From newspapers to my blog

by Randall Beaird

Coyote Grove was published in about twenty newspapers across the southern states.  It covered life in the country and a medley of other topics.  Randy Bamboo is my blog, and my older columns will be mixed with it.
coyote3randallSome of my friends call me Bamboo.  I’ve planted over 20 varieties all across my farm, Shawnee Grove. I have everything from the mighty giant Moso sidebenchafrom China, to the

functional Arrow Bamboo from Japan. Once used often in the heat of battle, it now stands tall as a rather peaceful, though stunning houseplant.

I have large piles of spalted oak and old chicken house lumber that I turn in to tables and benches.  And then there’s Reba and Nemo, my Anatolian Shepherds that keep an eye on my herd of lawnmowers (Katahdin Sheep.)

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Living on Salty June

by Randall Beaird

During the summer of 2005 I was working south of Victoria, Texas and spending every weekend fishing in Port O’Connor.  I kayakgreen bought a 15 foot kayak, built a trolling motor mount behind me, anchored it to the battery and was soon cruising miles from shore in the bay and finger-like canals.

I would pack my tent, find a sandy spot, as high as possible to dodge high tide, and explore–had a little shellac working by Sunday, layers of sunscreen and insect repellant.

I would troll a little, or anchor and fish by some structure.  When the big boats flew by they loved to roar their approval/surprise as I puttered down the shoreline.  I was in no hurry, and packed a collapsible lawnchair.

Doug and Pat helped me catch these.

Doug and Pat helped me catch these.

Salty June

Nothing beats grilled trout, especially when you’re starving. After a few weeks I knew I needed a bigger kitchen, and a shower, so I started looking for a rental.  I ended up buying my apartment, a 36 foot Grand Banks trawler.

It made my commute to work a little longer, but I was coming home daily, to my baby.   I named her Salty June because it was a very salty June living off that kayak on the weekends.  But by July, the tides were runnin’ right, and Fridays often found me headed to the offshore jetties a few miles away.  Anchored on the calm bay side, just feet from the deep water cuts, was the place for me.

cabbageheadOne hot night in August, millions of cabbage head jellyfish were in the marina, I mean thick, and one was clogging up my AC intake. Dripping sweat, desperate to sleep, I threw on my goggles and eased in with the cabbage heads. They don’t sting, but like playing dodgeball, and I was losing in this nightmare. Their mucous creates an itch, especially after that slow dance, so I took my weekly shower early.

Just one month later, Katrina was rippin’ toward New Orleans, as all my fellow boaters in the marina stayed glued to the reports. But she never made us quiver like those to the east. katrina_2005_map

Then came Rita, and things were about to get crazy.  From early on she showed the potential to wreck Port O’Connor.  Work let out early Thursday, September 22 so I rushed home to Salty June.  It didn’t look good, though they said if it wobbled, it would most likely bend toward Louisiana.  So I decided to make a run for Corpus Christi.  (I had enough diesel to make Mexico with two 200 gallon tanks.)

Hurricane Rita

The problem with my plan was that there were long desolate stretches between Port O’Connor and Corpus, plus I would be on foot if I abandoned ship.  I was trying to save my insurance deductible — $4,000.

My GPS unit was dialed in nicely on the channel, showing me the deepest part and navigational buoys, or I wouldn’t have been able to drive by myself, 90 miles at 8 knots, twelve hours straight.

I remember around 1am, hearing on the radio, it was forecast to hit Matagorda, just north of Port O’Connor, but it was still several hundred miles away and over 24 hours from landfall.  By the time I made Rockport around 3am, Rita started flirting with Louisiana.  And when I pulled into the Corpus Christi Marina at 6am, she was moving in for a deadly mugging, the following morning, at the Texas/Louisiana border. Corpus Christi and Bay Marinas

The marina was close to downtown Corpus, and after tying up and taking a nap, I hit the streets walking around noon.  Many of the businesses were boarded up, but I found a Whataburger with the drive-thru open.  I remember feeling odd as I waited in line among the cars, creeping toward a big burger meal, doing exaggerated stretching every 30 seconds–just little signals to the car behind, “Easy on the knees.” Certainly feeling vulnerable, yet lucky to be alive.

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The journey back to Port O’Connor the next morning was heaven; I could see the sights.  My dock mates who stayed said the water rose about five feet, and I lost some lawn chairs.  I know–lucky.  And if I ever meet a single lady named June, especially in June…
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I drove from up top–much bettter visibility.

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Only lovers

by Randall Beaird

Nothing was more exciting than that first day of school. I couldn’t wait to play bombardment at recess and see who was in my class. I remember one night before one of those days. Dad did a bed-check and saw my new red striped bowling shoes peeking from the blanket, then my matching plaid pants. Busted! I had to put on my pajamas.

It was Valentine’s Day 1974. I was in fifth grade and secretly liking girls for the past two years. I decided it was time to show my true colors.randall2ndgrade
Up ’til then, my only display of affection was a simple wish. I loved teachers that had alphabetical order seating. That was my only chance to sit by a girl. The worm on shore at dawn was only as shy.

The white lunch sacks were peppered with hearts and hung on the window sill. Mine had an extra special notice across it in my largest, neatest print. “ONLY LOVERS PUT CARDS IN THIS BAG.”

My rationale was simple. I liked girls. It was a perfect opportunity to find my first girlfriend. I sat through class flashing opossum grins at potential sweethearts. Daydreaming, I saw them wrestling each other to place cards in my sack.

Finally, it was party time, time to deliver cards and fall in love forever. I stood off to the side ready to bust; my grin was gargantuan. I can still see Mrs. Malloy looking at me, smiling and shaking her head.

Some things you have to learn the hard way. I was up for a hard fall, and she knew it.

The line of classmates inched along the sacks splashed with hearts though it slowed especially when it reached mine. After a quick reading, much to my surprise and dismay, they were passing without dropping a thing.

It was my first lesson on cutting your losses. My smile went from big and sure to sheepish as I discreetly made my way to the problem with a large red crayon. Except Mrs. Malloy, no one noticed. I stood inches from the bag, madly marking away. The bold declaration grew into a jagged red rectangle.

I staggered off to deliver my cards, only to tip-toe back later for another look. It was almost like my only eagle on the golf course. A 170 yard blind five wood faded onto a green I couldn’t see. I couldn’t find the ball, so I tiptoed to the hole. In five giant steps I was off the green as my sand wedge and putter sailed high. I jumped and yelled, “IT’S IN THE HOLE! IT’S IN THE HOLE!” Only this time, “They were in the bag!” but I wasn’t about to holler. I already tried eager with a big toothy grin and red crayon.

Fish Drill Team

by Randall Beaird

My first year in college began in a wheelchair. On August 20, 1981, three days prior to my departure for Texas A&M, my right leg was crushed under Star, our lanky quarter horse. We were in a dead-run by the asphalt when Star drifted onto the road. As I inched him back to the grass, all four feet slipped and my right leg was smashed and good. Star stood up and stared as I twisted around in the weeds.

My right toe needed stitches, imagine a tomato, while the bone snapped just above my ankle.  A balance in breaks of sorts–my left leg required two screws a year earlier after a football pile-up.  After five days in the hospital, and one hip cast later, I was four days late in joining the Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets.

right before haircut

right before haircut

My twenty “fish buddies” and I were in for the surprise of our lives. With shaved heads and a closet full of uniforms, you either learned to play the game and remember names or scampered back to the normal life. Like starved sharks, the sophomores cruised the hallways looking for freshman.  After a year of being lowly mud minnows they were anxious to holler and be in charge. It was all for the best. We were broken down to nothing and built back to our nation’s salvation, a unit that can follow orders.

randall4We had to “whip-out,” aggressively meet and remember all the upperclassmen names. Screaming, “sounding off,” was encouraged. Faced with this tradition, I left my high school shell in a blur after a few introductions.

There was lots of Aggie trivia to memorize, and chores.  Push-ups were quite popular.

The Fish Drill Team practiced in the middle of the quad every evening. With a commander barking out directions, retired rifles snapped from shoulder to shoulder in varying degrees of unison. Most of the freshman weren’t in High School ROTC so skills were low and the motivational runs long. Still on crutches, I hobbled over to see if I could join the fun.

“When can you run?”

“In five weeks.”

They handed me an old Springfield bolt-action. Without moving much, I learned the different maneuvers.

My first run in formation was pretty memorable.  Looking back, could go either way. I was tough and didn’t quit, though ended forty yards behind the pack in a staggering limp, or I was dumb for not taking it easier on my leg.
fishdrill1After Christmas break the intensity of our drill rose as we prepared for competition. In our motivational runs around the campus some would fall out from exhaustion. They would stop but their “weapon” could not; we passed it around taking turns cradling two rifles. For some reason that always made me chuckle, as we tried to pass it around and not lose our step.

Prior to competitions we shaved our heads to show unity. Common ground was good with old Springfield rifles whizzing overhead. In New Orleans we marched in a ten mile long parade at Mardi Gras. Never have I seen such a show of wanton behavior. Our formation’s demeanor was in serious jeopardy as gorgeous women/red lips pecked away at our perimeter.  Bad draw for me, stuck in the middle of the pack, wishing for the edge and the difficult lip patrol.

My A&M days had me close to joining the Marine Corps. In the end, not sure of my momdadatjoannsdirection, I left College Station after two years. Things run in the family–being a teacher ran in mine. I landed at SFA for my bachelors, then again for my Masters.
** (Thanks to Claudette Brashear Beaird, my mother, for the encouragement, and B. Lynn Beaird, my father, for the example.)

 

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It was 1971

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1971       back: Jennifer, Randall, Jeanette                                                                                                       front: Melanie, Jason, Melissa

by Randall Beaird

Here’s a fun picture of me and my siblings.  Now, for their stories…

Jason —  “I started playing golf at about 16, and was so eager to practice I

jasonkid1hung a piece of jasonold shag carpet up inside the barn near the back door.  I hit balls into it day after day.  The balls were mostly falling down below the carpet but a few fell behind it.  I was really loving my new practice facility until I went around the back of the carpet after a week and saw about 20 holes in the back barn door.  The balls I hit with the driver had been going through the carpet and right through the door.  Barn door looked like swiss cheese!”

Randall  —  I was nearly six years old when Jason randallkidwas born, and was bouncing off the walls to have a brother, finally, after being surrounded by 4 sisters.  I guess I was kind of a wrestler back then, or something, because mother would say that Jason’s first spoken words were, “Randall hit me.”  randall1So I got in trouble for being a little too rough.  Then, one  summer we all met up at the lake for a vacation. I was 23, Jason 18, and he was finally my size, so he was kind of layin’ in the weeds for me, so to speak.  We started wrestling in the shallow water; I recognized the moment, a special moment for him, and let him get the best of me, as he hoisted me overhead in a triumphant toss. I guess I had it comin’.

On a side note, Jason is an amazing musician.  He put melodies/vocals to most of my lyrics at http://showcaseyourmusic.com/shawneegrove and narrated/sang an eductional cartoon I wrote at http://yourhouseofeducation.com/yhoe.html

Melanie — (Written by David Frey)”The awesome woman in this photo ismelaniekids1a Melanie Ellsworth. She is an amazing woman.She had a powerful impression that she should be my kidney donor (I have Polycistic Kidney Disease.) She courageously stepped forward to donate. During her testing, the doctors shockingly discovered that she had an unusual form of kidney cancer, which is rarely detected until it is too late. Yesterday, she had it safely removed. Probably saved her life. God works in mysteriously wonderful ways. THANK YOU Melanie!”

 

Melanie and David Frey

Melanie and David Frey

Pretty cool story!  Melanie teaches 5th Grade Science and has her own blog http://www.raisedurbangardens.com/

Melanie’s story —  “When I was ten years old, Jennifer told me, Melissa and Jason that our house in Houston was an old castle.  She said that when she pulled off an air vent cap on the roof she found an old slide that went to a dungeon.  She had our attention with wild eyed expressions and hand gestures. Theremelanie was treasure and jewels down in this dungeon, just waiting for us. Jennifer opened the window above the bathtub and helped us squeeze through.  The moment we were all out on the roof, she slammed the window shut and started laughing.  We knew we were had, and all burst into tears.  Finally, she let us back in after a couple of minutes.  I learned that day to be wary of Jennifer’s imagination, and to this day I am afraid of roofs.

I also remember Jason as a big prankster.  His tricks included,  putting something on top of a bedroom door, usually a tennis ball, so that it would fall and startle whoever opened it, putting stink bait under someones bed, putting saran wrap on the toilet seat, stringing fishing line across the hallway to trip someone, but his most memorable prank was turning the clear plastic carpet protector, with the jagged gripper points on the bottom, upside down so that it would be a little painful for someone to walk over in their bare feet.  Dad spilled a cup of coffee from this one.

4 generations

4 generations

family pic for carda

 Jennifer —

jenniferkid1“I am the oldest, but only by three minutes. I am blessed to have ajennifer1 twin sister who I have shared many life experiences with, and is the one person who knows above all else what it felt like to be the oldest in a family of six kids. One memory I have was the time the neighborhood bully wanted to fight me at the swimming pool when I was 13. I was there with my best friend Betty Lou and as we were leaving the pool. Pam came up to us and said she wanted to fight me. I was literally scared to death. I had never been in a fight before in my whole life. She kept taunting me and even pushed me a couple of times. I told her I would fight her but only at my house. I lived two blocks away from the swimming pool. I walked home with Betty Lou at my side. I was trembling, my heart pounding faster than it ever had, and all the way home Betty Lou kept consoling me and basically trying to toughen me up. Pam and her friend walked behind us calling me ‘chicken’ all the way home. We stopped one time when Pam insisted she wasn’t going to follow me home. She tried to come at me, but the neighbor came out and told us to get off his yard. We resumed walking home—Betty Lou and I in front– Pam and her friend behind us taunting me the whole way. When I reached my driveway, I broke from Betty Lou’s side and ran in screaming, “Jeanette, Jeanette, Pam wants to fight me!” At the time Jeanette was chopping onions on a cutting board. My panicked cries were all it took, when Jeanette gave me the “killer” look, and slamming down the large butcher knife, screamed, “Where is she!” She had the look of a mad dog– she was ready to rumble! All I can say is my heart leapt with joy as I knew I was not going to have to fight. Pam was quite surprised to see Jeanette tear out the front door wanting to fight. I remember something about an an apron being flung off in the driveway. Pam protested saying something about wanting to fight me (chicken liver) when Jeanette screamed, “You fight someone then it is going to be me!” A fight ensued, mainly just two girls circling each other— Jeanette slapping Pam’s outstretched hand, and Pam occasionally pulling Jeanette’s long hair. A paper boy riding his bicycle down the street screamed, “A fight! A fight!” and wheeled his bike into our driveway. Then our babysitter pulled up and sent Pam and the small crowd of neighborhood kids home. That night she taught us all karate, but not before giving us all a big lecture on not fighting. Let it go down in history that Jeanette got every bit of courage and bravery in the gene pool we share— but I am not complaining! She was my hero that dreadful day.”kemptonfamily1

Jeanette —

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“I remember Dad having a very giving heart with animals.  Hejeanettejohn1 allowed us to take in Bud, a mut stray off the streets of Houston.  One night Bud got sick and was throwing up blood.  Dad took Jennifer and I to the vet with Bud.  It was a complicated and expensive situation.  Our two other dogs were required to give their blood for transfusions–Bud had heartworms.  Several more treatments later and Bud lived a long life, making the move out to the country to Thompsons (outside of Rosenberg.)”    (Jeanette’s website is http://www.texashealthins.com/index.html)

Melissa —

melissakid1

“I never will forget the time my friend Dawn came over one hot summer day.  She was on her horse with the neighborhood pest following on her heels.  We were visiting by the pool when this same kid walked up out of nowhere and slapped the horse on the rump.  It was rodeo time, as the horse jumped straight up and landed in the pool.  It made a rather impressive lap, swimming around the pool, came to the steps and walked out casually,  like he was leaving a jucuzzi.  Mom loves to tell how she came home that afternoon to find all her towels draped on the horse’s back.  Dawn talked me into it–she was afraid her horse would catch a cold.

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Randall:  I didn’t have a chance to keep my toys with these two. Mother on my first Christmas, “Randall did his little football training, dodging Jennifer and Jeanette in making a run, trying to keep his toys, at least for a little while. ”

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Okay, so I got my fair share at the dinner table.