Cattle Drives

When we lived in Keller, Texas one of the things I enjoyed most was driving down to Old Fort Worth to watch the cattle drive. Fort Worth is the only city in the world with its own herd of longhorns. Twice a day, at 11:30 and 4:00, they have a cattle drive. There are 4 or 5 cowboys driving the cattle up 2 blocks of Exposition Avenue just to honor the city’s tradition of being Cow Town USA. They use 15 head of longhorns of various colors and horn configurations to make up their trail herd.We’ve talked to the cowboys many times and found that half of them work for the Fort Worth Parks Department and the other half are police officers.

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Brindle Lhorn

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Over in Dallas there is a big concourse known as Pioneer Plaza. It features a static cattle drive with 15 sculptured longhorns and 2 cowboys on horseback. The figures are 25% larger than life. and show amazing detail. The herd is winding around a small knoll and down a slope and fording a creek.

Longhorn 2

Longhorn 3

Longhorn 1

There is a large, bronze plaque in the sidewalk that shows the trail brands and gives the name of the trail bosses or ranches they come from.

Dave Thomas
July 23, 2014

 

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Old Mrs. Coates

It was about 8:00 AM on one of those joyous summer mornings with the sun shining and heavy dew glistening on the leaves and grass. I had just finished my third grade year and was thankful to be free. I was on the way to visit my Great-grandma Minnie, who lived several blocks from us. It was always a special treat to be invited to breakfast with Grandma Minnie because she always fixed me her special bread pudding with raisins in it.

As I got closer to Grandma’s I could see that her across-the-street neighbor, old Mrs. Coates, was out on her front porch enjoying her morning tea. I yelled, “Good morning, Mrs. Coates!” She yelled back, “Good morning, David, how are you this morning?” (I should explain that Mrs. Coates had a voice that was loud and clear and you could hear her clear to the end of the block.) I responded “I’m OK, how are you?” She bellows back, “Well, David, I had a wonderful bowel movement this morning so I know it will be a great day!” This was more information than a little kid could handle and I felt my face turning red as I ran for Grandma’s door and a chance to get out of sight.

Dave Thomas
March 31, 2012

 

Grandpa and Billy the Goat

Grandpa, A.A. Thomas, always had something interesting going on. One day I rode my bike down to visit Grandpa and Grandma. I might have been 11 or 12 years old and Grandpa was at least 80. When I got to the house, Grandma said Grandpa was out in the back yard so I went on out there. It turned out that Grandpa had bought himself a cute little billy goat. He was putting the finishing touches on a pen he had built for it. He told me he had named the little critter, Billy, and that I could get in the pen and play with him. Billy was a friendly little guy and enjoyed being petted and fussed over so I played with him that day and pretty often in the days that followed.

Then, for some reason I didn’t get down to see Billy for quite a spell and when I did go to visit, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Cute little Billy, the kid goat, had turned into a full-sized ram with a fine set of horns. Grandpa said he was still just a playful little guy and I should just go on in and give him some attention. Well, Billy was glad to see me and I enjoyed petting him and messing with him. I noticed that he had tipped over his water bucket so I thought I would refill it. I stooped over to pick it up and wham… I got knocked flat when Billy charged up and butted me in the behind. It turns out that “little” Billy had learned how to use those horns and loved butting anyone dumb enough to turn their back on him. Grandpa was laughing so I knew I had been set up. Grandma heard the commotion and came out and chewed on Grandpa and told him  he should be ashamed of himself. Grandpa just laughed more and said “that darned Billy has got me a dozen times!”

I saw Billy a few more times but one day I got there and Billy’s pen was empty. When I asked Grandpa of Billy’s whereabouts, he just said “he got me one time too many!”

Dave Thomas
April 26, 2013

 

Izzie-3 Problem Solving

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I have lived with cats all my life and enjoyed them. You feed them, water them, take care of them, and enjoy the affection you get from them. The problem though is that for most of your life you don’t have enough time to observe them. As a retired person, I’ve been learning things that I wish I had known all these years. Cats are thinkers but you have to quietly watch them for some time in order to pick up on the subtle things that are going on in their little heads.

When Izzie, the inside cat, and I first started going for walks, she checked out everything by smelling, looking, and listening and sometimes by touching with her paws and I’m certain that she committed every detail to memory. One event that convinced me of how observant she is and how she can asses a situation and solve a problem by breaking it down into step-by-step solutions is the “gate” story.

We walked across the backyard and made a right turn and went up the side of the house toward the front where the trash cans are kept. We got there and she stopped and sat back on her haunches. I noticed that she was staring at the top of the gate and continued to do so for a couple of minutes. It finally dawned on me that she was trying to figure out how to get over that gate. I knew that she understood the constraints of the leash and that she probably couldn’t make a direct frontal assault on the gate. After a bit, she looked to the left and saw the retaining wall. She walked over to it and stood on her hind legs and put her front feet on top of the wall. I saw her muscles flex as she pulled on it and tested it for stability and strength. When she was satisfied that it was okay she hopped up on top of it.

Next, she looked at the closest trash can and put her front paws on it. As before, she looked around carefully and then hopped onto the trash can lid. She took another look at the top of the gate from her new vantage point and evidently decided she could do better. She looked over at the adjoining trash can, extended her front legs and placed her paws on the cover. She looked around carefully and then gingerly stepped across to the second can. Now, she sat back on her haunches and again stared at the top of the gate. All this time I had been holding the leash and she knew well what her limits were. You could almost see the wheels turning in her little brain as she assessed the situation. Suddenly she stood up,  placed her front paws on the horizontal brace at the top of the gate and made a mighty leap. Fortunately, I was ready, and caught her in mid-air just as she cleared the top. She wasn’t trying to get away. She only wanted to see what was on the other side. She held on to the top of the gate and I held onto her as we stood there for a couple of minutes and watched the cars go by on the street.

It’s interesting to note that the next day, having memorized the procedure; she just walked right up to the retaining wall and made the series of jumps that carried her to the top of the gate. I was impressed by the way she sized up the problem, broke it down into manageable steps, executed her plan, and then remembered it the next day.

Dave Thomas
December 2, 2013

Fired!

If you read my story “AVS Honey”, you will remember that in 1950, after I graduated from 8th grade, I had a 3 or 4 week period before I was to spend the summer in Arizona with my Grand-dad. I told you about the AVS Honey job because it was interesting and it was fun. I almost forgot that for 3 or 4 days prior to AVS Honey, I had a job in a filling station. Maybe I’m blocking it out of my memory because I got fired. Here’s how it happened.

In Kansas, you could get a restricted driver’s license when you were 14 years old. As a result, the schools offered a driver’s training course to 13 year old 8th graders. I took the course and learned the rudiments of driving and how to take care of a car.

Bill Nutter and Ray Tarman took over the management of a Socony-Vacuum (later, Mobil) station. This is the station that had been run by a man named “Heavy” Stevens at the south end of Augusta where State Street and Walnut Street come together.

Just before school was out, my Mom happened to see Bill Nutter down town and visited with him a little. After Bill told about his new business, Mom told him about me needing a short term job and asked if he could use me at his new place. Bill said it so happened that he had hired a college kid for the summer but this kid wouldn’t be out of school for another 3 weeks or so. He told Mom that he could use some help until the college kid showed up and that I should come down and talk to him. I hurried down and talked to Bill and he agreed to hire me.

Back in those days, the gas stations or filling stations were more correctly called “service” stations. A customer pulling into a station for any amount of gasoline expected to have their windshield washed, oil checked, and radiator water level checked. And, if requested, the air pressure in their tires would be checked. Beyond that, if requested, the attendant would grab a whisk broom and sweep out the car.

The work stuff didn’t bother me. I could do all the necessary things or sweep the driveway with no problem. My shortcoming proved to be that I didn’t know enough about cars or engines. Bill or Ray would be working on a car and I would have to interrupt them so they could help me locate something. The first day, it was a cab-over truck and I couldn’t find the dipstick to check the oil level. The next day, I couldn’t find the gas cap on a customer’s car. Earlier models were easy to find. They were normally in plain sight, a shiny chrome thing sticking out of a rear fender. The manufacturers were just starting to get tricky and hide them behind little doors in the rear fender wells. However, on my second day at the station, I had no idea where the gas cap was on this guy’s car. Trying to look “cool” (rather than stupid) I walked into the grease rack and asked Bill where the thing was. “It’s behind the license plate”, he says. “No kidding?”, I say. Sure enough, there it was.

The 3rd day, I was really intense. I wasn’t going to miss anything. The morning went well but in the middle of the afternoon, here comes this late model Cadillac. The driver told me to “fill it up” so I got the hose and was ready to start pumping gas. I’m in trouble again…I can’t find the gas cap! I checked the fenders, the license plate, and the trunk with no luck. Finally admitting to myself that I had failed again, I went in and got Bill out from under the hood of a car and asked him to show me where the gas cap was on a Cadillac. Bill doesn’t say anything but walks over to the left side of the car, takes hold of the tail-light and swings it up and out of the way. There’s the gas cap! The tail-light lens is hinged! That was just too damned cute for words. Who puts a gas cap in a tail light? I gassed up the car and got the man on his way.

At quitting time that night, Bill told me that I just didn’t know enough about cars and they wouldn’t be able to use me after all. I understood and there were no hard feelings.

Dave Thomas
February 12, 2016

 

The USS Constitution

USS Constitution-Boston 2

Picture Courtesy of Chief Flora, USN Retired.

This picture spans the time from 1797 when the U.S.S. Constitution, Old Ironsides, was launched until now, 2011. Old Ironsides, the sailors on the dock, and the Blue Angel aircraft and their pilots are all on active duty in the U.S. Navy. Old Ironsides was never de-commissioned and is the oldest active duty warship afloat in the world. She is berthed at the Charleston pier in Boston harbor. Her crew is made up of active duty officers and enlisted men of the U.S. Navy.

Another point of interest for me is that our ancestor, William Sprague (my 7th great grandfather), and his brothers helped build the town of Charlestown in 1629.

I feel very fortunate to have a piece of wood from the hull of the U.S.S. Constitution that was cast into a small paper weight. In the 1970’s I was Vice President and Plant Manager of a small manufacturing firm. We fabricated printed circuit boards and also had a department that produced front panels, nameplates, and signage. I was responsible for sales for the company and in that capacity called on the Director of the Aerospace Museum in Balboa Park, San Diego, Lt. Col. Ed Carey, U.S.A.F., Retired. I became acquainted with Col. Carey and the men who restored aircraft or worked as docents at the museum. One day, the Colonel showed up at our shop and said he needed help with a personal project. He had once been in Boston with his family and wanted to pay his respects and take a tour of Old Ironsides. He called, made an appointment, and at the proper time showed up in Class A uniform with his family. As they toured the ship they came to an area where some rotting timbers were being replaced by a crew of skilled craftsmen. Col. Carey, within earshot of other tourists, asked the Naval Officer conducting the tour if he might have a piece of the rotted wood as a souvenir. The officer apologized and said it wasn’t possible. As they completed the tour and were leaving the ship, the Colonel and his family thanked their tour guide and the Officer of the Deck. Colonel Carey saluted the flag and the O.O.D. as is the custom and the O.O.D. returned the salute and handed Col. Carey a sack containing a sample piece of the wood removed from the hull.

After telling me this story, the Colonel said he was going to take pieces of his wood sample and cast them as small paper-weights and wanted a small aluminum nameplate to identify the source of the wood. He provided camera-ready artwork so I made the nameplates myself, over a lunch hour, and provided them at no charge as a goodwill gesture from my company. A couple of months later Colonel Carey showed up at our shop and presented me with one of the paper weights containing an original piece of Old Ironsides. I kept it on my desk and showed it to every visitor to our plant.

Dave Thomas
June 1, 2011

Old Iron PW

 

The Roadrunner

I spent a month in Arizona with my Grandpa during the summer of 1950. Grandpa lived in Safford but had a farm in San Simon (San See-moan). The first time he took me to the farm, we were getting ready to spend the night. Grandpa told me that if I heard a pecking noise on the window at dawn not to worry about it. He said its just the roadrunner.This got my interest real fast because I was already a fan of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Grandpa went on to explain that one night he had thrown out some table scraps for whatever birds or critters might show up. Later, he was sitting outside enjoying the coolness of the evening when a roadrunner appeared and began pecking at the scraps. Grandpa knew that they mostly eat snakes and small animals but the next day, when he was in town, he bought some mixed grain and corn. He normally woke up about dawn so he got in the habit of going out in the yard early and tossing out a handful of feed. The roadrunner seemed to like the handouts and could be seen in the yard every morning. One morning, Grandpa slept in. He was awakened by a pecking noise at the window and looked up to see the roadrunner sitting on the window ledge and doing the pecking. Grandpa got up and took a handful of feed and tossed it out into the yard. After that, if Grandpa didnt get the feed out there early enough, the roadrunner would be pecking at the window.

Ive always found it interesting to watch creatures as they process information, develop habits, and commit things to memory. Food is the driving force in their lives and obtaining it, the obsession. Grandpas roadrunner had learned that if there was a man at the house he would be getting something to eat. If the man doesnt show up at the pre-determined time, dawn, he can go peck on the window and get the man out there with some food. Hes going to keep an eye out for this guy and when he shows up hell be at the house every day at dawn because its easier than scrounging for the morning meal.

Dave Thomas
August 3, 2014