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

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