A Real Ugly One

During an early fall fishing trip, Mike Mitchell, my son-in-law, and I were fishing in Jones Lake when we noticed a serious looking storm approaching from the northeast. We hurried in from the Lake and putted, a 5 MPH speed limit in the canals, around to our house and I got out and hooked the trailer to the Jeep, while Mike putted back around to the boat ramp at Louie’s Bait Camp.

A more recent picture of my Wife, Layla, the wonder Dog, Spike, our 1982, Jeep Scrambler, and with the old ranch house, now my office, in the background featured at the top of this post.

Several other anglers were in line and waiting their turn to retrieve their boats and I was fourth in line. Just sitting there and looking at this storm racing toward us, I knew from experience that it would get us before we got the boat on the trailer.

The storm hits us full force, a deluge of rain, lightning popping all around and the wind shaking the jeep. I see Mike head under the bridge over Highlands Bayou and for a degree of safety, using the boat’s motor to keep it headed into the wind. Several times we make eye contact and he is pointing up, overhead. I don’t know why he is pointing, so with only a bikini top on the jeep and the windows rolled up, I might as well be standing outside in the rain. The wind is rocking the Jeep, so I maneuver to point the Jeep’s hood directly into it.

Now as I glance upwards, I see what Mike was pointing at, a tornado curled up into the cloud above us. The ugliest, twisting, turning mass of weather gone berserk that I had ever seen. It resembled a black corkscrew, twisting up into a dark gray cloud and coming down out of the cloud, directly toward us. It hits the ground, marsh to be exact, about 200 hundred yards southwest of us. It hits like a bomb, knocking mud and water a good one hundred feet into the air and goes of skipping across the marsh, over the railroad tracks and then back up into the cloud.

The rain lets up, the wind dies down, out peeps the sun and we load up the Whaler. Mike gets into the Jeep and quips, “Dad, the seats are wet!”

My fourth ground zero, introduction to a tornado and this one was way too close!

Hurricane Alicia – Phase 2

Brad and Randy pick me up at the hospital the next morning, crutches and all, and we head off to meet Mac Windsor, Rick Smith and R. E. “Bubba” Brousard to drive to Bayou Vista, which is a mess and I even have to show my owner’s card to the National Guardsman to get us in.

My street is clear and when we arrive at the house, there is no boat parked there. There’s a trailer, but no boat. Everything on the ground floor is gone, the fridge, the toilet, the freezer and strangely, the only wall left downstairs, has all ten of my fishing rods still hung on it.

I’m on crutches, so Randy collects my rods, and Bubba and Brad check the second floor and find no damage. The water did rise up to eleven feet and barely covered the floor ruining the carpet, which can be replaced. But where is the boat?

As if on cue, Mick Wilson, my next door neighbor, and chief pilot for a major airline, walks over and says, “I heard your boat was over on Pompano Street in a vacant lot. Looks like you had your surgery at a bad time. Everything OK? Want a drink?” “No thanks. As good as it can be,” I reply as we load up and head 4 streets over to, hopefully, find my boat.

Sure enough, 4 streets over, my boat, a twenty foot, deep vee, is resting on its side in a vacant lot. Close inspection shows that the windshield is broken and there is a twelve inch hole about six inches below the water line on the right side. We have to get it back, all fifteen hundred pounds of it, on the trailer and pull it back to Houston so I can get it fixed.

There is all kinds of scrap wood, debris from the storm, laying around and Bubba and Brad devise a roller/lever contraption to scoot the boat to the edge of the bulkhead. We stuff some loose bedding into the hole in the side, and all, including me, push the boat over the bulkhead and into the canal. The motor starts on the first try, and with water leaking steadily into the boat, Bubba and Brad speed back to my house. Of course, there is a 5 MPH speed limit in the canals, and wouldn’t you know it, some guy shouts at them, “Hey, watch that wake!” If they stop or go slow they sink, so they keep speeding back to the launch ramp at our house!

We get the boat on the trailer and tie it down and head back to Houston. I spent the rest of that day and evening sitting on a stool in my garage, cleaning my fishing tackle and by 9:00 PM my knee has swelled up to twice its normal size. I finally figure that I should go to bed, elevate my knee and stay off of it for a couple of days.

My knee healed fine and I was back to playing softball three weeks to the day from the surgery. The boat repairs were over $3,000.00. Bayou Vista was without power for two weeks and the full time residents had a real rough time. The Masters, one of the co-owners of the beach house, went into a messy divorce and after I traded Jerry Masters out of my portion of the house, it finally went back to the mortgage company.

Another interesting note. In 1989 Layla and I were trying to find a house in Bayou Vista and the old house, now in pretty bad repair, was back with the mortgage company. We placed a $60K offer on it and we later heard that the “good ole’ boys” won this one and that the bankers friend got a real good deal on it.

Hurricane Alicia – Phase 1

The late summer of 1983 found Randy and I “batchin” it. He would attend Texas A & M University within the month. Brad was living with his cousin. I was single again and worst of all, while attending a special class for high performers at Harvard University in Mass, an old football injury had turned bad and my left knee was locked tight as a drum!

As soon as I got home I had an appointment with a Doc and he tells me “Your knee is locked up.” Wow, what news. He feels around and takes an X-Ray, this was before MRI’s and says, “Yes, it’s locked up and I think it is the cartilage. Can you be available for surgery tomorrow afternoon?” Since I can’t straighten out my leg and have trouble moving around, I readily agree. One small problem, there is a Class 3, hurricane, Hurricane Alicia, taking direct aim on Galveston Island. I’ll be in the hospital when it hits and it will probably ruin my fishing tackle, boat and “our” beach house, but I have no choice.

As “Alicia” bores down on us, I check into the hospital and the Docs start getting me ready for the surgery, arthoscopic, no knives, but still a relatively new procedure and I will stay in the hospital tonight and be released tomorrow morning.

As they wheel me in to the operating room, I look up and see the Docs and Nurses with their reflectors on and I quip, “All of you all have on your carbon headlamps, the hurricane must be close.” Laughter all around and then the Doc says, “Start the IV. Jon, count down from ten.” I laughingly say “Ten, nine, eight.”

The surgery was successful, and the first thing I remember coming out of the anesthesia are visitors laughing at me. I don’t need this and go back to sleep. Right at closing time my sister, H.R., shows up with a very large, even for her, handbag. Opening it up she proudly displays a bottle of Champagne to celebrate my successful surgery. We celebrate it properly, she leaves and I go back to sleep.

The Doc shows up early the next morning and says he cleaned up the knee and I should be back playing softball in three weeks. Pointing out of my window he states “You will be laid up for a couple of days, so I’m prescribing that you remain in the hospital the next 2 days and let the hurricane pass.”

As I take a prescribed sleeping pill that night, the storm is beginning to rage outside and it is howling. Before I go to sleep, I call Brad and tell him that I will need to get down to Bayou Vista day after tomorrow to check on the damage and for him to get some guys together in case we need to do some “heavy lifting”.

Waking up and looking out of my window, I see the rain in the corner of the building is raining upwards and the trees are bending nearly double big wind! It blows for another hour and then it stops. Dead calm, the eye is passing right over us. The last time I was in an “eye” was in 1941 in West University. The wind picks back up as the hurricane moves northwest.

The aftermath of Hurricane Alicia follows.

A Goose And Duck Lease

After spending 3+ years in Arizona, chasing Quail and Doves, and going Duck hunting infrequently, I was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia, a beautiful place to live, but with completely different outdoor opportunities. In Georgia I shot a lot of Quail, enjoyed the Speckled Trout fishing in Suwannee, Florida and caught some really nice Bass, including a twelve pounder, and my boys sharpened their Deer hunting skills. This stay lasted for another three years, and because of my Mother’s bad health, my company helped me to arrange a transfer back to Houston.

Besides getting on a Deer lease, a friend got me on a “special” Duck and Goose lease with fifteen other hunters, a 3600 acre lease on the Katy Prairie, less than twenty-five minutes from my new home in Cypress, Texas, a northwest Houston suburb. In 1980 the lease cost me $700 a year for Sept 1 to the end of Goose season access. Now if you could find a lease to get on it would cost $2,000.00 up, per gun and that is probably low!

The lease had over three thousand acres of cultivation, some woods, several flooded rice fields and two small lakes. I stayed on this lease for 4 years until the urban sprawl of metropolitan Houston, completely changed the hundreds or square miles of the Katy prairie.

But for now, I was back in the Duck and Goose business.

More to come on this lease.

An Afternoon Swim

In September 1966, the hot spot for Mourning Doves in Texas was George West, a small town in the northern part of south Texas. Grain fields abounded and there were miles and miles of the famed south Texas brush country for roosting.

My Dad and I had decided to go ahead and pay for a “day hunt” to sample some of this reportedly outstanding shooting. We called the local Chamber of Commerce and they gave us the name of a rancher booking hunts. We called him and set up a hunt for the following Saturday.

New Blog Links

I have added two great new links to my list and both are not really outdoorsy, but I have enjoyed stopping by each.

The first blog is Stop The Ride,http://stoptheride.net/ by Stephanie Appleton, that is mostly money saving ideas, recipes and useful tips. Stephanie has posted several of her articles on my past Blog Carnivals, and all of her writing is most enjoyable!

The second blog is Life & Faith In Caneyhead, http://journals.aol.com/bhbner2him/LifeFaithinCaneyhead/ by Barbara. It is full of what I call, “Good ‘ole east Texas common sense” and it is also a great witness to our Lord! I am happy to have this one on my list!

Stop by and check them both out.

Missionary Trip to Africa

My youngest son, Randy, was the “star” of “Buck Fever”, when he was a 12 year old beginner at Deer hunting. He is and expert at that sport now and an expert in finding and saving lost souls. Randy is presently the Pastor of The Fellowship Of San Marcos, Baptist Church, in San Marcos, Texas.

Last year he was called to go on a missionary trip to western Kenya, in east Africa, to spread the Lord’s word. Western Kenya is currently locked in an ongoing spiritual battle.

Two Massai warriors are pictured and he related the very unusual meeting he had with them. These two warriors were fiercely angry with Randy because they thought he had lied to them and the Lord gave Randy the courage to stand up to them and correct the misunderstanding. After their “tiff”, the two warriors, village head men and locals all became “best” friends!
After his safe return he penned the following thank you letter to his supporters:

“Post-Kenya Mission Trip Update

Kenya was such an incredible experience! First, about the power of prayer. I want to thank everyone for theirs. I knew God was with me and our team of 28 people before we even left the States. Once we arrived in Kenya, we saw Him move in ways we could not even imagine and we couldn’t have done any of this without your prayers and financial support. Read on and you will see why this trip was so amazing and why all of the prayers, time, and money that went into it were worthwhile. By the time we finished up in Kenya over 8500 Kenyans had accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!

THE SCHOOLS: We shared the Gospel (‘Injilay’ in Swahili) with about 15,000 students. We went to the school campuses with the
Child Evangelism Fellowship of Kenya (CEF). They have a relationship with all of the schools there. They also ask the kids that accept Jesus to fill out a card so CEF can start Bible clubs on the campuses. By the time we left Kisumu, CEF had received 7337 cards back from students indicating that they had trusted Christ for the first time! CEF will help them grow spiritually and encourage them to get involved in their church, or find one if they do not have one.

THE TRAILS: Almost everyday, we hit the trails and went hut-to-hut sharing the Gospel. Sometimes, we just stood out on the trails and talked to people as they walked up. Almost every person we shared the Gospel with received it with joy and accepted Christ. They expressed much gratitude for the Good News that we brought. Many thanked us with tears in their eyes. I have been a Christian (for real) since I was about 20 years old. I have seen God do many great things but I, truly, never thought I would see so many people turn to Christ in such a short time. I never though I would see something like Acts 2:41: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” What I heard from the pastors we worked with was that all of East Africa is like that. After years of oppression and emptiness, so many people are hungry for God and just need someone to tell them the Gospel! It is exciting and humbling at the same time.

WARRIORS: We were waiting along a trail and up walked two Maasai Warriors, both surly and uncommunicative. We began telling them about Jesus and they changed dramatically, even letting us take their picture.

THE FIRST SERVICE: Most of our work sharing the Gospel was to start a brand new church in Kisumu called the Kasule (kah-soo-lay) Community Bible Church. The new pastor, Pastor Samson, had been trained over the past two years to lead this new church. He was completely overwhelmed with what happened at the first service that turned out to be a great place for any man or woman of God to be part of at that particular time. When we were out on the trails, we wrote down the names and addresses of each person who accepted Christ. On Sunday, at the first church service, we gave this list of over 1100 people to Pastor Samson! We called it his “Church Directory.” It was awesome! There were about 400 people at that first service! Including about 10 or12 Maasai warriors!

There are two other amazing stories that I want you to know about.

One involves how so many Maasai came to the first service. The Maasai are a brave and proud people and other Africans are terrified of them. They usually are resistant to the Gospel, but God opened the door for us and many of them accepted Christ! It is an amazing story. Our church in San Marcos, Texas, may adopt them as a people group to take them the “Injilay.”

The other story is when two thieves stole a camera from us. The ENTIRE village that was present chased them down, dragged them back to the church, and wanted to kill them at the church for stealing from us. The pastors were able to convince them not to do it. Both thieves later accepted Christ.!So did their parents and the guards who were later assigned to the church. It was an amazing story.

God bless each of you for your prayers and monetary support. God called on you to help and we couldn’t have done it without you. Please pray for God to continue to work in East Africa and around the world. Also, please pray for our church, The Fellowship Of San Marcos, as we plan more trips to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ’s Love,

Randy Bryan, Pastor
You can contact Randy at:
email: [email protected]
phone: 512-353-3909
web: http://www.fosm.net”

White Out

Putting together a collection of my stories about all of the storms and natural disasters I have been in, one comes to the fore and shows how conditions can quickly move past hazardous and become deadly!

White Out

In the spring of 2005, several months before I retired, I had planned to get an early start on a Saturday morning and drive to Goldthwaite and arrive before lunch. Living in Bayou Vista, Texas, right on the Gulf Coast, I had a 4 plus, hour drive awaiting me.

Setting my clock for 5:30 AM, I awoke with a start at 6:00 AM. I hadn’t turned “On” the alarm. So much for a real early start! Rushing and getting dressed I look outside toward my boat dock and notice that it is foggy, not unusual for this time of the year.

Nothing to load up so I climb into my 4WD, Suburban and head out noticing that there is about 200 yards of visibility, again not strange. I surmise that the farther I go inland, the lighter the fog will be.

Heading north on I-45 the traffic, yes traffic at 6:20 AM on a Saturday, is moving along about 45 MPH and the farther inland I get, it seems the fog is getting thicker. Seventeen miles from downtown Houston, Beltway 8, a toll road, exits east and west. It is a highly elevated, curving, exit to the west and the fog almost, it seems, touches the Suburban’s top!

Clicking on my blinkers, the traffic report comes on, every 20 minutes on weekends, instead of the 10 minutes on work days, and reports heavy fog on Beltway 8 around Texas 288, The Nolan Ryan Expressway, 5 miles ahead. Slow going for a ways!

On the “Raceway”, er Beltway, posted speed is 65 MPH, which is ignored, and most motorist clip along a 75 or 80, but today we’re down to 40 and nearing 288, traffic slows dramatically, red lights glaring, hazard lights blinking and we enter a white world. The radio blares, “There has been a series of major accident on Beltway 8 between Hillcroft and Cullen, and reports from the scene say the Beltway is closed.”

Closed it is and the fog is so thick I can barely make out the reflections of the car’s lights to my front. I have never seen, or even imagined, that fog could be so heavy! Behind me I hear a grinding CRASH, and brace for a hit that never comes.

We’re stopped and nothing to do but listen to the radio, that is now getting a better report from the authorities. The Beltway is closed both ways and at least 100 cars are involved in the chain reaction accident on the inbound side and around 1,000 cars are stuck and fogged in. Deaths and injuries are reported and we are still 2 to 3 miles from the accident site.

Sirens are blaring from every direction as police and sheriff’s officers begin to arrive all along the Beltway. They begin moving cars off of the Beltway and soon I’m on the access road, still heading west, but stopped. We creep along and in some places the fog seems so thick that it must be impenetrable.

After about an hour, we begin creeping along side the scene of the most deadly accidents and then, the fog lifts, just like that! Cars are piled into each other and resemble accordions, reminding me of scenes from “The Highway Of Death” in Kuwait; some cars are upside down on the grades leading up the overpasses, with radiator fluid, gasoline and oil pooled on the road surface, people are milling around stunned and law officers are everywhere. We continue our creep for 600 or 700 yards and up ahead I see the law directing us back on to the Beltway, in bright sunshine!

We couldn’t get out of our vehicles and help since we were being herded along. All I could do was say a prayer for those involved and thank the Lord that I was 15 minutes late. If I had been on time, I would have been right in the middle of it.

Final tally was 110, cars and trucks involved, with 7 deaths and a myriad of injured.

I was in Houston last month and traveled along this stretch of the Beltway (at 75 MPH) and there are still skid marks on the road surface and on the median attesting to the speed and violence of the crashes!