Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Years of Thanksgiving

MARK’S ARTICLE – November 26, 2009 “Thanksgiving”

There is no better time of the year than from now till about the second day in January. I just love it. Can’t get enough of it… oh, baby. (Sorry. I was working on a song there. I’m through.)

What makes me/us get so excited about this time of year is the memory of the fun we had last year at this time. It was the stuff of traditions. Traditions are fun. They’re seldom as fun as you remember, but what is? The bad thing about traditions is the fact that they’re gonna croak. They just have to.

The Hayters used to always gather at Mom’s on Thanksgiving and chow down, rest a few minutes and then play football. Started out as flag football, ended up as a brawl. I loved it, and I’m sure you all loved reading about it. What?

But those days are gone. Mom’s not here to cook all that food for one thing. For another, she’s not here for the big football game. I remember I used to whisper to Big Al (captain of the other team) that we were getting ready to call Mom’s number. That meant, let the woman catch the ball.

Lynda would hike me the ball and I’d lob it to Mom, who would occasionally catch the thing. The times she did, she’d start screaming and running in some direction until somebody brought her down. Can’t do that anymore.

Can’t pile on top of our big brother Larry after he makes a fantastic catch, while ending up in a sea of mud. Oh, those were the days. No more. And, that’s a good thing. I would absolutely break if someone tackled me today. Or, piled on top of me. I don’t mean I’d pull something or dislodge something. I would absolutely break. “What happened to Mark?” – “I think he broke.”

Truth is, our entire Thanksgiving tradition is pretty much a thing of the past. Last year, Kay and I had Thanksgiving at our house. Only Big Al and Jill’s family came. The others did their own thing with in-laws and grandkids. We had plenty of leftovers.

This year, Kay and I are again hosting Thanksgiving. And, again, it will only be Jill and Al’s families here. We’ll have a blast, but it won’t become a tradition. I won’t let it. I much prefer showing up somewhere else and leaving once the fun is gone. You can’t beat a deal like that.

Fortunately, I have a plan to kill any notion of a Mark’s House Thanksgiving Tradition. This year, after we eat, I’m going to get people to help me take down a dead tree. A sweetgum that lightning got to. I’ll have ‘em sawing and chopping and stacking until they’re begging to go home. Yeah, they’re gonna remember this one.

I think I’d even have Mom’s blessing on this thing. She was always reasonable. Couldn’t play football worth a flip, but she was a wise woman. If they have football in heaven, she’s probably running and screaming to beat the band. She was an easy take down. We had to tackle her on top of Larry, so he could cushion her fall and keep her from breaking.

We didn’t wanna break Mom. Moms are the stuff of tradition. You’ve just gotta hold to ‘em till you can’t. Then you move along.

Well, on that note, Happy Turkey Day, readers. Let’s have fun out there. – Next time.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Texas: Let's be nice, people.

MARK’S ARTICLE – November 20, 2009 Finding a kinder image for Texas

Today, I thought we’d talk about Texas. It happens to be on my mind because of a talk I just delivered in the Woodlands to the Lone Star Chapter of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. The ol’ LS Cot Sot RoT. (I like to form acronyms to help me remember stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t help.)

When first asked to speak to such an austere group, I was quite reluctant. Scared is what I was. Sons of the Republic for goodness sake! No way could I match them in pride for or in knowledge of the State. I was born and raised in Texas, but, sheesh, I’m no Republic’s son.

To be qualified to join the Sons of the Republic, you must first be a son, and then be able to trace your direct lineage back to the time Texas was a Republic -- March 2, 1836 to February 19, 1846. I can only go back as far as 1853.

I’ve probably mentioned this more than once, but my grandpa’s grandpa, Andrew Shannon Hayter, settled what is today known as Arlington, Texas. From 1875-1877 the town was known as Hayterville. (I’m not making this up.)

When the railroad came to town, Great Great Grandpa Andrew not only surveyed the area for the railroad, but he also suggested they change the name of the town. He recommended naming the place after Robert E. Lee’s homestead, Arlington. It’s just like a Hayter. Reeking with humility. About makes me sick.

When I told that story to the Sons of the Republic, they didn’t appear all that excited about it. Hey, one of the guys traced his lineage to Jim Bowie. A surveyor and Presbyterian minister can’t compete with a hero of the Alamo.

Instead of trying to impress the audience with my knowledge an expertise on Texas, I decided to enlist their help in a project. That project being, to improve the image of Texas.

In order to do that I had to establish the fact that Texas does seem to have a bad image. Don’t know if you’ve noticed. You might venture across state lines to find out for yourself. When I asked those in the audience why we might have a poor image, the answer I got was because people of other states are jealous.

I expected that. And, I’m sure it’s true. However, I venture that another reason is that some Texans (a few) act like jerks. I saw a guy at the Fair on the Square in Crockett who was wearing a Tee Shirt with a slogan on the back that read, “I’m from Texas, @#%& You. Only it really spelled out the word.
I just don’t think that’s nice. I would’ve told him so, but he was a big ol’ kid. Way up there he was.

One of my favorite songs of Shake Russell, a Texas gem, is a song he wrote and performed for the TV series “The Eyes of Texas.” ( Near the end of the song he sings, “The Eyes of Texas, the hearts and the hands, say welcome stranger, Texas means friend.” That guy in Crockett was trying to tell everyone that Texas means “Jerk”. That shouldn’t be.

I don’t really think the Governor’s mention of seceding from the union did a lot to promote the State. Of course, I think he was joking. Might’ve been joking. Bad joke.

Regardless, if we did secede we would be forming a nation with one of the most inefficient Constitutions ever written. The citizens would hafta vote on everything. That’d be okay, I guess, but few Texans vote. In the last election over the Amendments only seven percent of qualified voters voted. The outcome of that election ended up added to our State Constitution. Eleven new amendments.

Our Constitution has well over a thousand amendments. We have possibly the only State Constitution with the word “idiots” in it. Somewhere along page 159 it reads that County Judges shall “…appoint guardians of minors, idiots, lunatics, persons non compos mentis and common drunkards.”

There’s bound to be a legal definition of “idiot” ‘cause, without one, any of us could be guardianshiped on any given day. For all I know, I’m already non compos mentis. What I’m thinking.

Yes, I did some joking around, but that’s pretty much what I do. And, all in all, I was received well.

And, why not? I was just trying to spark a desire to promote a kinder image of Texas. I’m doing my part… even though I am rather miffed that Great Great Grandpa Andrew suggested Hayterville be changed to Arlington. That really ticks me off.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Kay's forever blowing bubbles

MARK’S ARTICLE -- November 16, 2009
“Forever blowing bubbles”

Kay and I went to a wedding a couple of months back where, instead of a handful of rice to throw at the couple, we were each given a tiny vial of that bubble blowing liquid. Cool.

The lid to the vial had a little hoop thing affixed to it. Kay and I didn’t stick around for the bubble blowing, ‘cause it was apparent the bride and groom intended to stick around longer than I cared to. A wedding can really drag. Have you noticed? So, Kay and I left, but we took our bubble blowing stuff with us.

Once home, Kay ended up using all of her bottle of bubbles and then used up mine. I thought that perfectly swell, ‘cause a little bit of bubble blowing goes a long way with me. “Oh, look, bubbles! That’s about enough of that.”

I was the same way as a kid. I had a very short fascination span. If the model airplane had more than four parts, I wasn’t gonna finish it. “Okay, this is too complicated. I’m gonna get a stick and go hit stuff.”

Kay couldn’t get enough of blowing bubbles. When she ran out of the liquid, she got on the Internet and found out how to make her own. Something to do with glycerin. Sounded dangerous to me.

So, Kay made a barrel of the stuff. She was bubbling up the whole neighborhood. I thought it sweet. But, then she brought a quart-sized bottle of solution inside and started blowing bubbles in the living room… while I’m trying to watch a football game. She’s sitting there in the recliner making the place look like Lawrence Welk’s honeymoon night. A scene I don’t care to think about.

I first just said, “Wow, I never thought of doing that in here.” She said, “Well, it is very calming.” I had no idea.

The bubbles kept coming. They were the small ones. Billions of small bubbles drifting in front of the TV screen an all around the periphery.

I don’t know how long I let the bubble blowing go on. Seemed like an hour or two. I kept thinking she would tire. She didn’t. I hated to stop her, ‘cause she said it was calming. I like a calm Kay. I sure need to be more calm, but bubbles have no affect on me. Just the opposite.

Any minute now, she’s gonna stop. I can wait this thing out. I even threw out a hint. I said, “I wonder if when a bubble pops it leaves a stain on the furniture.” Kay said, “I don’t think so.” More bubbles.

Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything, I kept telling me. In the middle of one of my warnings, I heard somebody say, “Uh, Darling, that’s really annoying.” I have no idea where it came from. Sounded like my dad’s voice, but it couldn’t have been.

Without a word… no words, Kay got up and left the room. I had no idea what point she was trying to make. I would’ve asked, but I’ve learned never to ask if you think the answer might be lead to controversy.

After the game (we won, by the way), I found Kay reading her book, and I gave her a big ol’ kiss. It might’ve helped. I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard to read people. Even your spouse. But, not my dad. I’m pretty sure that was him surfacing with “That’s really annoying.” Yep, I’ve heard that a few times. Never over bubbles, though. Dad tired of a lot of things we did, but we never played with bubbles long enough to get yelled at. Just didn’t.


Monday, November 9, 2009

MARK’S ARTICLE -- November 9, 2009
“Trash Talk”

If you don’t mind, I thought we’d talk some trash. Never in the history of civilization has there been so much of it. We haul it into the house practically every day. And, some of it can really hurt.

See this? No, what are you lookin’ at? On my thumb! Right, Sherlock, it’s a cut. I got it while trying to open a contraption that housed a curtain rod. We have packages for curtain rods! Can you believe that? Oh, and I’m sorry about the “Sherlock” remark. I get a bit testy when I talk trash. Yeah, that’s gonna get old.

There was a time when you could go to the store and grab a curtain rod or a stopper gun or flashlight; take ‘em home and use ‘em without performing an intricate operation. You bought a naked curtain rod with a price tag on it. That’s it.

Now, all items come with a form fitting, heavy see-through plastic that sticks out four times the product’s size. And, the “plastic” has the tensile strength of titanium treated carbide steel. And, no, I have no idea what tensile strength or carbide means. Work with me.

Point is, you could drive a Humvee over the curtain rod and it would completely destroy it, but you still couldn’t open the package. It’s tougher than dried elephant snot. I read where that’s pretty tough. Bushmen use it to protect their spear points. -- What? Yeah, I couldn’t think up a good “tough” comparison. Uh, metaphor? I don’t know.

Every other time we buy an open-proof packaged product I say to Kay, “How do they think some old lady’s gonna open this?” My thumbs bleeding and I’m developing a severe eye twitch. All the while, I’m thinking of a poor grandmotherly-type yanking and pulling and gumming at the plastic demon. She eventually sits down at the kitchen table and weeps. Just breaks my heart.

By the way, after I stopped the bleeding, I tried to throw the rod containers into our tallest indoor garbage can. When I stand up in the thing it hits me mid-gut. (Don’t ask.) Yet, the slashed rod containers would not fit. Too tall. To get ‘em in, I’d hafta cut ‘em, both in two. I refused. They’re out there by the curb sticking out of a black trash bag.

By the way, there are 11 garbage cans in our house. Two people and 11 trash cans. Every Monday and Thursday morning I walk around and empty each can into a large trash bag. I seldom inspect the contents of the cans. The trash is bound to come from stuff we brought into the house. If not, I’m gonna freak.

When I was growing up, we only had two garbage cans in our house. Nine people and two garbage cans. One in the bathroom and one in the kitchen. We didn’t create all that much garbage back then. What we couldn’t eat we made into household items. “Don’t throw that broken clothes pin away. I’ll make a measuring spoon out of it.” – “But, Mom, I want it for a doll.” We were so desperate.

We got no junk mail. Everything was either a bill or letter from one of the aunts. Boring mail. If Mom hadn’t been living with us, I doubt anyone would’ve ever retrieved it.

Yes, it was a different time. Not necessarily better, just less trashy. Back then you could buy a lawnmower without cutting it out of a giant box. A ballpoint? “Hey, it’s in a jar over there. Grab one.” A TV remote? “It’s right—“ Oh, yeah, they hadn’t been invented. Like I say, it wasn’t necessarily a better time, but stuff was sure easier to get to. That’s all I’m sayin’.

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