Encounters of the turtle kind

I am one of the lucky ones that bumps into wildlife on a fairly regular basis. In the course of my fifty-five years, I have encountered wild hogs (more than once), untold numbers of salamanders, lizards, and snakes (the Timber Rattler being the most memorable),  horned toads ad infinitum,  possums, hedgehogs, on and on. I am always grateful to see them and leave them alone. However, I have had two encounters with turtles recently and, while I certainly enjoyed meeting them, they did not reciprocate.

The first one I saw was in the middle of the street not far from where I live. He was about the size of a softball and was a  little more than half-way between retention ponds. No doubt he had heard that one of the ponds had either a) more food, or b) more female turtles. He didn’t say. He was right in the middle of traffic, though, and I had a pretty good hunch that his shell would not stand up to a 3,000 pound Chevrolet.  I asked my son to pick him up and speed his way to the pond he appeared to be heading for. He did so and that really riled Mr. Turtle. He hissed and fussed and carried on something terrible for one whose life was being saved. I can’t speak turtle but, if I could, I am quite certain that all that hissing and fussing was a profanity laced tirade directed at the youngest of my offspring. Soon as he was safely re-located, he calmed down pretty quick and went on his merry way.

The second turtle was really small. He was the size of one you might pick up at a pet store. What had happened was we had gone to a community band concert in an open amphitheater. The grass seating area had about 200+ people sitting and enjoying the concert. My wife and I sat in the middle of that area. The concert lasted right at an hour. As 200+ people got up, packed their lawn chairs and picnic baskets, one little girl of about eight said, “Look at this!” There in the grass among all these people was a little bitty turtle and he was agitated. He’d probably been stepped on and was now just trying to get “outta Dodge.” There is a creek not far away from us so I decided to pick him up and relocate him as we had done for his larger friend. When I did that, he let loose a venomous series of turtle threats that I am sure would have made a sailor blush. He wiggled out of my hands twice until I finally covered him with both hands and headed for the creek. All the while I was carrying him, he was wiggling and carrying on and threatening my very life if I did not put him back where I found him. I put him under a bridge and he took of as fast as his little feet could carry him.

You know, neither of those turtles said thanks. They’re foul mouthed too. Bet they don’t act that way at home.

Animal Leaders?

An opportunity presented itself recently to attend a seminar on leadership instincts. It seems that there is a theory that states that all those who are leaders (or hope to be) will generally exhibit the characteristics of a particular wild animal. In this particular case, there are four animal categories to which all people of the earth are assigned in accordance with their demonstrated behavior style. The four categories are tiger, ostrich, fox, and chameleon. There is not the room in this article to delve into each specific category save to say any thinking person can attach typical behaviors to each. Well, I really have an issue with chameleons. The issue I have with the chameleon is largely because that is what their test told me that I am. I take issue along several points;

  • I do not have the ability to move my eyes independently of each other nor am I able to see in front of AND behind myself at the same time.  That would be pretty handy you know. Imagine how easy it would be to evade, say, a bill collector or an officer of the law?
  • I lack the talent of changing my appearance to suit my surroundings so as to be invisible to prey. I do try, mind you, but the salesmen and telemarketers of the world still find me.
  • I do not possess a hideously long tongue that can reach out half the length of my 6 foot frame (and, if I did, I guarantee I would not tell anybody).
  • I can’t walk on high places without much to hang onto. Chameleons do it slower than anybody on earth. They have what amounts to four hands.

The seminar added none of the aforementioned characteristics as being evident of an individual with the leadership style of a chameleon. Instead, they described this individual as persuasive, intuitive, social, fun, friendly, warm, enthusiastic, and inspiring.  How they derived this from a chameleon I’ll never know. Regardless, these were all great traits that I was proud to be connected to. Yup, that’s me, I thought to myself. I AM a chameleon. In a class of twenty or so people, there were two or three chameleons. We were the life of the party. Then they told us….

Chameleons can be talkative, emotional, unreliable, FLAKY, procrastinators, and are easily distracted. Harrumph!! How could they?! I could easily give them a 1,000 word discourse disproving this theory. I’ll do it too! Someday. Just you wait. Soon as I….wait, I was talking about chameleons, wasn’t I?

They ended their seminar telling the few chameleons that are there the following “self-management” slogan, “Life is not just a big party.” Right. My response? “Party on, dude!”

The REAL story

(NOTE: Please read the previous article titled Soncy Road before you read this)

Last week, I told the story of cars mysteriously parked (only after dark, mind you) on Soncy Road in Amarillo, Texas. A bunch of little boys (me among them) formed an unsuccessful group to find out why. Here’s the rest of that tawdry tale:

The fact of the matter is I did find out what they did on Soncy Road but not until I was sixteen and had my own car. The girlfriend that I had at that time suggested we go there after a movie we had seen so we could talk. You know, we did too. Had a nice long visit the end of which found our windows steamed up so that we could not see out. We talked about school that day and our plans for the future. She wanted to be a housewife (remember, this was about 1970 or so) and I wanted to be a truck mechanic. I was worried about getting drafted and winding up in Viet Nam (both ended before I came of age) and she was worried about finding a man. I reminded her I thought it was not an issue for her anymore and, for some unfathomable reason, she rolled her eyes and chuckled.

Well, the evening went on and we were so immersed in our “talk” that we never did see the cop car pull up behind us. They knocked on our door rather harshly and, when I answered, they had us out of the car much quicker than I thought possible. They had us sit in the back seat of their car while they quizzed us as to our activities.  We steadfastly insisted that we had come here to talk about “different things.” They did not take to our story very well and decided they would need to call both of our parents. Well, they kept us in their car for what seemed an eternity. They kept asking us what we were “really doing” way out here by ourselves, after dark, with the windows all steamed up. I stood by my story adding that the evening was somewhat cool and I did not want my girlfriend to catch cold. That, surprisingly enough, did not work either. They let us go with the warning not to be out here again and, yes, they would be calling both of our parents that next day. We left that evening fully convinced that our lives were over. The dreaded call from the police never came and, eventually, we forgot about it. I assume she found a suitable man and while I did join the Army, I did not get sent to Viet Nam.

I stuck with my story the entire time I was in the car with Amarillo’s finest. I stuck with that story then and that’s all you’re going to get today.

Email galore

I would guess that 80-85% of all the email that graces my three addresses are unsolicited, unwanted, and unnecessary. The most annoying ones are:

  • “I am somebody in a third world country who was married to the vice president of an INCREDIBLY HUGE bank that nobody’s ever heard of located in a third world country. He is dead now of a tragic accident and has left me 50 gazillion dollars hidden in yet another third world country that I want to move to America and I’ll pay you 30 gazillion dollars to help me do it! Just send me your bank account info for transfer of the funds.” Uh huh. I know for a fact they won’t ever pay you more than 10 gazillion. I knew a guy this happened to. He lives in New Jersey I think. Well, I don’t know him personally. He just told me that in an email.
  • “IF YOU DON”T CALL YOUR (insert important person(s) name here) RIGHT NOW, some nefarious group that we really don’t like will take something away from you that is, like, soooo important and, gosh, that would really be bad now, wouldn’t it?  Just sign the petition accessible at the conveniently located link at the bottom of this email. OH, and while you’re at it, we could use a few bucks to offset the cost of this free email so we can send more alerts to hundreds of millions of people.  Can you also put us in touch with that widow with the 50 gazillion dollars?”
  • “Welcome to my E-zine!!! I am 24, single, just graduated from the University of Somewhere incredibly prestigious and I am the new subject matter expert of whatever it is you need! I had a ghost blogger put together  this e-zine because I am sooooo busy with all of the big-time clients that I’ve landed in the six months since graduation that I have had to outsource everything, including whatever it is that I do. I am particularly good at connecting people with widows in third world countries. They have lots of money they want to move to America.”
  • “ I saw your profile on-line and I REALLY REALLY want to get to know you because I think you are soo hot and we can have such a good time together and you and I could make lots of money shipping products for other people and it would just be you and me and your bank account. Oh, I do need your bank info so I can verify that you have enough money to send me so we can ship stuff from a third world country to the US. You have to pay me first see, but don’t worry because when you take this stuff you will deliver it to a US address and they will pay you double. See, these people in America have 10 gazillion dollars they got from a widow in a third world country. It was 50 gazillion but it took 40 gazillion in bribes to get the 10. Oh, before I forget, I love you!”
  • The worst of all: “This is agent doe from IRS and you owe us 30 gazillion dollars. Just click on the link below to pay your bill. We know you got that 10 gazillion from that guy in New Jersey. He told us he paid you for a bunch of stuff you got from a third world country.”

Soncy Road

Back in the 60’s, Soncy Road in Amarillo, Texas, was at the very furthest west end of one of the fields we played in when I was a little boy. Today, it’s a build up area and very busy. Back then, it was an empty farm-to-market road.  It was very far for us to go at that time so we did not get there very often. It was also close by a circular area of trees that we knew to be a UFO landing site. We certainly did not want to be abducted by aliens, so we generally avoided the area around Soncy Road. Until…

I happened to go through there in a car one night with my brother. I noticed there were several cars parked out there at various places. They had people inside too but they did not appear to be doing much. My brother was six years older than me so I asked him what they were up to. “They just come out here to talk about different things,” he said. I asked what different things did they talk about but he never answered me. When we got home, I went and told the neighborhood fellows about it. We decided that we would risk alien abduction and go have a look for ourselves.

The following Saturday evening, we met at my house right after supper and headed out on our mission. We made absolutely sure that we avoided the UFO site as it was after dark and they would be landing soon. We located a ditch that ran alongside Soncy Road and, sure as God made little green apples,  the cars were there . I don’t remember exactly how many were out there, but there had to have been four or five and they were far apart from one another. There was four of us so we decided we would split up and check on each car.

Well, we did split up and each made his way to spy on a car. When I got to the car I wanted to see inside of, I couldn’t! Dang it! The windows were all fogged up! All I could make out was the figure of two people just sitting there. They were sitting right smack dab next to one another and I did manage to figure out one was a girl and the other was a guy.

About the time I settled in to see what these two shadows were going to do, a police car showed up! The police pulled up right behind the car I was watching and the rest of the cars started up their motors and left right quick. Well, they got those two out of their car and started talking to them. I don’t know what they said to them. I was too busy running. I just knew that we were going to catch it if the cops got hold of us. I caught the rest of the guys (all of whom reported the same steamed over windows in the cars they were looking at) and we let out for home.

We never did figure out what they were doing out there in those cars.

Mother Stinnett

Mother Stinnett was my step-grandmother. She has long since gone to her reward but I remember her often and with great fondness. She was a direct descendent of Batt Masterson of Wild West fame and was from what we called “old Texas money.”  There have not been many finer women anywhere than Mother Stinnett. What I remember her for the most was the “rules of behavior” she would tell me about. Let me this morning recount to you the ones I remember:

  • Men of all ages are never, ever to sit down at the dinner table until all women present are seated first (that included ALL females). Men are never to fill their plate until all the women had.  (We do this at my house to this day. I do not want Mother Stinnett to come up out of her grave after me). I like this particular rule and my bride likes it to. It slows all of us down (you know how men are) and we get to eat together at the same time.
  • Yes sir / no sir and yes mam /no mam were expected of everybody.
  • There were rules of address to adhere to as well.  Certain women were addressed as “Miss” and their first name. That was used of single women, wives without children of their own, and young children towards grown women (I think that’s right). There is another version that stated that all grown women were addressed as Miss and first name except the matriarch of a family who was addressed as “Mother” and her last name. Young girls were always addressed by their first names.
  • Men were easier. It was always “sir” to elder men. Anybody younger was addressed by their first name.
  • God forbid a man should ever leave his house with his shirt untucked. Tackiest thing in the world to Mother Stinnett.
  • There was, of course, the standard stuff. Open doors for ladies, stand when a lady walks into a room. Men also stand when women are sitting down or standing up at table. Women ought not to insult their men in public. Standard stuff.
  • There’s more but that’s all I can remember right now. I will add to this as I remember (assuming that I do).

All this may sound quaint and not a little old-fashioned, and maybe it is. I wonder, though, just for a minute if the old-timers didn’t have something there. You know, ole George Washington himself wrote a book on behavior. Ben Franklin had a list of virtues that he worked on in his own quest for self-improvement.

Mother Stinnett had her own list.

Tires

I have to buy tires for my car. “Tars” as we would call them back at my childhood home. I just bought tires five years ago so I am NOT HAPPY that I have to do this again. I am most certainly not going to buy brand “F,” I said to myself. Actually, I feel like writing brand “F” and complaining about the short life span of the tires that I now have to replace. I have no doubt I would get some watered down letter from somebody in corporate communications expressing a feigned sorrow for my dilemma but not much else. So….I complained to my wife instead. I didn’t get very far there either.

I told her I should be getting much longer distance and time out of these tires than I have and I think “F” ought to own up to these lousy tires. She asked me just how long these tires are supposed to last. “Longer than 5 years” I intoned. That didn’t seem to satisfy her so off to the internet I go to find the answer, all the while asking myself (silently) why she is questioning me of all people. Does she not know that men inherently know all there is to know about tires? She apparently does not.

As it turns out, “F” doesn’t even make that model of tire anymore. I told my wife that “F” discontinued the tire. I opined that they did so in the full and complete knowledge that they had a dog on their hands and were now trying to hide the evidence. They even wiped any mention of that model from the web and anywhere else I could think to look. I smell a conspiracy. None of that satisfied my wife. I told her it was a point not worth arguing about as I would not be buying that brand again. She walked away wondering aloud why the point was brought up in the first place. Women.

My exhaustive research, coupled with the time I myself spent selling tires back in the 70’s affords me the wisdom and knowledge I would need to get the best tire at the best price. I narrowed my decision down to “C,” “C,” or “M.” I congratulated myself on my consumer prowess and now set off to get the best price (i.e. cheap) I could.

Did you know there are no less than twenty (20) stores just on my side of town that sell all three brands of tires that I am considering? I do not have the time to call all of them. As luck would have it, I found a website of one of the dealers that lets me get my price and book the appointment without being on the phone for who knows how long. I bought my tires (“C” brand) at the price I thought fair and all is well with the world. Not only am I all knowing on tires, I am now an internet shopping guru.

An antagonist (who will remain nameless) asked me if I was such a tire expert of longstanding note, how is it that I got saddled with those “F” tires in the first place? Furthermore, if I am such a “guru” on the web, how come it took me a week to find that website?

Oh….forget it.