A relaxing couple of days in South Texas

South Texas with a couple days off, it’s 99 degrees and the sun is shining, what to do? I suggested we go to a water park or at least some place with a pool. Kirstyn wanted no part of that, she wanted something much hotter and dustier. “How about a dude ranch?” She suggested. We found just the place, the Rio Grande Vista Ranch advertised that their two day ranch rider package would “Turn city slickers into Vaqueros over the course of a weekend.” “That’s exactly what we need!” Kirstyn exclaimed. I love westerns, and this sounded perfect. We’d be riding the range of the famous fictional Texas Rangers Woodrow Call and Augustus Mcrae. So we booked our package, which was surprisingly inexpensive, and headed to the store to purchase the gear we’d need. We found a store that advertised “GUNS AMMUNITION SADDLES WESTERN WEAR” Its surprisingly easy to buy a gun in Texas, so when we left the store, I was wearing chaps, spurs, boots, a big white Stetson and a 357 magnum strapped on my hip. The proprietor of the store assured me that a gun permit would be an unnecessary extra cost. Kirstyn was similarly attired but with a cute little Derringer tucked in her leather vest. On day one of our ranching experience, we arrived promptly at 6 am. “Don’t be late, tardiness is unacceptable” the email from ranch owner, Kitt Carson read. When we arrived, he was waiting to meet us in front of the bunkhouse “Call me Kitt!” He shook our hands vigorously with a broad genuine smile. “Let me introduce you to the ranch foreman, he’ll be your guide.” He started toward the stables. “Captain McDonald is his name, he’s a tough S.O.B. But fair, you’re gonna love him.” When we stepped into the stable The Captain was supervising the saddling of some horses. Kitt introduced us and left us alone with the Captain who said nothing during the introduction, occasionally spitting tobacco juice. “So you’re a military man?” I asked. The Captain looked me up and down, said nothing and spit some tobacco juice near my boots. Very awkward, I was thinking to myself when the Captain finally spoke “saddle those horses hippie.” The words seemed to appear as if by magic from behind his large moustache, no lip movements were apparent at all. He was a tall man, white haired and wearing boots, jeans and a plaid shirt. An imposing presence. “Yes sir” I said impulsively. Have you ever saddled a horse?” I asked Kirstyn as we headed in the direction the Captain had nodded almost imperceptibly. As luck would have it, Jesus the ranch hand was ready to help us out. “Is the Captain always like that?” I asked, speaking softly enough I was sure the Captain wouldn’t hear. “He’s a mean S.O.B, and don’t fuck with him” Jesus advised. Kirstyn and I exchanged glances “Oh good”

Out on the range, after Jesus had showed us the basics of horsemanship, we rode out to gather some cows and move them to a new grazing area. At least that’s what I think we were doing, the Captain wasn’t very forthcoming with information. There were several other guests on horseback, all Texans from places like Dallas or Houston. We spoke very little amongst ourselves, Jesus had warned us the Captain doesn’t like idle chitchat. Some of the cows were in a mesquite thicket and the Captain decided I’d be the best candidate to get them out. “Go in there after em hippie.” His voice wafted out of his moustache followed by a stream of brown juice. I spoke gently to my horse, hoping he would know what to do. My horse did know what to do, he found a path into the thicket, ducking under some branches. I didn’t duck enough and ended up on the ground with my shiny new Stetson in the dust beside me. The Captain shook his head in disgust and shot a stream of juice into the dirt beside my hat.

That night we slept in old army surplus sleeping bags on the ground next to a small campfire. Apparently the bunkhouse was for the folks that bought the fancy package, they also get steak and red wine rather than the canned beans we had for dinner. The Captain warned us that rattlesnakes might climb into our sleeping bags before riding off to his quarter for the night. “What do I do if a rattlesnake does climb into my sleeping bag?” Kirstyn asked the Captain’s back as he rode off. He spit tobacco and carried on. The other folks in our group looked as frightened and confused as we did.

At first light, Jesus rode into our camp looking worried “the Captain says there’s cattle rustlers down by the little draw, we’re putting together a posse, load your guns”

“What!? You can’t be serious!” One of the men in our group asked “Shouldn’t we call the police?” “Women don’t need to come, but I wouldn’t try the Captain’s patience” Jesus seemed dead serious, so we all mounted up and followed him to where the Captain was waiting for his posse. “They’re down there, behind that thicket, get your gun out hippie and go flush em out” I was stunned, cattle rustlers? Really? It’s 2018, are people rustling cattle? The thought of riding a horse that I barely knew how to control after a gang of armed thieves was not very appealing, but the Captain… Well, nobody wants to see the Captain angry, so off I went.

As I approached the area the Captain had indicated, I could hear men talking. I tied my horse to a bush and quietly tiptoed my way toward the bandits. “Hands up!” I hollered, because I couldn’t think of anything better to say. The men spun around to face me and pulled their guns. I dove to the ground. There were three of them, all armed and now shooting in my direction. I took aim and in the distance I heard the Captain’s voice “Shoot the bad guys not the cows hippie!” Very encouraging, I thought as I squeezed the trigger. The shootout lasted mere seconds I’m sure, but to me, time slowed down. Bullets thumped the ground next to me I took aim and shot several times till I heard the Captain “Check fire! Check fire!” I rolled for better cover behind a fallen mesquite log. As I tried to peer through the bushes I heard a struggle over near my adversaries and a moment later the Captain “Come on out hippie, I got em.” The Captain had three men tied to a tree “Good work hippie, they wasted all their bullets shooting at you, now go find Jesus and get to work!” The rest of the weekend was fairly uneventful, and the Captain was almost pleasant, he even suggested we should come back to the ranch again some time. I’ve decided I don’t like horses that much though.

Hay bales, swamp donkeys and antelope

If you were to drive twelve thousand miles a month, zigzagging up and down and across the North American continent, you’d probably notice a few things. For example, America is mostly a big grassy field. Sure there’s an ocean and mountains on the left side and an ocean and ummm… mountains, I can be generous, on the right side, and a muddy river and a foreign land on the bottom. But the middle, that’s mostly grass, a bit of corn and soybean fields, some cotton near the bottom. Canada is mostly swamp, or moose habitat if you like that better. On the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains you’re likely to see some pronghorn.

The pronghorn, an odd species which was described by William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, as “more like the antelope or gazelle of Africa than any other species of goat.” But really, they’re most closely related to the giraffe. He’s an odd little guy, and very quick. So quick he’s believed to be the second fastest land mammal after the cheetah. “Ah huh!” Jeered the anti-Darwinists, “if Darwin were correct, no animal could possibly evolve to outrun non existent predators!” But then in the 1970’s they realized that some bones they’d found in a cave in Wyoming were those of an American variety of cheetah. So I suppose those cheetahs had a rough go of it during the last ice age and life got a lot easier for the pronghorn. And of course we know that Americans hunted any other predators that may get lucky and catch a pronghorn, such as wolves and mountain lions, to near extinction. So these days the pronghorns are living the good life, lounging and grazing. Those are some happy little giraffes.

I was thinking about all the zombie movies and tv shows that’ve been so popular, and it made me think of the customs officer that confiscated my tomato’s the other day. I think I’d rather fight zombies than follow idiotic rules about tomatoes. Bring on the zombies.

Trump’s tariff war is heating up. I usually try to avoid writing anything political because I like people to read what I write, and I don’t care enough to argue about it, but I’m gonna make a controversial statement. I think a trade war is a great idea. Ever since Ronald Reagan our politicians, of all political stripes, have been fully on board with free trade and globalization. The result has been that whoever is the most desperate and willing to work for the lowest wage gets to make the stuff we buy and the food we consume. And if a company can find someone even cheaper, they move to that country. That’s not good for human beings anywhere, it’s barely even good for shareholders. Could this be bad for truck drivers? Maybe, but don’t worry about me. Meanwhile, vast quantities of diesel are consumed to get all this stuff across oceans and continents. If you’re an environmentalist, this could be the best thing that’s happened in years. Don’t tell Trump though.

Middle America

The Cracker Barrel Country Store. I’ve driven past so many of these places, they’re always near the freeway off ramp, parking lot full of cars. They look like a log cabin with rocking chairs lined up on the long front porch. A little out of place next to gas stations and fast food outlets. I imagined it being like a Denny’s but with home cooked style meals. Kirstyn and I finally made it into one. The food was bland, tasteless, unappealing and overpriced. So why so popular? Antique Americana on the walls, large fake fireplace with fake pot of beans hanging over the fake fire logs. Old shotgun above the hearth, large American flag standing proudly with a gold eagle on the top of its staff. Is this how people in middle America wish their country was? I guess it’s safe, the tasteless food is unlikely to offend.

Today we’re in Wisconsin and playing it safe, having some deep fried goodness at Denny’s. The cheese is great here, it’s America’s dairyland and good cheese is cheap here, especially if you come from Canada. Wisconsin makes my top ten US States list easily with its rolling hills and lush green forests. I imagine all those big city folks from the Land of Lincoln scrambling up here on long weekends to enjoy the peace and serenity of the place. Note to self: stay out of Wisconsin on long weekends.

Design flaws

Putting aside our opposable thumbs and large brains, dogs have some features that are clearly superior to our own. The asshole is one example. Dogs don’t need to wipe. Unless you have one of those crappie little fluffy dogs that get shit in their fur, you aren’t fussing with your dog’s asshole. Of course you could argue that our bums look better naked, keeping our asshole hidden from view, but we wear pants most of the time anyway. Another example is our soft feet. Why would god/natural selection give us feet that require shoes in a world full of prickles and thorns? I don’t like wearing shoes.

The People of the Turnpike

Long haul truckers, business executives, college football teams, high school kids on a field trip… Where do we all come together? Where can you find people from every State, every continent in the world, all the rungs on the socioeconomic ladder? The turnpike service plaza. When you wanna cover a lot of ground quickly, without jumping on and off the tollway and dealing with all those pesky toll plazas and the uncertainty of the outside world, the service plaza offers you all the amenities at an inflated price. But the best feature of the service plaza is that you get to see all the people you’d never have the opportunity to come into contact with in your normal life. These are the people of the turnpike.

LEGO bow tie lady

This lady was wearing a lego bow tie

America

America.

Hipster Mohawk guy

Hipster Mohawk guy

Extreme man bun guy

Extreme man bun guy.

Does it seem wrong to you to be snapping candid photos of strangers only to mock their outfits or their haircut? You know what they say about opinions, I’d love to hear yours!

Purple dreads and platform heels Purple Dreads and Platform Heels seem like an unlikely couple

#JerinandKirstyndoAmerica

Imagine a mysterious stranger comes rolling into town. A stranger with orange hair and the heart of a lion, or some similar beast. Kirstyn is her name, but you aren’t supposed to know that, so she’ll be called Stranger for the rest of this story. The town is Plainview Texas, known for it’s plainness on the high plains of the Llano Estacado. Stranger carries two big 45 caliber pistols, her spurs jingle as she walks and she wears a dusty blanket, chaps and wide brimmed hat. She enters the local drinking establishment “Welcome to Chili’s how y’all doing today?” A young woman asks in a chipper voice. A stream of tobacco juice shoots from between Stranger’s teeth narrowly missing the young woman’s shoe. “Well I guess y’all’d like a seat right there at the bar!” The young woman leads the way, menu in hand. Soon some mouthy teens try to give Stranger a hard time, so she shoots two of them and pistol whips the third. At some point townsfolk confront Stranger and beg her to protect them from some ne’er-do-well’s that have been causing problems in town. It seems the mouthy teens were actually young law enforcement officials and with them dead, there’s a job opportunity. Stranger shoots a stream of tobacco juice and lays out some absurd terms which the townsfolk amazingly Agee to. Stranger’s first act as saviour and chief of Plainview is to appoint an ineffectual dweeb as mayor and evict all the current guests and staff of the Holiday Inn Express so she can have the whole place to herself. There’s a little bit of rape thrown in, just to show she means business and Stranger starts feeling at home in her new role. Later that night we’re shown a dream sequence which gives us some vague insights, apparently Stranger has some history with the ne’er-do-well’s. Seems they murdered an acquaintance of hers. Wow, it looks like Stranger has the opportunity to get revenge while also fuck with the losers that inhabit Plainview. I do love a good western. Stranger arms the inhabitants and orders them to confront the villains, whose arrival is imminent. She also makes them paint everything in town red, and changes the “Welcome to Plainview” sign to read “Welcome to Hell” then rides out of town leaving the townsfolk Ill prepared to confront the bad guys when they arrive. Oh what an ass kicking those villagers receive. The ne’er-do-well’s burn most of the town and murder a few prominent members of the community. At a meeting in the Chili’s, the bad guys taunt the townsfolk who huddle in a pathetic mass begging for mercy. But of course stranger returns and murders the ne’er-do-well’s so it’s a happy ending after all.

I hope you all enjoyed this story, I had no choice but to add some rape for authenticity sake. Although it seems strange that a lady antihero would do much raping, you must understand that with the glass ceiling and the difficulties that women in executive positions go through, it just makes sense that she’d need to do some raping to establish her dominance over the townsfolk. Thanks for reading, maybe next week we’ll explore some more classic America genres.

Dogs don’t pay taxes, but humans pay tax on kibbles

I know, boring stuff, and nobody cares about anyone else’s politics unless they already agree. And thats why I try to resist the urge to share my politics on here. But I think we should all be able to get on board with this idea. We gotta fund our government, sure. I admit, I’m skeptical that the government really needs my meager wages more than I do, but whatever, there’s no point complaining about things we can’t change. Something that is worth complaining about is the requirement that we file our taxes each year. Canada Revenue Agency already has my T-4’s and T-5’s and they know exactly what I owe or how much my return should be before any deductions I may be entitled to. So why are so many of us paying H&R Block or Turbo Tax? Why isn’t there a simple online form that we can use to send in our deductions without filing an antiquated tax return? I’ll tell you why, big companies make a lot of money providing this crappie service and they pay for our politician’s election campaigns. Our politicians in turn, believe we’re too busy fretting about the big problems to bother them about something so insignificant as tax forms. We should all be pissed about this annual waste of all our time and resources. My belief is that tax returns exist for the benefit of the tax preparer companies. Fuck them, I say. I wrote my member of parliament about this because I think that it’s something that could easily be changed if enough people made a fuss. So forget all the big problems in the world. Us little people can’t solve world hunger or depose evil dictators. We aren’t willing to save the environment by not eating fresh vegetables out of season and boycotting plastic, but if we bitch and complain enough, we can probably get out of filing complicated tax forms. Rise up all you workers and throw off the chains of the evil corporations that take your $40 each year! Write your member of parliament and let him/her know that you don’t expect him/her to do anything of value, after all he/she is just a sleazy politician, except this one thing.

That was a lot for me. I’m exhausted. Now a little trucker trivia, truck drivers aren’t allowed to work seven days a week. Once we clock seventy hours, we need to take a day and a half off to reset our clock. So where would I park for a day and a half? Walmart obviously, duh. You might be surprised how many people reside in the Walmart parking lot. Today in the Kelowna Walmart, we watched red van guy swapping his license plates. What do you think, on the run from the law? There’s a woman that spends the entire night in a Dodge pickup while her husband goes to work, we even watched him make his lunch on the tailgate of the truck. There was a guy in a cammo painted pickup pulling a fifth wheel trailer. He was wearing military style clothes with his pants bloused at the top of his boots. We think he might have hostages tied up in his RV. There was at least a half dozen cars with people sleeping in them plus several RV’s. In the morning, all of us parking lot denizens head inside with our toothbrushes to prepare for the day ahead. I watched one young woman spend half an hour doing her makeup in the passenger seat of her minivan. It’s kinda reassuring to know that if you’re ever down on your luck, all you need is an automobile, and you got yourself a rent free place to live.

Interesting news item, the South Selkirk caribou herd has only three remaining animals, all female, which makes it more of a triad than a herd. It also means that caribou are effectively extinct in the lower 48 States. That’s a small victory for the human species over the furry critters of our planet. We’ve got nature on the ropes folks, if we keep purchasing disposable consumer goods and popping out lots of new little baby consumers, victory will soon be ours.