Friday, November 20, 2015

The World at our Fingertips

           My Grandmother was born in 1911. To say we had a generational gap is an understatement.
           She was a second Mother to me. Couldn’t cook worth a darn, something very unusual for her generation, but she was full of life and always a part of the important milestones.
           Even if the birthday cakes were store bought.
           She had a handful of quirks and did a few things that drove me crazy. For example, she would not talk to me about the Great Depression. It used to make me so mad. I wanted to know more than I was reading in my history books and here she was, having lived it.
           Every time she gave me the same answer: “It was depressing.”
           So not funny.
           We also had one running argument. She thought the world was going to heck in a hand basket and I thought the world seemed worse as a result of the twenty-four hour news cycle.
           The little country newspaper she grew up with mostly reported on local events. News stories from around the world and anything written in a language other than English wouldn’t have made the cut.
           We’d cover the same ground as she proclaimed “Things like this didn’t used to go on” and I’d reply “You didn’t know they were going on, but they probably were.”
           We never got much farther than that.
           She’s passed on now, but this week I haven’t been able to get those conversations to be quiet.
           Bombings in Beirut, France, and Nigeria; Student protests over race and inclusion; Young girls and women being harassed and assaulted on social media and in real life; where to begin?
           Where to end?
           I am an average citizen lucky enough to be from an extraordinary place.  I go to work, visit with friends and family, have a hobby or two, geek out with alarming regularity, and generally enjoy an unremarkable life.
           It works for me.
           But the world is always at my fingertips. We live in an ever interconnected world and what happens “there” affects us “here”. It affects us everywhere. 
Last week I was riding high. I want to find a way to give back to my amazing community.
           This week I’m feeling overwhelmed.
           It’s time for a little perspective.  
           So, last night I went out with some friends, after a stop at their barn. Both for medicinal purposes. Works every time.  And, like the geek that I am, I have gone back to the lessons learned over a lifetime from people much smarter than me.
           “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”-Gandhi
           Do what I can where I am, starting with me. No pointing fingers at somebody else. It’s easy enough for me to cuss and get twisted up about things I have absolutely no control over.
           Done plenty of that this week.
           But it doesn’t really help.
           As was so eloquently put by a British author “Continuing with your daily routine, living your life in the West, supporting freedom, liberty and democracy is battling Isis.” We could replace the name of one terrorist organization for any number of horrors. Same sentiment applies.
           I’m not an important person. I don’t have clout. But I can live my life in a way that honors the traditions of Texas. I can’t change the world, but I can attempt to improve myself and treat the people in my neck of the woods with just a little bit more compassion.   
           I say all that like it’s a done deal. Like I won’t find myself cussing over my news feed tomorrow at the breakfast table. I’m sure it will ebb and flow.
           I still laugh at the videos of people eating dirt. I’m not in any danger of becoming saintly.
           Sanctimonious maybe, but not saintly.
           But today I am celebrating my small victories. The little victory over my grief and rage. Dare I say, I’m even feeling pretty good about the odds for humanity?
           Then, another article…
           The Islamic Center of Pflugerville, Texas was vandalized. Why is there always someone trying to mess it up for the rest of us?
           Then, the story takes a turn. The kind of turn I am trying to inspire in myself.  
           Jack Swanson, age 7, donated his whole piggy bank to help pay for repairs.
           His whole piggy bank.

           Oh man, something’s in my eye… 

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.

 "Boy donates piggy bank to vandalized mosque"  Author: Jeff Tavss,              
"As an ordinary British Muslim, here's what I plan to do to tackle Isis"   Author: Shehab Khan                     

Friday, November 13, 2015

Being Grateful, Thankful,

and Stepping Up to the Challenge

           Turkey Day is just around the corner. My job this year is to acquire the tamales. Thanksgiving without tamales could get me disowned, so the pressure is on.

          Veterans Day is the beginning of my holiday reflection. I know a lot of people wait for New Years, but I find that fall is the time when I start to reassess.

          So between the tamales and the self-assessment, my stress level is steadily rising.

           Which doesn’t really make any sense. This is the part of the holiday canon that is supposed to be relatively stress free.

           Our job in November is to be thankful.

           To be thankful for those who dared to take up the challenge and who walk in honor in our armed forces. To be thankful for the people who make our everyday life richer just by being near.

          But, sometimes it’s not that simple. Maybe it’s just because I’m wound a little too tight.

           Alright… a lot too tight.

           Lucky for me I found an article yesterday. Some sharp writer went out and asked armed forces personnel, past and present, how they would like to be thanked. It’s a conundrum for me every year. How do you thank someone for something so huge?

           The article had so many great suggestions, but one really stood out for me.

           Volunteer. The gist of this particular serviceman’s suggestion was to serve your country wherever you are.

           After I got whatever that was out of my eye (ahem), I realized I tend to give money but I rarely give my time. I always feel like those opportunities should go to someone with a broader skill base or someone with a better education. I feel inadequate to the task of really making a difference. Afraid I’ll make a mistake in an important situation.

           It’s the same reason I eat dirt so often when I get to ride. I’m wound too tight… and horsemanship follows character.
           So, in honor of the season’s introspection and in an attempt to say ‘Thank You’ to the men and women who serve with distinction, I am going to try. Try to get over my self-imposed restrictions and do something outside of my comfort zone.

           And true to my ‘geek-dom’, I have started to gather research on the subject. There are a lot of great organizations right here in my own backyard, and I bet if you look around your neck of the woods, you’ll find the same thing.

           So, I have a favor to ask.

           In an attempt not to get bogged down in analysis paralysis, I would like to hear your suggestions. I’d also like to hear about the organizations y’all volunteer with.

           They can be local to you or international in scope. Doesn’t matter. It would be great for everyone to see how small actions can make a big impact.

           And give us all one more thing to be thankful for.

       Then all I’ll be missing is the tamales.

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.

That article I was talking about : "Here's How To Really Thank Vets For Their Military Service"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bobbing for Boots and Another Lesson Learned

           I forgot towels.

           We were running a contest called ‘Bobbing for Boots’ and I forgot the towels. It should have been the first thing I thought of. Little buckaroos and the lil’ buckaroos at heart; all with their faces in giant muck tubs full of water and floating apples.

           Not everyone read “The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy” when they were kids. Maybe you saw the movie that came out a few years ago. One of the first rules of interplanetary hitchhiking is to always carry a towel.

           Those books are something I actually read. And yet, towels never crossed my mind.

           Regardless, not a complaint was heard, beyond the occasional “It’s cold!”. We handed our valiant competitors paper towels and dry t-shirts, and got nothing  but smiles in return.

           We made the four yard play, sans proper towels.

           Still, I’m kickin’ myself over not thinking about it.

           For those of you just tuning in, our last post highlighted the similarities between ‘grind it out’ football and our search for a breast cancer cure. We may not always make huge plays, but four yards at a time still gets the first down.

           And Halloween day we made a solid four yards, with an apple bobbing contest.

           We managed to raise over $850 dollars for MD Anderson cancer center.

           Now, before it gets to soundin’ like I’m tooting my own horn, I know that’s not a huge sum of money. We did not give cancer the boot by bobbing for boots.

           But it was another four yards, and I for one am proud of this community for coming together for this event.

           Like I said before, “It’s every bracelet. Every entry for boot bobbing. Every t-shirt. Every dollar donated online….working our way to the end zone.”

           Breast cancer awareness month is officially over, but that doesn’t mean we should let it slide. Let’s make sure the Cowgirl’s we love are taking care of themselves and talking to their doctors.

          That goes for our Cowboys too. They’ve got to see the Doc regular. Won’t be any easier than telling a Cowgirl what to do, but we have to try.

           Cause cancer comes in all shapes and sizes.

           And now there’s $850 more dollars in the pot the Doc’s reach into in their quest to give cancer the boot.

           Little successes add up, four yards at a time.

           Now, y’all know we didn’t have 85 people bobbing for boots. But, organically, almost everyone who came through the South Texas Tack doors last Saturday chipped in.

           Then, out came a cool $100 dollar bill. Someone in the crowd decided they wanted to see four upstanding members of the community bobbing against one another.

           And it happened.

           Dignity is overrated. Especially when pride is on the line. Did I mention the lil’ buckaroos at heart?

           But the big lesson from last Saturday is one I should have learned when I was younger and read the aforementioned books.

           You really should always carry a towel. It’s surprising how useful it can be. 

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bobbing for Boots, Iron Man Football, 

and Giving Breast Cancer the Boot

           October is breast cancer awareness month. Around these parts everybody is wearing pink. Guys, gals, horses, and even dogs are all gussied up in their fighting pink.

           It’s got me thinking about my dad.

           He passed a while back but he had the kind of personality that people still talk about at parties and BBQ’s. Every time we get together a story gets told. Laughter always follows.

           It was cancer that finally took him from us, so anytime anyone wears a pink ribbon, bracelet, or t-shirt, I think of my dad.

           And here’s why.

           My Mom bought my dad a pink dress shirt to update his work wardrobe. He looked great in pink. It really suited his skin tone.

           That shirt never left the house.

           Not for love, money, or pride was he gonna get caught in a pink shirt. Not even on a dare.

           He was a baby boomer, Navy brat, and an old high school football player. Iron man of course. Twelve guys playing offence and defense. Making four yard plays looking for that first down. Oh, and then he joined the Marines.

           Sounds like a recipe for strict gender rules, but he was rather evolved. In touch with his emotions even.

           Which is why you could have knocked us over with a feather when he refused to wear his pink shirt.  It caught us completely by surprise.

           My dad wore a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon, but the dress shirt was just a step too far.

           Which brings me back to iron man football.

           Twelve guys making four yard plays over and over and over again.

           On Halloween day, we are having a contest at South Texas Tack called ‘Bobbing for boots’. The entry fee is $10.00 and that money is going to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

           Now, we live in a small town. Brenham Texas boasts a population somewhere around the thirty thousand mark. We will not be raising millions upon millions of dollars.

           Instead, we will be making one more four yard play.

           It’s every bracelet. Every entry for boot bobbing. Every t-shirt. Every dollar donated online.

           Four yards at a time, working our way to the end zone.

           One way or another we are going to give breast cancer the boot. Getting every guy in town to wear pink is probably just a bonus.

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Custom Boots, Embroidered Jeans, 

And A Way of Life

          The great depression left a lasting mark on rural Texas.  Many families lost everything, including the kitchen sink. But we rebuilt. Slowly but surely and with great determination we picked ourselves up by the boot straps.

          Many of us are far from rich today but, generally speaking, we have what we need.

          It’s a tradition that is passed down one generation to the next. Look for quality and take care of it. Do what you can for yourself and your family. Look out for your neighbors, ‘cause next time around it might be you needing a lucky break.

          The code of the West is how we live and how we raise our children.

          I met a foreign exchange student at the antiques festival in Round Top last week. She told me the story of getting off the plane in Houston and being shocked by all the cowboy boots.

          It got me thinking.

          I don’t work cows before I come in to work. I know those who do, but I wasn’t out at the barn this morning doing chores.

          I drank my coffee, had some bacon and eggs, went through my personal grooming routine, and got dressed. I usually put on my boots last thing. I’m wearing them now.

          Jeans and boots. It’s just the way I live. Part of the rhythm of my life.

          I was taught to look for quality and take care of it, although I only iron my jeans for special occasions.

          Perhaps it’s that cultural memory of losing so much. From the wagon trains that left everything behind to the dust bowl that nearly broke our souls, we remember what it meant to go without. Deprivation, like a shadow on our hearts and minds.

          So we celebrate the little things. Jeans, once a cheap alternative for the working class, are now an institution. The same can be said for the humble working cowboys’ boots.

          Art on the hoof.

          We go out of our way to celebrate the humble beginnings. The struggle of those who blazed this trail.

          This weekend, October 9th and 10th, is South Texas Tack’s annual custom boot trunk show. Rios of Mercedes will be the boot maker coming to the store with every option under the sun. And, next week is the start of our jean embroidery special. Everyone who buys a pair of jeans at STT October 12th thru October 24th will have the option to get their initials embroidered, gratis.

          It’s a celebration. Not of any particular holiday or specific event, but rather of a way of life. The grit and determination of a land still a little wild. A little untamed. Like bluebonnets growing on the side of the road, we are a people who will not give up.

          We know that our fortunes could shift as quickly as the Texas weather, but we will pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and face whatever may come. Our boots are well made and well cared for. Our jeans are just a little bit…more. A celebration for the world to see. Because that is the way we were raised and the way we live. The rhythm of life in the Lone Star State. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The 2015 Washington County Fair 

          Taking my socks off last night gave me pause.

          The boots came off with a sigh of relief. They desperately need replacing. I finally recognized how hypocritical I’ve been about my friend taking so long to replace her worn out ones. (See “August, Cowboy Boots, and a last farewell” & “A new pair of boots and a Final Farewell”)

          No holes, but I’ve been trying to toss them for about a year.

          After the boots and the revelation came the socks. At which point a fine cloud puffed around my foot like a mushroom letting off spores.

          Don’t get grossed out. I don’t need to see the doctor… at least not for that.

          I spent all day yesterday hoofing as much of the Washington County Fair as my sad worn out boots could take. The cloud that came off my socks and feet came from the sand they use in the arenas.

          Even as tender footed as I’m feeling today, it was completely worth it to see show day. Pigs, chickens, steers, heifers, goats, lambs, rabbits, turkeys, colts, fillies, and all the sand and shavings that go with ‘em. Cakes decorated like the beach, photos that elegantly tell the story of life in this region, and antique tractors all in one place. 

          Every year something catches my imagination anew. This go round it was the antique engines. There are steam and gas powered, and they still run.

          It makes me sentimental, thinking of our past. What must it have been like way back when? How did we get from there to here?

          Then I walked by the 4-H project boards.

          That answered my questions.

          It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of a fair. But these annual events serve a greater purpose. Every event teaches a child how things are done and the value of hard work. These are life lessons thinly disguised as extracurricular activities.
Groups like FFA, 4-H, and the Agrilife Extension work to disseminate both the wisdom of those who have done it before and cutting edge research, to the ‘two legged’ kids who will be running the world before you know it. 

          Which is nothin’ to sneeze at considering agriculture is such a vital part of the Texas economy.
          So, I watch the wheel go round and round. 
         Tomorrow night I’m going to the rodeo to see more of my friends and neighbors showcasing the fruit of their labor.

          There may or may not be another sausage on the stick in the mix, but there will definitely be a new pair of boots.

          My feet are killing me.

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A New Pair of Boots and a Final Farewell

          The boot memorial was lovely. The brisket was just right and the Yeti cooler well stocked. Just as predicted, the kids ran themselves ragged and most slept the whole way home.

          All in all, a successful late summer gathering of friends. 

          With one exception.
          She wore her dead boots. “What? It’s not raining!” She exclaimed in response to our incredulous expressions.


          For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the South Texas Tack blog, my friend has been wearing the same pair of boots for the last twenty two years. They were good boots, attractive even.

          But they are no more the constant companions they once were having developed a catastrophic case of leather failure.

          The memorial for those boots was two weeks ago. It seemed appropriate to honor the passing. Plus, August is summer’s swan song. Any excuse will do.

          Her boots busted a few weeks before the memorial, and she’s been wearing them that way for over a month. She hasn’t been ready to say goodbye.

          We here at the office have been brainstorming. How can we help someone who doesn’t realize they need help? Ideas like stealing her old boots got dismissed pretty quickly. No one wanted to go up against her watch guinea or guard geese.

          Enter the great goat escape of August 2015.

          Her goats got out. All of them. Luckily it wasn’t raining because she went hunting her rogue goats in those old worn out boots. Unluckily, the holes in those boots were the perfect size for little baby goat feet to fit into. There were bruises.

         Did I forget to mention the boots had developed additional holes.

          Still, none of us could convince her that the time for her footwear nostalgia had passed.

          In the end, where we at the store and the goats on the lam had failed, it was the Washington County Fair that made the difference. Her 'two legged kid' said he “wasn’t gonna be seen at the fair with her if she was gonna wear those messed up boots”.

          Out of the mouths of babes. 

          These pictures are from last Saturday. Her son brought her in to the store and has once again agreed to be seen with her at the fair.

          Meet the Ariat Tombstones. I myself couldn't help but notice the striking similarities in color. The Ariats are chestnut. I'm not sure about her old boots. That patina could just be two decades of wear and tear. It does seem my friend has a well-defined comfort zone. We're just relieved she has finally found the strength to move on.

 And those Ariats are pretty sweet.

Written by L.H. 
A cubicle denizen we keep in the way back, back, back of South Texas Tack in Brenham, Texas.