Friday, January 25, 2013

Port Mansfield from a Bicycle Seat

Our Thursday morning bike rides continue, weather permitting. Sometimes Bruce leads; sometimes others take that responsibility.  Each week we start our ride from a different location.  This week we drove to Port Mansfield to ride.

Port Mansfield is a small village on the shore of the Laguna Madre about an hour's drive from our park.  It appears that the population of that tiny town are all fishermen or boating enthusiasts.  Fishermen and boats of various types and sizes are everywhere.  Every house on the water's edge has a boat dock behind it and there's more fishing gear in the town than mail boxes!

In the winter, the population of Port Mansfield is swelled by Winter Texans, who occupy the nearby RV parks.  Most of the Winter Texans who choose Port Mansfield for their winter home are also either fisher-folks or boating buddies.  Only one of those two passions could entice a person to settle nearly 30 miles from the nearest grocery store!

Sixteen adventurous bicyclists in seven different vehicles set out from our park last Thursday (January 24) headed east toward Port Mansfield.  The weather was great; sunnyand warm, with only a slight wind.  Down here in south Texas, that's affectionately called "Chamber of Commeerce weather" and it's not common in January!

We parked our cars near Sweet Gregory P's Smokehouse, a preview of coming delights.  Then off we pedaled south toward the county park and the public fishing pier.

We watched the brown pelicans swoop and dive for their breakfast.  We admired a snowy egret perched beside the water, and wondered what small island we were seeing far out toward the horizon.  We didn't bother the many fishermen dropping their lines from that pier but we had to express our amazement at one man's catch of a fish -- type unknown -- that appeared to be about three feet long!

Rested, refreshed, and ready to ride again, we headed back toward Gregory P's as the halfway stopping point for those who chose the short ride.  Then seven of us headed southwest, up a scenic inlet of the Laguna toward a small community of lovely big homes on the water's edge.

Over many years, Port Mansfield has become home to a large number of deer.  Why they have chosen that remote location only they know, but they outnumber dogs in that community. 
They seem to have little fear of humans, even those on bicycles!  This impressive buck just stood in the side ditch of the road a few feet from our route and watched us go by.  The deer have become so numerous that they have created problems for the residents, destroying their landscaping.  That's unfortunate, but the deer may have been there before the shrubs were!
Back to Sweet Gregory P's Smokehouse for the delicious ending of a perfect ride.  His tender pulled pork, smoked turkey, brisket or sausage sandwiches, cole slaw, beans, potato salad, and beverages was a delightful way to replace the calories we had just biked off.  The sign in the restroom at the restaurant gave us a chuckle that lasted almost all the way home:
"Fishing: an acquired skill consisting of
baiting, casting, reeling and netting
while balancing, sweating, cussing
and swatting."
mshr - 25 Jan 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Personal Obsolescence

As the years pass, I find in myself an increasing amount of pity for many historical objects and creatures. Dinosaurs, for example, and Model T Fords; carrier pigeons and homemade dumplings; gas lamps and tree swings; unlocked doors and non-commercialized holidays.

What do these things have in common? They are all extinct, obsolete, old fashioned. Each of them has disappeared or been rendered useless by some new invention or changing social attitude. They are all "has beens," surpassed by something more up-to-date.

I guess my sympathy for them comes from my feeling that I, too, am steadily joining their ranks of obsolescence. I have finally had to admit to myself that I have a "pencil and paper brain" in a computerized world!

Whatever happened to bank deposit slips made out of paper and filled out with a pen? Where did handwritten love notes disappear in the avalanche of texts, tweets, and Facebook "likes"? How can you wrap up the coffee grounds in the on-line news service? Why must I have so many passwords to access my own information that I have to write them down – in the old fashioned way! – to remember them all? When was handwriting outlawed? Who thought up this "computerization conspiracy" anyway?

Technological "intelligence" is already eroding our ability to spell. If you doubt this, just try to read the "txts cnt & recd by a teen"! Will it also steal our ability to use words in writing and talking? Taken to extremes, language will become obsolete and our thumbs – rather than our tongues – will become our tools of conversation!

Yes, I have a "pencil and paper brain" in a computerized world. I may, indeed, be becoming obsolete – but I won’t go quietly! I will yell and scream and scratch chalk and my fingernails on every blackboard I can find to preserve my right to write and scribble and doodle and tap my pencil annoyingly on my desk!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Slaughter of the Innocents

The most troubling part of the Christmas story for me has always been Matthew’s story of the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16). As I grew up, the adults around me shielded me from this gruesome tale for many years. But, as an adolescent, when I first heard it, I was shocked.

"Why?" I wondered. "Why would anyone murder babies and children two years old and younger? What could drive someone to commit such a cruel and bloody deed?"

Matthew tells us that King Herod was "infuriated" when he discovered that the Wise Men had tricked him, going home "by another road." By-passing Herod, the Magi evaded his command to "bring me word so that I may go and pay [the newborn Messiah] homage." That was a lie, of course. What Herod really wanted to do was to find that baby – who might be a rival for his throne – and insure that he never grew up!

So Herod was angry, frustrated and fearful for his position of power. He, of course, didn’t actually kill the children. It was the soldiers under his command, who carried out his brutal orders and did the dirty deed. And the mothers of Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside were left with only their tears and their aching hearts.

"Why?" That question has tortured me for many years. Now that heartless slaughter has been repeated in my own lifetime. Again mothers – and fathers – weep with the pain of broken hearts – not in Bethlehem, but in Newtown, Connecticut. An angry young killer has slaughtered twenty innocent children and several of their adult protectors.

Why? Was he, too, frustrated by the demons raging inside him, fearful that they might take away his power over his own life? He didn’t use a sword to kill. Instead, he used a high powered assault rifle and a twenty lifetime’s supply of ammunition to slaughter innocent six- and seven-year-olds.

The question "Why?" consumes our minds again, this time in real life. There is no answer. But there is another, more realistic, question: "For what purpose?"

Unlike the mothers of Bethlehem who could only mourn their slaughtered innocents, we do not live in a monarchy ruled by a cruel and unpredictable despot. We live in a democracy – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – so we have political power those grieving mothers did not have. We can influence our political leaders to make changes that will improve the health and sanity of our society. If we do not exercise our social and political responsibilities, twenty more innocents will have been slaughtered in vain.

Parents of Newtown:
Weep for the children
that are no more.
Wail for your sons and daughters
stolen from you
by a madman.
Rage in your anger
knowing you are not alone;
Bereaved parents
from biblical Bethlehem
to current Chicago
join you in your rage
at the slaughter of innocents.
Scream until we hear
– we whose children survive –
and join hands with you
to make our society
a safer and saner place.