October 27, 2011

Death, Taxes and Texas Rangers

A good buddy of mine  I worked with for over five years and a heckuva Texas singer/songwriter, Deryl Dodd, updated one of his hits to reflect the current sports mood here in Texas recently.

His song, "Death, Taxes and Texas", was a Top 5 hit in the State of Texas. Well, with the winning ways of the Texas Rangers, ole Deryl decided to update the tune to show his support of the best baseball team in the American League. It's now called, "Death, Taxes and Texas Rangers".

 Take a listen and see what you think. Also, if you see that Deryl ("Double D") is playing anywhere close to you in future, do yourself a favor and go out and catch one of his live shows. He's one of the last of the true Texas Honky Tonk Heroes playing today and he puts on a heckuva show.

Thanks for a catchy tune Deryl!

"I may not get much done, but I sure am slow"...

October 17, 2011

Colby's Gold

As I write this, I’m reliving an emotional rollercoaster ride I went on, on Saturday and remembering how a single event totally changed my life and my view of life, forever. My emotional meter ranged from extreme guilt, to joy and to sadness all in the course of three short hours. I laughed, I cried and searched my mind for answers to why I was so overtaken with heart wracking emotion.  After the morning was over, I felt as if I had been on a ten mile hike, with a twenty pound backpack, with no water, in the blazing sun. I was completely spent. But in the end, it was one of the most rewarding moments in my life and worth every emotion I went through. The source of that emotion was the Annual Tarrant County Downs Syndrome Buddy Walk at the University of Texas, Arlington. My wife Terri and I were there to support Colby Bannister, a new friend of the family on Saturday, October 15th.

We know Colby and his amazing family from my wife’s pageant and community service work. Randall and Rhonda Bannister seem to me, to be a new millennium Ozzie and Harriet, the perfect couple, a tall and handsome husband and wife. They are the quintessential pair that other’s strive to be. Malyn Bannister, Colby’s younger sister is the type of young lady that any mother and father would be ecstatic about should their son bring someone like her home to meet them. She’s tall, statuesque and strikingly beautiful. She’s smart, sensitive, talented and driven and just the kind of young lady I’d consider adopting, should the chance lend itself. I guess if the truth be told, I already have in my own way.

The bond between Colby and his sister Malyn is one of awe, wonder and inspiration. The love they share is so evident and one that you just can’t put into words. I don’t know if the word that describes their bond has been coined yet. Colby and Malyn are inseparable.

When we arrived at the campus the Bannister family met us at the signup area and led us over to their display booth while we waited for the event to begin. The entire way over, Colby and Malyn were hand in hand, laughing, joking and hugging. They stood by each other at the booth and many times during the day, they exchanged hugs and brotherly and sisterly gazes that only brothers and sisters understand. I can honestly say I don’t know of another sibling relationship that deep and connected.

Last year, my wife attended a Special Olympics event that was here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and she asked if I’d like to go. It was a very rare Saturday that I would have free to just sit around and “recharge”, so I jumped at the chance to stay home and relax, so I told her to go and have a great time. I don’t regret many things in my life, because I believe regrets can hold you back and cloud your walk through life. But one of the regrets I have after attending this weekend’s festivities is not attending the Special Olympics event last year and similar events I’ve missed over the years. I won’t miss another if possible.

Yes, my friends, Colby Bannister has Down’s Syndrome. But he doesn’t seem to know. He’s very outgoing and friendly and has a great hunger for life. But to look at Colby, to watch him, to spend time with him and just soak in his greatness, after a while you look right past the obvious signs of his Down’s Syndrome and at the man that he truly is. He loves to sing and dance and compete in sporting events. And one other thing, Colby is a World Champion Olympian. Yes, you read right, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.

Colby went to Greece (yes, Greece) last year to compete in the Special Olympics and “came home with the gold”. He won the gold medal in the High Bar event and also won two silvers and a bronze in other events. One might think that it wouldn’t be hard to win a medal in an event like the Special Olympics. But in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, “au contraire mon fraire!”, the Special Olympics ain’t no cake walk. Remember, this was the Special Olympics Competition held in Greece… the country where the event began centuries and centuries ago? Special needs people from the entire planet were competing. Colby went up against competitors from countries all over the world and was a world class competitor and winner.

Special needs folks don’t have the strength and endurance that “normal” people have, but their spirit of competition and winning is just as big and some would argue, bigger. You won’t see anyone at this event breaking the world record for the discus toss, the javelin throw or the 100 meter dash. But what you will see is the raw, driven hunger to win for no other reason than for winning and competing. How many Olympic competitors do you know that would pass up the huge endorsements just for the sake of competition and winning?

Before the walk began, there were awards given out, pictures taken and a great visit by all. I milled around the crowd and took dozens of pictures of some of the people that have forever changed my life. There was the young teen girl that was chosen Homecoming Queen, and another that was a pageant winner and a young man that is a full-time coach on a high school football team. There was a young teenage girl in the middle of the field, dancing away by herself to the popular song “All The Singles Ladies”. But she wasn’t alone long, because in one of the classiest gestures I’ve ever witnessed, an entire squad of young prep school cheerleaders joined her in the middle of field and asked “do you mind if we dance with you?” They pushed aside any concern of ridicule, embarrassment or teasing that might be brought on by friends to make a total stranger feel happy and wanted, if just for a few minutes. They all were soon moving and shaking as one, to that catchy tune in the middle of that field, without a care in the world. I missed part of the dance, because I had to step behind a dumpster for a minute or so to remove the piece of grass or dirt that had obviously gotten in my eye...

After the pre-walk ceremonies concluded, we stood at Colby’s booth and along with his sister, friends and parent’s, we gave out information about the Special Needs Pageant that Malyn has organized for local children with disabilities and special needs. The green, yellow, pink, blue and orange “glow stick bracelets” that we handed out were a huge hit. The look in those young children’s eyes when they received their bracelet can’t be described. It’s one of those things where, “you’d just have to have been there”.

Finally the time had come for the walk to begin. I believe at last count, there were over 2,000 souls waiting to walk. Groups moved in behind one another as the crowd gathered. The air was filled with electricity and excited voices on this cool, Saturday morning. Children laughed and danced in place to the music. Colby, being one of the walks “superstars” was asked to lead the walk with several of his other “superstar” friends. He proudly displayed his Olympic medals around his neck he had won the year before at the competition in Greece and was more than gracious to anyone that wanted to see and touch them. We were so honored to be asked to walk in front supporting Colby and all of the other children that led the walk.

The walk finally started and off we went. We wound in, out, around and through the University of Texas at Arlington campus. All along the walk photographs of children with Downs Syndrome were prominently displayed right along the route. Fascinating facts about Downs Syndrome were posted beside them. One I recall is that “Over 400,000 persons in America have Down’s Syndrome”. And another read, “The life expectancy for someone with Downs Syndrome has risen from the age of 25 to 50 and beyond since the 1980’s”. There were dozens of fascinating facts posted along the walk and I read each and every one in amazement and joy.

In about twenty minutes, the walk was over. Short, but brisk. People broke up into their groups, grabbed an icy beverage and some food and walked around, lazily visiting the other booths. We went back to the Bannister Family booth and continued handing out bracelets and information for another hour or so. The event was winding down, so Terri and I made our way around the booth saying our goodbyes while hugging and thanking the Bannister’s for allowing us to be a part of this special event with Colby and the rest of the family.

It’s Monday now, the weekend is gone and another work day has begun. But I can’t help but continue reliving the experience I was blessed to attend this weekend with so many new friends. The emotion of that day is still here inside, on the surface and raw, having rode out the entire weekend without leaving. I’ve never, ever in my life thought less of people with disabilities before this weekend, but my awareness of these wonderful babies, children and adults has been raised to new heights and forever changed.  I wondered to myself “What is it that makes it seem like people with Downs Syndrome are just different, in a good way and that they just “get it?”. I finally came to the conclusion these wonderful souls live each day as if it were their last and God doesn't allow the darkness of this world to pollute their wonderful personalities. No one there had an attitude of “feel sorry for me”. It was refreshing and spiritual for me. I truly saw God in the faces of those wonderful children and His presence all around me that morning.

The last thought that crossed my mind as we left the event was one of recollection and joy and I shared it with Terri. I have come to the conclusion that God knows exactly what He’s doing, everyday, all day and throughout time, because after Saturday it came to me, He only made a few perfect people in this world and the rest of us, He made “normal”.

Colby "gittin' down"

Colby and his sister, Malyn with a gorgeous baby

The Homecoming Queen

The young girl and the cheerleaders

Malyn and the beauty queen

Malyn and two baby queens

Terri, Malyn and me...

The Impulsive Texan

"I may not get much done, but I sure am slow"...

October 3, 2011

Opening day of deer season, 2011...

Oh yeah, it's that time of year again. Time to get out the bow, the arrows, the scent killer, sunscreen, candy bars, bottled water and make sure the I phone has all the latest games and apps loaded. It's deer season.

It's been many years since I've been able to get out there on opening weekend. But this weekend, I was going to get out there no matter what. I had a vacation day that had to be burned by this past Friday or I would lose it, so I took the opportunity and me and my lifetime hunting partner and wife, Terri, hit the road on Thursday night.

We pulled into the Days Inn in Decatur full of excitement and pre-hunt jitters. We unloaded the van and went inside got the room set up and headed out to supper. A side note...if you're ever in Decatur, go to Casa Torres..AMAZING mexican food. I had the Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas and they were awesome.

On Friday morning we headed out to the lease and cleaned up our hunting areas, got our stands and blinds put up and started "scounting" around to see if anything interesting had happened over the last year. Lots of fresh deer "sign", so it looks pretty promising.

Before I go on, let me define a few things. In my mind, you have your three levels or categories of hunters...1. The Part-Time Hunters, 2. the Highly Interested and 3. the all-out Maniacal, Blood Thirsty Savage, Caveman inspired hunter. I happen to fall somewhere in between # 2 and #3, ok so I'm closer to #2. But my wife, she's the poster child and all in for #3. I've never seen a hunter, male or female like her. She wants to get in the stand by midnight and not leave until the dew starts falling after sundown. There are a few exceptions to that rule though..coyotes yelping and wildcats screaming. But that's fodder for another story.

So, opening morning, we're up by 4:30, dressed and out the door by 5:15. We're only 11 miles from the lease, so we've got plenty of time before sunrise. It's still very dark by the time we get to the stand and since it's the first day of the hunt, my wife asks if I will help her carry her stuff to the stand. I agree, knowing that it's not the stuff she needs help with, but more the safety of her reaching her blind without hearing the aforementioned "coyote and wild cats" yelping and screaming.

I get her set in the blind and I'm off to my tree. Well, I'm sort of off to my tree. I get in the van and drive 1/8 mile down the road so I don't have to walk an extra 1/4 mile into my tree. I get parked, turn off the car and send up a small prayer to keep me and my partner safe this weekend. Well, for some reason my eyes don't cooperate when I urge them to "open".

The next thing I know, I've taken a little cat nap and the sun is up. So I jump out of the van, grab my backpack, my PSE bow and my quiver of arrows. Don't be too impressed fellas at the name of the bow, it's super heavy, has a counter weight on the front about a foot long and was made probably right after the turn of the century. But it's accurate and has a cool camo paint job.

By the time I get to the tree, every deer in Wise County was alerted probably because of the manner in which I entered the woods. I know there isn't a tree, branch or shrub that goes in a straight line from the parking spot to my tree that didn't get snapped, broken or tripped over. By the time I get to the tree the sun is hot, the birds are chirping and the deer that WERE close are somewhere near San Antonio by now.

So I get in the tree and begin waiting out The Mighty White Tail deer. 9:00... nothing...9:30 ... I've now seen a dozen small, yellow butterflies... 10:00...I catch a glimpse of a lizard running up a tree 10:30...a squirrel entertains me for about 15 minutes.

Well, I'm a growing boy, so by 10:45, my stomach is making more noise than my cumbersome entrance into the woods several hours earlier. So I climb down out of the tree and head back to the van for a little food to quieten down my rioting gastric devices...and another quick cat nap.

I get back into the tree at about 11:40 and begin my sit in again. Nothing for six, count 'em, six hours. Except the blazing Texas sun. Of course, my tree faces south and the sun is beating down on my left side. I now look like I went on vacation to some sunny destination but only half of me showed up.

Finally at around 6:50 p.m., I'm about to call it a day and head back to the van. But...what is that? Do I hear Mr. or Ms. White Tail making an entrance? I hear the slow, methodical steps of something moving very slowly to my left and behind me, crunching the brittle leaves in the woods. I S-L-O-W-L-Y turn my head to my left and there she is, Ms White Tail, cautiously making her way into the clearing to hunt for fallen acorns or some other forage.

I slowly clip my bow trigger onto the string of the bow and S-L-O-W-L-Y stand up and turn to the left. I have to do this in partial movements because Ms. White Tail is watching this strange shape twenty feet up in a tree changing shapes with each time she glances up. She finally gets to 15 yards and a good broadside shot with her head down. I pull the string back ever-so-slowly and settle the 15 yard pin at the top of her back. Suddenly a jolt rocks my entire body and I almost lose control of all bodily functions. WHAT THE H&11 WAS THAT????? I had left my cell phone in my front shirt pocket, ON VIBRATE, and my hunting and life partner chose THAT moment to text me saying her crossbow was jammed.

Well, it' all over at that point. My arms are shaking, my legs are shaking and I'm fighting off the almost impossible urge to evacuate from every opening. But I steady myself, put the pin back on her shoulder and release the arrow...THUDDDDD! Two feet below her...Oh great, she zips off into the woods..but wait!!!! SHE STOPS 30 FEET AWAY, WAITS TWO MINUTES AND COMES BACK EVEN CLOSER!!! Ok, i get to redeem myself for a horrible shot. She walks in this time at 10 yards. I again, raise the bow, settle the pin on her and release again...THUDDDD!!! I missed under her by two feet...AGAIN!!!!

Now, this is the same bow that I put five arrows into a 2" group at 20 yards just the day before. What happened I ask myself furiously? I immediately realized that even though it was ten yards, it's also 20' up into a tree and you have to compensate for the radius change of the shot..and I didn't do that. So I had two elementary shots thud between her legs.

So, dejected and defeated by Ms. White Tail, I crawl out of the stand and head to the van. I'm sitting in campe and making small talking with Robert, a long-time family friend and quite honestly a young man that is like one of my own sons, when I hear "AHHH OOOOOOOOOHHH, OOOH , OOOH, OOOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!...A coyote screamed out across the woods, very, very close to my wife's blind. I made and offhanded comment to Robert, that Terri would be calling inside a minute...wait for it, wait for it...and right on time not thirty seconds later, the all-out Maniacal, Blood Thirsty Savage, Caveman inspired hunter, my wife, sends me a frantic text saying "COME AND GET ME NOW!!!"

More to come during the season, so happy hunting in 2011, Texas...

The Impulsive Texan

"I may not get much done, but I sure am slow"...