Saturday, February 15, 2014

Funeral today

Well, today I attended a funeral.  It was the most interesting funeral I have ever been to.  It was at a relatively new and still somewhat rough place just inside the Selma city limits on Lookout Road.  It is supposed to cater to ex-military and ex-police.  I was told such people get a "discount" or whatever the funeral industry calls it in their carefully couched terms.

Anyway, the funeral was for a very old friend of the family.  His first wife was my mother's first cousin, but...well I don't really know if I can explain it.  It seemed to be above blood relation.  They were close as friends as well.  His wife was several years older than my mother, and my mom as a teenager baby-sat her kids.  He became close friends and an occasional business partner with my dad.  His first wife died of leukemia when I was about 4 or 5 years old, but like I mentioned she had had kids, a boy and a girl.  He re-married a year or two later, and his second wife had two daughters from a previous marriage, but they never had kids with each other.  None of this is especially relevant to the story, except to say that he knew me from the time I was born, and he was always part of my life.  Even though he was not technically related to us, having been an sort of cousin-in-law from his first wife, he still attended family reunions and always came to my dad's house for our yearly Christmas mini-reunion.  I think it says something that most of the people there were from my dad's side of the family, although none of them were related to him.

One weird thing that I realized today was that I think this was the first time I'd ever seen his second wife, although they'd been married for decades.  She just never came out to the country.  Although his official residence was in S.A., he had a ranch near here and spent most of his time out here watching after his cattle and, I think, just not being in the city.  When I was a teenager I spent a lot of summers working for him, helping him work cattle, clearing brush, building and fixing fences and doing all the stuff that a cattle ranch requires.  And by "ranch," I'm not using it in the city-dweller term when they seem to think anything more than 5 acres is a ranch.  He used to own 500 acres, but about 300 of it was fairly dense forest, and he eventually sold the back 300 to some insanely rich guy who built his own exotic game ranch out of it.  Back when our friend owned it, we hunted there all the time.  I spent a lot of time just roaming around in the pasture all by myself, sometimes hunting or trapping, and sometimes just being out in the "wilderness" because I enjoyed it so much.  I find myself wondering now what's going to happen to his remaining 200 acres.  I suppose his wife will sell it.  I wish I had the money to buy it.

I remember the first summer I ever worked for him, I guess I was about 13.  I had an old Boy Scout pocket knife that my dad had found on the side of the road--he worked for the highway department and was always finding useful things lost on the side of the road--anyway, the first thing our friend did was ask me if I had a pocket knife.  I told him yes, and showed it to him because I was kind of proud of it, since it had a bottle opener and can opener and so forth, but he gave me another pocket knife anyway.  I still have it.

He had been in the army, and he had been a police officer in S.A. for more than 20 years.  He had been a pilot.  He was a skilled leather worker.  He was a skilled ammunition reloader.  He had once been an extra in a movie.  He had done so many things.  He loved to talk.  During my time "working" with him, he told me so many stories about so many things.  We both liked to talk about guns and hunting.  He built a makeshift shooting range on his place and he loved it when I came out just to shoot.  He would always break out one of his guns and join me.  Whenever I brought a gun he hadn't shot before, he would always shoot it and then give me his opinons on it, which would almost always remind him of something that had happened once and he'd tell me another story about it.

When I was a teenager, during our conversations he found out that I loved to read.  He did, too.  He gave me his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks.  Just about every original Tarzan story is in there.  Only one Mars book, but I think also all of the Pellucidar books and all the Lost Island books.  I still have them.

He liked to boast about being from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, and he was always sure to mention that that was also Andy Griffith's home town, and the town that Mayberry was based on.  He grew up on a tobacco farm, and told me stories about tobacco farming.

He told me some scary stories about things he'd seen and done while a cop.  He told me a few hairy stories from when he was a pilot.  He gave me endless advice and information about guns.  A few years ago, he gave me two of his old reloading scales in case I ever wanted to take up reloading.  Of course, I still have them, too.

The funeral began with flag ceremony and the playing of Taps.  It was the first time I'd ever witnessed that ceremony.  His grand-daughter, who has Down Syndrome, played "Amazing Grace" on her accordion.  He had also been a Mason, so there were some Masons there who had their own special part in the service.  And that was the first time I'd ever seen the public Masonic ritual for a funeral.  I'm sure that later on, they'll have their own private service for their departed brother.

I can say with complete confidence that I would not be the same person if I hadn't known him.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dough overflow

This supposedly happened at a Papa John's.

I assume that somebody made too much dough and they threw it out before it had risen.  I have a couple of dough-making stories from my days of working at a pizza place.

Once we ran out of our "yeast mixture."  Mr. Gatti's had (I guess they still do, if any still exist) a specific yeast mixture that was used in making their dough.  It was mostly yeast and some spices mixed in.  I don't know how it happened because I wasn't responsible for ordering stuff.  But anyway, we ran out.  So our manager got on the horn and got a substitute recipe that we could put together ourselves.  But it required a lot of yeast.  This was back before H.E.B. came to town, and when we needed to buy stuff off the shelf from a local store, we just walked down the sidewalk to the nearest "supermarket," which was a place called Mayfield's.  So our manager went down there and bought a big box of Fleischmann's yeast.  It had, I don't know, a couple dozen of those little yeast envelopes in it.  He put together several plastic baggies of yeast mixture according to the recipe he'd been given and that night I made dough with it.

The dough did not rise.  The next day we had to make do with decidedly sub-standard pizza dough.  It was like making pizza with unleavened bread, because that's pretty much in fact what it was.  So while everyone was standing around scratching their heads and wondering what had happened, I went in the back and checked the box.  The expiration date on it was for a date more than a year in the past.  "Hey, Joe," I asked the manager, "Can yeast die?  Because check out the expiration date."

It was a relief to figure out what had gone wrong, but he was still pretty miffed that the store had been stocking yeast that had died long ago.  He got it exchanged for a fresh box and the next day we were back to normal.

Story number two:  we always had some dough left over that had to be thrown out.  It was made at night, then left to rise until morning when it was made into crusts.  The unused dough would keep rising, and would usually completely fill one of the huge plastic buckets that we kept it in (I'd guess it was at least a 50-gallon bucket).  We would keep it for a while, just in case we had a rush of business and ran out of crusts, so we could make some emergency crusts to finish out the night if we needed to.  But at some point, it would become obvious that we wouldn't need it, so the guy who made the dough (often myself) would haul it outside and throw it into the dumpster.  It was always pretty heavy.  One night I guess I was throwing about 60-70 pounds of it out.  It heaved the bucket up onto the lip of the dumpster and tipped it up to spill the dough out.  About that time a homeless guy who was scavenging in the dumpster popped up and said, "Oh, hey there!"  Scared the crap out of me.  "Dude," I told him, "you need to be careful.  I nearly dumped this on your head.  It would've snapped your neck like a twig."  He actually apologized and then asked if I could just leave it out there so he could take it.  So I left the bucket out there and he took the dough, leaving the bucket.  I have no idea how he could haul off all that dough without taking the bucket, but he did it.  When I went outside later, the empty bucket was still there and the man and all the dough was gone.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A collection of unrelated links

Not really, I'm being sarcastic.  These links are totally related.

Because people are still stupid enough to to claim that mangy coyotes (or possibly coydogs) are...well, you know.

Pics show chupacabra in Texas, some believe

Here is a link about the original Puerto Rico sighting:  Seeking the Puerto Rican chupacabra

You should note two things from this article:  1.  The sketch of the original alleged creature based on the woman's description of the thing; and 2.  That she supposedly saw it in the second week of August, 1995.

Next, please view this image of a model made of the monster from the movie Species.

And finally, the imdb page for the movie Species.  If you scroll down to the movie details, you will see that it was released on July 7, 1995.

How the chupacabra morphed from an alien vampire into a mangy dog, I'll never know.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Gin (the drink, not the game)

A Man's Primer on Gin from The Art of Manliness.

I tried a gin drink once.  I had gone to a local area...well, I don't know what to call it.  It wasn't a bar, because it was too "classy" for that.  Oh yeah, it was called Chelsea Street Pub, so I guess it was pub.  Anyway, I was there with two friends, and myself and one of them decided to try a gin drink.

It was horrible.  I had paid for it, so I drank it all, but I didn't enjoy it.  We both agreed that it tasted like Kool-Aid-flavored turpentine.

Maybe it was just bad gin.  I don't know.  I never will know, because I'll never drink gin again.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Avocado intolerance

10 Insane Diets No One Should Ever Try

I want to comment on this only because of this line:
I've studied all the diets, and the only thing they all agree we should eat is half an avocado.
Not true.  I have an avocado intolerance.  I do not like avocados, and I will not tolerate them.*

Apparently there is a certain fatty acid that is particular to avocados which many animals are unable to digest, which is why you should avoid feeding them to your pets.  A very small percentage of humans are also unable to digest this fatty acid.

Within a couple of hours of attempting to eat avocado (I have tried eating guacamole only twice, both with disastrous results), I will be vomiting it back up.  My two times trying to eat it engraved themselves so firmly into my memory that just seeing avocados makes my guts clench, and the last time was more than 20 years ago.

I have the same reaction, though to much lesser dramatic and traumatic extent, to coconut and pineapple.  I can handle a little of either, like I can generally handle coconut macaroon cookies with no problem.  If someone makes a ham with pineapples on it, I scrape the pineapple off and can eat it with no problem.

When I was about 10 years old, a baby-sitter made me eat a whole slice of canned pineapple for a snack and it wasn't pretty.  That never happened again.

So...don't ever offer me anything with avocado in it.

*Paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld in regard to his lactose intolerance.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Smartest dog breed?

Which Dog Breeds Make the Smartest Dogs?

We once had a dog that was a border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and I think she was in fact pretty smart.  Back then the watering "trough" for our cattle was actually just the bottom half of a 55-gallon barrel with a float valve on it.  It was set on top of some cinder blocks so it wouldn't be resting directly on the ground, which helped prevent the bottom from rusting out.  So, if you can picture it, you should be able to imagine that it wasn't particularly easy for a small dog to jump into it or even drink from it.  By the way, the dog had a different water supply that was built for her size, so she didn't have to drink from it.  But still, she somehow figured out that when it was hot during the summer, she could just jump into the trough and get really good and wet and cool off.  Sometimes I would look down at the cow pens and just see her head sticking up out of that water barrel.

Shelby the shepherd mix never had any special training, but she was an expert herder.  But here's the thing:  when she wasn't herding the cattle, she hung around with them.  In cold weather, she would even go sleep with them to keep warm.  And as long as she wasn't nipping at their heels, the cattle didn't mind her being there one bit.

At a different time, we also had a dog that was half German shepherd/half Australian shepherd.  That dog couldn't herd worth a darn, but he was the best raccoon hunting dog I ever had, and I also had a few hound mixes in there at times.  None of them hunted like Rex the shepherd mix.

On the other hand, the best squirrel/rabbit dog I ever had was just a rescued street mutt named Patches.

We had a Golden Retriever (named Pardner) that one time snatched a wounded dove out of the air when it was about 3 feet off the ground.  He brought it back, and her grip was so gentle, the bird was still alive when he turned it over to us.

There was also a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Major who could retrieve a bird without damaging it but would also catch armadillos and crack their shell with a bite.  Unfortunately, he would also do the same thing to watermelons, so we had a hard time growing watermelons when we had him.

A link and a podcast to recommend

Top 10 Alleged Real-Life Werewolves and Wolf-Men.

Just today I listened to a very interesting podcast on the topic of #3 from this list, the Beast of GĂ©vaudan.

This podcast is one I just recently started listening to, and have been going through their entire archive.  It's called Monstertalk, and is from a group of skeptics who talk about the scientific basis behind monsters.  Mostly it's a debunker podcast.  Anyway, the specific podcast about the Beast is here.  You can find their archives at that page by checking the left sidebar.

The conclusion:  it was wolves.  Multiple wolves.  A couple of years ago, the History Channel had a show about the Beast, and the people involved in that show concluded it was a hyena escaped from someone's private bestiary.  However, it seems that the real reason people are loathe to say it was wolves is because it's currently politically incorrect to say that wolves are vicious wild animals who eat meat that is easy to kill and plentiful.  When people are more plentiful and/or easier to kill than other prey, they are going to eat people.

If you're a hardcore Bigfoot believer, or chupacabra believer, or whatever, you won't like it.  But if you are honestly open-minded about and interested in these things and can overlook the hosts' occasional arrogance, you should check it out.