Minimalist Challenge, Puttin’ on the Ritz Day 26

Last night Studly Doright and I were watching the University of Kansas basketball team play Texas Tech for the Big 12 championship on television. It was a great, too-close-for-comfort game, and Studly worked up a powerful hunger while cheering for the Jayhawks.

Late in the second half he asked, “Do we have any snacks? I feel like I need to eat something if we’re going to win this game.”

Rather than throwing something at him or telling him to get his own damned snack I hoisted myself out of my chair and went in search of some munchies. The first likely snacks I came upon were several boxes of Ritz cheese crackers and a few more of the peanut butter version.

We don’t normally keep these on hand, but I recalled buying them in preparation for hurricane survival last summer. There’s nothing like a Ritz cracker to see you through the dark times, am I right?

Before asking Studly if the crackers would fill the bill for his snack I thought to check the expiration dates. November 17, 2017, was stamped on each box. So while they didn’t get to fulfill their destiny as snacks, the crackers were pressed into service for today’s minimalist challenge.

Twenty-three packages of Ritz crackers plus three of the boxes in which they were stored makes a total of 26 items for February 26.

I found Studly another snack, and the resulting energy revived him enough to power the Jayhawks through to a two-point victory over the Red Raiders and KU’s 14th straight conference championship. I doubt they’ll publicly thank us, though.

Swing into Spring

In my junior year of school at Floydada High, I took Distributive Education (DECA) classes. Even though I planned on attending college, I needed to earn some money, and these courses allowed me to work for a couple of hours each afternoon. In retrospect I wish I’d gone the purely academic route, but I didn’t have a great deal of career guidance coming my way. In the end it all worked out okay, I suppose.

DECA was interesting, though. We learned a variety of things about working in retail businesses, including how to display goods and market them to the consumer. Our teacher, Mr. S, was rather limited in his understanding of marketing strategies, but that didn’t keep him from trying. I remember one lesson in which we were to come up with an advertising slogan to promote a product.

The only slogan Mr. S could come up with as an example was “Swing into Spring!” Given that we lived in the Texas panhandle this sounded a great deal more like “Swang into Sprang,” and every time he said it I’d dissolve in a fit of giggles.

Mr. S was not amused. In fact, he threatened to send me to the office if I couldn’t stop laughing. Of course that made it worse, and I ended up trying to explain to the principal that I wasn’t being disrespectful to Mr. S. Apparently the principal wasn’t amused either, but rather than calling my parents to report my transgression he allowed me to stay in his office until it was time for me to report to my DECA related job, the better to compose myself before I found myself in the presence of Mr. S again. As punishments went, it was pretty sweet.

Ironically, just a few short days after my trip to the principal’s office I received a note to call my mom during DECA class. We didn’t have cell phones, kiddies. This was back in the dark ages. The only phone available to students was in the main office.

All the way there I imagined I could hear the other shoe dropping. Somehow, I figured Mom had learned of my previous transgression and was going to read me the riot act followed by a few weeks of grounding. I’d had a feeling I’d gotten off too lightly from the start.

Instead Mom had called to tell me that my dad had been offered a job in another town and that we’d be moving before school’s end. I was supposed to begin wrapping things up. Man, how I wished she’d been calling to ground me instead.

I returned to class sobbing. My friends gathered ’round to console me, but I could tell Mr. S was feeling pretty smug–he figured I’d gotten further punishment, as well. He looked a little less smug as my story unfolded, but was probably relieved that I’d be out of his hair.

The joke was on him, though. In the end my folks arranged for me to live with my maternal grandparents to finish out the school year in Floydada. I still wasn’t happy about leaving my friends and the only schools I’d ever attended in my last year, but it was a workable compromise. Plus, I met Studly Doright in the new town, so that was a positive.

And the next time I got the giggles over “Swang into Sprang” again, Mr. S let it go. I guess he figured I’d had punishment enough.

Barely Bearing Up

I used to be a hardier person. At least that’s the story I tell myself. It’s become more difficult to believe, though, as I find myself whining about the less than balmy weather we’ve had in Tallahassee these past couple of weeks. Some days we barely climbed above 40°!

When Studly Doright, and I, along with our two kids, lived in North Dakota we went entire months without seeing temperatures above 30°F. I drove daily on icy roads, supervised playground duty in sub-zero weather with three feet of snow on the ground, and went about my business even with blustery winds gusting at fifty miles per hour. And those were the more temperate winter days! Somehow, we adapted.

Neither of us were accustomed to long term cold, having grown up in the panhandle of Texas. We knew brief periods of winter that often were replaced by spring-like weather, within a space of six hours. I can remember mornings that school was cancelled due to snow that found us playing outside sans coats by 3 pm.

I’m rambling, I know. It’s this darned cold weather to blame. I’m barely bearing up under these conditions. My feet have forgotten how to wear flip flops and will require remedial instruction once the temps begin to rise once more. That’ll most likely be next week. And, as God is my witness, we will rise again.

The Best First

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately for those early days of my relationship with Studly Doright. I don’t know if it’s because we’re both in our sixties now, or because our oldest grandkids are near the ages we were when we first fell in love, but something has me in a mood to reflect on how this whole thing started.

We’d begun dating not long after I moved to Dumas in my senior year of high school. Studly worked as a stocker, keeping groceries lined up on grocery shelves at the local Piggly Wiggly, and as a sacker who efficiently packed shoppers’ purchases into bags and then carried those bags to their cars. My dad was his boss and even before I began dating Studly, Daddy would comment on his superior work ethic.

“That Noyes kid works circles around the rest of my crew,” he’d say. (FYI, Studly Doright sometimes answers to the name David Noyes, but don’t tell anyone.) Coming from my dad that was high praise and most likely impacted my feelings for Studly even before I’d gotten to know him.

Our first date was to the homecoming football game in 1974. I can’t remember who our team, the Dumas Demons, played that night, or even if we won. I just recall how comfortable I was with this boy, and that was not the norm for the awkward kid that was me.

When he walked me to the door after the game and kissed me goodnight I knew I was a goner, so perfect was that kiss. Once inside the little house my family was renting I shut the front door and leaned back against it. My mom had been waiting up for me and gave me this look.

“Oh, Mom,” I said. “I think I’m in love.”

I didn’t say those words to Studly until that Christmas, though, and not until after he’d said them to me first. My family had returned to our hometown of Floydada, Texas, to spend the holidays with family. For nearly a week Studly and I had to endure being apart. I’m sure I mooned around like a lovesick puppy, and from accounts from friends, so did he.

As soon as we were reunited he took me to our favorite parking spot in his ’66 Plymouth. We were a little awkwardly sweet at first. His motorcycle helmet was in the seat beside me, and as a goof I put it on. Underneath the protective layer of that helmet I said, “I missed you a lot.”

Studly replied that he’d missed me, too.

“I might like you a little,” I confessed.

“I think I might love you,” he responded.

“Oh! I love you, too,” I said. We most likely kissed after that. I forget.

We’ve been married more than 41 years now. We’ve had some epic fights over four decades. We’ve hurt each other’s feelings and done incredibly stupid things, but on some level we’re still those two teenagers, sitting in that old blue Plymouth shyly declaring our love for each other. Every single day.

Searching for the Real Deal

I was perhaps four years old. Surely too young to have this memory of walking from store to store in downtown Lubbock, Texas, on a cold and blustery December day. My hands can still recall the feeling of being snuggled into a white, fake fur muff. Someone, probably my Grandaddy, thought I was special enough to have this beautiful hand warmer. It was a wondrous thing. As soft on the inside as on the outside. I wish I still had it. Of course at my age I’d only be able to fit one hand inside the one I had back then.

(Above, a muff similar to the one I once owned.)

At any rate I recall the vibrancy of this particular day: Happy shoppers clogging the sidewalks in the midst of tall buildings, Christmas music emanating from every store, stopping for hot chocolate with my mommy at a drugstore, and all of a sudden wondering why there were Santas everywhere. How could this be? I was four, but even I knew there was just one Santa Claus. I’d sat in Santa’s lap inside one department store, so how could I be seeing him again in the store next door? I was no mathematical prodigy, but dang, it was pretty obvious that something fishy was going on.

“Mommy?” I asked. “How did Santa get from Hemphill-Wells to Montgomery Ward so fast?”

“He’s magic,” Mom said.

I thought a bit and reckoned that must be so, especially since Santa had a history of popping down chimneys with a sack full of toys he’d carried around with him in a flying sleigh pulled by eight miniature reindeer. Still, by the time we reached the end of one block I’d counted at least five Santas. And, none of them looked the same. A couple of them were skinny and one had an obviously fake beard. I could see the elastic he used to keep it in place.

So, I broached the subject again. “Mommy, why are all the Santas different?”

“Well, you see, Santa has to have helpers. He’s up at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas.”

“So none of these Santas are real?”

“I think maybe Santa does stop by some stores, just to make sure his helpers are doing a good job.”

From then until I learned the truth about Santa Claus I became fairly obsessed with discerning whether the Santa I visited with at Christmas time was indeed the real deal or just a hired hand. It became my quest to find THE Santa. A couple of times I was fairly certain I’d found the one.

After every visit with a department store Santa my brothers and I would debate that one’s credentials. Of course the boys looked to me for wisdom, (I’m pretty sure that’s still the case, they just won’t admit it) so I’d say, “That seemed like the real Santa! Did you see his twinkling eyes?” or “That one was just a helper, I think. I could see his real hair under his hat.” I don’t remember there being much debate; although, my brothers might have different memories.

Wouldn’t it be lovely for just one week to experience the wonder of Santa as a child? Not through the eyes of a child but as one? The wonder and magic, the anticipation! Ah! I wonder if anyone would hire me as a Santa detector? I think I have a knack for it.

(Below is a photo of the old Hemphill Wells store in downtown Lubbock.)

Peace, people.

Tumbling Tumbleweed

I’d forgotten how huge tumbleweeds can be. The one pictured above tumbled into my mother-in-law’s front yard on Thursday morning much to the delight of my grandchildren.

Imagine hitting one of these beauties while navigating the lonely two lane roads in the Texas panhandle. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

The tumbleweed is the dried form of Russian thistle, a plant common to the plains states and immortalized in a song by the Sons of the Pioneers. I added a link to the song, below. Enjoy!

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Sons of the Pioneers


See them tumbling down

Pledging their love to the ground!

Lonely, but free, I’ll be found

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

Cares of the past are behind

Nowhere to go, but I’ll find

Just where the trail will wind

Drifting along with the tumblin’ tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone

That a new world’s born at dawn!

I’ll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart is a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone

That a new world’s born at dawn!

I’ll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart is a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

Texas Tech Connection

I didn’t attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, but a good many of my childhood friends are alumni of that institution. I grew up about 60 miles from Lubbock, and we followed the Red Raiders religiously. In fact, for my 16th birthday gift all I asked for was a date with my daddy to a Red Raiders football game. That date remains one of my best memories of all time.

Today I drove into Tallahassee for a solo lunch while Studly played golf. I was in line to order at Firehouse Subs when I realized the guy in front of me had on a red polo shirt with Texas Tech stitched on the back of the shirt in black. I did a double take and then tapped him on the shoulder.

“I like your shirt,” I said. “What’s your connection to Tech?”

Well that started a whole conversation with the man, his wife, and kids. They live in Alabama now, but he and his wife met at Texas Tech and are still rabid fans. They invited me to sit with them for lunch and I had such a great time. We threw out names of people from the Lubbock area, but never found anyone we knew in common. They both knew where my hometown of Floydada was which made me grin like an idiot.

The family was headed to DisneyWorld in Orlando, and as soon as we finished our lunch I wished them safe travels and we went our separate ways. That little connection made my day, though. Is that weird? Am I that desperate for conversation?

Discuss and talk to me. Apparently I need to connect.

Peace, people!

Last Minute Adventure

Studly Doright has several hobbies: golf, motorcycles, and trading vehicles, among others. Several months ago he sold his pickup truck and bought a sports sedan. I knew, though, that it wouldn’t be long before the call of the wild—namely the need for another pickup—sounded in his ears. I even made a prediction that he’d have a new pickup before this year ended.

So, a couple of nights ago when Studly turned to me and asked, “If I bought a new pickup would you fly to Houston and drive it home?” I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Until I realized he’d asked me to go pick the truck up.

“Sure!” I said, happy to have a new adventure. We bought a plane ticket and I’ll leave on Friday afternoon.

Now, I have feelings of trepidation. The truck has a manual transmission, and while I have owned several vehicles with a stick shift, it’s been awhile. Also, I’ll be driving in Houston, the fourth largest city in the country. Great place to renew my acquaintance with a manual transmission vehicle.

In addition, I’m going to have to find a way to the car dealership from the airport. Uber? Lyft? I’ve never downloaded the apps and I’m not sure how they work. I guess I’ll have to learn quickly.

Did I mention I adore adventures, and that there’s an excellent outlet mall near Gulfport, Mississippi that’s calling my name? Wish me luck, good weather, and a few dollars to spend at the mall.

Peace, people!

Oh, So Young!

This photo of Studly Doright and me literally fell into my lap on Thursday night. I opened a binder and out it tumbled, crudely cropped and slightly faded.

I love this picture so much. It was taken in the spring of 1975 on the night of our junior-senior prom. My mother made the dress, and I felt so pretty in it. Puffy sleeves had that effect on me. Plus, I was so in love I could hardly stand it.

Studly had better hair than I did. At least nowadays I’m ahead of him in that category. You see, I still have hair. I hope I didn’t just say that out loud—he’s sitting right here!

Note the harvest gold pole lamp that almost appears as an appendage on my back. The lamp is an indication that the photo was taken inside my family’s home because Mom was really into harvest gold. Our fridge, stove, washer and dryer were all of the same hue.

I wish I could relive that night one more time, to feel that young and pretty and carefree again. Guess I’ll settle for the next best thing, and kiss this bald guy goodnight. Puffy sleeves might help, too.

Peace, people!

Granddaddy’s Gas Station

I grew up in a Fina gas station owned by my granddaddy. My days smelled of petroleum and cigars,

No wonder I’m a little on edge all of my days. When the world is combustible with the errant flick of an ash,

Everything becomes precious to a precocious five year old. Grandaddy kept candy and red fuses in a glass counter display.

I had the run of the place, but was cautioned about dashing about and around the old pumps, lest someone

Run me over. Pretty heady stuff for a little girl who only wanted to ask, “Premium or Ethyl?” as she washed grimy windshields.

My heart is all tied up in that place. Bound by diligence and the smell of Grandaddy’s Old Spice. The strength of his hugs.