‘Win Friends-Influence People’ JackNotes No.1

Directing the Facilities Management Department at H-E-B Food/Drugs, the best and biggest retailer in Texas, for 23 years was an honor.

Anyone who works there knows H-E-B is a learning, giving, and extremely productive organization.

Employees are called “Partners,” the perfect Texas term, because we worked together, crossing boundaries and departments to do whatever it takes to perform our jobs. The ultimate goal was to focus on our communities, customers and each other.

Learning and improving was constant. I studied (through schools, seminars, training sessions, conferences, brainstorming workshops, and books) continuously.

At some point in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the project superintendents for H-E-B Construction were required to read assigned books by a newly hired supervisor who wasn’t quite familiar with the hard and demanding work of building stores, retail centers, manufacturing facilities, giant warehouses and other real estate properties.

I was one of those superintendents in the early 1980s and was very familiar with the time constraints, pressures and deadlines.

Most of these superintendents weren’t book readers. They grew up learning how to read blueprints, going through formal and informal apprenticeships, and with tough on the job experiences.

One day a favorite construction supervisor, Garlan Tschirhart, came over next door to our offices. He looked concerned and explained his plight.

“Jack, you know I’m not a bookreader,” he said. “Never have been and we don’t have the time. I try when I’m out traveling and visiting job sites all over the state, but after a 12 hour day, once I get to the hotel at night, I fall asleep after one or two pages.”

I laughed, understanding.

“Man, Garland, do I have a deal for you,” I walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a large file labeled JackNotes.

“What book do you have to read?”

“Well, it’s about leadership, it’s called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,‘” Garland scratched his head. “Hell, I don’t need anymore friends–I have too many as it is–and the only people I need to influence is the job superintendents and they’re all pretty good guys or else they wouldn’t be here.”

I laughed again as I looked through my files.

“Yes, that book is by Dale Carnegie and it’s a classic,” I said. “It’s so good even my teenage children have read it. I was 25 when I was introduced to it and it was very helpful.”

I found the file, entitled “JackNotes: Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends…”

“What’s Jack Notes?”

“It’s my version of condensed notes from books I’ve read, seminars and classes I’ve taken,” I explained. “It makes it easier for future reference. It’s summaries of the key points.”

Garland made a copy and was able to turn in his required book report to his new supervisor (Note: I can’t remember his name anymore. He was only there a short time and moved on to less challenging opportunities).

It wasn’t long until some of the other superintendents were coming over to see if I had JackNotes for books they were assigned. In most cases I did (and will be sharing many of them here on Cleverjourneys.com, so ‘Follow’ me below for more).

Hugh Huckabee, James Mensch, Tommy Groesbeck, Max Martin, Don Hatfield and other Construction Department Partners were some who would come over for copies. I’d occasionally share them in our Facilities Alliance leadership meetings with vice presidents and directors like Ralph Mehringer, Rob Easley, Bill Reynolds, Jim Barrows, Bob Manning, Dave Sanchez, Greg Bowman, and Bill Triplett.

Here’s an example (Part 1) of Dale Carnegie’s classic:

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

Give honest and sincere appreciation

Arouse in the other person an eager want

Six Ways to Make People Like You

Become genuinely interested in other people


Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language

Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves

Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it

Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, ‘You’re wrong’

If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

Begin in a friendly way

Get the other person saying ‘yes, yes’ immediately

Let the other person do a great deal of the talking

Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers

Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires

Appeal to the nobler motives

Dramatize your ideas

Throw down a challenge

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment 

Begin with praise and honest appreciation

Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly

Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person

Ask questions instead of giving direct orders

Let the other person save face

Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be ‘hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise’

Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct

Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest


Please click follow options below for more JackNotes summaries.

Texas Patriotic Crowd Holds Lake Boat Parade Honoring President Trump

A patriotic, All-American crowd of over 500 spectators and participants showed their support for President Donald Trump in unique style parade on Saturday, August 15, 2020 in Texas.

The no-kneeling-Star-Spangled-Banner-singing parade goers weren’t on floats. At least not the traditional kind riding down Main Street. They manned boats–over 80 of them–throughout a historic lake near San Antonio in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

Included was the high noon playing of the National Anthem to start the event and a spectacular two plane flyover over Medina Lake during the parade.

Organizers Travis Reich, Loriella Schmidt Kilobassa, and Jean Marie, inspired by the success of a recent Independence Day event, brought the community and visitors from across the state to participate.

“My wife heard about it from our friends in San Antonio,” said Manuel Cardenas from Lorena, Texas near Waco. “We had to get out of the house and we love President Trump. So we brought the family to see it here from the shore.”

“We are waving them on and it’s a good time and we’ll enjoy the Hill Country in Bandera, the Cowboy Capital, before we go back Sunday,” Cardenas smiled.

Built in 1913, the Medina Dam holds a crescent shaped agricultural and recreational reservoir, that at 18 miles long, was the largest concrete dam in the United States. For a while, it was the fourth largest dam overall.

“Such a great event,” said boater Wendy Cathey. “So glad we could participate!”

Among the participants, in boats of different kinds and sizes, were Lori Van De Walle, Garry Snow, Barbie Puckett Todd, Laura Cameron Hernandez, Thomas Donbavand, Debra Hengst, and Jessica Owens.

Others showing their spirit and support for “The Donald,” included Ashley Lamon, Lori Routsong Miebach, Kevin Holton, Tamra Yannuzzi, LanessaScott Smoot, RJ Garza, Justin Morrow, Megan Ford, and Jennifer Meador Donbavand.

There were many others on the water and rooting along the shores, including George C. Thompson. He and his wife Maggie brought their granddaughters to see the event.

“We’re proud to be here,” said Thompson, a Black retired X-Ray Technician visiting from Houston before the school term begins. “And we are proud of these Trump supporters, because we are supporters too.”

Gilbert Torres said they came “because we needed to getaway from the tension in San Antonio.”

“The city council is nothing but socialist Democrats and they do nothing but restrict, restrict, restrict and take, take, take,” said Torres. “This is America, not Venezuela. I’m here with my cousins for President Trump.”

ICU Do You See Me? True Friends In Times of Crisis

Saturday afternoon, the Peterson Regional Health Hospital emergency room doctor and cardiologist said they were going to send me up to ICU.

Not even an hour before, the love of my life, my bride Dodie and I were happily eating “Donna’s Meatloaf” at the Camp Verde General Store and Restaurant about 17 miles away.

Serendipity kicked in as I recognized a long time colleague from our H-E-B days walk into the dining room. Bill and Teresa Reynolds sat at a distant table just about the time our server asked if we had room for dessert. We politely declined and I told Dodie I was going to say ‘Hi’ as I haven’t seen Bill in over 10 years.

Strange for me, because out of the blue the day before, I was thinking about some of the fun times Bill and I shared despite the stressful and challenging work for three decades together.

I started feeling a bit shaky and walked back to Dodie. I sat down, took a few more bites and told her my heart was beating very fast. She took my pulse and suddenly I felt as if some kind of asthmatic squeeze was growing in my chest.

I paid the bill and we stopped to introduce Dodie to the Reynolds. I asked her if she could drive which alerted her that something was wrong.

Who was I to question her suggestion to find an urgent care or hospital? After all she was an RN for almost 40 years.

The GPS indicated Peterson in Kerrville was 20 minutes away. I was feeling worse and by the time we crossed into the city limits, a lightning like headache hit my right temple.

She drove me straight to the emergency room entry and went to park the car. I was met with two signs, one notifying that masks must be worn to enter. The other indicating family members and visitors couldn’t go in. Dodie came in–with the masks.

We were stunned in crisis mode. Damn COVID restrictions!

I told the lady at the counter what was happening and she handed me a paper to fill out. I can’t remember what took place next but I’ll never forget the look in Dodie’s eyes when she realized I was going to the Intensive Care Unit and she was going home.

While I’m surrounded in an emergency room bay by doctors and nurses, she was in the parking lot preparing to drive home with a thunderstorm approaching.

Dodie’s not there. My parents are gone. I couldn’t contact my children or sister. I’ve never been in ICU as a patient before.  I was terrified. My only recourse at that moment was God. I prayed as they wheeled me to the elevator.

After they hooked me up to monitors the screen above displayed my heart rate and blood pressure extremely elevated. Taking cues from the doctors and nurses eyes, there was no doubt my condition was urgent.

My mind somehow admired how they jumped into action efficiently starting an IV and life-saving procedures. But I seemed totally alone tightly clutching my cell phone as if it was a crucifix or some type of lifeline symbol.

My only recourse at that moment was to ask for prayers. In my fright and pain I went to my friends on social media with this plea:

“Could use your prayers please. I’m in ICU.”

Throughout the night my dear friends and family responded and my fear went away.

Soon I was cracking jokes, entertaining and complementing everyone around. Even as the monitor showed worsening conditions, I stayed positive and actually as much for the medical staff as well as for me.

“It’s nice to have someone cheering us on,” one nurse smiled with her eyes.

“No worries,” I grinned. “I’m here all night for you! I’m trying to earn ‘Most Spirited’ in the ICU tonight.”

Later, night nurse Chrystal and I had a conference call with Dodie. Those two were conversing in a language of medicalese that was above my pay grade. She spelled out everything that happened and what everything that was going to happen.

At one point she told Dodie, “Thank you for loaning him to us; he’s such a delight to take advantage–I mean take care of and has such a good soul.”

That was very reassuring. Dodie later said she expected my head to be twice the size it was when I went in.

Not long after that I settled down and even enjoyed the antics of television’s “Impractical Jokers.”

For a good 24 hours they administered the IV drip medications and occassional blood thinner injections to prevent clotting.

My diagnosis was “Atrial Flutter,” indicating very rapid heart rate.

I began thinking about how fortunate I am comparing myself to others in ICU with chronic conditions. There are friends and families going through things a lot worse than me.

Sunday morning I woke to a happy and committed day crew. From the cardiologist to the custodians, I thanked each and everyone. For some reason, I can’t explain, sending positive vibes out to them made me feel a degree of confidence of trust and belief.

Dodie and my sister Bobbi fielded calls and posted updates, as I couldn’t handle it. But one thing I do know is how we were overwhelmed with the thoughtful sentiments, encouragement and prayers on Facebook. I remain truly grateful.

My cardiologist said the first 48 hours would tell him much. He came by Sunday afternoon and ordered some adjustments to medicine as we moved into Sunday evening.

Monday morning I woke up happy (and happy I woke up), feeling optimistic. As my day nurse sat on the right side of my bed, she looked up at the door and announced, “the Chaplain is here.”

I looked up and saw an older gentleman well dressed in a starched pink long sleeve shirt and dark tie tentatively standing in the doorway.

“Well, hey there,” I smiled and motioned for him to come in. “I’ve been waiting to meet you and wondering when you’d get here.”

He laughed through his mask and smiled through his eyes. Chaplain Doyle Grundy, was born in February 1937, just seven months before my father.

Chaplain Doyle Grundy

He politely walked in and my first thought was “God, thank you for this honor and privilege to be allowed to have this man walk into my life.”

He introduced himself as the “Monday Chaplain.” It was obvious he was a warm, friendly,  devoted, and hardworking fellow. We hit it off immediately.

“They told me I was going to like you,” he wagged his finger playfully at me.

“I’d give you a hug, kind sir,” I replied and then shrugged. “But you know, we’re under COVID restrictions.”

While we talked, I wondered how this friendly man prepared himself to come to work each Monday. He doesn’t get to choose what he’s walking into. He’s there at the end of life for a lot of people.

He receives and cares for whatever emergencies and diagnoses come through the doors. People come in due to accidents or aggravated family members, poor choices across a lifetime, or genetic patterns no one can predict. Or sometimes, literally, with challenges from only God knows where. When there’s not pandemic restrictions, he’s there for families arriving to help or understand, to celebrate births or to anticipate deaths.

I felt better knowing he was there for all of us to provide the best possible help, even for some who could be experiencing the worst moments of their lives.

Because everyone is wearing a mask, we can only see each other’s eyes as they walk the halls and enter rooms. Everyone seems to be hyper-focused, listening intently as they can look into others eyes. The eyes are all we have to perceive feelings, but they tell us a lot. Sometimes I noticed fear, anxiety or even tears. But with Grundy, there was a smile.    

He brought me hope, both spoken and unspoken, but it was always present in some way. He honorably brought in healing and hope to me. After he left, my nurse said she felt it too.

Just having someone like him close
when we are afraid was comforting and reassuring. No one wants to be alone, isolated or feel untouchable.

We talked for a good while. The topics ranged from his need for a pacemaker when he was 63, electromagnetism, predator drones, believing in Americans, disbelieving in the Media, and Dodie’s and my trip through 14 states recently.

Somewhere in the course of the conversation I mentioned the term “faraday cage” and he lit up. Enthusiastically, he told me about a book by Jonathan Cahn entitled “The Oracle.” Dodie said she’s going to get it after I told her what he said about it. The conversation lasted another 15 minutes until a hospital staff member knocked on the door.

He took the time to say one of the most heartwarming prayers I’ve ever heard. My nurse put her hand on my shoulder and I could feel her emotion. She wiped her eyes of tears as Mr. Grundy walked out the door.

“You know, I think I’m going to be OK,” I told her. She lit up agreeing.

The Cardiologist walked in and looked at my numbers on the screen.

“You’ve healed yourself,” he looked me in the eyes and smiled.

I was confused.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” I replied.

“You have converted. Your body has stopped the fluttering and your numbers have been consistently good since nine o’clock last night. The IVs, medicine treatments worked, but your positive demeanor certainly was key. I’m going to recommend you be released.”

“Released? Like in released to go to a regular room instead of here?” I asked.

“No, I mean released to go home.”

The nurse literally clapped.

I called Dodie. Seeing her again was a treasure.

Tonight we are home thankful to God, the professionals and our dear friends who prayed for us.

Thank you.

MY CONFIDENCE SECRET (or How I Met NY Yankee Coach Joe Torre & The ‘Elvis Factor’)

When I first began giving speeches as a young executive in the corporate retail world at H-E-B Food-Drugs in Texas, I experienced various severity levels of anxiety.

My key life experiences at that point had been journalism, private investigation and construction.

In high school and college I performed as an Elvis Presley impersonator at high school auditoriums, gymnasiums, local night clubs and dance halls. But giving speeches as a young adult was rare and limited to small groups of no more than 20 or so people.

The desire to be a good public speaker was there, but the anxiety was overwhelming. I went to a life coach and learned something called “NLP.” Over the years I became a certified NLP practitioner and actually taught it for awhile.

NeuroLinguistic Programming, or NLP, is a powerful tool that can be used in many ways to improve our lives.

NLP gave me tools needed to be a good presenter. At H-E-B my training classes for leadership, facilities management and store managers consistently scored the highest ratings from attendees.

As a founder and first elected president of the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (now CONNEX), I gave scores of speeches across the country.

My largest audiences were over 10,000 for the National Retail Federation at the Javits Center in New York, and 8,000+ at the McCormick Center in Chicago.

Enthusiastic and ready to give my first speech in Las Vegas.

Through the powerful tools of NLP and practice, I became a popular speaker at various conventions in places like Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle and Nashville.

The point is, NLP gave me a toolbox of ammunition to fight fear and gain confidence. It transformed my life in various ways.

NLP can be applied to many situations in our every day lives and has proven techniques for diagnosing and intervening in certain situations.

(I’ll be writing more about these techniques occasionally. If you’re interested just look for and click the “NLP” tag. Be sure to follow Clever Journeys below.)


The first NLP technique I learned is called “Anchoring.” An anchor is a unique stimulus that involves multiple senses to stimulate and stir our brain to remember and recall a particular resource.

It’s a way to get in touch with a specific feeling, recall and recreate it in the body at will. For me, I’d simply rub my fingers together or touch my ring and recall the excitement and enthusiasm I received from audiences performing as Elvis. It became my warm-up before each speech and I couldn’t wait to present before each group.

The simple little change that I felt and experienced after I put anchoring in my tool box was just a small building block to the foundation that I needed to become someone strong and self empowered, capable of leading others and creating futures others thought impossible.

It was healing.

The NLP Anchoring process can be broken down into four steps.

To provide reference, let’s use confidence as the desired feeling. We can all use a little more confidence. As you read through each of the steps, take time to reflect and respond.

1.Recall a time in your life when you felt confident.

Let your mind run a movie of that memory. What did you see? See it now. Feel what you felt at that time.

If there were sounds, hear those sounds, tune into what you were saying to yourself and how you felt about that. Make the memory vivid and as real as you possibly can. Use your imagination.

Now kick it up a notch to expand all the senses. Make the colors brighter, the images larger and the sounds more clear and vibrant.

Kick it up a notch.

I’d psych myself up by playing Elvis  music in my mind. In the Green Room of the Javits Center I listened to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 2001-A Space Odyssey on earphones while I waited to be called to speak.

Joe Torre, the legendary New York Yankees baseball coach, who would be on stage after me, asked what I was listening to. I unplugged the earjack from the recorder so he could hear. He laughed. I told him why I did it. He deemed it “The Elvis Factor.”

“Go get ’em Elvis,” Torre grinned as he slapped me on the back to send me to the stage with a thumbs up. I was psyched!

After my speech, he stood up and greeted me back in the Green Room with an enthusiastic handshake.

“Now how am I going to follow that?” he laughed. Somehow he did and he was awesome. The good part was bringing home a signed Joe Torre baseball to son Jack later that week.

Remember that in Anchoring, whatever you can do to make the image unique and more powerful is most effective for best results.

2.Choose a place on your body where you will touch yourself or use an object to remind you of that feeling of the time when you felt confident (I tap my fingers together or rub my ring with fingers from the opposite hand.)

You can also visualize a symbol or an expression that represents the meaning of what you want to anchor. I visualize and make an “OK” or “Thumbs Up” sign with my hand to myself. Some people put a fist up high and say, “Yes!” or “Go!”

Now combine that touch with the actual memory. Right before the point in the movie when the feeling is the most intense, you fire off the anchor by using the unique touch or any other method of anchoring that you have chosen.

3.Repeat the process.

Again, think of the time when you felt confident and fire off the anchor by touching the object, visualizing the image, hearing the sounds, feeling the sensations in your body or creating that unique touch.

4.Test it out.

Fire off the anchor. Expect to be instantly transported to a time in your memory when you felt confident. If not, repeat the process until you get the desired feeling on demand. Soon it will come naturally.

Remember to have fun!

NLP is a great process and it works surprisingly well – magically transforming negative situations (or collapsing negative anchors) and installing new empowering ones.

Today is a good time to say a little prayer and then get started using some of those awesome memories to be the best person you can be.

8-Year-Old Denise Sanchez Met Elvis Before She Died

When Colonel Tom Parker arrived from San Antonio to Albuquerque on April 19, 1972, he was greeted with news about Denise Sanchez, an 8-year-old fan from Santa Fe who was battling cancer (Leukemia) since the age of 6 and, like her mom was a huge Elvis fan.

Denise had already lost a leg and part of a hip to cancer, and doctors could do no more to help after it had spread to her lungs.

Elvis in Albuquerque.

Her mother, Trudy Sanchez in an interview, explained:

They found the cancer in my little girl Christmas time a year ago It started with a tumor on the leg. At the Anderson Medical Center in Houston, Texas, they tried desperately to save her by removing the leg and part of her hip. But just like it had been with her daddy, there seemed to be no way they could halt the awful disease.

The doctors told me that, with luck, I could have here for another year. Denise was then going on seven.

The next year was a nightmare of drug therapy and pain and hospitals as the doctors used every tool known to medical science to keep the cancer from ravaging my baby. But just last June it showed up in her lungs, and since that time, it has been relentlessly spreading through her.

At the beginning of this year, they took her off the chemotherapy, except for pain pills every four hours, and they let me take her home to Santa Fe. We just take it day by day. We don’t plan very far in advance.

Of course, I’ll do anything within my power to give her any little bit of happiness I can.

Elvis meeting fans during a break while filming “Jailhouse Rock.” 1957

Probably that’s because I’ve been an Elvis fan since he first started when I was turning into a teenager. I’ve always played his records, and we’ve gone to all the Elvis movies. From certain songs and certain movies, Denise just adores him. While she was under treatment at the medical center in Houston, we made friends down there who are really big Elvis fans, so her liking him just grew and grew.

Just after we got to Houston, she found out that Elvis had made an appearance there just a few weeks before and she was fit to be tied! Then last November, she was hospitalized there and he was going to give a concert on the twelfth. We had gotten the tickets weeks in advance and she was terribly excited at the thought of seeing him. But at the last minute, she was put on the critical list and there was no way I could take here. That poor baby was so disappointed! She’s incredibly brave about all the pain she suffers, but she just cried her little heart out over missing Elvis.

She pulled through the critical stage, thank god, and soon after, they stopped the chemotherapy and let me take her home. When we found out that Elvis was coming to Albuquerque, which is about an hours drive from our home in Santa Fe, I think I bought the first tickets they had on sale.”

Some suggested they go to the newspaper, ‘Albuquerque Journal’, and explain the situation.

“I told the editor, ‘Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated because we aren’t going to have her very long’. At the Journal they said they would do everything they could and the editor assigned a reporter, Grace Marie, Prather, to help us. She pulled it all together – and it was really something! We didn’t know until five o’clock the afternoon of the concert that we were definitely going to meet Elvis.

I talked to Miss Prather early that morning, before I left for work. It was Wednesday, April 19. So far she hasn’t been able to accomplish anything. She had a call into Colonel Parker and he was to call her back, and then she’d called me with whatever news, I went to work but my mind sure wasn’t on it.

I told Denise, ‘Honey, we’re really trying, but don’t get your hopes up, because I am not all that sure we’ll be able to meet him.

‘That’s OK Mom’, she said. ‘I’m still going to keep praying’. And by gosh she really prayed. She’s a very determined little girl. She wanted this so much she prayed her little heart out. She just asked to please be able to meet Elvis no matter what. That was all she wanted; that was all she cared about.

We had thought we might not be able to make it to the concert because a few days earlier she had a very bad day. But she said ‘mama, I’m going to go’, no matter what’. And she would have too. And I would have taken her.

By Wednesday, though, she was feeling much better, and now the big concern was, Would we be able to meet Elvis?

Colonel Parker at first indicated that it seemed pretty impossible because Elvis was coming to town right before the show and he would be leaving immediately afterward. Then I guess Miss Prather told him our story in detail, explaining how really important this was to Denise. The Colonel promised her he would do everything he could.

Albuquerque Hilton. We waited around in the lobby until Colonel Parker came in. Miss Prather introduced him to us and he patted Denise on the head and smiled and assured her, ‘You’ll get to see him’.

From there everything else was sort of an ecstatic blur.

Colonel Parker’s aids told Miss Prather and I to take Denise to the right side of the stage during intermission and they would take here into Elvis’ dressing room.

When we got to Tingley Coliseum, where the concert was to be held, there was another surprise. I had bought box seats, but Colonel Parker instructed the Coliseum people to build special seats for us in the middle of the aisle, right in front of the stage. That was Denise could see absolutely everything. I thought that was just wonderful, and something they didn’t have to do.

Finally, intermission came. Emma and Denise and Miss Prather and I made our way to the right side of the stage, as we had been instructed. Denise was on her crutches, she maneuvers very well with them. Berlinda stayed in the audience with Paula, who is six.

At first, they told us that only Denise and Miss Prather would be allowed into Elvis’ dressing room, but when we got to the backstage trailer that they have for the performers, they escorted me and my girlfriend in, too!

All I can say is Elvis was even more than I had expected – and I knew he would be marvelous. He was so warm and friendly with Denise – with all of us. It was just beautiful.

Denise and Elvis.

When Denise came into the trailer, he smiled at her – a real smile, not the take-a-picture kind, and he said, ‘Hello Sweetheart’, just as warm and friendly as if he’d known her all her life. Her little face lit up like I don’t know what.

He gave her a careful hug – obviously, they’d told him of her condition – and he kissed her on the cheek.

From there on, she was floating. She was so excited, she could hardly talk. But she managed better than I probably would have, under the circumstances. She had a huge poster of him that they gave us at the Hilton and she asked him to autograph it. He carefully inscribed, To Denise – Love you! Elvis Presley. Needless to say, that poster has a place of honor in our den.

She asked how Priscilla and Lisa were, and he said fine and made little chit-chat with her in this wonderfully warm, easy manner. We weren’t in there very long, but every second was a thrill for all of us.

Elvis turned to me, shook hands, and let me introduce myself. He seemed very interested in me, which was truly more than I had anticipated. You know big stars like that, you don’t expect them to have such a personal touch. He was just fantastic.

I only got a handshake -darn it! But my baby got a hug and a kiss, too … so that was an added thrill.

Before she left him, she asked Elvis if he could sing a song for her. She wanted ‘Love Me Tender’ or ‘Don’t Cry Daddy’, which are her two favorites. He said, Okay, I’m going to sing one for you, but it’s going to be a surprise.

It surely was. When he got to that number, he announced from the stage, The next song is for Denise, a very special girl I have just met backstage’. And then he sang ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’. And we all cried. It’s a sad song, but so fitting.”

“But this time, Lord, you gave me a mountain,
A mountain I may never climb,
And it isn’t a hill any longer,
You gave me a mountain this time.”

Denise passed away the following August

Tell Me Something About Yourself That Sounds Made Up But Is 100% True

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. 

Walls Unit, Huntsville, Tx

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

Another Solution for the Negative News Blues

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.

Peach Lovebird near Phoenix.

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.

Whataburger With Ralph

Lesson One: The Invisible People

The man who reminded me of a cross between Walter Brennan and Popeye, in the blue colored plaid shirt, was a world class gravy sopper. It was the second thing I noticed about him, but I was paying attention this time.

WWII Navy Veteran Ralph Watkins at age 94.

Eleven minutes before, it was only eleven steps to the front door from where he parked. From the safety of my panoramic vantage point inside, I wondered if the unpretentious figure would wait it out a bit in his black truck. But the Ford Ranger door swung opened. He didn’t run into Whataburger. Instead, he held on to the brim of his cap and peered into the back bed.

“What’s he doing?,” I thought. “Just get in here. You’re getting soaked.”

His right leg raised up as he fumbled to reach over the sidewall.

I wasn’t sure what was so important that needed to be retrieved during this pouring storm, but I could at least go meet him with the door open.

When I reached the entrance he was still leaned over the side trying to fetch somethin, apparently out of his reach.

“Just leave it there,” I whispered. “It’s too late. Whatever it is, it’s already soaked.”

The determined man pulled on a tube and his walker lifted out.

Whirling wind, hard rain, and lightening clashes in dark clouds fought as he assembled it open along every humble first step of the way.

He paused in front of me just outside to shake the wet off his black cap.

“Thank you,” he caught his breath, proudly put his cap back on, smiled, and winked. “Thank you kindly.”

I went back to the security of my table, second from the door, with the window view of the furious downpour.

“Welcome to Whataburger, Ralph,” the girl behind the counter greeted.

Funny, but I was a regular most mornings and hadn’t notice him before. He’s obviously here enough for the friendly young lady behind the counter to know his name.

My father, Walter “Corky” Dennis, was an officer and later a detective in the  San Antonio Police Department from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. Afterwards He was a U.S. Marshal. He taught my sister Bobbi, and me to continuously be aware of our surroundings.

My father, Detective Walter A. Dennis giving criminal profiling (long before it was called ‘profiling’) presentation at San Antonio Police Department, 1969.

My regular table at Whataburger #1101 in Leon Springs, Texas, or any restaurant anywhere, was selected so I could see the entrance, view outside and be aware of conditions around me.

Dad drilled us to notice the “invisible people”– mail carriers, janitors, the cable guy, cooks in the kitchen and FedEx or UPS deliverers—those some consider accessories in life.

“These are real people, with real lives,  emotions and feelings,” Dad would say. “Appreciate and thank them. But most of all notice them.”

“But also pay attention to others,” he would preach. “Discreet people who don’t belong, like those walking along and peering through car windows in parking lots. Someone, anyone, who walks up to you in or out of a grocery store. A vagrant.”

How was it I had never noticed this man named Ralph?

There were 46 unoccupied seats. He mosied over to the one closest to the counter, directly in front of me.

The rain had prompted me to stop in on my way to work for a quick bite. I changed my order from just a chorizo taquito to add a Breakfast on a Bun with sausage after a call from Phil Wiese at Fair Oaks Ranch Country Club said the golf courses would be closed.

“Don’t bother coming in,” Phil announced. “We’re being pelted and you’d probably need a boat instead of your cart to marshal the courses if anyone dared to show up.”

I laughed and thanked him with relief, “not really wanting to be outside in this weather anyway.”

Shift Manager Eli Reyna brought Ralph his orange tray of biscuits and the two exchanged quick pleasantries.

I’d finished the Sausage BOB and was buttering the inside of my taquito as Ralph earnestly took his first biscuit swipe at the white gravy.

This man was pleased. The grin on his face and twinkle in his eyes said it all.

“You’re looking at one satisfied customer,” he smiled up at me. “Yes Sir-ee, I’m definitely one happy man!”

My reaction?  I buttered my taquito with greater enthusiasm.

Note: This is an excerpt from a work in progress, a book about lessons in life from people who lived it! See Lesson 4 excerpt here.

One Determined Lady Broke the Records!

Back in the days of tin foil on rabbit ears, necessary to watch all three television channels, my Gillette Elementary School third grade classmates and I enjoyed Friday mid-mornings because it was when our Weekly Readers would arrive.

We were first introduced to them in the second grade by Mrs. Lydia Dudek, a golly geeze swell teacher. Mrs. Florence Barnes, nice but a bit more regimented, continued the welcomed tradition of us taking turns reading our very own newspapers out loud.

Talking about each article-usually about space exploration, a record breaking sports achievement or new national park or monument in the works– from these small tabloids before cafeteria lunch fueled our imaginations just in time for recess play activities.

One particular article fascinated me because the topic was about a woman who shared the same first name as Mrs. Barnes.

Florence Chadwick was a typist who grew up swimming often where she was born and grew up in a long distance place called San Diego, California.

I liked that city’s name because it started with “San,” like my hometown of San Antonio.

For 18 years, as an amateur swimming in ocean races off the California coast, Chadwick went to work typing for the Arabian American Oil Company so she could begin training in the Persian Gulf.

Her lifelong dream was to swim the infamous English Channel from France to England. She was determined to do it.

But in a 1950 half-century contest sponsored by the London Daily Mail, she was denied entry. This didn’t stop her.  Chadwick went about conquering the Channel at her own expense, paying for a boat, trainer, and navigator.

In July she made her first attempt and failed after being in the water 14 hours.

On August 8, at age 32, she left Cape Gris Nez, France and crawled ashore at Dover, a record 13 hours 23 minutes later.

“I feel fine,” she told reporters. “I am quite prepared to swim back.”

The following summer, she became the first woman to swim the Channel from England to France (16:22) and the first woman to swim it both ways.

Her initial successful crossing swimming from France to England, she finally breaking the women’s record (14:34) set by Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim it.

Eleven others had made the Channel between Ederle and Chadwick, but all in slower times. Chadwick’s thirteenth ever women’s crossing lowered the record by an hour and 11 minutes.

Counting males as well as females, Florence was the 32nd person to complete the crossing, called impossible until Capt. Webb accomplished it in 1875. No other man made it until 1911 and Miss Ederle was the first woman in 1926.

In 1952, she attempted to swim 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hard hours, a heavy fog began to block her view.

Chadwick became disoriented. She gave up.

To her embarrassment, she learned that she had quit just one mile short of the Catalina shoreline.

Two months later tried it again. Guess what happened? A very thick fog settled in, but this time Chadwick continued on. She did it. By reaching her destination she became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel.

This time Chadwick said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind when she couldn’t see it.

Florence Chadwick congratulating Bill Pickering, who had just broken her World record by 36 minutes. She got it back barely 6 weeks later, beating his time by 11 minutes.

Enjoying those Weekly Readers was helpful. As time went on, reading became a passion. My wife, Dodie spends about an hour each day reading the Bible and devotionals.

I don’t read it as much as she does, but am glad I have often over the years. When problems of life and news cloud our vision, it’s a blessing to have opportunities to learn to see our goals with the eyes of faith.

The New Testament letter to the Hebrews suggests we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2).

Like Florence Chadwick, when we feel like quitting, this is our signal to remember not only what Jesus Christ suffered for us, but what He now helps us to endure.

Besides her accomplishments at the English Channel, Chadwick went forward to become the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar, the Bosporus, and the Dardanelles.

Twisted Sister: The Texas Legendary Hill Country Motorcycle Ride Begins in Medina

A Pictorial Guide for Bikers

The ride begins in Medina, near where the North and West Prongs of the Medina River and Elm Creek meet.

🔹Highly recommended for breakfast and a stop off before you begin is Keese’s Bar-B-Que. Coming into Medina from Bandera, it’s the friendly restaurant on the left where locals and bikers mix to swap stories, prepare for their day and enjoy breakfast or lunch.

🔹The Patio Restaurant at the Apple Store at Love Creek Orchards serves delicious sandwiches, burgers, ice cream and such.

The first leg of the legendary Twisted Sister motorcycle and touring ride officially starts at the corner of State Highway 16 (SH-16) and Ranch to Market Road 337 (RM 337) in Medina, Texas.

The first 9.8 miles from this point opened on November 25, 1975 to join an existing RM 337 that first began in 1945 connecting Camp Wood eastward to Leakey. It eventually expanded into Vanderpool by 1968.

Cyclists are urged to check weather events the days BEFORE the intended ride, conditions the day OF the actual ride, and FORECAST for the region.

Rocks, branches and debris can have fallen, scattered and left from flooding and high winds.

Beware that although it may not be raining where you’re riding, storms can occur at nearby higher elevations causing flash flooding on your route.

Only experienced and smart cyclists should attempt the Twisted Sister. As of this writing (March 9, 2022) 13 people have lost their lives motorcycling RM 337.

Passage through the Hill Country canyonlands, northwest of San Antonio can be treacherous and deceiving.

It’s a common phenomenon to experience dichotomies of simultaneous breathtaking nature and deceptions. Those who have survived going over the edge, or off the road, tell of experiencing spectacular beauty, synchronized with the horror of disillusionment.

A description of the experience follows:

1. The first pass over water is over the Medina River, “The calmest river in Texas.”

2. A few minutes later Elm Creek passes over and meanders on the left for awhile. At this point the typical cyclist is enjoying the view and likely thinking “this is smooth, pretty and a piece of cake.” In actuality, hairpin switchbakes are waiting ahead.

In April 2006, Texas Monthly deemed RM 337 as #18 on their “75 Things We Love About Texas” list.

3. Next comes Elam Creek, followed by Love Creek, goats, sheep, horses, cows and bulls all on the left. But here is where the deception usually begins.  Most didn’t see the deer jumping the fence line from the right. The most unfortunate actually hit one and the trip had just began. 

4. Again, on the left are the wonderment of cliffs and hills peering above a spectacular Siesta Valley Ranch. But beware, on the right could be fallen rocks cascading from higher slopes above the comforting asphalt.

5. Nature opens up to striking panoramic views, most likely the kind you were hoping for. But  preconceived ideas can be far from reality. Trees and landscape suddenly tighten up as if to squeeze the road inward, only to spread and curve in ways not expected.

The most intelligent of us realize by now not to let your guard down. But is it possible? Yes, just remain careful. Instinct and reading the lay of the land will tell you the road is curving one way, but truth can prove you dead wrong.

6. Soon enough the ride begins to leave the big ranches and “T”s at Vanderpool. Take a right on Highway 187 until you see the Lost Maples General Store.

6.b. Here is a good stop to consider an option. Just a few miles straight on 187 will take you the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum. Not only is it a favorite of riders passing through, it’s a nice place to gather your wits, calm down and contemplate the joys of why you ride. Afterwards, just backtrack back and turn right to go West on 337 to Leakey.

7. If you didn’t go straight on RR 187 to the Museum, a left on 337 takes you to Leakey.

More views appear, but this time the concert of sceneries are not visually in sync. Signs warn of multiple curves and speed limits. They’re not suggestions. They are mandated musts to keep you alive.

8. Mill Creek and Evans Creek await, but first, you ramble, twist and meander your way through sidewinding inclines and serrated passages. It’s becoming fun if you stay sharp and wise. This is not a rollercoaster. It’s the first Twisted Sister.

People die here. Don’t be one of them. It’s all about enjoying survival amongst the spectacles without be lured. Winners do this with a kind of brave elegance and with grace.

9.  The quick turns soon descend into the Little Dry Frio Creek Valley. After crossing the Sabinal River Bridge, 337 takes you to an intersection with choices of Utopia or Leakey.

In Leakey, a Stripes at 83 and 1120 South there are 10 gas pumps.

Note to RVers: We did not see any motorcoaches or pulled trailers on 337. A suggested route would be from Bandera to Tarpley via RR 470 westward. For 29 miles take a left on RR 187 to Garner State Park or right to Leakey. 


Get Your Natural Vitamins A & D from the Sea!

Act now! We use their exceptional products.


Now Available CLICK Here!
From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

How Our Father’s Junk Saved People

A few years ago, when Johnny Jennings was just 86 years old, he gained a bit of positive notoriety when he donated some money to the local Georgia Baptist Home for Children.

It wasn’t a small chunk of change. The Ringold, Ga. resident was not wealthy.

Johnny Jennings at 86.

Mr. Jennings had been collecting junk and recycling since 1985. It started out as something for his son, Brent and him to do together. It was a way to bond and show his only child the value of working and earning money.

“We used to use it as time together,” Brent Jennings told ABC News in 2017. “We’d walk roads and pick up cans and sell it and take the money and put it in a savings account. When I bought my first house, I had enough from recycling to make my first down payment on my home.”

After Brent left home at age 20, his father continued to recycle. Mr. Jennings wore out three trucks and countless sets of tires in the process.

He began donating the proceeds to the Home for Children along the way. By 2016, Jennings donated just enough money to make his grand total donated $400,000.00!!!

Yes you read that right!!! Mr. Jennings, at age 86 donated $400,000 to the Georgia Baptist Home for Children over a time frame of 32 years!

An account of his Recycling Report that year (2016) revealed….

Paper Sold 401,280 lbs (201 tons)
Aluminum Cans 51,565 (cans)
Pennies collected 32,040

Total for 32 years
Total Paper Sold 9,810,063 lbs
Total Pennies $20,275.20 = 24 miles
Trees Saved 79,000

Mr. Jennings (right) presents another donation.

During each weekday residents would likely see Jennings driving around town picking up paper from local businesses and churches and taking it to the Chattanooga Recycle Center on Central Avenue.

From there he would head home and load the truck up again with recyclables that people have dropped off at his house. Jennings normally loaded his truck by himself. In 2020, his donations coupled with monies others have contributed due to his influence, are closing in on $1/2 million.

At 86, when the rest of the world found out he’d experienced two mini-strokes, neighbors began to pitch in and help with some of the lifting and loading.

The Christian ministry that provides care for troubled children and families has been a focus of Brent Jennings since he was a teenager.

Mr. and Mrs. Jennings (early family portrait)

“He went with a member of his church and when they got ready to leave, three little boys grabbed his legs and asked him if he would be their daddy,” Brent said of his father. “He said right there, ‘I’m going to do what I can as long as I can for the Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes.'”

Jennings, has been a trustee emeritus, delivering a check usually in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 to the charity every year at their annual board meeting. As long as his father is able, Brent Jennings drives his dad the three hours to the nearest campus.

“They’ve been a mom and dad to thousands of children through the children’s home,” said Brent. “My dad doesn’t see the $400,000. He sees the faces of those kids.”

My own father was a natural junker. I started out at age five, living on the Southside of San Antonio, accompanying him on his junk routes. (Years later, my sister Bobbi would join us. As I became busy with important things like Little League, sometimes she’d go solo with him.)

On his days off, Dad, or San Antonio Police Officer Walter “Corky” Dennis, would strike out early mornings on his route that included places like Precision Manufacturing, Walter Keller Battery Company and H-E-B Construction (Yes, of H-E-B Food/Drugs fame. Ironically, years later as Director of Facilities Management for them, I officed at that same location).

Our father, Walter ‘Corky’ Dennis managed my Little League baseball team in 1966 and 1967.

I learned to sort and separate different types of metals (copper, iron, tin, aluminum…) into 55 gallon drums on the back of his 21 foot “junk trailer.”

For years our goal was to strip as much copper wire, haul as much metal and gather as many used batteries as we could to get them to Newell Salvage, Monterrey Salvage, Ashley Salvage or other recycling centers before they closed each junk day.

I suppose, being born after the Great Depression and during the rationing days of World War II, junking was in Dad’s blood.

Once my Grandpa Jack L. Dennis announced to his grandkids he was going to start a fund for each of us. The deal was, for every penny, nickle, dime or even quarter we saved and put in the Rexall pill bottle with our individual name on it, he would match it.

Immediately, on the days Dad was at work and couldn’t junk, I’d hook up  my red wagon (modified with a ‘fence’ to maximize loads) to my banana seated bike. My mission: gather and sell as many soda (.03 cents each) and beer (.05 cents) bottles as I could.

Pulling that wagon on Commercial Avenue as far south as Gillette and north to S.W. Military Drive (including the motherlode areas of Six Mile Creek), I’d earn a good $4-$6 a day. It might have taken 2 or 3 loads to Paul Woodall’s beer joint on the corner of Hutchins and Commercial, but I’d get the job done. Every now and then, on especially hot days, Mr. Woodall would treat me to a cold Big Red in an ice cold frosted beer mug for good measure.

Well, eventually Grandpa Dennis had to put a halt to the grandkids savings accounts. He’d swear to me for years that he stopped after I’d “graduated from pill bottles to Foldger’s Coffee cans. Grandma said we couldn’t afford it anymore.”

Now Dad was always helping people out. In my preteen and early teenage years he owned a used car lot with another police officer, Sargeant Doyle Soden, on Commercial. I worked there washing cars, charging batteries, and repairs.

We’d spend a lot of time going to automobile and truck junk yards to salvage parts for not only his cars for sale, but many times to rebuild junk cars TO GIVE (yes, for free) to those in need.

Usually these were starter cars for teenagers that were in some kind of trouble, or maybe they were from a broken or abusive home. But on at least half a dozen cases he would give a car to some guy he may have arrested or found drunk and took him home instead of to jail. It didn’t matter if they were Mexican, Black or Anglo, I saw (and often helped) him get cars ready and give them away.

“If they’ll stay out of trouble, be good to their family and get a job, I’ll give them the title,” he said.

Being a policeman, Dad saw some of the worst in people, but he also didn’t mind helping anyone who was willing to help themselves.

During the later 1960s and early 70s, when there was floods from hurricanes or bad storms, Dad and I would take his wrecker and we’d actually go rescue people stranded in their cars or in trees. Usually it was along Six Mile Creek, but also around areas south if Espada Park.

He’d wade out with a rope attached to his waist, holding some rigging and the hook from the cable of the wench. Sometimes it would be pouring, but I’d wait for his signal. At the right time I’d turn the handle and the next thing I knew there’d either be a vehicle or a person attached with his rigging being wrenched toward me. It was an amazing thing for an 11 or 12 year old boy to see–and actually participate in.

At age 14, I sold my first car at C&D (Corky and Doyle) Auto Sales. It was a 1958 Edsel. When he came home from work that evening and found out, he was so proud. I earned $50 and it was more money than I had ever had in my wallet. Today that’s the equivalent of $368.54.

With that $50, money from selling bottles and buying stamps for a U.S. Savings Bond booklet in elementary school (Mom was Homeroom Mother and sold them each Wednesday, grades 2-6) and other odd jobs, I opened my first ever savings account with San Antonio Savings Association with a balance of $212.56 (worth $1561+ today).

On my 16th birthday, in 1971, after I blew out the candles and we cut the cake, I opened up a present–a small box, gift wrapped–and inside were car keys.

“Your car is outside waiting for you,” my Dad grinned.

It was a seven-year-old 1963 Chevrolet Impala, freshly painted green and gold, McCollum High Cowboys school colors. What a proud moment, but I worried how my parents could ever afford such a nice car for a present.

Years later, my mother told me how. When we would go junking and recycling over the years, Dad would keep some of the day’s earnings in a hidden spot. Together, with the proceeds he held from the profits of selling that Edsel a couple of years prior, he was able to buy and paint that Impala.

Today, my sister and I both have empathy and special feelings for those who recycle, reuse or repurpose anything.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso… This is Mr. Jennings favorite quote and he sure lives by it.


In the 1960s and 1970s, this was a popular poem on black light and groovy posters. But it was actually written in an early 1921 poem by Max Ehrmann, an American writer.

Desiderata” is Latin for “things desired.”

1960s Peace sign. Black light posters were popular in the 60s and 70s.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Words for Life by Max Enhrmann

In 2010, Ehrmann’s home town of Terre Haute, Indiana unveiled a bronze statue by Bill Wolfe of the author sitting on a park bench.