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Posts published in “Day: April 29, 2004”

College boys love their caps

Weather: Icy. Very icy. (I just don’t want to fall and die…)
Freshman Fifteen: Actually, I lost weight over Winter Break. But it’s back now.
Classes: Fiction writing, concepts of mathematics, statistics, biology, emotion/cognition, and a student-taught course about the status of females in America.
No. of Times Locked Out of Room: 2.
Pints of Ben & Jerry’s Consumed: 1/2.

One important thing I’ve learned — something that will probably prove to be much more useful than memorizing the base-pairs of DNA but slightly less useful than successfully balancing a sandwich, drink, cookies and fruit all the way from the student center to my dorm — is that college boys love their caps.

Technically, it’s not just caps; any headgear will do. My roommate actually came home crying one night because a frat boy got mad at her for keeping his favorite visor. (Said visor was obtained by my roomie in a poker match that said frat boy supposedly took an entire week to recover from.)

Most of the guys on my floor, including my RA Andy and my friends Ryan and Dave, are obsessively, notoriously protective of their sports caps (for the Redwings, Red Sox, and Cornhuskers, respectively). Ryan is actually quite the prankster, so when we were outlining the boundaries of just what exactly was prank-able and what was not, I asked about his hat. His only response was a glare and a low growl akin to that of a mother lion protecting its den. I took that to mean it was off-limits.

I think the affinity boys have for their hats directly relates to the fact that they don’t have to clean them. Quite possibly the only thing worse than spilling something onto your favorite pair of jeans is having to wash it off. Most college students, boys and girls — though boys are generally much worse about it — dread laundry day like no other. Come Sunday night, that 8-page paper isn’t looking quite so bad, especially in comparison to the pile of clothing that started smelling back on Wednesday. But then again, today’s the last day of clean underwear, so the options are pretty grim either way.

The luckiest people are the kids who go home for the weekends. Sure, they don’t get to enjoy the best part of the week with their buddies, but they also don’t have to sort every item of clothing they own into whites, lights, brights, darks and delicates. The unluckiest people are the mothers of the kids who go home for the weekends.

Actually, in all seriousness, I do feel kind of sorry for my friends who leave Friday nights and return Monday mornings. It’s all well and good to see your parents — I really and trully miss mine — but part of going to college is taking a step away from home. I might be wrong, but if you’re living on a meal plan during the week and mommy’s cooking on Saturday and Sunday, I don’t think you’ve taken much of a step.

And of course, my criticism of those dependencies have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my own options are so limited. (Nothing at all.) But while we’re on the subject, no I can’t go home, no I can’t give my dirty laundry to my mom, and no I can’t sit and do crosswords with my dad on a lazy Sunday afternoon. To be honest, it’s really weird, if you think about it too much, to realize that you can talk to your parents with a phone, and only with a phone. That the fastest you can get home is in 3 hours, not counting the time it takes to buy tickets and get to the airport. That the people you’ve dealt with day-in and day-out for 18 years are gone, living on their own like they did before you were born, and you’re, to some extent, on your own too.

Yes, very weird indeed.

But when you’re happy, at college and at home, you learn to appreciate being in each place when you’re actually there, and to not miss the other place so much that you get sad. Because if you do let yourself ache and long too much, you’re just wasting your own time.

Speaking of enjoying college life — and not wasting time — I have a picture to email to one of my floor mates. I’m pretty sure he’ll agree that his hat looks pretty good on my pig. Almost as sure as I am that he’ll pay the ransom…

A little story about… ramps

The preparation date for this column is April 22 but I have no idea when it will be printed. I mention this as the subject is Spring in the West Virginia mountains. Everything is in bloom, red bud, dogwood, Japanese cherry, other cherry, apple, and a host of other things including-ramps! Yes ramps!

To the uneducated, ramps are wild onions that spring forth at this time of year in many spots within our state. They are supposed to be a mountain delicacy and many chew away and enjoy. Me? I stay far away from them, and anyone eating or who has eaten them recently.

Onions smell bad, and remain on one’s breath for a long time. But, ramps? They stick to you for an eternity. I don’t want anyone who has eaten ramps around me or in my house for days. The fragrance does linger and it isn’t roses.

One of our major mountain counties, Nicholas, has an abundance of ramps and the city of Ravenswood, located there, has a ramp festival each year. Yesterday, one of our Charleston papers had a story on page one of a Nicholas resident who was selling ramps along the road near Charleston. There are ramp roadside stands in many places.

This guy is not only selling ramps but is selling a new product-ramp salt! I guess he reeked of the ramp smell as he professed to be a great ramp eater. He was selling the ramp salt to people who want the taste of ramps but don’t want to smell like them for days. People sell bushels and bushels of ramps and now I guess they will be selling boxes and boxes of ramp salt.

I have a story to tell you about ramps. The late Jim Comstock, a man who could arguably be called West Virginia’s leading booster while alive, hailed from the aforementioned town of Richwood. He was a book writer, book collector, West Virginia historian, lecturer, newspaper writer, editor and publisher, museum owner and a host of other things. One of his newspapers was the statewide West Virginia Hillbilly that was the largest weekly in the state for a number of years. It contained a bit of mountain philosophy, mountain tales, historical stuff and some news ‘round and about our hills and valleys. He had more ideas than a dozen other men and was always trying something different.

During Spring a few years back Jim decided to mix ramps and his newspaper. He took a bit of ramp juice (quite a bit actually) and mixed it with the ink that would be used to print the next “Hillbilly.” It worked well, almost too well. Things went just fine during the printing and during the circulation from the print shop in Richwood and they left there a few at a time.

Since it was a statewide publication most of the papers had to be mailed and by far the largest majority had to come to the Charleston Post Office for distribution. When the trucks hit the post office with several thousand papers the questions started, “What’s that smell?” It got so bad officials began to track it down and didn’t have much trouble when they came to the newspapers. The post office now reeked with that pungent smell.

Soon, Comstock’s phone was ringing off the hook. How could you do such a thing? We can’t stand the smell! Etc. Friend Jim almost lost his mailing permit over that episode. This single issue was the one and only that contained ramp flavored printer’s ink. Good idea. Bad result!

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!

Comptroller: Post for the ambitious

The three Texas comptrollers since 1975 have wanted to be governor. Carole Keeton Strayhorn is no exception.

The first two – the late Bob Bullock and John Sharp, both Democrats – eventually settled for a run at lieutenant governor. Bullock won, Sharp didn’t.

Strayhorn, one loud grandma, has yet to announce her plans. Though she’s a Republican like Gov. Rick Perry, Strayhorn has been slapping Perry every time he turns around. ##M:[more]#

She says he:

• is an ineffective leader,
• should put more money into the Children’s Health Insurance Program to reinstate kids who were dropped, and
• will put the state $10 billion in debt in five years if his school funding/property tax cut plan is followed.

Last year, she suggested a tax on cigarettes and legalizing video lottery terminals. Perry said no, but this year that’s his partial solution for school finance.

What’s happening here is a collision in the ambition tube.

Among Texas’ statewide elected offices, top prizes are Texas’ two seats in the United States Senate, the governorship and a few notches lower, the lieutenant governorship.

The other down-ballot offices – land commissioner, railroad commissioners, agriculture commissioner, attorney general, the now-defunct office of treasurer – are the on-deck circle for the bigger offices.

Senior U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was state treasurer before election to the Senate. Junior U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was on the Texas Supreme Court and attorney general before he joined her.

Perry was agriculture commissioner, and then lieutenant governor, before becoming governor. Strayhorn won a Railroad Commission seat on her second try, then moved up to comptroller. She’s still hungry.

Bullock, as comptroller, supported Gov. Dolph Briscoe’s re-election in 1978 because he had squabbled with Briscoe’s Democratic primary opponent, Attorney General John Hill. And, Bullock wanted to run for governor in 1982 when Briscoe left.

However, Hill beat Briscoe but then lost to Republican Bill Clements. Bullock and Clements got along OK. But Bullock had a running feud with Mark White, who had become attorney general.

When White upset Clements, Bullock announced he would run for governor in 1986, and continued banging on White. In 1983, he called the younger White an “old fool” who “didn’t do a damn thing as attorney general.”

By 1984, Bullock said he wouldn’t run for governor. By 1989, he settled for running for lieutenant governor in 1990, and shelved his gubernatorial ambitions.

Sharp, who succeeded Bullock, got along well with Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, and then Republican George W. Bush, who unseated Richards in 1994. Sharp considered opposing Bush in 1998, not because they’d fought, but because he wanted the job.

He finally decided Bush was unbeatable, and settled for a race for lieutenant governor.

Strayhorn obviously hasn’t made that decision yet. She wants to run for governor. But if Hutchison runs against Perry, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst seeks Hutchison’s Senate seat, look for Strayhorn to run for lieutenant governor.

Have you ever been to a pig picking?

We work hard all week to get a two day weekend and two days of rain come with it; got a touch of cabin fever because of it. Cain’t gripe too much though, at least I ain’t got to water the tomatoes.

Stayed on the computer and internet most of the day yesterday that is when I was not in the kitchen fixing a little snack. At least there is enough fried chicken and meatloaf left for today’s meals.

Suppose to be getting a pit from one of the twins since he’s moving again. Having had the pit over here before between his apartments and houses, I’ve gotten use of it before. I got on the internet to read up on fire tending when cooking with a pit. Interesting reading to me, may be as entertaining as watching paint dry to you, but what do you want for two cents?

Having cooked on pits before, I have had meat that turned out bitter and heavy with smoke. In reading the information on the net, it says the fire was too big and dampered down too much. Says smoldering produces heavy smoke and gives the bitter taste. They suggested opening the damper and controlling the heat with the amount of fuel. If it gets too hot, open the door and let the heat out. Adjust the air inlet damper, not the outlet damper, learn to control your fire with fuel, not the inlet damper. I always thought it was green wood that gave off that taste. Green wood will give that bitter taste but I did not know smoldering wood would.

The article recommended using lump charcoal in lieu of charcoal briquettes and small pieces of wood until you get used to cooking with it.

The recommended temperature for barbequing was said to be 200 to 225 degrees. They recommend warming your firewood before placing in fire box, they heat it on top of the fire box first.

Somewhere I read a piece about thermometers and that they should be checked as some are as much as sixty degrees off. To check your thermometer, boil water and the gauge should read 212 degrees assuming it is correct. Then place the stem into a glass of water with ice. If it is correct, it should read 33 to 34 degrees, if your thermometer is not correct, it is recommended that you replace it.

I found another site on the internet about cooking a whole hog on a spit. These men had bought a 200 pounder on the hoof and how they prepared for the feast. A lot of work indeed and interesting as they stuffed the cavity of the pig with four whole chickens covered with rub seasoning. That keeps the stomach cavity of the pig from sinking in from the cooking and it provides great chicken that falls off the bone.

The total cooking time for the pig was sixteen and a half hours and was enough a party for over a 100 feasted with the other dishes and trimmings. Figure two pounds per person on the hoof. A minimum of three people required to do this job, one to watch the fire while others get some shuteye.

There was a huge cooker on a trailer at a Rotary function we attended once, two pigs were inside the cooker rotating over coals and you could see it through the glass door. It smelt wonderful.

Anyway, I have cooking directions for barbequing a pig from say 50 to 150 pounds. Should you desire a copy, all I ask in return is a small sandwich.

Have you ever been to a pig picking or anything like that?

Chamber works with TxDOT on details of Overpass, Off ramp

CROSBY- Officials from TxDot met with representatives from the Crosby/Huffman Chamber last week, to discuss design details of the proposed overpass over the railroad tracks in the center of old town Crosby, and to hear of the latest schedule for the project.

Present from TxDOT were John Vogel, bridge designer, and Stephen Wainaina, the roadway designer.

Representing the Chamber were Nancy Oliver, Velma Ellison, Larry Koslovsky, and several other members of the committee. Also present was Gilbert Hoffman, publisher of the Star-Courier and also a practicing architect who has been helping the Chamber in their discussions with TxDOT on the esthetic details of the overpass.

Hoffman presented a sketch which represented some of the details that the committee has expressed an interest in seeing incorporated in the design. These included antique or traditional lighting fixtures, an eclectic railing design, supporting piers with an historic or masonry look, an ashlar stone look to the concrete retaining walls on the ramped areas, and a landscaped area where dedication bricks, with donors names, could be laid to memorialize the community’s contributions to the project.

In addition, TxDOT representatives showed photos of a design that had recently been built in Beaumont, at the Laurel-Liberty exit, that seemed to incorporate many of the themes that the Crosby group envisioned. It was agreed that further development would try to blend these two images into one scheme, that would be delineated by TxDOT and presented to the committee in a few months. The TxDOT representatives also indicated they would try to work with the community.

Accident victim pulled from crushing weight

Construction workes help ESD#5 Medics, including Clay Eden and Jeanette Thompson, free the victim from a hole after dashing across the street to dig the man from crushing dirt that suddenly fell back into a sewer line repair hole. One of the workers went to the home of Myra Davis, who called 911. They advised not to move the man until medics could arrive. Pictured here is Mrs. Davis, distraught by the pained screams of the man. The accident victim’s boss tries to help in the rescue, working behind one of the medics.