Sunday, July 22, 2018

Murphy's Law

In case you didn’t know, Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) is alive and well…unfortunately.  I tried to pinpoint the origin of Murphy’s Law, which is typically stated as “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”  The adage is attributed to a number of sources, and there is even a book on the subject (A History of Murphy’s Law by Nick T. Spark, as well as an article, Why Everything You Know About Murphy’s Law is Wrong.)    

I didn’t go that deep into the research weeds.  I did, however, find a statement attributed to Edward Murphy, who was involved in research on g-forces in the 1940s.  In reference to a botched experiment caused by someone’s wiring mistake, Murphy reportedly said “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then he will do it that way.”  (I've known people like that, and I'll bet you have, too.) The “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” concept took on a life of its own, then becoming known as “Murphy’s Law or the fourth law of thermodynamics” which states: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”  

I have known about Murphy’s Law for many years.  In fact, during the time I spent my weekends racing sailboats on Lake Travis, Murphy’s Law was taken seriously.  Whenever we left the docks on the way to the starting line, one of the crew popped a top and poured a cold one over the stern of the boat.  Our theory was that Murphy would be busy lapping up the brew and wouldn’t have time to wreak havoc while we were on the course.  Sometimes it worked…other times I’m not so sure.

Maybe John and I should have poured out a beer behind the RV when we left Austin last week.  We have certainly had enough complications to think that Murphy has been riding with us this trip.  Or maybe it’s just Satan messing with us.  Who knows?

All was going very well before we left.  We were packed early and had enough time to spend an evening with good friends Carol and Larry Hardaway for an early celebration of Carol’s birthday.  Then, on Sunday morning as we hooked up the fifth wheel and pulled up the leveling jacks, we got our first clue of what was to come.  The rear leveling jack on the port side began spewing hydraulic fluid as it came up.  No problem, we thought.  We’ll just replace the (mouse-chewed) line along the way.  (More on this later.)  What we didn’t know at the time was that we had somehow left the knee and elbow pads John needed for the Practical Pistol II course he is taking today and tomorrow.

All went well on our trip to San Angelo, and we had a nice, level spot where we could leave the coach hooked up to the truck and avoid using the leveling jacks.  We had a great time with Gage and Zelda on Monday, then retired early before our trip from San Angelo to Amarillo.  

Tuesday morning we were up with the sun for a nice walk before leaving.  About a mile from camp, we saw something in the middle of the road.  It was this beautiful grey fox. 

The dogs pricked up their ears and came to alert status, but we told them to “leave it” while we watched to see what the fox would do.  It trotted into the grass on the side of the road and watched us closely for several minutes, probably wondering what we were as well.  Then it melted into the tall grass and out of sight.  

We wasted no time returning to camp and were preparing to leave when John noticed a low tire on the RV.  No problem, we thought.  He pulled out our pressure tank and aired it up, planning to have the leak fixed in Amarillo.  Well, we didn’t make it that far.  By the time we got to Big Spring, some 90 miles down the road, the tire had again lost pressure.  We stopped at Don’s Tire and after waiting over an hour, found out that the problem wasn’t a leak in the tire but a cracked wheel which allowed a slow release of air.  Don’s mechanic put on our spare, and we will need to find a new wheel farther down the road.  We pulled out and stopped for lunch, only to find that the mechanic had replaced the wheel, but had not aired up the spare to full capacity.  Out came the pressure tank again, and then we were off.

John had been having trouble with our Co-pilot Truck software, and had installed a newer version.  We rely on this program because it will route us along roads that can handle our RV…no low clearances, dead ends, etc.  But this time “Mr. Rogers,” the voice of Co-pilot Truck, failed us.  The software could not find the satellite and kept giving us directions that made no sense, like instructions to turn where there was no road!  Not good.  It’s easy to find Amarillo, though, so we forged ahead, using the navigation software in our iPhones.  The only difficulty we had was when we arrived and needed to find our RV park.

It was getting late, and the blistering afternoon sun was streaming in John’s window.  He attempted to block it with a corner of the curtain which runs on a track all around the front of the cab.   Well, a tug on the curtain was too much for the track, which was only fastened with small clips.  The whole thing came down on top of John.  All we could do was laugh.  At that moment, our cell-phone software, which didn’t know we were bigger than a breadbox, had routed us down a tiny dirt road and we were bouncing along in the dust, hoping to be able to navigate the next sharp turn.  We made it, though, and spent the night at the lovely Oasis RV Resort,   It’s just a stone’s throw from “Cadillac Ranch”

and has its own version, a half-buried motor coach.

Have you heard enough yet to believe in Murphy?  Take a deep breath; there’s more.  The road to Raton, NM, is a straight shot from Amarillo, so we were off Wednesday morning, anticipating an easy trip.  I drove a lot of the way while John spent time on the phone with the Co-pilot Truck trouble-shooter, as well as with our credit card company.  You see, when we topped off our tanks in some small town between Amarillo and Raton (there aren’t any big towns out there, you know) it was a station that only allowed $75 worth of fuel to be pumped at a time.  So, we put in the first $75 worth and then went back and pumped some more.  However, when John tried to pay for the second fill-up, the credit card Nazis suspected it was fraudulent and denied the charge.  Bring out the back-up card, then move on down the road.  I took over the driving, and John spent at least an hour on the phone before the card Nazis were finally convinced that the transaction was denied in error and reinstated our card and the mileage credit we should have received.  

OK, so we are now just outside Raton, NM, at the NRA Whittington Center.  We pulled in on Wednesday with time to spare and set up in our favorite spot, Site 122.  The only problem (or so we thought) was that the site was a little un-level.  Since we had not been able to replace the hydraulic line, we could not completely level the RV.  No problem, it wasn’t so tilted that we would roll out of bed, so we could spend a night and replace the hose on Thursday.   Then we prepared to put out the slides and settle in for the evening.  The bedroom and small living room slide worked perfectly, but the big living room slide wouldn’t budge.  We felt a little like that tin of sardines, but we could still function.  I’m sure Murphy was laughing.

On Thursday morning, John removed the hydraulic line and drove into Raton to replace it.  Not!  It turns out that the fittings on the ends of the line are proprietary.  They aren’t an off-the-shelf item.  The auto parts store sent John to FH&W Hydraulic Shop outside Trinidad (30 miles from Raton).  The hydraulic shop didn’t have the fittings either, and sent John on to Pueblo, Colorado, (another 84 miles) to a bigger hydraulic shop that was able to manufacture a fitting that worked.  John returned late that afternoon and replaced the hydraulic line.  At last, we could level the coach and not have things slide off the table.  

However, the big slide still wouldn’t go out.  So, on Friday morning, Tim from Summerlan RV Park in Raton came out and coaxed the balky slide out and promised to order a new switch.  We are at last level and have all our precious square footage available.  And we hope Murphy is through with us, at least for the time being.

We have been blessed at every turn with great people to help us.  Thanks to God for helping us to find Jack from FH&W Hydraulic Shop, Ken at Precision Hydraulics in Pueblo who fabricated the new hose (and is making us a spare, which he will leave for us to pick up on Saturday since they are closed), and Tim from Summerlan RV Park.  With folks like them around, Murphy can’t win.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A San Angelo Celebration

Our D-Day…July 15, came...and we went!

Our first stop was at San Angelo State Park in San Angelo, Texas, where we touched base with our grandson, Gage Wann.  Gage attends Angelo State University, and is working this summer to make money for his college expenses. 

Gage showed us around Sunny San Angelo.  We saw a few of the numerous murals that grace the city, along with the decorated sheep statues which celebrate San Angelo's historical importance as a wool marketing center.

We also indulged indulged in a little shopping at some of the downtown stores.  The temperature was over 100, so most of our exploring was done up and down the aisles. 

This shop had something for just about anyone.

We also stopped by the City League Park, which houses the International Waterlily Collection.  

The collection, acknowledged as the premiere collection of waterlilies in existence, is the life work of Ken Landon.  Landon is described as the man ”with the mind of a scientist, the heart of a poet and the soul that embodies preserving waterlily heritage for the generations to come.”   Due to the size of the collection, only about 1/2 of 1% of the collection can be displayed each year.  Here are some of the beauties that were in bloom when we visited.

And the lily pads are almost as unique at the blossoms. 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Collection.  If you want to see more, put September 13 from 9 am until 2 pm on your calendar and come to the 14th Annual Lilyfest in San Angelo.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating a belated birthday with Gage, who turned 20 on July 3.  

I had made Gage's Great-grandmother Evelyn's chocolate cake, and John grilled steaks for our dinner.  We had a feast!  We were also thrilled finally to meet our “granddog,” Zelda, a year-old lab mix with lovely manners and a great smile. 

She had a good time with the Bagley Pack, sharing toys and tussling with Kota for control of a first-class chewing stick.    

Rue took temporary control of the pink pig, but relinquished it to Zelda before they went home. 

At the end of the day, tired but happy dogs posed for a family portrait.

It was a great way to begin our trip, and we look forward to seeing Gage and Zelda when we return this fall.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Farewell, Farm

We have just celebrated the Fourth of July…only a couple of weeks into summer and it’s already hotter than a firecracker here in Texas.  It’s dry, too.  The water in our stock tanks at the farm is dropping quickly.  

It’s so hot that even the dragonflies are resting.  I believe this one is called a widow skimmer.

Spring flowers have been replaced by summer’s bluebell gentians.

Beggar lice, also known as stick-tights and by other names that don’t bear repeating, are flourishing in shady areas.  When they are in bloom, they have lovely, delicate white flowers.  Before maturing they are a beautiful shade of green.  

But when dry and mature, they are a real pest.  Growing only foot or two high, they are at just the right height to attach their seeds to every passing critter…especially our dogs.  During beggar lice season, the dogs wear t-shirts when we go for walks.  The shirts pick up a lot of burrs, but there are many parts of a dog that aren’t covered…at least not by the shirts!  The afternoon brushing is a requirement before they come into the house.

Their shirts don’t keep the dogs from taking a dip to cool off.  They don’t even mind the algae and pond scum.

Our resident Mississippi kite babies have fledged.  While a parent keeps watch from a tree, the fledglings circle overhead trying out their wings.

We have new additions to our small cattle herd as well.  This week brought two news cows and calves to join The General and his ladies.  

They are very thin and likely were sold because of the dry conditions and lack of grass.  They will gain weight quickly, though.  We are fortunate to have plenty of grass and water for them.  "Skinny Minny," #7 and their two calves are welcome additions, and are getting along well with their new friends.

And today we said goodbye to our beloved farm for a few months.  In about 10 days we will load up and hit the road in our RV.  We’ll be bound for cooler climates (we hope).  When asked where we will be traveling, John usually replies 5500 feet.  Wish us safe travels and check in every week or so to share in our adventure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Goodbye, Good Dog

It’s hard to lose a member of your family.  It doesn’t matter if the loved one has two or four legs, you still grieve.  This week we lost a loyal, honest, loving family member, our granddog, Louie.  My first pictures of him date from November of 2009 when he was a rangy pup, and continue through the years as he graced our lives. 

Louie never asked for much, but he gave plenty.  He gave his human mom, our daughter-in-law, Debi, a jogging partner and another dog to cherish after the loss of her beloved Molly.  He helped our grandchildren, Gage, Myles and Mallory through the rigors of their teenage years.  And he gave our son, Brian, comfort in the knowledge that he would be there to protect the family.  As far as I know, Louie never actually had to engage a threat, but his deep, fierce bark was certainly a deterrent.  

John and I treasured the times Louie spent his “vacation” with us while his family took trips he could not share.  He got along with the Bagley Pack in its various configurations, and especially loved going to the farm with its amazing variety of sights and scents.  

Louie was always happy, obedient and anxious to please.  Here are some of my other favorite photos of him.

I have shared before a piece entitled, “Loyalty,” printed below.  It deserves to be shared again.  If I needed to put a face on it, Louie would certainly fit the description.


God summoned a beast from the fields and He said, “Behold people created in My image. Therefore, adore them.  You shall protect them in the wilderness, shepherd their flocks, watch over their children, accompany them wherever they may go — even into civilization.  You shall be a companion, an ally, a slave.

“To do these,” God said, “I endow you with instincts uncommon to other beasts: faithfulness, devotion and understanding surpassing that of people.  Lest it impair your courage, you shall never foresee your death.  Lest it impair your loyalty, you shall be blind to the faults of people.  Lest it impair your understanding, you are denied the power of words.  Let no fault of language cleave an accord beyond that of people with any other beast — or even people with other people.  Speak to your people only with your mind and through your honest eyes.

“Walk by their sides; sleep in their doorways; forage for them; ward off their enemies; carry their burdens; share their afflictions; love them and comfort them.  And in return for this, people will fulfill your needs and wants — which shall be only food, shelter and affection.

“So be silent, and be a friend to people.  Guide them along the way to this land that I have promised them.  This shall be your destiny and your immortality.”  So spoke the Lord.

And the dog heard and was content.

Author Unknown


Herding Dogs—Progressive Training 
by Virgil S. Holland

Farewell, Good Dog.  I am comforted to think that on your passing you were greeted by Lucky Dog, Feathers, Nickie and perhaps Jack and Rudy, and that all of you will be waiting to greet us as well when we say our goodbyes and travel on.