Dog days

by Randall Beaird

I was sixteen and bringing our dog Duffy, a red chow, home from the vet. He was sitting beside me in the truck enjoying the view when I noticed a giant buzzard up ahead. As we got closer it took off.  Actually graceful and almost majestic, the wings beat down like an albatross going home, but there was no flight plan. In an instant, the hustling bird smashed into our windshield.

Duffy jumped straight into the air and was quivering on the back seat floorboard; I was expecting a mangled bird in his place. The windshield was shattered a smoky white, and caved inward four inches, but held as the fractured carrion connoisseur cartwheeled over the cab to the highway below.

Duffy was rattled, but I was too busy trying to drive with my head out the window. To match the brutal wind, I was desperate for a pair of skydiving goggles.

Three years later, in that same truck, on that same highway, Duffy lay in a cardboard box beside me. We were returning from the vet again, only this time he had to be put to sleep. It was tough to hold and comfort Duffy for his last breath, a nearly blind skeleton of his former self. I could hardly see as I paid the bill at the counter.

On the road home I gave Duffy a recap of his wonderful 15 years; I chuckled as I reminded him of his record setting straight-up-in-the-air move when we passed the fractured buzzard spot.

Ten years later, after leaving the Dallas area, I needed a place to keep Sara, my Great Pyrenees, while looking for a place to buy. Sara was the guardian over my herd of chickens.

One evening a call came from my sister, “Randall, Sara is dead. I’m so sorry. We put the dogs up and went horseback riding. They got out; Sara was hit crossing the road and died instantly.” I could hardly talk choking back the tears.

Jennifer didn’t want me to see Sara. “Brian and I will bury her; she doesn’t look good. You need to remember the real Sara.” It took a few tries to be intelligible but I finally made clear, “I have to see her; I have to bury her.”

They wanted to come point her out and help. I said I needed to be alone and got directions. I drove down a pitch black road looking for Sara, not fully accepting she was dead. I came to the curve in the road, some dark red pavement and a glimpse of beautiful white fur on the shoulder. I parked and ran over to find Sara stretched on her side in a pool of blood. No one could hear as I yelled out her name and stroked her cold lifeless frame.

I put Sara in the truck bed and found a pretty oak tree to shadow her grave. With headlights pointing the way I talked to Sara and dug it deep. I did a recap of her life and kept telling her what a good dog she was, and she was.

Why I love bamboo

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Jennie and Pat Caton

by Randall Beaird
I fell in love with bamboo the first time I saw it as a kid visiting my aunt Jennie and uncle Pat Caton at Burke, Texas (just north of Diboll).  They had a beautiful grove of Golden Bamboo out back by their square dance hall.

Now that I’m growing about 20 varieties on my farm, every Spring is one long Christmas morning. Many of my bamboos are the timber variety and will surpass 3″ in diameter, some 6 inches. Each year the canes come up a little bigger, so walking around every Spring is a lot of fun. When you see a 3″ cane first poking it’s head out it looks like an alien plant–it’s big. It’s not like a tree trunk that gets bigger each year. Bamboo can also be harvested after 3 years for construction and produces up to 35% more oxygen than hardwoods, not to mention absorbing four times more carbon. A lot of bamboo shoots are eaten by people, though the bamboo clothing industry is under fire for its current use of harsh chemicals to produce bamboo cloth.
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There are two types of bamboos, “runners” and “clumpers.” The clumpers generally need milder temperatures than 25 degrees, so nearly all of my bamboos are runners, and invasive by nature. A lot of people hate this about bamboo–it can cause lots of headaches if planted without a rhizome barrier or the ability to mow it on all sides. The canes are rather soft when they first sprout in the Spring, and can be mowed or knocked down. If you plant it on a property line, it’s not fair to expect your neighbor to mow it each Spring when it spreads onto their property. Most of my bamboos are very drought tolerant by their second summer, but I’ve found if I want them to increase in size each year they need some extra water from time to time. So I have irrigation lines reaching a lot of my bamboo, but I also carry 5 gallon water buckets to others.

Walking through a grove of timber bamboo is inspirational. My largest groves are about three years away from that. Many people have never seen timber bamboo up close, so having it planted along a busy highway between Huntington and Zavalla will help me sell a few plants.

Here’s some of my Arrow Bamboo–makes a great screen or houseplant.

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Head of Security

by Randall Beaird

A security guard was one of many jobs I held throughout college. I wasn’t paranoid of being killed, but I had a few concerns.  I often pulled the graveyard shift–twelve hours of solitude with only the burglar coming.  In the middle of the night, all alone, your imagination does not help.  After guarding one construction yard all night long, and seeing keys in everything with wheels, I thought I needed a weapon.

A six ounce can of mace started riding in my back pocket. The “expert” said it would knock the attacker down, and it didn’t matter where it hit him.  To help stay alert, I would move from cab to cab, playing my favorite tunes. One evening, at the beginning of my twelve hour shift, I was sitting in an 18 wheeler leaning over to look in the glovebox for a pen. By the time I felt the wet sensation, it had reached my right sock. It was the mace.

From the rig to the trailer was one hundred yards.  In full uniform with polished shoes, I could have still qualified for the Olympics. The initial tingle was soon a fire. I hopped around the water faucet, pants down, water flying everywhere.

Out of nowhere, the construction foreman drove up.  Things were too painful to care; I just barked out my predicament.   “I know this looks funny…I had this mace… MY LEG IS ON FIRE!”

He never laughed, but there was a chuckle. After he left I had ten hours more on patrol, but wasn’t about to call for another pair of pants. Standing at the trailer sink, I rinsed my trousers with pride for fifteen minutes.  They were a little wrinkled, and I would have killed for some baby powder, but I pitied the poor burglar that tried trespassing that hot summer night. Someone was a little irritable.

Better with bacon

by Randall Beaird and Debra Petri  — 1998

subwaySubway punched Burger King in the belly and ran. You’veburgerking probably seen their commercial laughing at the whopper’s 39 grams of fat. I know both of them well. Subway busted me out of 32’s in college; their cold-cut combos still keep me warm at night.

It’s true that Subway cuts Burger King no slack for their contribution to society’s poor eating choices. However, while Randall ate his way out of size 32 years ago, Subway is now helping me find my way back to a size 6.

Burger King was there for me as a kid. One of my earliest memories is a whopper I could barely hold, four giggling sisters, a baby brother, all gathered around my parents wearing crowns and smiles.

debrapI have haunting childhood memories of Burger King as well. One fateful youth group outing initiated me into the world of the whopper. My ride home, sick in the floor of the van, was also very memorable. Okay, so it turned out to be the mumps, but my Burger King days were over!

I met Debra at Burger King for some comparison dining. My healthy eye spotted the broiled chicken salad with just ten grams of fat. After adding a little low-cal dressing and croutons, I felt my heart quiver with joy.

All I can say is, it’s a good thing I was there. Randall needed some guidance in selecting a healthy meal. I could tell right away this was uncharted territory for him. He was headed for the BK Broiler Chicken sandwich with 29 fat g’s–don’t let the words “flame-broiled” mislead you into thinking it’s actually better for you. I suggested the broiled chicken salad as an alternative. He moaned when I told him the ranch dressing contained 19 grams of fat.

Burger King manager, Tim Mullings, greeted us with keen insights on nutrition, and stood as rock solid testimony. He had the tri-athlete look after three years of leading the burger hounds to victory. Tim said, “I eat the BK Broiler and fries all the time.”

The assistant manager actually greeted our initial inquiries with shrugs and “I don’t know.” He did finally produce Randall beloved pamphlet. America, don’t send Mr. Beaird’s version of tri-athlete to the Olympics–we’d lose!

After arriving at Subway, something smelled fishy. Burger King listed every entree in a handy pamphlet. They even had the backbone to proudly weigh in their big daddy, Double Whopper with Cheese, with 63 grams of fat. Yet Subway couldn’t even tell me how loaded their four biggest torpedoes were. I called the owner; even he didn’t know, nor did he ever know.

Pamphlet–shmamphlet! Anyone can get pamphlets printed but only those restaurants offering plenty of heart healthy menu choices get to proudly display the Mother Francis Heart’s D’Lite member sticker. We’re talking the approval of the medical community! Subway lists ten menu items with 6 fat grams or less compared to Burger King’s three salad choices at 10 g’s or less. And as Subway says, “If you can’t count the fat grams on two hands, don’t pick it up!”

Sure, crucify the whopper and don’t even list or know stats for your heart stoppers. Also intriguing was Subway’s menu directions. “It’s Better with Bacon!” and “PILE IT ON! ASK FOR DOUBLE MEAT!” It should also read, “If you can count the fat grams on one hand, then PILE ON THE BACON BABY!”

Of course Subway, while remaining the health guru of the fast food community, caters to a wide variety of clientele. Choice is the key word in business today and Subway offers the less health conscious consumer some bang for their buck as well.

Burger King’s chicken salad really hit the spot, but after seeing “PILE IT ON!,” my knees got weak, fingers trembled and I pointed to the foot-long seafood and crab.

Wobbly knees and trembling fingers are sure signs of hunger. I’m sure Randy longed for more satisfying fare as indicated by his pitiful comment on his meager salad, “They sure are skimpy on the chicken.”

Actually, I was adjusting my crown and saying who cares if they think it’s wimpy.burgerkingcrown

There’s just something about dining with a grown man wearing a Burger King crown! After many adjustments Randall finally found a comfortable fit. My husband, with his meatball sandwich, perhaps did not appreciate Randall’s sense of loyalty and whimsy. I found it rather amusing myself.

Debra kept shooting my hoagie jealous looks. I knew she wouldn’t ask, but figured she’d move in on her husbands’ chips. She did. My fat gram inquiry was greeted with, “I didn’t eat those, he did.”

Give a girl a break! Anyone who understands the unwritten code of wedlock knows that the wife cannot eat out with her man without nibbling from his plate. So I had one chip! I had to–it’s just one way the male knows everything is okay with his mate. If he were really in trouble she’d never touch his food!

Everyone knows it’s better with bacon, and that the whopper has 39 fat grams. Someone forgot to tell Subway they have about four of their own whoppers.

Offshore fishing

by Randall Beaird

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Doug, Randall, Pat

Every summer I go offshore fishing with childhood friends. Freeport and “Captain Elliot’s Party Boats” welcomed Pat, Doug, forty other anglers and myself. Until my family moved to the farm in 8th grade, we grew up in Houston; Pat lived next door, Doug a few houses down. We met in ’66 at age three, hit kindergarten running, and have ran together ever since.  Reunited for various events, usually fishing,  the same stories are told –some things never get old.dougpat

Forty miles and four hours later, the two detroit engines slid to a crawl. Eighty eager hands quivered to attention over buckets of slippery squid portions. After a few “looptyloops” on the hooks, we couldn’t wait to hear the captain signal when the anchor was set, “Let’s go get ’em.” Anxious twenty ounce weights plummeted 125 feet.

Waxed burlap bags tied to the rail began to fill slowly. The red snapper had to be at least 15 inches long to keep, and everyone caught their fair share of kiddies.  A sprinkling of amberjack, angelfish, triggerfish, and ling were also brought in.
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A seventy year old man was once yanked in by a thirty pound amberjack. The current and fish pulled him under the boat while a deckhand dove in for the save; they both popped out on the other side. After being plucked from the water,his pole was caught by a fellow angler. They yelled for the old man and he was strapped to the deck. Tied up and soaking wet, he was handed the pole as cheers thundered all around. Dinner was extra special that night, considering it almost killed him.

Once on a weekend trip with my Uncle Bill and cousin Mike, I couldn’t leave the fish alone.  billmike (Thanks to my dad, I caught the fishing bug at an early age; he would wake me at four for Galveston or Freeport, and sometimes before midnight.)

While Bill and Mike retired to the lakeside cabin, I stumbled down to the pier with seven fishing poles. One by one, baited with minnows and worms, the poles lay strewn across the bulkhead like a line of bazookas. I never will forget holding my minnow up to the moon to frame it on the hook. When I wasn’t bounding from pole to pole arranging bait, I was in a lawn chair with a pole under each arm. If it was toothy grin night, I would’ve won.

After catching a crappie and turtle, I dozed off until around 3am  I caught movement out of my right eye. This was more than a nibble as the pole began a slow slide to the water. I just froze. The rod’s steady retreat was so intoxicating I couldn’t move. Even worse, it was Uncle Bill’s best zebco splashing into the lake.

Four hours of sleep later I was back down at the water fishing for the pole. With a party of hooks and weights tied to a nylon line, I drug the cove. Mike and Bill soon joined my side. Mike was trying hard not to laugh–Bill, trying hard to soften my defeat.

I felt so bad and was trying so hard, gauging my long tosses to cover every angle. Bill decided to help by holding the end of the line. Knowing of his firm grip, I slung the weighted hooks as far as I could. The line snaked out over the cove forty yards and more. It didn’t stop. Bill thought he was helping, but was only holding a separate eight foot piece. The actual end floated out over the water. Seeing Bill holding the short impostor string, and the surprised looks on all our faces, bounced us on the grass with laughter. Bill was laughing so hard, and turning so red, I thought he would pass out.

Back to the snapper conclusion.
As the day wore on I kept thinking, “Just a few more minutes!” I kept mumbling, “one more baby, just one more.” After catching several “just one mores”, the signal was given to head to shore. My last “one more” was in the bag on ice for ten seconds as the anchor rattled onto the boat.Then something sentimental hit my squid streaked frame. I grabbed that last snapper, popped his ballooned bladder (necessary for it to live) and set it free. We all like to play the good guy, especially in the middle of a great day.

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Rangers   1972

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