Traveling B.O.B.s: That time we babysat a horse

Well, it’s that time of the week again.

The time where I bang my head against stationary objects until I think of something remotely entertaining to write. Sometimes I even bang it on stationery objects, like a pen.

That is just the first phase of the process for a writer like myself. Eventually I move on to sitting down at a keyboard and typing, crying optional.

It’s not that I lack subject matter – my life is usually highly entertaining, just not reportable to the masses.

Still, I am surrounded by the most amazing women – every one of them – and I have stories for days, maybe years. With that in mind, I gave the stationary objects a break.

I have a group of friends I travel with every year, and we just returned from our 16th annual weekend away.

We call ourselves the B.O.B. Club, pay dues every month and use that money to fund the weekend trips.

In the past 16 years we’ve travelled through Texas and Oklahoma. We have seen and done things that prove real life is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

One of those trip was to the Fort Worth Stockyards a few years ago. We stayed at a hotel in the the middle of the stockyards, all five of us in one room.

For some reason, there was no hot water that morning for showers, which was noted by a shrill scream of the first one in and followed by four more.

We left the hotel around noon, looking like we hadn’t seen daylight since 1642.

After lunch, we parked ourselves on a large picnic bench in front of the famous White Elephant Saloon armed with a Michael Jackson t-shirt we bought on a clearance rack for $2 and a fresh Sharpie. We then proceeded to ask strangers to sign the shirt as their favorite celebrity with plans to give it to somebody really gullible or list it on Ebay next to the Virgin Mary cheese toast.

One of our celebrities

B.O.B. Lynda pets the dog of another celebrity

We had more takers than anyone could believe, and thought we were going to get Wyatt Earp for sure when a cowboy rode up on his horse and dismounted in front of our picnic bench.

Shawnee, the clairvoyant of our group, said, “I hope he doesn’t ask me to babysit his horse.”

So, he did.

A reasonable facsimile of the horse we cared for

We babysat a horse in the Fort Worth Stockyards while his chaps and spurs wearing owner went into the White Elephant Saloon for a cold one. I guess we technically horsesat.

While Shawnee charged a fee for people to pet the strange horse, the rest of us continued asking strangers to sign the t-shirt that was eventually lost anyway.

Things like this are why we keep doing it year after year.

These memories, and so many more, are the tapestry my highly entertaining life is made of.

B.O.B.s Shawnee and Janice during one of our more serious discussions

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Call that friend, today

The general foul mood of our countrymen continues this week, along with the ongoing shortage of unicorns and rainbows.

This kind of week reminds me  to keep reminding myself – as it did last week – that love bats last. It also laughs last.

So I call a friend, or two or three. It always does the trick.

I think we all should call a friend whose parents have been sick and see how everyone is. Or, call the one who has survived cancer because she reminds you she has faced death and your problems are not so bad.

Call the one who suffers from depression, because she is having a good day, or because she isn’t. Call the one who figuratively wants to wrap her fingers around the necks of her lazy children. All involved will thank you.

Or, call the one who lost her husband a few years ago, because she still misses him.

My friends and I have all these contingency plans in place because, life happens.

So we call each other, we travel, we meet for dinner, drinks and laughter.

When things get rough, we can throw together an impromptu weekend getaway with a text message, as we have this week.

We are just that good.

This weekend, a bunch of us are getting together for a weekend swim because the suckage of life has been great, according to us, and this is how we survive it.

We also survive it like this … (shout out to the Boston Fire Department!)

… and this. (shout out to Medicine Park….remember us?)

And this. (Shout out to a tipsy Christmas Lights trolley extravaganza)

The next weekend, I will probably repeat the same with another group of friends. One good thing about friendship is it’s totally polyamorous. You can have as many as you want or can handle, and it’s legal and encouraged. Win/win.

I also have a totally different type of rarified friends whom I know through the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop that only meets every two years in Dayton, Ohio. Our friendship is definitely long distance most of the time, but when we get together to write it is like no time has passed. We are just a bunch of hilariously and beautifully-matched friends who happen to meet every two years and will probably be lifelong friends.

Because of these wonderful women in my life I have experienced things I would not have otherwise. Many I cannot publish because of some statute of limitations mumbo-jumbo, but several priceless ones I can.

We’ve had a pre-hysterectomy going away party for a uterus.

I have been witness to the holding of horse reigns by one of us during a girls trip to the Stockyards while a thirsty and trusting  cowboy went into the White Elephant Saloon for a beer. You can’t make this stuff up.

I have hiked the Lost Lake in the Wichita Mountains, something I would never have done without a friend to say, “Hey, let’s do this.”

The ninth hole at midnight

We have hunted for ghosts here at home in Iowa Park, Texas and as far as Jefferson, Texas. We’ve  sung “You Don’t Have To Call  Me Darlin’ (Darlin’) at full volume on karaoke night five hours from home. We’ve taken selfies laying our backs on the ninth hole of the Cliffs Golf Course at midnight; and I have personally watched a woman laugh so hard she threw up in the bushes – it was a proud moment in my life.

Judy and Gina at Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop – they know about the bush incident.

This is all recently, and I am getting old, y’all. The older I get, the clearer it becomes that these women remind me the world does not, technically, suck and it’s because of them. In fact, the love is palpable.

I’m betting on that.

So get on the phone and call a friend, get together and laugh. Your world will look better instantly.

My happy hope for the future … my daughter and her beautiful tribe. Keep it going.

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I don’t like gators and snakes, but that ain’t what it takes to love me

Not so long ago, I wasn’t afraid of alligators. I wasn’t afraid of them because they were a hot world away, much like quicksand was in my youth.

Until recently, I only saw alligators on reality TV shows, a lot like I only saw quicksand danger on old westerns in my youth.

And until recently, I thought quicksand would play a much larger role in my demise than alligators. It seems I was wrong.

The scales have been tipped in favor of death by alligator after having been constantly reminded lately that my next trip to the lake or golf course could be my last.

Just in the last week, the Army Corp of Engineers released pictures of alligators in Lake Texoma; The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a blind alligator “just trying to find his way back home” was found in Lake Worth; a kayaker snapped a photo of an alligator in the Guadalupe river; and my personal favorite was the one they found walking down the street in a residential area in Lawton, Ok.

Remember, this is just in the last week.

Most of these places are quite far inland and none are natural habitats for alligators, just so you know.

Also,  there are numerous videos on the internet of gargantuan gators meandering across golf courses  and climbing chain link fences like they own the place, because physically, they kind of do.

I wasn’t worried though when the publisher and I traveled to Lake Conroe last weekend for the Texas Press Association Leadership Conference at a resort . . . on a lake, of course.

I wasn’t worried until I found out we would be staying in a golf cottage that backed up to the 18th hole.

The only thing that could make this a trifecta of fear were snakes or quicksand.

We made our reservation late, which took us from the filled beyond capacity main hotel into the “golf cottages”, which we all know translates to “accessible to wildlife, so enjoy the nature.”

When we checked into the room, I found what I at first thought was an expired Gecko lizard beneath a window that overlooked the 18th hole. I found the little feller shortly after I read a terse note alerting lodgers to be careful about opening their windows because of the never-before-heard of, and ever-elusive “Lake Flies”. I never did see a lake fly, but I never opened a window, either.

As I stood over this  … thing … It occurred to me this was no Gecko, but most likely the elusive and now dead Pygmi alligator (who coincidentally died with Jazz Hands according to my sister who saw the post-mortem pictures).

Since there were no tea lights or “get well soon” balloons laying around, we held a candlelight vigil with a Bic lighter before Ed the Maintenance Man led the funeral procession out of the room.


Rest in crispy peace, lake gator. #jazzhands

I came back into the cottage for the night and began getting ready for bed. Still on alert for the rest of the litter of alligators, I started undressing and completely lost my mind when I thought there was a snake in my pants.

You read that right: a snake in my pants.

Turns out it was just a stick I picked up while enjoying the short nature walk between my car and the door, and it didn’t survive.


What was left of the snake stick

The very next night as we got out of our car and were walking up to the steps to our petting zoo cottage, one of the resort employees on a golf cart took the curve on our street on two wheels and came to a screeching halt behind my car.

“You ladies need to watch out, those people over there just stepped on a snake!” he said, pointing to a cabin three doors down.

Trifecta accomplished.

“Was it a snake or an alligator?” I said back, “Because I think they’re in cahoots.” But he had already taken off to be the Paul Revere of Golf Cottage Row where I suspect both of those reptiles have night jobs as speed bumps.

Suddenly, and without warning or permission, I was giving  a piggyback ride to the publisher because she is more afraid of snakes than I am of alligators.

I talked to my son, who is travelling in Boston and Canada, while I was writing this and asked his thoughts on the current alligator takeover of unlikely places.

A world away in a place where the greatest threats are eating too much lobster and random French accents, Tom simply said, “Life will find a way.”

Until it doesn’t, at least, but the alligators seem to have a better than average track record for finding a way. Ditto for snakes.

At least it it’s not quicksand.

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