Tag Archives: Abilene Texas

Flowers of Flying Hat (6-8): Sow thistle is not a weed.

Far field clouds, March 2012.

6. False Garlic, Crow Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve), March 2012.

This False Garlic flowers early and there are several colonies clustered together throughout the ranchito.  This False Garlic is closed and due to the rains and cold yesterday and today, I do not have an open flower to illustrate — but, I shall.  This is found in the lane to County Road 114, and other colonies are about the gate between the arena and the grove pasture.

7. Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper), March 2012.

Sow Thistle appears to be a weed, but it is not.  Authorities claim the milk of this plant relieves eye ailments.  I wonder if I could apply this to my left eye?  I think not.  I’ll rely upon Dr. Callanan, but then again…. This appeared one afternoon and then its flowers have closed.  This Sow Thistle inhabits the disturbed soil underneath the live oak tree to the southeast of the house.  I have read much about the categorization of ‘weed’ versus ‘plant.’  The term ‘weed’ seems culture-specific, a term of dislike, marginal.  Goats, sheep and cattle eat this with relish.  To them, it seems, this is a plant, not an obnoxious weed.  One person’s plant is another person’s weed?

8. Unknown.

These little-bitty guys erupt on the top terrace and emerge as small, almost unnoticeable flowers. As of today, I have failed to find their name, and I also need a closeup to gain greater resolution of their attributes. Today it is raining and the blossoms are closed.

More Violet ruellia, violet wild petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).

This is a another photograph of violet wild petunia, previously identified.  It has erupted in large numbers along Interstate 20 from Mingus to Abilene.


Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat

Southwestern farrago

San Saba Weekly News, October 9, 1891.

Within the last two months, I have collected a special farrago of items relative to the Southwest and travel south of the border.  I had thought about writing a post on each of these items, but probably will not in the near future.  I do not want these bits and pieces to go stale.  So, in this mixed bag of  items you may find something of interest.  Click on the hyperlinks for details.


Tundra Native Flies To Texas | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.  The Snowy Owl comes to Texas — near Dallas.  This is so rare of a sighting down here that I may drive over to the area and photograph the owl (Robertson State Park at Lake Ray Hubbard Snowy Owl sighting site location courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife).


In Arizona, Rare Sightings Of Ocelots and Jaguars – NYTimes.com.  The New York Times relates to Arizona.  But, two years ago near Abilene, Texas, three sober people sighted what was thought to be a jaguar.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency did not confirm the sighting along a brushy ridge line that extended for miles running east and west.  Given the craziness of some hunters, I have not given the story publicity and I do not intend to pinpoint the location.


How safe is Mexico for tourists? – World – CBC News.  This writer has experience in Mexico and his website seems worthwhile.  This is a valuable article for those of you seeking to take your Spring break in Mexico.  Combined with the State Department’s guidelines and warnings linked below, avoid some places and enjoy safely other areas.


Mexico.  U.S. Department of State Travel Warning to Mexico.  The State Department updates these warnings regularly.


BBC – Travel – A German enclave in central Texas : Cultural Activities, Texas.  This is about Fredericksburg, one of my favorite towns in Texas.  I went to Fredericksburg as a boy, before it became touristy.  It still has the old-town feeling.  This was written for the British Broadcasting Company.


Filed under Birds, Fredericksburg Texas, San Saba Texas, Texas

Pasqual’s calendar

At my office at Cisco College in Abilene, Texas, I lean back and put my feet and Ariat boots up on the desk.

My view is nearly always the same when I catch my breath and lean back in the chair.  I have a calendar from Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe — dated back to 2009 — that is of a pajarera (birdhouse).  I like those calendars from Pasqual’s.  I have a calendar underneath this calendar that is from 2008, entitled “Mi Moscata,” showing a boy with a pet squirrel.  Yes, I know, that’s three-years ago and I still have it on the wall.  Further, I have Sage to Meadow blog up on the computer, Dr. Pepper on the desk and behind the Dr. Pepper is a small green box of mild Tabasco sauce — bottle in the box, of course.  I have the red Tabasco there, too, but you can’t see it.  I eat lunch in my office, hence, the condiments.

It is not all boots on the desk, however, for I presented Madison’s influence at the Constitutional Convention to a U.S. History class, and in World Civilization I took the class through the Greek philosophers with a particular aside to the cynic, Diogenes of Sinope: “Alexander, stand out of the way, you are blocking the sun!”  Diogenes could get away with that.

Back when I was growing up, my parents would get a feed store calendar that would have the times of the sun rising and setting and the phases of the moon on each day.  They would use a clothes pin to attach receipts to the calendar until the end of the month when the receipts would be taken down and filed away.  I think some of those calendars had pockets in which you could store receipts.  Maybe not.

At Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe I really like the smoked trout breakfast dish.  What is it called?

A Golden Gruyère Potato Cake with Two Poached Eggs, a Scatter of Smoked Trout and Tomatillo Salsa 16

Ah, that’s it.


Filed under Life in Balance

October in Texas: dusting and sunflowers

Sunflowers with dust storm near Abilene, Texas (October 17, 2011).

A light “dusting” of dust, not snow, descended with high winds upon Texas yesterday. A cold front came in the afternoon that sent temperatures this morning down into the lower 50s F. I love changes in weather. Of course, not with abrupt turns that bring destruction and fire, but changes like yesterday: brisk winds, racing clouds, lightening, rain in the distance that you can smell (my dog, Yeller, lifts his head high to catch the scents far away), dark clouds with long trailing edges that signal rain prospects and all of it bringing anticipation to the heart that tomorrow will be different, a new day with fresh starts all over the world.

How can one capture that cachet of weather change and anticipation for riding your favorite horse into the future? ( I am down to one horse, my Star paint gelding, so he is the favorite, the last of the remuda — but I will build a remuda back with brown mares that foal in the Spring.)  Well, you can’t capture it, but you can take a photograph that elicits Texas weather change, and the above photograph of Texas plains, dust and sunflowers, brings yesterday’s moment to pause.

You must ENLARGE the photo above to get the full effect of yesterday’s “dusting” around Abilene, Texas.  The evocations the photograph brings reminds me of migrating pioneers in the nineteenth century that saw the Trans-Mississippi West plains and stopped, not wanting to venture farther onto land that had little water, few trees and a population that spoke strange languages.

O, Pioneers!  Be not afraid!  There are springs and rivers, trees are in the ravines and highlands!  The Indians will trade and parley and teach their tongues, if you will tread lightly upon the terrain!

Yes, I know that pioneers did not tread lightly.  There were, however, places of concord — Bent’s Fort, the Pawnee, the Tewa, among other spaces and culture.

Despite this riff-tangent about the American pioneer, I come back to the weather change of yesterday that brought cold winds, turning the sunflowers to face the southern climes.  Bees and butterflies still feasted on its pollen, riding the petals like cowboys on broncs; the contrast of red earth, dusty skies and yellow flowers showed a tough plant on inhospitable soil, holding on tight and bearing its colors to the world.  I love these types of weather changes.


Filed under Weather, Wild Flowers of Texas

Sage blooms in Abilene

Sage blooming in Abilene, Texas, September 20, 2011.

This late summer, thundershowers fall infrequently around Abilene, Texas.  Yet, some showers do fall about this west Texas city that lies close to the Brazos River and Buffalo Gap, a niche in the hills that allowed buffalo to migrate from north to central Texas in the nineteenth century, following the shortgrass and bluestem in their casual browsing.

Two days ago as I worked late at my office at Cisco College, I walked by three large sagebrush by the back entry door.  A monarch butterfly floated by, floating and fluttering as if they are playing, and landed on one of the blossoms.  But before I could draw my iPhone from my coat pocket, it flew away and out of my range to snap a picture.  Alas, I was too slow on the draw.  I followed it to a green clump of slender grasses and lost it, despite my intent search.  The monarch had buried itself from my eyes, thinking me a raptor?

Yesterday, following the blooming sagebrush and my failure to photograph the butterfly, it rained about the city, to the north and west particularly.  A rainbow emerged with the sun setting to the east.  And, this morning, the temperatures were the coolest since May, a 61 degrees before sunup.

I think, if sagebrush blooms, can rain be far behind?  And playing monarchs about the purple sage?  Not far behind either.

Three sagebrush with blossoms at the back door of Cisco College, September 22, 2011. The monarch flew and hid in the bushes to the upper right of the photograph.



Filed under Monarch Butterfly, Plants and Shrubs, Sagebrush

Spring to Summer in central Texas

Mustang grape vines on southern fence of Pecan Tree Pasture (May 2011).

Emergent flora signifies the arrival and maturation of Spring into Summer in central Texas.  Mustang grape vines climb trees and follow fence lines without fail.  I collect buckets of ripened grapes in late June or early July.  Daily observations of ripening grapes must take place or birds pluck the deep ruby-red berries and in over-consuming they fly dizzily, drunkenly away, first to the harvest, leaving my mouth and bucket empty.

Mesquite and mustang grapevines often intertwine and when harvesting, the mesquite thorns force the cost of harvesting painfully upward.

Mustang grapes with mesquite (June 2011).

*  *  *

Two stands of Big Bluestem grass (May 2011)

When rain falls, grass flourishes.  The top of the stems reach six-feet or more high.  Big.  Native.  Bluestem.

* * *

The final exhibit of Spring in this post is prickly-pear cactus with its brilliant yellow cactus flower.  I note that many varieties of insects clamor and dive into the flower, bees especially.  Cactus is destroyed as nuisance flora as a regular chore on small ranches and farms.  Yet, its fruit is edible, the flower yields pollen for honey and in drought, propane torches burn thorns and cattle consume the paddles.  The roar of burning pear signals drought upon the land.

* * *

For the moment, propane torches rest against barn walls.  Yesterday, west of my ranchito about a hundred miles, and northwest of Abilene, Erin Rea reports prairie fires near her farm.  The drought has descended brutally on her area and in a line stretching to the southeastern corner of Colorado,  the land reminds old-timers of the dust bowl days.  @Tuckertown tweets, “Wildfire in Southern Colorado fouls the air along Colorado’s Front Range. Very tender dry in the SE corner of Colorado. Very bad.”

The Spring to Summer in central and west Texas is endurable as we live with the land whether mustang grapes emerge or prairie fires burn.


Filed under Field Log, Weather

The other side of nature

The other side of nature. A rather intense blizzard, Christmas time, Texas High Plains, 2009.

We turn our heads, even raise our hand to eye so as to blind us to the other side of nature — fierce cold.

Winter storms force cattle to turn their backsides to the wind and drift — drift until warm temperatures encounter their travel.  But during the worst of blizzards, cattle bunch into box canyons, fences and fast-flowing streams that terminate their travel, even their lives.  The worst of western blizzards came in 1888, destroying like a monster from Hades the free range of the American West that never arose again.

The photograph inserted shows the blizzard of 2009 that stranded motorists and brought out the National Guard to the Texas High Plains.  Brenda and I drove through the storm.  Livestock perished, not like 1888, but many perished despite the efforts of cattlemen and helicopters dropping hay from the heavens, manna for cattle.  We put chains on the pickup in Roscoe and took them off in Slaton, slowly making our way to Lubbock, then Santa Fe.

I drive at least two times, sometimes four times a week, between Mingus, Texas, and Abilene, a journey of 87.2 miles from my ranch house to Cisco College.  As I travel, I see good and warm things, but I also see a tableau of death, regardless of cold Winter or warm Spring.  I do not write about the tooth and claw — only one post in a year have I written about the other side of nature — because it is most unpleasant and I have been taught by my family to look the other way, grit my teeth, bow my back and work on, carry on, even pick up sticks and rocks from the corral to forget and cover the other side of nature, raising a hand to the eye.

I was taught by my family to keep death and blood away, the least semblance of pain is to be endured against happiness and pleasure receding too quickly in our lives.  I learned in college that my family’s philosophy was stoicism, remembering vaguely the word, but daily that conduct.  I write this blog about nature and how she covers us second by second, year by year, like a quilt on a cold winter’s night, a softness and heaviness at the same time, installing comfort into our harried house.  The warmth erases pain and anguish.  But, there is another side that we all must endure.

There is an extraction, a debt, that inevitably must be paid.  As I drive the 87.2 miles to Abilene and back to Mingus, I see, even hear the debt being paid in blood and tissue.  How many deer, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, dogs, cats, field mice, ravens, hawks, snakes, fox, moths and monarch butterflies can I continue to see killed along the roads?  I see the remains; I am even a part of making the remains.  The only debt I hear paid is the lovely monarch butterfly that hits my windshield, leaving a yellow stain that I cannot wash off until the day ends.  The monarch strikes my windshield and I cringe.  I think, quite often, that my salary, forcing my travel to Abilene, is not worth the agony and groans that I feel and emit as I see and hear the other side of nature.

I write of horses prancing, birds singing, dogs playing and armadillos browsing with slow gait, rooting and eating contentedly.  Then, why write this post, why bring up the other side of nature?  Death and blood and stench of flesh?  I’m not sure, but to bring up the other side of nature seems to balance my exuberance downward.  Downward to the way-things-are and away from illusion, closer to truth.  My work is affected.  As I drive the interstate to Abilene I see the panic of deer running across the road, jumping the fence to safety, to daily heaven.  I walk into class to lecture and the gravitas of it all weighs me down to essentials:  why are we here, what are we doing, what are the models we want to imitate, what are the models we wish to avoid?  I don’t waste time for I am doing my best to answer those questions for that day.

As I come back home to Mingus, I think:  I am here to groom my horse, play with my dog, feed my cats, tend my pastures, grow plants for monarchs to feed upon, protect the deer in my domain and love my life and wife.  Taking my hand from my eyes, I see life as gift once more as it is balanced against the other side.



I often have Brenda read my stuff before I publish it.  She read this and said, “Very good, but very heavy.  They’re going to say you haven’t had your anti-depressant.”   We laughed.  She understood what I was trying to say in the post.  I told her that I have been wanting to write this post for a long time.  One of the reasons I support wildlife corridors is the death I see on my travels to Abilene.  There’s a place along Baird Hill that needs protection.  I see drivers trying to avoid the wildlife.  Many succeed in avoiding the critters.  Drivers aren’t all talking on the cell phone.



Filed under Baird Hill Pond, Deer, Dogs, Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance

Creatures of Dusty Blu

I work with a horseman, Dusty Blu Cooksey, at the college where I teach in Abilene, Texas.  Today he told me of animals besides his horses that envelop his life on his ranch northwest of Abilene.

First, Blu has dogs and horses, even a dog that cannot hear, but watches for hand commands and other para-linguistic signs from Blu.  His horses compete in shows all over the Southwest, and early in his horse career, Blu had two world champion quarter horses.  That was in the 1980s.

Nowadays, the creatures of Dusty Blu include an armadillo, coyote, raccoon and cats.

The armadillo was brought up to the stables by his dogs several years ago.  It was a baby armadillo and the little guy was carried gently in the mouth of his Blue Heeler, placed upon the ground in front of Blu and his workers, as if, “Here’s a little guy that needs help.  Take care of him.”  They put him in a stall since he was small and let him grow and eat dog chow.  After the armadillo grew to a juvenile, Blu let him or her out, but the armadillo stayed about the corrals, never venturing far, and tunneled into alfalfa haystacks to sleep during the day and roam at night.  The dogs consider him one of them and let the armadillo browse and eat with them at supper time.

The dogs brought a baby coyote to the stables, like the armadillo, and laid him down gently.  The dogs seem to know rescue quite well.  Blu fed the coyote pup and neutered him when he grew of age.  Wiley is the coyote’s name and he attends the ranch, never venturing far from his home he knew as a pup.  The dogs consider him one of them and let Wiley alone.  At times, he howls, but not out of loneliness.

A raccoon habits the place and washes his food in pools of water.  The creatures of Dusty Blu seem content.  Within the past few days, Blu tells me that an unusual cat, calico and tabby combined with two different-colored eyes, meandered into the mix.  A kit of small size, Blu will take him to the vet for neutering and care.  Nurture surrounds the kit and the void disappears.  When Blu told me today of these things, I laughed at the complex of animals with him and how his horses tolerate the menagerie.

Deep down, past laughter, I looked at Blu as he walked away to teach.  He’s a tall man and dresses western all of the time.  I saw wings and his hat was rimmed in gold.


Filed under Dogs, Dusty Blu, Horses, Life in Balance

Yucca Meditation (Parachuting Cats)

Yucca Thoughts

This is Yucca Meditation.  Why yucca?  It’s an abundant succulent on our place here in west Texas and every time I look out from our porch to the southern skies and mesas, I see yuccas.  Yuccas here, yuccas there, yucca yucca everywhere.  I like yucca.  Surrounded by a lot of yucca, I think about many things.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The Pond on Baird Hill

I have written a post on the pond at West Cut on Baird Hill, along Interstate 20, near Abilene, Texas. The pond in the last two years has gone from a vibrant, lush pond of cattails and flora to a grayish-brown receptacle of run-off from nearby inclines.  Though my proof is impressionable and subject to further research, the most likely cause of the pond’s decline is water run-off from construction of power lines above the pond that transfer power from wind farms on the east and north side of Abilene.  I saw the construction crews and they did not run willy-nilly all over the ranch land.  From what I saw, crews behaved as stewards to the land.

These days, wind farm blades turn and electricity emerges from a green source, renewable and free by all accounts.  Even so, because of transmission lines, a pond declined in health, an impact unintended and unforeseeable.  This brings me to the cats.

Dayak of Borneo

The Dayak of Borneo (Imageshack, Asian Chat)

After World War II, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other similar agencies sought to eradicate the mosquito that carried the plasmodium of malaria.  DDT was the first insecticide applied in regions that had a high incidence of malaria.  In Borneo live the Dayak people, residing in large single homes or long houses of up to 500 people.   After the application of DDT to the mosquito population, malaria was eradicated and the overall quality of life and energy of the tribe dramatically increased.  The tribe’s health had never been so good (1).

Living in the long houses, however, were cockroaches, cats and small lizards — the gecko.  The cockroaches ingested the DDT and the geckos ate the cockroaches.  Normal pattern.  Cats ate the lizards, but the lizards had become lethal weapons through the eating of so many cockroaches laced with DDT.  The cats, unfortunately, all died from eating the lizards.  Not normal.

The unintended consequences of helping the Dayak people eradicate malaria did not stop there.  When the cats died, rats from the surrounding woods invaded the villages, bringing the sylvatic plague through fleas, lice and parasites rats normally vectored.  The Dayak missed their cats greatly.  The Royal Air Force (RAF) and the WHO met the situation in quick order.  The RAF parachuted 14,000 living cats into the villages to eat the rats.  I can see it now:  parachutes with kitty-cats in crates dropping from the skies.  I don’t think they would have harnessed the kitties with little webbings and ripcords, do you?

It doesn’t end there.

In the roofs of the thatched houses lived a small caterpillar that burrowed into the rafters and before the DDT spraying, caused little damage.  Parasites and predators of the little caterpillar had kept the caterpillar population in check, particularly the wasp.  The DDT killed the parasites of the caterpillar, the caterpillar population skyrocketed, burrowing deeper into the rafters of the long houses and single homes, resulting in the collapse of the huts and exposure of the population to the elements before repairs.

The Dayak must of thought the end of the world was near, seeing cats drop out of the sky and houses collapsing.  Oh, the evil WHO!

A Law of Unintended Consequences

DDT has now been discredited and is not used widely, if at all.  The initial application of the chemical was intended for good effect and that was attained, yet the unintended consequences were disastrous for the Dayak, and, we know today, bad for many organisms in the food chain.

The correlation of DDT and the effects of wind farm construction occurs only at the juncture of unintended consequences.  DDT has been completely taken out of most systemic plans for public health.  Wind farms will remain and should remain.  The West Cut Pond on Baird Hill will probably renew itself and ducks will arrive in October and not leave until March.  In comparing the degree of damage by DDT and transmission line construction, there’s no balancing of the equation.  Wind farms should stay.  DDT needs to be tightly regulated.

In the beginning, the application of new technology usually promises much: efficiency, improvement of health and speed (automobile vs. horse and buggy).  The continuing use of technology, however, reveals unintended consequences that may be destructive in a large sense (collapse of long houses) or small.  The decision arises as to whether to keep the technology, drop it entirely or regulate its use.

In my yucca frame of mind, let’s keep parachuting cats to a minimum and be careful, very careful, about the destruction of water habitats.



1.  See Harrison, Tom, 1965, “Operation Cat Drop,” Animals, 5:512-13 as quoted and utilized in the article, C. S. Holling and M. A. Goldberg, “Ecology and Planning,” pp.  78-93, in an anthology by Daniel G. Bates and Susan H. Lees (eds.), Contemporary Anthropology: An Anthology, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

A blog post similarly composed is Planninga from Nanninga that has a parachuting cat cartoon and commentary on unintended consequences.

See also “Parachuting Cats — A True Story.” The cartoon illustration in the post is from this article.

Malaria cases in the U.  S. are minimal (1,200 cases a year), due to the previous use of DDT.  Malaria, however, appears in central Mexico today and is gradually coming northward to the U. S.  The application of some form of insecticide in the coming decades will be needed to eradicate the vector mosquito.


Filed under Life Out of Balance

Old Glory Dancing

San Angelo, Texas, Concho Valley Farmers Market (San Angelo Standard-Times, May 8, 2010)

“From truck tailgates, more than a half-dozen vendors will display an array of freshly picked vegetables, fruits, plants and flowers at the traditional farmers market at El Paseo de Santa Angela on South Oakes Street, across from Fort Concho National Historic Landmark in downtown San Angelo….The initial inventory will consist of greens, radishes, carrots, beets, pecans, honey, houseplants, asparagus, spinach, potatoes, onions and garlic. Homegrown tomatoes should be harvested around the first of June, squash should be ready in the coming weeks, and watermelons will be available for sale in time for the Fourth of July.   ‘All our farmers pick their gardens the day before, wash and ready the produce for next-day sale,’ she said. ‘It’s fresh, fresh, fresh because we pick it and we sell it.’   The market association’s bylaws prohibit outside vendors when locally grown vegetables are available. Most of the vendors are from Wall, Mereta, Fairview, Grape Creek, Knickerbocker and Christoval.”

By the count of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there about 4,500 farmers markets in the U.S.   Eat fresher food, support your local farmers market.  Dallas, Texas, has a huge farmers market.  Fort Worth used to have a farmers market on Belknap Street, but I not so sure it is still there.

And, once you have prepared fresh vegetables with your grass-fed beef or buffalo, go to a dance.  The Old Glory civic hall is not open, but if it was, you might find your way to that fair place and say in the morning, “A good time was had by all!”

Old Glory, Texas, Senior Dance (Abilene Reporter-News, April 2, 2010)

“Seniors dance: A Senior Citizens Dance will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday at the Old Glory Community Center. Live music will be performed. Snacks will be served.”

Old Glory was settled in 1904, by German families, originally dubbed Brandenburg or Old Brandenburg, but with the outbreak of World War I, the name was changed to a more patriotic line: Old Glory.  The schoolhouse came to be the civic center when the population of Old Glory dropped to 125 in the 1990s (Handbook of Texas, “Old Glory, Texas”).

Dancing in the old schoolhouse, small community in west Texas, music live, not canned.  The blood flows with dancing and one can be young again.

Old Glory High School Civic Center (Photograph by Jack Williams)

Those that danced that weekend in Old Glory till soil and manage cattle, working in rural settings, close to nature and its infinite cycles of seasons.  This very same month (April), the Sage-grouse in Colorado stomps ground, and in Old Glory, men wheel their pardners, round and round in an old high school that they learned about Europe’s wars, their wars in the Twentieth Century that brought about the name change under which they danced that early spring evening.

Old Glory dancing.  Cupid drumming.


Filed under Life in Balance