22 Oct 2012

Thoughts from Texas

Posted by Sam

A few random Texas views from Sam & Dave.

First, Sam:

We are experiencing an uber-urban metropolis for the first time in our lives. Although towns like Plano and Grapevine are listed as their own entity on the maps, in truth we just blend into them. Looking out my backdoor is like looking at a block of English row houses. I love my little house (Dave thinks it is HUGE at 1700 sq. ft.), and it feels special, but in reality there are hundreds exactly like ours within a couple of square miles. This developer seems to have had four basic floor plans and didn’t like to deviate. Everything is brick exteriors over stick-built frames. Some brick is just painted. Virtually everyone has a fenced back yard and 98% of the fences are falling down. I’m looking for a little kudzu to cover the damned thing.

I have long had an unexplainable bias against Texans. Don’t know why, except when I was a foreman at the mill, we hired a Texan who thought my eyes were in the middle of my chest. When he found my eyes he would lick his lips. So that validated my belief that Texans were tasteless AHs. (The guy was a foreman or I would have found a way to fire him, maybe hurt him. He once said to me, “Sam, a woe-man without a bybee is lak always wantin a peanut butter cup and never gittin one.”)  Anyway, I haven’t met any of those type of folks here. Of course the fact that I’m mostly associating with Mormons might have some influence on that …. Texas women seem to fit the prototype of big, loud and a little brash … even Mormon Texans. So what’s not to like?

Well  . . . . maybe a few oddities: The Spam contest was HUGE program at the month-long Texas State Fair, and no joke either! Smith & Wesson makes a pink-handled hand for for breast cancer awareness. Texas classrooms follow the Pledge of Allegiance with the Pledge of Allegiance to TEXAS. Jamie told our kids they don’t have to say it – good for her!

We love being so close to the kids. For example, last week Susie called in a panic, she had run out of gas. Grampa went to help her and brought Xander home with a bunch of doweling which they made into arrows in the shop. Xander tipped them with pencil erasers, somewhat “sharpened.” Who’d have thought …. He will be eight in January is at a small window of his life where Gramma and Grampa are very important. We’re so grateful not to have missed it.  Xander will be baptized after his birthday and is already planning the event. He asked me if I would read a scripture at his baptism in Janueary,  and I said sure, what would you like me to read? He said, I’m not sure, would you also make a snack? At least once a week he asks me if I have thought of what snack I’m going to make. (Baptisms are usually well attended and there is a little party afterward.)

Jason is very busy at work on several projects, mostly updating training programs for a variety of military aircraft. Recently he experienced a LINK simulator at warp speed. Then he went out and bought a hot Triumph motorcycle. Well, maybe the two events weren’t linked, but he likes them both. He flew to Atlanta and drove the bike home. Midlife crisis resolved. Jamie is tolerating it, although with Susie driving and working now, they need two cars plus. Susie is a hostess at South of the Border restaurant, two nights a week and weekends. She’s a junior. Becca is a freshman and told me last week that yes, of course she is going trick or treating. “I’m going to go until I’m 18 and then I’m going to get married and have kids and go with them!”

Katie is in 6th grade, and like Xander, is pretty bonded with us. She rides her bike over and we bake or talk about boys. I loaned her my Planet Hollywood shirt for her school 80s party. Jamie works part time at a kinderschool down her block and has been accepted as a substitute teacher in the school system here in Mansfield. That will be a stretch for her, but I know she will do well and it will be good for her.  Anyway, if she never does anything else, she’s tops in our book for the way she has nurtured these kids.

I am very happy in the Mormon Church. I am learning about service and obedience, two totally new concepts for me. We feed the missionaries and attend an occasional ward picnic, but otherwise don’t spend a lot of time on church activities. I love the missionaries; they are such an important part of my testimony. Dave gives them a hard time (with affection). Recently, he spent a day repairing their bikes. For those of you not familiar with the Mormon Church, No, missionaries do NOT get a Swiss Army knife as a prize for conversions. (Dave always asked the them.) They are called Elders, not missionaries.

Love, Sam


Texas . . . . We are slowly settling in. We enjoy being so close to the kids. We are still important to the two little guys . . . . Sam picks up Xander from school on occasion when needed. Katie bikes over for a visit quite often. She and I get in a bike ride once in awhile. The two older ones are quite busy being high school girls. They call in emergencies, like when they run out of gas. We went to Katie’s band “concert” night at the school this week. Mostly scales and demos since they’ve only been playing a few weeks. We also share the dog, which is nice. . . . . have dog . . . . no expenses, other than food.

Susie, Xander and I went to an open house at Jason’s work place Friday. It was quite interesting, and informative. He’s the only guy from his company (DP Associates) based at the Link facility here . . . . you might remember Link as the inventor of the Link Pilot Trainer that was so famous in the second war to end all wars. They now are into really high-tek flight simulators and related products. Xander and Susie got to “fly” an a jet and two helicopters. They actually were quite good at it . . .  didn’t crash or anything. These things are pretty amazing, really. You sit in a cockpit and the view around you in a “bubble” style screen reacts to how you handle the controls. Just standing in the there and not “flying” it can give you quite a disconcerting feeling. Xander is quick to report that he shot down a helicopter.

The open house at L3 was followed by a Link employee “themed unit” chili cook-off (and hot dogs). That was a giggle.  Here’s my favorite chili cookers; they had a good time with it.












We drove the 50 miles up to Plano Friday so Sam could get some material from the Jo-Anns there, since she had bought it all out at the Arlington store. She was expecting a nice ride on two-lane rural blacktop, I guess, not the 50-70 mph hurtle through constant traffic on four to six lane speedways through constant retail and highway construction. They don’t call it the Megaplex for nothing. (It’s not the Dallas I experienced when I lived here in the 60’s.) You want rural you have to go SW of Ft. Worth, which I am able to reach on my bike w/o too much hassle. I usually  bike over and meet Sam after church on Sunday.

We also had our “Friday Night Lights” experience Friday night. Went to the Mansfield High football game. I was sure the stadium had to be the 60 million dollar job that’s so famous down here, but no, it was just the Mansfield ISD field . . . . about the size of the Rose Bowl if you leave off the end seats. It was Homecoming, so most of the girls, and some of the boys, were wearing these huge mum displays of a huge fake mum and ribbons down to their feet. The guys wore theirs on the arms. You’d have to say “typical Texas overkill.” The visiting team had a marching band that must have been 300 strong, not counting the girls flag team of maybe 50 plus. 13 xylophones on the sidelines, along with a few huge drums and gongs. It was damn impressive. I takes an 18-wheeler to carry the instruments. Mansfield also has a big band, and a bevy of “golden girls” with gold hoops. Mansfield band didn’t do any marching though. Mansfield won like 35 to 7 or something . . .  we left a little early to avoid the inevitable traffic jam. Any thing you have heard about Texas High School football is most likely true.

We have been the bulls-eye county for the West Nile Virus, although we haven’t seen many skeeters around here. Jamie and Sam make sure we are “Deeted Up” if we are out in a public park. It was one of the hottest summers on record, so we moved here just in time to fully experience that. Weather had cooled, though, and it’s quite pleasant right now . . . . in the high 70’s during the day. We haven’t seem much rain.

We are in the extreme SE corner of Arlington, so we consider ourselves Mansfielders. We’ve never lived in such a suburbia, so it’s another experience on the Swan life path. There are millions of people around the Metroplex but we see few out and around in the housing areas. The seem to live like Southern Californians. I ride my bike to the store, or the library, and it’s not much further than it was in New Bern, but it seems longer since routes are limited to major arteries, and route is between walled housing developments;  the view is mostly walls and rooftops. Luckily, there are pretty decent sidewalks everywhere so I can get off the street if the traffic thickens up.

Arlington is the home of both the Texas Rangers and the Cowboys. We followed the Rangers through the final meltdown, and Sam boos the Cowboys (She has never liked the cowboys). The Dallas paper is relentless in criticizing both. The sports section on a given day is bigger than the whole Bend Bulletin.

Sam keeps busy, among other things, making baby quilts. Since we no longer have enough people we know having babies she makes a lot of them for our Daughter-in-law Shelly’s hospital in Tacoma. They have babies that are abandoned or discharged to very poor people, and a baby quilt is so much nicer than a hospital receiving blanket for the baby to leave in. They have actually discharged new mothers who live in their car.

And, lastly, it was a sad day last week in Dallas when “Big Tex,” the 52-foot cowboy ikon that is erected at the State Fair entrance every year, caught fire and burned down to the metal frame. Many thought they had lost a much-loved family member, like a favorite uncle.

That pretty much catches us up.

Love to all,
Us Texans

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