A Walk in Bastrop 3-25-2020


The Railroad Trestle Bridge

My walking buddy BJ, resides in the picturesque town of Bastrop which is located along the Colorado River. It has an LCRA Park, McKinney Roughs, that we often walk and a couple of State Parks and as it turns out, there are several other Parks that the city maintains and others that are maintained by volunteers including the one that we eventually followed which was named Dale’s Trail. It is situated right alongside the Colorado River and has at least three different parking areas one of which has a boat ramp.

The first part of the trail that we took is obviously not as well used as the continuation in the other direction of where we parked. It made a loop for about a half mile and we ended up back from where we started. We then pushed off in the other direction heading towards the railroad trestle bridge which was the end of the line as far as this park is concerned. The trail was well maintained and was very easy walking. There was no loop this time so we ended up back tracking to the lot where we had parked our vehicles.

There were a lot of people around mainly of the younger variety. Many were swimming or splashing about in the river in groups of a half dozen or so and quite obviously not a bit concerned with keeping any distance between themselves. Quite the opposite in fact as they romped in the water. A boat came up the river doing a pretty good speed. Either in a hurry or just liked to drive fast. When we met somebody on the trail, we each gave the other a lot of room to pass making sure there was not contact.

Actually, this was true of BJ and myself. She usually lets me walk ahead as I am the slower walker plus I am always stopping to take pictures and so I set the pace. Normally, she will walk alongside when the trail is wide enough for it but this time, throughout the entire time we were out, she tried and very successfully maintained a 6 foot gap between us at all times, not once walking alongside of me. Any other time, my feelings would be hurt but with the risk of getting too close, I made allowances.

At one point along the trail, we came across two trees growing side by side with the trail going between them. I took two pictures one of which has BJ standing in the middle to give a comparison of size. BJ is about five and a half feet tall.

When we reached the second parking lot, the trail became very well maintained and had timber edging. There was a sign stating that it was maintained by volunteers. We passed an interesting couple of rock formations that were thousands of years old and the kids of previous years had, as kids everywhere often do, left their initials carved for posterity.

The railroad trestle is still in use and in good repair. BJ, who lives no more than a mile or so from this park, told me that she hears the trains at night. There was a sign that stated it was Private Property beyond it but the trail continued on and looked well used.

We came across a group of five young people that were barbecuing. They had a couple of friendly dogs with them and we stopped and chatted for a bit before continuing on to our vehicles. BJ left to drive home and I was contemplating on whether I should go and change into drier clothes when a couple of young girls dressed only in their bikinis walked past me. I heard them shout back to a couple of others that they were not going to walk through the woods along the trail and would take the long way. Then I noticed that besides being clad in only the skimpiest of bikinis they also did not have shoes on. It had taken me awhile to get my eyes down to their feet. I watched them walk out of the rough stony parking lot and onto the road to take the long way back to their friends. I winced for them and it sent tingles up my back and feet as they carefully picked their way along. Oh the beauty of youth, able to walk barefoot on the rocks which is much more than I can do. I can barely walk from the bed to the bathroom without stubbing my foot or stepping on a doggie toy.

All in all, we walked a little under 4 miles, enough to work up a sweat and get some exercise. It felt great to be back out again in the fresh air and this time, fresh trails to discover.

Written 3/30/2020

Another Heron Visit


Just a single Heron in this picture.

The day started off badly when I was visited by a pair of Herons which by itself is very unusual as they are very territorial and usually fly alone. Only once before have I seen two of them together on the same pond and to have a pair visit me makes it special, sort of. I think that it was probably a parent and sibling with the parent showing the younger bird the ropes. Hope he learns quickly as I don’t need to be fighting off two of them at the same time. These two never got to fish because I was there. Sheer luck on my part. Then, early this Saturday morning, when I was sitting in the hot tub, there was one sitting in the trees looking all around. When I climbed out it flew off whether it was because of seeing my old and saggy body or more likely because I waved my arms, I am not to know. Hopefully, the water driven Scarecrows will scare them off if they do land to fish when I am not here.

Written 3/9/2020

Strange Times


How strange these current moments are in time as we collectively struggle with the Coronavirus. It’s almost like something out of a science fiction movie and the only thing lacking is for the dead to turn into zombies. Maybe that is still to come. Who knows.

Something to brighten our day.

In Austin, Texas, my home town, even though the virus has not really infected too many people yet, there is a surreal atmosphere about the place as though we are on hold waiting for something to happen. There is hardly any traffic on the road, which by itself is not such a bad thing. Rush hour traffic is temporarily a thing of the past, at least until this is all over. I spend a lot of time at home anyway so this staying in place is not a chore for me. If I choose to go out from my self imposed lock down, it is usually every afternoon for a Latte at Starbucks drive through and I no longer have to wait for a break in traffic in order to turn onto the main highway from my house. That is how slow the traffic is in these troubled times. I have even resorted to using the Starbucks App on my phone as opposed to using my Starbucks card so as to alleviate physical contact.

My local grocery store, known as HEB, has instituted a new procedure as you can no longer just walk into the store. Now, you have to grab a cart and wait in line 6 feet from the person in front of you as the store personnel allow people in 10 at a time. They give you a wipe for the cart as you enter the door which is a little late as you have probably been holding the cart while you are waiting which could be anything up to 20 minutes. I was going to stop in for a couple of things but when I saw the wait, I parked my cart and went home knowing that I can do without whatever I thought was important at the time.

Just for the heck of it, I drove to Dripping Springs to the HEB there and they had exactly the same thing going on. Needless to say, I just stopped at the Starbucks drive through and ordered my Latte to drink on the way back home. I know that sooner rather than later, I am going to have to bite the bullet and join that darn line. Maybe I can just use up all of the cans in the cupboard and frozen goods in my refrigerator until the milk runs out for my morning lattes. Then it will be an absolute necessity that I go shopping or learn to drink my coffee black. If the coffee beans or the dog food run out, then I really am in trouble.

I had to stop at the Home Depot as I needed to return a package that came via FedEx in a totally smashed up parcel with special order light bulbs inside which, needless to say, were also broken. Home Depot is also incorporating a line by numbers entrance to the store but I was lucky and walked right in. Once in the store, there was tape on the ground mandating where each person had to stand while waiting to be served and the only time you got closer was to sign the register. You have to admire the personnel that are working in the store albeit because they need to in order to survive. These are trying times for any that work in the retail industry as they have to come face to face with those they are trying to help.

In the same Shopping Center where Home Depot is located are several other large retailers all of whom have closed their doors. It is the first time ever that I have seen the particular parking lot completely empty. I wonder if these employees are getting paid or are on their own.

I was talking to my neighbor on this subject as we stood in her yard the mandatory 6 feet away from each other and the conversation turned to the other scares that we have had in the past few years and she mentioned that never before has there been a virus that has caused so much panic and so great a reaction around the world. I did some research and found the following online.

  1. It has a long incubation period, up to 14 days. Why does that matter? Well, take the flu, for instance. If you become infected with the flu virus you will begin to have symptoms within 4–24 hours. Therefore, there is a smaller window of time that you have the virus and do not know it or have symptoms. With the Coronavirus having an incubation period of 14 days, one person can literally spread the virus to thousands of people without even knowing they themselves have it!
  2. It can live on hard surfaces longer. While the flu virus has a very short life span outside the body, the CoVid19 has can live up to 9 days on a hard surface. That means that someone who has the virus can, let’s say for example, rent a car and drive it around town for an hour or a half hour and return it. The car can then sit there on the rental lot for a week or longer, and then someone else can rent that car and contract the virus! But, they may not show signs of having the virus for two weeks, and they too then may spread it to another thousand or more people.
  3. It causes pneumonia and respiratory failure, which is more difficult for people who already have medical conditions that may weaken their respiratory systems: bronchitis, asthma, COPD, overweight, smokers, vapors, etc. People who are already confined to bed, or who spend a lot of time in bed. People already prone to pneumonia.
  4. It stays airborne longer. Someone can sneeze in the grocery store, then minutes later, you might walk through and contract the virus.
  5. It has been found in human feces (poop). It has been theorized that it can live in the sewage systems and travel into your home through your public septic system.

This whole thing is totally depressing and if I was a drinking man, a good excuse to get drunk. As I am not, I will have to make do with the Latte’s at least until the milk runs out.

Written 3/23/2020.

Missing a Mountain Range in Texas.


What Texas is lacking on its Northern Borders, mountains.

Like I said in a previous blog, all you have to do here in Texas is wait for a bit and the weather will change. Yesterday’s high was a nice balmy 70 degrees and I worked out in the yard moving the brush from the bottom of the garden that was the subject of a previous blog. Today, the high was 40 degrees with the forecast to get down to freezing overnight. Realizing this, I went outside and covered all of the outdoor faucets of which there are four dotted around the different ponds. Incidentally, my neighbor across the street is away for this week and I am feeding their kitty so on my trip over to do that, I took the time to cover their outside faucets as well. Hate for them to come home to either a flood or a large water bill or both if their pipes were to freeze.

The problem that geographically Texas has is that there is not a mountain range or even any high ground in its Northern borders with Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas and any bad weather that central USA gets invariably blows south and into Texas. Usually, if we are very lucky, the bad weather fizzles out before it reaches my part of the state which is central Texas and only 223 miles from the Mexican border. Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to get back up to 53 degrees and by Friday, back to 72 and either hiking or finish clearing the brush weather .

Our summers are very hot, winters, not so much.

Written 02/05/2020

Herons and Life


Big, Beautiful and deadly

As many of you who read my blogs know that I am a fish and pond enthusiast having built and maintain four ponds in my backyard. The largest is around 6000 gallons and I named it the Big Pond for obvious reasons. The next at 5000 gallons I named the First Pond. It is located off the deck and was the first one built about 30 years ago. Then there are two smaller ponds, one at 3000 gallons that I call the Round Pond and one at 2000 gallons named the Small Pond. These two smaller ponds used to be joined by a weir and the water from the Small Pond used to flow directly into the Round Pond. I had problems in balancing the water and went ahead and separated the ponds by rebuilding the Round Pond to make it twice as deep. They basically are still connected except that the water no longer flows from one to the other. The two large ponds contain Koi some of which are almost 30 inches long and several are between 25 and 30 years old being some of the first inhabitants to the 5000 gallon pond First Pond.

This rambling is leading up, albeit very slowly, to the subject of today’s blog which is actually about the Big Blue Heron that over the years has, at times, helped himself to a free meal at my fish’s expense. We have constantly had run ins with my goal to keep the bird away or at the very least make it difficult to get close to the ponds and it has become a real battle of wits. Whether it is the same bird or a constant stream of them, I am not to know. Wonder what the average life of a heron is?

Years ago when I first started having the Heron problem, I tried all kinds of things to make it difficult for the Heron to fish. I always understood that the birds would walk up to the water and then step in to do their fishing. Some people install trip wires located a few inches off the ground. I don’t know if they work as I have never tried them. Instead, I put 4 ft high wire fences around all of the ponds and then electrified them with a doggy shocker that would make the heron wary and hopefully deter it. This worked for a while until the heron figured that it could fly over the fence and land directly in the shallow water, totally contrary to my earlier beliefs. Of course, it couldn’t do that to the deeper ponds and I do have a video of a heron, who must have visited the Round Pond the year before when it was shallow. Now, a year later, not realizing that it is almost 4 feet deep after I had rebuilt it, struggled mightily to get up and out of the water. He still had enough wits to grab a fish as he flew up

Finally, I added water powered Scarecrows that are activated by motion detectors and placed one on the Round Pond and the other on the Small Pond. These things work very well and are noisy besides sending out a strong jet of water, enough to frighten the bird. The downside to them is that they go off at the slightest movement, whether it be the wind blowing the vegetation or me or the dogs passing in front of them. Consequently, my water bill goes up to $40.00 a month or more from the usual $17.00 when I have them activated. So, I only use the scarecrows when I know that there is a Heron Alert in our neighborhood. I have friends who very kindly alert me when the heron is around.

Based on my previous experience, the Heron usually is the most active in February and March probably because it has a nest with young that need feeding. This year, with so many of the ponds in the area dried up from the lack of rain, I was constantly on the lookout just in case. My neighbors from around me in the area usually text each other when they spot the big bird which was exactly the case this time around. My immediate next door neighbor did just that but the problem was that I was driving and was 20 miles from home and didn’t read the text until I arrived back. By then, the heron had come and gone. I forgot to mention that I have video cameras up in the trees focused on each of the ponds and the heron activated them. Well, the truth is that everything activates them including the wind making the vegetation sway, rippling water, birds and even the fish as they swim around and not forgetting myself and the dogs as we get wet as they go off. This means that I have to scroll through a lot of these two minute downloads on the disk in order to locate any big bird activity. One reason that I knew the Heron had visited was the fact that the goldfish in the Round Pond were not visible and would not come up to feed. They usually only go down and stay down when something spooks them.

Sure enough, when I went back indoors and started reviewing the memory card from the camera system, up popped my friendly Heron in all of his glory busy with a smorgasbord of Goldfish and Koi. He first tried to catch a goldfish by leaning over the Round Pond wall but it gets away. His next move is to hop up onto the wall of the Round Pond trying to catch a fish before eventually walking around the pond and then hopping down into the shallow water of the Small Pond where he managed to catch at least two fish. The last one being one of the bigger ones in that pond of at least 12 inches in length. He really struggled to turn and swallow that fish as the video shows close up and you can see the bulge in his neck where it has lodged. Whether that is its way of carrying the fish back to the nest to regurgitate or is the natural way for its own consumption, I wouldn’t know. Bottom line was that big fish was enough for the bird to complete its meal as it took off almost directly after swallowing its prize.

Needless to say, I have now activated the Scarecrows in the hope of deterring the Heron from making future visits. I plan on closing down the shallow pond and putting it out of commission, filling it in and turning it into a lawn. I will keep just the waterfall activated as a pretty water feature. In the meantime, I will catch the Koi and Goldfish and distribute them between the other 3 ponds so at least hopefully, no more of them will be Heron food in the future.

The Heron really is a beautiful bird and is very impressive with its almost 5 feet wingspan. Kinda reminds me of a Pterodactyl of yesteryear and from the fish perspective, just as dangerous. By the way, there is a Heron statue on the Round Pond so don’t confuse that with the real bird.

To watch the latest video use this link https://vimeo.com/393958826
To watch the previous video from a year ago, use this link https://vimeo.com/329165998

Written 2/27/2020

Buddy


Buddy just living out his life

One of my little dogs, Buddy, short for Buddy Holly, who was almost blind, deaf as a post, no sense of smell, very senile and almost 14 years old, took a turn for the worse. I had taken him to the vets a week before as he was not eating and they ran a whole bunch of tests, kept him for a week and then sent him home with a stack of pills that I had to administer on a daily basis. The little bugger fought me all the way as I literally forced the bloody things down his throat. He seemed to be doing much better until Thursday when he was more confused than ever and would walk his way into a corner or up against furniture and would just stand there for 10 minutes or so before moving again. He could still figure out the doggy door and when he did go outside on a walkabout, I had to go with him to be sure he didn’t fall into any of the ponds as he would get very confused and rush around from place to place unable to figure things out. On Friday, I had to go to pick up my truck that just had the on board computer replaced and when I came home, Buddy was in a terrible muddle. He had walked under a chair and could not figure how to get out. He had peed everywhere and could not stand on all 4 legs and no matter how hard he tried, he could not do it. So, with a very heavy heart, I took him to the Vets for one last trip and they put him to sleep. I brought him home and buried him alongside of all of the other dogs where he will rest forevermore. So now, our little pack is down to 2 dogs, Mikey and Sandy.

I am not sure if I will find another dog to fill the void left by Buddy but maybe if the right one comes along and gives me that special look, we will bring another one or two, home. Both Mikey and Sandy are acting really quiet as if they know that Buddy has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. My Sister passed on the same day and I will miss them both. Maybe it is because I have a guilty conscience for having to put Buddy to sleep something that I hated to do especially with the memory of Ginnie still very fresh in my mind.

I have lost six dogs, Pete, Richie, BB, Gizmo, Ginnie and now Buddy these past couple of years albeit that most of them were growing old but it is still hard to handle and I miss them all.

Written 3/9/2020

My Final Words to my Sister


My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020