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Friday, April 20, 2012

Breakfast on the Trail - pt 2

Best flight instructor, ever.
     I used to be the "fun" parent.  I once bought one of those discount rate introductory "flight lessons" just so my two oldest daughters could fly in a small private aircraft.  Every kid should fly at least once.  Now I am the guy who tells his kids not to walk briskly with the scissors while I put miniature corks on the end of each one of the forks in the flatware tray. I'm not sure when I became that guy, although it could have been in Rod Schoen's Torts class in law school where I learned all of the gruesome things that people can do to themselves, or to each other.  I think that was also when I developed my irrational fear of lightning, pencil erasers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.  (One of my dedicated readers, Tammy York, author of 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, assures me that I have far more to fear from Les Nessman than I do the Bengals).
     So I wasn't overly surprised to have been the wet blanket once we hit the trail.  Descending from the "trail head" at Sansom Park, there is some fairly rocky terrain and the going can be steep when you have lots of small kids in tow.  We managed to get all of the kiddos to flat ground without piling up at the bottom of the hill ala' Three Stooges style.  Within minutes we emerged from the trees and crossed the main trail to admire the local water feature.  And that is when my latent over-protective parenting kicked in.

     While we stood on the point overlooking the water, and admiring the waterfall on the far side of the river, my oldest son jumped over the edge onto the outcropping about 5 feet below us.  From where I stood, the ledge he was standing on looked about 4 inches wide.  Without missing a beat my successor to the throne, the heir apparent, simultaneously starts throwing rocks into the water with one hand while handing rocks up to the three year old so that she could join in the fun as well.  Like any three year old, when she throws, her whole body tends to follow and I had images of her pirouetting into the murky water some ten feet below.  Meanwhile, my son had started jumping on the edge of his own precipice, seeing how much of his own foothold he could kick into the water.  I could feel the back of my neck tingling and was certain a stray bolt of lightning was seeking me out.
     All of the splashing and thrashing about, aside from irritating all the anglers near the waterfall, had stoked the interest of all types of wildlife.  Turtles started to surface and looked to be putting together a pool to see which kid would fall into the water first.  Fish were jumping about.  Then other unidentifiable bits of nature started to circulate our direction.  We have about a gazillion poisonous snakes in the immediate area. There are alligators around here. Or maybe they are crocodiles.  We have jackalopes.  Between Lockheed Martin and the winged members of the US Armed Forces, I am certain there are several nuclear devices, unmanned submarines, and laboratory-developed mermaids armed with assault rifles in the lake that feeds this little stream.  When I spotted the half-alligator, half-chupacabra licking its lips, it was time to go.
     Returning to the trail, we forged ahead into the trees looking for better access to the water and for connecting trails that run along side the Trinity River.  Within just a few moments though, the trail and the flowing water diverged.  Ahead of us I could hear a deep, pulsating grumbling.  Whatever it was, it sounded like it was directly in front of us.  We weren't far from the home of the locally infamous Goat Man, another concern never far from my mind.  The noise was growing louder.
This grainy photo, taken while I was at a full-trot and pushing kids
out of my way, shows an abandoned lean-to formerly inhabited
by the Lake Worth Goat man.  It might even have been the location
 for the Blair Witch Project.  Really.
      Just off the trail, I discovered the remainder of a primitive lean-to. I am fairly certain I saw the little totems and decorations used on the Blair Witch Project hanging from nearby trees.  I shuddered as the growl continued to grow in front of us.  Fortunately, the small children all seemed oblivious to either the growing noise or the lean-to village.  I could hear something in the woods behind me shadowing us.  I realized that a half-alligator/half-chupacabra, aside from being amphibious, would be an ideal hunting partner for the Goat Man.  The deep growling was just ahead of us now, right around the next bend.  Whatever was creeping up behind us was getting closer.  It sounded as though the entire Cincinnati Bengal line backer core was having tackling drills on a giant base drum.  I bravely decided to allow my wife to lead the group forward.
     As we turned made the bend, the growling, grumbling colossus revealed itself.  Through the chain link fence separating Sansom Park from the nearest residence, turning and twisting and thrashing and clamoring, stood the biggest, dirtiest, meanest looking... central air conditioning unit I had ever seen.  So maybe it wasn't the Goat Man, but I am still certain his chupacabra blood hound was stalking us.
     Ten minutes later we stopped for breakfast on the trail, rather than becoming breakfast on the trail.  Thankfully, the kids were none the wiser to the grave danger we stared down that fateful morning.  Good thing they had me there to protect them.  Really.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Breakfast on the Trail - part 1

     So, here it is Spring again, and I am parenting MacGyver style. 
     Now that Barge Pilot is in the final stages of production (insert polite golf clap here), I have some time on my hands and thought that maybe I should devote some of that time to my children.  I was recently inspired by that hiking roustabout Andrew Skurka and realized that breakfast could only be better on a local trail, watching the sun rise over the D/FW metroplex, greeting the day when everything was fresh and shiny and new. My mind raced at the possibilities, granola and fruit while lounging by the water, or maybe we would huddle under a grove of trees and cook... well, something over a quaint campfire. If I played my cards right, maybe I could even use the trip as a justification to buy Skurka's book, The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail. This was going to be a trip to remember.
     In order to match up all the different schedules, all we needed to do was to be up, get dressed, find flashlights, find the battery stash, replace the dead batteries in the flashlight with fresh ones that we would pick up along the way, gas the Nissan troop transport, buy the breakfast ingredients, pick up the niece and nephew, allow ten minutes for a wrong turn and step onto the trail about 8:00 a.m. No problem.
     About ten minutes before 9:00, I rolled out of bed in dire need of coffee and donuts. It was clear that, in true MacGyver fashion, we were going to have to creatively adapt to the new situation. In my case, that meant quietly waking the boys and getting them dressed so that we could sneak out of the house without the female members of the tribe and still have some hope of finishing the breakfast hike before sunset.
     I think it was the jingle of the keys that woke the three year old, right before she ran out of her bedroom yelling something that sounded like, "I want to go Daddy! Please good father, do not employ your silly mis-directions to trick me into going into another room while you and my brothers steal away without me." Well, it sounded like that to me anyway.
In the distant background, Lockheed Martin and the drums
of war. Somewhere in the woods lurks Goat Man.
     So we waited as the women folk donned hiking attire; curled, straightened, dyed then bleached hair; changed outfits; located sunglasses; changed outfits again; made several phone calls; changed outfits again; and, just prior to loading into the Nissan, wondered out loud why weren' t we boys ready to go yet.  A quick stop for 5 gallons of gas (about $100), and some quick trail snacks (it was too late even for brunch), a pit stop to pick up the niece and nephew and at long last... TRAIL BOUND!
     In the spirit of minimizing our "carbon footprint" with the Nissan Battalion, we chose Sansom Park which isn't too far from the house.  The park is in sore need of a good cleaning, but it has some great hiking trails.  The area is locally renowned for its proximity to Lockheed Martin, and not incidentally, localized sightings of the infamous Goat Man.  More importantly, given the encroaching sun, the park is close to lots of places to get a late lunch...
    Join me for Part 2 of Breakfast on the Trail, where we herd 6 small kids over a rocky descent, share a stirring moment with 3 strangers, two turtles, and a half-alligator/half-chupacabra, battle the Goat Man, all while in search of the perfect breakfast spot!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Barge Pilot - Just around the corner!

Haven't really had time for breakfast lately, what with the dodging the tornadoes and making a living and such.  Oh, and there is that little issue of finishing up my first novel, Barge Pilot, which I hope to have to the publisher in a week or so. I do have the proof copy of the cover though, so that excites me greatly!

The proof version of the cover for forthcoming novel Barge Pilot.  My good friend and unpaid editor David Swanson liked the alternative version, so if course this cover was the natural choice.

By way of fair warning and full disclosure, Barge Pilot is not the same kind of fare that you will find in this blog.  Barge Pilot is a lot darker, and there aren't as many happy endings as I hope you will find here.  My younger children won't be reading it anytime soon...  I have been reading a book lately that you may find entertaining, Learn Me Good by John Pearson.  It appears that Pearson also has a follow up, titled Learn Me Gooder.  Maybe that will be my present to myself after I get Barge Pilot completed.  If you can forgive this shameless self-promotion, breakfast should resume by the end of the week!