Ideas to Do With Your Special Someone

Who knew 2020 would be so limiting and stressful? From toilet paper shortages to wearing masks, our world definitely changed.

However, we decided to make the best of it–as much as we could. Defying the newscasts, Dodie and I even went on a 15-state (plus Washington D.C.) road tour for 32 days in June and July.

Don’t let all this negative news get you down! Love your family and friends. Do something fun.

For today  or this weekend, pick just one!

Bike Ride       

Bowling          

Go to the Zoo    

Cook Together          

Split a Milkshake       

Plan a Road Trip

Pick out Each Other’s Outfits    

Son Brady joined us at SeaWorld.2020.

Go to the Gym            

Aquarium       

Go Tanning    

Match Socks Together          

Take a Nap    

Have a Movie Marathon. (themes: comedy, select movie star, love, drama, horror, classics, sci-fi, etc.) We watch very little TV, but when we do we make it fun with popcorn, etc.

Recently we watched episodes of The Chosen series, Lonesome Dove and even the second season of the 1969s television series Lost In Space.

There’s a big difference in watching the space ones as a man in my 60s vs. the boy I was in the 1960s.

Kiss in the Rain         

Plant a Garden           

Kiss Underwater    

See a Play at a Local Theater           

Paint a Room in Your House       

Shopping        

Buy Matching Bracelets          

Pigeon Forge in July 2020

Ride on a Ferris wheel          

Watch Fireworks    

July 4th Washington D.C.

Scrabble         

Make Breakfast         

Road Trip          

Ride Rails

Write Each Other Letters    

Go to a Vineyard       

Classy Date   

Get Concert Tickets

Eat Ice Cream    

Walk               

Mini Golfing               

Beach             

Kiss at Midnight        

Go Running    

Play the Wii    

Laser Tag

Paint War    

Play Tennis                

Make a Couple’s Video         

Count Stars

Couple’s Scrapbook. Here’s an idea. We have pictures of us how we were in the 1960s.

Take a Picture Kissing    

Put Together a Puzzle           

Sing a Song Really Loud       

Read a Book Together          

Order Chinese Food              

Slow Dance    

Watch a Sunset          

Build a Blanket Fort              

Share Popcorn at the Movies    

YOGA              

San Antonio College Planetarium

Visit Planetarium

Get a Pedicure    

Make Chalupas Together

Silently Stare at Each Other for One Minute Without Cracking a Smile

One of You Draw a Picture. The Other Color It.

Visit a Museum.

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3 Biker Rallies & 2 Trump Train Rides Through Medina, Bandera & Boerne 1st Oct. Weekend 2020

A perfect storm of three thundering biker rallies and two Trump Train events will be rolling through the Cowboy Capital of the World region deep in Texas Hill Country this first weekend of October.

The 19th Annual Texas Hill Country Thunder Rally is back with an October 1-4, 2020 event to be held at Bandera’s Mansfield Park on Hwy-16.

Consisting of tent camping, poker run, vendors, food, and field events, there will be music throughout the day Friday and Saturday. Their bike show, tattoo contest, and Sunday morning church service are popular. 21 OR OVER, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Because of 2020 health concerns, there will be a covered stage to  enjoy outdoor concerts and contests in “the wide-open fresh air, under the bright stars of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. The big bar has been relocated under the Pavilion and close to the stage.”

“Ride the beautiful Texas Hill Country all day then come back and shop with our many vendors,” their promotional material states. “Enjoy your meals with one of nine Food vendors located outside the Barn, then go shop with over 30 Inside Vendors (spaced out) and over 40 Outside Vendors, before enjoying the evening concerts and contests.”

See TWISTED SISTER Leg 1 Here

“The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. We start it off loud! Hot Bands rock the night away…We will treat you so many ways you are bound to like one or two.”

The 19th Annual Frogs for Freedom Hill Country Motorcycle Ride proceeds will help widows and children of fallen SEAL team members and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen Warriors (SWCC).

The ride will be held at the ‘Biggest Little Bar in Texas,’ the 11th Street Bar on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

The first Frog event raised $9,000. In 2017, the group raised an historical $43,000.

Rain or shine, registration opens at 9:00 a.m. with the first bike leaving at 10 a.m. Preregistration ends Sept. 30, 2020.

The fun event includes a collector ride shirt, the ride, a Bar-B-Que plate, live music, dancing, 50/50, door prizes and a live auction. The street will be blocked off to accommodate motorcycles and festivities.

From October 1 @ 8:00 am through October 3 @ 5:00 pm the “Rally On The River” 2020 has great bands lined up for their 3-day private event on the Medina River.

This event has five cabins, and 100- 50/30/20amp Full Hook-Up RV Sites here on the Event Grounds.

The BOERNE Trump Train along with the Kendall County Republican Party will be participating in the National MAGA Drag The Interstate on Oct 3rd from 10:30-1:30.

The BOERNE Trump Train’s last MAGA drag had approximately 700+ vehicles participating. The BOERNE Trump Train group has an impressive 2500 members that are participating in Train’s twice a week with many individuals coming from small towns around Kendall County.

The GOP headquarters in Boerne, Kerrville, San Antonio and New Braunfels are seeing record numbers of volunteers this year.

“The energy, enthusiasm, and patriotism that this group displays has been recognized by other cities around Boerne,” Becky Stokes, a spokesperson said. These cities are “asking for our participation in their Trump Train rides. We believe the October 3rd Trump Train Ride ride will be the biggest ever for this little town.”

Just down the road from the iconic Three Twisted Sisters are some legendary beautiful hill country cruises.

Restaurants

Photo
Keese’s BBQ serves breakfast and comfort food food lunches in Medina.

Popular eateries in the area include OST Restaurant, Brick’s Restaurant, Busbee’s BBQ in Bandera; Camp Verde Restaurant in Camp Verde; Keese’s BBQ, The Core Pizza, the Patio Cafe at the Apple Orchard.

‘Frogs For Freedom Hill Country Motorcycle Ride’ Oct. 3 Helps Fallen Navy Seal Families

The 19th Annual Frogs for Freedom Hill Country Motorcycle Ride proceeds will help widows and children of fallen SEAL team members and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen Warriors (SWCC).

The ride will be held at the ‘Biggest Little Bar in Texas,’ the 11th Street Bar on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020.

The first Frog event raised $9,000. In 2017, the group raised an historical $43,000.

Rain or shine, registration opens at 9:00 a.m. with the first bike leaving at 10 a.m. Preregistration ends Sept. 30, 2020.

The fun event includes a collector ride shirt, the ride, a Bar-B-Que plate, live music, dancing, 50/50, door prizes and a live auction. The street will be blocked off to accommodate motorcycles and festivities.

Pre register at by clicking here.


One register cost: Rider $30, Passenger $25. Day of: Rider $35, Pax $30. Donations are tax deductible.

From the Underwater Demolitions Teams of Korea to the SEALs who fought in Vietnam, to today’s Brave Warriors who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other conflicts, the SEAL Veterans Foundation Organization is a lifelong resource.

Fred “Doc” Cox and Karen Cox named it “Frogs” in honor of the old frogmen special underwater war operations group that was the predecessor to the SEALs.

Cox served as a SWCC Warrior in Vietnam. During a reunion over a decade ago, his group decided to create a benefit to sponsor.

Please note the Texas Hill Country Bike Week Thunder in the Hill Country event will also be taking place. For more information click here.

For information on the Twisted Sister (leg one, Road 337) click here.

Twisted Sister 337

Election Polls Suck, But 11 New Indicators Are Far More Reliable


People often ask which presidential election poll is best. My answer is Brad Parscale’ s team is quite accurate. He ran the Trump Campaign polling to victory in 2016 and has improved their abilities considerably for this election. He especially concentrates on the electoral votes.

Of course, the public is not privy to Parscale’s pinpoint accuracy, but we can generally determine hotspots by where Trump travels. His rallys, personal appearances and visit provide clues of where he’s needed to build and raise votes–for himself and political allies. It’s not just the presidency at stake. He needs to keep the Senate and increase the amount of Republican representatives in the House.

Back The Blue event in San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2020 was directed specifically at socialist mayor Rob Nirenberg and his police chief, Bill McManus.

Historically, Gallup was the poll most trusted for years until they sold out to Obama in 2014. They’re still polling, but not for presidential elections. I’m amazed how many people still believe in them and the political media after their disgraceful fiascos in 2016.

For the popular vote (not electoral college) Rasmussen is about the best of mainstream pollsters. In 2016, they had Hillary Clinton up 1.7 points over Trump on election day.  With final counts in, she had was 2.1 points over Trump (48.2% vs. 46.1%). But it’s the electoral college votes that count in the end. 

In July, Rassmussen reported Joe Biden was 10-points ahead of President Trump. Today Biden is only one point ahead and within the margin of error, not even as good as Clinton was on election day 2016.

Beside polls from mainstream media or the same unreliable polsters from 2016 and 2018 , not much else of significance indicates a Democrat win in the 2020 presidential election.

Undecided voter numbers are far less than in 2016. Some analysts say it’s at least half. Most of those are referred to by media pundits as
‘low information’ voters. In 2016, Hillary Clinton called a portion of them ‘Deplorables,’ wrapping them up in the same category as 63 million Americans she despised.

But the problem with even those who normally don’t have strong feelings or pay much attention to current events and politics, is they have just experienced months of wearing masks, standing in lines for toilet paper in fear of Antifa zombies lurking out from under highway overpasses to around the corner with no police officers allowed to protect them. 

Democratic leaders, mayors, county judges and city councils either nod or stoke the fires, and…their platform is not even American anymore.

Iconic photo symbolic of liberalism.

After Democrats showed their cards and hoaxes with Kauvenaugh, Dossier, Russian Probe, Amnesty fiasco, Mueller report, Comey, etc., all were proven wrong. This caused losses of base voters.

Undecided voters were a significant cause of Americans watching CNN, MSNBC and other election experts cry live on air in 2016.  They practically swore to us about 20 percent of voters were undecided and likely to vote Blue. Swing States rolled in, proving once again, how inaccurate and bias media has become. Nothing has changed much except they’ve turned up the biased and untrue rhetoric.

“And they still didn’t and haven’t learned their lesson,” said Ted Molars, a former Democrat who joined the Texas Trump Train in 2018.

Estimates are being thrown around that there are between 3 million to 22 million undecided voters out there. It’s all either speculative science or propagandized polling. No one knows.

Social media meme.

Trump has grown his base since he was elected to over 87 percent, the highest level in the modern era, except when George W. Bush had a temporary increase in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

But there are indicators, other than experts on the liberal echo bubble The View or even nutcases like Don Lemon, we can rely more on…far more.

Here are 11 strong indicators:

Eleven Strong Indicators

1. In the first seven months of 2020, five million Americans became first-time gun owners, FBI’s National Instant Background Check System. The National Shooting Sports Foundation calculated more than 12 million guns were purchased, a historical record. That’s 70 percent over the same time span in 2019.

A simple question provides insight. Do Democrats support the 2nd Amendment, the NRA and American gun owners?

There are 5,000,000 FIRST TIME legal owners. If they’re compelled to go out and buy a gun, they are likely to make the effort to vote–so they can keep them.

2. There is a grassroots phenomenon spreading across America breaking historical records. Parades and caravans in lakes, bays, rivers and intercoastal waterways are popping up throughout the United States. On literally hundreds of highways, city loops, rural roads and Main Street parades, thousands of Americans are uniting in support of a sitting president, the likes of which have never been seen.

3. After Trump’s election, all economic, military, VA, jobs, immigration, infrastructure improvements and other results were amazing. The list of his accomplishments are historical: Jerusalem, Border Wall, Energy Independence, Soldiers came home from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria; Korean Rocketman gives in, Black-Hispanic-Asian Americans and Females achieved historical and record breaking employment achievements. People saw him restore dignity in work.

4. Trump rallies are historical record breakers. Dems have never been near those levels…ever. Even though social distancing and pandemic concerns have slowed them down, the patriotic enthusiasm hasn’t.

5. Trump received 11% of Black vote in 2017. Indicators show that could double in November. If that happens, it will be monumental.

Trump has been strong in African American issues like prison reform, cracking down on dangerous gang activity and pardoning those wrongfully imprisoned.

Joe Biden’s misspeaks are turning more of Black America against him. His sincerity towards them is in serious question. “If you don’t vote for me then you are not black” is not exactly the kind of thing you say to motivate African-Americans to vote in your favor. 

Latino, Hispanic and Asian Americans reached historic employment and economic highs with Trump.

Nationally, Hispanics think the  Democrats are more of a threat to our economy (Democrat threat 66%/ GOP threat 34%).

6. Trump campaign contributions are coming in from individuals in record breaking numbers, while the DNC/Biden rely on corporations, lobbys and growing undesirable entities that Americans are increasingly becoming more angry at: Big Pharma, Chinese businesses, Planned Parenthood, etc.

7. The only polls that came close to being correct in 2016 and 2018 are not indicating Biden is ahead. Even the latest 2020 Zogby Poll of 1,007 likely voters gave Trump a 51%-43% lead over Democrat Joe Biden. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

8. Where’s Hunter? He has some explaining to do. Joe Biden’s pride and joy, son Hunter Biden is negative baggage to the campaign. Daddy Biden, who will be 78 in November, has been “Hiden'” in the basement and it’s unlikely he’ll dare come out to debate President Trump.

Only the die-hard Democratic base, the “Sheep,” will believe the excuses: COVID, “Trump-will-lie so-what-differencs-does-it-makd-anyway” type of hype.

9. The Barr-Durham investigation is closing in on Deep State Swamp Creatures. Expect hissy fits from the Media–and at least Jerry Nadler–as evidence, arrests and indictments appear in September and October.

10. End of summer Swing State data from party locals and Trump’s data guru Greg Parscale is favorable.

The GOP has revamped their recruiting, voter registration and on-the-ground organization to new levels of attainment.

One example is Pennsylvania where the rate of new voter registration for the GOP is five times that of Democrats. Lawrence Tabas, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, predicts that Trump will beat Biden by more than 100,000 votes — more than twice the margin he had in 2016.

Most GOP local campaign headquarters are farther ahead now than they were this time in 2016. Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., who helped turn the state Red then, says now “We’re thinking landslide.”

Very good indicators are showing favorability for Trump from state campaign chairs Andrew Hitt in Wisconsin, Jennifer Carnahan in Minnesota, Jane Timken in Ohio, Doyle Webb of Arkansas, and
Kyle Hupfer in Indiana.

More state polls just out (August 20, 2020):

Alabama: Trump 56, Biden 40
Georgia: Trump 49, Biden 46
Kentucky: Trump 60, Biden 34
Michigan: Trump 50, Biden 45
Montana: Trump 52, Biden 42
North Carolina: Trump 49, Biden 46
Texas: Trump 49, Biden 45
Wyoming: Trump 56, Biden 42

11. Other data (within and outside of the GOP camp) show Trump is crushing Biden among union workers (61% to 35%), Born Again Christians (Trump 68%/Biden 28%)NASCAR fans (Trump 68%/Biden 29%), Voters who recently lost their job (Trump 58%/Biden 34%), Men (Trump 57%/Biden 39%), Women (Trump 48%/Biden 45%) think Trump will win, Voters living in the East (Trump 49%/Biden 45%), South (Trump 53%/Biden 42%), and Central/Great Lakes (Trump 56%/Biden 38%).

In the meantime, Blue states (think Cuomo, Newsom, Whitmer and Brown) that have chosen to be left behind (economically, highly restrictive of freedoms/rights, soft on crime-terrorism-rioting and illegal immigration), are now struggling more as their citizens see Red states prospering more.  And who is going to be begging the rest of America to bail them out?

High school senior’s parking space in Boerne, Texas.

Democrat mayors’ and governors’ ploys are backfiring. Growing resentment is causing them to be defied by some of their own constituents. These voters who are understanding the President’s results and leadership.

Those who have trouble believing or comprehending should talk to Blue-State and city small business owners, barbershops, beauty salons and restaurants.

Most Red-States and cities allow businesses to serve clients without the fear and threats of fines or arrest. Churches are holding services. Local Sheriffs, whose citizens support their funding and protection, are refusing to arrest violators.

Murder rates and other crimes are rising generally in Blue States and key Democratic controlled cities.

Democrat controlled cities up in flames.

Leftists have earned a reputation as being more interested in popularity than in peace and order. Opportunistic plots show their politics is more important than their constituents stability. 

Finally, one of the best indicators comes from Stony Brook University Professor Helmut Norpoth. He’s the man who developed a model that has correctly predicted five of the past six elections since 1996, and every single election but two in the past 108 years. 

Norpoth says his model shows that Trump has a 91 percent chance of winning — as close to a guarantee as you can get. 

His model also indicates that Trump will get 362 electoral votes, which is far more than the 304 he earned in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. 

The two elections he missed were John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory over Richard Nixon, which was one of the most closely contested elections in American history… and George W. Bush’s 2000 victory over Al Gore, where Bush actually lost the popular vote. 

Texas Hill Country Bike Week, Thunder in the Hill Country 2020 Rally is Back

Originally planned in March and being in  lockdown over the COVID-19 crisis, the Texas Hill Country Thunder Rally is back.

The October 1-4, 2020 event will be the 19th straight rally held at Bandera’s Mansfield Park.

Consisting of tent camping, poker run, vendors, food, and field events, there will be music throughout the day Friday and Saturday. There bike show, tattoo contest, and Sunday morning church service are popular. 21 OR OVER, NO EXCEPTIONS.

Because of 2020 health concerns, there will be a covered stage to  enjoy outdoor concerts and contests in “the wide-open fresh air, under the bright stars of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. The big bar has been relocated under the Pavilion and close to the stage.”

“Ride the beautiful Texas Hill Country all day then come back and shop with our many vendors,” their promotional material states. “Enjoy your meals with one of nine Food vendors located outside the Barn, then go shop with over 30 Inside Vendors (spaced out) and over 40 Outside Vendors, before enjoying the evening concerts and contests.”

See TWISTED SISTER Leg 1 Here

“The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. We start it off loud! Hot Bands rock the night away…We will treat you so many ways you are bound to like one or two.”

The Bike Show categories include Peoples Choice, American Touring,
Metric Touring, Radical Custom, American Cruiser, Metric Cruiser, Antique Trike/Sidecar and Sport.

Other events include a Tattoo Contest, Nightly Risque Contests, The Famous Weenie Bite, Balloon Toss, Drag Race, Slow Race, Pole in the Hole, Keg Push, Keg Throw and Burn Out Contest.

Other features include 2 Beer & Liquor Gardens Ice Sold Onsite Hot Showers Full Hook-Up Spots Available Free Tent Camping Sewer Dump Available Rain Or Shine Event
Lots Of Self Contained Camping
Free Auto Parking Vendors
and lots of shade in this rain or shine event.

“If you had previously pre-registered and have not contacted to provide us with your preference to attend the rescheduled Thunder in the Hill Country or to attend Thunder in the Hill Country 2021, March 25-29, 2021, please contact us at customerservice@bikerralliesoftexas.com so that we have a written record of your preference.”

“For further information or questions, please contact our office at (409) 655-8800 or visit us at http://www.bikerralliesoftexas.com or follow us on Facebook, Biker Rallies of Texas.”

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.”

The Definitive Secret to Selecting the Best Watermelons

Do you know what the definition of a “truck” was before automobiles and vehicles were ever invented?

Thanks to our Grandpa Jack Dennis, I know a thing or two about that…and watermelons. (I’ll reveal the truck definition below).

Some of my favorite childhood memories are the summer time get togethers at Grandpa and Grandma’s Petaluma Street house on the southside of San Antonio back in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

All the Dennis family, including cousins (and sometimes the Grimmett’s from across the street), would spend the afternoon and evening into the night feasting on perfectly sweet and juicy slices carefully hand sliced by Grandpa and delved out by Grandma.

The melons had rested in a large metal washtub smothered in ice all morning. Grandpa took pride in selecting the biggest, superbly ripened melons that south Texas had to offer.

We’d play hide ‘n seek, tag and other games after lunch and until we were called for the traditional watermelon serving.

Oh my word, most of us were so sloppy and our bellies would get so full that we’d have to go dry off in the sun and then rest under a shade tree after the required water hose sprayoffs.

Night time brought out fireflies and gathering on hay bales or lawn chairs around a campfire. Uncle Sherman Sanders usually brought his guitar. Aunts, uncles and occasionally some of us cousins would take turns singing. Hits from Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Patsy Cline, Ray Price and Kitty Wells were special highlights.

Grandpa knew his fruits and vegetables. Since the 1920s, he worked along side his brothers in potato fields, corn patches and farms in various areas from around Kelly Air Force Base, southwest of the Alamo City, to near Floresville further southeast.

As the Dennis brothers (Jack, Burt and Bill) became more entrepreneurial, they’d hitch up a couple of horses (Dennis’s always had horses) to a large wagon each May for their annual trip to Fredericksburg.

The four or five day clever journey  allowed stopovers along the Old Spanish Trail until they reached the Boerne Stage Road at Leon Springs. There, they’d take the time for swimming and fishing.

“We ate whatever we caught at our campsite each evening,” Grandpa would retell the story many times. “For some reason, Burt could always outfish us, but we didn’t mind. and he helped keep our bellies full. We usually slept in the wagon and looked up at the millions of stars.”

“One year it rained and we had to sleep under the wagon, that night” he laughed.

After their watermelons and peaches were picked and loaded, they’d bring them back to San Antonio for selling to merchants at the Farmer’s Market near downtown and some at the Stock Yards.

They would return in August for strawberries and then southward for watermelons and other seasonal offerings.

When I was 12, Grandpa began picking me up before sunrise and taking me to his “secret watermelon farm,” the place he’d been buying from for many years. About the time the sun appeared, he’d back his pickup into a friend’s property near Dilley, Texas. The watermelons were waiting for us, stacked high on platforms so I could receive them easily within arms reach from the farmer’s workers and place them in the truck bed.

We’d bring them back to my little produce stand on Commercial Avenue in south San Antonio. The profits were split 50/50 between him and me on the melons. I manned that stand until I was 15.

Over the years I saw and heard people’s various tips about how to pick the best watermelon. Some looked for a large amount of brown webbing as a good indicator of a sweet melon, or that elongated “male” watermelons are more watery and bland than rounder “female” fruits. Others insisted on looking for a green, curly tendril or a dry, brown stem. Good luck with that!

Here’s some secrets I learned about watermelons from Grandpa:

Unlike many other types of fruit, watermelon will not ripen any further once it’s harvested. It also doesn’t readily announce its ripeness; the outside doesn’t turn soft like a peach does, and it doesn’t emit a sweet scent like a cantaloupe.

The truth is, according to Grandpa, there are really only two or three things you need to look for to find the best watermelon in the bunch, whether you’re at the grocery store or a farm stand.

1. Looking for darker green watermelons that aren’t too shiny. Be alert to notice the color between the stripes and check for a yellow belly. The creamy yellow patch is the “field spot” where the watermelon rested on the ground. The whiter this ground spot is, the less time the melon had to ripen on the vine before being picked, so a deeper, more buttery shade has a better, sweeter flavor.

2. It should feel heavy for its size. This can be hard to judge if you’re not used to hefting watermelons, but pick up a few of a similar size and see if you can tell that one seems heavier. That’s your best bet. When you’re weighing the merits of your melons, also check the rind; you shouldn’t feel much give since the outside of the fruit stays firm even when ripe. The stem end should have a little bit of flex, but if there are any other soft spots, pick another one, no matter how heavy it feels.

3. Make sure it sounds hollow when you thump it. Always thump it. It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll learn that if you tap or flick the underside of the melon, it should produce a deep, low-pitched, hollow sound, rather than a dull ping. It’s not totally foolproof, but considered with the first tips, improves the chances. 

A special treat was when we had “yellow meat” watermelons. These
yellow-fleshed melons are a natural mutation that look the same as your standard red or pink watermelon from outside, so just pick them the same way. They tender to taste a bit sweeter, almost floral-honey like. 

Now for the term “truck:”

In the 1800s, farms or family gardens that  produced vegetables and fruit, would call the offerings or portions setaside for sale (rather than for the owner’s own personal use).

“What’s in your truck today?” meant “what do you have in your garden, field, box, bag, table, etc. that is available to purchase?”

Prior to the 1800s, it was a term meaning to barter or sell, as in a commodity.

Is it Time to Downsize?


Dodie and I moved farther away from civilization in May and have no regrets. We love it!

Before Dodie and I married in December 2019, we talked often about ridding ourselves of “things” and living a more simple life. The pandemic hit and changed everything. It was lemonade made out of lemons time.

After a 40 year career as a RN nurse in Phoenix, Dodie is now retired and back home in Texas living her lifelong dream in the Hill Country.

My home northwest of Boerne, Texas for years was where I raised my four children. It was a large home with five bedrooms, two kitchens, two living rooms, three and a half bathrooms and three fireplaces on a 1,865 foot hill overlooking a spectacular hill country.

After a divorce 14 years ago, I found myself living in an apartment for the first time since college days. It was a small efficiency, a few floors above the historic Majestic Theater in downtown San Antonio.

The beautiful River Walk was my backyard, with dining, entertainment and shopping just steps away. The adjustment was easy and benefits many.

I lived above the theater in downtown.

Years later, I retired back to the Boerne area and lived in the wonderful Fair Oaks Ranch until May of this year. Several of my friends there mentioned over the years they had a desire to downsize after they became empty nesters. Some did and indicated relief with less burdens.

We moved about an hour from San Antonio and an hour further northwest of Boerne. Our home and yard is small. We’re surrounded by the tranquility of stunning picture postcard views of rolling and rugged hills, wildlife and a winding pristine river just a short walk away.

If we want, we can even kayak to my high school friend Randy Potts’ property and he can drive us back home a mile and a half away.

It was hardly news that downsizing our home could save money, but we didn’t realize we would cut all expenses in half!

We rent a small and simple house that my son Brady calls a cabin. In addition to no mortgage or tax burdens we spend far less on utilities and maintenance. Plus, our dog, Mr. Beefy is ecstatic. We’re happy!

But living in a smaller house wasn’t just a smart financial decision, it has
also improved our quality of life.

Here are some ways that living in a small house has made my our lives better:

1. We Have Less to Clean

A large home is time consuming and can be quite the burden. It’s refreshing to feel like we’re not slaves to our home with housekeeping and maintenance burdens.

It’s all simple. Today I even did something I haven’t done since I was 12 years old. Using clothes pins to hang our pillowcases and sheets on the line brought back childhood memories with my mother.

2. We Can Improve Our Health

If we have less to clean, we are more likely to do the kind of dust-eliminating deep cleaning that only happens in larger houses if you employ an army of maids. Less dust (and pet hair and dander) means cleaner air and fewer allergic reactions.

In addition, our small house really encourages us to get outside more often. Why stay inside a small space on a beautiful summer day when we could go for a walk?

Dodie and I have noticed that with each passing mile away from cities, our relaxation factor goes up. We have far less tension driving on highways, especially those under constant construction.

3. We Become Less Focused on Stuff

Just as a goldfish will grow to fill the size of a bowl it lives in, a regular family’s need for stuff will grow to fit the space it has to fill.

Living in a large house meant more rooms to furnish and decorate. But it’s more than that. In our little “cabin,” it’s easy to browse in stores without buying because we don’t have room for new stuff.

Small living changes how we view making new purchases. In a large house, there’s always room for more, so you might as well indulge.

4. We Have More Free Time

Along with buying less stuff because we have no room for it, we also avoid the time costs of maintaining all that stuff, as well as the time cost of keeping a larger home clean and in good repair.

Living in a small house means that the needs for our home take a smaller bite out of your free time, allowing us to pursue the things in life that we are really passionate about. In fact, we spent most of June and July roadtripping the country and checking off our bucketlist.

5. We Have More Family Time

One of the selling points for big houses is that everyone gets to have their own space. And while I would never want to give up my me-time, I don’t think I need an enormous separate room to have it.

Families in very large houses don’t have to spend time together, because each person has a space to retreat to. When everyone is all thrown together into a small living area, that allows for more fun family time.

6. We Optimize Our Space

People will often want a big house for reasons that seem perfectly logical: they need space for overnight guests, or a large dining room for the annual Christmas party, or a restaurant-sized kitchen for when the whole family comes for Grandma’s birthday dinner.

But these kinds of reasons ignore how families actually use their space on a day-to-day basis. We found we’re much happier using all of our available space the 360 days of the year we don’t have overnight guests, parties, or dinner for 8, rather than having unused space for the majority of the year.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

7. We Can More Easily Afford the In-Demand Neighborhoods

While every real estate market is different, I found that when I lived in the suburbs of the city years ago, we could generally count on small houses being more affordable than their big-blueprinted neighbors. It can often translate into living in a great neighborhood with good schools.

9. We’re Reducing Our Environmental Footprint

Small houses consume less energy and use fewer materials in the building process.

But in addition to these environmental benefits, small houses are also generally built in more walkable areas, which means we don’t have to jump in the car just to get a loaf of bread. And since buying a small house will often mean buying an older home, it will be preserving the environment by not building new—which is the ultimate in recycling.

The Bottom Line

Downsizing isn’t just for empty-nesters or those who bought more house than they can afford. If you live in a big house, think about how downsizing to a small one could improve your life, your relationships, and your bottom line.

Downsizing your home may be a way to save both money and time. Consider these 5 questions:

  1. Do you want more free time? Downsizing can free up time spent on home upkeep and give you more time to pursue other things you enjoy, such as hobbies, traveling or family bonding.
  2. Do you want to cut expenses? A smaller place may help trim costs, such as mortgage and insurance payments and utilities. But remember to consider the costs associated with selling a home, including realtor fees, closing costs and moving expenses.
  3. Does your home meet your needs? You may look for a home with living spaces on one floor, a smaller yard, or a closer proximity to city life. While you may be able to adapt your current home, moving to a smaller home may be more convenient.
  4. Do you want to improve cash flow? Selling your home may give you extra cash to put toward retirement savings or free up a portion of your monthly expenses. Downsizing from a $250,000 home to a $150,000 home could save about $6,250 a year.
  5. Do you need room to host? The right-size home for your family may depend on if you anticipate adult children or other relatives moving in with you or frequently hosting visitors.

Brady’s Texas Black Bean Salad

When my great-great-Chickasaw-Choctaw grandmother Margaret Delitha Ralph crossed the Red River by covered wagon into@ Texas she was only 14.

Born in Arkansas just five days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Margaret settled in central Texas near Brady Creek.

She married a cowboy, James Morgan, who spent most of his days on the Western and Chisholm cattle trails between Mexico and Kansas. Often he herded Brady area ranch livestock to markets up north.

The community of about 50 became a township, Brady City, with a new post office and general store when she first arrived.

By the time both of my maternal grandparents, aunt, uncle and mother were born in “The Heart of Texas,” in or near the city, it was shortened to “Brady.”

In honor of our cowboy ancestor and family who lived in the area, my youngest son was named Brady Morgan Dennis.

One of the favorite side dishes during family gatherings and holiday meals was black bean salad. Depending on who made it, the different variations were placed on the table with names such as “Texas Caviar,” “Southwestern Salad,” and even “Gringo Mexican Salad.”

In tribute to Brady Dennis and his family, we call this recipe “Brady Black Bean Salad.”

Ingredients

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained


3 ears fresh cooked corn, kernels cut off the cob

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3/4 cup diced celery

1/2 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 diced red onion

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 lime zested and then juiced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 Hass avocados, chopped

Combine all ingredients except for avocados in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight.

Right before serving, (to prevent from turning dark) add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados. Garnish with more chopped cilantro if desired. Serve at room temperature.

DON’T FORGET TO DRAIN AND RINSE THE BEANS

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.

Sheffield’s Bacon Wrapped Pickles

Mike Sheffield and I were born on exactly the same day and are only about two hours apart in age. I’ve known him since the early 1970s on the San Antonio McCollum High School football team.

Mike was quite the athlete. One of my favorite memories of being part of the Cowboys football team was watching him run, upside down with legs in the air, on his hands.

In the late 70s and early 80s, we worked together building H-E-B Food/Drugs stores and shopping centers all over Texas. I returned to H-E-B later and Mike worked with me again when I became head of their Facilities Management Department in 1986.

I’d tease him about being so much more mature than he is because I’m his elder–by two hours.

Mike and Jack in 2009.

In actuality, Mike has always been a skilled craftsman and walking encyclopedia. He’s known for finding off-the-wall mom-and-pop eateries throughout the state.

To this day Mike continues to work at H-E-B overseeing facility and equipment warranties. He’s been a loyal and trustworthy employee for well over 40 years.

On occasion, we’ll take a quick roadtrip to the Texas Hill Country or someplace in the San Antonio area to taste a new “culinary find.”

Usually it’s comfort food, something like a chicken fried steak or cheesy beef enchiladas.

Mike and I are two big old boys who both pretty much like anything wrapped in bacon–corn, jalapenos, asparagus. You name it. We like it.

I love this guy as if he was my own twin. In honor of Mike Sheffield, here’s one of his typically unusual comfort food recipes: bacon wrapped pickles. Of course, all of the ingredients come from H-E-B.

Celebrating our shared birthday, Dec. 5, 2019.

Although perfect for game day or any time of year, we don’t need a special reason to enjoy them. He tends to use H-E-B brand thinner slices of bacon as it’s easier to manage. We like our bacon crispy, so adjust accordingly if you don’t. We’ve served it with ranch, blue cheese, and even thousand island dressing. In a pinch we’ve eaten (and enjoyed) it with just mustard.

It takes about 30 minutes to prepare and cook. The both of us together can eat more than this, but it’s adjusted for normal appetites.

Ingredients

  • 8 pickle spears
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 8 slices bacon
  • ¼ cup ranch dressing

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Pat pickles dry with a paper towel.
  • Cut cream cheese into 8 strips.
  • Place 1 strip onto each pickle, and wrap with a strip of bacon, securing ends with toothpicks.
  • Place pickles on the baking sheet.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until bacon is browned the way you like them, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve with dressing.

Roadtrip 2020 Day 1: Sad News From Marble Falls Blue Bonnet Cafe

The Texas Wine Country is beautiful and we always feel blessed to visit Fredericksburg. But this trip, we are just passing through. Later this year we plan to visit the vast National Museum of the Pacific War.

It’s been years since H-E-B donated an existing store behind the Admiral Chester Nimitz museum (in old family hotel) to house the President’s Plaza and add more war artifacts. It’s been a least a decade since I visited.

I understand the entire complex has expanded and is now Smithsonian-like featuring WWII exhibits, including a recreated combat zone.

We also made a pit stop to enjoy buffalo grazing under shade trees at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Park and childhood home in Stonewall.

Our first official stop was the classic Hill Country eatery in Marble Falls, the Blue Bonnet Cafe.

Dodie heard of its acclaimed status, but had never been. A must stop when traveling up HWY 281 North from San Antonio, the cafe has never let me down.

I told her about traveling from Memphis back through this way in 2001. It was getting late. We were hungry but thought it was worth passing up other dine in places, knowing the restaurant might be not be opened by the time we made it.

While others waited in the van, I went to check if they were closed. The door was locked. As I walked back, admittedly disenchanted, a voice called out of the darkness behind the building.

“You look hungry? You traveling?” a nice man with a touch of graying hair and glasses came out of the shadow.

“Yes Sir,” I was startled. “Coming in a little too late I guess. Almost made it.”

John Kemper

“Who’s with you?”

“My dad and son,” I replied, scratching my head. “We’ve been up in Mississippi and Tennessee, just trying to get them home to my house in Boerne.”

“Well, why don’t you just come on on,” the friendly man smiled and put out his hand. “I’m John Kemper.”

Dad, Mark and I had the best home cooked meal of the entire trip. But best of all, it made for an enduring memory.

A few months later, I was visiting Austin in business for H-E-B Food/Drugs based out of San Antonio. There to meet a vender and disposal waste manufacturer, they had set up a small mobile classroom type unit next to our store at William Cannon and IH-35 to show us new advances in waste recycling technology.

“I hope you don’t mind, Jack, but we invited another client to join us since we had this opportunity to bring this unit to the area,” the sales representative said. 

“Not a problem,” I replied about the time the other client walked up. I recognized him, and put out my hand. “I know you. Your name is John.”

“That’s right,” he smiled a bit puzzled. “John Kemper.”

“–and you’re from the great Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls.”

He laughed, remembering the event when he let three hungry souls in after hours earlier in the year.

Kemper was a first rate guy and it was easy to see why his cafe has earned a worldwide reputation for good food and friendly service.

I wanted to say hi to him and asked our waitress if he was around today. She quickly looked behind herself and turned her head back to me with a disturbed and emotional expression.

“I’m so sorry to tell you this but John died last month.”

A rush of sadness hit our table.

Later, I looked at his obituary. He passed away on May 14th and suffered complications from Parkinson’s Disease.

“John turned the Blue Bonnet Café into a world-famous restaurant and served his community well. He helped originate the Walkway of Lights and Lakefest. He actively organized and campaigned for a local hospital for more than 20 years. He also served on numerous civic boards, including the Marble Falls Lake/LBJ Chamber of Commerce, where he acted as president, the Marble Falls Tri-Commission, the Baylor Scott & White Capital Campaign Steering Committee, the Baylor Scott & White Advisory Board of Directors Marble Falls Medical Center, and many others.”

Rest in Peace, John