Anthropomorphically Speaking, Don Was a Dud

Don turned out to be a dud not a dude, at least here in south central Texas. We have an ever decreasing chance of getting some rain today, then it’s back to an indefinite stretch of 100+ temps, elevated humidity and lots and lots of sunshine. You certainly don’t need a happy lamp in Texas!

Don was indeed a dud. I blame it on the name.

I understand the alphabet naming system for hurricanes but if they’re going to anthropomorphize the weather, then I think they should at least do it with some aplomb!

There’s a lot to a name. Donald means Ruler of the World!

But Don, stripped of his -ald just means little ruler. If they were stuck in the D’s, maybe something like Devlin which means Fierce or Decha which means Strength would have held together better.

Back in the Midwest, we didn’t name our tornadoes. We avoided anthropomorphism’s all together by simply calling them devastating. Actually, that seems to be the pattern with most natural disasters: tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis…

Hurricanes are different. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the first use of a proper name for a hurricane (tropical cyclone) was by an Australian forecaster in the early 20th century.

He gave hurricanes names after political figures whom he disliked and by properly naming a hurricane the weatherman could publicly describe a politician as ‘causing great distress’ or ‘wandering aimlessly about the Pacific’.

If that system were still in place this week, I don’t think this one would have been named Hurricane Don!

During World War II, hurricanes were informally given women’s names by US Army Air Corp and Navy meteorologists, naming them after their girlfriends or wives. However well intended, it turns out that this caused a significant strain on many relationships, since not all women were keen on having a  tropical disturbance named after them.

For a couple of years, in the early 50’s, hurricanes were named by standard radio names: Able, Baker, Charlie etc.. Then in 1953, the US Weather Bureau switched back to women’s names (clearly, very few women worked for the Bureau at the time). Eventually women insisted on equal opportunity naming and in a “politically correct move” in 1979, the WMO and the US weather Service (NWS) added men’s names.

As of January of 2000, tropical hurricanes in the Northwest Pacific basin are now being named from a very different list.  The names, by and large, are not personal names. There are a few men’s and women’s names, but most are the names of flowers, animals, birds, trees, and food. Food. I’m not kidding!

I like this idea in theory but I wonder how seriously people will take Hurricane Pansy or Hurricane Wren or Hurricane Willow? I’m not even touching Hurricane food of some sort… I can’t imagine which food group they’re using. This all brings us back to Don.

While I wasn’t looking forward to being in the eye of the storm, it would have been just fine with me if we’d been caught in its peripheral vision as our poor ranchers struggle to feed and water their cattle.  Just about everybody that passed through the gate yesterday kicked at the caliche and said things like: “Looks like we aren’t even gonna get a quart.”

Un-hurricane Don was a dud. But as the sun set last night in south central Texas, a new hurricane appeared on the horizon. Emily means Rival. It’s not a fierce name, but maybe it’ll be just enough to bring some rain.

Snake or Worm? Can You Tell by the Smell?

I’m just asking because I have a little wager going on with Billy and Chris. If I lose, I’ll have to give them more DUM DUM Pops (courtesy of Kit and Jerry). If I win, well, I’ll get the satisfaction of being right about something here in the Wild Kingdom of Texas. I’m sure they’ll get all the Pops they want either way. It’d just be a moral victory for me.

This is definitely an audience participation post.


Here’s how it went. The guys came in for their new tour around 1 am.

Chris is the Worm on the bottom of the Underdogs post.

Billy is a character.

They got in pretty late but still were feeling lively.

Billy said: “You’ve got yourself a little snake there.”

Because if it was Billy, I thought he was kidding, but no, I did have myself a little something.

It looked like a skinny night-crawler, moved like a snake and smelled like rotten eggs, or worse. Since I was in the process of writing the Underdogs post about Worms when they pulled up, I thought it would be a good idea to take a picture of it.

It wasn’t. I caught it, twice.

Of course it was squirmy and I didn’t have my camera so I had to bring it inside, where, I’m not kidding, it made the whole room smell like rotten eggs, or worse. I keep saying that because that’s the worst smell I can think of at the moment and it smelled worse.

It’s actually amazing anything that small, 10-12 inches, could smell that awful! I had to wash my hand about 11 times to get the scent off.

Anyway, I got the camera, took the slithery thing back outside, took pictures and watched him slink away to live to grow bigger another day. With no visible sign of a mouth, it sure looked like a worm to me. The guys still maintained that it was a snake. (I do think they were slightly impressed that I picked it up. ) So, here’s a picture.

What do you say, baby snake or worm? I’m thinking a worm that crawled through, or came from, something really nasty? Can Texas worms slither like lightning across a hard pack road?

I Googled Smelly Worms and Smelly Snakes.

There seem to be a wide variety of both. So cast your vote – my reputation as a worm handler is on the line.

I don’t think this looks at all like a snake. But then, I’ve never seen a newborn snake.

I have to say, though, that  in the Midwest, the worms were a lot slower.

Never Talk About the Weather

They just don’t seem to talk much about the weather here in southern Texas. If you’re a Yankee, that eliminates at least half of your regular every day small talk. The only 2 things I hear anyone say about the weather are:

1 Think this is hot, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!  Yep, that’s encouraging!

And the universal favorite all across the nation:

2. Is it hot enough for ya? I know this is rhetorical, but don’t you just want to say something like: The boiling point of water is 100°C or 212° F at 1 atmosphere of pressure (sea level), but water boils at a lower temperature as you gain altitude and boils at a higher temperature if you increase atmospheric pressure …  well, maybe not that exactly but there sure must be something to say other than, Yep.

Back in the Midwest, we love to talk about the weather. Every where you go, just about every day someone has something to say about the weather. The weather sure is beautiful, hot, cold, rainy, dry, humid, perfect, awful.

In the Midwest we know what season it is by looking out the window. In the Southwest, I know what season it is by what’s on the tiny decoration display in the corner of the Super S and the featured cards at WalMart.

In the Midwest, we especially like to talk about snowstorms.  On the advent of every predicted winter storm, all the HyVee’s would sell out of milk and beer and rotisserie chicken. Shopping carts would be overflowing and cars would pack the giant lots, spilling onto the side streets, temporarily blocking the driveways.

In the Midwest, the predicted snow would come, sometimes. Everyone would hunker-down with a pizza and a movie and hope to hear that tomorrow would be a snow day.

Usually not. Most of the time there was nothing to do but set the alarm an hour early and start shoveling. The next week was guaranteed to be slow at the grocery store. It takes a long time for 3 people to go through 4 gallons of milk.

My cousin lives in Pismo Beach, CA. It’s lovely and the weather is perfect, every day. It’s like the movie Ground Hog Day, the weather makes it feel like yesterday all over again. No one talks about the weather in Pismo Beach except me. When I visit and go to the grocery store and say: Isn’t it a beautiful day! I just get blank stares. Of course it’s a beautiful day. Every day is a beautiful day.

In the Southwest, no one seems to talk about the weather for a different reason. It’s been over 100 degrees for 6 straight days and it’s still Spring! Here in Nixon, we’ve had 2 inches of rain since last September.

Back home in the Midwest, 6 straight days of 100+ temps in May would have the made Headline News!  We would have talked about the heat wave at the gas station and in line at the bank and in the express lane at HyVee while we stocked up on ice cream and rotisserie chicken. We would have bemoaned the drought and prayed for the farmers. There would be weather related slogans on all the church welcome boards.

But here in southwest Texas, only Yankees talk about the weather. We talk about it to anyone who’ll listen which is mostly other Yankees. To you native Texans, I get it. I know why y’all don’t talk about your weather down here. It’s just like Ground Hog Day. What can you say? Today sure is hot, windy, dry, hot, hot, windy, hot, dry, hot, windy, hot, dry, hot.

Weather forecast for tonight:  dark.  ~George Carlin

Never, Ever Open Your Eyes in the Shower

I’m 54. It’ll be another 10 years before I’ve reached the endearing age of the Beatles hit from Yellow Submarine.

There don’t seem to be many economic changes that kick in at 54. I can’t even get senior coffee at McDonald’s for another year. But David Smidt, president of, (Find Gold in the Golden Years) offers reassurance:  You’d be surprised who will shave off a percentage for a 55-plus customer if they ask. We have apartment complexes, Lincoln and Cadillac dealerships, car washes, tree service, lawn care, plumbers, handymen …

As a full-time RV-er, I’m not sure how many of these services I’ll need, still, good to know.

There have been some personal age related changes, though. I started getting  AARP cards in the mail when I turned 49. That was 9 years after I began highlighting my hair. Delora was my hairstylist and my friend. One day she said: Debbie, you’re starting to get a few grey hairs around your face, lets just blend them in with some highlights. We blended for the next 11 years.

After I left the Midwest, I tried a couple more times, but never found anyone who could make the highlights look like they came from an artist’s pallet instead of a squirt bottle, so I quit.

My eyesight isn’t the best and I don’t spend much time in front of the mirror. You can’t  begin to imagine my surprise as I was getting ready for work, back when I still had to dress up for work, and I looked a bit closer than usual at my reflection. I was dumbfounded! I’d gone from 53, looking like 43, to 53 looking like 63 overnight!

That little bit of grey around my face, hidden beneath highlights now long gone, was apparently a white contagion that had infected two-thirds of my hair. It doesn’t run in my family. Maybe I was adopted. No one else has green eyes either…

As surprised as I’ve been about my hair, I had an even bigger age related surprise today.

About once a week, I plop Henry in the shower with me. It’s so dang dusty here that it’s a necessary to afflict this torture on his small frame.

He stands very still, which is good since an RV shower stall gives new definition to elbow room. In an RV, it’s a room where, if you put your hands on your hips and turn full circle, you can touch all 4 walls with your elbows.

Once Henry’s shower is complete, I finish mine.

I dutifully picked up the razor, as I have every time I’ve showered since I was 11. Today, for some reason, I opened my eyes. I never open my eyes in the shower. I don’t like getting soap in my eyes. Maybe I’m harboring some subconscious fear of what I’ll see, I don’t know. Anyway, I opened my eyes and there they were, my completely naked arm pits. When did that happen? How many years have I been squint-eyed shaving away at nothing?

I must be going through reverse puberty. Next week I’ll likely develop a case of acne and before you know it my front tooth will start to wiggle, but at least I’ve shaved 10 seconds off my showers!

How about you? Is there anything about your current age that’s come as a surprise?

Holy Flapping Fangs, Batman!

I have arachnophobia. Henry has bovinaphobia. Heidi’s pretty much just afraid of  TV shows with serial killers. We spent the last 3 years on the ‘Wild Oregon Coast’ where the most dangerous thing I ever encountered was a sneaker wave. I’ve been in Texas for a little over 3 months. I think I’m adjusting pretty well. I work the  night shift as a gate guard for an oil rig. I live in a 32′ RV in an environment where what doesn’t want to shoot me, wants to eat me, or at least take a sample.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m surrounded by wild boars and feral pigs; rattlesnakes and copperheads; tarantulas and black widows; scorpions and free ranging mad bulls. Tonight I’m adding bats and rats; and horned (lizard) frogs and alligators (one of the roughnecks just told me we have alligators both our ditches and displayed on fence posts).

NewsWatch 12 reported unusually high bat activity in the area. There are always a good number of bats in Texas, but it appears they’re on the upswing. Oklahoma and Texas are the only 2 states in the nation that have an Official State Flying Mammal. Both claim an out-of-stater: the Mexican free-tailed bat. Holy Flapping Fangs, Batman! Really? An Official State Flying Mammal?

In Austin you can go on Capital Cruises’ internationally famous bat watching excursions. You board the boat at dusk and take a ride under the Congress Avenue Bridge to see, as you might expect, bats. Actually, you’ll see the largest urban bat colony in the United States. A ticket for this exciting event is only $10 unless you want to customize your excursion with dinner and cocktails.

It’s hard to image a more enchanting evening than floating gently down the river, eating ‘Pan Roasted “Broken Arrow” Axis Deer – served with forest mushrooms and organic wheat berry and roasted corn pilaf’ and a nice glass of Chardonnay, while gazing at the enormous flock of bats alternately flapping and hanging overhead.

Friday, I folded a spider in my underwear at the Laundromat. In spite of my neurotic fear of spiders, I shook it out and gave it a stomp. It wasn’t a tarantula or I would likely have just left the Laundromat, donating all our clothes to the next patron.

This might be a good time for a disclaimer. If that statement offended you because you think spiders are people, too, you probably ought to quit reading this blog. While I will concede that all of God’s creatures have a purpose, they have no business in my underwear and I wasn’t willing to chance that something that fast with 8 legs might take a quick spin around the post and scurry back in the pile as soon as my back was turned.

Holy Ram Invasions, Batman! Before starting this job, about all I knew about Texas was that it’s BIG. I didn’t know that every creepy Reptile, Amphibian and Mammal living in North America would be snacking in my neighborhood! I was reminded to today to check the wiring in the RV and the Jeep since we have a significant rat population. There are even Rat Rescue Groups, yes, really, and the Rat Association of Texas welcomes all rat enthusiasts.

After the late night news, I read a bit about the horned frog (technically they’re lizards, but frog worked better for TCU). 26 states have official state reptiles. I have no idea why. In Texas it’s the  horned(lizard) frog. Texas Christian University has chosen the Horned Frog as it’s mascot. Initially I thought that was a little wimpy (not as wimpy as the Upper Iowa Peacocks, but still…) until I began to read about horned frogs.

Purple, White, Horned Frogs Fight
Victory, Victory, Right, Right, Right


Although they aren’t poisonous, the horned lizard frogs have earned their bad guy reputation by being exceptionally aggressive, as in attacking animals many times their size. And yes, I’m told they do live on this ranch. Horned frogs have extremely wide mouths and steel-trap jaws. In the Midwest, the greatest danger I ever faced from a frog was a wet hand and mythological warts (although I think the warts are more toad-ish).  A frog with steel-trap jaws, seriously?

I’ve read that they lie in wait, springing out and fearlessly chomping down on their chosen prey, or any unsuspecting trespasser that happens to spook them.

There’s a simple lesson here: try never to startle a horned frog.

To top it off, they also bellow like bovines.

Poor Henry.

Looks like I’m going to have to start carrying him on his walks.

When I moved to Texas, it was the heat I thought might kill me.

Now I’m pretty sure it’s the neighbors.

You Say Potato…

Nearing the end of the first week at the new site in Smiley means it’s time for another SPUD meeting. I’m from the Midwest. I know about spuds. I’ve moved from vowel state (Indiana) to vowel state (Iowa) to vowel state (Oregon). Except for a brief 6 month stay in California, Texas is my first consonant state. In Texas, as in most of the West, people consistently confuse Iowa with Idaho.

Iowa: corn and pork. Idaho: potatoes. Here’s an interesting fact about Idaho potatoes; a friend who lives in Idaho tells me you can’t buy Idaho potatoes in Idaho. They ship them all to other states like Minnesota. But apparently not to Texas where we get King potatoes from Colorado. “BORN IN THE MOUNTAINS AND IRRIGATED BY SNOW MELT, THESE POTATOES ARE BOLDER, SMOOTHER AND MORE ROBUST.” This sounds more like a jingle for Budweiser than a potato to me, but clearly the folks at King take their potatoes seriously.

It makes sense that Texans might prefer bold, robust Colorado potatoes. Not being from Texas or Colorado, I didn’t even know that there were potatoes that were born in the mountains and irrigated by snow melt. I’ve learned late in life to value traits like boldness, smoothness and robustness in my potato.

I first heard about SPUD in Shiner. I was working the gate one morning (I hadn’t switched to nights yet) when it got crazy busy. Everyone I checked in said they were there for the SPUD meeting. Bob said he would bring 2 plates around 1:00. If you’ve been following this blog you may remember I’d just watched the crew BBQ a wild boar, so I thought this was another unique Texan meeting ritual, this time centered around potatoes.

It turns out SPUD stands for Starting Putting Up Derrick (there’s something grammatically wrong with this but acronyms are tricky).

The SPUD meeting is the one time everyone gets together to review the well plans. They talk about geological considerations and how to co-ordinate responsibilities between all the contractors, service companies and operators. It’s quite a meeting: The Company Man, the tool pushers and drillers, the foremen, the engineers, the geologist, the various company reps, and yes, Bob and his son, Reed, which brings me back to potatoes.

We had our SPUD meeting here in Smiley yesterday. Having already experienced one SPUD, I knew what to expect this time. I knew it would be a crazy busy morning at the gate. I knew that 25 men in a half day meeting would need meat and potatoes and, of course in Texas, beans! I knew Bob and Reed would come. This time it was grilled beef brisket and the best potato salad I’ve ever tasted! They also gave us hats that say DRILL STRING. Funny!

A complaint you often hear about guarding a gate 24/7 is that you never get to go out to eat. For those of you who are considering gate guarding, be nice and the food may come to you. 🙂 Bob and Reed stopped by this afternoon to say ‘hi’.  They’d just closed a gate down the road and thought we might like dinner. No potatoes this time but the most delicious fajitas! A tip of the hat to Bob and Reed. Nice guys!