Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tastes Like George Jones

I like animals. Really I do. And no, I do not mean I like them only when they are grilled and served alongside fried 'taters. My carnivorous eating habits aside I enjoys animals both domestic and wild. I own two dogs, a hamster, and it is rumored the Easter will soon be delivering a red-eared slider to the Erwin household to replace the ill-fated Captain Jack.

Captain Jack was a turtle that the boys found on the road near our old house, but sadly after being their pet for two years he was the lone casualty when our house burned.

But back to me and animals. Like I said I like them. I enjoy seeing and watching animals but, I could never live in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. No siree, those people are a bit over the top in their love for animals.

I'm sure you have all heard of Punxsutawney Phil. The groundhog that the folks up in PA have decided is Nostradamus and Al Roker all rolled into one. That's too much faith in a critter for me. Like I said I like animals but I ain't about to plan my next 6 weeks based upon the hunch of a fat hairy rodent. Or Al Roker for that matter.

But the townsfolk's lunacy for their furry friends doesn't stop there. To prove it, let me share a little news story I just read with you.

A Pennsylvania man was arrested Thursday for public drunkenness, after he was spotted trying to resuscitate a dead possum alongside the road.

State troopers said one witnesses called in after watching the man perform what appeared to be a seance over the roadkill. A second witness watched the man conduct mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the marsupial.

Troopers arrived on the scene to find the suspect with his mouth very close to the animals, which had apparently been dead for several days.

As I said, I like animals, but never have I been tooling down the road only to spot a dead armadillo, and suddenly become overcome with enough grief to get out and provide aid to the roadkill. And I realize spring is just now arriving but even with cool temperatures i can't imagine a possum that's been dead for several days smelling very good. And yeah I realize the dude was plastered, but have you ever been that drunk?

Me neither.

Having a few too many and waking up with an ugly chick is one thing. Frenching, what is basically a giant rat, is another. Nope, there simply isn't enough Rum in the world for me to make that mistake.

Hate to think what this drunk man would have done if he'd spotted the town's famed groundhog dead on the side of the road.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Putting The Too in Two Line Tuesday

After a long hiatus, I posted a My Town Monday blog yesterday and this being Tuesday and all, I figured why not do a Two Line Tuesday as well. To participate in Two Line Tuesday or see the links to others participating please visit the famed, Women of Mystery blog. The basic premise of Two Line Tuesday is to post two lines from something you have read this week and then two lines of your own writing.

I have been reading, MAGIC HOUR, a novel by Kristin Hannah about a small town in Washington where an apparent feral child, a girl raised by wolves shows up in town.

Peanut glanced nervously at the window, as if the wold were out there, pacing the yard, looking for a way in. "She's gonna try to escape. Those are her words."

Yeah, I cheated and posted three but you haven't seen the depth of my cheating just yet. You see I figure since I have played along on Two Line Tuesdays in so long I might as well add up all those lines and include them now. Actually since a lot of you have do not have Kindles, or have had trouble downloading the kindle PC application, but have expressed interest in reading my Amazon Breakthrough novel excerpt, I thought I'd go ahead and post in here for you to read. It is considerable more than two lines, but I appreciate your asking the time to read and if you are feeling especially generous with your time, head over to Amazon and leave a review afterward.

Waiting On The River


Travis Erwin

His shoulders ached from the all-night drive, and his eyelids were as heavy as silver dollars. The glowing green numbers on the dashboard taunted him. A quarter ‘til five. Morning. Daybreak would be here before he could sleep, but at least he was close. Only a few miles separated Blue Riggins from his bed, and what he hoped would be a dreamless slumber.

Actually his bed laid but mere feet behind him, hitched to his truck. He could have found a place to pull over and park hours ago, but Blue refused to stop until he reached the very spot he planned to camp. The exact place his wife picked on their first visit to the Tetons.

Staci would never believe he'd given up tents, Coleman stoves, and rock ring fires, for the sake of comfort. She would have teased him about this RV and its king-sized bed, leather couch, built-in fireplace, and shower with overhead skylight. Other than their last trip, when it rained nonstop for five straight days, the two of them always roughed it out in the woods.

The truck and RV had cost Blue nearly twice what they spent to build their house. Of course these days, the pickup and thirty-seven-foot travel trailer were his home. The place back in Texas lay abandoned like everything else from his past. Blue Riggins was a man without roots, and that was exactly what he wanted out of life.

Yesterday he'd packed up and left Las Vegas, Nevada to avoid getting caged in. Today, he would taste the freedom and thin air of Eagle's Rest, Idaho.

Drowsily drifting into the past, Blue recalled the good times he and Staci shared during their annual treks to Idaho. Up here in these mountains he could almost hear her laughter … feel the warmth of her body … smell the pine needles in her hair ...

His neck unsteady, like the legs of a newborn colt, Blue didn't resist as his head tilted forward and his heavy lids slid closed.

The pickup lurched – shook violently.

Blue opened his eyes and jerked the wheels all in the same instant.

Gravel pinged against the fender wells. The travel trailer fishtailed -- yanking the truck to the side.

Headlights flashed against forest trees.

Tires squealed.

White-knuckled, Blue struggled to keep the truck pointed straight ahead. A vision flashed by in a burst of light. A woman standing on the side of the road.

“Staci,” he whispered as the big black Ford skidded past the apparition and finally came to a shuddering halt thirty yards down the road.

Out of breath, and unsure of what he’d seen, Blue opened the door and peered back into the darkness. The stench of singed rubber hung in the air as he slid out of the pickup. He moved toward the rear of the vehicle before she came into view again.

His heart contracted. He swallowed hard. She stepped closer.

The excitement left in a rush. A stranger.

Not Staci.

He should have known better than to believe in ghosts.

The woman paused near the rear of the trailer, where the amber running lights cast an eerie glow across her apprehensive face. Now that he’d gotten a good look, she didn’t much resemble his wife. Maybe in height, but this woman had dark hair, not blonde, and a ponytail. Staci had always kept her hair too short for a ponytail. Not that he had time to notice any of this while skidding past. Hope, not logic, had led to his confusion.

Blue ran his fingers across his stubbled cheek. “You okay?”

The woman nodded. “I think so. What happened?” She wrapped her arms across her chest as if hugging herself.

“I dozed off coming around that corner. The tires slipped off the shoulder and I yanked the wheel too hard. Lucky the whole damn thing didn’t tip.” He shivered, having forgotten how cold it got up here this time of year.

Her eyes darted from side to side.

“Sorry for the scare,” he said, still unsure how he’d confused this woman for his wife. Both women were pretty, but in entirely different ways. The one standing before him had more of an athletic look, or maybe it was the large Nike swoosh across her sweatshirt that gave him that idea.

“It happened so fast I didn’t really have time to be scared,” she answered. “But you did get my heart rate up. I don’t normally see much traffic when I jog.”

Blue frowned. It couldn't be more than a degree or two above zero. A person would have to be crazy to take off before sunrise and jog in the freezing cold. He tried to remember if there was a cabin nearby or some other reason for her to be way out here. She seemed anxious already, but he couldn’t just drive away and leave her stranded on the side of the road without knowing she would be okay. “You need a ride somewhere?” he asked in the same calm, even tones he usually reserved for horses.

She shook her head and took a step back. “No, I’m fine.”

Blue tried to look as harmless as possible, but still he sensed her eagerness to escape. “You sure? I don’t mind.” He was reluctant to leave. Despite their physical differences, something about her still reminded him of Staci.

She nodded. “The jog back to town will do me good. I’ll be fine.” Turning on her heels, she took off.

Standing alone in the middle of the cold black road he watched the jogger until she disappeared around the curve. Now he’d never know why she reminded him of his wife.

Not that it mattered. The biggest difference between them was clear. She was alive.

Staci was not.

Chapter Two

Lindsay Parker kept a close watch over her shoulder as she headed back to town. Jogging alone, in the wee hours of predawn, was nothing new to her, but this morning’s encounter had shaken her. Running on the other side of the road, she'd never been in any real danger of being hit, but the incident had unnerved her just the same.

Sure the man had been friendly -- apologetic -- even offered to help, but there in the darkness, she hadn't been able to tell much about him other than he was tall and broad shouldered. It had been his voice that terrified her. That accent. The slow way he drew out his words. No one around here talked like that, which is exactly why his every word sent a shiver down her spine that had nothing to do with the frigid weather.

Running in these icy conditions required a good bit of motivation, but despite the chilly temperatures and the thin air of the high altitude, she cherished the quiet solitude of the area. Until this morning the lack of traffic comforted her. Now she longed for the sight of town and proof that she had friends nearby.

A few stars still glimmered overhead, but the sky had begun to lighten in the east. The padding of her feet provided the only sound.

A decade ago, she put in ten miles every morning before school, and another ten or fifteen in the evening. Regardless of the weather. That had been her sophomore year, when she still dreamed of glory. When she ran for the hope of a cross-country scholarship to Oklahoma State, OU, or at the very least Tulsa. When she still believed in the future. Of course, all of that changed when she slowed down long enough for Rusty Hawkins to catch her.

Lindsay kicked her muscles into a higher gear. Old memories had left her alone these nine months since she'd set up residence in Eagle’s Rest, yet today the past nipped at her heels. A crow called out in the shadow-filled forest. The bird’s wings flapped amongst the bare branches. The Tetons loomed before her. Focusing her attention on the tallest white-capped peak, she pushed harder.

Her Nikes pounded the narrow road until her ribs ached. Until she could focus solely on the physical pain. Until her body overpowered her mind.

If only she could run forever. But her muscles, like her brain, could only take so much abuse before giving up.

Reaching town, she slowed to a walk, laced her fingers behind her head, and filled her lungs with the thin, oxygen-deprived air. Greedily sucking wind, she walked past the handful of houses, the snowmobile and ski rental shop, the town’s lone gas station, and the Kozy-Inn, all quiet at this early hour. Not even the familiar sight of the Talon Café settled the dread which had lodged in her bones. Her workplace and refuge in this town looked strange at this hour without the usual array of battered Jeeps and pickups out front. On a normal day, she would return from her jog to find half a dozen men lined up at the counter waiting on Janine to fill their coffee mugs.

Cutting across the empty gravel lot Lindsay went around back, to the house where she rented a room. She wished Janine were home but her employer, landlady, and friend would not be back until early afternoon.

Janine and The Talon Cafe had become Lindsay’s lifeline. A job. A place to stay. That’s all Lindsay had been looking for when she found herself stranded in Eagle's Rest. Finding a true friend had made the transition easier, but the steady everyday routine gave Lindsay what she needed most.

A place to hide from the things she wanted to forget.

Chapter Three

Blue pulled into the clearing and parked. For the next half hour, he lowered the RV, leveled the frame, and chocked the wheels. As he finished the outside work, a soft gray light filtered through the bare tree limbs and replaced the darkness.

Inside, the trailer smelled dusty and stale from lack of use. He never used it while in Vegas, preferring the convenience of the suite the casino offered up in exchange for him playing cards in their poker room.

Despite the cold, Blue opened a kitchen window to let in some fresh air. Later, he would have to stock up on supplies, but for now, he needed rest.

Slipping into bed, he stared up at the ceiling still bothered by ghosts. What would he have said or done if the roadside vision had been his wife?

That answer never came. Neither did sleep. An hour ago he’d been too tired to keep his rig on the road, and now the idea of dozing off seemed as foreign as jogging in the middle of the night.

His drowsiness had almost caused an accident. Had that woman been on the other side of the road, he very well could have killed her. The sober realization of that truth gave his mind more to dwell upon as he laid there wishing for the sort of peace only sleep could bring.

Light spilled into the room despite the closed blinds. Turning over, he piled a pillow on top of his head. His stomach rumbled. He needed sleep, but how long had it been since he ate? Dinner in Vegas yesterday? No, he’d bought some jerky at a truckstop in Utah.

His stomach growled again.

Blue sat up on the edge of the bed, pulled on his boots and buttoned up a clean shirt. Who was he trying to kid? Up here hunting the memory of good times and ignoring the reality of life. In poker, they called it chasing good money with bad. The rest of society called it disillusionment.

His life wasn’t going to get any better. The best had come and gone. Might as well drift away tomorrow after he got some sleep. Blue could find somewhere else to hide. A place where imaginary ghosts wouldn't be lurking around every bend.

But Janine would kill him if he left the area without first stopping at the Talon Café, and he had to eat, so climbing in his truck, Blue headed back for Eagle’s Rest in the hopes a hot meal and good company would settle his unease.

Rounding the curve from this morning, he shook his head. He’d never realized how bad he wanted just one more chance to see and talk to Staci, until he felt the disappointment of seeing that woman jogger.


Even after all these months, Lindsay felt strange being alone inside Janine’s house. Like a trespasser with no right to be there. She never felt this way when Janine was home, but by herself, surrounded by the trinkets of somebody else’s life, Lindsay couldn’t help but think of all the things absent from her own.

Missing the everyday routine more every second, Lindsay sat on the couch and flipped through the television channels in search of a diversion. She smiled at the sight of a giant Snoopy balloon floating by the entrance to Macy’s. As a young girl, she got up early every Thanksgiving morning and sit on the woven rug in her family’s den where she would watch every second of the parade. The balloons were always her favorite. Back then she dreamed of seeing the spectacle in person, but then again she used to dream of a lot of things.

Lindsay turned off the TV and stared at the clock on the wall. Janine had left strict instructions when to put the turkey in the oven, what time to heat the dressing, when to start the gravy, but Lindsay needed something to do now. Before she slipped too deep into the past. This was exactly why she didn’t like to be alone for too long, especially during the holidays.

The cuckoo popped out of the trap door, startling Lindsay. The little birdie sang eight times and then disappeared. Janine was proud of the clock, which her son had sent while stationed in Germany. Lindsay moved her focus to the two pictures perched on top of the television. The sight of Janine’s children was familiar. Hardly a room in the house did not have the image of one or both adorning at least one wall, but these were the latest shots of her offspring. Thus the highly visible positions of honor.

The one of Janine’s son, in full military uniform was taken last month, just before his deployment to Afghanistan. The other photo was several years old. Until yesterday, Janine had not spoken a word to her daughter in over two years. Now she’d taken off on a ten-hour road trip to pick up her daughter and bring her back home.

A knock came from the front door. Lindsay stood, grateful for the interruption of her thoughts. She’d already spent enough time last night lying awake and analyzing the similarities between herself and Janine’s daughter, Missy.

Swinging open the door, Lindsay found herself staring up at the dark, troubled eyes of the man from this morning. Surprise made her step back. She started to shut the door, but for the second time, she sensed he’d expected to find someone else.

He glanced over his shoulder, back in the direction of his black truck. Only then did he return his attention to Lindsay. “I was looking for Janine.”

Again, the familiar accent took her breath. Her eyes drifted down to take in the worn cowboy boots on his feet. Her stomach tied in knots. Squinting past him she stared at the license plate on his truck. Texas, not Oklahoma. She let out a pent-up breath.

“The café was closed,” he continued. “I thought she lived here behind The Talon. Sorry to bother you, and sorry again about this morning.” He stepped down off the porch.

“This is Janine’s house. I rent a room from her. She went to pick up her daughter, but she should be back any minute.” A lie, but Lindsay didn’t want the stranger to know she was alone, and would be for several more hours. In truth, nothing about the man's mannerisms elicited concern, except his tendency to show up unexpected and the slight drawl in his voice.

He turned around and nodded, but kept his distance as if detecting her apprehension. “Knew it had to be something important for her to close up shop.”

“She closed for Thanksgiving.”

“Thanksgiving?” He slowly nodded. “Guess it is Thursday.”

Lindsay smiled at his puzzled expression. How could anyone forget Thanksgiving? The start of the holiday season. “I’ll tell her you came by.”

He nodded. “Name is Blue Riggins.” Stepping back onto the porch, he extended his hand.

She hesitated only a second before reaching out. “Lindsay Parker.”

For the first time, she studied his features. A faint white scar dipped down from just below his ear lobe and disappeared at the back of his hairline. A sprinkling of gray lightened the area just above his temple. Short black hair covered the rest of his head. She guessed him to be in his mid-thirties, yet something in those dark eyes made him seem older. His shirtsleeves bulged and his broad forearms indicated strength. Most likely the result of hard labor, since he didn’t have the polished or snobbish gleam of a gym rat.

“Nice to meet you and Happy Thanksgiving.” He stepped back.

“Same to you.” An idea came to Lindsay. “How do you know Janine?”

“Known her for years. No trip to Idaho is complete without a belly full of Janine’s fried chicken and a slice of her blueberry pie.”

“You should come back for lunch. I’m sure Janine won’t mind.”

He shook his head. “Thanks, but I don’t want to impose. Holidays are for families.”

His words echoed in Lindsay’s ears as she watched him drive away. Holidays are for families.

He was right, which is exactly why she wanted him to stay. No way did she want to be the only outsider.

Chapter Four

Blue shook his head as he pulled away from Janine’s. Thanksgiving. That jogger woman, Lindsay, found it amusing he’d forgotten the holiday, but he couldn’t hold that against her. Normal people kept up with such things. He was at least glad to see her smile. Until that point she'd looked at him only with the wide-eyed expression of fear.

Eagle's Rest’s only gas station was closed, but spying a payphone Blue pulled into the lot anyway. It was getting harder to find a payphone all the time but Blue refused to break down and get a cell phone. The last thing he needed was an electronic leash. With a deep breath, he dialed his sister’s number and prepared for a battle. His sister would give him an earful, but this being a holiday he owed both Ruby and Briley a phone call.

“Hello, Sis.”

“Where have you been? It’s been six weeks since anyone has heard a word from you. We'd never know if something happened. The least you could … ”

He held the phone away from his head and counted to thirty. His sister could rant for hours, but she would quit yelling once she figured out he’d stopped listening. Silence greeted him when he brought the receiver back to his ear. “Finished?”

“No, but what’s the point?”

“I’m going to send some money first thing tomorrow so call the bank and check your account.”

“Guess this means you won’t be home anytime soon. Briley’s birthday is coming and then Christmas.”

Blue gritted his teeth. Blood pounded in his temples. “Don’t start, Ruby. I don’t need you to be my calendar. You know I can’t come back this time of year.”

“Grow up! You’re thirty-three years old. Life’s tough, but you have a little girl who loves you.”

Blue swallowed his pain and whispered, “Buy her something nice. I’ll be there when I can.”

“She needs more than money. She needs her father.”

He hung up and turned his back to the payphone. He’d meant to talk to his daughter – to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. He missed hearing her tiny little voice, but what Ruby, or no one else understood -- there were simply some things he could not do.

A tow truck with a snow blade pulled into the lot and parked next to the building. Blue recognized the vehicle as the owner of the station. He knew the man by sight only, not near as well as he knew Janine, but he was glad to see him, since now he could buy a few supplies.

The driver’s door groaned as it opened.

“How you doing?” Blue greeted the guy as he stepped out. “Blue Riggins.” He extended his hand. “I come up here a few times every year.”

The man nodded as they shook. “I know who you are. You’re that poker player. Totes the fancy camper.”

“Surprised to see you,” Blue said. “Didn’t figure anything would be open, this being Thanksgiving.”

“Running the station would beat spending the day with my in-laws, but I’m just here to grab a couple of bags of ice and a pack of smokes for my wife’s uncle. You can get gas though. If you got a credit card. Put in new twenty-four hour pumps last spring.”

“I don’t need gas. Just a few things here and there to tide me over until tomorrow. I have cash.” Blue opened his wallet wide, hoping the man might be persuaded. “Won’t take me but a second.”

The owner nodded as he unlocked the door. “Make it quick. My wife knows how I feel about her kinfolk. She’ll accuse me of taking too long on purpose.”

Blue grabbed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and several packs of beef jerky. Given how the day had started he eyed the cooler full of beer, but he knew better than to travel down that road, so instead, he grabbed a gallon of milk and a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper.

The man scratched his head as he looked at the purchases. “Didn’t bring the keys for the register. Let me find a pencil and I’ll add --”

“This ought to cover it.” Blue laid a hundred on the counter.

“I can’t make change.”

“Don’t need any. I just appreciate you letting me in.” Blue reached for the items.

“Let me put this in a sack for you.” The man dug beneath the counter. Now that he’d turned a nice profit, a broad smile covered his face. “I watch a lot of poker on TV. Saw you win that tournament last month. You bluffed and went all in with absolutely nothing. Got Rhett Bachman to fold with three of a kind.”

Blue shrugged. “I got lucky. Rhett is a tough one to get a read on.”

“Then the next hand you pulled a flush to finish him off. Cool as ice. Bachman always came across as kind of an asshole to me. Is he?”

Blue shook his head. “He’s just like the rest of us. Trying to make a living and get by.”

“Wish I had to get by on what you fellows make in those tournaments. But I ain’t got any luck at all. If I bluffed like that somebody would call me for sure.”

“Don’t be fooled. My luck’s not all good.”

The man handed Blue his sack of groceries. “I play once a month with a few old boys up the road. What’s your trick when it comes to bluffing?”

Blue looked him in the eye. “No trick. I just don’t care whether I win or lose.”

And one more time, here is the link to leave a review at Amazon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Answer My Friend, Is Blowing In The ...

It's been a long while since I tossed out a My Town Monday post and I sorely regret that fact. Once upon a time I started and hosted a weekly feature which I'm proud to say a lot of GREAT bloggers participated in. These days Clair and Barrie have been running the My Town Monday show over at a blog dedicated solely to the weekly postings. Anytime any of you would like to jump aboard by blogging about your town just let it be known at the MTM blog.

Now a bit about my town, Amarillo, Texas.

The landscape around Amarillo has long been dotted with these ...

But these days a new energy source is towering above these familiar icons.

It is hard to covey to size of these new wind turbines in a picture, but trust me they are huge, reaching far into the sky. I will admit to having mixed emotions about the proliferation of the giant white towers in the panhandle landscape. On one hand they scar the horizon and take away from the sensation that you can see forever, but on the other wind is one thing this area is not shy on and sometimes you have to harvest your bounty.

According to the National Climatic Data Center's list of annual average wind speeds, the windiest U.S. city is Dodge City, Kansas, with an average speed of 13.9 mph. Amarillo is close behind at 13.5 mph. The windy city of Chicago has average annual wind speed of only 10.3 mph.

Those are merely average speeds. It is routine for us to have gusts above 50 mph and at times even higher.
So as the future looms above the past, a new source of economy has blown into the area.

But there is one major problem. Wind energy is not something that can be stored and the population in the windiest areas of Texas is sparse enough that production overshadows need. And as of yet there are not enough transmission lines connected to the larger grids to send this energy where it is needed.
Currently there is a lot of political bickering and vying for position. Some one to spend the money to build these lines and the necessary substation while others are skeptical, or have their own reason not to buy into the wind energy hype.
T Boone Pickens is heavily involved in the wind energy business and as always people in the Panhandle get antsy at the mention of his name as Mr. Pickens has a long history of threatening pump the water beneath our ground and sale it to south Texas. Some fear legislation opening up transmission of of wind energy will open the door to make those threat a reality and while the Texas Panhandle has plenty of wind, we do not share that same abundance of H2O.Only time will tell if wind truly will be the energy source of the future, but for now that hope is enough to keep the local economy soaring with optimism.

Here is a shot of yet another wind turbine, but I thought it was unique since that is an oil refinery sitting in the background. I found the proximity of the two sort of ironic.

To find out what is blowing around in other parts of the world, please visit the My Town Monday site.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Digging a Cottonball Out Of Your Crack Can Get Mighty Tiresome

Easter is fast approaching and since I have many new readers to my blog I thought I'd retell my favorite story about the cash trapped year that I agreed to play a shopping mall Easter Bunny.

I first posted this back in March of 2008 so if you've been reading me that long and already read it, but are still looking for something to read, hop on over to Amazon and download a free excerpt of my entry into the novel contest. Click here to do so. I'd love to know what you think so if you have a time please leave a review. (By the way you do not need a Kindle, you can download it to your PC, i-phone, or i-pod touch -- simply click on the device device you have to learn how)

Now to the Easter Bunny story ....

Back in November and December I blogged about my year in hell as a Mall Santa. I made mention then that I also donned the rabbit suit and portrayed the Easter Bunny.

Being that it is the seventh of March, spring is officially only two weeks away, and Easter is just a hop farther away, this seems like a good day to tell one of my Bunny Funnies.

I'll start by saying I enjoyed playing the Easter Bunny a thousand times more than I did Santa. The parents were a thousand times more relaxed, the crowds were much thinner, and being locked away inside the rabbit suit provide a bit of anonymity that the beard and padded red suit did not provide.

One huge drawback however was the heat. There were times that the interior of the rabbit head was hot enough to bake biscuits in. Especially when the sun would beam in through the glass skylight of the mall.

Also my friend and former boss, that ran the operation had to special order a longer suit for me and even with that the pants were barely long enough to reach me furry feet so the suit gave me a constant wedgie. And let me tell you digging a cottonball out of your crack can get mighty tiresome. Not to mention traumatizing for any kids watching.

Actually my size alone scared most kids so I tried to remained seated in my pastel throne to neutralize my height. I'm six-five, but the way the head worked was that the wearer looked out through a screen mesh behind the bunny's bucked teeth. That meant with the long face and giant ears the tip of my version of the Easter Bunny towered in right at NINE FEET TALL. That's a long way up for a little kid. Now you know why I sat when I could.

The year I did this there were two of us that worked the evening shift. Myself, and an older fellow, named Clyde, who was and still is a postal supervisor by day. Clyde wasn't my boss but we worked near each other and got along just fine. Least we did before The Bunny Bashing Episode.

Here's how it went down ...

It was a slow weekday night. Unlike with Santa, parents didn't keep their small children out late just to see the Easter Bunny. But as usual there were quit a few teens meandering around the mall and a couple of fifteen or sixteen year old boys ended up leaning against the white picket fence that surrounded the bunny throne.

After a bit they started heckling me.

"Hey you!" One of them shouted. "The dude in the rabbit suit!"

Galen, the man who took the pictures and ran things was busy talking to the only customer we'd had in half an hour. His focus was on the pictures he was trying to print.

"Hey you! What kind of dork wears a rabbit suit?" the boys laughed. "Little doofus cottontail! I asked you a question.What kind of dork wears a rabbit suit?"

I stood up.

"Ooooh a big dork." They laughed again.

Ever so slyly I waved at the lone little girl to my left with one hand while using my giant head to hide the other hand I flipped a bird at the two boys.

"Ahhh, you just got dissed by the Easter bunny," said the one who'd kept quiet.

"Did you flip me off?" The mouthy asked.

Still waving I did it again to remove any doubt to what they had seen.

The one boy slapped the other on the back and teased him as they walked away.

But, that is not where this story ends.

Two mornings later, I'm sittting at the break room at work when Clyde walks in. His head is listing to one side like a sinking ship as he sits down across from me and says, "Be glad you didn't have last night's shift."

"Why? Were y'all busy?"

"No, I got attacked. Just as we were closing a teenager ran up and started punching me in the head. With that top-heavy rabbit head I couldn't maintain my balance, much less see him. He must have hit me a dozen times before Galen chased him off." Clyde slowly kneeded his sore neck. "I don't even know what he was yelling about. Something about me flipping him off."

Yes, once I stopped laughing I did confess my crime, and these days me and Clyde still laugh about him taking one for the team.

Updating my original post, Clyde has since gotten a promotion and actually is my boss these days. Lucky for me he doesn't seem to want revenge for my wayward bird.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Good Stiff One

I'm somewhat of a contranarian. Rarely do I get caught up on the current "IT" thing. Matter of fact whenever something becomes wildly popular I tend to shun it altogether.

I have not read the Da Vinci Code, seen Avatar, or attempted to adopt a baby from a foreign land.

I even avoided the Harry Potter books until some crazy preacher from a neighboring town was on the news one night urging people to burn the books. To my contranarian mine his telling me not to read them opened the door for me to actually sit down and crack open The Sorcerer's Stone.

So having said that I've never watched a single episode of Dangerous Housewives, Lost, or those crazy reality shows about people with more kids than a Haitian orphanage. (Maybe we need a reality show where Hollywood starlets can win one of the Dugger's or Jon and Kate's offspring.) And before you cry out, "Travis how the hell do you know so much about these shows if you've never seen one?" let me pint out I do still read lots of blogs.

I've rambled on about all of this to point out that for the first time ever I've been watching American Idol this season.

All because of this girl.

No I haven't suddenly developed a fetish for red-headed pixies though Lacey Brown is pretty in an exotic fairy kind of way. I began watching the show and rooting for her simply because she is a hometown girl from right here in Amarillo and it is not often that one of us gains national attention. Sadly the Texas Panhandle is not a hot bed for talent agents so I tuned in hopeful that Lacey would shine.

Truthfully her performances were hit and miss. She wowed me int he auditions with her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow but then nerves appeared to get the better of her once she made the Top 24. Somehow she survived her shaky performances and made the Top 12 but her ride ended this last week when she failed to garner the vote necessary to stay in the competition. And I can't help but wonder if she didn't alienate some of her fan base when she described Amarillo as a place where not much exciting happens.

To be fair to Lacey I read an interview where she said the Idol producers edited the clip to make it sound that way. Lacey said they deleted all of the positive comments she made about the city.

Either way I'm glad to see a hometown girl make a few waves nationally anyway and I wish her the best. Here is a clip of her on David Letterman if like me, you tend to avoid such popular phenomenons as American Idol. She seemed to perform much better without the pressure of the competition around her.

And Lacey is not the only Amarilloan hopeful of beating the odds and winning a large competition chocked full of talented competitors. Yours truly had once again entered the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. Last year I made the Top 500 out of something in the neighborhood of 10,000 entries with my comedic novel Plundered Booty. This year I entered my women's fiction novel A River Without Water. the 10k entries this year were split between YA and general fiction but I am proud to announce that today I made the announced Top 250 in the general category. that means very soon you will be able to read and comment on an excerpt of my novel at Amazon. I'll post a link when it becomes available. making the Top 250 also means I'll get a complete read and review by Publishers Weekly. The Top 50 in each category will be announced in late April so I'll keep y'all posted as the competition advances.

Update. You can now read and comment on the excerpt here.

Good thing authors are not judged on their looks as well as their talent because I'm in no way as cute as Lacey.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Road Trip

I keep meaning to get a new post up and I always have intentions too, but then I get busy working on The Feedstore Chronicles and never get it done. So rather than using a lot of words I'm going to give y'all a story in pictures. All of the pictures were taken by me and were shot in the Texas Panhandle. (the shots can be enlarged by clicking on them)

School is out for spring break and I have a week's worth of vacation so I'll soon be changing my view to this ...

We'll take in the Texas countryside.

Farmland ...

Ranch land ...

Land that serves as both ...

We will cross over rivers that are shy on water, but deep on rugged beauty ...

And red dirt bluffs ...

I'll be sure to turn down the right roads and if we get hungry we'll find an Allsup's to fill up the truck with gas and our bellies with a fried, heat lamp Chimichangas.

We'll pass both the energy sources of yesterday and today ...

and those of tomorrow ...

We'll pass through small Texas towns ...

On the way to our friends' ranch house ...

... which thank God, is more structurally sound than the one above.

And we'll have a great time fishing, hiking, playing cards, riding four-wheelers and conversating over a burger or two and Shiner or three ...

Who knows? Maybe this guy sired the cows that will fill our carnivorous bellies.

Hope you are able to get away sometime soon. But please remember, when you're out there on the highways byways and back-roads it is important to ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stress Led Me To A Narcoleptic Hooker

It's been a stressful week here at the Erwin household. I've been attempting to figure my taxes but I've now thrown in the towel and made an appointment with a professional. The combo of a home office, writing income, fire loss, selling of land that once had a house on it but said house was destroyed, the buying of a house the loss of personal property and propensity associated with the home office, the buying of a house and do I or do i not qualify for the so-called first time home-buyer rebate ...

Well you get the idea.

Also this week, my father-in-law fell from the back of his big diesel pickup and broke his leg in SEVERAL places.

But quite possible the biggest stress this week has been getting my boys to do their homework. It's been a constant every night battle this week. Why i can't say. Maybe it's the approach of spring break a week and a half a way that has led to the mutiny. Maybe the lazy genes they surely inherited from me have just awoken. maybe. They simply decided dear old dad had been too calm lately. Who knows why but let me tell you they have mightily tested my patience this week.

And as always when challenged as a parent o figure out why my boys have suddenly gone bat- shit crazy I try my best to recall what it felt like to be their age. They are 7 and 9. So with that in mind let me share with y'all a few school memories I have of both my 1st and third grade years.

In 1st grade I stepped on a large sewing needle. It bled and my mom pulled it out of my foot. Or so she thought. Actually she only pulled half of it out but no one knew half an inch of the steel shaft was still in my foot. I limped around for more than a month. My brother called me a pussy. Sorry for the abrupt and harsh language but he was 13 at the time and took every opportunity to curse he could find. Even my mom told me to quit milking such a minor injury. But after several weeks she relented and took me to the doctor. An xray confirmed I wasn't simply being a feline or a dairymen and I had my first ever surgery. It was kind of cool because I got the wear house shoes to school for a while.

Also in the first grade I could read far better than most of my classmates so I didn't get nearly enough time in the reading circle which led me to get bored and get in trouble. But not too much trouble because my teacher was absolutely beautiful in my mind and I didn't want to disappoint her. Her name was Mrs. Williams. I believe that to be my first ever crush.

I have more memories of third grade. I did not have a crush on that teacher. her name was Mrs. McCarthy and to this day I believe she may be the Anti-Christ. Okay that may be a tad unfair but then again Mrs. McCarthy was not a believer in fair. she hated the boys and favored the girls. You could chalk up that assessment to a jaded memory or resentment except I still got good grades in her class. At least I did in everything but handwriting. Also I distinctly remember a group of the boy's parents banding together and going to the Principal late in the year. Possible that was my first time to be aware prejudices existed in this world, much less to feel it's sting. And yes I know there are far more damaging version of bigotry than a pissed off and unfair 3rd grade teacher.

Third grade wasn't all bad. Me and my buddies had fun at school as well. One of our favorite games took place in the boys bathroom right next door to Mrs. McCarthy's (too bad she didn't look more like Jenny McCarthy. we boys might have forgotten how mean she was) classroom.

Anyway back to that bathroom. In it was a long trough style urinal. I'm gonna guess it must have been about 5 or 6 feet long and we boys loved to stand at one end and try to pee all the way over it. It took most of the year but eventually all of us mastered that feat and judging by the rusted toilet stall divider at the opposite end I can only assume many boys before us found success in that endeavor as well.

I also think it was third grade when my school, Oakdale Elementary decided it would be a good idea to write a little note, stuff it inside a helium balloon and send it off into the atmosphere. After that we did it ever year. Basically it was school sanctioned littering since half of the 200 or so balloon didn't even make it passed the trees on the far side of the school park. Sure one r two letters would come in from somebody that found our landlocked version of message in a bottle. I even remember one from as far away as Pennsylvania, but I'm still not certain what was educational about littering the landscape with nylon and twine.

Another asinine aspect of elementary school was the paper straws they gave us to slurp up our milk with. I repeat -- Paper straws. They were good for one suck. Now I feel obligated to make an off color analogy and compare paper straws to a hooker with narcolepsy. But I've ranted on the sucky nature of shoddy straws before so I won't do it again here. But click if you missed that post. It was a good one if I do say so myself.

And now y'all have suffered through this post, this staggering limp down memory lane, simply because my boys won't do their homework.

Now I'm curious, give me at least one grade school memory of your own.