Thursday, June 29, 2017


A moose-watch

            LOLO, MONTANA – When last we left, Mark and Kay had moved their collection of accumulated household stuff into a 10’ by 20’ storage unit in Conroe. What couldn’t be crammed into the small facility was stored with the Plilers and Jill, people who still have homes.

 Mark and Kay accepted an invitation to live on a small farm in Grandview, Washington, in a small home owned but not occupied by Mark’s sister Susan. Mark and Kay plan to stay on the farm while their new home is being constructed in Conroe.

The Hayters began their journey to the Northwest last week. Let’s join the charming couple to check on their progress. – Cue Mark in three, two… 
            Now? Am I on now? Sheesh! Are we going to have to go through that explanation each week? That was as long and drawn out as the road from Wichita Falls to the end of the panhandle. And, nearly as boring.

 But we’re past all that now. Way past. At this very moment it is five in the a.m. here at Lolo Hot Springs Lodge in Montana. I intended to have this article finished last night, but stayed up too late on our moose-watch. We were told that baby moose (meese) accompany their moms into the meadow at the lodge. Fortunately, none showed up. I have every confidence that a mom moose would’ve taken one look at me and given me a rack-ride into the nearest outcropping.

Outcroppings? I don’t know, either. Mountains, cliffs, big rocks? They’re all around us. Beautiful country. They call it “Big Sky,” because when you’re in the mountains, you don’t have to look up to see the sky. It’s all around you. That’s just a guess.

One thing I don’t have to guess at is the fact that there is enough unoccupied land in Wyoming and Montana to house the entire country. It might take awhile for some of the people to find jobs, but they would all fit here. The population of the entire Western Hemisphere could be housed in the Texas panhandle, but nobody would want to move there.

I’ve got so many things to tell you about this trip, but only have time for a few observations. The farther north you go the fewer Whataburgers you find. There are none in Wyoming and Montana. They’ve got Dairy Queens and Burger Kings, McDonald’s out the wazoo, but no Whataburgers.

They do have Sinclair gas, though. Shocked I was as we entered Wyoming and saw a sign featuring a giant, green dinosaur, the image of what we originally thought of a brontosaurus. Now we know the head is all wrong, but it’s still a dinosaur. By the way, do you know that petroleum doesn’t come from decayed dinosaurs? It comes from the layers of decaying algae, plankton and other plant matter in the ocean. And, no, Bradly, I didn’t say you cared. I was just pointing something out.

I started getting cerebral while in Missoula. Missoula is not only the home of the University of Montana, but it’s also got more art galleries and bookstores per capita than any other place in the world. I haven’t researched that. It’s just a feeling. 
What else? Oh yeah, the interstates that run across Wyoming and Montana are near litterless. You could adopt a highway in either state, and pick up the liter while driving. – “Frank, pullover! I think I spied a Peanut M&M wrapper. -- Nope. It was a flower. Make a note. Pick up some peanut M&Ms on the way back.”

Speaking of which, just yesterday while driving out of Butte, I asked Kay why there’s not a Popcorn M&M. Everyone knows that when you’ve got a mouthful of popcorn it’s always good to throw in some chocolate. Why not have the same sensation come in a single bag?

That’s another observance from this trip. Kay and I have been getting in a lot of quality time. Granted, the Popcorn M&M topic died from lack of a response, but other topics have taken flight. We’re often talking about things we forgot to pack, and things we packed but can’t find.

I even brought up the idea about the benefit of knowing you’ll never again see the people you run into while on a trip. I’ve been wearing the same pair of shorts this entire trip. They’re so comfortable. They don’t ride up no matter how much I slump. Next to my red, silk underwear, they’re the most comfortable shorts I have. Get this. For the past five days, no one has come up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t those the same shorts you wore yesterday?”

It’s brilliant. Kay doesn’t see the brilliance, but she’s somewhat less cerebral. At this very moment, she’s also less conscious. I’m going to go ahead and wake her up, so we can go feed at the breakfast bar. It’s the same stuff in every hotel. Even the same waffle makers and coffee dispensers. All of ‘em have Cheerios, too. Who gets to vote on that stuff?

After breakfast we’re going back to the spa. They’ve got two indoor pools that are fed from a hot spring. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a spa. I almost went to one in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but there were too many people going inside, and I just didn’t feel right sitting in hot water with other people.

But, yesterday, Kay and I had one of the pools to ourselves. I just about overstayed the suggested soak time. I want to do the same thing after I finish off my boiled egg and muffin. Then it’s – On the road again! Next stop: a small farm in Grandview. I’ll tell you about it next week. I'm leaving off the long intro, though. 
You can contact Mark at


“Moving right along”
Hey, I'll keep writing, though.

            ROOFTOP – At this very moment, we’re sitting atop an empty house. There’s nothing down below to sit on, nothing to eat and nothing to eat WITH even if you had something to eat. The bathroom still functions, but if you want to take a shower, since there are no towels you’ll have to run around to dry off. I tried it only once, and the neighbors gave me such grief.

            Yep, everything has been boxed-up and hauled off. Even some important stuff that I didn’t intend to get hauled got hauled. The day has been intense rooftoppers. I’m sorry you missed it. Seriously. I could’ve used your brain. Mine went numb a time or two. In fact, I’m not clearhammered yet. I mean clearheaded.

            We had plenty of muscle on hand. “Two Men and a Truck” showed up at nine this morning. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the two men turned out to be two giants and a smaller guy. They worked in a hurry, like they forgot they were working by the hour. I chose not to remind them. 

Fast and strong they were. We have two recliner rockers that took Freeman, Big Al and me an hour to get through the front door. The things weigh a ton, and you have to finagle them through the doorway.

            So, one of the mover giants grabbed the maroon chair, lifted it above his head, walked sideways out the door, and handed it to the little guy standing in the back of the truck. Right behind him came the other giant with the second chair. It was like that all morning.

            As safety conscious as I am, I managed to secure all the doors and drawers on the dressers, end tables and chest of drawers so they wouldn’t swing open while being carried. I was helping Freeman once move a China Cabinet out the door and one of the glass doors swung open mid-carry. My cat-like reflexes kicked in, and I immediately sent my foot through the glass.

Had the door been solid wood, I would’ve saved the day. As it was, I was lucky to save my leg.  From a slice on my shin, blood began shooting everywhere. I practically had to take the shirt off of Freeman’s back to stop the blood so I could survive the trip to the emergency room.

That’s why I secure all furniture and appliance doors. I just don’t want anyone else to experience what I did. I’m not going to experience it again, because I don’t move furniture anymore. And, China cabinets? I won’t tolerate ‘em. Kay can't make me.

Speaking of Kay, she’s down there watering the flowerbeds. At two o’clock tomorrow, this house belongs to someone else; yet, Kay is watering the plants. It’s that strong character that first attracted me to her. That and her inability to throw a punch. Puts her thumb inside her fist and swings entirely with her elbow. (Notice I didn't say "like a girl")

Like I said, everything in the house has been moved to the storage unit. I told the boss giant I doubted it would all fit in our 10’ by 20’ climate controlled unit. He said, "I think I can get it in." Man of few words.

 When Kay in I return from our five-month stay in Washington, I’ll have to hire the same guys to unload the storage unit. I think they used a Chinese puzzle technique to get everything to fit.

            But it’s all good. Upon exiting Texas, we plan to go through northern New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and eventually sneak into Washington from Idaho. If all goes well, we should be at my niece and her husband’s farm near Grandview by the next article. It will take us about two and half days to unload the car.

            The only way we’ll be able to bring back souvenirs from our visit is to leave some of our belongings behind. One of Kay’s friends asked her to bring her back some apples. You can have your Washington apples shipped to HEB by train or truck. They’ll taste every bit as good as if they travelled 2200 miles stuffed beneath a bag of Kay’s shoes in the back of our Highlander. No apples, apricots or cute rocks from Mt. Rainer
            I may take a photo of the total eclipse of the sun that’s happening in Oregon on August 21. I’d get Kay in the picture, but she’s afraid of heights. Obviously, you can find much better eclipse photos on the Internet. So, no photos. Just expect a weekly account of “Adventures in the Northwest with Mark and Kay.”

            I will have to experience as much as I can during this trip, because I seriously doubt the Washington family will have me back. After even one milking, the goats won’t let me near their udders. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

            I’m fairly sure that by November I’ll want to come home, almost as much the Washington clan will want me to go home. I’ll be anxious to experience a roofsit atop the new house. Mostly, I’ll be glad to have my favorite pillow back. Seems, I forgot to get it off the bed before the moving guys loaded it up. Right now it’s somewhere between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. Next stop: The Storage Unit.

 You can contact Mark at

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A lawnchair night

Our Wedding reception at Kay's parent's house. Has nothing to do with the story.

“It started with lightning bugs”

            This is the best night in years for lightning bugs. Not nearly as many as in my childhood days, but more than I have ever seen at our house.

            By the way, I need you to be on your best behavior. I went and grabbed an extra lawn chair off the porch for Kay. Then I opened the backdoor and yelled to her about the lightning bugs. She’ll be out here any minute now, and I’d like for her not be self-conscious about your presence, so none of you say a word.

            She’s coming out now. Just pretend you’re not here and she won’t notice. She’s oblivious to such things. 

          KAY “Okay, where are they?” – “Hey, it’s just you and me, Doll. Oh, the lightning bugs? Where are the lightning bugs? Give ‘em a minute.” – Sheesh, I almost gave you away.

ME “Look! In the bushes to the left. Oh, you just missed ‘em. Now, to your right, middle of the yard!”

KAY “I don’t see ‘em.” – “Sweetpea, your response time is way slow. Tell your brain to have your eyes move a little faster. Everything obeys your brain.” – Did y’all catch that? I know it’s a bit dark out here, but that was her you’re-not-funny look. Our years together have made it harder and harder for her to take me unseriously.

KAY “There’s one! Look! There’s another where the Jungle Gym used to be. By the way, how is your knee?” My knee is terrible. I’ve got an appointment next week with the doctor who reassembled my biceps when they snapped last year. Remember? He got mad at me for not following doctor’s orders? – “My knee is fine, doll. Only hurts when I try to use it.”

KAY “Oh, my word! Two of ‘em! This is wonderful. Wait, two of ‘em are together. You know what they’re doing don’t you? They’re thinking about sex. I say, go for it. Procreate!” – See, what did I tell you? There’s no way she would’ve said that had she known you were here.

KAY “Wait a minute. Don’t the females stay on the ground so they’re easier to locate? Or the males? Or do they both fly around till they bump into each other?” Wow! I really thought she was the expert on lightning bugs. That girl doesn’t know any more than I do. – “Uh, I don’t know, Puddin-head. I think both sexes are flying around tonight.”

ME “The cicadas are sure out tonight, aren’t they? Weird how after awhile you don’t even notice the loud neeker breeker noise.” – “I thought those were frogs. Are you sure those aren’t frogs?” – They’re not frogs. Frogs croak. Cicadas make the sound you’re hearing now. “Could be frogs, darling. Hadn’t thought of that. Speaking of frogs, did y’all play outside much when you were kids?”

KAY “Yeah, I believe we did. Why do you ask? You don’t have your make-believe people out here tonight do you? You better not be taking notes!” --  “No, no, Sugar Buns. No make-believe people tonight. They just show up when I'm on the roof.” – I know, I know. That sounded like a lie, but it’s not, because you’re real to me. I’m pretty sure God’s got my back on this one.

ME “Look, I know you played outside. Remember? Duck for cars!” – “Oh, yeah! We did duck for cars! We would also take turns laying dead on the curb and seeing if any cars would stop to check on us.”

KAY “You did that, too?” I knew she did. This isn’t the first time I introduced the topic. “I tell you what’s weird. Nobody ever stopped to check on us! One time there were six of us strewn along the curb. Nobody stopped. Nobody cared for children back then. Nowadays parents would go to jail if their kids played dead on the street.”

KAY “Not nearly as many lightning bugs now. They either found one another or they gave up.” – Okay, I’m about to lose her. Let’s see, uh. “So, did y’all tell stories at night when you were kids?” – “I don’t know. I don’t remember stuff like that. --  “Well, do you remember who you used to play with?" – “Probably Tracy and Mike.” – Tracy and Mike are her brothers. Both of them developed some physical impairment during their childhood and were unable to do much playing outdoors.

ME “No, I mean didn’t you have friends to play with and make up stories?” – “Oh, yeah. The Larkins! I’d play with the Larkins.”–- “That’s it? Just the Larkins?” – “There were seven of ‘em!” – Right, I used to know that. I just forgot that there were as many Larkin kids as Hayter kids.

ME “Hey, did you ever…” – “Look, the lightning bugs are in for the night, I’m going to go finish Dr. Pol.” – Pol is the veterinarian that’s always treating cows and horses. I fear Kay has given up on getting a dog and is now leaning towards cattle and things you can saddle. Yep, that girl will show up at my funeral riding a horse and carrying a peekapoo in her saddlebag.

KAY “Don’t stay out here too late, okay? This was nice. Thanks for calling me out here. I love you.” – “Love you, too, Darling.” --  Wasn’t that sweet? And, yes, I’m still going to write this up. She won’t get too mad. Didn’t you hear?  She loves me. – Next time. 

You can contact Mark at