Wildlife sightings began ticking up in mid-June, probably as a result of rain and increased forage. Deer were everywhere, causing Flash and me to occasionally interrupt our walking. A young doe careened around nearby yards in the early mornings, acting a little crazy.

One morning, Flash sent me a snapshot of an entire family of foxes and their kits lazing on a neighbor’s patio. My sister Lynn reported the rescue of a young fawn from a storm sewer. Chocoholic witnessed a young Cooper’s Hawk chase the fat squirrel onto our back porch. Two days later I heard a kerfuffle on the porch and have not seen the fat squirrel since. I assume the worst. A younger, smaller, foolhardy squirrel took over the territory. I feared he was not long for this world, but as of late August, he’s still here.

Strangest of all was the road runner. I had only ever seen a roadrunner once, maybe twice. They are elusive creatures that avoid civilization… or so my thinking went. Early on a mid-June morning, my neighbor and I stood talking outside in the shade about the young doe. She thought the doe guarded a baby fawn hidden in the grass behind another neighbor’s house. We turned and watched as a roadrunner appeared and strode confidently toward us. He carried a twig in his beak. We were not hidden or quiet. He showed no hesitation as he came within 4 feet of us. He circled the tree we were standing under, still only 3-4 feet away and stalked easily up the trunk to a nest near the top. I never knew road runners climbed trees or nested in them. I never knew they approached people.

My neighbor and I were both struck dumb. My mouth hung open in awe. It was almost as if the roadrunner nodded to us as if to say, “Morning ladies. Beautiful day!”

Follow up note: As of Labor Day 2023, that was the last of the rain to date with only 20 minutes of slow soft rain a couple of weeks ago. I stood outside and watched every minute of it. We are now in EXTREME DROUGHT. The road runner has moved her residence to another street.


In early July, I filled the birdbath and an old dog dish on the back porch with water for the birds and squirrels.

Later, I remembered my friend Nancy from Dallas who created a little concrete pond in her back yard to provide water for wild creatures. An unwanted snake immediately settled in, and she ended up killing it. I hoped I wouldn’t be faced with a similar problem. The birds came on the second day. The following day a creature appeared next to the water dish on the porch, looking like a deflated bicycle innertube or a dark crumpled chiffon headscarf. I figured it had to be a snake. He didn’t move, not one muscle. He appeared to be dead. I texted a snapshot to a family member who responded with one word: “Rattlesnake.”


I patiently gave the snake plenty of time to leave, but he didn’t. Finally he disappeared, but then I could see that a dark mat on the porch was newly-tented. I feared the snake was hiding under the mat. Reluctantly, I called one of the local snake wranglers… I’ll call him Jack. I say “reluctantly” because I feared he would kill him. Snakes, even poisonous ones are quite useful. For one thing, they keep the mice and rat population down, especially useful in neighborhoods where many feed wildlife.

Jack wore a red shirt, jeans, western boots and a straw cowboy hat. He was older than I had anticipated but was quite fit and very professional, not to mention utterly fearless. He came empty-handed. After fussing at me for not calling him right away, he set me straight: The wranglers need to know about every snake right away, even garter and other non-poisonous snakes. He would relocate the snake to a local ranch after recording him in an extensive research project they’ve had ongoing for many years.

He stepped out onto the back porch and began looking for the snake, still unarmed, while I watched from the safety of the kitchen. I must admit I closed the screen securely, cutting off the wrangler’s escape if the snake threatened him. I considered taking a snapshot, but didn’t want to distract Jack. He quickly found the snake when he lifted a plastic container from the far corner.

“Whoa! A monster rattlesnake.”

Other than those 4 words, he was cool as a cucumber. He set the container down and went to get his things. I closed and locked the slider behind him. I ran to get our snake stick and propped it next to the door just in case the snake got away from him. Chocoholic was watching TV evening news and asked drolly if I were going to be backup. I glared at him. Any pitiful efforts on my part to subdue an angry rattlesnake would be a last ditch measure. We would all perish.

Jack returned with a big covered plastic bucket and a snake stick. It only took him a minute to get the predator into the bucket. The snake looked to me to be maybe 3 to 3.5 feet in length, but he was pissed and squirmy, and I can’t be sure.

Jack explained to me that: A rattlesnake that size could deliver 4-5 lethal doses of venom to adults; few Texans die from rattlesnake bites, but they do suffer; the toxin is strong enough to kill human tissue which will turn gangrenous and require multiple surgeries. The average hospital bill for rattlesnake bite approaches $50K for 20 or so doses of antivenom alone, not to mention the other pricey care. Cats and small dogs will not survive a bite.

Thank goodness we have such dedicated community volunteers. Kudos, gentlemen.

I should mention that my heroine in The Pig Parts Series has two encounters with rattlesnakes over the course of seven books, once in close quarters in a laundry room with her newborn baby nearby, and once during a major storm during her long, solitary odyssey in rural Mexico. She, of course, is much braver than I am.



Turkey Trot Practice

Wildlife surrounds us: deer, coyotes, turkeys, snakes, racoons, squirrels, hawks, birds, armadillos and foxes among others. Even the rare mountain lion.

Wild turkeys are particularly delightful. A few years ago on an evening when we were entertaining a card group, some 18 to 20 turkeys perched on our fence looking like gigantic ungainly vultures. Unfortunately I’ve misplaced that picture. It was quite a sight.

Several years ago, I watched a fascinating documentary on PBS by Joe Hutto: “My Life as a Turkey.” He raised a flock of turkeys from eggs as if he was their mother. The video might also be found on YouTube. It’s well worth watching.

Turkeys can be dangerous. Males have irritable dispositions and deadly spurs, on the backs of their legs, and upon occasion have been known to kill humans. When Flash and I walk in the early mornings, we sometimes encounter the flock and have to wait for them to cross the road in front of us. Sometimes we have to fix them with strobe or flashlights to get them to move on. Sometimes nothing works, and a lot of waiting around or a detour is involved. Lately, in a nearby neighborhood, two adult turkeys have been terrorizing walkers.

This past winter, the flock was quite large, numbering more than 50 birds. As summer progresses, the numbers have already begun to dwindle due to coyote and other predations.

One cold overcast morning, four of the male turkeys put on a magnificent display hoping to lure the dowdier females into mating with them. As you can see, they had practiced their moves and didn’t miss a step.

And a one and a two…


Banana Nut Muffins

Most of the time I try to cook healthy for my family. I occasionally bake muffins, and I’m always looking to eliminate the sodium, cut harmful fat and sugar and increase fiber. They don’t always turn out as I’d like, but I was pleased with a recent batch.

NOTE: June 2023. Various digital health publications are now reporting that the common sweetener found in Splenda is genotoxic and may damage your DNA.


1 large egg

2 very ripe/overripe bananas mashed well

1/2 cup milk (I used  2%.)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat pastry flour (If you’ve never used this flour, you should definitely give it a try.)

1/2 generous/rounded cup Splenda

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used cashews as container was already open, but pecans and walnuts would work well.)

Spray 12-hole muffin tin with cooking spray. (You can use paper muffin cups if you like, but I prefer the crust achieved without them.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Beat egg with fork. Stir in milk, banana and oil. Mix with a fork. Mix flour and other dry ingredients. Stir into batter just until flour is moistened. Avoid overmixing. Batter will be somewhat lumpy.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle lightly with a little Splenda if you like your muffins on the sweet side; otherwise their sweetness will be quite delicate.

Bake 18 to 25 minutes. Test with clean toothpick inserted into middle when indicated by fragrance, golden brown color and edges beginning to separate from pan. Toothpick should come back clean.

When done, remove from muffin pan immediately. Serve warm.

Makes 11-12 small muffins. When completely cool, store in airtight container. Will keep well in fridge for three or four days or may be individually frozen.


My precious live oak tree lies dead and dismembered in our front yard.

Central Texas sufferred another traumatic winter weather event the first week of February 2023, a devastating ice storm. Several people died, and three days after it “ended,” there were still thousands without power, but the most frequent victims were the trees. Downed and damaged trees have to number in the hundreds of millions as Austin alone reported 10.5 million. Eleven weeks later, heavy branches are still falling without warning in our neighborhood and around our house.

We lost our only live oak tree. Live oaks shed their leaves in March, not in winter. Too much ice accumulated on its leaves. Half the tree leaned way over from the weight and sufferred a literal greenstick fracture. The other half leaned over the other way but did not crack. Most of the tree trunk remained upright.

I have seen many ancient live oak trees with massive branches propped up on wooden and concrete braces custom built to hold their great weight. I had hoped the tree guy would tell me that he could apply a similar fix, but of course, he couldn’t. He cut the tree down. He informed me that the 2021 Snowmageddon event followed by 18 months of major drought further complicated by recent heavy rains severely weakened the tree. Indeed, the fracture site revealed a blackened and rotted interior portion where standing water had damaged the tree trunk.

City workers loaded and carted off the dismembered tree earlier this week in a massive cleanup using big trucks and heavy front loader equipment. When spring is guaranteed, the tree guy will plant another tree, either another live oak or a Texas Red Oak. The Red Oak is the wiser choice. It will lose its leaves in winter and carry reduced risk of destruction during the next ice storm.

While losing a tree is not as traumatic as losing a family member or a pet, it’s an emotional loss. It hurts.


My grandmother’s dictionary

Recently, one of my book clubs read The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, a New York Times Bestseller and award-winning novel published by Random House. Everyone seemed to enjoy it… an informative and well-written book that easily held my interest.

I took my Grandmother’s dictionary to the meeting for show and tell, Webster’s Giant Illustrated Dictionary. It was compiled and edited under the supervision of Joseph Devlin and published by The World Publishing Company, copyright 1941. I grew up using this popular dictionary; indeed, I occasionally still use it. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mother of four. She read true crime novels, The Bible, the local weekly newspaper and The Houston Chronicle.

I’m a reader, so I look up words and phrases in dictionaries all the time. I occasionally look up new and different meanings that words and phrases have taken on in the recent past in current internet urban slang dictionaries, sometimes with shocking results. My grandmother’s dictionary includes a section of American Slang as it was used in 1941, and I thought you might find a few of the entries amusing if not surprising:

“Bible belt… a district in which religious hypocrisy flourishes.”

“boiled owl… a radio enthusiast who sits up all night.”

“boner… a mistake; a slip of the tongue; a faux pas.”

“bushwah… unwarranted statements; false assertions.”

“cackleberry… an egg.”

“geek… a snake charmer…”

“sky pilot… a minister or clergyman…”

The dictionary is a link to my childhood… a reminder of my grandmother, and I enjoy having it sit on my desk. Best of all my mother wrote my grandmother’s name on the flyleaf using her gorgeous handwriting.





My vintage UIL medals

I recently attended one of my neighborhood book clubs. Toward the end of the session, when conversation was ready to turn to politics and gossip, the hostess said something about the selected book being a great story. Her words triggered a memory. Being very perceptive, her eyes zeroed in on me. “What?”

I told her it was a childhood memory about storytelling… specifically about University Interscholastic League competition in storytelling. The other ladies had all grown up out of state. None of them had ever heard of a storytelling competition which surprised me. I explained that it was a contest for public schools sponsored by the University of Texas. The student was given a short story to read silently and then stood up in front of judges and an audience and told the story. Medals were awarded for the top three contenders. Winners advanced to Statewide competition. The activity was intended to promote good listening, thinking and speaking skills.

When I returned home, I wondered if Texas was the only state to sponsor such a competition, so I googled UIL STORYTELLING COMPETITION. Such competitions are still held in Texas along with others in academics, athletics and music. Numerous other state universities sponsor such in other states. The competitions encourage youngsters to enrich their educations and expand their horizons. Students compete based on school size and grade in school.

The image above shows UIL medals I won in band and twirling when I was a student. I can’t tell you how proud I was to receive them, but I sure wish I had one for storytelling.


Early in my consulting career, I did a few days work in East Texas each month. Every time I worked there, I seemed to come across something wonderful or something awful… nothing dangerous or horrible, just something uplifting or pitifully awful.

One afternoon after work, I agreed to have a drink with my liaison and her husband. We drove to a local dance hall, one of those huge old galvanized tin open-air halls dating from the early 20th century that are still active all over Texas. There were only a few other patrons, mostly at the bar on the far side of the vast dance floor. Country western music blared from the loudspeakers, but no one was dancing. It was a fine day, and the giant tin window flaps had been propped open to catch the breeze.

We ordered drinks and settled in to catch up. An older cowboy approached our table and asked me to dance. He was wiry and muscular, dressed up as if he was going on a date. He wore a big western straw hat, a pristine white snap shirt, ironed jeans and polished boots. I was intimidated by his handsome apparel, his boots in particular. I was still in my bedraggled suit that I had donned before dawn in Houston. I’m not a good dancer, and even if the song had been a ballad, I would have had to kick off my heels and dance in my stocking feet. I feared I would bungle the dance and cause him to step on my tender toes, and everyone would stare at us when I messed up, so I politely thanked him and turned him down.

He glared at me, sailed his big hat to the floor and danced around it. His thinning hair was turning white, but his steps were vigorous. I felt worse and worse as the song seemed to go on forever. I felt like he was sending me a message, perhaps that he was an excellent dancer and I should have trusted him not to mangle my toes. Or then again, maybe he had a bet with one of the fellows at the bar that he could get the uptight stranger from the city to let down her hair and have some fun and was pissed that he was losing the bet. Maybe he was so angry that he was calling down a curse on me from the dance hall gods.

The three of us clapped politely as he finished. He retrieved his hat, dusted it off with an angry swipe and returned to the bar. I half expected him to take a snarky bow, but he didn’t.

After much consideration, I classified the incident as something wonderful… I think?


A few years ago, Chocoholic and I took a trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. It was a wonderful trip, and we came away from it with the added bonus of delightful new friends.

I hadn’t planned on enjoying Morocco, but I did… so much so that I declared that if I ever got rich, I would buy a ranch there… pie in the sky of course, but fun to consider.

Visiting Morocco was, in many ways, like stepping back in time, especially in the old town medinas and vast marketplaces. They were some of the most fascinating markets I’ve ever visited, and I’ve done so all over the world. Many goods were produced on site using methods dating from medieval times, including leather, metal and pottery goods in particular.

Morocco is located in the desert on the northwest coast of Africa. We visited a sprawling market in Marrakesh. Tall skinny water sellers plied their trade dressed in elaborate costumes and lampshade hats accented with bright multicolored tassels. They carried water vessels and a variety of metal cups, charging a small coin for a drink of refreshing water.

Toward the end of our visit, we headed to the tour bus. Chocoholic noted a group of snake charmers sitting on a blanket. He wanted to get a picture of the snakes. I said I’d go on to the bus. I gossiped with one of the other tourists as we examined each other’s newly-purchased treasures and waited for the others to board.

Chocoholic showed up about ten minutes later, a big grin plastered on his face. Two other tourist guys boarded the bus behind him and stopped at our seats, waiting expectantly. Chocoholic announced that without getting his permission, one of the snake charmers had wrapped a cobra around his neck, shocking the other lady and me speechless. The other two tourist guys confirmed the encounter, laughing loudly at our expressions. “Ha! Ha! What a sight! You should have seen it.”

Holy Crap!


Of course the image needs at least a million more birds, but it is does make a pretty picture

A few years ago, I drove to the lake on a beautiful fall afternoon to prepare for weekend houseguests. While I was unloading the car, a flock of blackbirds began flying over. I was in a hurry to settle before dark and at first didn’t pay them much attention. However, I soon realized there were a great many birds extending from horizon to horizon, flying north to south ahead of a cold front, so many that the sky turned dark. I stopped what I was doing and began estimating the numbers at ten thousand birds per minute. The flock finally petered out after twenty minutes… two hundred thousand birds… a staggering number.

In my heart, I knew there had been many more birds, but I wanted to describe the flock to my expected guests and feared they wouldn’t believe even a conservative estimate.

Chocoholic and our guests arrived shortly after dark on Friday. Late Saturday afternoon, during a game of cards on the porch, I described the birds. As expected, my estimate of the vast numbers was met with frank skepticism and good-natured ribbing. But the bird gods smiled on me, and shortly before sunset, the flock returned, again flying north to south. We stepped out onto the lawn and watched in awe. The flock once again took around twenty minutes to fly over, darkening the sky. Our guests estimated at least a million birds. I was so pleased that Chocoholic and the others got to see them. Rachel Carson would have been proud of her life’s work.

I was reminded of old-time tales of the passenger pigeons whose vast numbers so impressed early settlers when our country was new. Those birds were eventually hunted into extinction.