>Three Places That Make Americans Special

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Howdy, y’all! Today we are going to take a trip through the Three States Plus One archives and pick out some posts about some extraordinary places in this wonderful country. The locations I picked are so full of history that it would be easy to write a set of encyclopedias on each one. Please take time to read each post because it will remind you of what you already know or teach you something new about how these States were so instrumental in the formation of the United States.

Virginia – The Old Dominion holds a special place in American History. Read the post and you’ll be astounded at what this one State has contributed to the United States.

Tennessee – It’s called the Volunteer State for a reason. I love Tennessee. Enough said.

Colorado – Colorado entered the Union in 1876, thus its nickname “The Centennial State”. Located within its borders are some of the most amazing sites that are memorials to a Great People from over 3000 years ago. This post is a tribute to The Ancient Ones.

The three posts above are three of my favorites from the over 500 stories I have written for this blog, and that’s saying a lot. Each and every post I write is like a child to me, it’s hard to like one more than the other, but in this case, I am comfortable in picking those listed above as special to me. They represent the best of America and have allowed me to re-understand what a blessed place these United States are. i think you’ll agree. Enjoy.

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>Texas Tidbits: One Ranger – An Incomparable Man

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Badass Man

Texas history is full of larger-than-life characters, good and bad – Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Bonnie and Clyde, LBJ, etc. One of the least-known of those Texas Legends is a man man named Joaquin Jackson.

I had heard of Joaquin Jackson before, but a couple of days ago I was reminded of him by my good friend, Bob Zeller. Bob also referred me to a book that Jackson wrote and he (Bob) highly recommended it. By now, no doubt you are asking yourself, “Who the hell is Joaquin Jackson?”

Joaquin Jackson is one of the most legendary Texas Rangers in the storied history of that law enforcement agency. Wikipedia tells us, “Joaquin Jackson was the Ranger who responded when riots threatened, violence erupted, and criminals needed to be brought to justice across a wide swath of the Texas-Mexico border from 1966 to 1993.” The article continues, “He followed legendary Ranger Captain Alfred Y. Allee Sr. into a shootout at the Carrizo Springs jail that ended a prison revoltโ€”and left him with nightmares. He captured “The See More Kid,” an elusive horse thief and burglar who left clean dishes and swept floors in the houses he robbed. He investigated the 1988 shootings in Big Bend’s Colorado Canyon and tried to understand the motives of the Mexican teenagers who terrorized three river rafters and killed one. He even helped train Afghan mujahedin warriors to fight the Soviet Union.” These accomplishments alone would be defining moments in almost any lawman’s career, but we are not talking about any lawman here. We are talking about a Texas Ranger Legend, so you know there are more fascinating adventures to learn about. That’s where Joaquin Jackson’s books come in.

Ranger Jackson’s book that Bob Zeller told me about is called One Ranger followed up by One Ranger Returns. According to the reviews I seen, these two works are riveting not just because of superior writing, but because the stories are something straight out of Hollywood…but they are true. I have got to order these books!

I wish I had more space to dedicate to this extraordinary man, but I will leave you with more about his remarkable journey with an interview from the July, 2002 issue of Texas Monthly. It’s amazing reading, so give it a look. You can thank me later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now you know who Joaquin Jackson is.

>Texas Tidbits: 40 Years Ago in Texas

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I got an email from my Mom a few days ago that was like a walk down memory lane to a world a million miles away. Thing is, it was right here on our Big Blue Marble not so long ago. Maybe thirty-five years. There’s a passel of memories on this email, so I’ll highlight a few today and save the others for a rainy day, or possibly even a mini-series of posts. We’ll see. Be sure to take detailed notes, we’ll have a pop quiz on this material later. ๐Ÿ™‚

Remember when…

  • Gasoline was real cheap? When I first started legally driving, my Dad had a brand new 1971 Monte Carlo. AM/FM 8-Track, 4 speakers, and cruise control! It was a great car. The chicks loved it. Anyway, this Monte Carlo had a 16 gallon gas tank on it and I remember stopping at Wakefield’s on Shady Grove and Rodgers to fill it up. The damage? FOUR DOLLARS! I don’t stutter and your ears don’t flap, I said FOUR DOLLARS to fill up that sled. Four bucks today won’t even get you a double bean sprout tofu wheat germ oil frappaccino (however the hell you spell it) at that national sissy coffee place. But, four dollars will get you a 6 pack of cheap ass beer. So, I guess there is some justice in the world.
  • It was a treat to go out to eat with your family? We were pretty lucky here. My Dad had a good job, so we actually went out to eat fairly often. It wasn’t always Sunday after Mass going out to eat either, even though we did that regularly, mostly at Luby’s or some Cafeteria like that. I was always extra hungry for Luby’s. Our usual out-to-eat experience was some place like Joe’s Coffee Shop on 6th Street in Irving. Joe’s was a cafe that had home cooked food every day. Chicken Fried Steak was always my favorite. The roast beef was damn good, too. The best thing about Joe’s? Breakfast. Enough said. For those who don’t know about Joe’s, think about the diner on the early Andy Griffith Show. That’s Joe’s.
  • Kids played baseball and no grown ups were needed to enforce the rules? My buddy James Ott will remember this one. James and I lived in the same apartment complex for a while when I was in Junior High School. We had a big vacant lot next door that served as a baseball diamond and football field, depending on the season. Heck, I remember times when we had two, two man teams and would play baseball for hours. No adults required. One other time, I lived on a dead end street with a big field at the end of it. All the kids, ages 9-12 or so, got together mowed the empty field into our version of Yankee Stadium, formed a league with all the other neighborhood kids, played a pre-arranged schedule and never, not one single, solitary time did we ever need an adult to do anything for us. We policed our own.

There’s plenty more I could blab on about, but like I mentioned, I’ll do this type thing again soon – perhaps tomorrow. Who knows? Now, if you’ll excuse me, school got out early today due to the heat here in Maine, and I gotta go pitch for both teams of neighborhood kids. No adults required. Just us kids.

>Texas Tidbits: Dad, Me, The Cantaloupe and the Salt Shaker

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I don’t know much about Pecos, but I feel like I have been there a hundred times. As many of you know, my Dad was a trucker and he’s the reason that, as a child, that I even knew Pecos existed. At the time, the company that Dad worked for only delivered in Texas and Pecos was the crown jewel of all the trips. We lived in Irving at the, so Dad drove out of the Dallas terminal, making Pecos the longest and best-paying trip Merchants (the company) had. I remember Dad saying 1000’s of times, “I wish I could get a Pecos tonight”. To me, a kid of 6 or 7, Pecos was in another world. It was 427 miles from Dallas! 427 miles!In West Texas! Wow! I had never been to West Texas at that time, so it sounded like a whole other planet. I knew East Texas very well by the time I was 6 or 7, Tyler, Gilmer, Betty, Thomas, Gladewater, Lindale and so on. But West Texas was in the desert! I imagined Pecos as the kind of place John Wayne would live. Cowboys, saloons, cattle, bad guys waiting for The Duke to come kick their asses or meet their Fate at the end of a rope. That is how I “knew” Pecos. For some odd reason, I also knew that Pecos was home to the World’s 1st Rodeo . Why? Don’t ask me. It’s probably something I learned from Dad. Oh, yeah! Cantaloupes! Pecos was famous for cantaloupes! I learned that from Dad, too – probably over a Pecos cantaloupe split in half and a salt shaker, neither of us looking up from that melon while, carrying on a conversation about race cars or something similar. My Dad lived in Pecos for a while after my parent split up when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I remember him telling me of going to Mexico for what I guess now was a little “cultural exchange”. He never did say, and I never asked. I started writing this post with the intention of sharing some history and general info about Pecos, but after I typed the first sentence, the memories of my Dad and his stories came to me in a flood of yesterdays. You know, I’m glad I wrote that first sentence. I have a big ass cantaloupe in the kitchen, I think I’ll split it in half, grab a salt shaker and share the melon and some stories of my life with my little girl. Oh….and Dad, I’ll tell her about you, me, the cantaloupe and the salt shaker.

>Happy Birthday, Number 2 Son

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My Bouncin’ Baby Boy

April 27 is a very special day for me. It was on this very date in 1982 that I became a father for the second time with the birth of Number 2 Son, Toby Dillon Shoemaker. Toby came kickin’ and screamin’ into this world several weeks early at a mere 5 lbs 5 oz. Shortly after his birth, Young Tobe was placed in an incubator with so many wires hooked up to him, he looked an alternator for a ’64 Chevy, although not nearly as heavy. I was the only new Dad at the NICU (Natal Intensive Care Unit) at the time and I was given a gentle knot on the head by the Good Lord, a dose of reality if you will. I wasn’t sure if Toby was gonna go home with his mother and I or not. He was so tiny and helpless laying there just on the other side of the big plate glass window I was looking at him through. Worse, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Talk about a feeling of helplessness. Hurry up and wait isn’t one of my strong suits. Toby did come home a few days later weighing a hefty 4 lbs 13 oz. He was so small, I could cradle him in my arm like a football. It was something to behold, I’m tellin’ ya.

I remember a few weeks (?) later when, on a clear starry night, I took Toby to the top of a big mesa just outside town. I held him up with my arms outstretched as far they’d go, my hands holding my son behind his neck and under his bottom reaching to touch the Face of God and I said out loud, “Behold, my Son…the only Thing greater than you”. Just like in Roots. Ever since that time, Toby and I have had a spiritual connection that defies a simple worldly explanation. But I know the reason why it is so. God heard my payers while I was praying to Him for the health of my new son at the hospital a few weeks earlier. Toby, even as an infant, heard the voice of God tell him that he (Toby) and I would never be far from each others’ hearts, no matter the circumstances. And despite some really tough times over the years, my son and I have never lost that supernatural ability to “feel” the other’s love and commitment as Father and Son.

Toby D. is twenty-nine years old today and has a new family of his own – Faith and my three new grand children. Tobe’s new family was ready-made for him, but he didn’t miss a beat stepping into his new Tribe. He’s is an excellent Dad and I hope (LOL) a great partner to Faith. My tiny 5 lb 5 oz baby boy is now a Man…and a damn good one. I couldn’t be more happy for him.

Long ago and far away on a mesa top near Carlsbad, New Mexico, my Son beheld the only Thing greater than he and ause of that, I think, has been blessed since with unique and special qualities that make him a fine young Man today. On top of that, he got his good looks from me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy Birthday, Son. Your Old man is mighty proud of you.

I love you.

>Texas Tidbits: The Lost Maples That Aren’t So Lost Anymore

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The world today is a rat race and the rats are winning, as the old saying goes. From time to time we all need a place to escape to, to recharge the old batteries and not have to travel too far from home. I have found such a place. Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool in the Hill Country. It’s a 5 to 6 hour drive from Dallas, depending on the route you take. Personally, I would take I-35 South to Highway 16 and head west to Vanderpool. Wild Texas’ website tells us that “Lost Maples is “Located along the Sabinal River in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, 2,208-acre Lost Maples State Natural Area is an inspiring mixture of sheer limestone cliffs, deep canyons, dense woodlands, and numerous clear streams.” Numerous clear streams? I’m in. Fish.Fear.Me. As I was looking for info on Lost Maples, I came across a website belonging to Brian Greenstone. Brian has some great tips for you so you’ll have a game plan before you leave home. Remember, luck favors a prepared mind. The mad rush of summer vacation season is coming up, so a trip to Lost Maples during the week (weekends would be too busy for me) would be ideal for fishin’ and camping in the 2200+ acre park, especially since the kids will have a break from school for a while. On the way home you could make a planned stop in San Antonio for some Mexican food and a visit to Texas’ version of the Vatican, the Alamo. What a great trip to make. Lost Maples State Natural Area ain’t so lost after all. Thank goodness.

>A New Blogroll Addition!

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If you go to the right sidebar and scroll down to the blogroll, you’ll find a new name on the list – Beef Blogonoff. If the name alone doesn’t grab ya, then scoot on over and give it a look. Beef’s daily posts are short, to the point and pretty damn funny.

I just “met” Beef this weekend, and as I understand it, he’s fairly new to blogging and would welcome new readers with open arms – and a $20 bribe. OK, I made that part up. He won’t welcome you with open arms, but he’ll bribe the hell out of you!

Beef, welcome to the Three States Plus One Blogroll! It’s good to have you on it.

P.S. You can send my $20 to my PayPal account.  ๐Ÿ™‚

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