Here’s Johnny

IMG_8687.jpg

Last night Andrea and Kevin wanted to orchestrate a belated birthday dinner for the General. Of course, as part of the entourage, I was also invited. In all truthfulness, I can say it proved to be an exceptional evening.

 

For starters, Andrea and Kevin chose a restaurant where the General and I have never been. Truthfully speaking, I am mostly a stranger to the kind of fine dining that includes something more than a white tablecloth and dinnerware. I am not accustomed to having a myriad of choices for the first course, second course, main course and the grand finale (aka – desert).

 

It was a touching moment when Andrea looked at the menu and said to her mom, “Why don’t we take this and this and this for starters?” She offered several suggestions to include for the second course and pretty much left the third course for our own choosing.

 

Seriously, for the most part, I had looked at the menu and had no idea what was being served. When it comes to culinary choices that include something outside my regular fare or frame of reference, my first reaction is to look for something else on the menu that seems more familiar. I kind of discount the possibility that I will like it if I haven’t already tried it.

 

Andrea has a culinary charm about her where she can get by with promoting a menu selection for consideration. She does a good job of convincing you that you have a treat in store. I had a flashback to the General coaxing Andrea throughout her childhood to try different foods.

 

It was both interesting to observe and experience the role reversal-taking place before my eyes. Andrea was taking on the role of teacher and mentor. Though she’d never suggest that we were her inept students, we were on unfamiliar territory. She was pretty convincing that we would enjoy the taste. Never once did she use the line: “It is good for you”.

 

The waiter was a young man named Johnny. Actually, when he first came to our table, I missed his providing us his name. At least, I didn’t recall his name when he came back around. Consequently, when he came back around I said: “Help me with my memory. I don’t remember your name.” He smiled and said: “It is Johnny. Just like Johnny Cash, except that I don’t have any cash. Okay, so now I had a frame of reference. I would remember his name.

 

As our two-hour-plus dinner took place, I watched Johnny interacting with a host of other folks dining in the restaurant. He was attentive, personable, and had a genuine gregarious nature about him that added to the ambience of the evening.

 

He mentioned early in waiting on our table that he had just returned to work. He had been on vacation. I asked about his vacation and he provided a thumb-nailed sketch. He had gone to Arizona. While he was there, he attended his brother’s wedding. He added: “I also had a great time visiting with my mom. I sprung her from the hospital for a while. She has just finished chemo and radiation treatments”. He mentioned that in four months she has aged about fifteen years.

 

Immediately, I had the thought associated to the complexity of his family’s circumstances. His mother’s health status had to weigh heavily on the family as they rallied around and celebrated a family wedding. I’m sure there were lots of emotions surrounding the celebration.

 

I mentioned that I was sorry he was dealing with that kind of stress. He said, “It comes with life”. Who could argue with that? He went on to say: “It is interesting, but my mother has developed the most magnificent sense of humor. She had never been so funny. I guess she figures, ‘What do I have to lose’?”   He added: “I really enjoyed the time with her. In addition, my brother’s wedding provided an opportunity for me to visit with a lot of old friends I’ve not seen in awhile. It was really nice. I enjoyed my time at home, but it is also good to be back at work.”

 

Through the course of the evening, bits and pieces about his life surfaced in conversation. He mentioned George Straight’s song: “Ocean Front Property In Arizona”. He said he had recorded the song and given it to several friends. His friends had responded with positive reviews.

 

I asked: “So did you come to Austin to get in the music business?” He said he had graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and was ready to advance his career. He had started skateboarding at the age of four and thought he could make it as a professional skateboarder. California was calling his name. He had to go and give that career track a chance”.

 

I doubt that is just the kind of thing every parent wants to hear from his or her seventeen-year-old son? Actually, he told his dad he was going to request court emancipation. The dad countered that he would allow him to go, but that he wasn’t going to be emancipated. The dad wanted to keep him on as an income tax deduction. Did I mention that his dad is a CPA and his mother is an art professor?

 

He had support from his family as he pursued his dreams. In the course of the two hours we shared, he shared several more tidbits about his life. He got a degree in nursing and things began to fall apart with his girlfriend at exactly the same time that he was beginning to see a line of white picket fences.

 

I had the thought: “What a clever way to express where he was in his human pilgrimage.” Romance didn’t work out in California and he made his way to Austin. His story associated to getting into the restaurant business really caught me by surprise. He said, “It was all about the Balloon Animals”. “The what”, I asked?” He said when he was still in high school a friend had showed him a stash of cash in his wallet. He said: “He had twenties and hundred dollar bills.” His friend explained: “I’ve been working at a restaurant making animals out of balloons for children.” He said, “The parents love it and they pay me. Some pay me very well”.

 

“You’ve got to show me how to do that,” was his response to his friend. In short order, he received permission to do the same thing in another restaurant. He said, “I guess it was my gregarious nature, but folks really liked me. When the restaurant decided to stop allowing me to do that, they said I was too valuable to loose. They employed me as a part-time server while I was in high school”.

 

When asked about his passion going forward he said: “I am a writer. I was made to write. I can’t stop writing. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I will. I write. I can’t stop writing”.

 

Something tells me, he’s got the stuff to reach his dreams. I liked his line: “I was beginning to envision a line of white picket fences”. What an incredible way to say much in a very different way of expressing it!

 

Johnny gave me permission to share his story and reluctantly provided the same regarding his picture. It would serve you well to find him. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable server who works for an incredible restaurant. You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and an exceptional waiter.

 

All My Best!

Don

Personal Reflections On Memorial Day


The earlier link had a glitch with the audio/video. This is a corrected copy
I’d invite you to join us at Henly Baptist Church for our Memorial Day service. For many, Memorial Day is something other than the first 3 day weekend at the end of school. It is a subject matter that tugs at my heart strings.


https://youtu.be/AfhYg0uTTXo


An Unexpected Gift

It was an unexpected gift. Of course, it had to be a dream, but it seemed real at the time. I had absolutely no idea that it was only in the resources of my mind until I awakened this morning to discover that we weren’t meeting at Jake’s BBQ. I was in a work setting, but it was not my office. It was the worst possible timing. Actually, I was scheduled to speak at a conference in a few minutes. How he tracked me down, I don’t know. But I’ve never been more pleased to see anyone in my life. 

Out of nowhere, he walked into the room.  It was Ronnie.  He looked incredible. The first thing I noticed is that he was wearing my favorite new shirt. I had considered wearing that shirt when I went to church yesterday morning to deliver a memorial day sermon that would be available on You Tube today.  It’s funny. I opted not to wear it because I wanted to save it for a special occasion.

I looked at him and did a double take.  It was absolutely too good to be true, but oh what an incredible moment. He hadn’t changed at all since I saw him last. Has it really been almost 48 years?   Like I said, he was wearing civilian clothes. He was wearing my new favorite shirt that I’d never worn.

I’m not sure how I figured it out, but I was also wearing my favorite new shirt. We were dressed alike. Through all of our early childhood years, we were a matched set. We dressed alike for school. When we went into the seventh grade, Ronnie and I revolted and opted not to wear identical clothing. However, from that time forward, if there was a button mission or a flaw of any kind of one of our shirts, from Ronnie’s perspective, it was always my shirt. He’d take the other one.

So after 48 years we were dressed alike again. I should have known it was a dream, because we looked identical.  I was eager to introduce him to my friends. I wondered if they would be able to tell us apart.

He didn’t want to hang around the conference. I gave him the keys to my car and we promised to meet at Jake’s BBQ. I’d have no difficulty getting a ride.  It was not until after my presentation that I realized, I didn’t know of a restaurant named Jake’s BBQ. As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone.

Like I said, it was the briefest of visits, but it was a gift I will always cherish.  So how could I not write about it this morning?  Actually, I didn’t know what I was going to write about this morning. I sat down at the keyboard and tears streamed down my checks.  I guess I’ll call them happy tears.  My heart is not broken. My life is good. I was gifted with his presence for 25 years. What and incredible difference he made in my life.

I will forever live with a sense of gratitude for the time we shared. 

All My Best!

Don

Coming Soon

The morning was filled with unanticipated conversation following my going to church to deliver this year’s Memorial Day sermon. Out of nowhere, the questions have come following the President’s announcement yesterday that churches should be open this weekend and that people need to be in church. People want to know, “Does that mean us?”

For the record, if you go to church where I do, that does not mean us.  A thumbs up on Friday does equate to a ready-set-go on Sunday. Besides that, the Governor of Texas gave churches the “essential category” designation several weeks ago. The problem for us was meeting the CDC guidelines for social distancing.

Coming to church should promote wellness and peace-of-mind. That could get mixed up in a heartbeat if a person got sick from coming to church. Reportedly, new interim guidelines for churches have been prepared by the CDC.

I learned yesterday that of the 186 churches in the Austin Baptist Association, only 22 have reopened for in-person Worship services. Seemingly, “in the near future” or “coming soon” seems to be the thought of how this will roll out.  

First, let me say that I am eager for that to happen.  That’s not to say we haven’t learned some things through the stay-in-place experience. Our church has dramatically touched more lives  “while we’ve been closed”, than we do when we are open.  Going forward,  You Tube will be one forum of Worship at Henly. We don’t plan for that to go away.

There are still a lot of unknowns related to contagion and how the pandemic will play itself out. No one should feel pressured to get back to church in person until their comfort level is such that failure to do so is no longer acceptable. 

As a family of faith, we are here to serve. If you get what you need through the big screen experience in your home, then who am I to suggest you should throw caution to the wind and figurative “come on down”. Worship is not a “the Price Is Right” scenario. 

Okay, so he was preaching to the choir?  I’d be the last to disagree that we need to be in church.  That being said, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  I struggle finding truth in the contradictory messaging.  

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly provided testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension’s Committee that Americans would experience “needless suffering and death” if the country opens up too early. His message reportedly was: “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

What a difference a week can make.  In this week’s messaging Dr. Fauci is providing another kind of warning: “Stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus could end up causing ‘irreplaceable damage’ if imposed for too long”. 

In an interview with CNBC, Dr. Fauci is credited with saying: “Strick crackdowns on large gatherings and other orders, such as for home quarantines, were needed when the coronavirus first hit the nation, but those rules can now begin to be lifted in many parts of the country

So, does one flip a  coin to ascertain an action plan toward moving forward?  Inquiring minds want to know the definition of “too soon” and “too long”. Reportedly the outcome of either is detrimental and they appear opposite.

I’ve mentioned before the importance of people contact.  The Scripture tells us that it is not good for man to be alone. We are all hardwired for connections with others.  Sadly, the messaging gets confusing when the contact and communication we receive from others proves not to support our greatest good.  

The bottom line is this: “Hurt people hurt people.”  No one needs to be in an environment that leaves one feeling taken advantage of or belittled. That is not the kind of contact that God intended we share together. Love and laughter always work for me. Messaging intended to invoke hurt is  or belittle others is never appropriate. 

I’m confident, any messaging you get from folks with whom I attend church, will be a source of encouragement and support. I’ve been around a long time. That should be a litmus test to their patience and long suffering. Feel free to catch us on You Tube or meet will us in person when the time comes.  “Coming Soon” is in the very near future.

All My Best!

Don

Changing Expectations

Expecting one thing and getting another has the potential to be a game changer. So, what kinds of things do we allow to set in place our expectations?  I awakened at 3:15 this morning with the thought that it was too early to get out of bed.  What seemed like only moments later, I heard the clock strike four times. It was still too early to get out of bed. I did give myself permission to give some thought for the topic of my writing this morning.

When I subsequently opened my eyes with the realization that light was filtering through the closed shutters of our bedroom windows, I had two thoughts. I was puzzled. For starters, I had no recall of the content that would subsequently fill a couple of pages of my Carpe Diem thoughts for today.

I tried to remember. I had organized the thoughts in my head. Now the thoughts were gone. What story line had I crafted in my head? Sadly, all that I could remember was the dream that seemed out of sync with what previously had been my reality.  Strange, how thoughts from the previous day filled some of the details of my remembered dream.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that it has been several weeks since I’ve either talked with or visited with my previous boss. I continue to value his friendship. Of course, I would call first to ensure he was going to be in the office.  Though, it is a 51-mile commute one way, I thought I’d stop by his office for a visit. Being in Round Rock would also provide me opportunity to visit with a couple of other friends that are probably also back at work. 

Okay, selfishly I’m weary of same-ole-same-ole. Mostly the only settings I have been in other than my home office for the last nine weeks is an empty church. I go there on Saturdays to share a message that mostly seems like talking to myself.  Isn’t that a sign of mental problems?  Seriously, to go on for twenty-five-to-thirty minutes with a non-stop dialogue in an empty room seems crazy. Seriously, who does that?

The other thought I found puzzling was I didn’t hear the sound of rain. For that matter, when I had awakened at 3:15, I didn’t hear the sound of rain then either. How could that be possible?

I’m not suggesting that the General knows everything. Yet saying that, she’d probably not defer to the notion that she’s not the smartest person in our house. Okay, so I had planned to take her car to the carwash yesterday afternoon. I didn’t because the General said it was supposed to start raining. For that matter, it reportedly is supposed to rain all weekend. 

I’ve been up for an hour and I’ll believe the rain when I see it. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to wash her car on the off-side chance that she’s right. She asked about my plans for the day and I told her I had work to do. 

Sometimes my smart wife can make me crazy. Just because I talk non-stop at an empty church on Saturdays which seems a little crazy, her pronouncement that our garage now looks worse than it did before we moved the roll top desk out of the middle on one-side is utter non-sense. She thought that we could work on that today.

I’ve got work – real work – to do.  Shelves or filing cabinets mostly cover every square inch of three sides of our garage with the exception of doorways or windows. The shelves are loaded to the max with stuff not good enough to keep, but too good to throw away. Oh, yeah – there are also Christmas decorations and fall decorations and… The list goes on and on.  

I’m not one to gamble. I don’t even bet on sure things. However, I am sure that we aren’t going to toss anything on most of those shelves. With the exception of some paint cans (there are always paint cans) on one shelf – everything else are things we can’t part with. If we part with the paint, what are we going to do for touch-up paint?  Without the paint for touch-up, I’d have to totally repaint an entire room. We are both too OCD (obsessively compulsive disorder) to let there be the slightest of nicks in a wall without covering it over with paint. Seriously, what else do we need the Q-tips for? 

As a rule of thumb, I never paint more than needs to be painted when I’m trying to cover up a nick. Trust me, it can come back to haunt you if you do.  I was once overly zealous and applied a brush stroke of paint on a wall that only needed a slight touch. When the paint dried, it didn’t blend in with the rest of the wall. I ended up repainting the room.  I guess you could say, “Been there/done that” – never again.

Call it a “Tip From Don”. Always use a Q-tip to apply paint for touch up. You’ll use only what you need; no more or less. It can eliminate making a huge mistake.

Getting back to the General, I can read her mind like an open book. She wants us to work in the garage so we can empty my filing cabinets. She even mentioned getting rid of some of them. She may have a good point. How many individuals need to have six or seven filing cabinets in their garage? 

I guess only time will tell. In the interim, I have real work to do.  I may even opt to take some time to walk in the rain, but I don’t think today will be that day. Like I said, the General doesn’t always get it right because folks forecasting the weather don’t always get it right.  The General is simply acting as the messenger.  I try never to shoot the messenger.  

It is better to be forewarned than to be caught totally off guard. 

All My Best!

Don

I Want To Go Home – Finding Hope

The year was 1956. The sound of Harry Belafonte singing “Day-O” has been stuck in my head ever since.  Sometimes I take the risk of singing a few lines to one of my grandkids. They look at me as if they think I’m strange. You can see it in the expression on their faces. 

This week, Jake was the lucky one. I don’t remember what prompted the memory of the song, but in my best Jamaican voice the words rolled out.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t get the words exactly right. Seriously, how would Jake know? The following lines are etched in my head even though they aren’t exactly correct:  “I work on the banana boat all night long – daylight come and me want to go home. Day o! Day o! Daylight come and me want to go home…”

How I forgot this line, I’ll never know. “A beautiful bunch of ripe banana – Daylight come and me wanna go home – Hide the deadly black tarantula – Daylight come and me wanna go home.” Jake would have gotten a kick out of that line.

“I want to go home” – I guess the theme. “I want to go home” resonates in music of all kinds. Do you remember the John B. Sails? The Kingston Trio and subsequently the Beach Boys make it memorable. It is a Bahamian folk song from Nassau. The year was 1958. Do you remember the lines? “We come on the sloop John B, my grandfather and me. Around Nassau town we did roam – Drinkin’ all night. Got into a fight. Well, I feel so break up, I want to go home.  Of course, Sheriff John B. Sloan is the reason he can’t go home. He is in jail.

I don’t remember the year, but I do remember the sound of Jerry Jeff Walker singing London Homesick Blues. The song is hilarious, See what you think? I’ll share a line: 

Gotta put myself back in that place again
[Verse 1]
Well, when you’re down on your luck
And you ain’t got a buck
In London you’re a goner
Even London Bridge
Has fallen down
And moved to Arizona
Now I know why

[Pre-Chorus 1]
And I’ll substantiate the rumor
That the English sense of humor
Is drier than than the Texas sand
You can put up your dukes
Or you can bet your boots
That I’m leavin’ just as fast as I can

[Chorus]
I wanna go home with the armadillo
Good country music from Amarillo And Abilene
The friendliest people and the prettiest women you ever seen”

This morning, an article entitled “Need to Go Home’: The Cruise Ship Employees Still Stuck at Sea, written by Alexandra Yingst caught my attention. She shares the story of Justin.  Justin is one of 100,000 cruise line employees who want nothing more than to go home. He is from the Philippines. Justin has named the ship, “Cruising to Nowhere”. 

If you ask me, I think “Lost at Sea” might be more descriptive. Even for American workers, getting of the boat is proven untenable. Their’s is a Catch-22 kind of experience. In order to for that to happen, cruise lines are required to sign a document stating that the ship has complied with CDC procedures. Reportedly, that means that the cruise lines must ensure that crew will not stay in a hotel before they reach their final destination, use public transportation, or enter public airport terminals.

And I think I’m periodically going stir crazy with a stay-in-place modus operandi.  If working on a cruise line is thought to be a dream job, it might rightly be described as a nightmare.

Speaking of boats, have you given much thought to the story of Noah? Max Lucado writes: “Water. All Noah can see is water. The evening sun sinks into it. The clouds are reflected in it. His boat is surrounded by it.  Water. Water to the North. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the west.  All Noah can see is water”.

The story unfolds in the book of Genesis.  Max Lucado asks a thought provoking question. He writes: “Think of your life as an ark. What conditions are you facing right now?  Are you docked in a port, feeling safe, secure, and full of hope? Are you drifting a little?  Are you feeling the water level around you start to rise?  Or are you, like Noah, riding out a massive flood with no dry ground – and very little hope – in sight?

Lucado affirms: “Noah faced a literal extinction-level threat. The world as he knew it was gone, yet his hope could not be destroyed. He sent out the raven and the doves to get a sense of when – not if – God would ease the flood. 

Of all things, it was an olive leaf brought back by a dove that provided a renewed sense of hope.  Lucado writes: “This leaf was more than foilage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is?  Hope is an olive leaf – evidence of dry land after a flood. Proof to the dreamer that dreaming is worth the risk”.

May your day dreams and your night dreams be those filled with hope.

All My Best!

Don

Is It An Illusion Or Is It Real – You’ll Live With The Consequences Of Your Answer

The race is on or is it? A wise man once said: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. Was it a wise man that said that or did I just make it up?  Actually, I probably can thank my mother for the thought. How many times in my childhood did mother affirm: “Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right?” That was code for, “Don’t even think it. No kid of mine is…”.  True to her word, no kid of hers did.

Is it an illusion or is it real? Do you ever pause to ask yourself those kinds of questions?  Maybe it is the fantasy of hearing the sound, “Play ball” that is the driving force.  Are we throwing caution to the wind or does it just seem that way to me? 

One day last week, a friend of mine went into Austin and texted me: “This will make you feel better. Except for restaurants, Austin is busy. Tons of traffic. Shops are busy.” He added, “It is almost normal”.

If memory serves me correctly, the stay in place order ended on April 28th as Texas ushered in Phase One of reopening Texas businesses. I remember the photo of the Governor with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on his left and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on his right when the announcement was made. If ever there was an advocate for going back to work, the Lt. Gov. has the claim to fame for his encouragement to “leave something behind for our grandchildren” even if it meant some elderly Texans (those thought most at risk) didn’t survive.  

For the record, I too concurred that folks needed to go back to work.  How does the song go: “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go?”  Seriously, you can’t live on the fat of the land when there is no fat to live on. Folks without discretionary money (which includes most), need a paycheck. It was simply coincidental that the day before Texas reopened for business, Texas experienced the highest daily death toll for the coronavirus up until that point. We have since surpassed that number.

Okay, I get it. We really didn’t have a good choice. People needed to go back to work. Less than a week ago, our credit card was compromised. Would you believe it? It was a charge of $5.15 that appeared suspicious and the credit card company wanted to know if we made the charge? Since we did not, the card was immediately cancelled.

The last time our credit card number was cancelled for a similar experience, I failed to notify the TxTag Customer Service Center of the new number and I got a huge bill (based on late payment penalties) for toll tag usage. Opting not to make the same mistake twice, I called the TxTag Customer Service Center late afternoon yesterday. I needed to provide them our new credit card number.  I know, I know – sure you can do that online if you know your account number. I didn’t. I do know my name and I figured that was a good place to start. By the way, I’ve been wrong before.

When a recording starts with something like: “Thank you for your call to the TxTag Customer Service Center. To combat the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, the TxTag customer service walk up counter, as well as those located in DPS offices will be closed from March 19th until further notice.”  

The message then went on to say something like this: “Due to an excessively high volume of calls, you may experience a long wait…”  Okay, so I waited twenty minutes and opted to hang up. 

So, is Texas really re-opened for business or is it an illusion?  Yesterday a friend asked: “So when are we going to go back to church?  Everything is changed. According to the Governor, with phase two, kids can even play baseball”. After all, baseball is America’s favorite sport.

Surely there had to be a mistake?  Okay, so I’ve been wrong before.  We’ve home schooled kids since mid-March and now we’re saying “Play ball?”  Are we certifiably crazy or am I just a crazy old man?  I can’t argue with the need for people to earn a paycheck. It pays the mortgage, puts groceries on the table and keeps the lights on”.  

But what about the kids?  The current threat of the coronavirus is no less real now than it was two and a half months ago when schools were closed and non-essential workers complied with stay-in-place orders.  Is that true, or was that also an illusion? That is a really good question.

With the onset of the coronavirus, the communication was that kids were not particularly negatively impacted by the illness. That messaging has changed in the last month. Okay, so I’ve not made a secret of the fact that I’ve been boycotting baseball since the age of nine. That was the year I didn’t make the First State Bank Little League team. It was the only year I  tried out for the team.  My dear mother, whom I revere for most of her wisdom, even told me it wasn’t normal not to like baseball. What kind of messaging is that to tell a kid who doesn’t like baseball?

Okay, so I’m not normal. Some would say I am weird and crazy and it has nothing to do with my appearance of having hair like Albert Einstein.  However, I do know that children are our most precious commodity. So are we really going to close schools and quarantine children at home for two and a half months and then usher them back to the ballpark?

God help us! If that is really true, I’m not the only one that is crazy. If you are teetering on that fence, “Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right. Is the coronavirus a pandemic that threatens life or is it an illusion?

I figure forfeiting a season of group recreational activities for our kids isn’t going to be the end of the world. It will simply go down as a memory of the year we did something different. Why not be protectively responsible even if it seems excessive?

If the coronavirus isn’t an illusion, it could be deadly for kids.  Are we really going to throw caution to the wind and let this summer look identical to last summer? Regardless of what the Governor’s Phase Two of Re-opening Texas plan looks like, just because we can, doesn’t necessarily equate with prudent judgement. The stakes are too high to let our children be a part of the bidding war. 

Has all of this been an illusion or is it real?  I guess that is the real question. Regardless of your answer, you’ll have to live with the consequences. If left to me, my response is “no kid of  mine…I don’t care if everybody else is doing it.”

All My Best!

Don

The Rhino Liner Guy

To suggest that it was too close for comfort is an understatement. When you drive a small car, you figuratively have to watch your “ps” and “qs” to keep from getting run over. I left the house around 7:30 last night to meet a friend over near the Salt Lick, a rustic BBQ restaurant in the middle of nowhere that for decades has maintained the reputation of being a quaint place for folks to dine in the hill country. I had dinner there with a group of colleagues from work in the early 1970s. That was before we moved to Austin. The restaurant has been around for a long time. I guess the same could be said of me.

Last night my destination was to simply meet a friend from church to pass-off a book entitled Ten Men of the Bible. It is a book and study guide written by Max Lucado.  A small group of men  from our church is starting that study on Wednesday evening via Zoom.  My friend lives in Buda and we figured our meeting place was about the halfway point. 

Give me any reason to get out of the house after two months of stay-in-place and I’m all over it. It gives one the illusion of normalcy in a world struggling to recapture something seemingly forfeited by a pandemic that threatens folks physically and financially.  It also gave me an opportunity to scoot down the backroads with the top down on the Miata. Earlier in the day, I had driven about seventeen miles to deliver another book to a man from church. I changed my mind on driving the  Miata as soon as I walked outside. It was flat-out hot.  But last night was different. The weather was perfect. The sound of “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay” filled my head before I replaced it with the Avett Brothers booming through the sound system.

Before I left my house, I told my friend by phone that I needed to stop for gas, so he’d be well-served to give me a head-start before he headed out to meet me. Just as I was going into Drippin’, I braked to stop at a signal light turning yellow.  The General would probably describe it as a hard brake.  Okay, so it was a hard brake, but I stopped on the correct side of the intersection. Seriously, I always stop if I can. Almost every traffic light in Dripping Springs comes with a camera eager to catch a person running a red light. You never win when you fight with the law; or so I’ve heard.  Consequently, I always opt for defensive driving instead of paying the fine. I’ve also found it serves me best to stop at the light and avoid the inconvenience.

Last night, I figuratively saw life passing before my eyes as an eighteen-wheeler with the “peddle to the metal” swerved out of the lane behind me and missed my car by inches on my left. I felt infinitely small as the enormity of the truck speeding through the yellow traffic-light seemed almost to be going in slow motion. How’s that for a contradiction? If you’ve ever had that kind of close call, you probably can identify with the experience. Otherwise, you’d have had to be there to know the reality of the phenomenon. It was frighteningly eerie. 

The blue truck and metal colored trailer with a shining aluminum doors on the back seemed to take forever to pass by me on my left. The huge metal machine that could have flattened my Miata was less than an arms-length away. The sound of the truck gave me the illusion it was moving at a high rate of speed. In my book of close calls, this one was harrowing.  

I got to the intersection where I was meeting my friend before he did. At least, that was my illusion. Of course, as soon as I was stopped he drove up from the direction I had just traveled.  He said: “You were really flying when you came past me.”  Did I mention the Miata is a fun car to drive?

We visited briefly standing next to his truck. He drives a Honda pickup – Honestly, it is the kind of rig you can’t miss. It has one of those “don’t mess with me – you’ll lose” personas.  I call my friend the “Rhino liner guy”.  There is more than one way to avoid door dings. Why not have the entire truck covered with the Rhino liner they spray in the bed of a pickup truck so you can’t get scratches? Of course, as I recall from the Ford truck I bought in 2004, it was about $500 to  have the Rhino liner applied to the bed of a truck. I can’t imagine what it would cost to have the entire vehicle covered. It, too is something you have to see to fully absorb the message it portrays.  

The only thing the truck is missing is a “Don’t Mess With Texas” license plate. My friend is currently serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army National Guard, having previously served a career track in the United States Army. To suggest that he has been in the “thick of it” is an understatement.  

He represents strength in lots of different ways. Maybe it is because of his training, but he is always peripherally aware of his surroundings. I guess another way to say that is that he never lets his guard down.  Another way to say it is that he is always looking for ways to serve.  The guy has the heart of God.  

At some point  in the conversation, he said: “It looks like the truck is stuck”. He then asked: “Do you want to see if we can help?”  I had not noticed the truck. It was literally off of the beaten path. Why was the truck off of the roadway and in the middle of a field? What were they thinking? If my friend had any of those questions, he never verbalized them. He didn’t need an explanation. He just wondered if he could help?

Okay, so maybe I don’t come across with a Good Samaritan persona?  For starters, what could two guys do to help move an eighteen-wheeler? Doesn’t that require a tow truck? Besides that, the truck and two guys were located some distance from us. The vegetation was high. I’m not a fan of chiggers.  I mentioned chiggers and my friend said, “I’ve had chiggers before.”

Okay, so we are walking through knee-high grass in the direction of two guys trying to put old lumber they have found from somewhere under the passenger’s side front wheel. I’m thinking Triple AAA or Dial A Prayer is a better option than anything we had to offer. Seriously, we were dwarfed by the size and majesty of the truck. If they were stuck it was going to take a lot more help than we had available.

So, what do you say to someone in the middle of nowhere who apparently have not made a good choice on the route they sought to travel.  Obviously, it would be stupid to ask: “Are you guys stuck?”  My friend’s only question was: What can I do to help?  He added that his truck had four-wheel drive.

They guys in the truck opted not to look a gift horse in the mouth. They were very open to any kind of assistance. As my friend got in his Rhino liner truck to drive over to access the truck from the trailer side, I headed for home.

I’m calling it a God-wink. Who would have thought that a small truck and a guy with the heart of God could actually move moutains?  Along with the picture he sent after he got home, he added: “Got em out. No chiggers yet. (I did shower as soon as I got home)  I responded: “Impressive!” He replied: “His guardian angels were pushing…”

I’d call it a God wink moment.  

All My Best!

Don