Heading north out of Fort Worth toward my two favorite playa lakes in the world, my little SUV crossover was filled with great expectations … and camping gear. The Panhandle weather was unseasonably mild and sunny. November can be a beautiful time of the year, north of “North Texas” … plush, green winter wheat everywhere, white fluffy cotton bolls exploding all over the fields and just about as much autumn color as New England has foliage … albeit the golds, reds, oranges, and yellow hues are packed into the grains of every head of maize, corn and grain sorghum from fencerow to fencerow.
My expectations included a great sunset followed by an equally stunning sunrise, the cedar- and mesquite-powered aroma of a campfire, moonlight bright enough to cast shadows and a billion stars, ever so clear and sparkly, all in their places where I had left them on the last trip.
The forecast said “lows in the 40s.” I answered, “I can do this.”
The tent was pitched on the property I like to call The Ping Wind Farm, a nickname originally referring to the tendency for blowing dust. But as of late, windfarm is no longer a discouraging word because much of the Panhandle is fenced in by monstrous wind turbines, adding silhouettes in the foregrounds of striking sunsets, lowering global emissions and raising aspirations for farm-town economies. Things are changing. Me too. Rust never sleeps. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Will I always have the same fervor for the place? Will I have access? Taking all that into consideration, it was time to go hang out on the farm. For me, it’s a ritual as vital as swimming upstream. Revisting my roots. Scuffing my boots below the topsoil to reveal rich nutrients beneath. Seeing the old things in a new way, but through more experienced eyes. Poking around in the piles of junk on the old place only to discover so many treasures of the past.
When the tent was secured, I read some weather reports and tossed handfuls of dust into the air to check the wind patterns. I dug a small fire pit and built a fire — strategically placed north of the closest crop, with a natural firebreak provided by the bare dirt banks around a dry pond. The warm weather was supposed to hold up, which probably meant winds from the southwest. I maintained the fire very cautiously to protect the extremely flammable crop nearby. And to demonstrate that vulnerability, I took my knife out and cut off one stalk, and pitched a head of sorghum into the fire. They burn quickly and as you may know, the tiny round grains will pop, like tiny kernels of popcorn. Thank God I’m a country boy.
For the casual camper on the Ping Farm, there are hundreds of new conversation pieces. Those giant windmills (mentioned above) are about 3 miles north, but the blades are visible on a clear day — at least two-thirds of the time. But every other half-second, the three blades spin down below or right at the horizon … only to pop back up above the horizon in the next blink of an eye. It’s a cool farm boy visual effect, for sure. The base of the turbines is out of sight, just rotors, slicing the sky. That’s during daylight. As the winds diminish at sunset, the rotation slows, and the “hide-and-go-seek” game the blades play also slows down in the pastel last light. Then the blades disappear all together in the night … only to be replaced by red lights blinking on each and every windmill lining the highway. Hundreds if not thousands of blinking red lights … so apropos this time of year, like Christmas decorations in the Texas sky. The windmills stretch for about 50 miles, I think, from Wildorado, Texas west to the New Mexico line.
I did not expect visitors, but — speaking of rotors — the last time I camped out on the farm, I spotted a private helicopter, or at least a small unmarked helicopter cruising low over the area farms and ranches. This time, as soon as my little fire started emitting earthy, woody, full-bodied aromas and a little smoke, I heard the telltale “WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP” of a heavy-duty military transport helicopter way, way off in the distance. Please understand that this farm is seven miles from the nearest town and probably three to five miles from the nearest neighbor. (No Wi-Fi hotspots to borrow …) There had been silence. The farm is between Amarillo and the New Mexico line … nowheresville, to borrow a term. Then I heard it coming. I could hear it, but couldn’t see it … at first. It had a rotor at the front and one at the back. What is that, a “Chinook?” Well … I saw two of those over the farm, flying due West, in flight paths running parallel, spaced out over a half-mile spread, at 15-minute intervals. First thought: “Am I busted? I thought the burn ban was lifted in the county.” Then, I thought there could be a military operation … maybe some training exercise from a base in Central Texas or New Mexico, or something … But the choppers were gone as quickly as they had appeared, never returning my waves or acknowledging the reflecting signals I flashed to them from the ground, using the sunlight and the glossy face of my iPhone. I knew I should have learned Morse Code. Regardless … very interesting …
Thank goodness, it was the wrong time of year for snakes, so I had no visitors of the rattling variety. I hoped I would get a visit from the lonely coyotes who often howl and bark at night in that part of the world. But you know what?
Some sort of low pressure system or something pulled in and the air was saturated with moisture, and the temperature dropped. Weather sites indicated the temps were in the 40s nearby, but I was down at the bottom of a hill, and in a playa lake. I guarantee you it was below 40, thus explaining a thick crusting of ice on my windshield and the thick frost on the skin of my tent. Brrrrrrr…. The coyotes had more sense than me, and were not out hunting. No prairie serenade for me. Wonder how many years they had hunted out there. The family farm has all kinds of critters and also has the remains of what was once a buffalo wallow back in the days of open prairies — migrating herds would cool themselves in the mud.
For a few hours, I braved the cold and tried to recognize a few of the more well-known constellations. On previous sojourns, I had spotted a satellite and at least one “shooting star.” Then, bam! Shooting star … met my quota.
Scanning the heavens, I saw many a passenger jet headed to some West Coast destination. Then I spotted another visitor … “a close encounter of the third kind.” Or so it seemed. It freaked me out for a little while. So few people claim to see these … why me? I watched a light that was probably 400-500 miles to the southwest moving through the sky at what must have been a high rate of speed. But so weird … it was not flying in a straight line. That’s what caught my eye. The tiny light would zig zag one direction, then the opposite, as it progressively moved further away from me. It’s erratic flight looked like the way a moth or a butterfly flits back and forth … never in a straight line. Yes … totally freaking out. “What is it?” “Am I seeing a UFO?” Then it disappeared.
I didn’t know how I would explain this to my friends, without losing all credibility. I kept analyzing and of course looking for anything more in the sky above. After watching several more jets fly over, I formed a theory. Each plane had a strobe light flashing, and alternating from each wing. From a great distance, maybe those two blinking lights appear to be one, and when they alternate, it creates the illusion of a flight path change. That’s all I could come up with. Still …
Regardless, after that I was done. I smothered the fire and crawled in the tent and read “A Song of Fire and Ice” Book III (Game of Thrones – “A Storm Of Swords,” … freezing off my arse while I read about frozen, dead, white walkers … “winter is coming” … and all that) until I just could’t take the cold any longer. Man that George R.R. Martin is lengthy … but who am I to talk? Ha. I was reading my e-book version on an iPad, and because of gloved fingers, had to turn pages by touching and dragging my nose across the screen. Ha … nice visual. It was a long night wrapped in a sleeping bag, wearing jeans, long johns, thermal sox, gloves, a coat and a wrap around my ears … and I was still cold. (The iPad and a 3G kept me up-to-date with all the important matters of Facebook and Twitter, while roughing it on the farm without Wi-Fi, I might add.)
I awoke before five, not because I am so inclined, but because I was too cold to try to sleep any longer. I did lay there for another five minutes because I am inclined to be lazy. Then I popped up, and fired up version 2.0 of the campfire. It was the greatest thing ever. I enjoyed the warmth for an hour and a half, before breaking my fast with bacon, eggs, pan-seared toast and cowboy coffee. That’s when I heard my next visitor. Actually, I heard several …. a pack of coyotes was yelping and howling a little bit, miles away. Then a lone wolf … er coyote sounded off to answer them from what must have been only a few hundred feet from my tent. I could hear it so clearly, but couldn’t see it. (I howled back, but the critter was unimpressed.) Later a few mockingbirds sang from the tall grass of the pasture. They probably sounded more like a coyote than me. The entire playa lake was submerged beneath the most dense fog I have ever seen in The Panhandle. My red tent, perched on a dirty berm of a pond was surrounded on all sides and above by a white cloud. It looked like some science fiction, “Twilight Zone” scenario, where the rest of the world was just gone, and I was marooned on what looked like an island. Nothing else existed — or so it appeared — but a white cloak and the 100-square feet around my red tent. Yes cool!
The fog lifted around 11 a.m. and I went about my business of climbing around discarded, rusty farm implements, toys, tools and such … taking photos for anyone who cares.
As I got in my vehicle to drive away, I heard one more visitor … again, overhead. This was pretty rare. An Osprey — the revolutionary fixed/non-fixed wing hybrid aircraft flew right over our farm house … er shack. Dang it … the camera was already packed. Later in the day, watching the local TV news, I was reminded that Ospreys are assembled in Amarillo, 50 miles to the east, at a Bell Helicopter facility. Probably some test flight. Well … that explains that.
Later in broad daylight, one large, furry, really healthy looking coyote crossed over the country road as I drove along toward Landergin Switch … near an old building that I have heard was a Pony Express Station. (Can anyone confirm?)
After a brief visit with family, I headed back to Fort Worth. From that drive, I have but a few things to share. Do you know the road — U.S. 287 from Amarillo to Fort Worth? My first point: Don’t do it. At least not all of it. If time permits, your car is serviced well and the sun is shining, take the back road from Claude, Texas to Estelline, Texas. Not only will you pass through Turkey, Texas, “Home of Bob Wills” you pass cool, but tiny Lake Mackenzie and some of the most interesting rock formations. It’s basically a high-speed driveby of the Palo Duro Canyon lands back there. Awesome!
In Childress I talked to a nice farmer gentleman who pulled up across from me on a fuel island of a tiny little convenience store with really nasty restrooms. But that’s not the good part. He was driving a pick up and pulling a flatbed trailer. On the back of the trailer were several heavy duty steel cages … filled with four or five recently captured feral hogs. He caught them “just south of town” and was going to sell them for 40 cents a pound. Squeal … “Them’s your pigs!” (Name the film … I digress …)
Lastly, I want to point out the oddity that is 287 through Memphis. Seen that? At some point in the town’s history, the highway evidently was widened. Rather than moving the football field, the road simply takes out one corner of the land surrounding the field. The highway passes just beside one corner of the stadium’s bleachers. I surmise that after a touchdown on the field of the Mighty Memphis Cyclones you can kick for one extra point, and also potentially cause a six-car pile up as the ball flies out into the highway … Well sort of. Pretty stubborn those athletic boosters, not budging an inch, when the road came through. Same thing at a local grain storage facility. Rather than move the building, they simply cropped off and redesigned one corner of the building. Ha … I always imagine the granary bursting … and tons and tons of corn piling into the street … and cars diving headlong into the pile … “Corn. Corn.” (Game of Thrones reference …) I digress.
Know what I sayin?
November 10th, 2014 · Tags: Satire · Sports
You meet the nicest people on motorcycles … and sometimes it leads to blogs about nothing.
Those among my inner circle of trust – ha — the 20-some-odd friends on Facebook — have already read a couple of pieces of this story. First, I posted the story of the crazed neighbor on the morning of the lunar eclipse — “The Blood Moon.” Some of you may recall that I was out early with my Nikon and tripod trying to capture a celestial selfie during the event. Ha … up early, wide awake and doing something I enjoy had made me extra positive. So, inadvertently in a great mood, I said hello to several people on the street, and “Did you see the eclipse?,” to a neighbor on the street.
She gathered up her robe or night gown ever so tightly — or whatever she sleeps in and apparently waters the grass in — and yelled at me, “Don’t come any closer!”
Not a problem, lady … I laughed and moved on, continuing down the center of the street in the dark carrying the camera and the tripod — extended to about 5 feet tall, swung over my shoulder.
So just tuck that mental image away for a second …
That was neighbors — the bad part.
Then, a few days later another neighbor restored my faith in humanity. Some older gentleman stopped me on the side of the road as I was riding out of my driveway on the smaller of my two motorbikes. “I like your Speedmaster. I used to have one just like it,” he sung out. We traded quips, shared notes and before you know it, this stranger offered me the left over maintenance manual from his old Triumph motorcycle … at least a 50-dollar item … cash money.
What a great neighbor! After he gave me the book, he invited me to go riding motorcycles some day. So hang on to that too … It’s like a tale of two neighbors.
So today, I stepped out on to the balcony cafe of PingWi-Fi world headquarters when I saw the good neighbor, not the crazed neighbor, walk by.
“Hey Gary! Do you want to go riding today?”
He said give me thirty minutes, but hah … he was ready and on his Harley in 15. I think he is always ready. I like that.
So in my usual clueless fashion, or what some might call laid-back-ish, I said let’s ride to Mineral Wells (Texas … about 45 minutes west of Fort Worth) … “You lead. I’ll follow … whatever.”
We cruised out to Mineral Wells — an excellent choice with the autumn leaves so vibrant along the way — but a little slow for my tastes. But, we were safe and there were lots of great views. We were going to lunch too and I was really looking forward to that.
So when we whizzed on by downtown MW and the historic, empty, perhaps haunted Baker Hotel in the healing waters heart of town, I assumed Gary must know of a little place at the other end of town.
We kept going. I was thinking at that point, that “Gary did hear me say food, right?”
(“Dude. In my culture we eat at least three times a day, and usually one of those is when the big hand meets the little hand at the top of dial.”)
We cruised on, west on 180 … The Palo Pinto Highway as it is known in those parts.
We crossed over The Brazos River … no food. But an awesome bridge …
We hung a left and headed south on 4, I think it was … and came to a “Y” in the road. We hung another left … and kind of out in the middle of nowhere, my one-hour friendship with Gary became suspect as we pulled into a private drive.
Man … I hope this is some hole-in-the-wall restaurant … a best-kept secret … a greasy spoon … one of those.
It wasn’t. It was a small, nondescript house with kind of an airplane-hangar/garage behind it. We parked our bikes and some guy comes out to meet us at the drive.
Gary told me “This is Larry” and I shook the guy’s hand, and immediately noticed that all of the fingers on one of his hands had been cut off at the second knuckle.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t lots of mafia movies include an airplane hangar or warehouse out in the boonies, and a guy with missing fingers?
A little bit of me was rethinking this excursion … For the second time in recent months … in a precarious situation, I just looked at the guy and said, “You’re not going to kill me … are you?.”
But the guys didn’t even pay me no mind and started raving about my big Triumph. Gary had brought me out to Harry’s just to shoot the breeze, talk motorcycles and quiz me on the specs of the 1700 cc, parallel twin … yada … yada … yada. Ha … and we migrated to the garage that was not a hangar at all, and everyone kicked back in a lawn chair … (I thought I was laid back.) … Ha … it seemed for a few minutes like maybe everyone was going to nap while Biff the wonder dog from down the street ate doggie treats from Harry’s fingers and nipped at insects in the still air.
I hated to be rude and break up the pow wow … but I was hungry. It was after 2 p.m. at this point. Harry rejected our invitation to join us for lunch, but he did show me his nice Yamaha under a cover in the back, beside his dirt bike.
Gary said, “I think I’ll take him (me) to Mary’s.” Great … more motorcycle show-and-tell with the gang, I thought.
We hopped on 3137 … I think … We cruised on, across a very dry Palo Pinto Creek Reservoir … to 919 I think … to 193, past Gordon and Mingus. (Did anyone try to ping us at Mingus … I digress …) after Gary cut through some ranch property that had a nice new sign stating “No Trespassing,” and on to Strawn, Texas.
“So this is Strawn,” I thought. Wasn’t it the town featured in the documentary about six-man football in Texas? (Six-man, not to be confused with the 12th Man in the previous blog …) Why yes it was, because the first thing that greeted us as we roared into the town of 500+ was a sign proclaiming their six-man prowess … winners of the Texas football state championship in 2003 and 2008.
Great film “6” … great fun this six-man version of gridiron … check it out.
“6″ – The Film
I think I may have written something about the film at The Dallas International Film Festival a few years back … I remember for sure that one of my former PR clients Ken Capps has a cameo in the film. I digress …
Finally, we went through the 6-man center of the universe and we parked at Mary’s. I have since been told that Mary’s is high on the list of favorite biker cafes in Texas. But this day, there are two … sort of … and several cowboys. I see why all the hoopla. Mary’s serves up a chicken fried steak in three sizes … tall, grande and venti … no wait a minute their city slicker … small, medium and large. I chose medium. Good honk! The medium chicken fried steak covered every bit of the plate except the part that was under an avalanche of mashed potatoes … and the steak extended to hang off two ends of the plate. Huge, I tell yah.
Finally we were eating and joking and talking about our neighborhood. Gary told me about a woman who lives close to him who is nice, but lives alone (I think he said) … and is “a little paranoid.”
“Wait a second … Paranoid, you say?,” I said.
“Gary. I think I have met her.”
“Whattaya mean?,” he asks.
Well, Gary, one morning I was out with my camera to see the lunar eclipse … I recalled.
He chortles … “Ha-Ha … That was you!?! She has been telling everyone in the neighborhood about some guy wondering up and down the middle of the street in the dark … with a weed eater!”
I cracked up.
So you see friends … this little blog about nothing started with what looked like a biker mob adventure, and ended in a Fort Worth, “Texas Weed Eater Massa-cree!”
When we stopped laughing, I hoped I was not too stuffed to ride back to my neighborhood. I love my neighborhood.
Know what I sayin?
Man. I don’t know who Number 12 was at Texas A&M, but they sure sell a lot of his jerseys.
I jest. The 12th Man … what a cool tradition — one of so many at this great school. One so cool it has been “rebranded” (stolen) by an NFL team. Gotta love that, Aggie Nation.
But for all the Aggie jokes I have ever heard, and all the times I have seen them on TV or on the field of my own alma mater, I had never been to College Station, Texas — despite the respect I have for them. Well, I don’t have a bucket list, but I guess I can now scratch Farmers Fight off my Aggie List.
Ha. Pretty sure The Aggies thought I was one of them when I rode the burgundy and black Triumph Thunderbird into town, sporting an unkept agricultural engineer’s growth of facial hair. What a great ride on the back roads from Fort Worth through Texas to Cleburne (new Chisolm Trail tollway) to Hillsboro, Mexia, little town, little town and on to Aggie Land. I was giddy when I saw a vintage 1960s motorcycle riding around town with a rough coat of white/cream paint and a big 12th Man dose of maroon Aggie logo on the gas tank. Pretty cool. (Note to selfie: have camera ready, always …)
Yep … as if I needed to gaze up at the huge cream and maroon water toward the welcomed me. I was in Aggie Land.
I decided on this assignment, because my team and alma mater is in a rebuilding year and not doing well (understatement) … and also, after years of requests, Texas Tech will not give me media credentials … (despite any journalism accomplishments awarded at and after my J school degree from Tech) … The Aggies did. And I had always wanted to see College Station for my own self.
Because this blog has a bit of a tradition in its own right, yes, I rode around and sampled some Wi-Fi the day before the game. I sampled at the usuals — Starbucks, Barnes & Noble (a luxury no longer afforded me in Fort Worth) Chick-Fil-A, Schlotsky’s … but hands down, my favorite Wi-Fi hotspot in College State was the press box of the storied Kyle Field. Can’t say if I sampled more pre-game croissant sandwiches or wireless Internet, sending out some tweets and updates. What history.
On Friday afternoon, I rode by, but did not sample Wi-Fi or whoops at The Dixie Chicken, wear Aggies go to dunk their class rings in a beer to christen it, and then chug … as if they need another excuse to have a cold one.
Man what a buzzing little city. Every retail business I saw was crazy busy. I bet any restaurant that uses maroon barbecue sauce could make a killing here.
One Penalty Assessed
And Wi-Fi was the only saving grace of my hotel. The wireless worked flawlessly and no one stole my motorcycle … but other than that, I highly recommend the place be dismantled and used for kindling for the next Aggie Bonfire. In the hotel’s defense, my stay was free (using accrued points) and I knew this chain was not the Taj Mahal. I expected it to be old, nothing fancy. But I expected service and a degree of hygiene … I won’t reveal the brand (ha … for their protection and my own dignity) but, I will say it is part of the Wyndham family of hotel loyalty umbrella. Because i want to live, I requested a non-smoking room. After check in I turned down the bed, I saw that my sheets were riddled with 4-5 big cigarette burns. Being analytical, I wondered if the perpetrator fell asleep with the cigarette at his thigh, or if the sheets had been rotated and the nasty burns occurred as the person fell asleep with the smoke by his chest. CSI-minds want to know. Regardless, there was proof that smoking kills. Next to the burn holes was a dead fly, taken before his time, next to the cigarette holes where he gave his last breath … and a little puddle of fly blood. Yes … How gross!
I have seen it all, so I didn’t lose it. I just called the front desk. I even volunteered to sleep on the other side of the bed, so they didn’t have to changed the bed at 10 p.m. that night. It was take care of, in my mind … Until the next day, after room service “cleaned the room” and I checked. The fly was gone, because i said a few words over it and had flushed it. But the cigarette holes were right where I had found them. Ha … I guess they taught me what happens to complainers at their hotel.
I called back. Housekeeping was gone, so the clerk brought me a sheet. I had to call her back and explain to her that a twin sheet won’t fit a king-size bed. She brought another. I had to call her back and explain to her that a fitted sheet is the one with elastic …. After four tries, they brought me sheets that I changed myself.
So, the Wyndham property received 1 ping out of a possible 7 — one ping for Wi-Fi. That’s all. Next time, I may just park in their lot, use the Wi-Fi and sleep on clean bedding in my car and consider it “an upgrade.”
On To The Game
My “hotel” was near the corner of University and Texas … so it was about a 30-minute walk to the game. With maroon madness everywhere, I decided it would be better to walk than ride a motorcycle and find a parking lot. Ha … it was quite a march, especially on the way home after the game. But on the way in toward Kyle Field, I had lots of adrenalin … and a military escort.
Along the way, I chanced upon 6-7 young woman in Naval Reserve uniforms. Although I had studied the map and knew the easiest way to the game, I was betting they knew the quickest way. I politely asked permission to come aboard their little group, and they said sure, with the warning “but we walk pretty fast.” “Dang girls … talk about double time.” They were serious … and kept pace at race walker speed … a few buildings, and then a left … then another left … then a right … and then another left. Ha … it almost seemed they were trying to lose me. But, in actuality, we just meandered through to the Quadrangle in record time. Cadets were marching. Alumni were taking photos. And this blogger just walked around trying to take in all the atmosphere.
Ha … even the port-a-potties were maroon. The only thing that wasn’t was the most huge puddle of puke I have ever seen in my life, someone had deposited near the stadium … perhaps at yell practice the night before. Let’s just say it was Warhawk color and leave it at that … I thought to myself … new Aggie phrases — “thumbs up-chuck” … and “gag ‘em!” … I digress …
In The Press Box
I paid my respects before the photo of 1957 Heisman winner John David Crow and somehow managed to avoid any Johnny Football hoopla from the more recent winner. I guess Crow was not one of the “Junction Boys,” but I assume he benefitted from legacy of the brutal Paul “Bear” Bryant conditioning program in the 100-degree heat.
Hey I was a Junction Boy too … but that was after Texas Tech acquired the riverside camp facility from A&M, deep in the Texas Hill Country on the Llano River. Had one of the best times ever, studying photography at Tech center in Junction. Class in the morning, beer and tubes on the river all afternoon … darkroom at night … I digress …
On The Sidelines
Oh, but once down on the sidelines they got me. Me and the other 100-thousand-some-odd were treated to some Johnny Magic on the big screen TVs above the stadium seating. Yes … The Wi-Fi network I had joined in the press box was still working down on the sidelines. The only problem I had was a failure when I tried to e-mail out a huge panoramic photo of the field. I don’t know if the Wi-Fi network balked, or if the e-mail provider I used blocked the hand off of the huge file.
What? You Lose A Bet?
But I would be deaf, dumb and blind if I did not notice the void in Aggie Land without Manziel. They tell me this was a quiet game. It has not been the best of seasons for A&M either, sorry to say, and that too probably helped me get a media pass. That and a great connection in College Station … a former Texas Tech guy, turned Aggie – Colin – who now is a communications executive for the city. Before he went into public information for College Station, he was a sports information pro for A&M. Before that he was dyed-in-the-wool Red Raider … For example, as the sports editor of the Texas Tech newspaper, Colin once bet the Red Raider football team would get beat, and he wagered that if the team won, they could shave Double Ts into his hair. Tech won, and the paper’s editor, Gilbert, and Colin both got flashy new do’s for a photo opp. Their photo ran on page 1, with their heads shaven, excluding the Double T shapes. Heady times … I digress.
But … yes, last Saturday The Aggies played a great game and got a win. But this was not the Aggies of 2013 … a team that surprised the SEC with some muscle formed in The Big 12 (leading many to continue the chant about overrating the SEC … ) Obviously Johnny FootballShoes were big ones to fill … and perhaps less noticeable is another void on sidelines. While Kevin Sumlin is a great, great coach and I can’t stress that enough. It seems something else is missing. Sumlin is a football mind … a proven player and coach and a nice guy. (I met and interviewed Coach Sumlin back when he and Case Keenum were bringing the Houston program back into the limelight.) That Houston team and the 2013 Aggies — in addition to Sumlin — had two other things in common. They both had great quarterbacks and they both had “the quarterback whisperer” Kliff Kingsbury. Is he the other huge piece missing from The Aggie magic? I think so … to a degree … Which proves it crazy that some Texas Tech fans are already turning on Kingsbury after his second GQ season at the helm in Lubbock … I digress …
Back to the game … given, this was not a tough SEC matchup also helped me make the sideline list. This day, The Aggies faced what turned out to be a pretty good team from the University of Louisiana-Monroe – ULM. How many of you can name their mascot without Google? The Warhawks. And while the Warhawks are not Auburn (that Aggie game is this week) … they were pretty tough — no cakewalk as you might think. ULM — from The Sun Belt Conference — has some pretty tough linebackers, bigger than those on my fave Big 12 team. And the Warhawk QB Pete Thomas proved to be quite a fighter, under duress all day … and he just kept coming, running up yards with his arms and legs … finishing with 246 yards passing. The Warhawks were a midseason non-conference break from the SEC … probably a strategic move before the Tiger Walk in Alabama.
The ULM game was made even more interesting with A&M’s own little quarterback controversy. Freshman Kyle Allen started for the “Farmers” after the early-in-the-season 5-0 sensation, Kenny Hill was benched two games for violating team regulations. (I think there might have been 59 other reasons, given the “Bama score a couple of weeks back.)
Regardless young Allen (wonder how many Aggies name their kids Kyle) was impressive, one of the most legitimate NFL prospects QBs in college football — a specimen — went 11-of-22 passes in the first half for 100 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Neither team scored a TD in the third quarter, as both teams tallied right at 300 yards offense.
In the fourth quarter, the Aggies scored a TD, while the WHawks settled for field goals. And any team will take 7s instead of 3s all day long … Allen clinched with his first touchdown pass of the game, a 39-yarder to Speedy Noil. The final ULM drive stalled, and the Aggies ran a play with just over a minute left on the board, and then ran out the clock for a 21-16 W.
Needless to say, Aggie Land gets crazier than most for any game, but I am sure this was a pretty subdued game by Aggie standards. Still … how interesting to see all of the Aggie rituals at work … The seniors in the awesome Fighting Aggie Band wearing their knee-high riding boots. The Corps. The different variations of the Whoop! sign. “Mugging down” after a score. The student body on its feet for four quarters. The entire crowd standing, locking arms over shoulders with strangers, and swaying back and forth for one cheer or fight song. (By contrast, I pictured the germ-a-phobe students back home in Fort Worth who open the door at Starbucks with their feet, so they don’t get germs from another off the door handle.)
Legendary yells — “Farmers Fight” and “T-E-A-M” and such. And oh the storied Yell Leaders as opposed to a lesser university’s cheerleaders. Dressed head to ankle in pristine white, janitor-like uniforms, with sleeves rolled up nearly to the shoulder … and farmerish maroon sneakers … These guys are quite the spectacle. Have you seen them? So bizarre, their movements and signs and choreography and yet so creative. I mean, these are time-honored techniques developed about a century ago. There is still a sense of humor dating back to the spoof of their origin, but they have honed these skills into a very serious Aggie art form.
For example, my favorite – the yell leaders, in perfect synchronicity, kneel down, touch the ground, hop up, standing on only one foot, with the other leg extended out, and they spin around with their arms out “spread eagle” while they wiggle their fingers. How fun! Aggie Yell Leaders – 7 pings … perfect score. (So glad, yet surprised the equal-rights mob has not challenged and ruined this tradition.) Gig em!
Where else in college football do the spirit leaders strut out on to the football field during the teams’ warm up and shake the hands of the officiating crew? Never seen that before. And I much appreciated one of the most honorable traditions — the Aggie Yell Leaders take a knee when any player is hurt and down on the field. I am color blind when it comes to sportsmanship.
Overall … what a great visit. School spirt and good fun, even in a bit of an off year for the Aggies. Most of all, I was just impressed with how polite the kids were. Granted, I may have been bumped into a few times, but the kids always stopped to apologize and smile and talk. Everyone was quick to answer any questions about the school, its traditions … directions … One student who works on the Kyle Field grounds crew even came over and told me I could stand closer to the field, when he saw I was shooting photos where all the other visitors were allowed to stand on the sidelines.
What a gig!
Know what I sayin?
October 29th, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Sports
For Texas Tech:
It is annoying, but more importantly, extremely damaging to our university that many “Tech fans” think that being a malcontent is normal. I just read a piece by a “journalist” attacking the hiring and decision making of Coach Kliff Kingsbury.
We’ve all seen hundreds of negative comments about Davis Webb by all the “arm-chair” coaches out there. It seems no matter what happens, many of these people are not going to be happy and they apparently “know more than KK” who spent time in the NFL and groomed two of the best college quarterbacks in history before he took over at his alma mater (where of course he helped to take our program to the next level).
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Before I finish the PingWi-Fi blogging assignment for Detroit … I can’t help it. I have to comment on the news flowing from Motor City. Thousands of residents had their water shut off for not paying they bills … for months. And can you believe the United Nations waded into the muck to point out “wrongdoing?” … “How dare a city expect people to pay for the water they use?” (I type in jest …)
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September 21st, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Sports · Wi-Fi
Well, I have done Michigan, getting my wolverine on in Ann Arbor, so for equal time, seems only right that I call on The Spartans of Michigan State (Lansing) today.
Right off the bat, I have to say that the Spartans have one of, if not the coolest logos, in college football, just this side of Marvin the Martian. Kidding, love the Spartan icon.
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September 16th, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Satire · Wi-Fi
I’ve always been curious, and I always thought I would see the world, or a major part of it. But from my earliest memories, I had no clue how to accomplish that. For a time, I settled for letting the world come to me, so to speak.
Like my buddies, I am sure, I always tried to learn whatever I could about the outside world from the people who moved to or passed through our little farming/ranching outpost near the New Mexico Border.
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Driving in and around Warren, Michigan, Bloomfield Hills, Beverly Hills, Oak Grove, Royal Oak … marveling at how lush and green the grass is in this place. Driving by the golf courses, i am thinking it is a wonder golf wasn’t invented here. Immaculate. Plenty of forestation in this glove-shaped, land swatch between several Great Lakes. So humid. A few of the leaves are blowing off … No color changes in the trees yet. Wait a week or so. The shadows, however, are fall-like. The shadows are long, and subconsciously you know the sun has moved and soon the warm weather will follow it. This place will become a deep freeze. Everyone knows it … and they are embracing the pleasant sunshine today, en masse.
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September 1st, 2014 · Tags: Cities · Satire
It’s Labor Day and I am sitting just beyond the shadows of multi-story skyscrapers of Detroit — their outer walls adorned with the names and logos of car companies, like so many decorative hood ornaments on a grille.
Earlier this morning on my way to Bell Island, just off the shoreline of this once booming city, and then on to Motown in the heart of Detroit, I motored by the offices of the UAW. Motor City. (Cool logo, by the way, for the United Auto Workers union, with workers icons lining the perimeter of a huge circle, emulating the spokes of a wheel … or at least that is my interpretation … I digress.)
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At some point in my childhood, viewing the world through National Geographic, I learned about bears storing up calories and body fat before they winter in a cave — only to come out lean and even more mean when hibernation is over.
For me … just the opposite.
I spent a couple of months underground on The Dirty Gig in Columbia, Mo. and still bare the extra tonnage — a combination of doing most of my lifting with a fork and/or a forklift … oh and that little ice cream three times a day habit that I acquired in Mizzou.
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