Monday, May 30, 2016

Dad's advice

Faris Hayter's sage advice
Faris Hayter -- 1940s

    When I was a kid, my Dad gave me two pieces of advice, both of which really messed up my life. There’s no telling where I’d be now if Dad had just kept his mouth shut, or said something like, “Son, always look out for yourself, ‘cause nobody else will.”

    Not Faris Hayter. When the family was living on Camille Street, Dad told Dennis and me a cool story. I have no recollection of what it was about, but I do remember what he said after the telling.  He said, “Boys, I want you to always remember this. Don’t ever be an apple polisher.”

    Both of us assured Dad that we wouldn’t think of it. That seemed to please him. Dad’s advice meant nothing to me until he the fifth retelling of the story. -- So, that’s what apple-polishing is! He doesn’t want me to try to be the teacher’s pet!

    I’m not sure where the adage came from; all I know is what it did to me. From that time on, I kept clear of any person with authority. I smiled at my teachers before entering the room, but I never stood outside the door to talk with them. I feared they might think I was after something.

    When I was in graduate school, I was somehow selected as one of two students to represent Sam Houston State at a conference in Austin. The big draw had to do with getting to talk with Lt. Governor Bill Hobby. To this day, I have no idea why I was chosen. Outside the classroom, I never spoke two words to any of my professors.

As proud and dumbfounded as I was, I realized that, to take the trip, I’d have to skip one day of a political science class. It was a three-hour a day lecture during the summer session and the professor deducted points from your test scores if you missed a single class.

    Well, I knew I should tell the professor why I wouldn’t be attending his class for one day. Perhaps he wouldn’t deduct points considering the reason for my absence. However, if I did that I would be going against both pieces of advice my dad had given me. By going in to talk to the professor, it might appear to him that I was polishing apples.

    And, it might appear to him that I was bragging about getting chosen to go to Austin. That’s tied to my dad’s second piece of advice. He once told me, “Mark, don’t ever toot your own horn.”

    I thought it best not to share with Dad the first thought that hit my mind. – “Right, Dad. I’ll always borrow a horn when I feel the need to toot.” – If I knew anything I knew that my father was not a fan his children’s first thoughts.

    I ended up making a “B” in that government class. The points deducted from my final test score hurt, but so did the information I missed during the lecture. I had borrowed another student’s notes, and he was obviously smarter than I, ‘cause he didn’t take many notes.

    Truth be told, it wasn’t as much Dad’s words that affected me, as his example. An humble man, my dad, and I loved him for it.
My Dad and Me 1954

    This reason for telling all of this is to provide background for what I’m getting ready to tell you. It’s called a “qualifier.” That’s another thing I picked up from Dad. That man would fly around the barn twice before lighting somewhere. That’s partly why I have so many qualifiers in my articles. Faris Hayter did it to me.

    What I really want to tell you is that Kay and I have a radio show called “Hanging with the Hayters.” Get it? We’re Mark and Kay Hayter and the show is about spending an hour a week hanging around with us. Kay came up with the name. The show airs live every Wednesday at noon on That’s what all of this was leading up to. So – next time. – Beg pardon?

    Well, if you insist. Listening to “Hanging with the Hayters” is a lot like Kay and me talking to you while you’re eating lunch. Kay’s good to eat lunch with. After 44 years of marriage, we still converse between bites. Mostly Kay does. That girl is out there.

During the show, we speak on a variety of topics. This includes family stuff, as well as some less personal educational information about Midlothian carpentry skills and Turkish soup recipes. (Those stories are currently being fleshed out.)

 We also glean a lot of info from our very own Conroe Courier. I’m particularly drawn to some of the happenings mentioned in the calendar of events. Occasionally, I’ll call and ask for further explanation on some of the goings-on. I’m curious about whether or not you need to be a Presbyterian to join “Grace Presbyterian’s Mens’s Brew Night?” Stuff like that. 

In a month or so, Lone Star Community Radio will join Conroe’s FM 104.5 and 106.1 in a joint project between the City of Conroe and While I much prefer writing for and reading the newspaper, doing a live radio broadcast is also fun and challenging. I certainly wouldn’t do it without Kay, though. That’s why you need to believe that I’m actually trying to promote Kay. She’s the one whose horn I wish to toot. – Well that didn’t sound right. – Next time.
HWTH archives --

Friday, May 20, 2016

Elephants and lions

Why I'd rather be a circus elephant than a circus lion.

    Animals have been in the news a lot lately. Mostly big ones. The only small animal I heard anything about was a pet rat that Dr. Jeff, a TV

    The animals I chose for our topic this week are elephants, lions and buffaloes. If you have a problem with that, don’t tell an elephant. Those things have a memory that won’t quit. Twenty years from now, you might run across one and it’ll sling you onto the hood of a Nissan. So, it’s best that you stay with me here.

    The elephant story comes to us from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus’ decision to get rid of the elephant entertainment portion of its Big Top show. Ringling Brothers, Esmer and Remshaw*, finally gave in to all of the hullabaloo created by elephant lovers, the government of India and it’s very own stable muckers. (*I didn’t have time to research, so I had to guess at the brothers’ names.)

    All performing pachyderms are of the Indian variety. African elephants are larger than the Indian ones, but they don’t train well. You try to get an African elephant to stand on its hind legs, and it’ll give you a spleenectomy. I think they have a bit of “cat” in ‘em. But, unlike cats, you can bathe an elephant with no trouble. That’s because they can’t lick themselves clean. Other than that, they’re just like cats.

    I forgot to mention that Indian elephants are the ones with the smaller ears. I don’t know if you’re familiar with any of the old Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmueller, but the times they showed Tarzan or Cheetah riding an elephant, they had huge, rubber, flapping ears stapled over their smaller ears. And so did the elephants. They did in case viewers knew about the ear-difference in the two breeds.  (That’s true, too.)

    Ringling ended up sending 32 elephants to their big home in Florida. They kept 13 elephants to tour with the circus. Al they have to do is walk down the street with a scantily clad girl on their shoulders. I know some guys who would pay to do that. I don’t have enough stamina, so I’m not even tempted.

    What I’d like to know is how the 32 elephants in Florida are handling their new lifestyle. How long will it take ‘em to stop forming a line with their front feet resting on the rump of the elephant in front of ‘em? And, any time they see a big overturned bucket they’ll want to stand on it and wave their front feet while making trumpeting sounds. You don’t lose that kind behavior over night.

    I’ve got a bunch more elephant stories, but I think it’s time to move along to the lions. You likely read about the governments of Peru and Colombia outlawing the use of lions in circuses. Authorities raided the facilities of any circus that refused to turn over their big cats. They collected 33 lions. Only nine of ‘em were given up voluntarily.

    The lions were in terrible shape. They had been de-clawed and had their teeth broken. The wanted to make it less likely that the animals would harm the trainers, while still managing to make their growls look awesome. If you remove the teeth, they’d look like old toothless lions. But, by breaking teeth, it made it less likely that a lion would go through the pain of chomping on someone.

    The lions were shipped to a large sanctuary in South Africa. Since they were born in captivity there was no way they could make it for long in the wild. Especially, with bad teeth and no claws. So, here you’ve got some creatures whose meals of soft meat always came through a set of bars in their cage.

Can you imagine how long it will take those animals to settle in their new home? They’ll get their teeth fixed and their scars mended and diseases taken care of. A couple of the animals were blind and many had scars from beatings. At some point I believe we’ll get some pictures of what lions look like when they smile. – By the way, I apologize for the sudden somber mood change, but I could find absolutely nothing to joke about in this story. What’s sad to note is that we’re left hoping that Peru and Colombia were the only countries with people who abused circus animals.

Finally, let’s take a gander at the buffaloes. Kay watched one of those nature shows and shared some interesting info with me. I didn’t mind so much, because it had nothing to do with a rat getting operated on. She told me that the largest native mammal in North America is not a buffalo. It’s a bison. That there are no native buffalo in North America. Buffalo come mostly from Asia and Africa.

So, Buffalo Bill Cody was misnamed. He should’ve been Bison Bill. Unfortunately, someone has got to get this information to Congress, because they are currently studying a bill that would make the American buffalo our National Mammal. The “buffalo” will replace the—Forget that. There is currently no National Mammal. A National Bird we’ve got.

    It would be a hoot if the one thing Congress agreed on this term was to name an an animal that doesn’t even live in America as our National Mammal. – Now, I do find humor in that. – Next time.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Used to be

Hayters during the good ol' times
Evolution of Get-togethers

    Last weekend, the Hayter family met at a restaurant near La Porte to celebrate my kid sister, Jill’s birthday. None of the nieces and nephews showed, because their aunts and uncles are not all that exciting to be around. Age will knock the excitement right out of you.

    Restaurants are inconvenient as all get out when it comes to visiting with near-deaf family members. Kay and I showed up late, so we ended up at the far end of the table. I couldn’t hear a thing that Al, Larry, Dennis and Jill were talking about, because it was loud in the place and I was at one end of the table with Kay and two of my sisters-in-law.

I get to talk to Kay a lot, and I always enjoy what she has to say. And, I love my two sister’s in law dearly. However, I would’ve much rather been seated with Jill and my brothers. When you’re the one sibling out of ear-range, the others talk about you. I know because they make head gestures in my direction and then laugh. I’m marginally sure that it’s all good natured.

For the most part, birthdays are for eating, not giving. You’re lucky if you get a card. Jill is the exception, because she’s special. Jill is the chief communicator in the family. She can name all of the nieces and grand nieces and nephews and in-laws from every family. She e-mails everyone a list of monthly special events. You know, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, incarcerations and injuries. Like when Dennis came back from Vietnam and when Dad and Mom and Lynda passed away; it’s all duly noted. I remember stuff related to the immediate family, but the dates sneak up on me. That’s why Jill keeps us up on stuff.

Immediately following Jill’s gift and card openings, we left the restaurant and gathered in the parking lot for about five minutes where the women hugged, and the men pinched and slapped rears. Then we went our own way.

Used to, we’d go to someone’s house and have dessert or play games. That was the young Hayter family. Due to the aging factor, real, all out get-togethers have become too complicated. Trying to organize something with the entire clan can come back and bite you right in the posterior. That didn’t used to be the case. I can prove it, too.

Right next to me is a collection of the Family Newsletter that Jill published for us years ago. She started it in 1988 and ended it in 1999. I’m now looking at the May of ’88 “Our Family Newsletter.” It was the Edition that included an article about how we celebrated Jill’s birthday 28 years ago. It’s a good thing Jill wrote about it, ‘cause I’m drawing a blank on most of this stuff.

    We celebrated Jill’s birthday up here in Conroe. It was a surprise party. I told Jill that I was inviting the family up so we could all go to the “NASA Montgomery County Community Project Air Show.” There may have been a real air show at the time, but I doubt it had anything to do with NASA. I apparently threw that in for shock valure.

    Kay and I had decorated the house with banners and balloons and all the tedium that screams “Birthday!” We had prepared barbecue brisket and sausage with beans coleslaw, corn on the cob, and rolls. And, Kay made a giant cake. It’s all right here in Jill’s article.

    Jill’s favorite part of the party had to do with the National Newspaper Association Awards. The president of the association, William Randolph Piltzner was unable to attend, but he did send Jill a congratulatory note. A nice guy, Piltzner. I was the emcee the ceremony, and read about Jill’s accomplishments and struggles and sacrifices to make “Our Family Newsletter” the Nation’s best.

    By the way, Mom won the coveted “Greatest Roving Reporter Award” for her tireless efforts in keeping The Editor of the Year, Jill, apprised of what all was happening with everyone. It was a time when each of us called Elsie practically every day. Jill’s son Jeff won an award for his “Just for Kids” section. And, Larry won the Master Jokester Award. Fortunately, Jill didn’t include the winning joke in her article. You ask me, Larry just got the award, ‘cause he was the oldest brother.

    Jill started crying during her acceptance speech, so I had to escort her back to her chair. We carried it out the way James Brown pretended to end his concerts. Someone would put a cape around him and escort him towards the exit, but after a few slow steps, he’d throw off the cape and deliver another song or two. 

Yep, there was a bunch of fun stuff involved in Jill’s 35th birthday. Like I said, without the newsletter I wouldn’t have remembered much of it at all. 

    Our family does get together on occasion, but not with as much frequency and frivolity as we used to. -- Frivolity? --Let’s face it, our emotions and attitudes evolve a bit over the years, and with ‘em some of our relationships.

Had our family ties continued to grow more and more after 1988, we’d pretty much all be living together in a commune by now. It’d end up with two swat teams breaking up a massive fight. I don’t care who you’re living with, nobody wants a swat team. Where’s the frivolity in that?

Let’s face it, change is either visiting you right this minute, or it’s waiting for you to catch up. You might as well embrace it. – Wow. I need to write that one down. – Next time.