It’s been tough to geocache lately, since I’ve gotten most of them where I live in Fredericksburg, Texas. The most recent one was fun: you had to find the sun and planets and use the numbers on each planet to solve a puzzle that revealed the coordinates for the geocache. The person who created that was kind enough to include Pluto among the planets.
After finding one in Falls City, Texas on Saturday, I noted with dismay of all the towns in the Slavic corridor of Highway 181 in South Texas, only Poth has no geocaches. One friend, a lover of puns, called it, “Pothetic.”
I’ve found several in Beeville, Texas (where I grew up) to take my total to 131.
One I’ve not been able to find is somewhere in downtown Beeville near a store that has since closed. The description includes a staircase that leads somewhere unknown. Perhaps it was muggled.
Being politically conservative, I often disagreed with Carlos Guerra’s columns that ran on Section B of the San Antonio Express-News. He didn’t like President George W. Bush, and he also felt the rich didn’t do enough to help the poor.
Once, I decided to write to Carlos and tell him how misguided I felt he was.
One e-mail turned into several. Throughout it all, Carlos maintained unfailing politeness.
It gave me a lot to think about.
Over the next few years, I would email him about this or that topic, and it remained the same civil tone. My correspondence with him evolved from disagreeing to getting his opinion and carefully reading what he wrote. Among the things we discussed: whether San Antonio would get an NFL franchise (Carlos believed San Antonio lacked the market needed to sell out luxury suites), whether nor not newspapers should endorse political candidates (surprisingly, we both agreed they should not) and an excellent place for barbecue down in the Corpus Christi area, Cotten’s BBQ (both of us were South Texas boys: Carlos was from Robstown, and I grew up in Beeville).
I grew to like him very much and, while I often disagreed with him, I enjoyed reading his columns because it was as if Carlos knew the pulse of San Antonio. Carlos became one of my favorite Express-News columnists. If you wanted to know what was happening in San Antonio and in Texas a decade ago, Carlos’ columns served as an excellent barometer.
Early on in my e-mails, I referred to him as “Mr. Guerra.” That quickly ended as he insisted I call him “Carlos,” telling me that “Mr. Guerra” was his father.
I never spoke to Carlos on the phone and never met him, and while I lived in Michigan from late 2004 until finally returning home in August 2013, I often thought that when I returned to Texas, how fun it would be to meet him, buy him coffee somewhere and chat. Life has taught me that when you find someone you like, why ruin that friendship by dwelling on the disagreements?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
In 2010, I was shocked to see that Carlos had passed away. Reading an article on him in the Express-News, I learned he’d retired following some sort of buyout from the newspaper, and that at the time of his death, he was embarking on a new career in public relations.
As saddened as I was to hear about his death, I also found his retirement sad. It was indeed the end of an era. Some of the happiest times of my life were while living in San Antonio from 1998-2004. Carlos’ columns reflected that for me. Now, his columns exist in the archives, and he exists in the recollections of his friends.
Vaya con Dios, Carlos.
Richard Zowie lives in Fredericksburg and as a writer. During his career, he has freelanced for the San Antonio Express-News. Post comments here or e-mail him at email@example.com.
From A to Zowie
Two pebbles, a handful of sand, and a piece of limestone
By Richard Zowie
My two youngest sons and I visited Texas in July 2011, our first visit home in over seven, very long years. It was an extremely emotional experience, to put it lightly. Never in my life was I so happy to experience 90-degree weather. While home, we stayed in Beeville with my parents but also spent time in Corpus Christi, Victoria and in Austin. In Austin, we spent the day with Chelsea Taylor, my high school classmate whom I’ve known since fifth grade. I also got to see my nephews, nieces and my sisters Sabrina and Misti, all whom I missed very much.
It was a week that went by far too quickly.
The last night before we flew back to Flint, Michigan, Chelsea asked me, “How has your vacation been, Richard?”
“Let me put it this way,” I said. “If I could, I’d tear up the return-flight tickets.”
Being back in Texas made me realize something I’ve known deep down for years: I’m a Texan. Michigan is a beautiful state, but it’s not home and never will be home. Someday soon, when the time is right, I want to return back to Texas and spend the rest of my life in the Lone Star State.
I wasn’t born in Texas, but I moved to Texas when I was eight, grew up in Texas and think of myself as an adopted Texan.
Why my fondness for Texas? It’s not just because it’s home, but…Texas is a state of mind that I’ve never experienced any other place I’ve been. I love the white-on-black farm to market road signs, I love the scenery, which ranges from the Gulf Coast to the Valley to the Hill Country and to the endless oil derricks you see out in West Texas. I also love the culture, how the independent spirit blends with the Hispanic culture. I’m not Catholic, but I smile when I see old Catholic churches; they make me think of early Texas settlements centuries ago. I love the smell of Tex-Mex food and the accordion-fueled guitar beat of Tejano music.
And, of course, I love the songs of the cicadas.
I know I’m home when I enter a store and for sale on the news stands are the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle, and in the magazine rack is Texas Monthly and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. And when you enter that store, half the conversations are in Spanish, spoken by family and friends who have spent generations in that town.
All this means I’m especially partial to South Texas.
I am a very sentimental person by nature, and during that visit I decided to collect a few items.
From the back of my parents’ property northeast of Beeville, I found a smooth black pebble.
During our trip to Corpus, we visited the U.S.S. Lexington. While there, I scooped up a handful of sand from the beach of Corpus Christi Bay.
While with my sisters, nephews and nieces for a trip to Victoria to a duck pond, I found another smooth black pebble.
Then, outside Chelsea’s home in Lakeway, I found a piece of limestone.
Someday, perhaps as soon as this summer, I plan to move back to Texas. For now, I live in Vassar, Michigan, a small community about 25 miles southeast of Saginaw. On my nightstand are two plastic containers; one contains the pebbles and limestone and the other contains the sand.
When I return, the sand will be returned to the beach at Corpus Christi Bay.
The small black pebble will be returned back to the duck pond in Victoria.
The larger black pebble will be returned to my parents’ property.
And the limestone will be returned to its home in Lakeway.
When I do those things, I will know one thing.
I am back home for good. And forever.
Richard Zowie grew up in Beeville and is a 1991 graduate of A.C. Jones High School. He currently lives with his sons in Vassar, Michigan. Post your comments here or e-mail Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is at www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com.
From A to Zowie
Returning to writing for the B-P, Astros, Texas rivalries, birds
By Richard Zowie
After an extended hiatus due to a certain unexpected change in my life, I’ve decided to dust off my keyboard and continue writing “From A to Zowie” for the Bee-Pic.
To make a long story short, there comes a time where you have to return to your routines and get busy. Life goes on.
That being said, let’s get down to business…
…I am very excited to be a Houston Astros fan, even though the Astros have the worst major league record in what will be their final season in the National League. After about 50 years, they have a handful of division championships and only one pennant (in 2005, they went to the World Series and were swept by the Chicago White Sox).
Why am I excited? New ownership and, even more important, new uniforms.
From what I’ve read online, the Astros will be doing what many ’Stros fans have been dying for them to do: ditch the black, brick, sand railroad look and return to the blue-and-orange space look. Specifically, a modern version of the 1960s shooting star look will return. I’d love to see the star on the jersey, but I’ve also heard it might not be there.
And, if you love the blue caps with the white H superimposed atop an orange star, you’ll be excited as that is said to be returning–howbeit with a slightly different font.
People say Houston should focus on having a winning ball club before worrying about what they wear. I say, it’s bad enough that the team looks as bad as it plays: why not have a fresh look that returns the team to its roots?
Personally, I’ve never understood the logic of basing a team’s look on what used to occupy their stadium site (Minute Maid Park sits on what used to be a train depot, hence the railrood look)…
…I have a family that’s divided. My sister Sabrina’s kids are all staunch Texas A&M fans while my sister Misti’s sons are both staunch Texas fans. My sons, living in Michigan, like Michigan State but also like the Longhorns. I reminded the youngest, Robert, that he should like the Aggies since the man he was named after (my close friend from high school, Bob Jackson) is a Texas A&M graduate. Maybe I should buy Rob a maroon cap for Christmas.
Myself, I am still trying to decide where I stand. While vacationing in Texas with my sons two summers ago, I bought all three of us U.T. caps. We were in Austin visiting my high school friend, Chelsea, and finding an A&M cap there is like trying to find a Cowboys cap in a Washington D.C. sporting goods store. Once my sons are grown, I’m planning to return to school and may just declare my allegiances depending on where I go. If that’s the case, then UTSA could be my top choice. They offer programs in two things I’d like to dive into: English and Russian…
…A few years ago, I read a story in the Bee-Picayune about the feeding and social habits of mockingbirds. It fascinated me and made me think of how exciting the world of bird watching is.
Here are my recent bird watching highlights:
A couple of years ago, I saw a bald eagle in a farm field outside Frankenmuth, Michigan. Coincidentally, Frankenmuth’s school mascot is the Eagle. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a bald eagle. One avid bird watcher I recently met tells me America’s National Symbol is becoming more common in the Great Lakes State.
Our neighbor’s cat twice left a dark, speckled dead bird on my porch. I took a picture and asked on Facebook if anyone knew what kind of bird it was. After weeding through the “It’s a dead bird!” comments, I finally saw my sister, Sabrina, answered. It was a starling–apparently an invasive species of bird.
I’m guessing the cat left it as a gift for me.
More recently, I saw a bright yellow bird with black markings flying around. I took a picture and then after googling the description, saw I’d just met the American Goldfinch.
I’ve also seen orioles, robins, cardinals and other colorful birds. When I return to Texas, I plan to photograph the mockingbird. And next time I’m in Kansas and Louisiana, the western meadowlark and brown pelican, respectively…
Richard Zowie grew up in Beeville and is a 1991 graduate of A.C. Jones High School. He currently lives with his sons in Vassar, Michigan. Post your comments here or e-mail Richard at email@example.com.
Sometimes in life you just want to go for a walk and leave your cell phone behind so that you can just get away from it all. And sometimes, depending on where you are in Texas, you can still take your cell phone with you and get away from it all due to the lack of cell phone coverage.
Maybe Sprint/Nextel just needs to erect a tower in Kenedy, Karnes City or Nixon.
While staying at my parents house outside of Beeville, Texas (it’s hard to describe where they live since Texas–unlike Michigan and other states–doesn’t have townships), I decided to go a few times out on a walk.
“Make sure you take a stick with you,” my Dad told me. “Some of the dogs down the road might get aggressive.”
So, I took a shovel since I could not find a stick. My intention was to use it to shoo away any aggressive dogs. Most dogs, when they see you waving a stick with a scary piece of metal on the end, are smart enough to keep their distance. Others will approach, bark, see you are zero threat to them, their property and their owners and will quickly lose interest.
A few houses down, some dogs ran up to me. All friendly. One was too friendly.
My son, Robert, holds Steffi. She came to my parents’ house and refused to leave.
She looked like a young German Shepherd, so I dubbed her “Steffi” after this famous German tennis star:
According to her husband Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Steffi Graf actually prefers to be called “Stephanie”.
The other dogs quickly lost interest in me when they saw I was no threat, had no dog treats or wasn’t some delicious cat, but Steffi kept following me.
And following me.
And following me.
“I’m not your owner, Steffi!” I told her. “You need to stop following me!”
Of course, she continued. I tried even barking to her in Dogspeak, but that didn’t seem to work either.
We walked past other dogs, including a Boxer owned by a high school friend Tommy and his wife, Amy. The Boxer and the other dogs barked at Steffi, who barked back.
“They’re trying to tell you that you need to head back home, Steffi,” I said.
I turned the corner half a mile from my parents’ house and walked another quarter of a mile down the road. Where I finally stopped walking you could see Beeville in the distance, including the white water tower near the north side of the town (the fat water tower, not the small one that’s near the campus of what used to be Bee County College [now Coastal Bend College]).
My plan had been to go there onto Wofford Lane to have some private time. Listen to cicadas (one of my all-time favorite activities to do in the Texas summer). Maybe even cry. Stare at the sky. Look for horned frogs. Let my active, restless mind wander.
Steffi kept wagging her tail and panting.
So, we headed back and dealt with the barking dogs again and finally made it back to my parents’ house. Steffi’s friends came out and greeted her, but she kept walking with me.
I got home and introduced my Dad and my sons and nephews to my “friend”. Eventually, Steffi’s owners came and claimed her.
I never did find out if Steffi was her real name.
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Six and a half years.
That was the last time I saw my parents, my sisters, my nephews and nieces.
Gosh, that was far too long.
That first day on July 1, in the evening my parents, sons and I went to my sister Sabrina’s house to visit.Sabrina gave me some sweet, store-bought tea from a plastic container. It was surprisingly good (to me, 99.99999% of “fresh-brewed bottled tea” is glorified instant).
It’s not Bill Miller’s, but it’s good!
I hugged, and we all laughed. I forget what, but at one point something was given to me and my sister Misti began laughing. Well, then I began laughing and was unable to continue what I was saying. It was the kind of laugh where you take deep pauses and then gasp for air due to laughing so hard.
Me and my sisses (left to right): Sabrina (the oldest), Rich (the youngest and the brat), Misti (the middle)
It had been months since I’d laughed that hard, the closest being while watching The Big Bang Theory and The Office.
That visit was a reminder to me about the tight sibling bond I have: I love my sisters very much and consider them close friends. I just hope the day comes when we can see each other on a regular basis.
As far as my parents go, it was a special visit since my Dad is a cancer survivor. I used to wonder if I’d ever see him again and would worry he’d receive bad news from a screening. Both he and my Mom are in their 70s. Mom, well, with her hair grown out and, um, possibly colored, you’d think she was in her mid 60s, tops.
Nana and Grandpa Zowie with me and two of the three Zowie grandsons, Charles (older) and Robert (younger) Zowie.
Next blog posting: our visit to see a ghost in Corpus Christi, Texas.
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It had been about 13 years since I’d last flown in an airplane, and much had changed for my vacation. What hadn’t changed was my fear of missing my flight, so I ended up getting only one hour of sleep the night before. Then drove down to Lapeer where my two youngest sons and I got a ride to the Flint Bishop airport.
Airport security was surprisingly easy to get through. No pat downs, no interrogations. Robert’s medication made it through with few problems.
Charles, my now-13-year-old, was afraid at first of flying, but after we changed planes in Atlanta, he wanted the window seat. His 11-year-old younger brother, Robert, obliged.
Changing planes in Atlanta was surprisingly easy: our next flight was only about two gates down. Piece of cake once I overcame my OCD tendencies and assured myself that the flight we needed was really at a nearby gate. No having to change concourses as I’ve had to do in the past.
Us right before taking off to Austin.
And we had a surprisingly short flight to Austin. At one time we thought we were flying over the Mississippi River but actually were approaching Austin. Must’ve been the time zone change.
And once we landed, this sign was beautiful:
Once my parents and my sister Misti picked us up, we drove to Lockhart, Texas and had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. One friend, Lance Tindol, teased me about having Chinese food in the Barbecue capitol of the world.
We then stopped in Leesville to pick up my nephews, and I got to say hello to this adorable, nameless Basset Hound that I dubbed “Flash”…
And then we were off to Beeville, and being home for the first time in almost seven years…
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