Hot Flash from Texas

Was anyone really surprised that Rick Perry dropped out of the GOP presidential stakes? Well, I wasn’t, but I can be a bit nostalgic about it. 

For good or bad, Texas occupies an out-sized role in American public life. This may be due to its geographical scope—large enough to lie over and cover many other states, or its large population and consequent congressional representation, or maybe still its huge role in Western legend and lore, or more likely, a combination of this and other factors.

Some months back, a relative in the Great North said to Ellen and me, “You have a good governor down there.” We paused, shaken a bit, and I said, “Well, he has really nice hair.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry, wearing his nice hair. My baldness makes me really jealous. (Source.)

Texas Governor Rick Perry, wearing his nice hair. My baldness makes me really jealous. (Source.)

So with the little hint of my views about Texas Governor Rick Perry, I took special note of a quote in an Austin Sunday paper when we lived there, before we escaped Texas politics to move to Arizona, where it seems less crazy. I’m not the first to find Rick Perry quotes amusing.

Writer Daniel Kurtzman has published “Dumb Quotes and Gaffes by GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Perry. Here’s one example: “Juarez is reported to be the most dangerous city in America.” –Rick Perry, referring to a city that is across the Texas border in Mexico, February 28, 2011. BuzzFeed posted a collection of what it calls “34 Deliciously Ridiculous Rick Perry Quotes.” One of their examples is, “There’s nothing wrong with America that an extra dose of freedom won’t cure.”

Anyway, the Austin American Statesman, the top-ranking newspaper in Texas over the major papers in Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio, quoted Governor Perry on June 22, 2014, in a comment he made recently to Mark Leibovich, a writer for the New York Times Magazine. Mr. Perry was quoted as saying, “I’m more Jewish than you think I am. I read the part of the Bible that said the Jews are God’s chosen people.”

That comment struck me as more than a bit odd, as it may have appeared to the paper’s editors. When I read something about a group of people, does that somehow make me more similar to them? Don’t most religious groups feel in some manner that they are God’s chosen people? Does not the religion-referencing Mr. Perry, an avowed Christian, feel that he’s a member of God’s chosen people? Maybe his remark was just a type of pandering that is common in political candidates.

So Governor Perry has actually decided not to seek the presidency in 2016. If he had not, probably someone would have asked him to explain that comment during the campaign so we can all better understand his thinking.

Now he probably won’t be asked to explain some of his other quotes that are a matter of public record. Like, what’s the third department of the federal government that he would eliminate? Maybe he decided that question is just too difficult to face on national TV. 

Or maybe Governor Perry was having trouble concentrating on the race with his lingering indictment on two felony charges alleging abuse of power by a Travis County grand jury. These are in connection with the April 2013 arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg on drunken driving charges. In response, Perry tried to force her from office and vetoed state funds for the Public Integrity Unit run by the District Attorney’s Office. 

Of course, opinion is divided on the merits of the case against Perry. Time will tell if he’s the real deal in that case.  But for now he’s a Texas hot flash just exited from the national stage. 

Related posts: 

League of Women Voters or League of Informed Voters? 

Shutdown: Ineptitude at a High Level

Climate Change and Political Paralysis 


Heaven and Hell—Been to Both

Life events made me a questioner. A doubter. No doubt about it.

What I took for fact in my youth and young adulthood looks far from it today. While different faiths use different ways of referring to heaven and hell, my early experience included fiery sermons during summer revivals, Sunday school classes, scripture, and some family conversations. All of these drilled into my head the blissful heaven above the sky and the burning hell below the earth. Heaven was signified by sweet utterances of blissful everlasting life and an upward pointing index finger, and hell was signified by a jabbing finger pointing down to the inferno of writhing sinners, signified by damning words and voices.

Visions of Heaven and Hell by John Bunyan, a 17th century English author.

Visions of Heaven and Hell by John Bunyan, a 17th century English author. (Source.)

Such formulations were part of my life, even as their intensity waned as I entered my early thirties. The waning began irrevocably with the tragic death of my mother at my father’s hands and the hell on earth that befell our family. Hell began for me when I picked up a newspaper late on the day she died, and continued the day after her death when I entered the home in which my older brother and I were born. Hell was kept alive by my brother’s accidental death a few years later. While some construed these tragedies as “God’s will,” neither of them was the will of any God I had worshipped. I could not believe in such senseless reasoning.

Now, decades later, I almost chuckle at the formulations of the heaven and hell of my youth, meant to govern my behavior, my thinking, and my being. What were foisted off as words to save souls were nothing more than attempts to control people, gain power, and build status. Maybe the proponents of heaven and hell thought they were doing good, improving humanity, and feeling proud of their place in it all. After all, that is what they were taught to believe in seminary.

Proponents of heaven and hell today really miss the point of life, in my view. They diminish humanity rather than enhance it. They promote denial and suffering in this life for the reward of a heavenly afterlife.

What’s Changed?

Life experiences have changed all those early conceptions of heaven and hell in my mind. The realities of life replaced dogmas of the past. Here’s what I now believe about heaven and hell, and why I believe it. No, my beliefs aren’t facts, except that they exist in my head and life.

  1. Heaven is happiness; hell is anguish. Heaven is the smile on the face of a happy child; hell is the stricken face of a child with a broken heart after parents divorce. 
  2. Heaven is feeling worthy and useful to others; hell is feeling helpless, useless, and depressed. Heaven is making a positive difference in the lives of others; hell is dragging others down and tearing them apart.
  3. Heaven is love for others and from others we care about; hell is being ignored and treated as invisible and worthless. Heaven is feeling whole in the presence of people we care about; hell is feeling rejected by those people. 
  4. Heaven is being free to think, speak, and live in comfort and safety; hell is a stifled spirit, a muzzled existence, and a life of grinding poverty and insecurity. Heaven is freedom in a world that values other lives and other ways of living and thinking; hell is oppression, hunger, and looming death at any moment.
  5. Heaven is a good life on earth; hell is misery and suffering on earth. Heaven and hell are not the old conceptions of sages, but the real life experiences of each of us.

Early conceptions of heaven and hell were centuries old before the age of science. Earth was conceived as the “only world,” and it was believed to be flat. In humanity’s grappling to understand life then, it seemed logical that heaven was beyond the sky and that evil resided in the hell beneath the earth. 

Now we know that what is often called “the heavens” refers to planets, stars, galaxies—billions of them, and the universe. We are surrounded by the heavens above our heads, below our feet, and in all directions in between.

Today I live what I view as a heavenly life. Love is abundant in my marriage, family, and among my friends. I enjoy the freedom to think, say, and write what I like. I live in ample housing, have needed clothing, and plenty of food. My health permits me to have an active life. All of this is heaven and I am grateful every day. But hell could return at any time. Accidents, disease, natural disasters, and violence are part of life the world over.

All any of us can do is our best, take each day as it comes, and deal with whatever happens. Life does not come with a guarantee. 

Related posts:

Birth of a Memoir

Skepticism—Up and Down Sides


Chimps as Persons

Most of us have thought at times that chimpanzees seem similar to humans in many respects, that they often behave like us, that they show kindness and aggressiveness, when we view them live or see them on nature shows. A BBC Nature report says chimps and people are similar in five big ways:

  • Neuroticism – characterized by such things as worry, moodiness, envy, and jealousy
  • Extroversion – indicated by developing social connections and seeking leadership opportunities, among other things
  • Openness to Experience – characterized by intellectual curiosity, preference for variety, an active imagination, among others
  • Agreeableness – shown by such things as kindness, cooperation, sympathy, and consideration
  • Conscientiousness – indicated by a desire to do things right, being thorough, careful, or vigilant.

But some say we are projecting our human biases onto chimps and other animals. Psychology professor Clive Wynne at the University of Florida tells BBC Nature, “Human beings have a very natural tendency to project human agency into almost anything that moves. It is very deeply ingrained into our ways of trying to understand the world around us.”


Chimps retired from captive situations live out their lives in sanctuaries. Photo by Jude Gogi Gabe Vick. (Source.)

Chimps retired from captive situations live out their lives in sanctuaries. Photo by Jude Gogi Gabe Vick. (Source.)


The late comedian George Carlin had a wonderful skit about how people mistreat plants. He argued that hanging plants are scared out of their minds by the heights at which they are hung to please people.

But chimp-person similarities have recently taken on a new phase. A 2012 study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland was designed to remove human bias in assessing human-like qualities of chimps. Mark Adams, one of the researchers, concluded that chimpanzees “have the same social problems that we do, they want to make friends and find mates and sort of gain position within their society.”

A New Twist

Lawyer Steven M. Wise, founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, represented four chimpanzees in the New York Supreme Court in recent months, asking the court to declare chimps “persons” under certain circumstances. At first people thought these cases were some kind of joke or publicity stunt, but as the cases progressed people began to follow them with serious interest. This included the judges.

Wise began working on this issue in 1985 after getting his degree from Boston University Law School and an earlier degree in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has taught Animal Rights Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School, as well as at a number of other law schools. Steven Wise is serious, not joking at all. We all have biases about one thing or another, and I felt compelled to give some extra thought to Wise’s biases toward animals.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer released the following video showing a number of chimps that have been released from captivity into a sanctuary for retired chimps.   It’s worth a look here.

Reuters News Agency reported the story about three lawsuits in New York in a December 2, 2013, article. The lawsuits were on behalf of two 26-year-old chimps and two young chimps. Wise told Reuters that chimpanzees “possess complex cognitive abilities that are so strictly protected when they’re found in human beings.” He added, “There’s no reason why they should not be protected when they’re found in chimpanzees.”

Case Outcomes

Wise did not win, and he was not surprised by the outcomes. However, one of the judges expressed appreciation for the work brought forward in one case. Another said he was not ready to be first to legally declare a chimp a person, suggesting that other legal grounds could be found to bring subsequent appeals.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is preparing those appeals now, with plans to file them in the coming year. These appeals will no doubt be interesting to watch, with potentially wide implications.

Some Thoughts

Chimps are not chumps. They are clearly related to us from accumulated results of studies across disciplines over many decades. They possess ninety-eight percent of the genes that humans possess.

It is not hard to imagine chimps as our relatives when we watch them interact. In fact, some chimps appear much nicer than some humans we all have known. When a chimp attacks a person, the chimp should be incarcerated, just as we incarcerate people who act violently toward other people.

Chimps even seem more law abiding than many humans. They don’t participate in mass killings. They don’t drive cars recklessly. They do not carry out Wall Street robberies of the type we have seen all too recently, by the greedy who consider the rest of us chumps.

Now our challenge is to figure out how to treat our close relatives the chimps properly. This is not only a challenge of the legal and scientific communities, it is a challenge to our old assumptions about humanity.

Related posts:

Pineapple Man

Death with Dignity as a National Law?

Fashion Industry Foolishness

Restaurant T-Shirts

The very idea of restaurant T-shirts has taken up too much of my thinking time in the last five years or so, and my hope is that laying out my thinking about something that has actually become a bit of a problem for me will put it all to rest. Stay with me on this even if you think this is a silly matter, because it may remind you of some other equally silly matter that’s been bugging you that you would like to resolve as well.


Some businesses give away T-shirts as part of their advertising budgets, but not restaurants. Why? (Source.)

Some businesses give away T-shirts as part of their advertising budgets, but not restaurants. Why? (Source.)


If memory serves me correctly, I bought my first T-shirt from a restaurant about a dozen years ago and since then have purchased five others. In every case I was moved to buy a T-shirt after having a particularly good meal, something that at the time seemed exceptional for its goodness, quirkiness, or some other combination of qualities that I wanted to be reminded of each time I put on the particular T-shirt.

Here are the restaurant T-shirts I have purchased:

  • Hash House A Go Go in San Diego, my first restaurant T-shirt
  • Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana, Illinois
  • Wolfy’s Hot Dogs in Chicago
  • Hominy Grill in Charleston, South Carolina
  • Corky’s Barbecue in Memphis
  • Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters in Brooklyn

Just listing these restaurants that impressed me enough to buy the T-shirt now bothers me, beyond the fact that I paid a total of about one hundred bucks for them. I’ll get to that shortly.

The first obvious thing about the list is that none of the T-shirts were bought in Austin, where we have lived for well over a decade now, even though we have local restaurants every bit as good as the ones represented by the T-shirts I have bought in other memorable places. The main reason for this is that I don’t need reminders of restaurants where I live as much as I want reminders of enjoyable places farther from home.

The other obvious thing is that I have never bought a T-shirt from a restaurant in a foreign country. The reason for this is that to wear such a shirt back home would somehow seem like bragging about international travel. I don’t want to come across that way.

Swearing Off Buying Any More Restaurant T-Shirts 

What has come to bother me about the idea of restaurant T-shirts was triggered by a joking remark I made once to a waiter at a Corky’s Barbecue branch that we visited in Jackson, Tennessee, about five years ago. We planned the stop before we left home because we first ate at Corky’s over a decade ago and it was so delicious that I bought a Corky’s T-shirt. Well, on that more recent stop, I wore my Corky’s T-shirt there for lunch. 

One problem with my joking remarks is that over the years, people—sometimes even those who know me well—don’t grasp my intent and think I’m quite serious. This is just one of the characteristics of my weird sense of humor.

When the young waiter asked for our order, Ellen ordered first. When it was my turn, I said, “Please notice my Corky’s T-shirt that I’ve had several years. It’s one of my favorites and I have worn it many places in several states. Since I have done so much free advertising for Corky’s with this shirt, do I get a free lunch today?”

The waiter looked at me, stunned into silence, apparently waiting for my order. So I ordered. Then he said, I thought joking back, “I’ll have to ask the manager about whether you can get a free lunch.” So I smiled and said, “Thanks for checking!”

A few minutes passed. The waiter returned and said to me with great sincerity, “The manager wants to know if you’re serious about the free lunch.”

 Realizing my intended joking remark was perceived as a serious question, a switch flipped in my mind. I had paid about $15 for that T-shirt, basically paying for advertising that Corky’s benefited from whenever I wore it. But I paid for it, for a form of their advertising. Something seemed backwards about this but it was a passing thought. However, that thought has recurred with increasing frequency in more recent years.

Why should customers pay for restaurant T-shirts? Shouldn’t they be free to any customer who is willing to wear one? After all, each time it is worn, the restaurant benefits by having their name paraded around in front of the public.

So, by publicly stating it here, I have sworn off buying any more restaurant T-shirts. I don’t like being an advertising billboard for any commercial business when I have to pay fifteen or twenty bucks for the opportunity.

 I feel I was gullible on this because I liked the food at those places. Heck, I enjoy the food at many more places whether they sell T-shirts or not.

From this day forward, if any restaurant would like me to wear their T-shirt, first I have to really like the food and the mood that goes with a place. Secondly, they will have to give me the T-shirt free of charge.

That’s my new rule. Clarified in my mind, settled, no longer mulled over by me now or in the future. I’m so glad I wrote this. I feel better now. 

Testing the Idea of Free T-Shirts

Less than forty-eight hours after posting this story, Ellen and I were having lunch at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in Columbus, Ohio. Near the end of our meal, when our waiter asked us if we needed anything more, I told him I really liked his T-Shirt with the Schmidt’s logo on the back. Then I told him about this blog post and that I had decided to no longer buy restaurant T-shirts. If they would like me to wear one of their T-shirts around the country, they would have to give it to me. 

When I explained my new reasoning, he said he understood why I feel the way I do about restaurant T-shirts. After dessert of a sumptuous cream puff about the size of a softball, we paid our tab and proceeded to leave. Our waiter tapped me on the shoulder and handed me Ellen’s red umbrella. 

Then he said, “What size T-shirt do you wear?” I said an extra large. So he then thrust a folded black T-shirt into my hand and said, “You got it!” 

So I will not only wear that Schmidt’s Sausage Haus T-shirt proudly, but it is my first free restaurant T-shirt. I’m really proud of that. 


My first free restaurant T-shirt from Schmidt's Sausage Haus, Columbus, Ohio, draped over the steering wheel after a superb lunch there on June 8, 2014.

My first free restaurant T-shirt, from Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Columbus, Ohio, draped over the steering wheel after a superb lunch there on June 8, 2014.


Related posts: 

Restaurant Blind Spot

Craving That Would Not Go Away

Breakfast with Newbies 

“Concierge” Medicine Taking Hold

Heated towel racks, marble showers, and personally monogrammed robes. Can you imagine a type of health care for yourself that includes these services? You can if you’re rich or super rich, and in fact you may be quite familiar with such health care. But these notions of health care are bizarre to me, while spa lovers may think I just don’t get it.


Well, a few doctors of the rich began providing such services called “concierge” or “boutique” or “direct pay” medicine over a decade ago—for a generous fee, of course. This means cash, paid directly to concierge doctors without insurance being involved.


What makes a good doctor-patient relationship? (Source.)

What makes a good doctor-patient relationship? (Source.)


After a few years of percolating, concierge medicine has gained a new respectability in some quarters. It has become available to a growing segment of the middle class. A bit surprisingly to me when I read it, the Wall Street Journal published a 2013 article on the “Pros and Cons of Concierge Medicine.”

This article discusses how some of today’s doctors are charging what some may view as a modest monthly fee of $59 for membership and $10 per visit, with no insurance billing to keep overhead low. Even the Affordable Care Act allows for this type of health care as long as patients have a policy to cover catastrophic illnesses and emergencies. This recognizes the rapid growth of the American Academy of Private Physicians, with inexpensive practices driving growth to over 5,000 concierge practices at the rate of 25 percent per year. By some calculations, those with very high deductibles can buy direct concierge medicine for less per year than the cost of the deductibles. 

Young adults have now joined parents and grandparents in worrying about their personal health care and health insurance in the United States. Federal mandates get the credit or the blame for this, depending on your point of view regarding the country’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. I personally think it’s a really good idea for young adults to take responsibility for their own health care. Their parents probably did when they were young.

On January 15, 2002, The New York Times carried a page one story under the banner, “Doctors’ New Practices Offer Deluxe Service for Deluxe Fee.” Two respected doctors in Boston were about to open a practice in which they would charge patients $4,000 a year for services beyond those covered by their health insurance. “Amenities and attention” provided through the added fee include:

    • Round-the-clock cell phone access to doctors
    • Same-day appointments
    • Nutrition and exercise physiology exams at patients’ homes or health clubs
    • Doctors accompany patients to see specialists.

Newspaper columnists and some physicians accuse these doctors of abandoning their lower-income patients to cater to the wealthy. The doctors claim they are seeking a way to give patients more attention in a time when managed-care pressures crowd even more patients into shorter and shorter appointments.

A Florida doctor joining this movement lamented, “I couldn’t stand it anymore—the day was an absolute treadmill.” He and some of his colleagues expressed a desire to spend more time with patients and to enjoy their practices more.


Is it greedy doctors who want fewer patients and more fun in their workday? Maybe. Or are doctors perhaps mentally unable to cope with heavy patient loads over extended periods of time, instead seeking affluent patients as a way of coping with their own lives? For their own mental and physical health?

Is it self-indulgent, high-resource patients who want or even demand services that have little to do with fundamental medical care? Maybe patients who do have especially worrisome medical issues needing constant attention? Or maybe patients who have to have heated towel racks and monogrammed robes provided by their doctors just to make them feel better, maybe feel superior to the rest of us?

What happens to doctors and other high-stress professionals who practice in areas where the population is growing so fast that institutions can’t possibly keep up? Will medical care deteriorate with population growth? Will concierge medicine contribute to the doctor shortage facing many communities, large and small?

Is there anything wrong with this picture? Or does it look right to you?

Clearly there are pros and cons. Concierge medicine is a movement that isn’t going away. It is a growing part of today’s health care landscape.

But please don’t tell me your health care includes heated towel racks, marble showers, and personally monogrammed robes. Most of us already feel you should pay higher taxes anyway. Far higher.

Related Posts:

Death with Dignity as a National Law?



Train Wreck in a Small Town

Some things are imbedded in our memory that we wish were not there. We try to push them into the background but they don’t stay there. Among the great tragedies of war are the indelible memories of carnage and the subsequent destructive effects they have on soldiers and their families. Children sometimes see terrible and occasionally tragic acts of violence in their own homes that leave them scarred for life.

I have lived a sheltered life in many ways. Domestic life in my family as I was growing up was peaceful. Both our parents loved my older brother Nolen Robert and me unconditionally. Life on the farm was not easy, but it was wholesome. My goal to become a teacher, set in my early years of high school, wound up sparing me military service in Vietnam. Before I finished school, that war had torn the country apart and I was happy to have missed it. 

But early in my career as a teacher in the Midwest, I witnessed a tragedy in the short moments after a terrible accident involving a train and a large delivery truck. In the short cold days of winter, driving after dark through a small town along a highway that paralleled a railroad track, something unusual was going on that caught my eye.

A different train in a different town on a night similar to the way it looked when I arrived on the scene of the accident. (Source.)

A different train in a different town on a night similar to the way it looked when I arrived on the scene of the accident. (Source.)

Driving slowly, in the heart of the little town, I saw a small fire near the railroad track maybe twenty feet from a streetlight. Then I saw someone jump out of a car on a cross street and run toward the fire.

Out of a desire to see if I could help, or out of curiosity, I pulled over quickly and ran toward the crossing. The man who had gotten out of his car moments before was running along the track past the small fire and I began to run after him. Something terrible had happened.

Pieces of the delivery truck were scattered along the track. I heard no sound of the train. The man running ahead of me stopped at a large object beside the track. As I approached, I saw the crumpled cab of the delivery truck. There were no signs of truck tires or chassis. Nearby I could see the remains of the light-colored cargo box of the truck. Still, while I could not see or hear a train, clearly a train had just demolished the delivery truck.

Within seconds I approached the crumpled cab of the truck, with the man just ahead of me standing silently on one side of the cab looking into it as I walked up to the other side. I was not prepared for what I was about to see in the dim light of the downtown.

The driver’s crumpled body lay before us. He appeared to be in his forties, slender, with dark hair. His body was pretty much rolled into a ball. The heel of his right work boot, with the toe pointed away, rested in front of this face. His head had been crushed and much of his brain lay on his forehead.

The man on the other side of the cab and I did not speak. We stood for a moment in silent respect and walked back toward the crossing.

In the days before cell phones, no sirens, police, or fire trucks had arrived.  At that moment no one else was visible to us in the little town, where people were still inside their warm homes on a cold night. Apparently, the sound of the train smashing the delivery truck did not make enough noise to rouse local residents.

That tragic night in that small town preceded tragedies that would in a few years strike my family. Over the years when something reminds me of the effects of tragedy on my family, I remember the man killed by the train in that small Midwestern town nearly a half-century earlier.

I wonder if that delivery truck driver was a husband and father. He was certainly a son, maybe a brother, a nephew, and a cousin. I wonder how his sudden death affected his family.

I wonder who the other man was that night who rushed to the scene. I wonder if he knew the driver personally. I wish I had asked him, but the time seemed to call for silence. We both apparently felt that way.

For many years after that tragic night, trains passing through railroad crossings sent chills up my back and the back of my neck. Sometimes this still happens, and that crumpled driver in the truck cab comes sadly back to mind.

Ever since, whenever crossing a train track, I look longer in both directions than I did before that accident. As I write this, those chills again come up my back and neck.

Some things we wish we could forget. Somehow we want to erase them from memory, but we cannot.

Memories become a part of who we are. We learn, cope, and move on.

Related posts: 

Birth of a Memoir

Nolen Robert’s Freewheeling

Pineapple Man

Fixing Things

This morning I was supposed to write, a self-imposed expectation. But other things kept running through my mind, leaving a nagging, unsettling feeling in my gut.

Ever since I committed myself to getting more serious about writing, about four years ago, I have pretty much done what I expected of myself. I have been more successful than I could ever have imagined at the start, and I still get pleasant surprises coming my way.

But today was different somehow.

A windstorm that accompanied a cold front and welcome rain earlier in the week split the trunk at the lowest fork and bent one of the native trees that I had planted a few years ago when it was about two feet tall. It was a beautiful goldenball leadtree, growing vibrantly and loaded with fuzzy golden balls. At its height before the storm, it reached over twenty feet tall.

Closeup of golden ball lead tree. (Source,)

Closeup of goldenball leadtree. (Source.)

Two days ago I sadly took my pruning shears and saw and cut off the smaller branch coming off the split fork. As I cut off each branch from that part of the tree, it lifted its head a little more with each cut but did not totally straighten itself. The split in the trunk went downward about the length of a table knife.

Our goldenball leadtree after I removed the split branch that grew to the left.

Our goldenball leadtree after I removed the split branch that grew to the left.

This tree was on my mind when I got up this morning, so much so that I could not bring myself to start writing. I had begun to worry about bugs getting inside the split and further damaging the remaining tree.

“Okay,” I said silently to myself, “after breakfast I will fix it in the best way I know how.” A while later, I went to the garage and began collecting the needed tools. I needed a cordless drill, a 3/8th-inch bit and a bolt of that diameter, a tape measure, and two small wrenches.

Then I measured the diameter of the trunk near the top of the split, 2 ¼ inches. I drilled a single hole through the tree, inserted the bolt, placed a washer on the bolt, and tightened the nut snugly.

I noticed a few small ants, about half the length of a grain of rice, crawling around the split. Some of them may have been inside the split when I tightened the bolt. I heard none of them screaming for help, but as I said last week my hearing is not as good as it once was. As I think about it, I never heard an ant scream in my youth.

Anyway, with the tree repaired with the bolt holding it together, I sprayed pruning dressing over the cut, each end of the bolt, and along the split along each side to seal it from insects and weather. If all goes as planned, the tree will grow around each end of the bolt, cover it over, and proceed toward maturity.

The tree after the repair. Note the bolt head below the cut.

The tree after the repair. Note the bolt head below the cut.

As I finished and began putting my tools away, I noticed a small piece of quarter-round on my workbench that had come loose at the bottom of our new kitchen cabinets where they meet the floor. I had laid it on my workbench several days ago to fix “later.”

Since it would take less that five minutes, I would delay my writing a bit longer. I selected a small finishing nail to replace the wire nail that the contractor had shot with an electric hammer into the quarter-round. The top of the little nail had bent and had been pressed into the wood. I removed the bent nail, drove in the new one, and hammered it firmly in place where it had come loose from the floor. Done!

After those two chores were done, my mind was at last cleared to write. Rather than writing on the topic I had planned, I decided to write about the uncontrollable urge to fix the tree, and then my last-minute decision to reattach that small piece of quarter-round.

This blog post is the result of how my original plan went astray. This post also allows me to tell many of you about the spectacular goldenball leadtree that grows in many places in Central Texas. That’s why we wanted one in our landscape. That’s why I was compelled to try to save the tree rather than cut it down entirely.

If the tree succumbs to a future storm, I will have to remove it. But in the meantime, we get to watch its progress—we hope.

Now I have accomplished more than I had planned for today. I had only planned to write. Now I have made two needed repairs, and I have written.

And it will be several hours before the sun goes down. Ellen just got back from the carwash after a very busy morning. Toward the end of the day she and I will celebrate our small successes.

It doesn’t take much to make us happy.

Related posts:

The Estate Sale

Big Ideas

Pride Before My Fall


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