Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tubing or not tubing

“A hidden chapter in life’s book”

My first article: Aug 1980
I am just now experiencing a calming phase in life that I never knew existed. I know of many people who skipped it altogether. I likely would’ve done the same thing, had I not found myself standing in my closet trying to remember why I was there.

            It’s amazing how seeing what you’re looking for, can help you remember what you’re looking for. However, in this case, nothing registered.

            What I did find were two boxes containing scrapbooks of my articles dating from August 6, 1980 to April 1, 2010. Apparently, when I started posting my column on my blog, I quit clipping the articles out of the newspaper.  

            Regardless, I was standing in the closet when the phase I mentioned in the first paragraph hit me. I describe it thusly: “Why do I keep stuff that I’m never going to use and that will be tossed three weeks after my funeral?” I believe I’ve mentioned before that, upon hearing about my demise, Kay’s first action will be to buy a dog that she will have in her purse at the funeral. I can now say that right after she plants the two potted plants that were displayed at my funeral, she’s going to toss everything that’s in my closet. And get this. – I won’t care.

About 30 years of articles
            I attended a writers’ conference a couple or three decades back, where I got to have a one-on-one with a book agent. During my brief visit, I mentioned my humor column and asked the agent if she thought I should try to get a collection of my articles published. The lady had no expression. None when I walked in and none when I broached the question. It was as if she was sitting in a pew listening to a preacher explain the Parable of the Sower. She closed her eyes. I assumed she was thinking, “When I open my eyes, please be gone.” I do that all the time.

            Anyway, when she opened her eyes I was still there, so she merely shook her head. Not completely put off by the discouragement, I then opened a folder and tried to hand her a sample of a few pages of the novel I had written. She wouldn’t touch it. She told me that a book of fiction was a hard sell for anyone unpublished. That I would have to get published before trying to get published. It was the encouragement from that lady that made me give up on any notion of a compilation of articles. I considered her a necessary evil.

            So, as I stood in the closet looking at all scrapbooks, I could hear the book agent whisper, “Let it go, Scooter. Let it go.” (That was okay, because I didn’t really expect her to remember my name.) I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly to the whispered message. I accepted the notion that it was time to toss the scrapbooks. And, calming it was… Skywalker.

            Since the scrapbooks were taller than the box was deep, it had no lid, allowing me to notice the earliest of the scrapbooks. I thought I’d take a moment to visit my first article. It was published on August 6, 1980. I remembered it like it was 38 years ago.

            The Plilers and Hayters were returning from one of our tubing excursions somewhere in Central Texas. At one point Virginia suggested I write a story about our experience tubing and send it to Barbara Fredrickson at The Courier. I thought, “What an interesting, but dumb idea. I think I’ll do it.”

            A couple of days after submitting the piece, Barbara called me and said she liked the story and wanted to put it in the magazine section of their Sunday paper; a section called “Sunday Plus.” She said the article would need some art, so she would have a photographer contact me. Art? Newspaper people say a lot of words that don’t mean what you think they mean.

            The next day, I got a truck inner-tube, small ice chest, a can of Pepsi, and met a man with a camera on the San Jacinto River just under the I-45 Bridge. The photographer had me float out in the muddy river, so he could get some photos – I mean art. On the front page of the next Sunday Plus Magazine, there was a picture of me lying across a big truck-tube with an ice chest at my side and a can of Pepsi in my hand. The title of the article: “Tubing or not tubing.” It was cute.

            After that, I submitted other articles and Barbara kept publishing them. Eventually she gave me a column that appeared on Mondays. “Monday with Mark.” When we lived in Georgetown, TX, the editor for the Williamson County Sun put me on the back page. “Back with Mark.” Such a joker man. I was most pleased when The Villager picked up my column. It’s given me a chance to meet so many people and speak to so many groups. Many of the events were included in my column.

            But, with the discovery of this new chapter in my life, I realize it’s time to toss the first 30 years.  And I’m good with that. At peace, even.

            I highly recommend you embrace the "get-rid-of-stuff"  Phase of Life. Turn loose of all the sentimental stuff you never look at. Stuff that will be dumped, shortly after you’re planted or put in a jar. In other words, don’t be like my mother-in-law. – Yes, Kay will probably edit that part out.


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

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