Saturday, September 29, 2007

Son Volt said it best ...

One of my favorite bands, Son Volt, has a song called Looking At The World Through the Windshield. The first part of the chorus goes like this ...
Oh I'm looking at the world through a windshield
Seeing everything in a little bit different light
Watching it fly by me on the right

And that is what this post is. A mostly pictorial view of my trip home from Norman, Oklahoma. Only the pics were to my left and they are of limited quality since they came from my cellphone.

This first shot is just outside of Weatherford, Oklahoma. There are probably sixty or seventy of these wind generators alongside I-40.
It is windy all across the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma more days than not, and wind power is the latest greatest thing. Although I haven't noticed our electric bills getting any cheaper despite the free natural resource. And when I say windy, I mean windy. Thirty and forty mile an hour winds are commonplace.

Which is exactly why I choose to live in the bottom of a canyon. Sometimes it is eerie to hear the howl overhead and not be able to feel even a breeze. Especially at night.

The above shot are of the giant cross at Groom, Texas. The billboard claims this is the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere. It stands 190 feet tall and can be seen from twenty miles away. You can click to find out more. So I've been told Zach Thomas a middle linebacker for the Miami Dolphins had a lot to do with the construction. Rumor has it he fronted the money for the project. Zach Thomas grew up in the small town of White Deer which is nearby and played college football for Texas Tech.

This was my view for much of the trip home.

I got behind this cattle truck who was doing about eighty five and together we ate up the miles.

For those of you who've never followed a cattle truck let me tell you there are a few drawbacks.

Inside there are two levels and both of them are crammed full of living, breathing -- crapping, hamburgers on the hoof.

The truck in vented so they can breath and stay cool. Those same vents let out a hearty aroma along with various body fluids that squirt right out. Following too closely can lead to an extremely filthy windshield. I only pulled up this close to snap a couple of pics and then I backed away. But not because of the smell. Here in Texas we refer to the earthy scent of cow shit as the smell of money. We are used to it for the most part since there are some massive feedlots in the area. The wind has a tendency to carry the smell for miles.

If you'll notice there is a tuft of brown hairy cowhide sticking out one of the holes at the top of the trailer. I tried to snap a pic of one particular cow that kept sticking its tongue out a hole, but getting a picture, holding my vehicle straight, and not running into the back of somebody else proved to be too difficult. I also skipped taking a picture of the large green stains down and back a bit. I figure most of y'all have imaginations strong enough to paint your own image.

Yeah I know. There's not much exciting here, but then again there's not much exciting along this particular stretch of I-40. By the way much of this was also part of the famed Route 66.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another attempt at a writing post.

This is my last day here in Okie land and for those of you who care. I did a bit better at the casino this visit although not well enough to skip work for even a day.

Thought I'd make today my day to blog about writing and since I have had several comments on metaphors and similes that seems as good a subject as any. Here is my list of do's and don't when it comes to metaphors and similes. As usual I do not proclaim to be an expert I'm merely sharing my position and how I choose to write.

DO avoid cliches -- Finer than frog hair, stiff as a board, happy as a clam, wilder than a march hare there are a tone of these cliched phrased and you should avoid them except maybe in dialogue where you have a character who would say things like this.

DON"T overuse them - This is something I have to watch myself. We all have that one annoying uncle or brother in law who thinks he's cute and constantly speaks in catch phrases, metaphors and similes. A conversation with them might sound like this. I was hungry enough to eat a horse do I went down the the cafe. You know the one with the waitress that is hotter than a pistol. I asked if she had any fried to go along with that shake, but she just looked at me like I was dumber than a box of rocks. So then I turned to ol' Charlie and said, "She's colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra."

Not only is the paragraph riddled with cliche's but it is overwhelming as well. you reader will become numb if forced to read page after page of this, or they will close the book and say what idiot wrote this. I made the above paragraph up on the spur of the moment but here is an example from the short story version of Plundered Booty.

I joined the other salesmen in pretending to study the sticker of a candy apple red Mustang. That convertible pony was a hot ride, but it had sat in the middle of the showroom for a couple of weeks. What they were really sizing up was their chances with this new gal. To tell the truth, I wasn’t even sure Junior had a chance with this one.

Hair darker than a new set of Michelin’s. Lips that put the gloss on that Mustang to shame. A body with more curves than a Porsche. But it was those eyes that got me.

Bright, innocent eyes. Big and round like the headlights of a late-fifties sedan. The kind of eyes that said, I got a big block under the hood, but I’d never use my power for mere thrills. I’m only looking to get you safely to your destination.

This section is bordering on being excessive but since it all ties together and fits the theme, I think, or at least hope it works okay. Which takes me to my next point.

DO make your metaphors and similes fit the character and tone -- In the above paragraph the first person narrator is a car salesman. He is proud of his job and is a car guy through and through which is why I sue vehicle related terms throughout the story. You don't want to be writing a historical romance and say His abs were tighter than a fat man's speedo. First of all speedos were not around in that time period and second of all if you are building sexual tension the last thing you want is your reader imagining a fat man in skimpy attire.

And if you are writing a suspense or a thriller you would want something like ... His footsteps echoed down the hall. Her heart hammered against her chest. Like a fly in a spider's web, fear held her in place. Okay that stinks but I never claimed to be a suspense writer. But this is even worse because it totally destroys the mood. He walked down the hall. Her heart sped up. She wanted to get up and run but like a baby in a car seat fear held her in place. A baby in a car seat does not set the same mood as a spider web. The examples kind of stink but hopefully you get my meaning.

DO use the world you've created. Writing a western? Use guns, rugged terrain, dusty cowtown streets and the like for comparison, A Sci-Fi? computers the black emptiness of space, planets and such.

I have decided that my writing posts are my least favorite. i never feel like I do a good job of getting my point across and I always feel like a blathering idiot when I get done. Maybe this helps someone out there I don't know. There are better blogs out there that discuss the craft, and there are certainly more qualified people to discuss the technical side of writing, but since I started this blog to talk about writing I feel like I should do that very thing from time to time.

So all me fellow writers help me and others out by adding you own do's and don'ts to the comments section.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Proof, my elevator doesn't reach the top floor. - Terrible Tuesdays with Travis

Let me be the first to announce, I AM OFFICIALLY A JACKASS.

I had another story in mind for today's' terrible Tuesday episode, but something happened at lunch that made me decide to bring you a fresh tale only hours afterwards.

Okay I have blogged about the weird people and strange happening here at postal school. Remember the tin foil hat guy? But I do not let a few wackos change who I am. I still talk to people on the elevator. Matter a fact I'm the type of person who strikes up conversations with total strangers all the time. Elevators, grocery store lines, park benches. You name it. I wish a had a dollar for every time my wife has walked up while I'm in the midst of a conversation and then later say who was that? I usually respond with "Not a clue but he seemed nice," to which she'll roll her eyes and say You'll talk to anybody.

So there I was today riding an empty elevator when a guy gets on. I say something to the effect of "How's it going?"

He nods but says nothing, then promptly begins to stare at his toes.

I say, "How long is your class?"

No response.

I try again a bit louder, "What class are you taking?"


So I take the initiative. "I'm in IJP class. It's boring as hell but at least we get out early."

Still nothing. So as we get t the bottom floor I decide to have some fun. I nmena why not? My attempts to be nice had been as well received as a fart in a ... well an elevator.

"Well it's been nice talking at you. It's not often you find a friendly people here in Oklahoma."

He looks up as I'm talking and kind of frowns as we step off the elevator.

Halfway down the hall he stops and begins communicating with another guy -- In sign language.

Suddenly I felt like a jackass for thinking the guy was simply a jerk. I hope there is no karmic justice for my bad thoughts since I plan to hit the casino in a couple of hours and try my hand at a bit o' Texas Hold 'Em.

Wonder how you sign, Hello, my name is Travis and I'm an idiot?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Drowsy ... oh so drowsy ...

After a busy weekend chocked full of pre-school soccer and flag football games I am now in Norman, Oklahoma for another round of postal training. I didn't get settled into my room until midnight and my class started bright and early at 7 AM. Let me tell you the combination of only six hours sleep, muscle relaxers and, a boring lecture makes for one drowsy blogger. While the instructor droned on I actually drifted into deep enough sleep to dream. At this rate, I'm bound to ace the test on Thursday.

I'm going to skip this week's edition of Tales of the Yellow Flag, but I'll have a new story next Sunday. Today you are getting another random thoughts post.

Friday the entire Erwin clan headed off the the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo. An annual event in Amarillo and like all fairs there were plenty of weird and strange people. I fit right in. Anyway we ran into an old friend, one that we knew had wandered down a drug filled and shady path. It was sad to see what this person has become, because they are no longer the person we once knew and cared for.

While at the fair here are the food items consumed by my family. Stiffed sopapilla, smoked potato smothered in barbecued beef, beans and cornbread, corndogs, deep fried eggplant, cotton candy, cheese on a stick, fried curly q's with cheese. We passed on the deep fried pickles and snickers bars.

"Hey I'm glad to see the two of you are still together." She said this as if it was a surprise and great shock. The comment came from an old friend who was one of my wife's bridesmaids. The comment seemed weird to me like maybe there was some kind of bet at our wedding as too how long we'd last. I know it is a miracle that anyone would put up with me that long but my wife is an extremely patient person.

My six year old's flag football team (The Mean Green) were not so mean and lost both games by a combined score of 91-21. But the kids had fun none the less.

My four year old's soccer team went 2-0 and since he is really my competitive child who hates to lose at anything this was a good thing. But he did tease his older brother about being a loser and he also renamed his brothers team The Green Beans. We had several fights over that one.

This post stinks and I have said nothing interesting, but this is what you get when I'm drowsy. And yes I now it is almost noon, but it feels more like five in the morning.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This,That, and a Splash of Beer

Here are a bunch of random thoughts ...

Went to the doctor this morning. Found out I have a pinched nerve at my L5, but he thinks my back woes can be treated with muscle relaxers and stretching exercises. I did manage to lose two pounds (though I don't know how) since my last visit, further postponing his threats to send me next door to his large-knuckled friend for a prostate exam.

My wife has never come across a volunteer list that she wasn't compelled to sign either my name or hers. She teaches at a Catholic school and our boys attend the same school. Each fall they have a Halloween carnival and this year my lovely wife is in charge of the Mexican cafe. That in itself is ironic since she is blond-haired blue-eyed, doesn't know a lick of Spanish, and hates to cook. So what is she doing ow, spending hours and hours roasting chili peppers, burning the tips of her fingers making Gordita shells, and accompanying a translator to an all Mexican store to buy several hundred pounds of masa. Wish I knew how to add those fancy little squiggly Spanish accents to words. And you can bet she'll find plenty of tasks for me to do as well.

I've kindly told her to stop volunteering for everything but it is unlikely that she will listen.

My oldest son, a first grader, has been getting in trouble for talking at school. Guess this one is my fault. I never had a report card in my life in which I didn't get a check mark in the box that said failure to refrain form unnecessary talking. I always though it was necessary but my teachers seemed to disagree.

Sunday I'm off to glorious Norman, Oklahoma for another round of Postal training. Oh Boy! But it's only a week this time so I'll manage. More than that and I commence twitching to get back to The Lone Star State. Do you know they consider Shiner Bock, a Texas made beer, to be an import? And they only sell three-two beer in Oklahoma. Oh, you can go to a liquor store and get full strength beer, but you have to buy it hot because they only sell the weak stuff already chilled. Further proof Oklahoma is indeed a third world country. I understand why states with a higher altitude sell watered down beer, but why Oklahoma. The state isn't exactly known for it's towering mountainous peaks.

My first grade son started another years worth of tap and ballet class this week. Click here to read about his first dance recital last spring and for my take on my son being the only boy amongst seventy some odd girl dancer. He also has his first flag football games this weekend and my four year old has his first ever soccer games. We'll be busy, so it might be late Sunday before I post the next edition of Tales of the Yellow Flag.

My wife watched this show on BBC America every night called Coupling. This week I started watching with her and gotta say it is hilarious. Some great witty dialogue. I'm guessing the show itself is a few years old and these are all reruns but they are new to me.

I've managed to write almost five thousand words in the last two days. A lot of it is the usual rough-draft crap, but it's progress none the less.

My New Orleans Saints are killing me. They have looked horrible so far and I have nicknamed their starting left tackle (an OU Sooner graduate I might add) Ole, since he plays more like a bullfighter than a blocker. Hope he doesn't read this since he is still a giant of a man. And Jamaal Brown, if you do read this just act like that guy in front of you is me. Take your anger out on him and do not come looking for me.

My favorite living author, Richard Russo has a new book coming out next Tuesday called The Bridge of Sighs. That title alone has me pumped. I can hardly wait. i am more eager to read it than I was book seven of the Harry Potter series. Hopefully I will not be disappointed this time however. Richard Russo is most known for his Pulitzer Prize winning Empire Falls and if you only know that work from the HBO mini series do yourself a favor and read the novel. It is much better but I'll warn you the prologue is tough to get through, though worth it in the end. And my favorite novel of Mr. Russo's is The Risk Pool which is slated to be made into a movie by Tom Hanks.

Also found out that my recently sold short story titled, The Simplest of Sounds will be available online sometime in November on the Underground Voices website. I'll let you guys know when. But just to let you know the piece is dark and a far cry from my humorous tone here on the blog. However all of y'all will have the opportunity to read writing from me that for a change is not full of typos, and poorly edited sentences. I actually spent some time composing that short story and it is one of my personal favorites among all the things I have penned.

Well I've rambled on and bored y'all enough, but as usual I'm going to pander for comments. I want each of you to list the last piece of fiction you finished reading. I don't care if it was thirty minutes ago or thirty years ago when some evil English teacher assigned the book in class. Then I want you to say whether you liked it or not and if you are really adventurous tell me why.

LAter on, I'll post my most recent read, and opinion, in the comments.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Writing Edition of Terrible Tuesdays with Travis

Here it is Tuesday yet again and there are no riveting stories at the forefront of my mind. Not of a time I did somebody wrong and got paid back two-fold, no misadventures where my own stupidity led to my harm, and nary a, woe is me tale of medical mishap. So what to talk about. Well when all else fails I fall back to a discussion on my writing career.

So here it is the writing themed, Terrible Tuesday with Travis.

Writing, and the pursuit of publication is fraught with more ups and downs than bordellos bedsprings. I have had good days and not so good days. But what is the worst?

Once upon a time I wrote query letter after query letter to agents seeking representation. As a result I received a very impressive collection of form rejection letters. Then one day I ripped open one of my returned Self Addressed Stamped Envelopes and spotted the unmistakable scribbling of real live, handwritten ink. My hopes soared. Then I read the personalized note. Sorry, but you meandering story telling and excessive verbiage does not appeal to me now or never.

OUCH! But looking back that agent was right. My sample pages as well as the entire manuscript was not ready submission. I could take a bit of solace int eh fact that particular fellow is no longer an agent, but I don't. His words hurt at the time but they were true and a great motivator in the end.

How about the first time I entered the contest for our local conference? I was confident eager, feeling good that I would at least make the finals. But nope, not with my novel or the three short stories I entered. And then I got the judges remarks back. Trust me you had to search hard and long for a silver lining to that cloud of despair. But I have since cashed checks from numerous contests including those so once again I filed that experience into the motivator file.

No one with a penis between their legs has the right to write a single word about abortion. Yep I heard that one face to face within the last year. Needless to say that particular editor did not ask to read more of my novel. Not even when I mentioned Cider House Rules bu John Irving. In truth this one didn't shake me too bad. I think I handled myself well in both our initial talk and then again later when she started to apologize and then uttered the statement from above. This happened fairly recently and these days I have enough confidence in both my writing and the story to not take such a comment too hard.

Then there was the time I got into a heated, forty-five minute discussion with a seventy something year old critique partner about the usage of the F word in literature. Some how I became the Johnny Cochran of literary obscenities and only later did I find it highly humorous that I had debated the F with a little old lady for nearly an hour. Not my proudest moment but I still stand by my argument that sometimes no other word will work. Depends on the story and the character.

A close contender might be the time an agent read the entire manuscript, called me to talk about it, then passed, albeit regrettably. I let my hopes get up too much on that one and at least I got close. Besides she urged me to send her future projects and not only would I be honored to one day work with her, but I also believe I get better with each new project I tackle.

So,t hat still doesn't answer to question. What is my worst days when it comes to writing. I've known the answer all along but what kind of writer spills the beans right off the bat?

My worst writing days are the days in which I do no writing at all. These are the dark times when I kick myself and say, You could have penned three or four pages in the time it took to play that one game of John Madden Football. Or that one hour of television cost you at least two pages. By the way i watched K-Ville last night and highly recommend the new show, but then again I have a real soft spot for the entire city of New Orleans.

See how easily I am distracted? Any way I feel like I have neglected my writing lately so for the time being expect a few less posts out of me. Three or four a week instead of five or six. And I might comment a bit less on your blogs, at least until I finish Plundered Booty the novel. My goal is to be submitting it by the first of the year. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hold the door, While My Butt Drags In.

Thought I'd give y'all a recap of my weekend. Not because I did anything all that exciting but because I can't really think of anything else to blog about.

I'll start with Thursday since that happened to be my only day off of work. The Amarillo Chamber of Commerce host an annual charity barbecue and cook off where for the tidy price of thirty bucks an individual can consume all the food and drink they wish. Smoked, grilled and barbecues meat is the major fare, but for those evil individuals some call vegetarians they also have jalapeno poppers, corn, cobblers and various other non essential food groups.

While at this event I spotted none other than Earl, my boss that many of you know from my Feedstore Chronicle stories. I desperately wanted to snap a pic with my cell phone for you guys but it was crowded and he slipped away before I could catch up to him. I ate too much (all meat) and drank many a Shiner Bock, did I mention the Shiner girl handing out free beer had the shortest shorts I've ever seen? Now that is what I should have taken a picture of.

Friday night I went to another high school football game. This one between The Randall Raiders and Plainview Bulldogs. I live in the Randall school district so I helped root them on to their 21-12 victory. I also caught something for my boys to take for show and tell but you'll have to check over at the awesome amalgamations site later tonight for those pics.

This is a cell phone picture snapped form my seat. Kimbrough stadium is very nice and as you can see there as a good crowd. If your eyes are good you can make out a passing freight train in the far back ground.

I took this one as I was leaving. Just to show y'all how nice the stadium is with a broader picture. Don't know if they will show up well here on blogger but there is a neat star pattern at the top. I'm no astronomer but I this picture is looking south. Of course none of that will matter if the stars are not visible.

Saturday night me and my wife went to some friends for burgers. Drank some more Shiner, played the board game Sequence and watched my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers get beat. But on the bright side me and Rob did whoop our wives in the game, as usual I might add.

And Sunday. Went out to eat some Mexican food for my mother-in-law's birthday.

So how was your weekend?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One in Every Crowd -- Tales of the Yellow Flag

This is my favorite story about my officiating days so even if you do not like football I urge you to read this one. Hope y'all find it as humorous as I do.

This week's edition finds me in White Deer, Texas. Another small town here in the Texas Panhandle. Forty five miles east of Amarillo the town is large enough to have regular eleven man football.

Now the White Deer Bucks are bitter rivals with the neighboring Panhandle Panthers but on this particular night the hometown Bucks were playing a junior varsity game against some other town. I can't remember who, but it was not their big rival Panhandle. And I'll say it again. This story takes place during a Thursday night JV game. Not varsity. So in the grand scheme of things not a game of great importance.

White Deer played rather badly and in the end lost by twenty or twenty-five points. I remember the game itself being rather uneventful, but at least one fan did not see it that way.

After the game I'm walking out to my vehicle chatting with one of my fellow officials, a fellow who in his spare time competed in bodybuilding. The guy was a good ten or fifteen years older than me and although he stood only five eight or so he had massive biceps and huge pecs. I'm not even sure where he found striped shirts large enough to cover his muscles. As is, the fabric was stretched tighter than a pregnant zebra's belly.

Halfway to our cars a little old man held up a hand to stop us. I'd guess him to be late sixties or early seventies. Clad in a dirty pair of stained overalls he staggered a bit as he spoke in a drunken slur. "I haven't seen calls that bad since the '67 Panhandle game." Keep in mind this happened int he late 90's. 97 or 98, I think.

"You fellas are the worst refs I've ever seen." He scratched at the white stubble on his chin and even from a few feet I could smell the booze on his breath.

"Why thank you," I said. That was my standard line whenever people approached me after games with a report of how bad a job I had done.

The drunk narrowed his eyes as he swayed. Then he said. "Listen here smart-ass. What you need is an ass kickin'."

At this my fellow ref reached out and gathered the drunks overall bib and shirt into his meaty fist. Then he hoisted the old codger clean off the ground.


The drunk's eyes widened and with missing a beat said with a slur , "Now shettle down. I Didn't say I was gonna kick his ash. I just said he needed one."

Despite the situation we both laughed. It isn't often you come across a fast thinking drunk. My friend put the man down who with out another word turned and staggered off across the gravel lot, but once he got to the far side he turned, lifted both hands and gave us a double one finger salute.

One thing I learned as a ref. The best you can hope for is that one side will not hate you at the end of the game. Someone from the losing team will always blame you regardless of the score, and in a close game it is very likely that both sides will be cussing your good name.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My wayward writing post

My post for today can be found over on The Duck's creation, Awesome Amalgamation.

And if you are interested in joining the merry band of contributers, drop the Duck a line and he will gladly welcome you aboard. Should be interesting to see what transpires with the site in the months to come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Contest and a pretty butt.

Short post today, but tomorrow I plan to rattle on about my theories when it comes to writing fiction.

Couple of quick things. Literary Agent Nathan Bransford is running a contest over on his blog. Writers can post first lines from their various works and he is going to choose finalist later today, before opening up a poll for readers to vote. I tossed in in a couple of entries this morning myself. If your interested to know how Plundered Booty the short story, or If Only He Knew, my in progress women's fiction novel start pop on over here and read all the entries. Mine is near the bottom and there are almost four hundred as I type this. I have no idea whether I'll make the finals or not, but I'd love to hear what y'all think. There are also a couple of entries from regular commenter's on this blog.

Also fellow blogger Bubblewench honored me recently with this.
Who'd of thunk it? Me nice.
Now I have to ask why does an award honoring niceness entail a picture of a scantily clad woman. Who, knows but I'll take it and I thank her for it.
Me and Bubblewench have already established that we were pirates together in a former life.
So now I'm supposed to repay the favor and nominate others for the award.
So here goes.
WordVixen - I have to include since she was the first person to ever link to me, and I really enjoy her subtle wit. And now I get to pay her back by tagging her.
AlternateFish - Again one of the very first people to read and comment and link to this blog. Right now she is off in jolly old England blogging about her experience. I'll even forgive her for being a San Jose Sharks fan.
Alex Keto - We met in February at a writers workshop in Arizona. We had many a fun and late night conversation while doing our part to rid the world of its excess supply of booze.
Bluefingers - Also met her in Arizona but unfortunately she couldn't keep up with me and Alex. She has what many would call a perverse sense of humor, but she is always willing to help out a fellow writer.
Brooke- I only know her through the blogosphere but she has to be nice because I still haven't delivered the prize I promised to her months ago, and she hasn't complained once. Don't worry you will have it soon.
Wow guess this post isn't short after all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Heartburn -- Terrible Tuesdays with Travis

Well folks I have a dilemma. I could tell the tale I intended to tell for this week's terrible Tuesday, but ... it is a bit unbelievable and apparently I've already stretched the line of credibility this week. Even my old friend Jason questioned the validity of my most recent ref story, but to his credit he did do some research and provide a link in the comments that backed my story up. I wish I had made that one up cause I'm telling you it certainly was not fun at the time.

So will all of you yell bullshit and flee if I offer up another hard to believe story. I hope not because that is what I'm giving you. By the way if you are in a hurry you might want to skip down to the **************. The first part is what we call backstory in fiction.

Unlike previous Terrible Tuesday stories this one was not brought on by any stupid acts of myself. Karmically (is that a word) speaking I must have done something real bad for things to turn out the way they did. But of course, it could have been worse. I am alive to blog about the gory details.

It all started with a tennis match. A tennis match in which wife, well technically speaking she wouldn't become my wife for another three years, was kicking my butt handily. The longer we played the worse I felt. Both mentally and physically. Finally after about an hour I told her I had to stop because I felt funny. My heart was pounding against my rib cage like a dryer full of shoes. I chalked it up to being out of shape since I had been working at the post office about a year by then and we all know nothing is easier than government work.

One hour went by. Then two, three, and four. Yet my heart was still pounding as if I'd just ran a mile. Finally six or seven hours later it quit, but the incident scared me.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. The Texas swing band, Asleep at the Wheel was playing at a local bar but my wife wasn't twenty-one yet. So I borrowed an ID from a girl who like a smidgen like her and lo and behold it worked and the bouncer let her in. Then we ran into an old boyfriend of hers who promptly told the management that she wasn't of age and then escorted her out.

Now me being the "friendly" guy I am, I told Jennifer to wait in the truck for me while I ran in to say "goodbye" to the fellow who ratted her out. Now I'll tell the truth here the guy had something wrong with him, he walked with a limp and weighed about a buck fifty so it wasn't all that bold of me to confront him. And all I really did was grab him by the shirt and raise his body a foot or so off the ground. Just to get his attention. I could have done more, but what was the point. I just wanted to let him know what i though of his ways. Then I left. Closely followed by about six guys that management had sent to get my attention.

Now I was mad and again my heart was racing. Only this time it was hammering my chest like a boxer's blows on a speed bag. A couple of hours went by and this time i decided to visit the emergency room. Now you could see my heart thudding along through my shirt so they took me straight to the back and hooked me to a machine. My heart rate was TWO HUNDRED and SIXTY something a minute. Better that four beats a second.

And then they started grilling me about what kind of drugs I'd taken. I answered question after question while they took a blood sample. When was the last time I did cocaine. Never. Heroin? never. Amphetamines. Never. If I remember right I hadn't even been at the bar long enough to have a drink. Finally they seemed to believe me. Maybe the blood came back clean I don't know but they gave me a shot which slowed my heart almost immediately.

I'll spare you the medical detail, but six months or so went by with several more of these incidents and trip to the ER before a doctor diagnosed the problem. I had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Which in layman's terms is a short circuit in heart.

The condition is totally curable by a procedure called ablation where doctors go in through the main artery in your groin and use some kind of laser to burn away the tissue that is causing the problems. At the time I had this done the procedure was new. Matter of fact I was the first person to have ablation after FDA approval which sounds cool but in reality means I was the first person to have to pay for the procedure since it had been experimental up until then.

Okay I've told you all of that to get to the part consider to be a truly terrible Tuesday, actually he surgery was on Thursday but at least that starts with a T.

**** START HERE IF IN A HURRY **************

So there I am laying stark naked on a cold table while a hoard of people gather round. They put the mask over my face and tell me count backward from ten. Then I drift off to sleepy land.

Sometime later I hear voices. I open my eyes. Things are blurry but I can tell there is a bright light shining in my face and I see shadowy figures moving about. I hear my doctor's voice. Understand his words. He seems very intense, like he is still working so I say, "Am I supposed to be awake?"

His nurse tells me that I'm not really awake. It's just (insert strange medical term, which I have long since forgotten here) and I will not remember any of this later on.

I bit of time passes and again I say, "Are you sure I'm not awake. Cause I feel like I'm awake."

At this the doctor begins asking me questions. My name. Age. Telephone number. what day of the week it was. It was your basic bedside sobriety check. I answer them all correct and I hear him tell the anaesthesiologist to give me so much of this and more of this.

Then I felt a tickle inside my chest and I say. "That feels funny. What are you doing?"

The doc asks me to describe what I feel. when I do he give the anaesthesiologist more orders, only with more urgency.

Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly I felt an intense burning inside my chest and I screamed with pain. Shortly thereafter all went black again, but they were wrong remember all of it to this day.

When the surgery was over the doctor came out to talk to my family his first words were, "We are finished, everything went well and Travis is very strong and he knows some strong language as well."

I don't remember this part but apparently I got very angry and put up a hell of a fight before I finally succumbed to the morphine and what not kicked in. The worst part of the ordeal is I ends up overdosing on morphine and to this day I cannot take the drug without become violently ill.

The good news is that was almost fifteen years ago and I've never had another problem. And it has been medically proven that yes, I do indeed actually have a heart.

Monday, September 10, 2007

For your visual pleasure

I'm short on time to write a post today, so here are a few pics for your viewing pleasure. All of these were taken by me within the last few weeks. Sorry for the poor quality and short descriptions.

Barren countryside along I-40. West of Amarillo, East of Albuquerque.

Same thing, but with clouds. Closer to Albuquerque.

Remember the amorous turtle I blogged about when I visited the Albuquerque zoo? Well here he is just before he made his move. Notice the green mold on his neck. You'd think once you were old enough to grow mold that would be the end of your friskiness. Maybe they make tortoise Viagra.

Here are some shots of historic San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque's Old Town. Much of the area was built in 1706.

More scenery along the road back home.

And these two are a before and after. This is the low water crossing on the road to my house before it rained seven inches in a couple of hours, and then after.

And lastly this is the rise of the full moon over the canyon where I live. This pic was taken about two miles from my house, from the driveway of one of my critique partners. She lives on the rim of the canyon. I live farther down the canyon in the bottom. The state park Palo Duro Canyon is only a few miles away as the crow flies but twenty by road. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

'Twas a Dark and Stormy Night - Tales of The Yellow Flag

This weeks officiating adventure took place in the small town of Silverton, Texas, and once again the hometown teams mascot is the Owls. Silverton is about sixty miles southeast of Amarillo. Here is a pic I found of the area surrounding town. Amarillo sits on what is called the Caprock and Sivlerton is right along the breaks where the caprock drops off.

Most sports fans recognize the name Micky Mantle. Mantle is a baseball legend. Few people have probably heard of Larry Mantle, Micky's brother but back in 1998 Larry Mantle was the head coach of the Silverton Owls six-man football team.

The year before the Owls had advanced deep into the state playoffs before eventually losing to the team that went on to claim the Texas state title, and once again the Owls were ranked in the top five in the statewide polls.

Larry Mantle was a big imposing guy who commandeered a healthy respect amongst his players, fans, opposing coaches and, the official assigned to his games. He wasn't necessarily a screamer or a volatile guy, but as a ref you knew when he was displeased with a call. I had called a game in Silverton the previous year without incident, but on this early September in 1998 things did not go my way.

It started raining early on and by the second quarter the filed, the ball and everyone's nerves were a bit slippery. And Silverton was losing handily to a team they were supposed to beat with ease. There had been numerous flags including a controversial pass interference call I made against the home team. And Coach Mantle insisted that the other team's lineman were holding his players. I watched, but in my humble opinion the blocks were clean.

Just before half the black skies ruptured, Rain pelted down in sheets, and pea sized hail bounced off of players helmets. Unfortunately, referees, coaches and fans do not wear helmets. When a bolt of lightening struck nearby the head referee stopped the game and we fled to the safety of the locker rooms.

In these small schools us official were given whatever space was available. In Silverton this happened to be Coach Mantle's office, so as we sat there dripping wondering how long the storm would linger, and wondering if the highly ranked Owls would find a way to get back in the game and preserve their standing.

About an hour went by before Coach Mantle came in said, the storm was expected to last several hours and he was choosing to forfeit. When the head official explained that the game could simply be canceled or postponed Coach Mantle said something to the affect of, "No, we'll take our loss like men and move on."

So I changed out of my stripes, dried my body, and got dressed for the hour drive home. By the time I was finished the other refs had already gone. I trudged out to my Jeep Cherokee. The rain was still coming down and lightening danced through the sky. Then I reached in my jeans pocket and realized my keys were gone. I patted the other pocket. Empty. Then I peered inside the driver's window and there in a momentary lightening flash I spotted them on the passenger seat.

I tried every door but they were all locked, so begrudgingly I went back inside. Down the hall I head voices so I walked that way until I reached the boys locker room. I eased the door open and heard the coach delivering a speech which went something like this ...

... I realize the odds were stacked against us. The rain made the ball hard to hold on to. And I've never seen a worse officiating crew. Blind, incompetent, and that pass interference call was absolutely ridiculous.

About this time several of the players noticed me and pointed to the back of the room. Coach Mantle turned, sized me up and said, "What?"

Rather sheepishly I said, "I locked my keys in the car."
The coach nodded. "That figures."
Players chuckled.
"I was wondering if you had a coat hanger or something."
"I'll get you some help. Just wait out by your car."

So I went back outside and waited. In the rain.

Ten minutes later a sheriff pulled up. As he fished around with his slim-jim he said, "Some game tonight."
"Yeah, too bad the storm cut it short," I said. "Might have made a comeback.""I doubt it," Said the sheriff as the locked popped open on my door. "Not with calls like that pass interference."

"I said nothing to that."

"There you go." The sheriff stepped back so I could sit down behind the wheel.
"Thanks. I really appreciate it."

The sheriff nodded and readjusted the Stetson on his head. "Yep. My boys been playing ball since grade school, but that's the first time he's ever been flagged for pass interference."

The sheriff followed right behind my as I drove out of town. And you can bet I stopped at the one blinking light and I kept the speedometer a good five miles below the posted speed limit, but still I kept waiting for those red and blues to flash in the rear view mirror.

But I escaped town wet, but unharmed and to Coach Mantle's credit he offered a handshake and merely said, "I remember you," the next time I called a game in his town.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Who you callin' porky?

Way back at the first of August, WordVixen tagged me with a meme called show your face. I told her then I would get to it later but even I didn't figure it would take a month. By the way, to the best of my knowledge WordVixen was the first person to put up a link to this blog. Now I have displayed my hairy mug on this blog several times so this time I thought I'd give y'all a little something different. My answers to the meme questions will follow my take on the picture.

Yep, that rosy-cheeked, clean-shaven, baby-faced dork is me, circa. my senior year of high school. What you see there is 265 pounds of prize winning castrated swine. I'm talking about the pig now folks, back then I only weighed about 225 and luckily I still have all the parts God bestowed upon me.

As you can see from the board behind me this picture was taken in 1991 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. It must of been a hundred and ten in that show ring and I showed that pig for better than a solid hour before the judge pointed at me. If it had gotten any warmer I could have popped an apple in the pigs mouth and had a little baked ham.

Me and the pig, a Berkshire, were awarded breed champion. I guess technically the pig won, but I got to spend the money. How much money? $14,400 dollars and some change. Not bad wages for a high school boy used to earning $3.35 an hour at the feedstore. I had sold another pig for $2,800 dollars two weeks before at San Antonio which had paid my debt for the animals and their feed so the Houston winnings were all mine. This was February of 1991 and by summer of 1992 I was sporting the goatee that I have had ever since. (Except for one brief shaving incident in early fall of 97, but I try to forget about that.)

Okay, now back to the meme.

Blog title: One Word, One Rung, One Day
Description: It's at the top of the page but here I'll paste it here for any lazy people. One word ... because that is how all stories must start. One Rung ... at a time up the long, slippery ladder of success. One Day ... my name will grace the cover of a novel. A big, hairy Texan's pursuit to publish a novel

Name: Travis Erwin. Travis is a fairly common name here in Texas after William B Travis one of the fallen leaders in the Alamo. Legend has it I was almost dubbed Ty instead

Country: USA
Occupation: Postal Worker, but I use that last word loosely.

Email: travis @ donotspam traviserwin dot com (minus the do not spam, of course. Unless you're a spammer) I stole that directly from wordvixen
Birthday: December 21, 1972 Too bad I'm not a character in a fantasy novel 'cause all wizards born on the winter solstice have extra magical abilities. December 21st is the shortest day of the year which simply means you have a longer night in which to party.

Favorite color: Black - I'd say eighty percent of the shirts I own are either black or grey, but my reasoning is not nearly as noble as Johnny Cash's.
Favorite drink: Sweet tea for non-alcoholic and anything with Rum otherwise.
Favorite fruit: yeah right, like I eat fruit. This is my blog so I'm adding a new category.

Favorite Meat: Marinated Elk tenderloin slow grilled.

Favorite dessert: A tie. Creme Brulee or Beignets. But both have to be consumed with a nice steaming cup of chicory coffee in the city of New Orleans.
Hobbies: Reading, writing (technically a hobby till it pays off), again stolen straight from Word Vixen. Hunting, fishing, and pestering, humoring and just generally harassing my wife and kids.
Some of the blogs I know that have posted pics of me: Like anyone else would want to scare off readers by letting the world know they associate with the likes of me.

Da Rules: Post a short article and include your photo. If you already have a pic online somewhere, get creative with a new one. Next, include a link to the others who have displayed their pic, or include their pic in your post, adding a reference to it.

I could tag you guys, but I'm not. However, I do expect at least five of you to pick up the ball and run with it. And think of me and my pig the next time you bite into a nice juicy pork chop.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I don't know what I'm talking about, but ...

I've never let that stop me before, so here I go again.

I started this blog with the idea I would talk about nothing but the craft of writing and my pursuit to sell a novel. Click here to check out those early posts. About three people read my blog in those days. Then I started talking my view of the world outside of the business of writing. The Feedstore Chronicles kind of started the story-telling flavor that the blog has developed. Now they are on hiatus while I have moved on to Tales of the Yellow Flag. I hope the ref stories to come turn out better than the first edition but I think they will. Once I find the correct tone, groove and pace.

Funny, I should bring up tone, groove, and pace, and the fact I've strayed from writing related posts, because that is what I'm going to blog about today. I hope my now writing friends and readers will stick around to read this post and comment from a readers perspective on these things, but if not I understand. And if you hate these kind of post just be patient, because tomorrow I plant to post a picture that is sure to make you laugh, and I am doing to pay my debt to WordVixen, whom I am sure had given up on me fulfilling her request.

Back in year of two thousand and ought, at the encouragement of Hall of Fame RWA member and New York Times Best Selling Author Jodi Thomas I decided to pursue a writing career. Jodi along with a few other published authors that she shared my work with all said the same things you have a great voice. Now being new to the game I thought, but I don't sound a thing like Kasey Kasem and okay I had read out loud for Jodi in class but I'd never met these other people so how did they know what I sounded like. Only later did I find out they meant my writing voice, but even then I didn't have a clue what they were really talking about. Matter of fact it was three or four years before I really got the whole concept of voice.

And even though I feel like I understand it putting a definition into words is a bit dicey. But being glutton for punishment I'm going to try. You know how onions make some people cry, well that how I feel about this post. It makes me nervous as hell to talk about the many layers of voice when I just might come across as a blithering idiot. Sure I've learned a lot over the last seven years, but at the same time I'm not exactly cashing huge royalty checks, or any royalty checks for that matter. At least not for my three completed, and three in progress novels.

Now that I have rambled forever let me get to the meat of this post. Dang, mention of the word meat made my stomach growl. Here is what I think is the recipe that makes up a nice batch of voice stew.

Sentence Structure - He was hungry. His ravenous body craved nourishment. He needed to eat soon, before his stomach took a bite out of his backbone.

All of these same the same thing, but in vastly different ways. But is it voice or the character you are describing that determines the choice. Both. A good writer will tweak the language they use for different characters, especially when using dialogue or a shifting points of view. But over the course of a novel or short story the word choices, the length of sentences and paragraphs, and structure of an authors words will begin to show a pattern and style.

Tone - Again this can change do to genre, character pov, or other factors. But if Stephen King and Kinky Freidman both sat down to tell the same story with the same exact plot line and characters I can guarantee they'd finish with vastly different novels. How a writer develops characters, plots points, and scenes will affect how a reader sees things.

A scar, the color of a butchered hog ran jagged across his right cheek and short black stubble covered his meaty skull.

Except for the titty pink scar on his cheek he looked just like Curly from The Three Stooges.

Same guy, but I bet you look at him different. Again a good writer will use descriptions like this to manipulate the reader into a certain image and mindset but over time the writer's own preference will come out. I should have used something more neutral like a landscape to show this but hopefully you follow my meaning.

Pace - Again a suspense and a coming of age novel have to use different paces but think about a couple of your favorite writers novels. Some tend to tell large sweeping stories that cover years and years of a characters life. Other focus on a short tumultuous period of their protagonists life.
Some authors focus on the why a character is in a hole they can't get out of. Others stick strictly to how they are going to get out. As a writer I sometimes forget that a reader will not know all the things about the story or characters that I do. Deciding what information a reader will need and when is critical to how the character will be viewed. In my last complete novel. I purposely mislead the reader into thinking my character Lindsay was sexually abused by her father. I wanted readers to feel sympathy for her. I wanted readers to see her as a victim because that is how she sees herself, even though it is not true. The book would have read differently had I laid the facts out there front and center. And now if -- so scratch the if -- WHEN, A River Without Water is published you will have a bit of insight.

I know I have butchered this post, but in a nutshell voice is what you write, how you write it and why you wrote it. Voice is who you are as a writer. But the most important thing I had to learn about voice was to trust my own. To know when to tell my critique group NO. Not because they were wrong, and not because I'm stubborn but because that is not the way I would ever write it. but if they say your hero is a whiny twit, and I don't care what happens to him, listen. But don't let others restructure your every sentence and rewrite your story. Of course I'm not talking about agents and editors. The power of a contract could make me rewrite dang near anything.

Sometime I have to look away from the computer monitor and stare at the ceiling. That is when I ask myself how would I describe this if I were talking to a friend or telling a story from atop a bar stool. Don't fall in love with the way your favorite author does something. Look at what they do, think about why they wrote it that way, and then accomplish the same thing in your own style. Trust your voice, even if you don't understand what it is, because in the end it is the only thing that separates you from the masses of other writers chasing the same dream.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dad's Cookin' Tonight - Terrible Tuesdays with Travis

Like all families with kids involved in extra-curricular activities mine gets extremely hectic now and again. Last year about this time was one of those occasions. Picture this scene ...

The entire family is the the Ol' Expedition headed for home. IT is almost nine and the boys are up past their bedtime, they have not taken a bath and none of us have eaten supper, but collectively we have attended guitar lessons, tap and ballet class, and a marathon carnival volunteer meeting. (More on the carnival in a later post.)

We have already driven past all the fast food restaurants and our now almost our house int he boonies when my wife says, "We have to go back to town. I forgot to lay out anything for supper so if we don't go buy something it will be ten o'clock before we eat."

Now me in all my ultimate wisdom has a bright idea. We'll stop at the one lone store that is between us and the house, an old dirty rundown convenience store.

My wife rolls here eyes at this suggestion and asks, "What we are going to eat?
"Chimichangas, corndogs, polish sausage on a stick, potato wedges, chicken nuggets."
"That is what you want to feed your children for supper?"

I nod. "Why not, the boys like corndogs."

"What about vegetables, or anything nutritious?"
"I'll buy them some milk," I say as I pull into the graveled, pothole-filled lot.

Now at this point I was feeling pretty good about myself. I didn't have to drive all the way to town and besides, I like junk food. I point through the glass while the lady behind the counter sacks up two corndogs, potato wedges, and a chimichanga(fried burrito for those who've never had the pleasure) for my wife. They are out of polish sausage on a stick, so with a tad of disappointment I order chicken nuggets. This is when things start to go bad.

The lady behind the counter frowns and says, "Oooh, I don't know how this chicken will taste. It was here when I got here and I haven't made any fresh." Then she adds, "But if you still want chicken I'll just give it to you."

"Sold!" I'm as cheap as the next guy and a free dinner sounded alright to me. But I wasn't aware of the facts.

I'll repeat the lady's words. "It was here when I got here." I didn't know she'd been there a week solid, or that those nuggets had sat there under a heat lamp for the entire duration, but that is exactly what they tasted like. WEEK OLD CHICKEN.

But I ate them because one, I was hungry, two, it was my only choice, and three, they were FREE.

As the boys munched away on their corndogs, and my wife applied hot sauce to her chimichanga I crunched away and made the comments, "Good thing these were free, otherwise I'd turn around and go ask for my money back."

To my wife's credit she did say, "I wouldn't eat them if they taste that bad."

I ignored her. I also ignored her wise ass comments at three in the morning when I was cradling Porcelain Annie and praying to the vomit gods to please take away my stomach cramps.

Karma paying me back for ignoring my wife and exposing my innocent children to malnourishment? Or just my own stupidity getting the better of me? You be the judge, but take my advice, that old saying, The best things in life aren't free is one of the truest statements ever spoken.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Holiday? ... I Don't See No Stinkin' Holiday.

Labor Day has been canceled here in these parts. I have to work. My two boys have to go to school. My wife has to teach. Nope there is nary a hint of rest or relaxation around here ... but at least I'm get double time for today. Finally what I'm worth.

What else is going on? I've got one hell of a crick on my neck. From sleeping on my side as the chiropractor suggested I might add. Now I can not hold me head up straight. I look like a doofus with my head cocked to the right or as my wife said this morning, "You look like a confused dog with her head tilted that way."

Ahhhh ... the words of love.

The ol' Erwin clan is heading out to my friend Steve's place tonight for a cookout to officially pull the plug on summer. He sometimes comments on this blog as not so stone cold. Yes, his name is Steve Austin. He is a great guy, always willing to help out a friend in need and he's also one of the few postal workers I now know who truly earns his paycheck. He is toying around with a picture blog, so stop in and say hi, but I'll warn you he's already heard every Million Dollar Man and Stone Cold joke there is.

Far as I'm concerned summer has been on life support since school started so it is time to say our goodbyes and get ready for fall. I like fall and here is laundry list why ...

Crisp cool air, Football, beautiful foliage, hunting season, lower electrical bills, the start of hockey season, no more mowing-flies-mosquitoes, and the excitement of my boys as their birthdays approach.

So what is your favorite season and why? And if I am going to ask a cheesy question like that to pander for your comments, I might as well ask another. As I said my wife said I resembled a curious dog this morning but now I'm wondering what kind of dog I'd be. A mutt, because I'm a long way form show quality? A Saint Bernard, because I'm big? If so I will tote rum in that barrel around my neck instead of the traditional whiskey.
So you the readers of this blog tell me, if like Sirius Black I could morph into a canine what kind would I be? Let's see just how creative and funny you guys are.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Personal Foul -- Tales of the Yellow Flag #1

Most of these ref stories will fall into one of two categories -- my stupidity, or people who take football way more serious than the average person. They will not be about the nuts and bolts of the sport and I feel pretty certain that even the most unsporty of readers will be able to follow along and chuckle.

This week's installment takes place in tiny Hedley, Texas. Should you want to learn more you can follow the link but basically the town is 87 miles south east of Amarillo and boasts a population just shy of four hundred. The Hedley Owls play six man football instead of the traditional eleven a side. The entire high school grades 9-12 has less than a hundred students and with a good percentage of those being female fielding a regular team would never happen. There are many six man teams in the state and just because they are small does not mean they take their games any less seriously.

By the way I always thought that Hedley should do away with their Owl moniker and go by the Hedley Horseman. This would make one heck of a helmet decal. Don't you think?

Referees in Texas get paid a percentage of the gate attendance for officiating varsity games. You'd think this would make ref'ing small town games bad, but actually they still pay pretty well since everybody from both towns attended the games as well as farmers and ranchers from the surrounding area. Almost ten years ago I made anywhere from hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars a game, plus mileage. Not bad for three hours work, even today.

Back to Hedley. Normally I traveled alone but this one particular time my wife decided to go. She's never attended a six man game and I told her this one should be a good game as both teams were equally matched.

So I change into my black and white stripes, don my whistle, stuff the ol' yellow hanky in my pocket and trot (me and actual running decided long ago to part ways) out to the field. I spy my wife sitting up in the full to capacity bleachers of the home team. Refs always check out tot he bleachers, first to see how much money they are likely to make, second to scope out the ladies cause refs are just like all horny men of this world, and third to identify the hecklers - they are easy to spot with their bullhorns, and I hate all zebras glare.

The crowd was good, my wife was smiling at me and there wasn't a bullhorn in sight. Things looked good.

As expected the first half was tight, but Hedley was winning and there hadn't been many controversial calls. A good well played game. So again I trot off to the weight room/ referee changing for a bit of halftime refreshment and rest. Six man football is action packed so it tends to wear a fat guy like me out.

So the big six or eight member bands do their thing. It is not unheard of in these towns to see a kid in a football uniform marching in the band as well.So much for his chance to take a breather.

I don't pay much attention to the stand when I come out for the second half, but then sometime in the third quarter I look up and there in the middle of the bleachers is my wife and there is not another living soul within fifteen feet of her.

Now I had jsut ridden in the car with her and unless something had changed she didn't have a bad case of B.O., she isn't the the type to start farting out in public, and she had no communicable disease. So what in the world had happened to make every person in the bleachers suddenly move away and shun her? Here is what she told me after the game.

At halftime one of the Hedly cheerleaders went up in the stands ans asked her if her name was Angie.
My wife said, "No."
"Are you Frank Smith's girlfriend?"
Again Jennifer said, "No."
"Are you from Clarendon?"
Jennifer smiled and shook her head.
At which point the cheerleader said, "Well who are you then?"
"My husband is one of the refs. I came with him to watch the game."

And with that comment my wife parted the crowd like Moses did the Red Sea. And this was during a game in which, one, I was doing a good job, two, there was no big game-changing controversial calls, and three the home team was winning. I think my wife only went to one other varsity game in which I called and she gave up after that. It bothered her way worse than it ever did me to hear everyone complaining about everything from my poor eyesight to my bubble butt.

But four years of ref'ing prepped me for my writing career, because nothing any agent, editor, or reviewer can say will compete with the things I heard on a weekly basis. Miss one call and you'll get a healthy dose of personal and very instantaneous rejection.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Goodbye Feedstore, Hello Gridiron

Last night I headed down to Dick Bivins stadium here in Amarillo an along with 7,500 hundred other people watched my 16 year old nephew's varsity football debut. He's a big kid, around 6'2" or so, and before fall practice he was weighing in just a tad over 300 pounds but he's sweated off enough to get back under three hundred. Used to be I wrestled around him him quite a bit and while I still have several inches of height and we weigh close to the same, I now have to fight dirty to maintain the upper hand.
He plays for Canyon a small town about ten miles south of Amarillo, but their opponent was none other than my alma mater -- the Caprock Longhorns.

Now Caprock has a long standing football tradition ... of losing. That tradition continues last night but the team has a new coach and they actually looked better than normal. My nephew did well last night and his team prevailed 20-7 but I had a hard time rooting against my old school. So I didn't. I cheered for my nephew to do well while at the same time I hoped for the Longhorns to score. I had coached a few of the seniors on Caprock's team back when they were in the fifth and sixth grade so I knew players from that side as well.

At halftime I wondered over to the other side and took a stroll among the Caprock fans. I ran into a couple of old classmates and a few of the parents of the kids I once coached, so this week has turned into Old Home week for me.

I am an avid football fan -- The New Orleans Saints in the NFL. Nebraska Cornhuskers in college. I attend a good many high school games each year and besides coaching kids for a while, once upon a time I ref'd everything from fifth grade to varsity. So I know my way around the ol' pigskin after being involved on every level.

Varsity High School Football is huge in Texas. It spawned first the book, then the movie and finally the television show Friday Night Lights. The team that spawned those creations. The Odessa Permian Panthers once played Amarillo High at Dick Bivins stadium and there was something like fourteen thousand people at the game.
In the spirit of fall, football season, and falling foliage I am going to suspend my Sunday ritual of sharing The Feedstore Chronicles. In its place I will be telling a few of my referee stories but don't worry you non football fans they wills till be character stories more than anything else. I think y'all will get a kick out of them(pun intended) even if you do not like sports. I'll start tomorrow. If you really need to hear about Earl's unscrupulous horniness, or Jerry's stupidity, or another tale of When Barnyard Animals Attack you can go here to revisit the Feedstore Chronicles.

I do plan to share more of these stories later, but probably not until after the first of the year because after the football tales I plan to share a few humorous anecdotes about my stint as a mall Santa Claus which I mentioned previously in this post titled, The Other White Meat . Yes, I actually donned the red suit for one holiday season and it ranks as one of the worst decisions of my life, but you will have to wait until after Thanksgiving for those horror stories. And don't forget the Tuesday segments of Terrible Tuesdays with Travis.
So there you have it, your fall preview for what is to come on the TBC.
TBC? That stands for the Travis Blogging Community.
So here's my questions. First, how many of you are football fans? And second, who do you root for?