Gobble, Gobble, Wobble

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Yes, I know the song refers to the Christmas season, but I disagree.  I believe the Thanksgiving season is the most wonderful time.  It is my favorite by far. 

This thanksgiving, 2011, I am blessed beyond my wildest comprehension.  There has been loss.

And there has been gain. 


 How much things can change in one year.  
This time last year, I saw my dad alive for the last time.  We sat on the steps of my old house on a beautiful Autumn day as birds honked above overhead.  I mistakenly called them geese.  He was quick to inform me they were sandhill cranes.  He always loved the birds. 

We took a drive around the old Celanese plant  where he spent some time working years ago, and although we didn’t say much of anything, I’m sure he was venturing down his own memory lane, just as I am now.   Days gone by.  Out of reach.

I snapped this last picture of him and my sister lying in the floor, right before we watched Four Christmases together.  He forgot that blue handkerchief when he left.  It’s now washed and folded and put away in a box of things, along with a pair of glasses left forgotten.  He passed away the following February, and I have missed him everyday since. 

But we shall meet again, and there will be rejoicing.

This time next year, we will have a 10 month old little girl crawling around, possibly beginning to pull up, yanking all the popcorn and cranberries strands from the Christmas tree.  She will have brown hair and brown eyes and little dimples on her knees.  We will play peek-a-boo and patty cake, feed her pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream, and smother her in kisses. 

And I’ll be tired, but it will all be worth it.

Things change.  There’s no doubt I’ve changed. 
And thank God for that.

Robert Frost said he could sum life up in three words.  “It goes on.”

And thank God for that too.

I hope you take a moment to be thankful today and everyday.  We are so blessed. 
Praise God.

Cherish Loved Ones.

Be happy.

Happy Thanksgiving!


In memory of My Dad #35

Written November 25, 1993 by my dad Bob Briggs while writing for the Tahlequah Daily Times Journal

It’s almost December and pheasant season is about to open the panhandle of Texas.  Pheasant season only stays open for two weeks there, so you’d better get out and get some while the season is open.

Pheasant are hard to see if you don’t know what you are looking for.  I’ve seen the brightly colored birds disappear in a field of green winter wheat, and not flush until you’ve nearly trampled the beggars.

My old buddies, P.J. and “The Sarge” used to load up in Sarge’s Bronco, with a bottle of “lying Whiskey” and road hunt for these wily birds.

Now I don’t recommend that you road hunt because it’s highly against the law, but when you’re young and living in West Texas, outfoxing the game warden is just a part of the game.

We were crazy about shooting these birds.  One time P.J. had me stop in downtown Waka, Texas, jumped out of the vehicle and killed a rooster pheasant in broad daylight.  Now I’ll admit, Waka isn’t much of a town but it’s big enough to have a local constabulary of some sort that could put a man in the  for some little time.

I tripled on a covey of pheasants once up by the town of Spearman, Texas.  I was hunting alone down in a wet lands draw that had dried up and was overgrown with weeds.  That is sort of like making a hole in one without a witness.  It don’t do any good to tell anyone because they say, “Yeah, right.”

I sure miss those days.  This cold weather snap just makes it worse.  Getting up early in the morning, putting on your hunting coat with the peppery smell of blood on it, the weight of number 7 shot weighing on your shell loops.  If you’re going to be legit that day and hunt on land where you already have permission, your dog seems to sense that he’ll be going with you and he’s excited as any athlete before a game.

I don’t know about P.J. or how the hunting is around Chicago, but I know “The Sarge’ will have somewhere to hunt this year.  I hear the hunting’s pretty good out around Farmington, New Mexico where he’s been said to hang his boonie hat. 

As for me, I’ll just kick back and think about those long ago days when a walk in the field or a slow drive down a section line meant meat in the pot.

Good hunting, fellows.

Lessons from Gus

Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite movies.  It’s in my top five for sure, right up there with Gone With the Wind and Pulp Fiction. 

If you’ve never seen Lonesome Dove, rent it sometime—someday when you have about 5 hours to spare.  Augustus McCrae is an endearing character who, in my opinion, makes the movie.  If I’m ever on the Miss America stage and I am asked who I would invite to a dinner party if I could invite anyone (real or fictional, past or present), my answer would be Augustus McCrae.  A matter of fact, I love Augustus so much, if our baby-to-be had been a boy, we were seriously thinking of naming him Gus.  True story.

Augustus McCrae

In Lonesome Dove, Gus is an older man who’s lived his life chasing bandits and killing Indians.  He’s a former Texas Ranger, tougher than most men, but never hasty to use it.  He’s loves women, but only 2 have really ever stolen his heart.  He’s a philosopher, a bit on the lazy side, and a biscuit lover, who doesn’t mind kicking a pig ever now and then.  In short, one of the greatest characters ever. 

In the story, there’s a prostitue name Lorie who wants badly to go to San Franciso to start a new life.  In one scene in particular, the man who’s promised to take her away has run off, and she is crying to Gus about wanting to get to San Franciso. 

He gives her these words of advice:

“Lorie darlin’, life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”

As many times as I’ve watched this movie, and as many times as I’ve seen this scene where right after saying these words, Gus starts stripping down to his long underwear, I really have never paid much attention to his words.  Until the other day. It was as if I were hearing them for the first time.  I rewound the movie and heard them again, and then rewound it again, just to hear them again.

So often we find ourselves wanting a different life.  Or maybe it’s just me.  But I’ll catch myself at times comparing my life to others, and then getting the case of  the “If only’s”.  If only this.  Or if only that.   Just like Lorie Darlin’ who thinks her life would be the berries if only she could get to San Francisco. 

It’s the whole, “the grass is greener on the other side” mentality isn’t it? 

“The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things….”

In this season of Thanksgiving, many people are posting daily what they are thankful for.  It’s easy at first.  We’re thankful for our faith.  We’re thankful for our family.  We’re thankful for our health.  But what of the little everyday things?

Today my husband made me a latte, like he does every morning.  As close to Starbucks as one can get.  And then he made me breakfast, like he does most mornings when he has time.  Perhaps he’s cooking breakfast because he has to eat too, but he thinks of me  just the same.  Those are the little everyday things that I take forgranted.

Each day, I receive no less than 21 hugs from second graders.  Perhaps they’re hugging me because I grab them and force them to hug me back, but there’s maybe one or two who offer it first.  How many hugs did you get today?  I hope at least one.

I’ve got this little baby wallering around in my belly.  And even though my back is beginning to ache at the end of each day, the little kicks and punches remind of a loving God and promise of hope and a future.  Who knew that a kick and a punch could bring a feeling of alrightness to my world. 

I pray you each have a beautiful holiday season, and may our thankfulness not be for one day when we stuff turkey down our throats, but for each day that we are given. 

May we learn to like the little everyday things, everyday.


The Grass is Greener

In Memory of My Dad #34

Written by Bob Briggs—1994

Fear is a terrible thing, pure unadulterated fear is a mind numbing, limb freezing, feeling that turns your insides to water.

I wonder what kind of fear Scott Donner  felt in San Antonio, Texas that day in 1993 when he let fear take control, and clambered back down the 10 meter platform from where he was to take his final dive.  It was a moot point dive as he already had first place sewed up.

But Donner didn’t take the dive, he went into his pre-dive routine and performed a handstand prior to taking th plunge.  The dive shouldn’t have taken over ten seconds, but Donner continued to remain there balanced on his hands 20 seconds, 30 seconds, like a statue.

Finally after about forty seconds, his legs wavered twice and Donner lowered his legs until he was standing straight upright on the platform.  He then climbed slowly down to where his friends and family waited and wondered.

Donner said he suffered from post-traumatic-stress, a Vietnam-veteran disorder, but what he was really suffering from was not making it big on the endorsement trail.  Donner said that he felt an immense feeling of relief when he walked off the platform.  He didn’t need this.  Donner had a fear that he would change his mind in the middle of a dive and hurt himself.  He dove beautifully in the 1992 Olympics, he dove well enough to win a Silver Medal in the 10 meter platform.  A 10 meter dive is like diving off the eaves of a two story house, or out the window of a three story apartment.  You also have to cup your hands over your head, pushing a hole in the water with your hands before your head hits the water.

Donner says that he has seen many people get hurt in the platform dive.  You are entering the water at 35 mph and to hit anything but a near perfect dive could be disastrous.  So Donner came home from the Olympics with his Silver medal all ready to take on the corporate world.  He admits he made mistakes when he didn’t hire an agent to make deals for him.  He thought he could do it on his own.  He didn’t realize that an Olympic Champion’s light burns hot and quick.  If you don’t have some one out there in front singing your praises, you’re not going to do any selling on the market today.

So Donner started to eat an atrocious diet, he started to drink and smoke cigarettes, he started to drive fast on empty streets with no thought in mind except not getting arrested, in short he had turned into someone that I would have liked.

Donner wrecked his car on a rainslick Florida highway last spring, if you expect me to tell you that he was crippled in an accident, he wasn’t.  He says that he may be back for the ’96 Olympics if he makes the team, but this time he won’t  be fighting an unknown fear in his mind.  So much for the story.  I don’t know if I believe it or not, I do know some ‘Nam vets that should be kept in a box, but that’s another story.

Speaking of vets, I had a chance to hear Randy Crouch play the other night at a gathering of veterans and friends at the river for the annual Blue Note Festival.

Randy is the heart and soul of the band, the Flying Horse, a 3, 4, or five man combo that belts out rock, country or reggae at warp speed or whatever else that your ears can stand. 

Randy’s main guitar player, Sparky Fisher, passed away this past summer and so whatever guitar player that’s available now can sit in with the band.

Randy is a fiddle player of par excellence, and when he drags that bow across those strings for a rendition of The Star Spangled it is worth traveling more than a few miles to hear.

I arrived at the campground where they were holding the Blue Note Festival at just about sundown and a lady cold jumped me at the gate for a buck’s donation to “cover expenses” of which I’m all for, I just don’t like surprises.  Because most time when I go to the river, I don’t carry money with me, but this night knowing that I’d probably be seeing my brother among others, and not knowing what would transpire, I had a few extra dollars.

So paying my buck stipend I drove on into the party.   I arrived just in time to see my brother playing a splendid rendition of Dan Garber’s or Doc Davis’ “Adair County”— and doing the song some decency.

You have to do some pretty deep research to find out the author of most of these original Green country songs, and the passage of years and the combination of many factors have dulled the senses of many of my friends and so their arguments continue.

Brother Goose did another song or two and then came down from the bandstand to howdy and shake with the many folks gathered there under the trees.

He likes to get his commitments over with as soon as possible so that he can say “yeah, I was at so and so’s party, and yeah I played.”

When in reality all he wants to do is get away from the office and toast a few with his friends.  He figures the best way to accomplish that is to get his musical talents out of the way so that he can hang at the fringe of the crowd and check out all the new swim suit styles.

But back to The Flying Horse Band, there were some nights when the band could walk with the king, or anybody else for that matter.  There were times when the band was the absolute best that you’d ever heard.

When Randy would stand there with fiddle in hand and an electic guitar slung around his neck fiddling with the volume and bass controls with his bare feet, while all the crowd got down with him on one of his patented songs.

Then some nights Randy gets just as rowdy and noisy as the others and always plays as smooth as unblemished silk.

But every now and then he gets it in his head to go out and dance with the big boys, and on those nights Randy Crouch is special and can make music with anybody.  Go on, get one of his tapes that one of his friends have boot-legged, crank  it up and stand back among the mainbeams and you’ll know what is was to hear some real men play some real rock and roll.

The Coyote Snatching

It’s getting on sundown here at the J &A Chicken Ranch and the girls are heading in to roost for the night.   All thirteen of them. Yep, you read that right.   No typo intended.  Thirteen.  As life would have it, murder, mayhem, and malice struck the Chicken Ranch early Sunday morning past when an unsuspecting fowl fell victim to the first coyote snatching on record.  J-Dub had just stepped outdoors just shortly after dawn, when suddenly the door flew wide open, expletives filled the room, and the gun cabinet was heard opening and closing.  Sitting in the lazy boy enjoying my morning cup of java, I hurriedly asked him what in the Boone’s Farm was going on as he dashed back through the living room on his way back outside. “A coyote just got one of your chickens!”  I jumped up (as much as one can jump while 7 months pregnant) and stood in the door frame to witness a nasty, vulgar, repulsive coyote running across the pasture with a helpless, vulnerable, limp, yellow chicken hanging from his jaws. Shots were fired at the coyote.  The chicken was dropped with a poof of feathers and dust, and the coyote ran off with shots kicking up dirt behind him.  Another coyote who was off to the right watching the action and hoping to have a chicken for breakfast also ran off.  We only had  pistol handy that morning and unfortunately, a bullet never made contact with the coyote.  But in a matter of minutes, the ne’er-d0-well was back to pick up it’s abandoned meal only to be  scared off again with another round of shots.  I told J-Dub I was going to get my chicken out of the pasture.  I was not going to let that murdering cur have the satisfaction of tasting even a morsel of my golden girl.  Sparing me the task, J-Dub walked out and carried the dead bird back to the house and disposed of her. Realizing the dogs would return, I quickly penned all my hens and secured them safe and sound in their coop where they have spent the last 5 days miserably.    They were mad for a good while, and the other day I think I even caught a couple of them with a file and a saw tucked under their wings.  A blueprint drawing of the coop with arrows and lines was discovered crumpled in the corner.  It was obvious to any onlooker that plans for a Coop Break was underway, I got home early enough today to let them out for a couple of hours of exercise before dusk.  You’ve never seen such elated birds.  They ran, and pecked, and flew, and clucked.   I sat outside with a rifle not 30 feet away when dusk settled and I dared those good for nothings to sneak up to the house again. In the famous words of Scarlett O’Hara….”I can shoot straight……if I don’t have to shoot too far.” In Memory of a Yellow Chicken: