Gypsy's Travels

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


When I first started this blog I wondered what I would find to write about everyday, but things just appear and beg to be noticed. For instance, today's "Austin American Statesman" carried a story on the front page about pickle sickles. Some enterprising person used the juice from the big 5-gallon pails of dill pickles, to make pickle sickles. He says he has a "proprietary method" of preparing them, then he freezes the juice in plastic wrappers and sells it. I applaud his vision!

A few years ago, and still popular in places now, vinegar was touted as the new-age cure-all.

Over the centuries, vinegar has been used in a variety of ways, including as
a beverage and a preservative. Hippocrates praised vinegar for what he
considered its medicinal qualities. Vinegar has been used to treat wounds,
rashes and bites. Vinegar is quite handy around the house as well. This liquid
can be used to remove laundry stains, to set colors when dyeing clothing, to
clean the oven and even to brighten stainless steel.

I wonder if someone will do a study to determine if we should all be eating pickle sickles and I wonder about the salt content.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Marvin Zindler

Marvin Zindler passed away on Sunday.

Marvin was one-of-a-kind, even in the news world. I first saw him on a Houston news program after we moved back to the U.S. in August 1973. Apparently, he had just become a newscaster a month earlier. He dogged his story incessantly and I kept wondering why a ranch that raised chickens was cornering so much of the news. Eventually it became clear that the "Chicken Ranch" had nothing to do with chickens.

When the play, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," was presented, I obtained tickets. It was so difficult for me to say "that word," that I just asked for the tickets to the play about the chicken ranch. The ticket vendor smiled knowingly. The play was wonderful, but the movie by the same name was not.

While visiting at my child's school one day, I introduced myself to another mother in attendance. During the course of the conversation, the Zindler name came up. I asked her if she were constantly being asked if she were related to Marvin Zindler. She replied that she was his daughter. She was very nice and we laughed about several experiences she had endured.

Marvin was a showman of the old school. I never met him personally, but he came across the TV screen as a sincere and interested individual. His report was always the highlight of the newscast for me. Of course, it was always interesting to see how he changed in appearance over time. He made no bones about the multiple plastic surgeries he had had.

We'll miss Marvin. I wonder if there will ever be another even remotely like him.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Travail at Greune

For several years, my middle brother, J, and his wife, N, organized an annual camping trip to the Guadalupe River just upstream from Greune (pronounced Green), Texas. Various members of our families would show up at various times for the day or overnight or the weekend. It was a wonderfully flexible time. Some of us camped in trailers or tents, and some stayed in (shudder) local motels.There was always plenty to do and J was sure to have a raft and / or canoe and some inner tubes. Our last gathering there was several years ago. The water in the river ran high after the previous weeks' rains so it appeared calmer than when the river fought with the rocks on its journey south. As usual, we were ferried up stream with our raft where we would put in and float down to our campsite. The swollen river provided an easier and faster journey than usual so several of us chose to continue rafting downstream. The raft was one of those large, grey ones from a military surplus store and provided plenty of room for the 5 of us, J, N, 2 young children (about 7 years old) and me. The trip downstream from the campsite was a lazy ride on a slowly moving body of water that offered few obstacles.

We were a little lazy as we floated downstream, allowing the river to carry us along. There were no rapids to add excitement and we began to understand why this part of the river was not as popular for rafting as the upper part. About an hour into our extended journey, the pace of the river picked up and we began to see people along the banks. They were shouting and waving, so we waved back. They tried to yell something to us but we couldn't hear what they were saying. They seemed very friendly.
Suddenly J shouted, "PADDLE HARD!"

We had just rounded a bend and were faced with a bridge across the water in front of us. We all paddled as hard as we could but the raft was in a current that carried it mercilessly forward even as we reached the edge of the current. Thanks to the recent rains, the usual 18" clearance under the 100 year old bridge, had been reduced to about 3"! People on the bridge above us were shouting and reaching down to us. J, N, and I braced our feet against the bridge and stiffened our legs, but we could feel the relentless power of the river's current pushing against us from behind. We watched as the 2 children were pulled to safety onto the bridge then the river won the battle with the raft. The raft overturned and was swept under the bridge dumping N and me out in the water's fury. I went under water, still clutching my paddle. I surfaced below the bridge, beneath the raft, with no air space. My immediate thought was that I was about to die and I felt sorry I could not say goodbye to my family. It was an eerie feeling to be below the surface of the water with a strong current and no sound, knowing I was in my final moments.

Much to my surprise, I surfaced on the other side of the bridge, still clutching my paddle and being swept along by a stiff current. I saw a man in the water extend his hand to me and I tried to reach him, but he was standing in still water and I was being swept away. My paddle was torn from my hand and I turned to see it floating swiftly away, around a small bend, folowing the angry river. I also saw strong trees to the other side of me and I managed to make it to one of them. A hand reached down to me and helped me out of the deeper water . I wrapped my arms around the tree and held on tightly saying a small prayer. The helping hand belonged to my sister-in-law who was clutching the other side of the same tree.
When my brother arrived, he tried to talk us into letting go of the tree, but it took both of us a long time to gain the confidence to let go and wade across the remaining water to safety. J had managed to step to the bridge just before the raft went under, only getting one leg wet. Both children had been pulled onto the bridge and were not only safe, but dry as well. N and I were soaked.

Apparently, being swept under the bridge is not too unusual an occurence. My mother bought T-shirts for N and me that announced "I survived Gruene Bridge." Recently, a man was not as fortunate as N and I. He was caught in debris under the bridge and drowned.

The bridge at Greune is an historic structure built in 1909. It is understandable that the citizens want to keep it even though it is narrow and is frequently blocked by high water. Since 1997, there have been attempts to make changes, but the Texas Historical Commission says removing the bridge will have a “detrimental” effect on the Gruene Historical District. TXDOT engineers say safety is the number one issue.
I wonder who will prevail.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Chiggers and Scorpions

I was so involved in getting the grapes from the greenbelt area, that I didn't even think about the chiggers. Now I itch! Maybe those were the "itchies" A was referencing.
The last time I dabbled in the greenbelt, I got poison ivy. Poison ivy is worse than chiggers and lasts longer.

We don't really have too many vile outdoor pests here in Texas. Chiggers, poison ivy, stinging grass, rattlesnakes, black widows, brown recluse. Those are the worst ones; stinging grass being the least of that lot. When I first moved here, I was working in the local ER at triage one day. An almost hysterical woman came in complaining of a sting by a scorpion. I rushed her back to see the doctor who looked at the swollen finger the woman displayed. Then he looked at her, then at me.
"Scorpion stings are not life threatening unless the patient is in anaphylactic shock," he explained with a repressed laugh.
Well, how was I to know? I looked it up on the internet just make sure he knew what he was talking about. It was true, the dreaded scorpion had been getting a bad rap from my family for years. However, the bark scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda or sculpturatus), which is found in Arizona and New Mexico and on the California side of the Colorado River, has a potentially lethal sting.
Anyway, I was glad I had the information. Sometime later I was stung and knew immediately what it was. The pain was terribly intense. I used my usual folk remedy for insect stings (meat tenderizer mixed with a just enough water to make a paste) with almost instantaneous relief.

We found a scorpion when visiting my parents in Oklahoma one time. DH killed it and I told my mother.
"Be careful, they travel in pairs," she warned.
DH and I got no sleep that night. We kept getting up, turning on the light, and looking for the mate of the murdered arthropod.
Sometimes I wonder where my mother gets her information.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grapes, Tomatoes, and Okra

I have about 3 gallons of grape juice in my fridge! I stewed all those grapes, in two different batches, last night, strained them, and refrigerated the juice. E had been begging me to add some sugar to some juice for her to drink, so I tried it. There was only a small amount of juice and it must have taken an equal amount of sugar to make it palatable. She was excited that it worked. Fancy that, grape juice does not just come in a box that has a straw attached to the side.

I stopped by my plot in the community garden on the way home from running errands. This community garden has been built from the ground up by peolple who live here in Sun City Texas. In case you don't know, Sun City Texas is a retirement community. The word "retirement" is relative. This is one of the most active communities I have ever seen. Most of the gardeners prefer the word "bed" to "plot", but that might be because they are closer to one than the other.
Anyway, my plot is growing very well. At least the okra is almost as high as the proverbial elephant's eye. Not too much okra, but there are some fantastic plants. I had hoped that planting tomatoes in the center and okra around would shield the tomatoes from some of the sun. The okra is doing its job too well. I planted tomatoes 3 times! The first planting was started from common seed from a package, carefully tended in a starter pan but the late freeze got it. The second planting was, again, culivated with loving care in the starter pan with special heritage tomato seeds. I was really looking forward to growing some of these and taste-testing them. Unfortunately, I rushed them into the open ground too soon because I was leaving town and was afraid they wouldn't survive my absence. They didn't survive it anyway. My third attempt has produced fruit, though it is not ripe yet. These plants were bought from the local Wal-mart for $2.99 each. I wonder if I would have a plethora of tomatoes if I had planted these in the first place.
My original plan called for tomatoes in cages in the middle of the plot with cucumbers vining up the sides of the cages. These would be surrounded by the okra and, underneath it all, zuchinni plants.I have been trimming dinner-plate size okra leaves to let the sun shine in.

Every year I promise myself I won't plant tomatoes because I seldom have a harvest and certainly don't have enough harvest to justify my time and effort. Every year I plant them anyway. I wonder if it is the farming blood that runs in my veins from that long line of obscure farmers I research.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nature's Bounty

Two of my grandchildren wandered out in the greenbelt yesterday and brought back a bunch of dark, juicy grapes.
"Are these poisonous?" they asked excitedly.
I looked them over carefully, tasted one, and pronounced them fit for human consumption.
Wild Mustang Grapes and their vines are highly acidic and generally so sour they are inedible, but they make wonderful jelly. Surprisingly, these grapes were quite sweet with a hint of plum-like tartness to their peel. They were fully bursting with juice as opposed to the rather small ones we usually find. Guess there are some advantages to so much rain.

The three of us went out to harvest the serendipitous find. 9 year-old E ended up back in the house a short time later, but 6 year- old A stayed with me and helped. I had to retrieve a ladder to get up high enough to harvest the big bunches, not an easy task on uneven terrain. Mustang grapes have some sort of must or hair that is very irritating to the skin so, even with gloves, we had what A called "the itchies."

Having cut long vines bearing several bunches of grapes, I was faced with separating the bunches from the vines. Later I rinsed the grapes and divested them of their stems, trying to maintain the integrity of the fragile grape itself. My hands were really stinging by then. Now I just have to extract the juice from the resulting 4-5 gallons of fruit and save it for wine and jelly.

I am so delighted that my grandchildren are developing an interest in the land and its bounty and especially that they know they can come to me and find I share their interest. I wonder if, when I am old and decrepit, they will present me with a jar of jelly made from wild fruit they have gathered and the shared memory won't even require words.

Why Wander and Wonder

It is time to step up to the 21st Century. I have decided to join in the blogging craze, so we'll see how it goes. My aim is to have a newsy blog even though it may be of interest only to me and those who know me. Still, it is a way to begin. Thoughts will be random, like having someone here to talk to. I would welcome comments, exchanges, and ideas. Don't be shy. I am new to all this so don't be too judgemental.

The title of this blog is based on a song I learned while working with Girl Scouts. It was reinforced on a mission trip to Honduras. I was wandering around town during some free time and discovered a fellow traveler in a local pool hall talking to the locals. Why, I wondered, did he choose that place to meet people. When I questioned him, he told me it was because of his grandfather.
"Your grandfather?" I asked.
"My grandfather taught me to never pass an open door without looking to see inside, to talk to people, to learn about their lives. When I tagged along with him as a boy, he always stopped to talk to everyone. Now I try to do the same."
Much as I do, I mused, but he is consciously making an effort whereas I am shyer about these things. Of course, voyerism is not what anyone is advocating!

the denver art museum a new beginning
Crowds wander in wonder

I wonder what my friend's grandfather would think about the lasting influence he had on his grandson's life.