"I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book." ~ Groucho Marx

Proud to be a Born-again Texan

I haven’t told my wife yet, but I’m thinking about buying a horse. Either that or a couple of pigs. You can eat pigs.

It’s all part of my new “Born-again Texan” attitude that came upon me minutes after buying a cowboy hat, which I did a couple of days after watching “True Grit.” I haven’t gotten up the nerve to wear the hat in public yet – like to Wal Mart – but I reckon one day I will. For now, I just wear it around the house.

Wearing a hat is a personal decision that can’t be made lightly. The moment you put one on, you subliminally broadcast your beliefs, your morals, your standards, and your politics. Up until recently, I’ve chosen not to wear a hat because I have no beliefs, morals, standards, or politics, but now that I have a hat – nonetheless a cowboy hat – I’m pert near obligated to find some.

I was born in Ft. Worth and grew up just east of there. For a short time, I wore a cowboy hat in high school. It was one of those straw kinds with a fancy feather hatband. I didn’t wear it long because I didn’t figure myself the Texan type. I was more urban than rural. I didn’t say “fixin’” or “y’all.” Country music didn’t set my toes a’ tapping. Because of that, I was the “black sheep” of the family.

ME: “Hey, what are you guys doing this weekend?”

COUSIN: “You guys? What’s up with this ‘you guys’ business? You too good to say ‘y’all’ like you were raised to? You ain’t any better than the rest of us, never were, never will be, and just because you say ‘you guys,’ that will never hide the fact you’re Texan, just like us.”

ME: “So, does that mean you guys are busy?”

I’m not sure why I shunned our “Texas ways.” Maybe it was because I grew up in the city; maybe it was because I dreamed of living in the mountains; maybe it was because grass grows really good in Texas and I hated mowing it. I don’t know, but I did, and there’s nothing I can do to change the past.

Like all young boys, I eventually grew up, went to college, got a job, got married, spent some time in Europe, came back to Texas, got another job, had kids, bought some goats and a John Deere riding lawnmower, and eventually settled into an East Texas life that hasn’t been too bad. In fact, it’s been so good that I’m now starting to think about owning some cows or chickens, going to a rodeo, buying a chuckwagon and cooking sourdough biscuits over a campfire.

Not only that, but the other day I actually caught myself whistling “I’m an Old Cowhand” in the middle of Hastings.

Anyways, I haven’t let my wife in on my total “Born-again Texan” plan, because I have no idea how she’ll react when I come home with a horse (or pigs). I think I’ll work into it gradually. First the hat, then some boots, maybe a belt buckle. I think a saddle would be a bit obvious, so maybe a bandana or a bolo tie.

Maybe it would be best to test the waters by bringing home a llama.

No! I know what I need to do – I’ll start using the word “fixin’” every chance I get, and reference The Alamo whenever she’s getting the best of me in an argument.

WIFE: “Don’t you lie to these people. You might have been born in Ft. Worth, but that’s it. Your folks ran off and took you to Dallas, whereas I lived my whole life in Ft. Worth, the greatest cowtown that Texas has ever seen. And since that in itself makes me a much truer Texan than you’ll ever be, I’m obligated to say that I think this little ‘Born-again Texan’ attitude of yours is just downright silly. My mother warned me about you Dallas boys. But I’m stickin’ with you through thick or thin, no matter how thick you get.”

ME: “Watch out, woman. I’m fixin’ to remember the Alamo!”

Today's Chinese Fortune Cookie

Cosmic energy or an overflowing creek will flood your house next month! Ten bucks says you don't have flood insurance. Twenty bucks says you don't have cosmic energy insurance.

Why would anybody want to grow up?

I probably should wait and write about this subject when I'm a bit older -- say in my 80s -- but now seemed like a good time, so here goes:

When I was younger, I could eat a whole pepperoni and mushroom pizza with extra cheese by myself. Nowadays, I'm lucky to finish two slices.

When I was younger, I could ride in a car all day without ever having to make a "pit stop." If I drive anywhere today, I have to pee every 20 minutes or 20 miles, whichever comes first.

When I was younger, I spent hours making sure every hair on the top of my head was in its perfect place before I went out in public. Nowadays, as long as I don't have any ice cream in my beard or mustache, I'm good to go.

When I was younger, I could run up and down the stairs at the football stadium, do 20 jumping jacks and ride a bike all the way home and not break a sweat. Today, I sweat just thinking about it.

When I was younger, I could bend over and touch my toes. Nowadays, I'm not even sure my toes are still down there.

When I was younger, I could eat a bowl of cereal, a huge glass of milk, a bowl of ice cream and feel great. Nowadays, milk and I are not on speaking terms.

When I was younger, I prayed that one day I'd be over six feet tall. Today, I'm just hoping to maintain 5-foot, seven.

When I was younger, even the thought of wearing black socks with shorts and tennis shoes would have made me shiver. Nowadays, I'm starting to think about it.

When I was younger, I wondered if old people were just pretending not to hear what other people were saying. Nowadays, depending on who's talking, I know the answer.

When I was younger, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Nowadays, I haven't a clue.

When I was younger, people kept telling me to stop being silly, to grow up and act my age. Nowadays, they're still telling me to grow up and act my age, but I don't listen.

When I was younger, all the old people would say, "One day, you'll understand" but I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. The old people are still saying, "One day, you'll understand" and I still don't know what they're talking about.

When I was younger, I hated the thought of growing old. Nowadays, I wouldn't be young again for all the oil in the Middle East.

When I was younger, I feared Death. Nowadays, Death better watch out because I'm in a fighting mood.

When I was young, I was a nobody to the world. Today, I'm still a nobody, but I'm okay with it.

It's not so bad growing old. The sin is "being" old.

Make music, not TV

Okay, so you’ve turned off the set, you’ve made the decision to try living without TV for at least an hour or two, but you can’t think of what it is you should be doing. Watching TV was easy. Finding something else to do is hard.

Well, why don’t you get out that old guitar and try learning to play it? You don’t have to be great. You don’t have to know all the chords. Three will do just fine, and with three chords you can play half of the songs ever written by mankind.

Strum a few chords, sing a few tunes, and who knows – time may slip by so fast you’ll be sorry to have to go to bed.

Give it a try. It won’t kill you.

Liberal, Conservative or Texan?

I apologize right up front. This is probably an old joke, but I just found it and thought I'd steal it. Sorry.

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, a dangerous looking man with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, raises the knife, and charges. You are carrying a Smith & Wesson Colt .45 and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Liberal Answer:
Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor or oppressed? Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack? Could we run away? What does my wife think? What about the kids? Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand? Does he definitely want to kill me or would he just be content to wound me? If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me? This is all so confusing! I need to debate this with some friends for a few days to try to come to a conclusion.

Conservative Answer:

Texan's Answer:

click... (sounds of reloading).

Wife: "Sweetheart, he looks like he's still moving, what do you kids think?"

Son: "Mom's right Dad, I saw it too..."



Daughter: "Nice group, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips?"

Procrastination is all in the cards

Finding time to play a simple game of computer Solitaire is not very difficult.

First, you make a list of all the chores that need to be done by the end of the day; second, you cross out half of them because you know you’ll never get them all done; and finally, since you’re really not inspired to do any of the chores anyway, you sit down to a game of Solitaire, hoping beyond all get-out that someone else will find your list and do all those nasty little chores so you don’t have to.

Just imagine: if it wasn’t for Solitaire and all those other wonderful computerized games, we’d actually have time to do what we really “should” do, which would ruin a perfectly good day of just sitting around doing absolutely nothing.

But then again, if we got down to doing what needed to be done – if we didn’t dilly-dally when decisiveness was called for – then we could accomplish great things, just like Joseph Gayetty, Harry Wasylyk, and Konrad Zuse.

In 1857, Joseph Gayetty of New York invented the first commercially-available toilet paper. It was named “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” and came in packages of 500 sheets that cost 50 cents.

Unfortunately, the historical records are not really clear how Gayetty come up with his toilet paper idea. Maybe a brainstorm hit him while he was “taking care of business” (that’s where all my ideas seem to come from). Maybe he got tired of using the Sears catalogue for his “necessaries,” (I hate even imagining it.) Nobody knows for certain, but do we really care? Heck no. Gayetty did what needed to be done, and our posterior regions are the better for it.

Next, we have Harry Wasylyk, a Canadian inventor who, along with Larry Hansen (another Canadian inventor), invented the disposable green polyethylene garbage bag in 1950. Before that, people would throw away their garbage in metal bins which was the cause of quite a racket on trash pickup day.

I can just imagine Wasylyk sitting in his living room on a Saturday morning, drinking his second cup of coffee, when all of a sudden he hears the trashmen barreling down his road in their big noisy trucks, clanging those metal trash bins in such fashion that he had to crawl under his bed to get away from all the noise. And then, under the bed, he thought to himself, “I’m Canadian. My nerves can’t take any more of this. I must invent plastic garbage bags. Quiet, plastic garbage bags.”

Well, that’s probably not exactly how the garbage bags came about, but I bet it’s pert-near close.

And finally, let’s talk about Konrad Zuse. Zuse was a German engineer who invented the first fully-functional programmable computer in 1941. In 1946 he sold some of his patents to IBM, and then in 1967 he suggested the universe was itself running on a grid of computers, which sounds a whole like the premise for the movie “The Matrix.”

Is it possible that at this very moment computers are controlling our lives, our thoughts, our actions? That what we perceive as a calm Sunday morning is nothing more than a computer-generated lazy feeling created by some alien version of Microsoft? That this cup of coffee I’m drinking is nothing more than hot 1s and 0s pouring down my electronic throat, making its way down to my vacuum tube-powered digestive system?

(I think I might have had a wee bit too much coffee today.)

Speaking of Microsoft – As a young child, Bill Gates enjoyed writing programs for computers. In 1974, he and Paul Allen, while still in diapers, established a little company called Microsoft. In 1980, Microsoft produced the MS-DOS operating system, which eventually lead to Windows in 1984.

And what do you think Microsoft put into Windows 3.0 when it came on the market in 1990? Their version of Solitaire. They said the game was to help reluctant computer users get used to using the mouse, but I believe there was a more sinister reason for adding the game: The total annihilation of real playing cards – for what purpose, I know not.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must finish my chores, my cup of coffee and my game of Solitaire – but not necessarily in that order.

The hat changes everything

For my 49th birthday, I bought a Stetson cowboy hat at Glyn’s Western Wear on the square in Mount Pleasant. I gave $52.47 for it.

I hadn’t worn a cowboy hat since I was a teenager growing up in the outskirts of Dallas. The hat was a straw kind with a fancy feather band. I didn’t wear it long because I didn’t count myself as the Texas cowboy type. I didn’t wear boots, I didn’t say “fixin’” or “ya’ll.” Country music didn’t set my toes a’ tapping. I felt more urban, less rural, and my teenage and young-adult choices reflected that.

Thirty-some-odd years later, now living in East Texas, I find myself knee-deep in country and country ways, wanting to explore that which I have so long denied – that of being Texan. So I figured it was time to buy a hat. A cowboy hat. It just felt like the right thing to do.

The young girl took my money like nothing special was happening. She probably sold cowboy hats all day long. She looked bored. To me it was a big step. A step into the past, but also into the future.

It feels good wearing my new cowboy hat. Maybe with my next paycheck I'll buy me some boots.

Goat Profiling

I, unlike many of you, don't have time to watch television. Instead, I spend most of my time thinking about an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. An epidemic so profound it is changing the world as we know it.

I’m talking about Goat Profiling.

Do you have any idea how many men and women have lost jobs just because their employer discovered they were raising goats? Me neither, but it’s bound to be huge. And what business is it to them anyway? Does raising a goat in the back yard solely for the purpose of getting rid of a few shrubs indicate what kind of worker a person might be? Absolutely not.

Of course everybody knows it's not illegal in most states for an employer to ask "the goat question" just as long as all job applicants are asked, but I'm sure if I were to take a survey, it would show that people who have a few goats in the back yard are half as likely to get a job than non goat owners.

And that’s what really gets my goat.

Do you believe you have encountered discrimination at work because you have goats? If so, call the "I Have A Goat But No Job" Hotline, and voice your concerns.

(Sorry, but I'm not exactly sure of the phone number owing to the fact that my goats ate my phone book.)

Let's go green-ish

A lot of environmentally-conscience people are finally doing what they think is right in regards to conserving energy to save our planet.

Some of these fine folk have traded their gas-guzzling monster vehicles for compact cars, motorcycles, or their own two feet.. Others have hooked up their homes to solar panels and windmills. Still others only work a four-day week, hoping that’s the answer.

As for me, I’m going to do my part by eating off the same dish for the next month – or two.

I believe all of our energy problems come from the over-use of dishwashers. All that heating up of water, the spraying, the sudsing, the rinsing, more spraying, then the double rinsing and finally the drying cycle is bound to cost Americans billions over the years. So I say let’s do away with dishwashers and just eat off a single plate until there’s no more room to put fresh food because the dried-on stuff is too thick.

Better yet, forget about the plate and eat out of a bowl.

Eating straight from the bowl is a manly tradition our womenfolk have been trying to unlearn us for years. But I say us men are at the forefront of saving our planet (even if we had no intention to be) and we should stay strong, even though the criticism is loud and raucous.

Give us a spoon and we’ll eat right out of the bowl in order to save our energy. Cook us some eggs and we’ll eat it straight from the skillet because we care about our planet’s future. Pass us the milk and we’ll guzzle it right out of the jug, all for the welfare of our future grandchildren.

The future of our planet depends on visionaries – visionaries who don’t mind sacrificing for the well being of others. Are you that visionary? Will you join me and forego that which will take our planet to the brink of destruction? Will you unplug that dishwasher and stand tall in the face of criticism and possible regurgitation from family members who think you’re crazy?

What say you? I repeat – what say you?

Snow Day remembered

I guess I could have put all my Snow Day photos up for show on the actual day, but since that's what everybody else does, I decided to hold off until now.

It's kinda like having a Snow Day all over again.

The Devil Goat

Have you ever been outside at night and tried to find your goats with a flashlight? Well buddy, let me tell ya, it's a freaky experience. They just stand there, looking right at you with their eyes all aglow.

If you haven't found Jesus, staring at those goats will make you want to start looking!

The Devil Goat

By Tracy Farr

Some men do say that the Devil's a snake,
But I beg to differ, he's a goat with red eyes
That gleam in the night, how they shine by themselves
In the darkness; a goat of incredible size.

His face is as gaunt as a starving man's face,
Who's fasted as much as a month or a year,
With eyes sunken in just as deep as possible,
His eyes, how they give you that foul taste of fear.

And horns, don't forget how his horns curve about,
They look so benign but the simple truth is
That if you dare not do exactly what he wants
Those horns will impale you and mark you as his.

The funny thing is that when nighttime is over,
A goat in the sunshine looks gentle and tame,
But beware, it's a lie, he's the king of deception.
He's purely the Devil; he's a goat just in name.

Living without TV pitfalls

I will admit there are some pitfalls to living without a TV:
  • You don’t get to complain about all the stupid commercials because you never see them.
  • The TV Guide, that you once faithfully perused each week in order to arrange your schedule to fit the shows you wanted to watch, is now just a bunch of gibberish.
  • You might have to talk to the people who live in the same house as you.
  • You can’t use the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise.”
  • You’ll have to buy more shelves to hold all your new books.
  • The house gets awfully quiet – some would say peacefully quiet.
  • You have to get your news from a newspaper or from the internet where stories take longer to read because they’re more in-depth.
  • There’s no reason to buy a new TV because your old one will last forever because it never gets used.
  • People will look at you as if you’re crazy.
  • You don’t care what other people think, because you know the truth: TV is a waste of our precious time.


Five Principles for Staying Out of Credit Card Debtor’s Prison

I don’t care what the Mayans predicted. I have it from a higher authority that the world is not going to end until well past 2012. According to Mastercard, I’ll have all my debt paid off some time in 2057, and you know they’re not going to let anything happen to me until they get every penny.

(You can thank me for the extra years of our existence by putting donations in my hat. I’ll be the guy on the square playing banjo and singing sad cowboy songs.)

Actually, I’ve gotten a whole lot better about my credit card debt. I pay my bills on time, I try to pay more than the monthly minimum, and I strictly adhere to the following “Five Principles for Staying Out of Credit Card Debtor’s Prison.”

1. Don’t use your credit card – ever. Credit cards create debt. Debt is a four-letter word, and you shouldn’t talk like that, especially in front of the kids.

Sure, you go into using your credit card with the intentions of paying off the entire debt when you get that first bill, but something else comes up – dead car battery, braces, your goat needs orthopedic shoes – and there goes your plan. Now you’re stuck with a payment. A payment that includes interest, and credit card companies are extremely interested in your interest.

2. Pay off your debt as soon as possible. Yes, you can pay for that $300 pair of boots in 36 easy monthly payments of $9.95, but wait, there’s more:

That $300 pair of boots ends up costing you $500, and some savvy credit card executive pockets the $200 to use on his yearly cruise to the Bahamas. He’s happily cruising around the Caribbean while you’re working overtime to pay for your new boots. Sounds stupid to me. So pay off your debt as quickly as possible, and deny him of any ill-gotten tans.

3. Make your payments on time. Ok, so you’ve used your card (it was an emergency), you end up making payments (as much as you can afford to quickly pay off that debt), but you accidentally, through no fault of your own, make a late payment in March. Don’t worry. It’s no big deal, right?

Wake up. This ain’t grammar school. You turn in an assignment late, they give you extra time and maybe take off a few points. You make a late credit card payment and they’re sending Vito to come break your legs. (Actually, they’ll just increase your interest rate to ungodly amounts, which only feels like Vito’s breaking your legs.)

I once made a payment to a credit card company. I even made it on time. Unfortunately, I made it to the wrong company. They hit me with such a whopping big increase in my interest rate that I could have sworn I was dealing with loan sharks in pinstriped suits. I swear, for three months I kept looking over my shoulder keeping an eye out for ugly Italians carrying bags of cement.

Moral of the story? Don’t be stupid. Pay on time.

4. Don’t use your credit card – ever. Oops, have I already said that?

5. Finally, if you can’t afford it, wait until you can. I know, you see that gold pocket watch sitting on the shelf and you just have to have it. It only costs $150. You don’t have the cash, but you do have a card. You start thinking, “I’ve really got to have it. I can’t wait. I’ll be the envy of all who see me with it. It’ll bring me admiration and fame. I might even be more attractive to that pretty girl who lives just over yonder. Yep, I need that watch. Now.”

Stop. Don’t give in to your cravings. Don’t buy the watch until you have the cash. You know, paper money, greenbacks, those pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them. Be smart with your money. The pretty girl who lives just over yonder doesn’t give a plug nickel about your stupid pocket watch. Are you listening to me? Hello?

Nope, the Mayans were wrong. They predicted the end of the world using only the knowledge they had at the time. They never factored in the power of credit card debt.
"Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other." ~Ann Landers, Advice Columnist

Six-String Guitar

Here's my stab at writing a cattle drive song. It's called:

Six-String Guitar

By Tracy Farr

Me and my pony are riding out west,
We’re headed for Ft. Worth, gonna buy me the best
Little six-string guitar that my money can buy,
Get along, little doggies, get along.

They say I was born in a wild winter storm
My mother did bundle me up to keep warm,
With a blanket of wool and a buffalo hide.
Pa did his best keeping wood on the fire.

My mother she’d sing me to sleep every night
She’d sing me of cowboys, such sweet lullabies,
Of the trails they did ride o’er the mountains and plains.
Pa drank his coffee and fiddled while she sang.

Me and my pony are riding out west,
We’re headed for Ft. Worth, gonna buy me the best
Little six-string guitar that my money can buy,
Get along, little doggies, get along.

I was raised in the saddle, I was raised wearing spurs,
I was raised roping cattle and tending the herd.
I had me some schoolin’ like all children do,
I learned how to read and to write my name, too.

I went on my first drive when I was just twelve,
Rode two hundred miles on the ole Western Trail.
We cowboy’d all day and we hit the hay late,
But Cookie made sure we had beans on the plate.

Me and my pony are riding out west,
We’re headed for Ft. Worth, gonna buy me the best
Little six-string guitar that my money can buy,
Get along, little doggies, get along.

I don’t drink much whiskey, I much prefer beer,
I cuss just a might ‘cept when women are near.
When I promise to do something, I see it through
‘Cause that’s what a good, honest cowboy should do.

I don’t know how long I’ll be riding these trails,
I hope just as long as all horses have tails,
But if I do meet a pretty gal dressed in pink
I’m chuckin’ my saddle and my spurs in a wink.

Me and my pony are riding out west,
We’re headed for Ft. Worth, gonna buy me the best
Little six-string guitar that my money can buy,
Get along, little doggies, get along.

Do we really need the Ten Commandments?

I think the Ten Commandments are might bit excessive. Sure, we don’t need to kill anybody and it would be best not to covet your neighbor’s wife when he’s around, but do we actually need all 10 of them when just one would do the job?

Depends on what the “one” is, I guess. So, how about THIS one:

“Be nice.”

That’s it. Short and sweet. It covers all the bases. Besides that, no group would ever throw a hissy fit about a “Be nice” sign hanging from the downtown courthouse.

So how about it? Let’s “Be nice” for a change.

The Ten Commandments

National Root Beer Float Day

There’s not many things on this planet that can match the tastiness of a Root Beer Float. Barbecue Pizza comes close, but given a choice between the two, I’d take the float any day of the week.

The Henry Ford Museum Photowalk 01-30-10
So, what makes a Root Beer Float so enjoyable? I mean, it’s really only vanilla ice cream and A&W. By themselves they’re okay, but I’d rather have Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough over vanilla and I’d rather drink a Coke than Root Beer. But combined, the two become greater than their parts, producing an enjoyable treat that can’t soon be forgotten.

Frank Wisner, the man who invented the Root Beer Float, was a genius. I’m surprised we don’t celebrate his accomplishment with a national holiday.

Squirrels on the loose

Squirrels in Texas are so big, it would only take one of them to make a pot of stew that could feed 20 hungry cowboys.

Squirrel in Tree
I saw this squirrel high up in a tree, and like the good squirrel hunter that I am, I stood as still as a statue and waited for the little critter to come to me.

Squirrel Deep in Thought
I was standing so still, I believe this squirrel thought I was a tree. I'm quite sure he was trying to make up his mind whether or not to jump on me. I'm happy to report he didn't.

Pirates vs. Cowboys

There was a time during high school that I actually wore a cowboy hat. It had a feather band around the brim. I even wore some cowboy boots. I don’t think I have any photographs of me during that time, and if I did, you’d never seen them.

My family would spend a large portion of each summer in Colorado. My brother and I would don our cowboy hats and go out into the woods to throw hatchets at trees. Real mountain men we were. Friends that saw us in action dubbed me Black Bart. I don’t think they dubbed my brother anything. It was safer not to because he was much bigger than they were, and his hatchet throws always stuck in the trees. Mine usually just bounced off.

Somewhere along the way I decided it was much cooler being a pirate. I never bought a sword or anything, I never went about raping and pillaging, but I could sure sound like a pirate.

These days I much prefer the thought of being a cowboy. Cowboys are quieter than pirates, and that suits me fine.

I'm getting into a cowboy frame of mind

I firmly believe that if given half a chance, 95 percent of Americans would say adios to their day jobs and head out west to become cowboys.

I know this for fact because just yesterday I watched four John Wayne movies, three Clint Eastwood westerns, followed by “Blazing Saddles,” and now I’m thinking about buying a bandana and some boots and hitting the Old Chisholm Trail to Fort Apache with a Fist Full of Dollars – and I figured if I felt that way, then you do, too.

WIFE: “Kids, eat up. Pa has a hankerin’ to spend all our grocery money turning himself into a cowboy, so this may be the last meal you get for a long spell.”

YOUNG ‘UN: “Ah, Ma. What happened to Pa’s hankerin’ to learn Chinese and be a Kung Fu master? I told all my friends we were moving to China.”

WIFE: “Well, now you can tell ‘em we’re staying put, and that we’ll be in the market for some second-hand boots. And be sure to use the words “ain’t” and “whopper-jawed” whenever you can – as in, ‘We ain’t movin’ ‘cause my Pa is a little bit whopper-jawed in the head.’”

The way I see it, you don’t need much in order to be a respectable cowboy. I’m guessing livestock, as in cows, would be a must, but I’m sure goats will suffice seeing that’s all I’ve got. I mean, they’ve got horns, and I can pert-near guarantee they’re just as ornery as cows. So I think I can tick the livestock requirement from my cowboy list of things to get, and move on to the hat department.

Deciding on what cowboy hat to wear is akin to pronouncing to the world what kind of person you truly are. It’s a personal decision that can’t be taken lightly. You’ve got to take time to make the right choice. You’ve got to give some thought to it. You can’t just go into any two-bit trading post and buy the first one you see. You’ve got to peruse and contemplate before you hand over your hard-earned cash.

WIFE: “Peruse? As in window shop? Well, as long as it means your daughter and I get to spend the day at the mall, I’m all for it.”

DAUGHTER: “We’re going to the mall? Oh glorious day! I really need some new shoes, and definitely some accessories to go with my new jewelry. And maybe even some zebra-striped panties! Oh happy day!

A true cowboy would never look for a cowboy hat at the mall. For that matter, I doubt a true cowboy would even understand the concept of mall-ness. Well, he’d understand enough to let the womenfolk out at the door while he moseyed over to the blacksmith’s shop or the saloon, but to actually set boot inside a mall – or anyplace else that would sell zebra-striped knickers – would be beyond his capability. You might as well ask a horse to...

Oh, yeah. That’s another thing a cowboy needs – a horse. Without one, he’d be less than a cowboy. He’d be a cow-baby. He’d be a cow-embryo stuck in his mother’s womb because she’d be too embarrassed to give birth to such a pathetic creature. Yep, a cowboy needs a horse.

WIFE: “You can’t be serious about buying a horse. A horse, really? Our house is falling down around our ears, we’re 27 years in debt, the pantry is bare, the young ‘un needs new shoes, I haven’t had a new dress since we’ve been married, and you want to shell out all your earnings on a mangy, old horse? Are you kiddin’ me?”

YOUNG ‘UN: “Can we name her Floppsy?”

Come to think of it, a horse may be a bit overrated in this day and age. Maybe a banjo would be better (especially since I already own one).

But when all is said and done, being a cowboy is not so much about “things” or “accessories,” it’s more a frame of mind. It’s about being confident; it’s about being one with your inner self; it’s about making do with what you’ve got because if you don’t, the “little missus of the house” will bar the front door, and then you’ll REALLY see what it’s like to live like a cowboy – outside with the goats, on a bedroll, with a log for a pillow.

Yes indeed. It’s tough being a cowboy these days.

The Holiday Break Blues

Having a week off from work, or even a few days, seems like heaven on earth. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, or you can do absolutely nothing except watch the time slip by as you sit on the couch.

But here’s a warning:

Doing absolutely nothing can put you in a vicious spin cycle that leads to not wanting to do anything, which leads to isolation, which leads to not wanting to get out of bed, more isolation, depression, and eventually feeling distressed at having to go back to work knowing full well that you spent your whole break being lonely and miserable.

As crazy as it may seem, the only way to break the Holiday Break Blues is to get out of the house, do something, go somewhere, be with people, and then vow to never ever take a vacation again.

But knowing that having unused vacation time might be too tempting for you to resist, I hereby gladly offer to take your burden, add it to my own, just so you don't have to endure those horrible Holiday Break Blues.

Because that's just the kind of guy I am.

The Lonely Goats Club

I think my goats are lonely. I’m not really sure how I’ve come to that conclusion, but they must be; two female goats, mother and daughter, roaming around the pen, escaping whenever possible. To me, I can’t see how they’d be anything BUT lonely.

They need a guy. Maybe share a buck between them. Make baby goats which would give their lives a little more meaning. Eventually have grandbaby goats and spoil them rotten.

Being a good goat herder means doing what is necessary to make my goats happy. Come spring, I’ll be in the market for a goat boy-toy.

Sending cards and letters

I think I’m going to start sending more cards and letters through regular mail this year. You know, birthday cards, Christmas cards, sorry-you're-getting-divorced-but-he-really-was-a-bum cards, and the like.

Sending cards and letters through the post is out of vogue these days because text messaging, emails, and Tweets are much more convenient. But those electronic thoughts are not very substantial. They have no texture, they have no weight. They're just a bunch of grouped together 1s and 0s packaged in pretty fonts, which has practically extinguished our one-of-a-kind handwritten touch.

So, like I said, I’m going to start sending out more cards and letters this year. Correspond with my family and friends in a more personal handwritten way.

I guess I better start practicing my cursive.

Part 2: It's my birthday...

I just now, I mean like three minutes ago, got a call from my State Farm Agent. Since I knew it was State Farm (thanks to called-ID), I just ignored it. But then five minutes later she called again.

By now I'm thinking it must be an emergency, so I pick up the phone.

"Hi, this is (her name), your State Farm Agent, and I'm hoping you have a wonderful birthday. Bye-bye."

A recorded birthday message.

How pathetic.

It's my birthday...

... and I'll cry if I want to.
"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home." ~ David Frost, British Journalist

It was a Nerf Gun Shootout Christmas

Looking back on Christmas 2010, it’s quite apparent that the Nerf Gun was the hit of the day. I bought three of them. One for each kid. I should have bought two more for the wife and me so we could defend ourselves, but I didn’t. Oh well, lessons learned.

We try to give our kids at least one substantial gift and a whole lot of “extra” stuff. Substantial in our book would mean iPods, cameras or musical instruments. Extras would be Lego sets, DVDs and books. New socks and underwear are classified as “lumps of coal.”

Next year I think we’re going to forgo anything expensive and stick to Nerf weaponry. I don’t know what message that sends, but it sure is fun to shoot up the place.

Looking back at my Old Year's Resolutions

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have asked me where I get my story ideas. I can count them on one hand. One finger, to be more precise. It was my mom. I think she was bored.

Anyways, story ideas come from everywhere – your pets, your car, your spouse (with prior permission), and other writers who live far, far away, because you’d be just plain stupid to “borrow” an idea from someone who might actually read what you’ve pinched. But sometimes an idea plops itself right down in your lap (usually when you’ve forgotten to cover it with a napkin), and you’d be foolish not to make something useful from it.

Here’s my latest thought:

The way I figure it, New Year’s resolutions are a dime a dozen. Everybody makes them. Everybody breaks them. Some of those people are writers who think their readership would really enjoy what they have to say about the subject. Most readers, on the other hand, find the comics more entertaining.

Since I wouldn’t touch the subject of New Year’s resolutions with a 10-foot polecat (which I swear lives out in the woods beside my house), I’ve decided instead to talk about the Old Year’s resolutions I made and what I learned from them – which is still not as entertaining as the comics, but at least I’ve come to terms with it.

First off, I resolved in 2010 to learn to speak Spanish fluently. Somewhere along the way I fiddled with French, and at the end of the year I was having a go with Chinese. I can say “Good morning” and “Where’s the bathroom?” in all three languages, but I still can’t tell the difference between an appositive or a negative.

A Happy New Year (back)
What I Learned – I should have resolved to improve my skills in English, my mother tongue, which I’m sure would have made all my friends and neighbors happy.

You probably won’t believe this, but in 2010 I resolved to learn how to do the splits. I’m not sure why I thought doing the splits was important, other than to be able to say I could do them, but it was a goal I eventually discontinued due to unforeseen difficulties – those difficulties being unimaginable pain.

What I learned – People my age should never resolve to do anything that requires a whole bunch of needless hurt that produces copious amounts of crying and cursing. Doing your taxes is bad enough.

At some time during 2010, I thought I’d get myself better in shape by “Walking Across America.” I’d walk and/or jog around the neighborhood, keep track of my mileage, and chart the distance on a map. I would start my “journey” in the Florida Keys with my ultimate destination being Fairbanks, Alaska. I reckoned I could cover the mileage within 15 months, just in time for my 50th birthday.

What I learned – I remembered that I hate exercise. After walking for a month and a half, I was able to calculate that it would take me 29 years to get to Alaska. The reality of the situation has made me so depressed, I have vowed to take an Alaskan cruise as soon as financially able.

During the spring of 2010, just when the grass started growing again, I made a resolution that I would do what it takes to make my yard the best-kept yard in the neighborhood.

What I learned – I have no desire to do what it takes to turn my yard into the best-kept yard in the neighborhood.

And finally, 2010 was the year that I would single-handedly breathe new life into the banjo, elevating it from a hick, back-woods novelty plaything to a mainstay instrument of all things hip, groovy and stylish. Ozzy would play it; Lady Gaga would be gaga over it; Kanye West would criticize it, then apologize, then take back his apology for his apology.

What I Learned – I come up with a lot of stupid ideas.

In closing, a wise man once told me that if you counted all your baskets before they had eggs in them, you wouldn’t know any more than what you already knew. I have no idea how that fits in with this story, but there it is.