Years ago, before the days of cell phones, I was tent camping at Garner State Park in Texas with friends and had no way of knowing danger was ahead.
Lightning, strong winds and heavy rain were our only notice in the middle of the night. Concerned of flash flooding from the Frio River, we bit the bullet, grabbed what we could and drove to higher ground.
Others weren’t so fortunate. We lost a tent, blankets and lawn chairs. Some lost their lives.
Even today, because of that experience, I stay alert of weather conditions.
The Three A’s of Campground Weather Safety
Check the forecast before you travel or set up camp. Once you are in camping mode or vacation mind, you are planning for fun! But weather can change that quickly so know what the weather is going to be like over the next couple days so you can make good decisions about your activities and destinations. Use a reliable weather information website like NOAA or the National Weather Service.
If you are in an area that has cell service, then a weather appwith emergency weather notification is a great thing to have set up. They have a free and paid version. The app will send you a notification when there are watches and warnings for the area you are in. Be sure to have your app set up to notify you even if your other notifications are off and also have your location setting turned on.
Have your weather radios set up to alert you when there is a threat. There are different kinds of weather radio options. We have one we can crank if all the other options (solar, batteries, electrical outlet plugin) fail or are unavailable.
Having a radio that doubles as a walkie-talkie can be a good choice to make the most of small space storage.
Have a weather contingency plan. What will you do if the weather suddenly changes and you are in danger? Everyone on your trip should have a job to do and know how to do it in case of an emergency evacuation.
In case of an emergency, how will you make contact with help? What is cell service is lost? Using emergency radios can make the difference in campground weather safety.
Have a plan on what to do if there is threatening weather that may put you in danger.
Know where you are – use a GPS to help identify your location in case you need it.
Know your evacuation plan: If you need to evacuate where are you going? Are you going to stick it out?
Use your weather radios to keep abreast of changes in weather in your area.
If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. “It may be too late the second time,” Texas Park & Wildlife Department officials said. “The first time we can get them out by land, the second time it will be by boat if we can get to them at all.”
🔼Don’t attempt to drive through flooded roads, even if the water looks shallow. “If you can’t see the road, don’t try it,” the Texas Park and Wildlife official said. “It’ll be a deadly mistake.”
🔼Watch out for downed power lines and do not go near them, even around residences.
🔼If you get a weather notification for an approaching storm of any kind, start to clean up your campsite and put things away that could potentially become airborne in a wind gust situation. Your RV windows, motorcycles and your camping neighbors will love you for it.
A few things to remember:
Have flashlights ready in case of power outage and you don’t have RV house batteries.
Have a weather radio and/or weather app set to alert you when there is a weather event
Have activity appropriate apparel and shoes for your outings in case of unexpected weather. Dress in layers to avoid discomfort in changes of temperatures.
Keep a positive attitude! You can’t control the weather but you can wait out bad weather by planning to have games and activities to do when bad weather strikes.
If your plans have to change because of weather, be sure to have some alternate activities planned. A stash of games and cards can turn a disappointment into another kind of fun!
Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and to ensure your trips are safe, here are tips uniquely for RVers and motorcyclists.
RVers and motorcyclists should plan out all escape routes and discuss them with (RV occupants) and fellow campers when traveling. Ensure everyone is informed of the survival plans.
Basic Camping Safety
🔼Keep watch on children! You are responsible for the safety of your children. Make sure you know where your kids are and what they are doing.
🔼Be aware of the natural surroundings. There may be plants with thorns or stickers.
🔼You are a visitor in wildlife’s home. Keep a safe distance from wild animals. Although they may look cute, they are wild and can carry diseases.
🔼Never feed the wildlife! Feeding wildlife can encourage bad behavior by animals and is against park regulations.
🔼Be careful with fire. Never leave a fire unattended and be sure your campfire is out when you break camp.
🔼Axes, knives and saws are useful tools, but be sure you know how to properly use them.
RV Safety Tips
🔼Have more than one fire extinguisher and insure everyone knows where they are and how to use them. Make sure they have the right amount of pressure according to the gauge. In fact, anytime you use an extinguisher, it should be recharged or replaced to avoid future problems.
🔼Watch where you park. Heat from underneath your RV can catch grass on fire.
🔼Never use any stove or cooking appliance for heating space. Smaller space means less ventilation and the greater the chance of a fire.
🔼Keep any combustible items like paper towels or dish cloths away from the stove and remain near the stove when cooking.
🔼Install and inspect smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. Test alarms every two-weeks to ensure they work properly. This is a fast and easy test that can save lives and property.
🔼A dragging brake line can cause friction. This can easily be ignited by dripping brake fluid. Make sure to check the pressure in your tires regularly and spot check at every stop.
🔼Always be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of who is camping next to you, across from you and behind you. Pay attention to what is happening. Know when the weather is changing and who is moving about around your RV.
🔼Always lock your camper when you leave it. Even if you are just going to the laundry room or the bathhouse in the campground.
🔼Use window locks so your RV can’t be accessed by the sliding windows.
Motorcycle Safety Tips
🔼Pack safe. Keep the center of gravity of your bike in mind and make sure the heavy items are lower down. below the COV of your bike. Even up the balance on each side of the bike – don’t put all the heavy stuff in one saddlebag! If traveling solo, pack your gear so it acts as a backrest to support your lower back.
🔼Make sure nothing is touching the exhausts. Use the most effective ratchet straps, bungees or cargo nets to secure the load and carry additional items on top for easy access.
🔼Pack light. Space is limited so be efficient and don’t fill up every available space. Seasoned motorcycle campers overwhelmingly pack light and trim luggage down to the minimum. You can always buy stuff along the way.
🔼 Pack efficiently. Determine what you really need, and pack accordingly. Pack your tent and sleeping bag last so they are first things you unpack at camp site, and make sure the things you’ll need on the ride – sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproofs and maps – are easily accessible.
🔼A tent. If tenting, use one with a waterproof floor or groundsheet and take metal stakes to fix it down and a driver. Pick the size of tent according to your needs – even if you are travelling solo, a two or even three-man tent will give you the space you need to hold your clothes and luggage as well as you, and won’t take up much more space than a one-man tent. Vestibules allow you to strip off wet rain gear and store wet luggage without getting the inside of your tent wet. Make sure you have a waterproof fly- sheet for wet nights. Try setting it up at home rather than working out how to set it up in the dark at your first camp site.
🔼Use a sleeping bag in a grade for the range of temperatures you are likely to experience. Down insulation is more efficient and packs down smaller than synthetic fillings. Use compression bags to hold your sleeping bag, tent and pad to make the most effective use of space.
🔼 Before you set off, make sure your bike is serviced and in good condition. A day or two before departure do a trial run of packing and riding your bike – ideally an overnight trip if you can. You’ll almost certainly over pack so it is a great opportunity to check and reassess what you are taking, and to ensure everything is efficiently packed and you know where it is and how to get at it. Of course, if someone with you is travelling by car, put the campsite equipment in there and only carry essentials – it also means you can take more stuff you will find useful, such as camp chairs, extra food or a cool box.
🔼When you are on your trip, don’t leave too late in the day to find a site – when you are tired, it’s easy to make bad decisions and leaving too late will increase your stress levels and make mistakes more likely to happen. When you’ve found the site, choose the best area – sheltered and flat, not sloping or rocky, and not low-lying so you avoid pooling water if it rains, or falling cold air if the temperature drops. Be friendly with other campers, and when you leave make sure you leave no trace you have been there – kill any fire you may have made, and pick up any trash and clear it away.
🔼Finally, when you are back home, make a post-trip evaluation of your packing – what did you not use, what did you not take that you needed – and make a note of it, so next trip you will be operating at maximum efficiency, leaving you free to enjoy the ride.
Seven foot, three inch Mike McCormick walked up to the Alamo with a smile in his eyes I had never seen before.
He shook his head in disbelief–in wonderment that he was really there. His ballcap came off and he placed his hand on the front wall between the historic door and right window.
“I just want to feel it,” he grinned, before we stepped inside to the hallowed chapel building.
He told me in Waco, the year before, he was going to see it someday. I wanted to make sure anybody who had as much reverence for the Alamo and as much respect for John Wayne as he did, would visit.
Just moments before we walked over from Rivercenter Mall after viewing the 45 minute Imax presentation of “Alamo–The Price of Freedom.” Mike was psyched.
Our tour of the mission grounds was over an hour. Mike didn’t usually talk much, but while we ate Mexican food on the San Antonio River Walk later, he went on non-stop about the visit.
The Productive Giant
I hired Mike in 1984 when he was 19 at Bellmead, Texas, a town and outskirt of Waco. H-E-B Food/Drugs was building a larger replacement store for the older one nearby and I was their Construction Superintendent.
My first thought when he walked up to the site was “Oh man, if this kid is any good, I’m going to save money and hassle from not having to use ladders.”
The productive and quiet giant was not hard to miss among the 60+ carpenters, laborers, electricians, steelworkers, masons, and others. He stayed busy and helpful.
At the end of his work day, I locked up my blueprints and phone (no cells in those days) in our tool shed and walked to my truck.
Sitting on the tailgate of his own pickup was Mike, eating a sandwich out of a black lunchbox, the size of a Panasonic boombox.
“What you still hanging around here for?” I asked.
“I live in Corsicana, it’s about an hour and I can’t afford the gas to go back and forth. I’m gonna stay here tonight,” he answered, pointing his thumb over his shoulder to the bed of his truck.
It was then I noticed he had a sleeping bag.
“Look, I have an extra bed in my hotel room,” I explained. “It’s not unusual to let someone else use it as I stay in hotels all over Texas.”
The Cement Pond
Appreciatively, Mike followed me to the motel on Valley Mills Drive. I told him I was going to take a quick shower and then go out to eat. He was welcome to go dine with me if he wanted.
When I came out of the bathroom after the shower, Mike wasn’t in the room or at his truck.
A family next to the swimming pool looked puzzled and disgusted about something. Trying to figure out what was wrong I looked out over a sight now permanently etched in my memory bank.
Straight out of a scene from the 1960s television classic series, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” was the real live Mike McCormick portraying the part of the fictional character Jethro Bodine, made famous by Max Baer, Jr.
Mike, clad in shorts, was soaped up and shampooing his hair in that Best Western’s cement pond.
Mike was often teamed up with Gary Athur, a journeyman ironworker AND carpenter from San Antonio who came up for the Waco project. Together they were the ‘A-Team,” a versatile and reliable duo.
Mike told us about a steakhouse down the highway called The Longhorn Tavern. It was perfect for our daily lunches: a bit dark ambience, with a jukebox of George Strait singing:
Pardon me, you left your tears on the jukebox And I’m afraid they got mixed up with mine I don’t mean to pry, it’s just that I Noticed you goin’ out of your mind…
The steaks, burgers, chicken fried steaks and iced tea were awesome.
After a particularly productive workweek, we locked the jobsite up an hour early so the crew could beat a heavy thunderstorm rolling in. Mike left towards Corsicana. Gary and I took off down IH-35 South to San Antonio.
The torrential rain was bad enough but it was the wind and lightning that concerned us. Gary kept his fingers on the radio dial in search of weather alerts while continuously peering out all windows. I kept my eyes on the road and hands firmly on the wheel of the F-250 sky blue Ford.
It was on this trip I learned how nervous Gary was about tornadoes. As he expressed his concerns my grip became tighter. At one point, near Round Rock, we pulled over and tried to wait it out at a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
I never really thought that much about tornadoes the way he did. In 1973 on a Corpus Christi H-E-B site on Weber Street, the crew ran into freezers and coolers while a tornado came over us. It was as loud as the cliche everyone says: “It sounds like a freight train.”
In junior high, my family lived in a trailer while our house was under construction. Under tornado warnings, we grabbed some items and sped over to my Aunt Lydia’s home a couple miles away. It was there I saw my first tornado dropping out of the dark clouds. Fortunately, that one never touched down.
As Gary and I were eating our fried chicken, I remember thinking about the tornado Dorothy encountered in The Wizard of Oz.
After the Waco project finished, I was sent to build a strip center near H-E-B in Flour Bluff, located between Corpus Christi and North Padre Island. There were no doubts Mike would go with us.
He joined what we called, “The Love Crew,” consisting of Gary Arthur, Jim Koenig, Sterling Tools, Richard Martin and Tom Kelly (all, except Richard, had worked with me in Waco. I originally hired Richard and another future H-E-B facilities manager, Ronnie Kaderka, as carpenters for the construction of Flour Bluff H-E-B in 1981). Our mission was to “build the best” and “spread the love all over Texas.”
There was another H-E-B Construction job going on South Staples Street in Corpus and about once a week each site’s crew would compete against the other in friendly games of baseball and basketball.
With tall Mike and Tom Kelly (a basketball wizard from Waco) we easily won basketball. But we also beat them at baseball.
During this time I took Mike and Mark McGaugh (a friend of his from Corsicana who worked with us for a while) to do some small job at a H-E-B there.
At lunchtime we went to a Bonanza Steak House and, following them in, I picked up a large green grasshopper.
Mike took his time at the salad bar providing me an opportunity to place the grasshopper in his iced tea glass. Mark couldn’t believe it, but kept his cool when Mike returned to our booth and sat beside him.
When he took a drink, he didn’t notice. Mark turned red and started laughing which caused me to do the same.
“What’s the matter?” Mike asked. “Did one of you pass gas or something?”
“No. I just mentioned you were building a masterpiece at the salad bar and you come back with the tallest and most perfect salad I’ve ever seen,” I laughed, trying to save our joke.
He’d take another sip and that grasshopper would kick and splash. Mark and I burst out laughing with Mike joining us, thinking we were laughing at his Taj Mahal of a salad.
Mike drank the entire glass with that poor grasshopper flailing around among the ice cubes and tea. We could barely eat, unsuccessfully trying not to explode into hysterics.
It wasn’t until he went up to get a refill that he finally noticed that grasshopper. We could see him shaking his head,”Mmmm Mmmm. What the hell?”
In 1985 my next project was to build a store in the Texas-Mexico border town of Del Rio. The Love Crew, (minus Jim and Richard) came with me.
One day during the project, a couple of unfamiliar men came up and asked about Mike. I remained minimal in my replies, because I didn’t know if he was in some kind of trouble (or even why two strangers would ask about him).
“We just drove by and saw him on that jackhammer,” one said. “We think he’d be good in a movie.”
They explained they were from a motion picture film company in the area preparing for a shoot in Brackettville, Texas. It would feature some famous country singing stars.
It turned out country singer Mel Tillis had developed a knack for writing. But he didn’t know it until he tried to break into the music business.
I had first seen Tillis appearing with Roy Clark at the Frontier Hotel in June 1979. As a university journalism student who had already scored interviews with Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, James Earl Jones and Rosalind Russell, I thought I’d try with Tillis and Clark.
(I also tried meeting Tammy Wynette during that same trip to Vegas. I didn’t get an interview but was thrilled to get a kiss on the cheek as she sang her hit, “Stand by Your Man.”)
I did get to speak with Tillis briefly prior to his and Clark’s show. He was especially excited that his daughter, Pam would be introduced and sing for her first ever professional performance that night.
During our talk he called me Jack Denny. Stupid me, I corrected him: “My last name’s Dennis!”
He laughed and told me about a man named Jim Denny.
”When I went out to Nashville the first time, I wasn’t a songwriter at all,” Tellis said. “Jim Denny had started Cedarwood Publishing company and said he wasn’t looking for stuttering singers. He was looking for copyrights. I didn`t even know I was a songwriter– but I had to do something.”
Uphill All the Way
“Well, when I went back home to Florida, I gave it a try. I wrote three songs, and they all turned out to be No. 1 country hits.”
Eventually Tillis would not only write songs, he’d go on to write books and movie scripts.”
Six years later Tillis and Clark paired up again to make a comedy western movie, “Uphill All the Way.” They had already filmed some up in Rusk, home of the Texas State Railroad. The actors and crew would be coming to stay at condos converted from the original living quarters of Fort Clark Springs, about 30 miles from Del Rio.
Because of his height, they were inquiring about Mike being cast in the movie.
Excited for Mike, I told them they were welcome to go talk to him. From a distance, it was fun observing his body language. Mike was startled and relunctant.
We talked about it during lunch. The actors and crew would be filming at Alamo Village, a movie set originally built by James “Happy” Shahan for John Wayne’s 1960 The Alamo.
Other movies filmed there included “Two Rode Together” (1961) with James Stewart, and “Bandolero!” (1968) with Stewart, Dean Martin and Raquel Welch.
Saying No to Hollywood
“Gosh Mike, your job will be waiting for you,” I said. “You should at least go meet with them, and give it a shot.”
The next morning or so he went to Alamo Village. He came back that afternoon shaking his head.
“I told them no,” he said. “Not going to do it. They want me to wear a derby hat, suspenders and frilly white shirt. No way. Because my shoe size is 18, they won’t let me wear my work boots and that’s all I have here.”
“They said something about going up around Lajitas near Big Bend (National Park) and riding in a pink car so my feet don’t show. I’m sure as hell not going to be in a movie dressed like that in a pink car.”
The good natured young man from Corsicana, Texas had said his peace. It was final!
Mike enjoyed being on the western movie lot, seeing their reconstructed Alamo, and walking on the same places John Wayne did. But it was all way out of his comfort zone.
A year or so later, shortly after the Challenger space shuttle explosion, Mike came to my office (I had been promoted and was out of the field) upset about the tragedy.
That weekend we watched the movie at a local theater and were surprised to see Glen Campbell, Burt Reynolds, Burl Ives, Sheb Wooley and TV’s Riddler, Frank Gorshin, from the 1960s Batman show, in it. Mike laughed throughout the film. In all the years I knew him, it was the only time I heard of him going to a movie theater.
Afterwards, he said he felt he would have enjoyed being in it, and revealed more about his visit to Alamo Village.
“They took me over to that old fort across the highway where everyone was staying,” he explained. “I saw where Mel Tillis was staying upstairs in one of those condos and Roy Clark was downstairs. This one guy, who seemed a little too girly, wanted to know if I wanted to go in one with him. I’m not exactly sure what he was asking for but I think he was trying to hit up or make some kind of move on me.”
“That’s when I told them to take me back to that Alamo (Village) place and get the hell out of Dodge,” he confessed and laughed. “And it did look a lot like Dodge City.”
“I’m just glad you didn’t go jump in their pool to shampoo your body in front of all those movie stars,” I teased.
Years later, I became Director of Facilities Management at H-E-B, and Mike worked in our Maintenance Department serving the Waco region. By this time he had married his sweetheart Jana, and started raising a family.
When H-E-B planned to install tortillerias in our stores, I took Mike, Richard Martin and Alex Portales to the Tortilleria manufacturer in Wittier, California near Los Angeles for certification and maintenance training.
When we arrived at John Wayne Airport on a Sunday evening, Mike was mesmerized with the 9 foot statue of “The Duke” in the terminal.
In the evenings we went to Universal Studios and Dodger Stadium. It was fun taking these guys to places they’d never dreamed they’d ever be.
We excelled in the class and earned our certifications a day early, on a Thursday morning. Because our flight back to Texas didn’t leave until Friday evening, I suggested a quick side trip.
“Where?” Richard asked. “Disneyland?”
“No, I’m kind of burned out on amusement parks,” I replied. “I was thinking y’all might want to go out to Death Valley and maybe to the Roy Rogers museum.”
It was unanimous. They all said yes. But I waited until we were well on the way before I announced “the reason I thought you wouldn’t mind coming this way…”
I could see Mike looking at me with curiosity from the rear view mirror.
“…is because it’s on the way to Las Vegas.”
Meeting John Wayne
“Waaaahoooo!,” he yelled. “Are you kidding me? Really?”
“Only on one condition,” I warned seriously. “That Mike doesn’t go jump into any of those Vegas cement ponds and take a bath.”
After we arrived in Vegas and they played awhile, I took them to another surprise: tickets to a Las Vegas show.
I could immediately tell Mike was reluctant. More interested in cranking slot machine handles, he really had no need or desire to go sit in a theater and watch any kind of performance.
I slipped the Maitre d’ a $10 bill (it was in the mid-1990s, so a ten spot would do the job). He sat us down at the center table, up against the stage. Mike’s hesitancy to being there increased. He slumped down as if just wanting to get this over.
The theater was in the Imperial Palace and the show was Legends in Concert. Fairly new back then, it has grown and spread to various venues across the world.
Just as Mike could take no more, Richard and I could see someone approaching him from behind.
Wearing a weathered, leather cowboy hat and matching vest, a blue Western-style shirt and ruddy old blue jeans, John Wayne tapped Mike on the shoulder and pushed his hand towards him.
(Legends is a tribute to world famous entertainers. John Wayne was protrayed by John Wain, whose given name was Lloyd LeBlanc. He legally changed it to Wain in 1978.)
“Hi Pilgrim,” the Duke shook Mike’s hand with the spotlight directly on him. “Stand up and stand straight and erect like you would if you were facing the American flag…”
Mike did as he was commanded and towered above the tall cowboy.
“.. Old Glory. Oh Glory me!”
The audience applauded. Mike McCormick and John Wayne were in the House!!!
“You are a tall one, aren’t Che?,” The Duke continued as the American Flag appeared on two large screens, on both sides of the stage.
“Remember when you see our flag, put your right hand over your heart, like this, and our great flag will salute back by proudly waving in the breeze.”
(Later I learned Wain served in the Marines in the early ’50s. After being honorably discharged he took a swing at a career in professional baseball — while in the Cleveland Indians’ minor-league chain, his roommate was Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s major-league’s home run record in 1961.)
The crowd roared. The flags waved. It was Mike’s finest hour.
Through the years Mike continued to mature and led all facilities operations in our North Texas stores and properties. Jana and Mike had three boys, Michael, Jerry and Christopher. They bought some acreage outside of Silver City near Corsicana and moved a double-wide mobile home on the property to raise animals and grow a garden.
In early 1998 while in San Antonio for a meeting he told me he was going to go into business on his own. After we talked for awhile, I knew he had thought it out. It was best for his family and he would stay closer to Corsicana more often.
We hugged each other, shook hands and said our good byes.
On Saturday morning, October 17, 1998, the McCormick family was sitting in their living room enjoying cartoons on television.
Mike was keeping an eye on a storm brewing and watched as it grew dark and ominous from the south.
He walked up to the back door and saw it coming through a row of trees on the back of his property. A whirling deep gray monster was coming straight at them.
‘I’ll See You in Heaven’
Mike ran to the bedroom and brought back a large mattress. The grinding noise of destruction screamed louder as he ordered everyone to the floor. Jana grabbed baby Christopher and Jerry.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told his family as he sheltered them with the mattress. “But if we don’t make it, I’ll see you in Heaven.”
Two men in a pickup driving eastbound on State Highway 31 approaching the junction at Farm Road 55, saw the raging tornado from a distance.
At 10:30 a.m. the McCormick’s home exploded. Jana was lifted through the whirling black force of mangling metal, shredding lumber and thousands of particles of glass, splinters, dirt, and other materials.
Spinning in the exploding storm, she lost Jerry. Somehow through shocking horror, she was able to keep Christopher in her grasping arms.
The men in the pickup could tell by now the mobile home and everything in it was gone. Amazingly, a shed with a goat just 50 feet away were untouched.
Little Michael survived and frantically ran towards the highway. The pickup stopped and saw the bloody boy in terror.
They searched for more survivors as someone called for emergency responders. Kerry was found in mud trying to get out. Jana was injured, not quite sure if her children had survived. Mother and children were rushed to the Columbia Navarro Regional Hospital as searchers looked for Mike.
The F-2 tornado had cut through 12.8 miles of Navarro County. Radar data and the eyewitness accounts of heavy rainfall suggest the tornado was spawned by a high-precipitation supercell…a deadly supercell.
I drove to Austin with Steve Johnson, our One Hour Photo Maintenance Technician, and picked up Richard Martin and we arrived that evening not prepared for the horror.
We tried to get to Richard sooner, but San Antonio experienced over 15 inches of rain. At one point some sections of Interstate 35 near New Braunfels were covered with over 5 feet of water.
Seeing it in person is far more devastating than what I had ever witnessed before.
“I’ll never forget just seeing that slab,” Steve recalls. Everything was splintered, totally.
At this point, for two decades I had participated in rescues, preparations and aftermaths of hurricanes, storms, fires and floods. By 1988, I led the corporate emergency command center operations for such catastrophes.
But never had I seen this much devastation in an area the size of the McCormick’s yard.
I was shown by a sheriff’s deputy the place they saw Mike’s size 18 boots sticking up out of the mud. He was carried over two football field lengths away and his back was broken on impact as his body became covered in the sludge.
“If it hadn’t been for the toes of his boots sticking up, we might still be out there looking for him,” the deputy said.
Storms in Texas that day killed four people. Forced evacuations were made across the state, especially South of Austin and in San Antonio.
The tornado was a bastard. It killed my friend. His funeral was postponed for six days while his wife tried to heal enough to be brought to the services in an ambulance.
Michael McCormick 25 Nov. 1965 Westminster CA 17 Oct. 1998 Silver City, Navarro Co. Texas
Mr. McCormick was killed when a tornado hit and flattened his mobile home near Silver City on Oct. 17, 1998. Services were held Oct. 23, at Griffin-Roughton Chapel, Corsicana. Burial followed at Hamilton-Beeman Cemetery, Retreat.
“Mike” is survived by his wife, Jana McCormick; sons, Michael, Jerry and Christopher; parents, Michael and Val McCormick, Corsicana; brother and sister-in-law, Danny and Lisa Pownall of Corsicana; two nieces and two nephews. Mike’s wife and three sons suffered severe injuries in the twister but are recuperating.
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Many of the questions and concerns RVers, Motorcyclists, and Campers have are solved with mutual respect, courtesy and common sense.
Here are the “Seven C’s of Camping:”
1. Care – We will care how we camp by being considerate of others.
2. Caution – We will use caution in the use of camping equipment both on the road and at the campsite. We will handle fire and flammable fuels so as not to endanger others or ourselves. We will improve our camping skills, knowing the right way is the safest way.
3. Courtesy – We will practice politeness because it enhances the camping experience. We will respect the privacy of others, control our children and leash our dogs.
4. Cleanliness – We will be clean in our camping habits and teach our children the importance of cleanliness. We will pick up litter no matter who left it and be proud of the campsites we leave behind.
5. Cooperation – We will observe the letter and spirit of camping regulations and rules established to protect our enjoyment of the outdoors. We will work cooperatively with others to make it better for everyone.
6. Conservation – We will protect the environment in which we enjoy camping and help those whose job it is to guard and wisely manage our country’s natural resources. We will endeavor to leave a better outdoors for those who follow us.
The first new state park in North Texas in 20 years will be Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.
It is located on 4,421 acres of scenic, undeveloped land 75 miles west of Fort Worth and 75 miles east of Abilene, near Strawn in Palo Pinto County.
Plans are underway for campsites to include RV sites, as well as walk-in tent sites and primitive camping areas. Picnic areas and playgrounds will provide gathering places for small and large groups.
The park fronts 4.7 miles on Palo Pinto Creek in the Cross Timbers ecoregion and contains diverse topography with extraordinary conservation and recreational potential.
Several 1,400-foot peaks, the 90-acre Tucker Lake, and two creeks surrounded by stands of live oak, mesquite, cedar elms and native pecan trees will provide a wonderful setting for hiking, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, and stargazing.
Palo Pinto Creek meanders near the northern border of the park. A dam on Russel Creek impounds the 90-acre Tucker Lake, the centerpiece of the park.
Currently, as development continues, Tucker Lake is open for fishing until park construction begins. You do not need a fishing license to fish here!
Parking is limited, and the lake does not have a boat ramp. They allow boats with electric motors (no gas motors).
The impact on RVing and camping from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has been considerable.
Before 2020, State Parks were beginning to generate almost $900 million in sales activity.
In 2019 there was a $245 million impact on the incomes of Texas residents, and supported an estimated 6,109 jobs throughout the state.
The real power is the impact that state parks have on their local economies. Places like Galveston, Bastrop and Amarillo benefit economically from the thousands of visitors who flock to their communities to visit the state parks.
“State and local parks are important to our state’s economy and help preserve our Texas way of life,” said Dennis Bonnen. “With more than 10 million visitors annually, it’s clear that Texans support and enjoy our parks, and we should do all we can to make sure future generations can continue to do so.”
A decade of public opinion surveys show that Texans overwhelmingly support the parks and conservation of Texas’ natural areas. The latest survey showed 84 percent of all voters agreed with the statement: “Unless we protect Texas’ natural areas, we will lose the very things that make Texas a special place in which to live.”
Our grandfather, Bassett Arthur was a cook in the Navy Seabees primarily in the Philippines in World War II. After the war he remained a chef and cook at restaurants in Brady and Abilene, Texas.
He just happened to be the great nephew of Charlie Bassett, the legendary first sheriff/marshal of Dodge City. Kansas (The fictional one was more famous: Marshal Matt Dillion of TV’s Gunsmoke).
I was mesmerized as a young boy, having the honor sitting on a red Naugahyde bar stool peering over the counter of the Bell Diner watching his magic.
Like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, Grandpa would twirl, wave, and manipulate his spatulas across his grill and pans like no other.
He left me several of his cook books and handwritten recipes, many I’ve enjoyed over the years. (Check out his Green Beans Salad here.)One of my favorites is his macaroni salad. Here’s my version that I’ve modified to near perfection and have received many compliments for. Enjoy.
One 16-ounce package salad macaroni pasta
1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup yellow or white onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup medium Cheddar, diced
1 cup Swiss cheese, diced
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1 cup salami, diced or bacon, crumbled
1 cup dill pickles, diced
1 cup diced or sliced black olives
1 tablespoon H-E-B garlic salt
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to heat preference. I like more, but this is a key secret ingredient).
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1. Add 2 quarts of water to a medium stockpot and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and cook about 9 minutes (or according to package directions. Don’t overcook to prevent it from falling apart when tossing. Rinse until cool. Drain well and let it dry out a little bit.
2. Add pasta to a large bowl. Gently fold in onion, celery, cheeses ,salami (or bacon) dill pickles, and black olives. Refrigerate uncovered, overnight (or at the very least 2 hours).
3. Mix the garlic salt, minced garlic, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, dry mustard and celery salt together. Add to salad. Fold in the pimentos. Fold in 1/2 cup of mayonnaise at a time. Refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Forefather of Rock and Roll Became a Moonshine Bootlegger
“If I had any ambition, it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup,” Elvis Presley once said of the man who wrote “That’s All Right,” his first commercial record release.
In a 1972 conversation in what is now referred to as the “Jungle Room” of Presley’s Memphis home, Graceland, he decided to honor Crudup during his live performances.
“I want to begin each show with That’s All Right Mama,” he announced to friend Charlie Hodge. “If it weren’t for Big Boy, I might not be here today.”
“Big Boy” was Crudup. Elvis had grown up in Tupelo, Mississippi and spent his teenager years listening to many of the Delta Blues singers of his youth.
It was common for Elvis to bestow on friends and relatives special nicknames, perhaps as ordinary as it was for Blues artists to be labeled by their industry.
Riley B. King became B.B. King by WDIA radio, short for “Blues Boy.” Other examples include:
McKinley Morganfield = Muddy Waters Ellas Bates McDonald= Bo Diddley Chester Arthur Burnett = Howlin’ Wolf Eddie Jones = Guitar Slim Lizzie Douglas = Memphis Minnie
Arthur Dwight Moore = Gatemouth Samuel Maghett = Magic Sam John Luther Jones = Casey Jones Booker T. Washington White = Bukka White = Washington White
Bernard Williams = Bunny Williams Robert Walker = Bilbo Walker Thessex Jones = Johnny Drummer David Edwards = Honeyboy Edwards Robert Potts = Dr. Feelgood
Richard Harney = Hacksaw Harney Calvin Jones = Fuzz Jones Curtis Williams = Mississippi Bo George Buford = Mojo Buford Gus Cannon = Banjo Joe
Joe Lee Williams = Big Joe John Wesley Macon = Mr. Shortstuff Walter Horton = Shakey = Big Walter Walter Lewis = Furry Lewis
“During Elvis’s teen years in Memphis he could hear blues on Beale Street, just a mile south of his family’s home,” states the Elvis Presley and the Blues marker at his birthplace in Tupelo.
Elvis recorded two more Crudup songs: “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine.”
Replacing the introduction song “C.C.Rider,” with “That’s All Right” became as much of a fan pleasing standard as ending each concert with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” until his final 1977 appearance.
Crudup, also known throughout his career as Elmer Crudup and Percy Lee Crudup, was 30 years old when Elvis was born in 1935. He died in 1974 at age 68, not long after Elvis honored him with his opening song.
Born into a family of traveling workers in Forrest, Mississippi, he returned to his birthplace at age 26 to sing Gospel music.
With lessons and mentoring by Papa Harvey, like many musicians from the Delta Blues region, he went to Chicago in 1940.
He’d been a singing member of the Harmonizing Four in Clarksdale, Mississippi and when they travel to Chicago in 1939, he became excited about the developing opportunities.
As a solo artist singing in the streets, record producer Lester Melrose discovered him just in time. Crudup had been living in a packing crate at the 39th Street L Train elevated track.
He was introduced to Tampa Red who advised him to “do what you can do. What you can’t do, forget about it?”
According to Bill Dahl, a music biographer writing in the All Music Guide, Melrose hired Crudup to play a party one night at the house of Red, a celebrated bluesman from Georgia. The party was attended by other blues stars, including Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and Lil Green.
“A decidedly tough crowd to impress,” Dahl writes, “but Crudup overcame his nervousness with flying colors.”
Red signed him to a contract with the RCA Victor Bluebird label.
“That’s All Right,” along with “Mean Old Frisco Blues” and “Who’s Been Fooling You” became more popular in the South than in Chicago.
Elvis likely first heard “That’s All Right” at age 11, at is peak, in Tupelo. The Presley’s lived adjacent to African-American neighborhoods and often heard the sounds of blues and gospel streaming out of clubs, churches and various venues.
“The lack of prejudice on the part of Elvis Presley,” said Sam Phillips, the Sun Records founder who first recorded Elvis and many Black blues artists before him, “had to be one of the biggest things that ever happened. It was almost subversive, sneaking around through the music, but we hit things a little bit, don’t you think?”
Crudup stopped recording in 1954 before Elvis’s first single appeared, realizing “I was making everybody rich, and here I was poor.”
Some in the business (and music historians) called Crudup “The Father of Rock and Roll,” others said he was “The Forefather of Rock and Roll.”
Working as a laborer to get by, he returned to the studio and touring in 1965. After royalty disputes, he went back to Mississippi and became a bootlegger.
Later he moved to Virginia to be with family. He worked as a field laborer, sang some and supplied moonshine to juke joints.
There were battles for his royalties the remainder of his life. By 1971, he’d collected about $10,000 in overdue royalties.
His last professional engagements, at blues festivals and college campuses, were with singer Bonnie Raitt.
Besides Elvis, others who covered Crudup’s songs include Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, the Beatles. Slade, Led Zeppelin. Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and Elton John.
“Down in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Elvis once told a white reporter for The Charlotte Observer in 1956, he used to listen to Crudup, who used to “bang his box the way I do now, and I said if I ever got to the place where I could feel all old Arthur felt, I’d be a music man like nobody ever saw.”
1968 was deemed the beginning of the ‘Age of Aquarius’ by some, but honestly, it was a tough year.
I was an awkward preteen, not turning 13 until December. In San Antonio, we held the World’s Fair, Hemisfair 68, from April 6 to October 6.
The day I’ll never forget was June 6.
It marks the anniversary of the assassination of Robert Frances Kennedy. He was tragically killed not even five years after the assassination of his brother President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Senator Kennedy, a candidate for President was shot three times—once in the head and twice in the back—with a fourth bullet passing through his jacket.
That night I followed live news from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and across the nation with coverage on my transistor radio until sunlight the next morning. Reports indicated his condition was not good. He died almost 26 hours later at Good Samaritan Hospital.
Often referred in newspapers and media as RFK, I guessed it was because they did the same with his brother, JFK.
When JFK was elected, RFK (also known as Bobby) became the 64th United States Attorney General.
He served from January 1961 to September 1964, and as a U.S. Senator from New York from January 1965 until his death.
RFK left a strong impression just two months before when another leader referred by his initials, MLK, was assassinated.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot from a distance standing out a hotel room balcony in Memphis on April 4, 1968. The country was disillusioned. Millions were angry.
Bobby Kennedy was in Indianapolis to speak to crowd of mostly African-Americans, most who had not heard of Dr. Kings death.
A burden fell upon Kennedy to share the tragic news. He appealed for calm by acknowledging not only their pain, but his own abiding grief over the murder of his brother.
Bobby Kennedy looked down and solemnly quoted a variation of an ancient poem by Aeschylus (526-456 BC):
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom from the awful grace of God.”
“Wisdom through the awful grace of God” is a remarkable and meaningful statement.
It means God’s grace fills us with awe and gives us the opportunity to grow in wisdom during life’s most difficult moments.
That August, of 1968, was the most horrific of my life. I witnessed a beating and someone I love placed a gun to my head. Before he could cock it, under horrific duress, I had the instinct, or the “wisdom” to kneel and pray.
God answered my prayer.
Later, when I talked with Pastor Randall of Bellaire Baptist Church in his home, he shared James 1:1-8 with me. The verse I keep dear to my heart is this:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James says that this wisdom is grown in the soil of hardship. We not only learn from wisdom of God, we can rest–Be Still–in the grace of God.
I posted “Tell me something about yourself that sounds made up but is 100% true.” Hundreds replied, all interesting, some incredible. Here are some of the answers. “✔” received the most attention.
Kathy Alexander Power: I was electrocuted and died.
Ray Morris: I had a small part in a porn flick
Johnny Means: I spent a night with headhunters on the island of Borneo.
✔Karl Link: My dad n 8 other crew members in a refueling plane in Air Force, were lost in Bermuda Triangle in 1962, when I was 4 n my brother was one.
My mom still has all the telegrams, from Air Force telling her what was going on, during those 6 weeks. Their little story in a book called Limbo of the Lost…I’ve carried a copy of that article in “all” of my wallets, since I was 20… my mom had a rough beginning, first dad goes missing, then I’m 10, n brother dies at 7 from leukemia…
just me n my mom from then on, she finally remarried when I was about 25. They were married about 30 yrs. n he died from a stroke. She’s 81 n still living in Helotes, by herself, but has a ton of church friends, who keep an eye on her for me. I live in Dallas. I’ll move her up here, if the time comes.
Yeah, my whole life, the looks on people’s faces, or their reactions, when they hear about my dad n the triangle…
I guess not too many people know anyone who has experienced the triangle mystery. What’s even worse is he was in for 2 years, civilian life for a year, but couldn’t find a good job, so re-enlisted, then bam…I remember reading one of the last telegrams, about 6 weeks after missing, that said not one piece of anything from plane was ever found…
Holly Friesenhahn: I can shoot the bird with my middle toe
Deborah A. Clary: I write upside down.
Donna Brady: I can sing the National Anthem with a fabulous soprano voice without missing a beat or the lyrics.
Valerie Loop: I don’t have a belly button.
Chuck Ellenwood: I have a green thumb.
Dortha Ayres: I hitchhiked from San Antonio, TX to Denver, CO.
Sandy McCulloch: Owned/operated 18wheeler, hauled cattle, chickens and produce throughout U.S.
✔Catherine Schwartz: I was abducted when I was 4 1/2 years old after becoming seperated from my mother and younger brothers while shopping in downtown Liverpool, U.K. (birthplace). A well dressed young woman told me she would help find my mummy. We got into a backseat of a car and sped off. Long story short, I left through a back door while the couple were fighting. I believe to this day, God led me out of that dangerous situation. Was found by police walking on a road. Had been gone 13 hours. Police told my mother she was lucky to get me back. I’ve been ‘lucky’ ever since.
Carlene Gladman: I called the Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati and pleaded my case for tickets to see Elvis in March 21st 1976… I told him, I just had to see him, as I never am in time to buy the tickets….he told me if I can get to Sears in 45 min…they will come through their teletron, he’d only be in his office for that amount of time, if they would say there are sold out, then call my number, and Sears did, and my tickets came through…..almost down in front…..now who would ever think of calling the Chamber of Commerce, it just came to me, best time of my life!!!
Denise Cryer Haenel: I used to wear real lizards as earrings.
✔Susan Jackson Belsey: I am related to Micheal Jackson, cousins.
Michael T. Dennis: According to my wife(since I can’t see it), I have a nipple on my left buttock.
Kathleen Richardson-Prager: 1. I have over 100 Dopeys , yes Disney’s Dopey , they are all different. 2. I have photographed 57 of Prince Edward Island’s 60 lighthouses ( 3 are accessible only by boat).
Jamie Joslin: I survived a yard dart to the noggin’.
Cindy Oates Couch: I have giving birth to 3 sets of twins.
Tina Zoe Carpenter-Kannady: I’ve had 6 back surgeries.I saw Elvis Presley in concert in 1976 when I was 14 years old.
✔Bill Barrett: I fell out of a bed of a truck when I was 10 years old ,the truck was traveling between 40-50 mph didn’t even get a scratch !
Kristen Springer: I have belly danced with lights on my costume, the downtown streets of San Antonio in the pouring rain Fiesta flambeau 2013
Geneva Lang: I married when 15 years old in 1961 still married to the same man!
✔Kyle Brittain: I once blew myself up while attempting to clear a gas leak. Leak successfully cleared! It was pretty epic! It blew me off my feet and I landed on the prep station. My friend on the other side of the line said the entire kitchen was a fire ball, wall to wall. Not sure how I didn’t get burned.
Patti Ortiz: My dad use to throw fireworks at me on New Years or 4th of July when I was a kid.
Mitzi Keeton: I once cleaned human brains off the floor and walls after someone committed suicide in my son’s home.
Kathy Callahan Cury: I ran away from home and joined a circus
Mike Clary: I once nearly blew myself up while trying to ignite a very old jar of black powder !!! 勞 Thanks to my brother John Clary… Oh and I had a 5-1/2’ pet Rattlesnake in my bedroom in a aquarium for several years…
Roger Robinson: I performed on stage with Willie Nelson
Joe Bernal: I worked at the airport in San Antonio for American Airlines before I moved to Arlington. I upgraded a couple going on their honeymoon from coach to first class. Elsa Anaya (high school classmate) was the bride in that party of 2.
Christopher Tebo: I am direct decendent of Leopold I, II and III the Princes of Anhalt-Dessau. Two of these were Fieldmarshalls in the wars of Austrian, Spanish and Bavarian Successions; and also during the Seven Years War all fighting for the kings of Prussia.
Also decended from William of Orange. Albert the Bear who founded Berlin. And am descended from William the Conqueror too.
I am also related to Catherine the Great(she is from the House of Anhalt too) Empress of Russia (she was crazy). And am decended from the House of Hannover which later became the Windsors going back to George the 1st but my connection is further back. This also means I am related to the Kaiser of Germany and Czar Alexander of Russia. As well as the current queen of England and her family.
All of this from my mother’s side of the family. Technically she is the Baroness Von Seherr-Thoss. The old land holding is in Braunfels, Germany belonging to her great grandmother. I have no clue as to the disposition of the property since WWI or WWII. As her only child, I would inherit her title if ever reactivated.
I only discovered much of this, this month. My mother did tell me of being descended from William the Conqueror but I thought it must have been of indirect decent.
On my father’s side we had an ancestor that fought in the American Revolution for only a few months. This means my ancestors fought on opposing sides of the Revolution… lol He changed his name from Frankenburg to Frankenberry due to anti-Hessian sentiment.
Marvin Hepworth: I once spent an hour trying to talk a cop out of arresting me for something I didn’t do, while my cousin hid in the bathroom.
Patti Herred Werley: My grandfather donated Santa Anna’s pistols to a museum in Austin.
Bob Berger: My uncle was a demolition engineer in Hitlers Army during WWII.
Debbie Berger: I was a disco dance instructor
Peg Watson Malicki: I am more Native American Indian then Elizabeth Warren!
Sheryl Marker: I was John Schneider’s (aka Bo Duke) bodyguard during an event in San Antonio.
Dodie McMeans: I met Jimmy Buffet when he had his recording studio on the island of Montserrat. Before the volcano blew.
Debbie Anderson Crowther: I have 2 grandchildren who are descendants of Lucy Maude Montgomery. For those that don’t know who she is she wrote Anne of Green Gables
Dominique Marie: I was invited on the Ellen and Oprah show ♀️
Linda Bachhofer: I jumped off a moving train!
Barbara Cullum Masters: I broke my back rollerskating down parking garage ramp
Jennifer Manning Dunmire: I took accordion lessons when I was in elementary school.
Judith Coghlin Lewis: Years ago I saw Mohammed Ali in the Atlanta Airport I ran up to meet him and on my tiptoes I could barely tap him on his shoulder. He was very nice to me !!! I am 5’7 inches tall and my head was just a bit above his waistline. He was huge
John Anglin: I’m related to LBJ
✔William Hammac: I was hit by a car when I was 6, ran over by a car when I was 10, and ran into a van when I was 14, and fell out of a van when I was 18.
Lisa Thomson: I’m not a natural blonde. No it’s true.
Wallace Dunn: I flew on Con-Air shackled hand and foot.
Michael Kotze: I used to race pigeons as a kid with my grandfather.
Gary Roe: I was in a play at Magik Children’s Theatre. I was also in the movie, Johnnie B Good.
Stephen Moody: I once swam a flooding San Antonio River to kill a 200lb hog my dogs had bayed. He jumped in the river, swam towards me and we wrestled in the rushing water until he drowned.
✔Diane Runyan Johnson: I was pronounced dead at 18! My dad said no she’s not! I could hear him but I couldn’t answer! I was above the bed and watching them work on me! And I’m here today cause my dad keep telling them I wasn’t dead! I’ll be 69 this year! (I can remember it like it was yesterday)
Traci Doherty Mercui: I jumped off a ferry into the Atlantic the day after a shark tournament for the swim leg of a triathlon on purpose… three years in a row.
Vicki DiMambro: I was so shy in school that I couldn’t talk to anyone, but now I have over 20.000 YouTube subscribers.
Glenda Coyle: I carhopped for a restaurant in Florida wearing short shorts and roller skates! Lol!
Dale Inman: I spent 13 hours in a hyperbaric chamber
Rick Linn: I wrote and recorded a blues/r&b song that was actually played at a wedding.
✔Bill Schoening: I was the AP Radio correspondent for 29 lethal injections at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.
Steve Butcher: I once sat in the back seat of a limo alone with Joey Heatherton.
Melody Green Booth: After engaging in conversation and Bible back & forth for over an hour, a Jehovah’s witness said he had to go when his people were gathering and waiting for him.
LonnieandJeanneMurdock: I once flew in a piper cub airplane with my Dad & we went so low that we were under the high line wires! Scared the bejesus out of me!
Susan Banta Farris: I arrested Ann Richards. (Former Governor of Texas).
✔Nancy Davis: When I was 15 I met a rock n roll band, was held up in their hotel room while everyone was looking for me
Abigail Hepworth: I once crossed a flooded river jumping over logs and stuff on the way so I could get my dance bag that I then had to carry above my head on the way back so it wouldn’t get wet. Wasn’t even late for ballet class
Walter Hepworth: Myself and my crew were held hostage and forced at gunpoint to make pizzas for 10hrs… Patrick Swayze was a frequent customer of mine at Pizza Hut.
✔K.C. James: I’m 60 and have never had a soda of any kind in my life..
Martin Klein: I rode an elephant in my backyard…My grandmother was my dad’s first wife. Had she lived I would never have been born.
Roy Stroman: Was part of a movie in Japan
Lois Pickart: I have a picture with Tina Turner backstage at one of her concerts.
Gayle Brown Land: I was at a party with Telly Savalis, Bo Derek, Gene Hackman, Wayne Rogers, and behind Jimmy Conner’s at a concession stand buying a hamburger.
Gayla Huerta: I bribed a Mexican prison warden to spend the night in their not so nice facility.
Roger Perry: Does being friends with Elvis’s cousin count , or dinning with General Patton’s Grandson, or flying with a cousin of Alvin York, or meeting the pitcher whose first MLB game tossed a no hitter?….Mork is my cousin!
Sandra Kivett Leonard: I am seventy plus & have never been drunk; not even close!
✔Sherry Freitag: I fell out of my family’s car on Military Drive. Lost my two front teeth, split my lip, and hurt my big toe.
Belinda Creekmore Zimmerman: I was a pregnant roughneck in the west Texas oilfields in 1980. I broke my back 3 times and am still not paralyzed.
Cindy Pozos: Ramon has swam in the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico before he was 13 years old… Ramon and I climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and saw both ends of a rainbow in Mexico on our honeymoon
Allison Clark: I caddied in a foursome in Heidelberg, Germany in 1969 with General Westmoreland, General Polk, Lieutenant General Hinches and Lieutenant General Taylor. General Westmoreland had relinquished command in Vietnam and the Pentagon sent him to Germany for R&R. He arrived in street clothes. The golf club gave him new clubs, new bag and new golf shoes and sent him out to play. We all rode-in in golf carts from the 15th hole because Westmoreland said the new shoes pinched his feet…I met President Reagan at Walter Reed AMC and Bush 43 at Madigan AMC, Ft Lewis when they came to visit. I met SecDef Rumsfeld, twice in the same tour, in Baghdad in 2007. I gave Toby Keith a hospital tour when he visited the same year…I met Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long in Kosovo in 2003…My great, great, great, great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War with the New Jersey state militia in 1777. His son, my great, great, great grandfather fought in the War of 1812, US 15th Infantry Regiment, 1812 to 1817.
Carol Watson: I’m 55 and use to play rugby league
Rosario Perez Polanco: one year I took my children to the public library where they had arts and crafts and the media took my photo along with two of my children. We came out in the paper. On TV, I was working the Santa booth, part time, and TV crews snapped a video of me taking pictures of kids with Santa and saying, “say cheese”.
John Marsh: I received 2nd place in a Texas State swing dance competition in 1987.
✔Carol Nowell: Elvis kissed me four times!!
✔Tim Langston: I was named by the Big Bopper
✔Suzanne Pope Kirchstein: I had Ozzie Osborne kicked out of a night club in 1982.
Kay Lett: Well I did play hooky and go roller skating the day JFK got shot. Yes sisters got home before me and I was in some kinda trouble.
✔Susan Galle Garner: My ancestor Johann Gottfried Galle helped discover NEPTUNE (it’s also in the National Space Museum in Washington) and therefore is a crater on the moon named Galle and it looks like a smiley face.
✔Patricia Hensen: I lived a block from Lee Harvey’s Oswald. Did not know his family!!
Andrienne Hurley Wagenknecht: Rode on a plane and Ted Nugent he sat just ahead of us.
Doug Clark: In my party days, I use to stand on my head and drink a beer
Joanne Cruz Tenery: I’ve got 2: (1) Pete Incaviglia has my number and calls occasionally regarding his baseball teams. (2) I first talked with Don Henley as we crossed the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. I knew he looked familiar, and I thought he might have been someone from high school or college. The second time, we were paying our checks at Mia’s Tex Mex restaurant in Dallas, and chatted about the food. I have never encountered my next door neighbors ANYwhere, yet I’ve chatted with Don Henley twice.
Bob Haenel: I have been on the federal taxation rolls since I was 13 years old.
Ted Shedd: As a kid. I jumped off a 3 story building in a snow pile I just shoveled off a roof in Vermont
Connie Winters Hearne: I was robbed at gun point a few years ago at Rollings Oaks Mall. Only had $5.00 cash. Lol
Bobbe Bergen Dennis: I had lunch with Isaac Perlman, ultra violinist. Just the two of us and an interviewer.
George Cook: 1985 I dreamed about the Space Shuttle launch and explosion in October and 3 months later on my mother’s birthday January 28th 1986 it happened…1986 I met Barbara Eden at the Emmy awards in Pasadena California. I was driving limousine and she thought I was her driver! I said “I wish I was!” Then we both turned towards the media and smiled. I looked good in a tuxedo!
Debbie Riddle: I got to visit with Debbie Reynolds as we rode in the limousine together going to Bush Intercontinental Airport. Also got to sit next to Charlton Heston at a special dinner. But the best of all, I get to be the wife of Mike Riddle and enjoy an amazing life with him. We also are so blessed to have all our kids and grandkids. That is an amazing blessing…I was named chairman of a gala – so I could choose the theme. Because I love Audrey Hepburn I wanted it to be the theme of “Run For The Roses”. My dress was made in NY an exact replica of the one Ms. Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady. We brought some of our show horses & Clay Walker brought some of his horses. We walked those horses down the center isle at Shirley Acres (it was new) & everyone had a great time. Clay Walker even sang a few songs! It was an amazing and most unusual evening!
✔Dawn Anthony: I almost drowned in a hotel swimming pool at Rockport TX when I was 7, and had an outer body experience. I ran into the Street when I was eight and let a car drive over me because I was centered, they were pissed. My coat got caught in the door when my mom drop me off at school like we are you were in fast and knocked on the window she stopped. I was hit by a truck’s side mirror on graduation night at 35 mph, Threw me on to the hood of my car, I was standing by my door. I ran into the back of a delivery truck, pushed the dash into my lap. I blocked a suicide bomber from entering the dining facility in Afghanistan.A sniper came within 6 inch from my head in Afghanistan. I survived a horrific storm in a small private plane. I survived a fire on a commercial airline and got to go down the yellow blowup slide. I survived the big earthquake in Seattle 2001. I received a direct commission on my birthday and the next morning 9/11 occurred. I shattered my right ankle in an accident last year.
Jane Fore: I kissed George Straight at a New Year concert!
Howard Kern: Won a regional acting award
Carey Hill: Married my husband 20 May 2000, he was 29 & I was 47! Yes, you read that correctly! On Friday the 13th of June 2003 I was laid off from Southwestern Bell after 29 years & 7 months but because I had turned 50 the November before, I actually got to retire.
During Thanksgiving week 2005 I started school for 3 weeks for my next career & in January 2006, I became a team truck driver w/my husband & our dog – our only child, our daughter (she was his by then because he adopted her 13 August 2003) was in the US Army stationed in South Korea, so why not? In 18 months, my hubby, our dog & I saw 41 states! This is one beautiful country. I called myself a PPT – a paid, professional tourist!
My ride came to an abrupt halt when we lost our wonderful son-in-law to a sniper bullet in Afghanistan 23 June 2007 when his son, my only grandchild was only 9 months old (he’s 13 now & the light of our lives!). At our daughter’s request I got off the truck, a wonderful ole Freightliner to stay w/her & the baby. My 49 y/o hubster & I (I’m 67 now!) will celebrate 20 years of marriage in a coupla weeks on 20 May 2020 & that’s my greatest accomplishment – my family!
Delicia Dawn: I was a bud light girl ambassador for Budweiser!
Bailey Watson: I was dropped from an 8 story tower.
Mi Mi Chucki: It was my experiences documented that had a Governor illegally jailed, pardoned, and Clinton being forced to sign United States Public Law 103-150 The “Apology Resolution” For it I have lived in quarantine for the last 22 years forced to close my business doors over night to stay alive just like everyone else is now. I am like JFK Jr Andrew Breitbart and many many others who chose life
Deborah Buckner Grona: My niece married the Governor of Michigan, John Engler, and had triplets in 1994.
✔Cheryl O’Keefe Sjodin: Elvis kissed me and it was awesome
Wesley B. Fletcher: I’m a licensed contractor who has 3 diff jobs!
Perris Marie: I was named after a squirrel in a Disney, live-action adaptation of a children’s story book, “Perri, the squirrel”. My mom loved the name Perri but she didn’t think it would be a good name for a grown woman. So, she added an “s” to the end.
Sandra Heflin: I was in a Coke commercial at age 3. In spite of being abandoned by my parents and raised solo by my Grandmother who lived in abject poverty, I had a Nanny who took me all over the globe from 8 weeks until I was 8 years old.
I have a history of “just doing” things like walking into a newspaper office and asking for a job. I walked out with a Reporter job at the age of 16. A couple of months later, a teacher suggested I audition for a play in a nearby town. I accidentally got the lead role and then had to figure out how to travel 20 miles to rehearsal.
In college, a Professor complained that the Honors Program was being defunded. I called the Texas Governor’s office and got us an appointment to talk about it. The program was saved and mysteriously got double the funding the next year.
I became the Matriarch of my family at age 32. I’ve almost died twice. I took a startup from seven states to 24 states and 7 countries with zero marketing budget and some creative LinkedIn tactics. I now have a Marketing/PR firm and I get to build other people’s companies, which is so much fun. I have a TEENAGER who has no attitude. I have been married/divorced twice and finally met the love of my life last year. It’s been a rollercoaster and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Steve Yancey: I spent a few hours with Robert Redford on a trip to Rome in 1974. Late night flight to Rome from JFK. I was on my way to Tehran. It was via Pan Am. (note to Jack…You know why I was on that trip)
John Tice: A six time world championship shootist (James Ted Bonnett) wanted me to join his team after shooting against me
Mitzi Keeton: I once covered my house and car with polka dots to piss off the homeowner’s association.
Lora Miller Machost: I went to an elementary school football game at the local deaf school to see one my new stepsons play, on my wedding day, after the limousine dropped us off at the hotel…
✔Linda Robbins: The FBI knocked on my door, and asked me what I knew about the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. I had lived in Michigan, but was living in New Jersey, had an Italian boyfriend who was road manager for a popular group, all Italians. I had dinner with their friends many times.. “Italian businessmen.”. I told them I only knew what I had read, and heard, and though a family member, and some friends had worked in the auto industry, been in the Union, I never met the man. Within a month, for several reasons, I had moved to another state, away from my Italian friends.
Elizabeth Ames Coleman: I was yelled at by incarcerated terrorists at our Guantanamo Bay detainment facility ( jail) which was by the way state of the art, cushy, and provided organic olive oil to those terrorists who demanded it)
Guy McKeon: I have actually touched a nuclear weapon, ah more than once!
Doug Becker Sr.: Guy McKeon me too
Marvin Hepworth: I met and told Bob Hope a Joke. He didn’t laugh.
✔Marrianne Sorhi Lonergan: At the age of 5 or six I was with my Dad in a small Wisconsin town almost to the upper Mi. peninsula. There was a pin ball machine near me but Dad had no change. A man he was having a beer with said: “Here kid!” and handed me some change. It was Ralph Capone- Al’s brother.
Walter Ripps: I had three holes drilled in my head
We received blessings due to the struggles and challenges of spring and summer 2020. Stressed from the pandemic lockdowns, furloughs and news in general, we made significant life changes.
Beyond enjoying and experimenting more with cooking, baking, walking, biking and creative adventures, we went into radical and serious mode.
Our make ‘lemons to lemonade’ strategies included moving further away into the Texas Hill Country, spending more quality time with family, and cutting costs big time.
Along the way, traveling and visiting close ones, we naturally gravitated to a destressful interest.
Birdwatching might be the perfect hobby or getaway in your own backyard.
You don’t even need to order anything from Amazon to get started. All you need are ears, eyes, and an outdoors view.
At a recent long overdue visit to an old high school friend’s home, we noticed he had several bird feeders set up outside windows of his house.
Randy Potts was able to identify several bird types, Cardinal, Mockingbird, and Woodpeckers. He keeps a birdwatching guide on hand when he needs help.
We learned that stepping out into our own backyard is a great way to get started while breaking cabin fever.
I dusted off my own guide to determine what birds are native to the area we live in or where we are traveling. It’s also easy searching the internet.
We discovered there are good birding apps available for downloading. Some of the most popular and easy to use are the Merlin app and Sibley app. These include a map of our area, and information about the birds we are likely to see. It’s also a good opportunity to use the pair of binoculars I had lying around. No worries. We’re able to spot many different species of birds with the naked eye.
Some researchers keep a journal, or record of the birds they spot.
During road trips in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas we’ve noticed that birds we spot in the early morning often differ from the late afternoon visitors. Spring is a particularly great time to start birdwatching as migration and nesting season are underway.
When I was a kid and heard my parents or grandparents get excited about a bird or some wildflowers, I just nodded and didn’t give them much thought.
Not only am I appreciative of those memories, but have found myself captivated by different colors and markings on different birds.
Dodie engages all of her senses and it’s caused me to realize how my ears are a great birding tool. Like in childhood, I take a moment to listen to the sounds the birds are making.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell which bird is making what sound when you’ve spotted a cluster in a tree. A bird singing in plain sight is a great way to connect the sound to the bird.
With some time and effort, I’m recognizing different species of birds by sound alone.
A benefit has been developing more patience and persistence. They are key.
Eventually we’ve determined what time of day birds in our area are most active, and we start spotting new birds.
Keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind to make your time birdwatching a fun and educational experience:
DON’T go crazy worrying about the right equipment or the perfect space.
DO work with what you have, even if it’s simply your two eyes and two ears. No perfect space required. Enjoy birdwatching from your backyard, a patch of land in the front yard, or a small balcony off your city apartment.
DON’T beat yourself up if you have an ‘unproductive’ outing. View any time you spend outside or gazing out the window as an opportunity to build on your birding knowledge.
DO keep in mind that you are getting fresh air and Vitamin D.
DON’T make yourself crazy with birding goals that may not be attainable. If you become obsessed with spotting some rare bird, you will miss the birds that are right under your nose.
DO be sure to focus on the sights and sounds of whatever birds visit your backyard.
Birdwatching during quarantine or on our road trips has become good antidote to cabin fever. It’s a chance to get some fresh air and sunshine, and a great way to keep our eyes and ears sharp.
It’s good for our souls and gets us closer to nature. It feels like we are doing more than just existing in front of a television, video game or Internet.
In November 2019 actress-singer Ann-Margret was presented with the first-ever Bob Hope Legacy Award for her many contributions to the USO and American servicemembers.
She deserved it.
In March 1966, Margret went to remote parts of Vietnam with entertainers Chuck Day and Mickey Jones for her first USO tour. Not only in Vietnam, but they performed for servicemen throughout South-East Asia.
Today she continues her sincere affection for veterans and refers to them as “my gentlemen”. In November 2005 Ann-Margret, Day, and Jones reunited for an encore of this tour for veterans and troops at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Recently, Navy Veteran and high school friend Ray Hammonds posted a wonderful story from a wife of one of those soldiers in attendance during one of her USO tours:
Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam, other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8 x 10 black and white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.
A few years ago, Ann Margret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to Sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o’clock for the 7:30 signing.
When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage. Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted.
Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI’s so far from home.. Ann Margret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard’s turn.
He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, “I understand. I just wanted her to see it.”
She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, “This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for ‘my gentlemen.” With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to-do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren’t too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he were the only one there.
That night was a turning point for him. He walked a little straighter and, for the first time in years, was proud to have been a Vet. I’ll never forget Ann Margaret for her graciousness and how much that small act of kindness meant to my husband.
Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he’d like to talk about it, my big, strong husband broke down in tears.. ”That’s the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army,” he said.
I now make it a point to say ‘Thank you’ to every person I come across who served in our Armed Forces. Freedom does not come cheap and I am grateful for all those who have served their country.
Ann Margret’s first major movie role was 1963 as the all-American teenager Kim from Sweet Apple, Ohio, in Bye Bye Birdie. Producers wanted Elvis Presley in the title role but were turned down.
The next year Ann-Margret met Elvis Presley on the MGM soundstage when the two filmed Viva Las Vegas. She recorded three duets with Presley for the movie: “The Lady Loves Me”, “You’re The Boss”, and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.”
Only “The Lady Loves Me” made it into the final film and none of them were commercially released until years after Presley’s death, due to concerns by his manager Colonel Tom Parker. He was cautious that Ann-Margret’s presence threatened to overshadow Elvis.
In July 1967, Ann-Margret gave her first live performance in Las Vegas. Elvis and his ‘Memphis Mafia’ entourage came to see her during the show’s five-week run and to celebrate backstage. From thereon until his death In August 1977, Presley sent her a guitar-shaped floral arrangement for each of her Vegas openings.
Ann Margret, turned 79 on April 28, 2020. Many don’t realize she is a natural brunette. The same hairdresser, Sydney Guilaroff, who turned Lucille Ball’s hair red, did the same for Ann Margaret.
Born in Sweden as Ann-Margret Olsson, she became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1949, at age 8.
She was originally offered the title role in Cat Ballou in 1965 (it went to Jane Fonda), but her manager turned it down without telling her.
Ann-Margret was an early choice to play the role of Sandy Dumbrowski in the 1978 film Grease with John Travolta. At 37 years old, she was ultimately determined to be too old to convincingly play the role of a high school student. The role went to Olivia Newton-John with the character being renamed “Sandy Olsson,” in honor of Ann-Margret’s birth surname.
Elvis fans remember her riding a motorcycle along side the King in Viva Las Vegas. She was an adept keen motorcyclist and in 1966 rode a 500 cc Triumph T100C Tiger in The Swinger.
Later drove the same model, fitted with a nonstandard electric starter, in her stage show and her TV specials.
She became featured in Triumph Motorcycles’ official advertisements in the 1960s.
In 2000, she suffered three broken ribs and a fractured shoulder when she was thrown off a motorcycle in rural Minnesota.
In 1995, she was #10 in Empire’s 100 Sexiest Stars in film history.
In April, a post (below) from my friend Pastor Jack Comer Jr. reminded me of a simple, but profound moment when my son Brady Dennis was six.
I was a very busy executive at H-E-B Food/Drugs over the Facilities Management division working up to 60-70 hrs a week. But we had a family tradition called ‘Daddy Day.’
Usually a Saturday, I took turns with each of my four children with that day devoted just to one of them.
We’d usually know what we were going to do ahead of time.
On her Daddy Day, Jennifer and I would usually going to a museum, a play, zoo, craft show, out to a mall, shopping…generally whatever she wanted.
Mark enjoyed movies, visiting one of the Missions, the Alamo, to a cave, a park for hiking, etc.
Jack liked sporting events, theater, library, book stores, dining, magic shows, ane exploring.
Brady loved amusement parks, car shows, swimming, train trips and movies. But on one particular Saturday informed he didn’t want to go anywhere.
“I just want to stay here with you Daddy,” he said seriously.
“Stay here? What do you want to do?”
“I want to look at the clouds,” he proclaimed with a huge enthusiastic smile.
With that cue, I prepared a picnic to enjoy in our back yard overlooking the Hill Country, northwest of Boerne. It was an awesome panoramic view facing the direction of New Braunfels in the far horizon.
We ate and enjoyed the breeze. Then laid back on a blanket. He grinned as we watched the sky. At first I was antsy.
But as we gazed up and noticed figures in the clouds (much like Pastor Jack Comer describes below), I looked over at Brady.
He was glowing, shining with excitement just by us “being still” and appreciating God’s natural gifts.
I began to tear up. Realizing I was so busy (and I mean SUPER BUSY) all the time. Taking moments to have decent amounts of conversations with people were rare.
Just the day before, a Friday, friend and employee Phil Buys knocked on my office door and asked if he could talk to me. I was busy concentrating on the task at hand but stood up sort of hoping he’d ask me a question and go.
“Yes Sir, Phillip, what’s up?”
“Nothin’ much Boss,” he scratched the back of his neck looking serious. “I just wanted to come in and say and see if everything is OK? Seems like we’ve all been busy wrapped up in ever’thang that we don’t have time to even talk.”
His words hit profoundly.
I asked him to sit down. We chatted and laughed for about 20 minutes.
It was refreshing. I missed it.
When Phil walked out I went to the restroom to wash my face. Reality slapped. We were so wrapped up in our work that we had to almost force ourselves to just “be still” and have a decent conversation.
Brady innocently reinforced that as we laid back and looked at the clouds the next day.
My favorite verse:
☁ ☁ ☁ “Be Still and Know That I Am God.” –Psalms 46:10
Thanks to Pastor Jack Comer of Circle Drive Baptist Church in Bridge City, Texas for this message that particular day:
“Yesterday, upon receiving news and prayer requests, I went to the back patio that we have and begin to pray for these people that had these special needs. My prayer was simple but sincere, asking our Lord to let these know that He loved them and cared. I prayed that they might have a peace and might know of His presence, along with their various needs might be met. I prayed also for their family members and for the struggles and concern that they had as well. When I finished praying, even though my heart was heavy, I felt an emotion that said, “God would be there for these.”
Now not to sound unspiritual, I then began to watch the clouds. Yes, I’m a cloud watcher. There are times when I just like to sit and watch the movement of the clouds and also try to see what images I can find. Yesterday I saw a little lamb, a bunny rabbit and a cocker spaniel dog. Of course I saw a monster or two, but that may be due to a childish mind. (LOL) Some of these clouds were darker than others and some were moving quicker than others. And every once in a while I would see the blue sky behind the cloud. In fact, I know that there is blue sky behind the clouds, even if I didn’t see it.
I think there is a spiritual lesson there, not that we have to spiritualize everything. But we have clouds in our life. (troubles, inconveniences, sickness, hardships) Some are much darker than others. But on the other side of the cloud, there is blue sky. Perhaps Paul understood this, when he wrote
‘For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Cor. 4:17′”