Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friday March 30, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It rained pretty hard last night so we weren't able to work on the kiosk because everything was wet and there was still a threat of rain, so we decided to get started on preparing for the dedication of the Doc Stevenson sign tomorrow. We talked to Lita Kay, who was in charge of the ceremony, about the food that she had bought and what she needed done.

The food seemed to be done, so we started on the outside work. After some rest time at our homes, Todd decided that he could get the mowing done around the Visitors Center and the entrance sign where the ceremony would be held. While he was mowing, I set up the large folding tables and the folding chairs on the deck, so we were through with our preparations about time for our evening happy hour. What timing!

There has been a visiting forester staying here, so we've left the front gates unlocked in case he had to leave. It seems to make the lockup procedures go faster but tonight is the last night for it for he leaves tomorrow morning to return to Arkansas and his home park. It was good while it lasted!

So long.

Thursday March 29, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Todd and I decided to work on the kiosk again today but first we had to go to Marshall to pick up some more building materials. We drove over to the Cassity-Jones Building Material store and picked up some more 4 X 4's and 2 X 4's to complete some more bracing on the kiosk. Todd said that when he went on the roof to nail down the roof boards, he felt a lot of "give" and wanted to take it out.

Upon returning to the refuge, we went to the shop to get the shop truck and the trailer with the tools on it and went back to the kiosk to get started. We worked steadily until around 3 o'clock when it began to rain and we packed everything up and took it back to the shop. We made some really good progress on the project today and could have almost had it completed if it hadn't been for the rain.

We came on back home and rested for a bit before going out to eat at the River Bend Restaurant on Caddo Lake. (The link is all that is available for this small restaurant-no website) Todd and Sue have been here before, but this time we persuaded them to try something new, fried alligator and gator eggs (cream cheese with bacon stuffed jalapenos) for appetizers. With the complimentary beans and coleslaw with jalapeno cornbread, we were all pretty full by the time our food orders arrived. The food was very good and we all enjoyed our time together. We were soon finished and on our way home, full of good food.

The view of Caddo Lake from the restaurant was spectacular! We saw many fish jumping in the lake but the moss-laden cypress trees were beautiful. The next time you're in the area, you owe it to your tummy to stop by here.

So long.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday March 28, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Todd and I had planned to take today off because we were both tired from building the kiosk the last two days. Well, it didn't quite work out that way! Todd told me that the Sheriff's Dept. was sending some trustee prisoners out to clean out the Starr ranch house and he had to take them down to show them what to do. Stella and I were going into Marshall to the grocery store, so I told him that I would come down to help when we got back from town. I went down about 12:30 and they had already started and were making good progress. They were completely done by about 2, so that was a good thing! It kept Stella and Sue from having to do it and of course, we would helped them, but now it was done.

Todd told me to go on home and he would be there soon. About fifteen minutes later, he called to tell me he had a flat on his truck and that we needed to take it into town to be repaired. The tires were only about a month old and hadn't really gotten much service but the sidewall had split, so the tire had to be replaced. I don't think much of the tire company's warranty policy because there was NONE! They knocked the tire price down to their "wholesale" price and mounted and balanced the new tire at no cost. I guess they figure that the government has lots of money. I've got news for them, the government is BROKE!

By the time we got back to the refuge, re-installed the tire on the truck, and got all the equipment put away, it was almost 5 o'clock. Wow for a day off, we had spent over five hours on different projects. Maybe tomorrow will be better...

So long.

Monday and Tuesday, March 26 and 27, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

These two days were work and not much else. Todd and I and Will, the Biologist intern here made a lot of progress on the kiosk. We got the heavy lifting done with the 2 X 10 boards that form the roof being lifted into place, followed by 2 X 8 boards used for the roof trusses. Everything was nailed or bolted on and yesterday we got the cedar roof installed. It was two days of hard work and we are all tired. I'll get some pictures later today and show you what we've accomplished.

We did have some fun on Monday afternoon though. Mark, the Refuge Director, had a birthday, so we had a party for him. It was well attended by everyone that works here and some of Mark's friends. Everyone seemed to have a good time and there were burgers and hot dogs for everyone.

Not too much else to report on the work days. We are taking off from any more work today. This is too much like having a real job...ugh!

So long.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunday March 25, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Sunday was another beautiful day here at the Refuge. It began pretty chilly and made me think of the kids in the state park. It warmed up as it has been doing and was a great day to be outside.

Here are a few more photos of the weekend.

This is the site where they spent the weekend. We made a pretty good choice of sites for them, don't you think?There was plenty of shade but best of all, it was dry. There were several sites that were unusable because of water in the site.

Here is Ian's hot rod bicycle, resting between ridings. He loves to ride his bike!

Here is the happy group just before they left.

They came by here at the refuge before they left for home. I drove them around for a tour, which they found very interesting. Stella showed the Jennifer and Ian the visitor's center where there are some photos of the Army base while Jay, Melissa and I went down the walking trail for a short walk. I was very sad when they had to leave, but they were heading back to Garland before I knew it. We had a very nice visit with them.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful. Todd decided to mow the front area and when he got through, we sat outside enjoying the nice weather. It was a nice end to a great weekend.

So long.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saturday March 24, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Today began with a cool morning but it soon warmed up and was a very nice day. I'll bet those kids over in the state park were pretty chilly though, sleeping in their tents with no heaters. I remember those days but they were a loooong time ago and I don't want to go back!

I went down and opened the gates this morning but my knee was really bothering me, so I came back home and took it easy for most of the morning. There was a large group of Master Naturalists that had a meeting here this morning. Todd and Sue had volunteered to cook lunch for them around noon and Stella went over to help them but I stayed in and nursed my knee. Mark sent word to me, asking me to go check out a couple of the 4 wheelers so he could take some reporters out on the trails. Well, it turned out that someone had used one of them and had not cleaned it up or fueled it up, but I got 'er done!

I returned home and before you knew it, we were on our way to the state park. When we got there, everyone was out fishing so Stella and I hung around their campsite waiting for them to return. They were back pretty soon and the festivities soon began!

This is all about Ian's 4th birthday! He is a sweet little boy and enjoyed his day today.

He pitched right in and gathered some sticks for the fire. I didn't have the heart to tell him that this is frowned upon by the Park Rangers, but they'll never miss these few sticks. It really does make the park look better and removes some trip hazards, but rules are rules...

Ian and Aunt Katherine played a little catch with the football. Ian throws really well. Maybe he'll grow up to be a football player. Let's see, Tyler wants to be a veterinarian, Cameron will be a baseball player and Ian a football player. Yep, there will be someone to take care of Grampa when he gets too old to travel any more.

Aunt Katherine, Ian and Melissa laying around. Melissa is taking a picture of me, taking a picture of them.

Aunt Katherine, Ian and Daddy Jay getting the firepit ready. Lunch will be ready soon!

That sure is a cute little boy. I wasn't asleep, I was resting my eyes. I was!

That boy is sooo fast on that bicycle! It took a quick finger and a fast shutter speed to catch him speeding by!

Aunt Katherine and Momma Jennifer fixing some potatoes for supper. Nothing beats the taste of food cooked over a campfire.

Now Momma Jennifer makes some steak to add to our dining delight. Hard to beat!

Here is the group! Ian, Momma Jennifer, Daddy Jay and Aunt Melissa.

No daddy, this is how you open a gift.

Wow, all this for ME??

Lets see now, play with my new truck or eat some birthday cake... Decisions, decisions...

It was a great day and we all had a good time. Ian never got a nap in, and I bet it wasn't too late before he conked out.

We returned home and locked up, ending our day. You know, family is what its all about.

So long.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday March 23, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Stella and I went over to the state park where we paid a deposit for the kids' site for their arrival. I don't understand why they wouldn't take the deposit yesterday when I was there, but that's their rule. We did get an entry pass so we could come over after the kids get there.

Later this morning, Todd and I started working on the kiosk. We loaded up all the tools that we would need including the table saw, the power chop saw as well as assorted power tools and the generator onto one of the trailers. Then we got the service truck with an air compressor for the air tools and other assorted hand tools already on it. It pays to be prepared and have access to lots of power tools!

We got a good start, and worked our, well you know what we worked off... We got the framework built and everything is level and plumb. The only mishap during the day was that I fell off the ladder. I missed the bottom step so I didn't fall very far and landed on the trailer, which also broke my fall. My only injury was that I twisted my knee, which made me limp around for the rest of the afternoon.

By about four o'clock, we were done! Not only did we get a lot done today, we were both exhausted. My knee wasn't bothering me too much, but I was aware that it was hurt. You know, kind of an achy stiffness that just reminds you that you're not a kid any more.

I came on home and showered and relaxed in bed, resting my knee. Stella soon came home and before you know it, we were on our way to the state park to see the kiddoes. Jay, Jennifer, Ian, Melissa and their step-sister Katherine had come down to celebrate Ian's 4th birthday on Saturday.

They love to tent-camp which we outgrew many years ago. They had their tents set up but needed some help in getting Melissa's air mattress blown up. Jay and I went to my truck and rigged up a method to blow it up, so she was soon in business. We sat around talking and watching Ian ride his bicycle and play with his fishing rod and reel.

We decided to drive into Marshall for supper and for them to go to a grocery store for some supplies. We tried to go to the Cajun Tex restaurant where we had eaten last week but it was too busy, so we ended up at the El Chico for some mexican food.

After a lot of visiting after eating, we headed home while they went to the Kroger store across the street from the restaurant. It had been a good day but I was tired and my knee was bothering me, so we came on back home. Looking forward to singing Happy Birthday to Ian tomorrow.

So long.

Thursday March 22, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Since all of the rain, it has turned cool again in the mornings. We have been sleeping with the windows open, so it's not cool enough to be considered cold but cool enough in the mornings that a blanket feels good.

I had to go down and open one of the gates this morning. Usually one of the contractors opens the gates for their crew but I guess someone didn't get that memo. It's not a big deal because there was little else to do this morning.

When everybody got up and about, Todd and I went down to the fire station to check with Josh for anything that needed doing today but he was feeling bad and didn't have anything for us. On our way back to the trailers, we saw the delivery truck for the building materials for the kiosk that we are going to build pulling up. We showed the driver where it was to be dropped and then drove over to the state park to look at sites for the kids, who are coming over here this weekend.

After looking over the sites that are available, we came on back home. I called Jennifer to tell her what we had found, and she asked for a site that was near the restrooms and showers and reasonably dry. That's easy enough!

We just took it easy for the rest of the afternoon. It had turned out to be a beautiful day, so we had a nice happy hour sitting out in the pavilion. One more day down in the refuge...

So long.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday March 21, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It was still raining this morning when we woke up but it soon slacked off. Thank Goodness!! I know that we went through a drought last year but it's certainly over down here!

Since everything was wet, there wasn't much we could do around here, so we decided to ride over to Marshall with Todd and Sue to order some materials for building a kiosk here. Todd is the Master Carpenter around here and got permission to order the material to be delivered to the refuge.

The first thing on our agenda was to meet up with Mark, the refuge director, for lunch at the Cajun Tex restaurant. After a very tasty lunch, we went to the Cassity Jones lumber store and ordered the materials but they won't be in until tomorrow afternoon and delivered after that.

While in town, we stopped off at the Lowe's store and I bought a piece of plexiglass to cover the front screen door on the trailer. Todd and I later installed the piece of glass to keep a little dog off the screen. Cassie isn't too bad about it, but it won't take Tramp long to put his "marks" on the cover.

The other couple that was here, Ron and Linda, left this morning. They will be going to another location before returning to South Dakota to have the drivers licenses renewed and plan to return to Caddo again in the fall. Perhaps we will run into them again.

We sat out on the pavilion, enjoying the evening and great weather after the rain was through. Although we hadn't been very busy, it had been a full day for us. We all went over our routes that we have been over and our plans for the future. I'm sure that we'll see Todd and Sue again.

So long.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday March 20, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It began raining about 7 this morning and it has rained all day long. The day began with temps in the mid 70's but has dropped throughout the day. It's a chilly 55 right now and expected to drop a few more degrees before morning. More rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow but they've been wrong many times before, so we'll see.

Todd and I built a sign for Texas Parks and Wildlife today. They brought in some massive lumber and we got everything ready to put up. It was a lot of heavy work, but we got it done in about four hours. Since it was such a nasty day, we came on back home for the rest of the afternoon.

We went to the visitor center for happy hour with Ron and Linda for the last time. They will be leaving first thing in the morning but we had a nice time with them today. I doubt that I'll be up when they leave and I hope they have safe travels.

We got a large roll-off dumpster in this morning to clean out the Starr ranch house. We will get started on that chore within the next few days.

I was finally able to find out some information on the Starr family, owners of the ranch property here at the refuge. The Starr family invested heavily in real estate in Texas after the Civil War and at one time advertised "over one million acres in 90 counties. The ranch as well as other properties were donated to the State of Texas. I just knew that you were dying to learn more about them.

So long.

Monday March 19, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Another nice morning here, but we had to get into Marshall as early as we could this morning to have the truck looked at. The check engine light had come on but the gauges didn't show anything our of the ordinary.

I met a very helpful service writer who said he would get it checked out as soon as he could. About an hour later, he came in and told me that the truck needed an EGR (exhaust gas regeneration) sensor replaced and that they didn't have one in stock. He also found another couple of service issues that they could work on but I would have to pay for these repairs. We made an appointment to have the sensor shipped to our selling dealer in Tomball and to have the work done while we wait there on the Monday after we get back to Spring.

They did the needed service but when we were ready to leave, they told me that I would have to take the truck for a long ride on a freeway to cause a regeneration. Bottom line is, we spent most of the day in Marshall, once we went to the grocery store. Other than getting the truck serviced and buying groceries, it was a wasted day. At least I didn't have to take off work and be docked pay to get this done.

So long.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday March 18, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

We slept late this morning, 'til after 8 o'clock. Well, I say we, but I meant Stella. I had already been out to go unlock the gates a little before 7 but I came back home and drank some coffee and dozed in my chair until my snoring woke Tramp and he woke Stella. Cassie just looked up as if to say, "y'all go on but leave me alone".

We ate some breakfast and drank a couple of pots of coffee while I watched my car shows on Sunday morning. I used to watch these shows and I'd get all fired up about working on my cars and go outside and open the hood and look at all the wires and belts and hoses and realize that I didn't really know anything about these things any more. I'd just close the hood and come back inside and wait for next week's show so I could get all turned on about working on something again. Sometimes I'd wash the car or truck because that's all I can do any more.

We went out to ride four wheelers this afternoon. Todd and I had been talking about it for a few days, so today we went out and rode around. Stella and I rode on Big Red, a Honda side-by-side four wheeler. Todd and Sue rode on a Suzuki four wheeler that belongs to one of the foresters here at the refuge. We rode on the equestrian trails and removed a surprising number of fallen trees. This is something that the friends group here is supposed to do, but I guess they were having such a good time riding their horses, they couldn't climb down to move the trees. We saw plenty of evidence that the horse riders had been around, you know, tracks and such, but no trees had been moved. Thats okay, because we enjoyed our time outdoors. Stella let me forget my camera today, but I'll get some pictures another time and show you what we saw.

It was interesting to drive down some of the roads that we've not been on before. Its fun to see the remnants of buildings and try to imagine what went on there back when the Army was working around here. Then we went into a restricted area that is still controlled by the Army but please don't tell anyone! I'm sure that they monitor all these areas with hidden cameras and probably have a whole fleet of satellites floating around to record outlaws like us riding around in these restricted areas. There was probably some Army man somewhere peering at a computer screen, watching us ride around on four wheelers. Made me feel kind of naughty!

You know, today being Sunday, made me think of church. We haven't gone to church in a long time. Going to a funeral or to a child's program in church doesn't count. I mean going to church to listen to the preacher talk about hell and damnation. I haven't really missed the sermons as much as the singing. Yep, I miss hearing those old Baptist hymnal songs and I can still sing along with many of them. Or at least hum the tunes. I miss hearing the choir, even the old ladies that sang real loud and off tune. I mss the quartets that used to sing "Give Me That Old Time Religion" and so many others of the old songs.

No sir, I still talk to God, and tell him about the things I've seen and frequently ask him questions but I've felt for a long time that going to church all the time doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in the garage makes you a car. So much for me and my religious beliefs.

Maybe in a little while I'll go out and open the hood of my truck and look around. Its been a while since I've done that and the little check engine light came on the other day. Maybe I'll go look to see if I can figure out whats wrong with it, but I'll probably just take it to the Dodge dealer and let their computer tell us what needs to be done.

So long

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Saturday March 17, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Another very nice morning here in the forests of the National Wildlife Refuge. We had our coffee and got dressed to go visit my Aunt Janie and her husband Gail in Center TX. There was little traffic on the road and we made better time than we planned, so when we called Janie a little before 11AM, she told us to come over to her house and we would go to lunch from there. When we got to their beautiful home, we had a nice but short visit before going to the Center Country Club for lunch. There were a few cars and trucks in the club parking lot because of a golf tournament but we were the only ones in the restaurant. Sorry but I forgot to bring my camera.

After lunch we took a ride around town before going back to their house for leftover birthday cake and coffee. We had a nice long visit, sitting outside on the back porch and enjoying the nice afternoon. Janie let me play with her I-Pad but I'm still not convinced that we need one. I can see some uses for one but I think we have enough electronic gadgets right now. My mind could be changed, so if you've got $500 laying around you can buy me one and then I'll know if I can use one for sure...

So long.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Friday March 16, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Todd and I were still sore this morning, so we took it easy early in the day. Todd was the contact person for a large dumpster that was to be delivered today, so he had to stay either at the trailers or at the headquarters building so he would have telephone service. When he had not gotten the call by 11 o'clock, we drove down to the fire station to see what was going on. Upon arrival, we found that Josh had been busy building a platform for a new diesel fuel tank and we helped him get it put into the containment vessel and put into place under the storage shed.

We returned to the trailers and Todd finally made contact with the company that was to have delivered the dumpster and learned that it wouldn't be out until next week some time, so our waiting time this morning was wasted. Oh well, it's not like we are highly-paid government workers sitting around with nothing to do...

Todd and Sue decided to go to town to buy groceries and invited all of us over to the pavilion for hot dogs later in the evening. We had a nice time eating with our friends here

Another good night on the refuge.

So long.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday March 15, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Today Todd and I decided to mow. We went to the fire station and loaded the John Deere and a Kubota Zero-Turn onto one of the trailers for us to mow with and a weedeater to trim with. We are required to wear the orange and yellow safety vests, although most of our mowing was done away from any traffic, but it's a safety issue that outdoor workers must wear. At least we didn't have to wear a hard hat!

We mowed everything on the refuge except around the fire station. We even went down to the Starr ranch and mowed there in case anyone wants to go out there for a picnic. Come to think of it, they can use the boat ramp again, now that we've gotten enough rain to raise the level of the lake.

Mowing is tiring! It took us most of the day to get everything mowed and by the time we got through, both of us were tired and sore from riding the mowers. I still like the smell of fresh-mowed grass along with the wild onion and garlic that we cut. I don't like it enough to buy another house that must be mowed, but I still kind of enjoyed the work today.

We didn't have a happy hour today but we did sit outside drinking a cup of coffee before turning in.

So long.

Wednesday March 14, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Wednesday was a pretty slow day for work around here. I helped Todd make some signs for Texas Parks and Wildlife and I went down and helped Ron make a bench to go out at the Starr ranch for some of Linda's training that will be held there.

In the afternoon, Ron and I went into Marshall to pick up pizzas for a meeting. When we got back, we joined the others in eating the pizzas and I went down and helped Todd again with the TPWD signs.

We enjoy these slow days.

So long.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday March 13, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

We woke to nice temperatures again this morning. We have been sleeping with the windows open and the a/c off. It's nice to listen to the nighttime sounds-except for the train horns!

We were supposed to have helped with opening the covers over the weevil ponds that are behind our parking area but instead it was decided that we needed to add more water to the holding tanks that water the weevils. These weevils eat the Giant Salvinia plants in the lake but the treatment is still under study, so there is a new graduate of LSU that lives here and monitors the weevils. It took much of the morning to get a fire truck loaded with water due to mechanical difficulties but we finally were able to get it done.

We went into Marshall and got some propane tanks refilled. I knew that the refuge would pay for our tanks to be refilled but last week when we ran out of propane, there was no one here with a credit card, so I had to pay for our refills. The propane up here is cheaper than we've been paying, so it was still worth it to have them filled at our expense because we were completely out of propane and we were out of gas, so no heat and no using the oven or stove to cook.

We also went to the Lowe store and bought some supplies for other projects and went to another building supply center to get prices on some lumber for a project that Todd and I will work on next week.

We went to lunch with several of the refuge employees at the China Buffet. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best we've had either. The food didn't have a lot of taste and we won't go back there. We were all very full when we got back and I think everyone went home and napped for the afternoon. I know Stella and I did!

So long.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday March 12, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Today began a little chilly this morning but not too bad. We had breakfast and began our work day. I went to the office and talked to Gary for a bit and was soon joined by Todd. We all decided that it was too wet to mow and likely would be for several days. Gary told us that if there was nothing to do, then do nothing. What a concept! Rather than look for busywork, or hang around the office, getting in the way of those that do have something to do, go back home until something comes up.

We went to the fire hall, where we found Josh hard at work. He had come in early this morning to remove any down trees. He and John had found a few and had cut them up already. He had also found an email that had come in about the burning season, and was in the process of gathering data to respond to it. Since he hadn't given us any chores, we did as Gary suggested and came on back home.

Since it was almost lunch time, we got together on the pavilion for a short coffee get-together. Todd had made arrangements with the two Texas Parks and Wildlife techs that work here to go with them to look at some wood they had for a sign. After they picked out the wood to be used, they returned to the office to make the sign itself and he and I will build the wood frame in the next few days. We also plan to go to Marshall to order lumber for the kiosk project that we will begin soon.

It turned out to be a beautiful day and certainly warmed up! We have been able to leave the windows open on the trailer, but we will soon have to start using the air conditioner. It's better than the snow that is still on the ground at Todd and Sue's home in Michigan...

So long.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saturday and Sunday March 10 & 11th, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

We had a very quiet weekend here because we didn't have to do any work except open and close the gates. It rained for most of the weekend, so it was a good time to stay home.

Todd and Sue went into Marshall on Saturday to grocery shop and came back with a pie and cake which they shared with us at happy hour. For store-bought, they were pretty good. Sunday morning, we didn't wake up until 9 o'clock! Well, that's 9 o'clock on daylight saving time, but still even 8 o'clock is late for us to be getting up!

Man, when it rains up here, it RAINS! I bet that we got 3 inches of rain from Saturday night until Sunday afternoon when it finally stopped raining. Stella and I had a nice little ride through the refuge when I went out to lock the gates Sunday evening and didn't find any more trees down. Of course, we didn't get too much wind, but look out when we do. The ground is so soaked, it won't take much to topple them over. That will mean that we have to clear the road and if we can't move it, we would call in Josh who is the official equipment operator and together we would get it moved and cut up if necessary. It would be a lot of work if that happens. Ugh, work what a nasty word. Now I think I'll take a nap, just thinking about it...

So long.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday March 9, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Winter returned with the rain last night! At least it had stopped raining when I had to go unlock the gates this morning. It was cold and damp though...

Todd and I met at 8 to drive around the auto tour route to check for downed trees and found just one. The drought last summer has weakened or killed so many trees that just about every time we get rain and wind here some trees topple over. They are usually dead and easy to move, so it didn't take long to clean everything up. We ran into Josh coming in on our way back home and he said that he would be ready to clean the shop this afternoon. We told him that we would be back after lunch and get started.

We met Josh at 1 o'clock and began cleaning up the tool room. He had bought some bins to keep nuts and bolts in, so we sorted out the fasteners and put them into the bins. It took us about four hours to get everything done but it looks much better now.

We came on back home and had another quiet night. We sleep so much better out here without any city noises or lights. We're going to miss this place.

So long.

Thursday March 8, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It was cool again this morning, although it was warmer than it had been. I went down to the shop this morning to talk to Josh but no one was there yet. I went to the main office but no one was there either. Josh was supposed to have gotten some storage bins to put nuts and bolts into just to clean up the tool room but since no one was there, I didn't know if he had gotten them so I went back home. Stella and I took a ride around the auto tour route just to check on things. When we returned home, Todd was outside and said he had talked to Josh and that nothing had been bought yet, so we all decided to take a day off.

We ended up hanging around here for the rest of the day. I read some on my Kindle Fire while sitting up on the pavilion which attracted everyone to come up and sit with me. I guess you could say we had happy hour a little early.

Stella cut my hair for me later in the afternoon but soon after she got through it started to rain, just like the weatherman had predicted. Of course, he predicted rain all day long too, but we all know they've been wrong before...

It rained hard all night, making it miserable for me to go out and lock the gates. I was soaked when I got through but I got 'er dun! I drove carefully when making the security round because of the possibility of falling trees but none were found. As hard as it was raining, I'm not sure I'd have tried to move one anyway but at least I would have known about it tomorrow.

I got home and took off my wet clothes and put on some dry sweats and warmed right up! That fireplace sure felt good.

So long.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wednesday March 7, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Its starting to warm up here, only about 55 degrees this morning. I'll take it because they are predicting rain and cooler temps for the rest of the week and into the weekend. Bummer!

Ron asked me to help him on a project down at the Starr ranch this morning and I said I would be down there soon. Along the way, I ran into Josh who asked me to help erect the disabled sign on the new parking space that we had striped the other day, so I worked with him for an hour or so. The space looks all official now, with the sign up. I went down to help Ron when we got through and we finished up his project. I wanted to get some more mowing done today but it looked as if it was going to start raining, so I put it off to another time.

Stella did some work this afternoon in the activity center but I stayed home and kept the dogs company. They like it when we hang around with them. We met Ron and Linda for happy hour about 4:40 and had a nice visit with them.

About 9:30 Todd and Sue came back from their trip to New Orleans. We didn't go out to talk to them but I'm sure they had a good time. Pretty slow day here at the refuge.

So long.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tuesday March 6, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Another cold morning here at the refuge. We got a bit of a late start this morning but it was nice to be out and about. I took Stella over to the headquarters to put out some more maps of the auto tour route. We took a ride out to the Starr ranch and stopped off at the fire hall to check with Josh. I had told him that I would mow around the fire station and learned that he was about to start mowing the outside areas. I came back after lunch and mowed inside the fences. The mowing is pretty easy with the power equipment and I enjoyed it. I came on back home after a couple of hours of mowing to relax.

I later got a call from Beverly, the bird lady, who told me that sadly, the hawk that we had taken to her yesterday didn't make it through the night. She said that he had regurgitated a large amount of blood and apparently he had more severe internal injuries than we had realized. I still felt sad that he didn't live, but we gave him a better chance to recover than he would have had if we hadn't tried. Another hawk in the forest of Heaven.

So long.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Monday March 5, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Today began with cold temperatures early but again it warmed up nicely during the day. It seems much colder here than most of the other places we've been. It is also very quiet here with hardly any traffic noise. The trains, now thats a different story! We are the railroad tracks here and the crossing where they engineers have to blow their horn. I have been amazed at the difference in how long the horns blow. Some kind of "toot" their horn as they pass but others seem to blow their horn all the way through town. Maybe it just seems louder because there is little other noise, and I realize that they must blow the horn when they make a road crossing, but man, they are LOUD!!!

Ron and I decided to finish the project that we started last week, that of striping a handicap parking space at the headquarters parking lot. We had already done the preparation work, so today we got the striping done, and I must say it looks pretty good.

I took our tools back down to the shop and put them away and had a little chat with Josh, the fireman for the refuge. Josh also is in charge of the vehicle fleet and the maintenance of the equipment here at the refuge. He was working around the shop today, so I used the leaf blower that I had out to blow out some of the dirt and sawdust around the shop. It now looks a lot better! Ron came by as I was finishing up and said that Linda had asked him to get some trash picked up at the Starr ranch so we agreed to meet him down there after lunch. I got Stella out of the house and she helped us get the area cleaned up. Remember when I said it was cold this morning? It sure warmed up after lunch!

The big event of the day, and really of our stay here at the refuge was this afternoon. Ron got a call from headquarters that a hawk had been injured and found by a couple driving by. They had brought it here and we needed to get it to a lady that was licensed and registered in the care of wild birds. We soon had the bird loaded up into a makeshift carrier and were on our way to Lindale, about an hour and a half away. We made the trip without incident, although when we made a pit stop, I checked on the bird and noticed that he hadn't moved at all, very disturbing for a wild bird. We made it to her house and she took the bird in. She found no broken bones but his right eye was swollen shut and she suggested that he had probably flown into the side of a vehicle. I later learned that when he was found, he had a snake in his mouth, so it was likely that this is exactly what had happened. At any rate, we got him into care and hopefully he will make a full recovery. Since hawks mate for life, we figured that she was waiting back on the nest saying "I wonder where he is, he said he was going out hunting and would bring something back for us to eat". I will give the lady a call later and find out how he is doing and will let you know.

So long.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday March 4, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It was a cold 49 degrees this morning so we were rather slow in rising. It was nice to stay piled up in the bed and stay covered up, but we finally made it up. As soon as the sun came up over the trees, the temperatures rose and it became a nice day.

We decided to drive over to Jefferson, a small and historic town nearby. This is where we had gone a couple of weeks ago to the Mardi Gras parade but we had not been able to explore it for ourselves. Nearly every building and home on the main roads of Jefferson has a historical marker on it but weren't interested in these today. We drove around looking at the sights and noticed that there was a motorcycle rally being held in town today. No, it wasn't the Hell's Angels but a large group of middle age folks just out enjoying a very nice day. I saw a couple of the bikes with Patriot Guard signs on them. Patriot Guard members escort fallen heroes of the service when their bodies are returned from overseas.

We stopped off at The General Store and found a huge assortment of old style candies, locally made jellies and jams and other "tourist trap" style items to buy. We resisted the urge to buy and managed to get out without spending any money. We ate at Kit's Kornbread, as recommended by friends. This is a different type of restaurant and while very tasty, we found them pretty spendy for what you get. We're glad we went there but likely won't return. We got some pie to take home with us to share with our neighbors. Again, very tasty but high priced!

We came on back home and after taking the dogs out, we shared the pies that we had brought back with Todd and Sue over coffee. While sitting outside, we met a new worker here at the park, who will be working on the Giant Salvinia problem at Caddo Lake. It was interesting to talk to him so soon after taking the training on the invasive species that we got yesterday. We understood what he was talking about and probably wouldn't have before the training. He will be staying at the fire hall in the dorms there.

Todd and Sue are leaving tomorrow for a vacation in New Orleans. Todd does most of the carpentry here and works very hard, much harder than I want to do. When I retired, I vowed to not work very hard again and am trying very hard to live up to my promise. So far, it's working...

So long.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saturday March 3, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

We woke this morning to another nice morning. It was cool but dry and the day turned beautifully. We all met at the headquarters building for Texas Parks and Wildlife's Vanessa to give us a class on Invasive Species which includes both plants and animals. We learned that an invasive species is one that is not native to Texas and tends to eliminate or hinder naturally occurring plants and animals. One, the giant Salvinia is being fought by TPWD here at Caddo Lake. Read more about it HERE. We also learned about other species that are considered to be invasive. Did you know that the common chickweed, dandelion, perriwinkle and water hyacinth are considered invasive? Other common plants are: camphor tree, chinaberry tree, Chinese Tallow tree, Chinese Privet, Chinese wisteria, elephant ears, several species of bamboo trees, Pampas grass, salt cedar, mimosa, and many others that we commonly see. Check out the invasives website for more.

After the class, we got fed a good meal of pizza and then they put us to work. A local artist had gone out to one of the large concrete magazines that once housed munitions when this was a working ammunition plant and had drawn several invasives on the walls. We colored the drawings in and some day, they may clean up the magazines and permanently paint them with these.

Here us everyone getting ready to begin coloring the invasives on the walls. You can see a bit of color that is already there.

Here are several of the people coloring on the walls. Stella, walking behind everyone that is working, became very defensive when I told her that I had taken several pictures of her walking around when the others were working. I only call 'em like I see 'em... just sayin'

Some of the finished drawings. They turned out pretty well if I do say so. It still seems kind of silly to me, but we got some good training and will get a certificate from the state.

Stella and Sue hard at work! Let that be a lesson to me.

The Crew: Vanessa, Linda, Ron, Sue, Todd, Stella and me. It was a nice day and we all had fun.

We went for a ride down to the Starr Ranch. This property was owned by the Starr family and was their weekend home. It sits right on Caddo Lake and I'm sure that in it's day, it was a fine place. I'm not sure if the Starr family once owned some of the land where the Longhorn Army ammunition plant was or if the army just bought out the Starr family's property. I searched for information on the Starr family but couldn't find anything on them or their ranch.

This is a close-up of the ranch house. The white building was the kitchen, but it is in really bad condition and should be demolished. I'm told that this is the plan.

The back side of the house shows the cistern which is on the back side of the house and just above the small enclosure for the water heater. Also seen sticking out of the back window of the kitchen is an air conditioning unit. They did have some amenities, with a full bathroom in the main house.

I'm told that the plans are to demolish the kitchen building and then repair the main house as a sleeping area for scout groups. Someone stole the large cedar mantle over the fireplace but it can be replaced.

The north east section of Caddo Lake, the only natural lake in Texas.

One of the large cypress trees out in the middle of the lake. There are many more at the state park that is nearby.

Will is going to get some fishing in this afternoon. Will is an intern that is staying here at the refuge.

Here are some of the signs that the Boy Scouts put up a couple of weeks ago. They did a really good job.

We came back home and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Well. to be honest, Stella went over to the education center and washed our clothes while the dogs and I relaxed...

So long.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday March 2, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It was pretty nice this morning, having warmed up. It was a nice morning, so I took the dogs out for their morning walks. I came back home and talked to Todd about what we needed to do today. He said that there was still a chance of rain, so we might not be able to get the parking lot painting done, but they had decided to erect the new equestrian trail signs that we had worked on earlier in the week.

We went down to the fire hall to get the signs and load up all the tools needed to get it put up. Josh had gotten the Bobcat out to dig the post holes, so we all went up to the front of the refuge where the signs would go. I didn't bring my camera but will post some photos. Let me tell you, having the proper tools makes the work easy. It only took a couple of hours to put the signs together and get them put up. I was really impressed!

We all came back home for lunch and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. We were all tired, so we all just hung out all afternoon. Todd and Ron rode down to the fire hall to look at a new containment vessel for a fuel tank that had just come in.

We all met back on the pavilion for happy hour. Stella made some of her delicious apple dumplings and everyone loved them. There was a man named Tom Walker over to see Linda to help her with some of her educational program, and he came to our happy hour also. Another good day at the refuge.

So long.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday March 1, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

It felt very cold this morning, but it was just 50 degrees outside. I was nice and warm and snug under my blanket when I woke and dreaded getting up, but when I did, it was much warmer than I thought. The coffee was made, so the day had started!

Around nine, I heard Todd leaving for Broken Bow Oklahoma to pick up a new trailer with John, the forester here at the refuge. I didn't think they'd be gone too long, but Ron and I got together and decided to start the restriping of the parking area at the headquarters building. After a bit of misinformation, we got started. There was a lot of dirt in the parking area and we began by trying to get it out with a shovel, but soon realized that we couldn't get in between the rocks to remove the packed down dirt, so I got a heavy bristle broom to try. That was better, but it soon became apparent that we would need more power and decided to use the power washer to blow it out. There was no water available nearby, so we called Josh to see if he would bring the fire truck over and he said he would be back after lunch. We knocked off for lunch and met back at 1 o'clock with Josh and the fire truck. That did the trick, and we soon had it all cleaned up but now we had to wait for the water to dry so we could paint. I've never seen water dry so slowly! It didn't get done by the time we quit working for the day, and I checked it again when closing the gates and there was still a couple of small puddles. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

We got together with everyone again about 5 for a happy hour. We sat around visiting with our friends until Stella and I had to leave to lock the gates and make a round through the park. Another day down!

So long.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wednesday February 29, 2012-Caddo Lake NWR

Happy Leap Year!!

It was nice again this morning and I decided that I had done enough yesterday, so I decided to take today off. After all, this is a retirement job, not something I really have to work for. I went outside a little before 9 to enjoy the morning and saw Linda sitting outside. I went over and chatted with her and Ron for awhile and learned that they hadn't planned to do much today either. Then on my way back home, I saw Todd and he was also taking off, so it was unanimous that all the volunteers were off today.

Stella and I decided to drive over to Marshall to buy some groceries and other stuff that we needed. I decided that I needed another pair of blue jeans, so we went to the JC Penney store and bought a pair. It began to rain while we were in the store, so we were delayed for a bit, waiting for the rain to slack up. We went to the Wal Mart and bought some Nehi peach flavored soft drinks. We found these because they have some in the refrigerator in the fire hall, and we both loved the taste, so I found out where they were sold and we bought some of our own. We got our groceries bought and came on back to the refuge. The rain had stopped and it turned out to be a nice afternoon. We went over to the pavilion for happy hour and visited with the other volunteers. I learned that Todd had gone over and gotten one of the riding mowers out and had started cutting the grass around the headquarters building but the rain storm had chased him back inside. It will get finished later.

On a more somber note, I learned this morning that Kevin Sullivan, a fellow Heartland owner and full time RV'er, passed away last night unexpectedly. I didn't really know Kevin that well but had met him at one of the national rallies. It's just a reminder that life is short, and we should all be thankful for the days that we have. We are enjoying our lifestyle choice and I hope that you will join me in a moment of prayer for Kevin and his wife Arlene.

So long.