Friday, December 22, 2017
Biggie and his best friend Sir.
Follow up: Well Biggie and Sir did have a nice Christmas. Santa came by for a visit and left some great doggie gifts for the boys, and they were very happy about what they received. Santa tried to take some photos of their noses in the packages and of them playing with their new toys, but Santa isn't very good with a camera. Oh well. But at least the doggies weren't disappointed.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
Everyone has their favorite places to dine, and reviews mean little or nothing if the diner is happy with the food and service. I tend to be one of those people who will try a place once to give it a chance, and I make my own review of the place. Sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes I’m very wrong. And sometimes…well…
Local hot spots are often a good place to stop for something to eat. If there is a line out front of a place, I make a note of it and will return when the line is much shorter. Yesterday I had lunch at one of those places.
This eatery has a great location across the street from the beach in a small town a few miles down the coast from where I live. Every time I drive by people are lined up at both the take-out window and on benches waiting for a table inside. But today the line to get in was very short, and I chose to stop to find out about the place.
Wow. I received my plates of neutral colors, and overlapping stuff, and thought, “I hope it tastes better than it looks.” It didn’t. It tasted worse. Much worse. I looked around and saw people really digging in—and they seemed to be happy about it. What am I missing here? They had the same stuff I had. I took another bite. It still tasted bad.
I started to complain, but after thinking about it, I decided to have it boxed up to go. After leaving, I dumped it into the nearest trash bin. It was the right thing to do. Now if I could just get rid of the gas it gave me without causing damage to something nearby.
I’ve eaten at some interesting places over the years. On Galveston Island in the early ‘70’s there was a pizza place that guaranteed your pizza in 10 minutes or less, whether it was done or not. A place in Wyoming offered your meal free if you could guess what type of meat was on your plate. A place in Alabama offered a big discount if you could eat the meat on your plate.
Throughout the south I stopped at barbeque joints with screen doors hanging from one hinge, and luxury cars parked all around. One place had security guards letting people in, but I noticed no one was leaving. I drove on. Another place had a big pen full of fat hogs outside the kitchen door. I drove on. But I stopped at many of these “off the main road” places over the years and was never disappointed. Some places were better than others, but I was never disappointed. Barbeque is well understood in the South.
A deli in Brooklyn (or was it in the Bronx?) served me a huge sandwich with a pickle. I asked if I could have two pickles, and the server just reached over with a knife and split my pickle in half lengthwise. Well, now I had two pickles, and one superb sandwich.
An Italian restaurant in the Bronx (or was it in Brooklyn?) served what they wanted to serve. No menu. No requests. When leaving, the man in a dark suit seated on a high stool by the door told you what you were going to pay for your meal. Believe me, you paid the price. But it was worth it, and I returned several times.
There is a steak restaurant northeast of Phoenix where ties are forbidden. If you wear one in, the server will produce a pair of scissors and cut it off. Then your tie will be nailed to a wall for everyone to see. The steaks are great, but don’t wear a tie.
In my youth there was a Mexican food buffet in my hometown that served “All You Can Stand for $1.79.” I ate there many times until I realized I couldn’t stand it anymore. The words “Mexican” and “Food Buffet” should never be used in the same sentence.
Shortly after getting married, my wife and I moved into a trailer park in an older part of town. Money was tight, and it was close to work, so it worked for us. A major highway ran along the edge of the park, and across the highway was a small pizza and pasta joint. (Did I say ‘joint?’ I meant ‘restaurant.’) The nearest corner to cross the highway was several hundred yards away, so running across the middle of the busy highway was the norm if we wanted pizza.
All too often we would make the crossing for pizza and a pitcher of beer. Actually the pizza was pretty good, and we would sit and eat and talk and drink a bit too much beer. At least we weren’t driving; however, there was a highway to cross. The only reason I’m here today to write about this is because we finally came to our senses and moved away. But I still miss that pizza.
Friday, November 17, 2017
In a previous posting I mentioned swapping around motorcycles and managing to upgrade as I went. (Or at least I thought at the time I was upgrading.) But I also swapped around some cars, and looking back on it, I made some big mistakes. Many of those cars would become collectible classics. In my defense, at the time they were just fun drives.
In no particular order, I had a 1946 MG TC, a 1953 Corvette, a 1956 T-Bird (with both tops), a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado 2-door convertible, a 1969 Ford Torino Cobra Jet, a 1969 Hurst/Olds, a 1968 Dodge Charger, and a 1968 Mustang G.T.500KR, as well as several others.
Today that’s an impressive line-up for anyone, but back in 1965 to about 1973, those were just cars—desirable even then, but still just cars. Times have really changed. The MG TC I paid $75 for. I swapped it even for the Cadillac, and in turn swapped the Cadillac for the T-Bird. I was driving the T-Bird one day when a guy offered me some cash and the ‘Vette he was driving for a trade. I took it. I still had a little sports car and a bunch of money.
The 1953 Corvette was white with a red interior, a two-speed automatic transmission and a six-cylinder engine. It was fun to look at, but it was a pain to drive and maintain. It was underpowered and unreliable. The 6-volt electrical system just kept going out to pasture, and the thing drove like a tank. I realized too late why the guy was willing to offer me such a good deal. I’ve been afraid of good deals ever since.
The thing is though, I should have kept the car. I can’t recall the serial number, but it was very low. “002,” “003,” “004,” something like that. I doubt this car is still around today, but if it is, I’m certain the current owner is quite aware of its value. I traded it for a 1961 Chevy Impala SS 409.
The trades and swaps continued for a few years, and I started driving a 1971 Ford Maverick as my regular car. It was a late year model and was equipped with a very powerful V-8 that I later discovered had been installed by mistake. It was a Boss 302 someone at the factory was tinkering with, but it got into the regular sales by accident. I kept this for a number of years while the other cars came and went.
Friday, October 27, 2017
Depending upon where one lives, Mother Nature gives us several seasons. In some areas the traditional summer, fall, winter, spring combination is dominant. Southern California where I now live has fire, wind, rain, drought, and earthquake seasons in no specific order and with some overlapping with others. For ten years I lived in Arizona with two main seasons known as hot and hotter. Occasionally hottest was tossed into the mix just for fun. Add to that the summer monsoons and one could make a case for the sauna season.
I once made the mistake of visiting Alaska during the mosquito season. I guess I could have visited during freeze my ass off season. Several airports in the winter have ice on the runway season. It has been a while since I lived in Texas, but I remember as a kid melted asphalt season.
I used to hunt in snake season, fish in rough water season, camp in the no fires season, and hike in the bad weather season. Rarely did I match the right season with the activity I was engaged in.
Now I divide the year into two major seasons. There is the Santa season from October 1 through December 31. The rest of the year is devoted to the Annual Wild Game Feed season. Yes, there are a few minor seasons within seasons such as Thanksgiving season, Christmas season, my wife’s birthday season, our anniversary season, and a couple of other seasons, but for most of my purposes, the year is divided into just two parts.
The Santa season is actually the entire year since I look like the guy the entire year, but my most active roles as Santa usually start somewhere around October 1. That’s the date when I start bleaching my gray/white hair to be predominantly white, and I do it every two to three weeks until December 31. After that I bleach it at about six week intervals unless some film or television roll calls me. (I tend to get a few of these every year.) But for the most part, the Santa look never goes away.
The red suits have seen many battles over the years. I’ve replaced them as needed, and I’m thinking the ones I have now need to be retired. For three months each year thousands of kids, adults, and other critters sit on my lap. Most are good customers, but occasionally the red suit gets damaged by candy canes, damp diapers, cell phones in back pockets, and spilled drinks. I have a great dry cleaner, but even he scratches his head in puzzlement over some of the stains.
Last year was a slow year due to my own illness and recovery in November and December. Five days in the hospital cut into the numbers some, but I estimate I still managed to visit with over six thousand children and adults. And no, that wasn’t from working a mall. I do several public events each year such as tree lightings, and various city events, but the bulk of my season is spent in charity fundraisers, private parties with corporations, and in the homes of many people just wanting to give their children and families a unique experience.
Many of these events and parties have asked for my return year after year, and I have had the joy of watching numbers of children grow into adulthood. Now these children are having me as Santa for their children. I love my job.
The Annual Wild Game Season I count as a year around season also, but the simple fact is, I’m too busy from October through December to give much thought to it. However, every year I wake up on the morning of January 1st thinking about the Feed, and it doesn’t stop until I put on the red suit again in October. For the eight and one-half months from January 1 to the day of the Feed, I will spend countless hours answering questions everyone has about the Feed. I even wrote a list of FAQ’s to help with the answers, but the questions haven’t slowed down. I love my job (even though I’m not a Feed member, and I’m definitely not paid to do this).
The Annual Wild Game Feed is a charity fund raiser event where I don’t have to be Santa, although on occasion some 300 pound guy with moose breath enhanced by beer and cigar smoke wants to sit on my lap and remind me I didn’t bring him his dream car last year. (Believe me, there are down sides to looking like Santa.) Other than that I will continue to promote this event because of the unselfish giving nature of the members of the Feed.
If you have been to this hootenanny, then you know the fun some 1,500 men from all arenas of life can have eating, drinking, smoking, competing, and just hanging out together. There is nothing quite like it anywhere I’ve ever traveled. And don’t forget, Santa travels a lot of places.
I’ve heard guys lament over the shortness of the event, and indeed it is short. The gates open at noon and by 7pm virtually everyone other than AWGF members are gone. But there are ways of stretching this out a bit. I know a few guys who meet for an early morning breakfast, then go to the Feed and make the waiting line into a party. Some guys start the night before with a dinner gathering. Basically they are making the party last a little longer by getting creative. I like this.
I’ve simply stretched it into a season by writing about it year around, emailing with some distant friends about it, rounding up a herd of cigars to bring to the Feed, and helping people with their questions about it. A couple of times each year I meet with some guys at a restaurant and have a long afternoon lunch. We talk about the Feed, but mostly we are just friends because of the Feed. I guess my stretching of the Feed season wasn’t done completely by myself, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the enjoyment of the season. Otherwise it becomes a very long wait.
Friday, October 6, 2017
Recently a friend posted on Facebook the following quote: “I’m so old that I’ve actually dialed a rotary phone before, while listening to an 8-track, next to a black & white TV with aluminum foil on top of its rabbit ear antennas!”
To this I replied: “I used a crank-box phone while listening to a hand wound Victor Talking Machine playing wax pressed 78 rpm platters sitting next to a 3-dial tuner Marconi radio using electricity generated from a farm windmill.”
This started a brief exchange with another friend who had similar experiences to mine. The reality is there was a time in America before Smart Phones, High Definition, Internet, and Computers. I don’t want to go back to the way things were. Yeah, I remember these things, and they make fun memories, but that’s about as far as it goes.
My great-uncle John and his wife Gertrude were farmers, and I really enjoyed visiting with them. At least it was a break from the farm my grandparents owned. Uncle John lived in a very complex world often referred to as ‘the simple life.’ But it was anything but simple. Every day John would have to replenish the woodpile next to the kitchen door so Gertrude would be able to fire up the old cast-iron wood-burning cook stove. She would spend all day working in the kitchen (literally from about 4am until 7pm) just so they could have cooked meals. John would work the watermelon fields and maintain the farm animals (again from about 4am to 7pm). And in their spare time they would retire to the ‘parlor’ to relax, watch the radio, dance to some music from their old Victor Talking Machine, or just fall asleep reading a book.
I would visit the farm a few miles southeast of Fort Worth for a couple of weeks each summer from the time I was about 8 until John passed away just before my 13th birthday. I would work in the watermelon fields just as the harvest was beginning, and it was not easy. Some of the melons would weigh in at 60 to 70 pounds. But then again, I got paid real money for my contribution.
There were days when we quit working the fields about noon and spent the rest of the day cleaning out barns, feeding animals, repairing fences, cutting and stacking wood, collecting eggs, milking cows, and several other things that couldn’t be neglected. I suspect there were a few things, such as fence repair, that were neglected until I came for my summer visit, but that was okay. I sort of liked the fence repair.
Uncle John was about seventy years older than me, but still, he could keep up a work pace that would drop a mule. I do believe he would have worked longer days if the sun had stayed up a little longer. In fact, during full moons he would often work into the night because of the extra light.
This is not to say all I did when I visited was work. I had time to explore his old barns and look over items stored in them untouched for maybe a hundred years. I opened a cabinet and discovered a cache of muskets from the Great War for Southern Independence. I found a large number of pistols and swords from that era as well. John told me he purchased the farm in 1911 from a civil war vet, and he had heard rumors that the place had once been used for meetings to stage another uprising. He had also heard the place was used to store contraband weapons, since firearm ownership was outlawed in Texas from 1865 to about 1870. He thought these were just rumors.
I asked why he had never opened up any of the boxes and cabinets in the barn before now, and he replied he never had the time. There was always too much to do. But he decided to join me for a day or so and just go through some of the old stuff.
There were built-in cabinets along one wall that yielded more than sixty rifles and muskets. More than a dozen boxes contained pistols of varying types, and we found several trunks packed with old gray uniforms (mostly rotted). Four or five crates of swords of several types and designs. And under a pile of canvas tarps was a cannon. It wasn’t enough to outfit a regiment, but it was far more than most people had lying around. There was no powder for the weapons, but we did find a large box filled with shot canisters for the cannon.
The next morning John called someone at a museum to come out and look at this stuff. I remember it was a long process of connecting through multiple operators to reach the museum less than 20 miles away. .
My summer with Uncle John was over before the museum person came out to visit, so I never got to find out what happened with all those items. I left with my family for a visit to Roaring River State Park in Missouri for a week, and when we returned, we found out Uncle John had been killed by falling through the roof of a barn he was repairing. A few years later I went to the museum to inquire if they had purchased the war items from my uncle, but they had no record. Aunt Gertrude also never answered my questions about them.
I’ll never forget the farm. Candles, kerosene lamps, wood burning stove, windup record player, crank box telephone, outhouse (complete with bugs, spiders, snakes, and wasps), working from dark to dark, caring for animals, raising watermelons, etc. And they called it the simple life.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
When I arrived home from the 49th Annual Wild Game Feed last night, I sat in my car in the driveway for about 20 minutes attempting to come to terms with a disturbing fact about this year’s Feed—it is over. Over! Done! History! Gone! It ain’t comin’ back fer a year! Worst of all, I have to clean everything I brought with me and pack it away.
On the other hand, the AWGF members provide an unbelievable amount of fun for the participants. They work hard all year to give us a venue where every man attending is, for at least a short amount of time, an outdoorsman. Be it a fisherman, camper, hiker, hunter, nature photographer, or any other outdoor hobby/profession, a man can feel at ease at the Feed even if these are simply desires rather than fact. Yes, at the Feed, every man is an outdoorsman.
I am always grateful to be able to participate in the greatest wild game feed event found anywhere. The men who prepare this for us are volunteers. They love what they do, and they do it to provide funds for many worthy charities. Thank you members of the Annual Wild Game Feed for your vision and dedication. My simple words can never be enough to express my gratitude, but at least I can say ‘Thank You’ and mean what I say.
As always there was too much of everything. Too much food, beer, cigars, games, and prizes. And as always, there was not enough time, but that just creates anticipation for the next Feed.
Already preparing for next year.
Friday, September 1, 2017
Two weeks to go to the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake. I’ve spent almost an entire year preparing for this by pouring over my checklist, packing and repacking the car, looking over my “stuff’ for any needed repairs, obsessing over my cigars, and in general driving my wife crazy. And I know I’m not the only guy to do this.
If you have been to the Feed before, then you know what I mean. This get-together is unique. Nothing else compares to it. Where else can a man go to visit with about 1,500 of his closest friends and eat, drink, smoke, and scratch unhindered for an entire day? Nowhere else on this planet as far as I know.
The Feed is the result of a labor of love from the AWGF members. They work hard every year to produce the very best wild game feed found anywhere, and they do it as volunteers. The end result is support for a number of worthy charities in the Orange County area. Of course the men purchasing the tickets are treated to a party like no other.
For those who have tickets to this year’s Annual Wild Game Feed, it’s coming up fast. This morning I received an email from a guy who missed last year (he didn’t send in for his ticket in time), and he’s about to burst at the seams with excitement waiting for this year’s Feed. I feel the same way. I plan to be there early and leave as late as possible. I plan to arrive hungry and leave way too full. I plan to visit with as many friends as I can and wish for more time to visit with everyone I missed.
I hope everyone is ready. It’s going to be great.
See you at the Feed!
Meat and Beer!
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Have you ever had a bad job? I mean the type where absolutely nothing goes right? I know I've had plenty of bad jobs due to incompetent bosses, too many bosses, responsibility without authority, understaffing, unpaid (but required) overtime, etc. But what I'm referring to is this: everything that could go wrong does go wrong regardless of bosses, staffing, and so forth.
I once worked as a substitute paperboy. When I was about 13 years old I lived in an area where there were about 15 different newspaper delivery routes within just a couple of miles of my home, and all of them had a permanent carrier assigned to it. But I discovered there was no one to fill in for them if they were sick, or out of town, so I volunteered for the job, and I got it.
Each route had a skip list where any address on the list did not receive a paper. Simple enough, but no one kept them up to date. My first day as a substitute resulted in about a 40 percent error rate, yet I was completely accurate according to the list. While my boss didn't blame me, I had to spend a couple of hours redelivering papers. It turned out this was a problem on every route I filled in on. After a while it just wasn't worth it.
My next job was at a golf driving range where I was assigned to pick up the golf balls by using a small tractor with a special device for scooping up the little round demons. I discovered there were several golfers who were very accurate off the tee. Still it took me about a month to decide I was tired of being the target for these sadistic idiots. No wonder I never wanted to play golf.
A local dairy needed a bottle washer, and I thought I was up for the task. The automated machinery worked wonders at cleaning almost all of the bottles, but a small amount had to be hand cleaned (it's amazing what can be found inside a milk bottle). I had an arsenal of special scrubbers and solvents designed to remove everything from mice to tar. I guess I didn't have the right touch since I ended up breaking about 1 in every 3 bottles. My employer wasn't upset with me, but I didn't like breaking a bottle and covering myself with a combination of broken glass, solvent, and the contents (known or unknown) of the bottle.
After entering college, for one semester I had the job of driving a bus to shuttle students between the campus and a remote dormitory a few miles away. The dorm was an unused housing facility for nursing students at a hospital and was located less than thirty yards from the quite zone entrance to the emergency room. This would not have been a big deal except for the bus I was driving was completely uncooperative with any rule or regulation it had to follow.
The college had purchased the ancient machine from a national cross-country bus company, and the non-working odometer showed in excess of 300,000 miles on it. How many miles it actually had was anyone's guess. Rather than put money into repair for safety or reliability, the college decided to paint it in hopes that a good-looking bus would be a good running bus. It was painted forest green with a big black splotch on the side that reminded everyone who looked at it of a giant grasshopper, but I had already named it the Caterpillar due to its slow lumbering movements.
I can't remember the order everything happened in, and some things were consistent without any logic behind them. For instance the air brakes would engage at 35 mph unless it was in fourth gear. The clutch may or may not return after being depressed. More than once a window fell out onto the highway while driving, and once the entire exhaust system fell out just as I entered the Quiet Zone at the hospital. An unmuffled diesel engine is rather loud. Also every time I pulled up in front of the dorm I had to cross a speed bump. No matter how softly I rolled over it the air horn would come on and stick so that I had to get out of the bus and run back to the engine compartment to unplug it. But unplugging it also meant the loss of lights, and much of the driving was in the evening and night. At least when I plugged it back in the lights usually came back on without the air horn sounding off. Usually.
I wasn't alone with these problems as the other drivers all had similar experiences, but the head of the facilities department, who had oversight of the bus, never had a problem and refused to believe most of our complaints. That all changed one day when he was filling in for one of the drivers and taking it to the hospital to pick up the students. Along the way was a routine police traffic stop checking driver's licenses. At the stop, the air horn came on, the engine backfired and the muffler fell off, and a window fell out. He was ordered to pull the bus to the side of the road where it caught fire and burn to the ground along with one of the police cruisers.
I don't believe the students at the hospital dorm made it to classes that day, but the next morning a rental bus was available, and a few weeks later a brand new school bus in school colors arrived. The old Caterpillar was never referenced again by orders of the school's chancellor. I've occasionally wondered what that old bus cost the school in the long run. I doubt they ever again purchased a used one.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
I have been informed many times in my life I’m as stubborn as a mule. Thank you. I take that as a complement.
I like mules. They are extremely intelligent, strong, protective, and gentle. It’s much easier to ride a mule than a horse, and the mule is always looking to make that ride as enjoyable as possible. A horse will try to scrape off a rider with a low hanging tree branch, while a mule will make room for you. A pig or a snake can easily spook a horse, whereas a mule will just acknowledge its presence and continue about its business.
I grew up with mules, and I even rode one to school for most of the third grade. I was about six or seven years old when I was braiding a bridle for the owner of the farm next to ours, and Curly came into the barn to watch me for a while. Curly was the smallest of our four plow mules, but at over seventeen hands high, he wasn’t exactly small. He, and Moe, Larry, and Shemp, were bred from a Mammoth Jack and Percheron crossing, so small is a bit relative. But Curly was always the most curious of the four.
After looking over my shoulder for a few minutes, Curly walked over to the wall where an ancient McClellan saddle was hanging on a peg, grabbed it with his teeth, and dropped it beside me. Then he knelt down and nudged the saddle a little closer to me. I couldn’t believe it. He was telling me he wanted to go for a ride. He was a plow mule and had never been ridden in his life. I had him stand back up while I went in search of a saddle blanket, bridle, and anything else I might need to make this work.
I couldn’t find much of anything I needed to take Curly out for a ride, but I did find an old piece of rug that would serve as a saddle blanket. Trial and error finally succeeded in saddling Curly, and he knelt back down so I could climb on. I didn’t have a bridle and reins, but I could grab onto his mane, and he knew all the plowing commands for right, left, go, and stop (Gee, Haw, Giddup, Whoa), so I thought I could make this work.
There was a learning curve for both of us. The first time I said “Giddup,” Curly lurched forward like he was in the plow harness, and I discovered the barn floor wasn’t very soft. But we tried again and again until we understood how the process would work for us. It was a great summer riding Curly around whenever he wasn’t pulling the plow, but when school started, our fun was quickly curtailed and confined to the weekends.
It took a while for me to find out just how Curly got the idea of being ridden. After I completed the bridle for farm owner next to ours, Levi (the owner) told me Curly had spent a lot of time watching him ride his horses. Each time he would saddle up, Curly would come over to the fence to study the process.
School was a few miles away, and usually I walked both directions, although on occasion someone would take pity on the little kid walking along the dirt road and give him a ride. But it was a long walk (10 miles uphill both directions and always snowing). I left home about 5:30 each morning and usually returned about 5:30 in the evening. Then there was the homework.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice the hitchin’ rails in front of the school until the year was almost over, but the next year, I decided to ride Curly to school one morning. Curly wasn’t really needed until spring plowing began again, so, Why Not? When I arrived, I tied him to the rail and went into the classroom.
My school was a 4-room building. Grades 1 and 2 were together. 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8. Two grades per room. This was my first time in the 3rd and 4th grade room, and my first time with this teacher. About two hours into the morning, she called me aside to ask about my mule. “Does he have food and water?” I hadn’t thought about these things.
Mrs. Stephenson (I don’t remember her name, but this one works) brought me out to her truck where she peeled a flake from a bail of hay she had. We brought it along with Curly to the old barn in back of the school where she placed him in a stall, gave him the hay, and filled a bucket with water for his thirst.
“David, every two hours I want you to check on him. It doesn’t matter what we are doing in class, just make sure your mule is happy. I’ll bring a couple of hay bails tomorrow, but after that, you will need to provide something for him to eat.”
Wow. I thought I was going to be in trouble for riding my mule to school, but it turned out everyone was jealous of me, including the teacher. I never did need to bring food for him to eat. Someone, and I never found out who it was, always brought hay and feed for Curly.
When my third grade ended, so did my time with Curly. We sold the mules and bought a tractor. My parents moved into the city and I changed schools. My grandfather still had the farm, and I would visit on weekends and summers, but it was never the same after the mules were sold.
Friday, July 7, 2017
The countdown begins to September 15, 2017. Only 10 more weeks to the 2017 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake. Did you order your ticket when I told you to order it? Well? If you did, then I hope you are prepared to have more fun than you can stand. If you did not, then I hope you are prepared to wait another year. And I hope you learned a lesson about listening to me when I tell you to order your tickets. No I am not your mom or wife or girlfriend, but this dance should never be missed.
I know that sounds a bit harsh, but every year I get emails from men who waited a few weeks to order their tickets and didn’t get them. And already this year I’ve received more than a few emails from panicked men who didn’t heed my warnings. This little get-together sells out faster every year than the year before. I know of a number of men who now overnight their order forms the very day they receive them. Honestly, this is not a bad idea. In the next few years I expect this to become normal in order to receive tickets. As I said, every year sells out faster than the year before.
Some 20 years ago a guy where I worked came to me the day before the Feed with tickets to sell. He was a member of the Feed and was still pushing the tickets at the last minute. I didn’t buy one, but the company I worked for provided the beer to the Feed, and I was one of the representatives chosen to check up on the activities. Wow. Almost 500 men were having the time of their lives, and I was privileged to join in with them. The next year when the tickets came out, I immediately bought one even though the company planned to send me there again. My reasoning was this: if the company changed its mind about sending me, I could take a vacation day and still participate. I wasn’t going to miss the party. It’s called ‘Insurance.’
Now, some 20 years later, those 500 men have grown to about 1,500 men. And the tickets that were available the day before the Feed are sold out before July 1st. In fact, I was told the tickets last year sold out in just about 3 weeks. If you have a ticket to this year’s Feed, then you have a very valuable ticket to the most desirable party in Orange County. Congratulations!
If this is your first time to attend, please read my page AWGF FAQ’s. It will give you some insight to the process. And even if you have been to the feed many times, it doesn’t hurt to look over this page. If you have any questions not answered by the AWGF FAQ’s page, you should find some information there about how to contact me. I may not be able to help you, but I will certainly try.
For those without tickets, I don’t really know how to help you, but here are a few tips. 1) Check out Craig’s list. I’ve seen them there in the past. 2) Sometimes people post on Facebook about having extra tickets. 3) Sometimes men in line at the Feed have an extra ticket to two. All of these are a possibility, and some men succeed in obtaining tickets in these ways, but most men do not succeed after the initial order date. The best bet is to order tickets when the order forms arrive.
Now it’s time for me to go pack my car again. I do this several times each year just to make certain I can get my things there and, more importantly, back home again. There is nothing quite like getting everything to the feed, having a great time, and not being able to get it back into the car to go home. More than once I’ve seen it happen, so I practice loading and unloading. And it helps me to remember what I’m bringing both directions (I also use a checklist). Plus it helps me control the anticipation.
See you at the Feed!
Friday, June 23, 2017
New Post on May 30, 2018. 50th Annual Wild Game Feed.
Go Check Your Mailbox! Now!! The order forms for tickets to the 2017 Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake are arriving as I write this. If you want to join in the fun on Friday, September 15, 2017 (the third Friday in September), Go Check Your Mailbox! If you don’t receive your order form in the next few days, email me, and I will send you an electronic copy of mine. And as soon as you receive your form, order your tickets. You can’t wait to do this or you may not be joining us this year. These tickets will sell out in just weeks, and probably in just days. The ticket order forms were late getting mailed out this year, and that means everyone is worried about getting tickets and will order their tickets the moment they receive their forms. If you are reading this, Go Check Your Mailbox! Now!!
Last year I received several emails (107 to be exact) from guys who didn’t take my warning seriously. One man had not missed in over twenty years, but he waited until July 1st to place his ticket order in the mail. He was too late. He was lucky though because he located someone with a rare extra ticket, and we got together at the Feed to discuss the error of his ways.
The fact is, this party sells out earlier every year. My first year tickets were still available a few days before the event, but that was about 20 years ago. Now it’s a sellout just a few days after the tickets become available. Don’t hesitate to order. Hello? Are you listening? Don’t hesitate to order!
If you follow the above advice, then prepare yourself for the biggest and best Wild Game Feed you will ever attend. Food, beer, prizes, Food, games, exhibits, Food, more beer, Food, and best of all Friends (and food). Then they serve dinner. This is an overload of everything a Wild Game Feed should be.
If you have any questions, check out the page AWGF FAQs. It should answer most questions.
Okay, Go Check Your Mailbox! Now!!
See you at the Feed!
Meat and Beer!
Monday, June 5, 2017
They’re not here yet. Actually, I just received word that they are expected to be mailed out in about 2 weeks, so get ready. When the order forms arrive, order your tickets immediately. These will sell out in just a few days, so any hesitation may cost you a long wait until next year.
Have a little patience, but be ready. The order forms will be here soon.
See you at the Feed!
Meat and Beer!
Friday, May 5, 2017
My family has dwindled down to just a few individuals, but it was once quite large, and we would have a yearly reunion where several hundred of my mother’s relatives would gather for photographs, celebrating new additions, and a time of remembering.
My mother’s mother was born in 1893 and was the last child of a very large family. Her mother passed away when Granny was just a few months old, and her father remarried and raised another large family. My own mother was a late child, and by the time I came along, the family was huge.
My mother’s cousin Winnie decided in the late 1950’s to have a family reunion. Many of my grandmother’s generation were now in their 80’s, and Winnie thought it would be great to bring everyone together one last time. Little did she know at the time, this reunion would take place every year for another 18 years before time took its toll.
Many of my grandmother’s brothers and sisters made it past the century mark. At the last reunion, one of her older sisters, Annie, had her photo made with her daughter, grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter, and great-great-grand-daughter. Five generations. Amazing. But just as amazing was the fact that Annie’s mother/step-mother was still alive at the time, and she ultimately out-lived a number of her children. She was well over one hundred twenty years old when she passed away.
Those reunions are long over and few, if any, of the descendents other than my two siblings and myself remember them. The three of us gathered together a couple of years ago (as we try do every few years) and reminisced about the old reunions. We remembered the washtubs filled with ice water and Dr. Peppers, Nehi and Grapette sodas, RC Colas, and Big Reds. There were always piles of fried chicken, potato salads, cakes, pies, and other things, but all we could remember were the sodas and the piles of fried chicken, potato salads, cakes, and pies. Lots of pies. Oh, the pies!
Even the names of everyone are fading after all these years. The three of us could remember only about fifteen or so of our grandmother’s brothers and sisters, and no more than about ten of the descendant’s names (other than our own, of course). We had to look on one of the ancestry sites to come up with the names.
One of my grandmother’s older brothers was John. His wife was Gertrude. I wrote a little bit about her and her pecan pie in “Dessert Wars.” But she had other pies that were just as good. This one she always brought to the reunion, and this is the recipe she wrote out for me. After John died, she made no more pies.
Mix some sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt, and add some eggs and butter. Cream well, and add vanilla and lemon. Mix and pour into an unbaked pie shell.
Just like her ‘Circle X Pecan Pie’ I wrote about in “Dessert Wars,” this recipe was from a very experienced cook who worked more by habit, feel, and intuition than anything else. Below is how I remember her making it, and I think this recipe is extremely close to hers, but no matter how hard I try, it will never be just like the ones at the reunion.
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
½ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 (8-inch) unbaked pie shell
Mix together the first four ingredients, and add the eggs and butter. Cream well, and add the vanilla and lemon extracts. Mix and pour into an unbaked pie shell. Bake at 375F for about 45 minutes. If the crust starts getting too brown, protect the edges with some aluminum foil. Keep a close eye on the pie after 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
I’ve seen a few recipes for Chess Pie over the years, and most contain milk or buttermilk. This does not and I always wondered about that. Anyway, this is how she did it, and it was always the first pie to disappear.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
This morning I was checking over my cigar collection and realized it is out of control. (Or maybe I’m out of control.) I made a spreadsheet of each cigar label, length, and ring gauge, and by the time I finished, I was in awe of my own collection. Seventy-three different cigar choices totaling almost six-hundred cigars. Even though some are better than others, there is not a bad stick in the humidor. And I’m not finished. More are on the way. During an average year I smoke about 3 to 5 stogies outside of the Annual Wild Game Feed, so I guess I have a few too many. Nah! There’s no such thing as too many cigars. I guess I could say the same thing about food, beer, and friends. And these are all things adding to the fun of the Wild Game Feed.
A few years ago a friend and I were discussing the Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake. We talked about the cigars we didn’t get around to smoking, the friends we didn’t have time to greet, the food we were too full to eat, and the beer we had to leave in the kegs. It was a great discussion since it involved excesses in each category. Too many cigars, friends, food, and beer. Oh, I forgot about the prizes we didn’t win. How could it get any better? Maybe toss into the mix some games and exhibits? Yep, they got’em.
After about 3 hours of discussing the Feed we realized we needed to go back to our lives for a while and finish this talk at a later time. I ended the conversation with my usual goodbye phrase of “See you at the Feed,” but he replied, “Meat and Beer!” I like that. Soon it became a phrase he and I use with each other to say both “Hello” and “Goodbye.”
This year the 49th Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake will be on Friday, September 15, 2017, and once again there will be too much to take in (figuratively as well as literally). As usual I can hardly wait to indulge in the excesses of meat and beer, friends, cigars, and prizes. I’ll leave the games to others more physically fit. But for me, I’ll spend most of my time in or near my shelter eating and drinking and smoking and talking to anyone who stops by. Life is good at the Feed.
See you at the Feed.
Meat and Beer!
Thursday, March 23, 2017
This has been an interesting year. In a couple of previous posts I’ve talked about moving away from my home of 20 years, as well as Biggie’s mom also moving away. It meant at the time the probability of never seeing Biggie again. However, a few last moment changes in moving plans left us only 12 miles apart, and I get to have Biggie over for visits on a regular basis.
Right now Biggie is doing one of his favorite things—he is asleep on our sofa, and I’ll let him stay there as long as he desires. He used to take over my chair, so I gave up and started sitting on the sofa. Now he is taking over the sofa, and I’ve been relegated back to my old chair. This little guy is 10 years old now, and in a few months he will be 11. His age is beginning to show, but then again, so is my age. But this doesn’t stop us from having fun.
My wife and I live just a short drive from a coffee shop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and it is a peaceful location where one can relax and enjoy getting hyper on caffeine spiked with sugar. The outdoor patio is a perfect place to bring a dog, and the coffee shop will serve dogs a cup of whipped cream if requested. Biggie knows this. And there is more. They know Biggie and will often bring him his whipped cream BEFORE it is requested.
We had Biggie in the car with us one day, and I mentioned getting a cup of coffee. Biggie went crazy. He was jumping all over us with excitement. My idea was to go to another place closer to where we were driving, but Biggie had his own thoughts on the matter.
As I drove past the turn that would take us to the coffee shop by the ocean, Biggie started barking uncontrollably at me. At first I didn’t understand he was telling me I missed the turn. I pulled into the nearby place I had in mind, but Biggie was whining and refused to get out of the car. We decided to drive around a bit more to calm him down, and as I again drove past the turn to the coffee shop by the ocean, Biggie started barking once more. That’s when I decided to just drive on over to the coffee shop at the overlook. Biggie’s barking stopped, but he stood on my wife’s lap with his tail wagging out of control.
When we pulled into the parking lot, Biggie was again wild with excitement. We hooked up his leash, and he almost dragged my wife over to the patio while I made our coffee purchase and requested a cup of whipped cream for Biggie. I looked towards the back door of the shop exiting onto the patio, and there stood Biggie with his two front paws on the door’s glass looking in at me (tail wagging, of course). Oh, what a happy dog! All of this was a result of simply mentioning to my wife that I wanted a cup of coffee.
Also, near where we live, and well within Biggie walking distance, is a take-out restaurant specializing in chicken wings. The first time we brought Biggie over to our new home, we drove by this restaurant, and Biggie’s nose went into overtime sniffing. He couldn’t see it, but he managed to calculate its location and distance from our home. When I took him for his first walk from our home, Biggie walked straight to the restaurant. Even though it was closed at the time, Biggie placed his paws on the door glass and started barking for them to open.
This chicken wing restaurant is a chain with many locations. I asked his mom if he had ever been to one in the past, but she assured me he had never been to one. Still, on each and every walk, Biggie wanted chicken wings.
One afternoon we drove to a nearby outdoor shopping center, and while my wife was shopping, I gave Biggie a walk. He seemed to be determined to walk the length of the mall without stopping, and when we reached the last storefront, I realized it was another of these chicken wing restaurants. It was everything I could do to prevent him from dragging me in there. His nose knows.
I actually would love to treat Biggie to chicken wings (sans bones of course), but he is allergic to chicken. Bummer. Maybe the big attraction is the desire for forbidden delicacies. I understand this. I love peanut butter, but I can’t have it even in small quantities. So I guess I understand Biggie on this point.
Well, in spite of moving away, Biggie continues to be a large part of my life. We recently had him over for a visit of several weeks, and I was glad to return him to his mom. (The advantages of having a part-time dog.) The problem is though, as soon as he goes home, I start to miss him. At least he is still a part of my life.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
I like to barbeque, grill, smoke, and everything else associated with outdoor cooking. Rarely have I ever been without some form of outdoor cooking apparatus in my possession, and when that has happened, I’m not happy. That doesn’t mean I use it every day, but when I want to cook outdoors, I want to cook outdoors.
Stub is the name of my gas grill. No it’s not the only outdoor cooking system I own, but it is probably the most used since it is quick to fire up and slap something onto the grates. Stub gets its name from the fact that it needs fours legs to stand upright, but one of those legs is broken off about three inches above the ground.
Stub has been with me longer than any grill I’ve owned except my first kettle grill purchased about 40 years ago. That first one lasted almost 25 years through heavy use and abuse before I handed it over to a new owner, but only Stub has rivaled it to any degree for longevity.
I purchased Stub all shiny and new from a major hardware store several years ago. This particular store had sent to me a gift card, a large discount card, a card with specific dollars off if I spent over a certain amount, and a rebate from a purchase I had made earlier in the year. And all of them could be combined. My net cost to purchase Stub was just the sales tax and the gasoline to get there and back. This is my kind of shopping. Stub replaced Brownie, my previous gas grill. I was happy to see Brownie go, but it did leave a big cooking hole in my life, so Stub was very welcome when he arrived.
Brownie had been a rescue grill from the alley behind our apartment. When I found him cowering beside a trash bin, he had been sadly neglected, and had suffered from an obviously abusive relationship. I brought him into my garage and slowly brought him back to health. A good scrubbing, several new parts, a new glass across the front (think 1980’s styling), and a new coat of paint. Brownie was looking good, but Brownie had an attitude. I think I know why his previous owner beat him and left him in the alley.
The first time I fired up Brownie, he was very cooperative. He gave me perfectly cooked chicken breasts, and I could not have been more pleased. The next time I tried to utilize his talents, he refused to light until I finally laid a flaming stick on the burner and turned on the gas for several minutes. When he did finally light, the fireball was probably seen two counties away.
Brownie was a test of my patience, and my patience has never fully recovered. When Brownie finally pushed me past the point of no return, I made certain no person would ever again be plagued by this sadistic monster. Basically I disassembled every part from every other part and took those parts to different trash bins in different alleys over a period of several weeks. Done. Good riddance.
Last week I decided Stub had suffered enough with his broken leg. Carefully I turned him on his side and very quickly and decisively sawed off the jagged edge of his stump. A 2x2 and a few bolts later Stub had a peg leg. A little black paint and he now stands proud and tall once again. No more leaning at a frightening angle, and no more being propped up by a brick. Stub is now keeping up with the best of them once again.
Stub’s charcoal burning friend Smoky Roundhouse (an old kettle style grill) also got a new lease on life with a few new replacement parts. Now each time I walk to the back yard, I can only smile at these two old timers standing side by side ready to cook up some good eats.
David’s Thick Barbeque Sauce:
I usually prefer a thin vinegar pepper sauce with most of my smoked meats (if I desire a sauce at all), but sometimes I just want something a bit sweeter and thicker, especially if the meat has been direct flame grilled. This goes great with pork or chicken—especially chicken.
Makes about 3 pints.
1 (12-ounce) bottle commercial chili sauce
3 cups ketchup (up to 4 cups if desired)
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup prepared yellow mustard
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds soaked in the apple cider vinegar for 2 hours
1 tablespoon garlic powder (do not use fresh garlic)
1 tablespoon onion powder (or ¼ cup minced red onion)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but I like it)
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
1 tablespoon pure ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup honey
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Many of the experiences of my life have been just a few moments long, and as such are difficult to put into writing. And just as many are of moderately short duration, and are very memorable, but still are difficult to put into writing. The problem I have in writing this one is that it was of short duration; however, it has had a lifelong effect upon me. Looking back at it is no more fun today than it was when it occurred over fifty years ago, although I do need to face my demons and come to terms with the fact that I was bitten by a snake.
I was fourteen years old and working for a summer camp west of Fort Worth. The weeks were filled with boys learning camping and outdoor skills that only a few would ever pursue as an adult, but that most would find useful from time to time throughout their lives. My job was to teach the proper use of axes and knives—something I had used all my short life growing up on a farm. Just like on the farm each work day at the camp started at 4am and ended about 10pm, so I was glad when the weekends arrived and I could have fun for a couple of days (a luxury we didn’t have on the farm).
A few weekends into this, several of the staff members decided to take a day hike to a lake a few miles away, and I joined them. We were traveling single file down a trail when the guy behind me shouted, “David, Look Out! That snake is about to bite you!”
I seem to recall jumping straight up, turning around with a summersault twist and landing about fifteen feet away.
“I’m sorry, David. I meant to say ‘That snake just bit you’.”
The snake, a copperhead, was way out of place in this part of Texas. Much too far west of where its territory was believed to be, but there it was. One of the guys used a long stick and tossed it over the edge of a ravine nearby while the others looked after me.
Out came the snakebite kits and rusty pocketknives. Basically they tied a couple of strings around my leg as tourniquets, cut a hole in the calf of my right leg, applied the suction cups from the kits, and tried to carry me back to camp about eight miles away. After falling off the stretcher made out of several shirts and some tree branches a couple of times, I decided I’d rather walk.
The closest main highway was about five miles away, so I started walking to it instead of the camp. My leg was in pain. It wasn’t the bite that hurt, it was the tourniquets and knife cuts that was causing the discomfort. I fashioned a crutch from a tree branch and kept walking until we reached the highway. There one of the guys flagged down a passing pickup truck. When we explained to the driver the situation, he drove us to the emergency room at the small hospital in the town of Mineral Wells just a few miles away.
The doctor immediately came over to examine me. He removed the tourniquets, and the sudden rush of blood through the leg was excruciating. I thought I was going to die right there. I was already getting sick from the poison in my system, but this felt like a good reason to say goodbye to the world. He cleaned out the hole in my leg and applied some kind of goop to it. He placed a clean bandage over it and left the room while saying he needed to check something. The doctor returned after a few minutes and let me know there was nothing more he could do for me.
Just a few minutes ago I had wanted to die, but now I had changed my mind completely on the subject. I stared at the doctor with eyes as big as baseballs, and my mouth open wide enough for a bird to nest in.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just meant that you’ll be fine. The poison will make you very sick for a few days, and it will have an effect on you for a few months, but you will live. Just change the bandage every few hours and put this ointment on the wound until it closes up in a few weeks.”
Thursday, January 19, 2017
The 49th Annual Wild Game Feed at Irvine Lake is scheduled for Friday, September 15, 2017, and nothing I can do will make it appear any sooner. Each year the third Friday in September takes about 200 centuries to arrive. The more I try to speed it up, the longer it takes to arrive, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Believe me, if I had a time machine…
The holidays are over, and my Santa season has slowed down quite a bit. Almost immediately after the Feed is over each year I jump right into the red suit and ride the red sleigh for a few months. I don’t have time to even think about the AWGF, and that is a good thing, otherwise the wait for the Feed would seem even longer. But the red suit is now at the cleaners, and I have time to think.
In the past few days I began to prep for the Feed. I pulled out my shelters to check them over and discovered a broken leg and a rip in the top and side of one of them. Maybe I should go back to using just one shelter—it was easier anyway. I’m having difficulty finding quality quail eggs this year, but I’ll keep working on it. As always, no guarantees that I’ll succeed, but I’ll try. And I took stock of my cigars. Uh, I think I over-bought. Right now I have over 300 with more on order, and during the year I usually don’t smoke more than three or four apart from the Feed.
This year I’m planning to pack a little lighter than in the past. It’s just getting to be too much for this old man to handle, so my list of things to bring is getting an overhaul. If I haven’t used it in the past two years, I’m not bringing it. (The two exceptions are my small first aid kit and T.P.) I think this will eliminate about ten to fifteen percent of the burden. When I started going to the feed I was in my late forties, and the baggage was no problem, but now I’m in my late sixties and just walking from the parking lot to the entry booth is getting difficult. Time to reduce the ‘stuff.’
I was actually thinking of bringing only the basics as I once did long ago, but that’s just a bit too Spartan for me. I need a shelter, table, chair, mug, real knife fork and spoon, and my ice chest with a few bottles of cider in it. I guess I also need to bring my cigars and pickled quail eggs (if I can make them this year), and some plastic bags to bring a few morsels home in. Let’s see, paper towels, cigar cutter, heavy-duty paper plates and bowls (I don’t like the cardboard boats they serve the food in), barbeque sauce, mustard, cigar lighter, bottled water, and toothpicks. I think I’m back to the full load. So much for reducing the burden.
Well, I guess rather than try to reduce the load I’ll just start the process of obsessing over the packing procedure and modifying my checklist. There’s nothing as frustrating as last minute packing only to discover at the Feed a few important items were forgotten such as a ticket, or cigars, or a chair. All it takes is to forget just one essential to make for a less than perfect day. I forgot my ticket once (once), and had to drive all the way back home (over 30 miles away) to retrieve it. Pooh! But I discovered the problem early and was able to get back to the Feed in time to see the start of the procedure. I wasn’t first in line, but I didn’t miss anything either.
I hope to see everyone again this year. Remember, when the ticket order form arrives in late May or early June, don’t hesitate to place your order, or the Feed may go on without you.