop. – What? No, just tell me what you found out. -- Nincompoops! You’re raising nincompoops, Margaret!”

            Things have sure changed since then. Today we fence off everything. It’s really no big deal if you don’t talk to your neighbors. What’s weird is, I enjoy talking to strangers when out in public. But at home, I always look out the window before going out the front door, just so I don’t have to make conversation. If there is anyone out there, I’ll have to say something.

             It’s a disease of some kind. When I find myself in near proximity to others who are not talking, I feel compelled to say something. The dumber the comment the better. -- “So, what do y'all think about that crying parrot?” -- I just hate doing stuff like that, but I can’t stop. I’m told it’s the fifth indicator of insanity.

            You ask me, the closeness we used to have with our neighbors ended because of color TV and better viewing options. Of course, even when I’m not watching TV, I don’t have the time nor the inclination to sit in the yard talking to the neighbors. I don’t even know their last names. And, yes, I lied about not having the time.

            Beg your pardon? You? No! Of course not! I enjoy sitting out here talking to you. We’ve been rooftop buddies forever. We’re like family… except for those who don’t care to be part of the family. I feel you, brother. I mean, I feel you, acquaintance.

            Not to worry, we’re now at ground level and blocked from the view of anyone on the other side of this fence.  If it were not so, I wouldn’t be talking. I happen to know that talking when alone is one of the 12 indicators of insanity. I’m only four away from getting my certificate. Kay says that when I finally qualify, she’ll hang my certificate in my study and visit me at the asylum every third Friday of the month. Keep in mind this is the same woman who called me in the house to watch two parrots play basketball.

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