Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Things that get “mulled” over.


As I was running outside, just before the door slammed shut, the last words I heard Aunt Myree say to me were, “Jon Howard, you be careful and don’t play with that dog!” That dog in question was a terrier mix and my aunt and uncle, Myree and A.C. Turner, had put it on a leash attached to a clothesline in their backyard because it had been acting kinda’ funny. Their backyard was in Huntsville, Texas, one block off of old Highway 75 and my mom, dad and I had gone up to spend a spring weekend with them and their two, young sons, Bill and Roy Peyton, better known then as “Bubba”.

Once outside, being 5 years old, the first thing I did was go right up to the dog and try to play with it and it responded, not very playfully, by jumping up on my chest and biting me! Inside I ran bleeding and crying, impervious to all of the “we told you so’s”.

This event occurred on a Saturday morning and the first thing Monday the dog was killed and Uncle A.C. took its head to Austin and sure enough, the dog was rabid. My family got the results on Thursday and Friday morning found me along with my mom and dad in Dr. Talley’s offices, in the old Medical Arts Building, in downtown Houston, for the first of 22 rabies shots, spaced around my navel, timed every other day. It was the biggest needle I had ever seen, and thinking back, it must have held an ounce or 2 of an unpleasant looking, green serum.

The shots saved my life, but by the third morning, I resisted the shot so bad, that before it could be administered, it took 4 adults to hold me down. This went on for the next 19 shots and scarred me forever. Now, whenever I go into a doctor’s office, I have a terrible case of “white fright”. My blood pressure goes up 20 to 30 points and my heart rate up 20 beats or more per minute. In the past, I have fainted getting a shot in my arm.

Some how, I’ve survived for more years than I can count, survived 3 knee operations and a heart ablation which was very successful, another knee surgery is scheduled for May 15th of this year. I hope the doc doesn’t have to hold me down for this one!


Being a good Texas boy, my only exposure to Mexico had been to the sleazy border towns, but now, in 1971, to see the budding metropolis of Mazatlan, its traffic, 500,000 inhabitants, now over a million, beautiful harbor and recent awakening to Gringo tourists, was a real eye opener for my ex wife and I.

Having moved to Phoenix in January, during the following summer all of our new friends were excited about Mazatlan, Mexico. At the time a quaint old town located on the mainland directly across the mouth of El Golfo from Cabo San Lucas. Their excitement was kindled because you could catch the Ferrocarril Del Norte (Iron Horse Of The North), ie tren or train, in Nogales, Mexico, right across the border from Nogales, Arizona. Then it was a 12, hour, plus or minus, overnight trip depositing the travelers in Mazatlan. Shopping and partying were the sports of most, but for me it was the fishing and finding out later, the fine hunting, too!

Our first trip’s accommodations were at the Playa Mazatlan, the best spot in town that only catered to wealthy Mexican families, but they did take U.S. dollars. It was right on the beach, clean rooms, but no air conditioning and once you got past the night sounds of Mexico, music, horns, laughter and the roaring surf, you slept like a log. Within a year of our first trip the Playa offered air conditioning.

Sleeping in the first morning, we got up and rented a “Yeep”, a Volkswagen Monster, then headed south from the Playa toward the harbor to set up a fishing trip. To the left, on the way to the harbor, as we rounded a long curve, there, on the corner of the first floor of a multi story building, was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Pulling a uwey I shouted “I’ve got to stop there,” and pulled in right in front.

There was an atrium inside the building, much like the atriums we have in our prime office space, but the first floor was a big patio, and to the left was “El Shrimp Bucket”. Little did I know that the patio was part of the restaurant, but 12 years later I would witness a very unusual display in that very patio, which is, as they say, another story.

Entering and picking a booth with an ocean view, we checked the menu. A bucket of shrimp for $4.95US and since it was 10:45 AM, why not enjoy lunch. Lunch was served and mine was a full bucket of fried shrimp, not as good as Clary’s or Casey’s in Galveston, but probably a close third. Out of this world fried onion rings and guacamole were served separately and washed down with Margaritas, it was a feast!

As we were leaving, I noticed a picture of John Wayne, my favorite, hanging over the door and he had signed the picture, as best I remember, “Best shrimp ever! Duke”. Having met him once in Las Vegas, but for the next 12 years, El Shrimp Bucket was my headquarters in Mazatlan, but I never saw “Duke” there.

Memorial Day, May 30, 2011

Today, the day before Memorial Day, there are so many distractions, shopping, sales, parties and such, that we don’t even think about the signifigence of the day and why it is remembered. This brings me to the history of Memorial Day and one of an early childhood memory of my grandmother, Linnie Ross Sanders Wallace, telling me the story. She wanted to be sure that I remembered it and passed it on. Since that day, many years ago, I’ve researched the story and remarkably, her story and the true history of Decoration/Memorial Day are very similar.

In the North, tradition was that Decoration Day began in New York in 1868, but it really started in Virginia as the Civil War ended. Grandma Wallace, a Civil War Baby Boomer and yes, we had them then too, told me the outline, not including all of the details, of the story. Her Father, Levi Sanders, had spent 4 years fighting with the 6th Texas Cavalry, across Indian Territory, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. She made sure that I knew what “Decoration Day”, or in Texas known as “Confederate Heroes Day”, now known as our Memorial Day, was and just what it meant.

Within a month of the end of the Civil War, May 1865, ladies in Winchester, Virginia, formed a Ladies Memorial Association, (LMA), with the single purpose to gather fallen Confederate soldiers within a 15 mile radius of their town and provide them burial in a single graveyard. Once that task had been done they hoped to establish an annual tradition of placing flowers and evergreens on the graves. There were Federal troops buried along with the Confederates and they received the decorations also. Within a year, ladies across the south had established over 70 LMA’s and in the first year, these LMA’s had assisted in the recovery of over 70,000 Confederate dead!

The ladies of Lynchburg chose May 10 as their Decoration Day. This was the day that Lt. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson had succumbed to wounds. The Richmond LMA had chosen May 31 because that was the day the populace of that town had first heard the guns of war.

Vicious Reconstruction laws not withstanding, by 1867, Decoration Day flourished across the South and it was a day that southern spirit and pride surfaced. Alabama, Florida and Mississippi celebrated it on April 30; North and South Carolina on May 10 and Virginia finally compromised on May 27. Texas celebrated “Confederate Heroes Day” on January 19.
Then in 1868, in the North, May 5 was officially designated Memorial Day. This was later changed to May 30, because no significant battle was fought on that day.

In May 1968, at Waterloo, New York, Pres. Lyndon Johnson “officially” recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Still later, our government intruded and made the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, a Federal holiday.

LBJ, who began his career as a history teacher at San Jacinto High School in Houston, should have studied his Civil War history a little closer.

Easter, April 24, 2011

Today, Easter day, around the world, Christians are filling churches and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The resurrection is the foundation of belief of all Christianity, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of woman, crucified on a cross, then, on the 3rd day, rose, resurrected, from the dead and 40 days later, ascended into heaven!

Folks in Goldthwaite, Texas celebrated this event today, churches at, or near, capacity, First Baptist was full of the faithful, singing and worshiping our risen Lord. Tomorrow it will be back to the grind, but today, reflecting the importance of the resurrection, without it there would be no promise of eternity with Jesus, without it life would be a game of chance, without it no answered prayers, the resurrection for Christians is our hope and belief!

Happy Easter! Praise the Lord!

Texas Independence Day

Yesterday was Texas Independence Day, a day well remembered by all Texicans as the day freedom was won from Mexico. Although times change, Texas history is still taught in our schools and the day will be remembered in the future!

Buck Barry and Brinson Bryan arrived in Texas a little too late to take part in the Battle of San Jacinto, 9 years too late, but 2 things are sure, had they been in here they would’ve participated, but on April 21st they celebrated just like all the other Texans! July 4th has put Texas Independence Day a poor second as far as celebrations go, but being a 5th generation Texan, my chest goes out a little farther and I stand a little taller on that special day.

In my minds eye, I can see General Houston’s army, the rag tag, Texican army, slowly approaching the unsuspecting Mexicans, Santa Anna hadn’t posted sentries, see them fire a ragged volley into them, then finish them off hand to hand, with tomahawks and Bowie knives. The surprise was complete with over 600 Mexicans perishing in the onslaught, over 200 were wounded and 700 more or less were captured, all with the Texan’s loss of only 7 killed, most of these by the first Mexican volley and 28 wounded, 4 of the wounded would later die.

I can see General Santa Anna surrendering to a wounded Houston, shot in the ankle, after having two horses shot out from under him. Six months later Santa Anna returned to Mexico a dismal failure, Texas became its very own Republic and 9 years later became our Country’s 28th state. This event was one of the causes of The Mexican War of 1846-48, with Mexico claiming that Texas was part of its State of Coahuila y Tejas. The war settled matters with the Treaty Of Guadalupe Hidalgo that resulted in the American Nation adding over 1,000,000 square miles and eventually the states of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah, Oregon and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma!

While Houston retreated away from Santa Anna, his route led him down Cypress Creek in northwest Harris County, approximately 40 miles from where the battle took place, also where for 5 years my home was not 200 yards from the creek. Many times while I worked my Brittany’s we would skirt the creek and come upon the marker that commemorated one of his camps and I would wonder just how it was then, how did they cross the creeks and bayous, what shape were the roads, if any, were in and how did they handle the rain that flooded the streams? In the final results, against overwhelming odds, they succeeded

Someone smart once said, “Ole’ Santa Annie chased Gen’l Houston till Houston caught up with him!”

Growing Up – WW II

As my generation calls it, The War, really started in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles and the unreasonable reparations forced on the German people. Their slide into National Socialism and Nazi dictatorship was almost inevitable, with Hitler “solving” all the problems caused by the reparations. For our Country The War began on December 7, 1941 and as our president put it, “A Day That Will Live In Infamy!”

The next day, December 8th, my dad went to the Marine recruiting center to join up. He was a former Marine and a veteran of one of the last scrapes in the Banana Wars in Nicaragua, however, since he was 40, he was too old for service.

For the next 4-1/2 years The War held up both my hunting and fishing development. To me it seemed that all my friends and I did was work, collecting paper, scrap metal and keeping up with the war. Everything was rationed and in short supply, BB’s and .22 ammo were hard to find, most men, including my brother and uncles, were off training or fighting and since we lived on the outskirts of Houston, by necessity we walked, bicycled or rode the bus much more than drove.

The highlight of each day was the evening news, the war news, either H.V. Kaltenborn or Walter Cronkite. The latter was from Houston and attended San Jacinto High School with my aunt, Hazel Wallace Pyland, so he was our family’s favorite.

The War in Europe had ended in May and on August 15, 1945 Japan’s emperor, Hirohito announced the surrender of all Japanese forces. The first thing Mom and I did was to catch a bus and go to downtown Houston where the people were literally going crazy. Getting downtown, we then walked over to Christ Church Cathedral and prayed thanks for our victory and end of war. Then we walked outside the Church and joined in the festivities.

After the war ended, it was a time of learning about firearms, their safe handling and my first stumbling hunting attempts. My high school friends were a mix of hunters and fishers and, I believe, that I was the only one who was a “switch hitter”, loving both sports.

Status Of My Book, February 7, 2011

Starting my second book, Why It’s Called Hunting, on January 20th of this year, it’s time for an update on my progress, or lack thereof. Now’s a good time to look at my original plan, which was:

1. Study Createspace’s offerings, be familiar with them and during the process, chose the ones that I’ll use.

2. Organize, rewrite (as needed) and arrange in chronological order the best and most interesting hunting stories from my blog.

3. Write, or rewrite, one word, one paragraph and/or one story per day.

4. Touch up, and if necessary, rewrite the Foreword, Acknowledgments and After Word.

5. Organize pictures and change to 300 DPI.

6. Figure out the best way to change the entire book from MS Word to PDF.

7. Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit! If possible, have the book professionally edited.

As of today on item 1, there hasn’t been any review or work of Createspace’s offerings, but I’ve been faithful on organizing in chronological order and writing at least one story a day and I’m halfway through the stories! So far, I’ve completed rough copies of the Foreword, Acknowledgments and After Word.

Learning from my first book, The End Of The Line, I’ve already set up a folder and page number for each picture, but I’m waiting until the rough draft is finished to change all of the pictures to 300 DPI, the same for changing from MS Word to PDF. As each story is reviewed, I’m editing it and this will be the first edit of many.

Three weeks into the self publishing project, my status review shows that I’m making progress of finishing the rough draft of the book, setting it up, editing it on the fly and I’ll worry about the “nitty grittys” after that.

A Dilemma

Even though yesterday I was up by 6:15 AM, productivity was not a word that we used around here! Rising, 18 minutes on my stationary bike, breakfast, checking my e-mail and then on to Brownwood for Layla to get a facial, but my goal there was to get my .22 semi-auto fixed, but alas, no gunsmiths in that thriving town of 20,000 folks.

The rifle had just passed the one year warranty (that figures) and when I went to sight it in with a new 4 power scope, I noticed the bolt release catch had somehow become defective. Normally just slide it down and the bolt returns to the closed position, but not this time. The release catch didn’t have any tension and the bolt remained open. Quickly, on the hood of the jeep, I disassembled the rifle and tried to find some “catch” or spring that would release the bolt. Twenty minutes later, no luck, so began my quest for a gunsmith.

Goldthwaite, population 1,800, Lampasas with 6,000, neither had a gunsmith. The closest, according to the yellow pages is Coleman, 5,000 folks and 70 miles away, too far for a .22, for now. Being real tight, I don’t want to spend much to get the bolt released so this morning I called the manufacturer and after a 5 minute, wait, I talked with one of the repairmen.

Explaining my problem, he asked where was the closest gun shop? “Coleman, 70 miles away,” I answered, adding, “We’re smack dab in the center of Texas and are close to nothing.” The repairman said, “Our closest repair center is in Austin” and I quipped, “That’s only 90 miles southeast of us!”

His first suggestion, pull back the bolt and lift and pull back on the bolt release, and clunk the bolt snapped forward. This fixed the problem and working the bolt back and releasing it a couple of times, it worked properly.

The manufacturer is sending me a schematic of the gun’s action. I guess that since I bought the gun on sale at well known discounter, the price didn’t include a schematic!

Book Review

This is something new for me, doing a book review, but early in the Fall, the publisher, Henry Holt And Company Publishers, contacted me about this book, asked if I would read it and I’ll quote some of their e-mail, “An adventure packed history that reads like a novel as it recounts an extraordinary life in a remarkable age. Carl Akeley joined the hunters rushing to Africa, where he risked death time and again as he stalked animals for his dioramas and hobnobbed with outsized personalities of the era such as Roosevelt and P. T. Barnum. Akeley also famously killed a leopard by strangling it with his bare hands! Over the course of three decades Akeley and his partner in adventure, his plucky and brazen wife Mickie, traveled across the continent and back, hunting down the beasts that would fill their ark back in New York City.” This got my interest

During these past Christmas Holidays I finished reading, Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man’s Quest to Preserve the World’s Great Animals, written by Jay Kirk and published by Henry Holt And Company Publishers, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

It is a great story about one of the foremost taxidermists, Carl Ackley, that our world has ever known, who was also the creator of the famed African Hall at the New York Museum of Natural History. What makes the book great? Ackley is an adventurer, big game hunter, associate of the tycoons of the early 20th century and a friend of Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President.

After having read the book, I can vouch that it is a very interesting story even during the holidays when I picked it up on a spare moment it kept my interest, especially the elephant and gorilla hunts! In the book, Mr. Kirk, the author, doesn’t drag or get too wordy, he’s an excellent writer!

As we say in Texas, “It’s a good ‘un!” and I’m going to give it to my friend, Mickey Donahoo, Senior Softball player, big game hunter, retired NASA engineer and a taxidermist himself!

Merry Christmas

Today we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Remember, we aren’t celebrating the brightly wrapped packages, the steaming Christmas dinners or the sumptuous deserts, but we are celebrating Jesus’ birth!

Jesus lived and died on the cross for each of us, so that by our acceptance of Him as our personal savior, we may have eternal life! If you haven’t received Jesus, ask Him into your heart today!

Layla and I wish everyone a very, Merry Christmas!

We have just had one of the best Christmas presents possible, our prayers answered by a good rain wrapped in thunder and lightning, to quench our drought stricken countryside! I imagine that the rain was better than one inch, but I couldn’t measure it because the accompanying wind blew the rain gauge down!