Sunday, September 28, 2008

Balmorhea Water Company; A Recovering State of Mind

* * *

2008 Balmorhea Homecoming; 09-26-08

Homecoming Parade Friday Afternoon
September 26, 2008

Six-Man Football

Buena Vista Imperial: 48
Balmorhea: 38


Anyone interested in downloading pictures from Friday night's homecoming game in Balmorhea, including the folks from Buena Vista Imperial, can do so on my Picasa Web Album Site.

If you want pictures from the parade you can do so on my Flickr Site. Please help me identify the notorious people in these pictures by using the comment space below each photo. Or if you provide enough gossip in the space provided, maybe we can get a good "Gossip Column" going and set it up as the homepage on the Balmorhea Public Library computers. ;>) Wouldn't that be fun?

If you don't have the technology (an inkjet printer and photography paper) and would like me to print the pictures so that you can have them to frame, contact me at and I will be happy to get them in the mail to you or run them over to you.
All of the photos used in the production of the video above are there.

Also, for your convenience, the video above is in the public domain and may be downloaded from my site on YouTube.

Music for the 2008 Balmorhea Homecoming video is from The Funky Mamas.

Teddy Bear's Picnic was written by John Walter Bratton, in 1907. It was originally recorded by Henry Hall & His Orchestra (1932). A reproduction follows:

Thank you so much for the opportunity to mix with you and to meet so many fine folks from all over the West Texas region.

-=cliffhammond, MEd, LCDC


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sitting Through Another Great Depression

9/20/08 photo taken in Fort Davis, Texas, by Cliff Hammond

"Zen" is a Japanese word translated as "sitting," or "to sit," or simply "sit." It is associated with a specific form of meditation which is best leaned directly from Zen masters, such as the late Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shōgaku Shunryū 祥岳俊隆) . There are no formal promises made by such masters or goals encouraged. To do so would be to subvert the essential process necessary to achieve enlightenment and the associated transcendence of suffering -- Just Sitting.

Miller Lite: Sometimes associated with the short-term relief of suffering, but as the experience of so many involved in "field research" has suggested, it usually only leads to long-term suffering, or as they say, "Short-term gain, long-term pain."

Buglar Tobacco: Research by the University of Arizona and others has established that the smoke of inhaled tobacco products contains a chemical that stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the same way as the antidepressant medication bupropion. This has led to the use of bupropion [Zyban] as a treatment for nicotine dependence. Thus, it is theorized, particularly in the case of alcoholism where so many of its denizens suffer from the co-morbid condition of clinical depression, that many long-term nicotine addicts are unconsciously self-medicating their depression using a product with very dangerous associated health risks.

"Crystals" are crystallized forms of naturally occurring minerals and are used by some Native American tribalists and New Age faith healers. Their psychological and or medical effects are thought by those of the dualist Cartesian mindset to be placebo in nature but their value to the religious practitioner should not be discounted without an examination of their pragmatic effects.

Sunlight is necessary for the production of vitamin D; however, in cases of continued overexposure it can cause certain types of skin cancer. Unfortunately, the homeless are particularly at risk. These are the very people, without any health insurance, who suffer the most.

Cross-posted to



The Judgment
Matt 25

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stopping by Drunks on a Sunny Afternoon; The Buddy Sattva Sagas

The unsinkable Buddy Sattva, my Yellow Lab [pictured at right, head down], had a recurrence of a tick-borne disease, ehrlichiosis, one that's taken many of the local dogs here in Balmorhea. The picture was taken in Pecos City Park on Thursday. He was so worn out by the time we got home I realized he was spiraling quickly into another health crisis.

He seemed depressed for the last several weeks but I had attributed that to "the dog days of summer" here in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert.

He is also about 11 or 12-years old, which makes us about the same age as the dog-to-man ratio goes. When he began to appear to have joint pain and stiffness and then lost his appetite, I became worried. He was so short of breath Thrusday night, I stayed up with him waiting for the "other shoe to drop," crying like an aggrieved father and praying for him, begging for him not to leave -- he's like a son to me, you see, and one of the most compassionate of sentient beings on the planet. Okay, so most people would call that type-B personality -- he's certainly not the alpha male in my little family pack.

The next morning, Dr. Box, in Pecos, was out of the office on ranch calls in southeastern New Mexico and the couple in Fort Davis were on vacation. So I had to take Buddy all the way to Alpine, up into the Davis Mountains, where he spent all day Friday and Friday night on IV fluids to both rehydrate him and treat him with antibiotics and Prednisone to get his platelet count back up.

It was a close call but he's better now and on medications that will bring his disease back under control. Currently he is getting the love and attention of a human child who is home from school with the measles.

We have to go back in two-weeks for a follow-up.

On the way home, driving through Fort Davis, I spotted an elder statesman parking his 10-speed at Cueva del Lion Mexican Restaurant. I did a quick u-turn for a photograph and met an unsinkable spirit comparable to my Buddy Sattva, a bowlegged won't-give-up, Peter Richards, of Salem Oregon -- older than dirt, educated well beyond his years and fit as a fiddle.

Peter, as it turns out, is a cross-country cyclist, former distance runner and PhD physicist who is here riding in the Fort Davis Cyclefest. Had the guys at McDonald Observatory seen his bona fides they might have all been on bicylces behind him, having realized their recent discovery of a new kind of pulsating white drawarf star was cycling through, right here in their midst.

In fact, Peter has cycled across the United States twice, making the 3500 coast-to-coast trek in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of his '57 graduation from MIT, and again in 2007, when he was featured in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

We talked easily about photography, Native Americans and why they resist photographers and their cameras; and we talked about some of the local Native American folklore about a people who were "cleared" from the area in the late 19th Century. Strangely, I wondered without saying it out loud if "cleared" is ever used as a verb in the Middle East to describe what has been happening to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, but I didn't want to detain him any longer from dinner with his son, distracting him with the banana tree-jumping monkeys who live in my mind.

I need role models like Peter. Otherwise, I'll just sit here and type and read all day... and practice coaxing the perfect steak out of my new George Foreman Grill.

Just behind Peter and in front of the restaurant sitting in the sun, paraphernalia of New Age mediation - rocks, feather, incense, miniature pottery, Bugler tobacco -- arranged in an array that suggested respect for the sacred, I happened upon another gentle soul. In giving me permission to take his photo, He gestured to me in confused combination both the familiar peace sign of our generation and the horns of either the UT mascot, Bevo, or of metallic rock & roll, that sarcastically demonic music designed to piss parents off and give voice to the egos of male youth and its high testosterone in-your-face. I have to confess, I admire them for it.

Despite the accouterments of Native American religion, the real "higher power" at work here guiding him though the spirit realm, as you can see from the photo above, is seated under guard by his left hand. Oh yes, and "There but for the Grace of God go I." Nice shirt, by the way.

[I found this homeless fellow traveler so insistent upon my consciousness that I have provided further narrative in his honor and on behalf of all those other sentient beings who appear so "out of place" at the most poignant of moments to remind us of Grace and our duty to the widows, strangers, orphans and wayfarers among us.]

What a contrast in styles found in one city block in West Texas within the same generation! I sit following the Middle Way somewhere in between these brothers of the Baby Boom. Yes, I said "sit" and not "ride."

Spending the day in Alpine waiting for Buddy, I talked a little while with a young short order cook in the restaurant where I had a croissant, orange juice and coffee for breakfast. We had been drawn into conversation because each of us seemed "familiar" to the other. He had an armload of tattoos, including the infamous tear drop and a few prison tats that he pointed out. He had been "stationed" in four different Texas prisons and already looked strung out in his early twenties. Guess I worked in prisons with addicts for far too long to forgo reaching out when I see suffering.

Later, standing in Front Street Books [pictured at left], book in hand, I watched him walk by on the sidewalk outside. He was looking so schizy and hypervigilant that I started to go check my car. He was already "Jonesing" coming from work. Looking for opportunities.

The very last shot in the video above was of the late Beat Generation writer, William S. Burroughs, who wrote Naked Lunch. He was a lifelong heroin addict. My favorite scene in Drugstore Cowboy featured Burroughs in the ironic role of a drug addicted priest who kept his rig and narcotics in a hollowed-out Bible at his bedside in a downtown flop hotel where he lived. The "higher power" metaphor was overwhelming. Indeed, what god do we turn to when we suffer so greatly the anomie of this world's hostility, its unkindnesses?

Later that afternoon, I stopped off at Magoo's Place in Alpine [pictured above] for a really delicious cheeseburger basket. [The answer to the spiritual question above is "fast food," of course.] Every time I'd gone to Alpine to visit Front Street Books, someone had told me to give Magoo's Place a try. So there I sat enjoying a cheeseburger and fries, just LMAO at all the idiots with their bickering little children across the street having a Happy Meal. It was getting late toward the weekend and the young and outgoing Magoo waitresses were having fun with the customers, passing around a bottle of Two Fingers Tequila and encouraging everyone to join them at a Friday night country music concert. It was all innocent fun of the sort that you find in West Texas, of course.

I was busy conversing with a Texas Water Board member who was up from Austin because the Rio Grande was flooding between Presidio and where the legendary river on the Mexican border takes a "big bend."

For purposes of anonymity I won't show the photos of the hungover country girl princesses I took the next morning when I returned to pick-up Buddy at the Vet, both of whom appeared to me to be young university students, innocent youth of good breeding -- amateur drunks in any case -- just not the real thing no matter how pert and fun-loving. They're the kind you look out for on the highways between the hours of midnight and 4:00 am during holidays and after country music concerts -- the kind for whom you leave a good tip and just know it's going toward books and notebook paper...and rent.

I couldn't believe they actually made it into work that next morning looking.... really, really ....unwell. All except for Mr. Magoo's second son who looked happy, healthy and alive [pictured at right with mop bucket]. When I asked why he looked so together the morning after the concert, he grinned and said with typical West Texas wit and brevity, "I don't drink." We both laughed and laughed. He'd obviously seen the pair when they reported for work on this Saturday morning before 7:00 am, a time when only Jehovah's Witnesses are putting together raiding parties to land on your porch for the traditional gang-saving that's intended to get them into heaven by works among the chosen 144,000, and to hell with you and your pagan obsession with sleeping late.

Inside, Mrs. Magoo explained that these loyal employees made it in with hangovers because she would "bust their asses if they didn't show up on a Saturday." The girls both consented to have their pictures taken, sans makeup, trying with what was left in them to put a smile on the day and uphold their reputations for being friendly and loyal to their customers. I enjoyed taking their pictures with a disguised sardonic sense of over-the-hill cruelty, having quit drinking twenty-five years ago almost to the day, all the while telling them what great cheeseburgers they make. Mama Magoo was as proud, joyful and smug as any Mom in loco parentis could be, pretending not to be snookered by her two little blond hellions yet not caring in the least, having done her time at twenty-one, surviving into middle age with an unshakable faith that they would too.

Buddy, looks one hundred percent better, even if he's white as a sheet. We're home now, clean and sober and sharing a steak right off the grill. Okay, so it's our fourth one this afternoon but who's counting? Buddy's appetite has returned. He's beginning to find renewed energy and I'm still sitting here typing and being reflective. Somewhere in the Davis Mountains -- I feel it in my gut -- Peter Richards and his son are cycling about, smiling at the new day, satisfied that they are doing life their way. Still, I continue to pray for those who no matter how much they would wish otherwise, don't have a clue what that might be like.

* * *

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost -- 1922

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Now playing: Céline Dion - Miles to Go (Before I Sleep)
via FoxyTunes

All photos in the narrative above are by the author, yours truly. This narrative has been cross-posted to Open Salon.