Sunday, April 29, 2007

Keeping an Eye To Our North

As you know most of the seismic survey work has been completed in the lower parts of the Laguna Madre within sight of Port Isabel, Laguna Vista, and South Padre Island. Most of the work is now further to the north, past the Cullen House, which is about Marker 113 on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). We are asking that people heading that way to be on the lookout for any signs of heavy oil and gas activities such as drill barges, material barges, jack-up rigs, dredges, and related heavy equipment. Not only is this area legendary for holding large redfish but is also in the general vicinity of the bird rookery islands and where over 40 stranded turtles were found in the January winter storm. Please bring a camera and binoculars and record positions to the closest ICW marker. We appreciate having any information from this more remote area and thank you for your assistance in this matter. If suspicious activity is seen please call:

Sam Wells 956-772-1470
Nicki Cone - 956-943-7976
Ann Smith 956-772-1948

Friday, April 27, 2007

Mr. Sam's Neighborhood

It's a slow Friday here on Oleander Street ... well except that my nose is running like the devil from all the allergies, that is. But things are looking up. The picture shows some good signs as far as getting rid of the old construction barricades and putting in some planters. A committee I'm on came up with the idea and you know, this committee has been trying since 1998 to beautify the bayside street endings ... what's that, like almost ten years? Soon the planters, really concrete sewer pipe, will be painted a sandy color, filled with dirt, and planted with a mixture of Lantana, Texas sage, and Coral Bean.

Yesterday one of the wind surfers on the street noticed he needed a little more room on one side so the could launch their boards. So he called the Town and they said "just ask Sam if that's OK." Wow, I was honored, so we walked down to the site here and I called Public Works and got the right man on the cell phone. "We'll be right there Sam, no problem." So we talked for a minute or three and here comes a truck and a backhoe, just for us. "Eighteen inches that way," I said, pointing with my foot. Being as scientific as possible, one worker helpfully puts down a rock and asks "like maybe there?"

I just love this manana land.

We nodded and on go the chains and hooks and over goes the planter. We thanked them profusely and offerred cokes and beer because it was quitting time, which they refused, and went happily down the road. Good timing: it was the last day of set-out.

So today the wind got over 25 MPH again and I asked the wind surfers if we done good, if they had enough room now. Everyone was happy and said "thanks, Mr. Sam!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

What's an Eco-Tourist?

Not a great picture but whoa Trigger, is that an eco-tourist in my front yard? Wow, brand new SUV import, two surf boards, mama with a $2,000 camera, and poppy with an equally expensive pair of Zeiss binoculars. Yup, them's eco-tourists looking at all the Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, and cool warblers we've had down here lately on the spring migration.

Some folks think that Islanders, Spring Beakers, and ordinary folks can be eco-tourists even if they party of the beach. What a crock! I'm not an eco-tourist, I live here for cripe's sake.

If you are puzzled because this is sounding strange, well it is election season on South Padre Island, meaning that all kinds of people are making outlandish claims, although free icy cold beer in my faucets hasn't come through as yet.

I won't go further - well except if I hear some hillarious stories from the developers - but the reason the eco-tourists come down my road is because there are five or six wild lots that have not been developed yet, and three more just on the north. The birds, bees, and butterflies are the best next to the Convention Center. Sadly, one day it will all be gone.

But don't pull me leg about what an eco-tourist is.

Leaning Tower of Tequila

The Century Plant continues to grow over 20 feet tall and now the base is doing something that scientists call "kaflooie." So last night I found a stud in the garage - not a lost beach bum but a stick of wood - and propped it up. I'm a proud owner of one of the biggest on the Island now, I mean the Century Plant flower stalk! Ah, ain't redneck engineering great?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Meeting; Historic Page Updated

Just a reminder that Save the Laguna Madre will be holding a second meeting at the Club Padre at 6:30 on Wednesday, April 25. Please come if you have some thoughts and comments about recent developments on oil and gas issues in the Laguna Madre. County Commissioner Sophia Benavides and local lawyer Stuart Diamond will be there as keynote speakers.

Also, our history page has been updated for a historic event on our island: moving an old Tiki house on a barge from the Island to the mainland.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jerry Patterson Meeting Thursday!

As a reminder, Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson will be here on the Island at the Convention Center starting at 4:30 on Thursday April 19. If you can make it to talk about the oil and gas activity in the bay that would be wonderful. Personally, I'd like to ask the question "What would you do if suddenly one day all these airboats and bombs started showing up?"

OK, I'll work on boning that up a little ... but you have to be there to ask questions, right?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Thanks to Sandy Feet I discovered a whole new genre of art called Steampunk. From what I understand, it is a retro/techno fantasy artform that is inspired by the Industrial Revolution and often contains boilers, heavy industrial stuff, and even diesels (see dieselpunk, a variant of steampunk). It turns out one of the better steam-punkers is a good friend and sandcastle builder, Kirk Rademaker. Below is his Industrial Egg Holder.

Apparently, the art form is not necessarily new, being around for three decades or so, but is recently enjoying a rebirth in music, fashion, graphic arts, and all kinds of applications. Below is a picture I stole called the Steam Powered Spider. Wow.

Sandy Feets says she'll be working up a steampunk design with Kirk for the next big sandcastle championship is Harrison Beach, Canada. We hope for some cool pictures, right Sandy?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

White Heron Incident

I wish I had a better shot of this White Heron but it was grazing the front yards this morning, which caused quite a ruckus because the dogs got all excited, hair standing on end. Then Mr. Heron had the nerve to stalk and gobble down a salamander in plain view, which REALLY got the dogs excited. Next the cats started following the bird - not that the bird is almost 4-foot tall and has a wing span of maybe 5 feet. So we barked, howled, and watched, taking bets on the cats.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Beautiful Time on the Island

The time between now and Memorial Day is the best, since everything is new, green, and fresh. There are no maddening mobs of people. And after a rather odd Easter chill we're back into the low 80's, a perfect mixture of cool and warm. The seismic boats have moved out of the area, thank goodness. Life is good on the Island again.

The last bird fall-out was nothing short of spectacular, with a new bright red oriole species called the Orchard Oriole. Some of the bushes looked like Christmas trees there were so many.

This morning was foggy and damp and then a cool front blew through - one of the kind that actually made it fresher and warmer. I wish I had fished a dawn - "dawn patrol" we call it. The surf is still a little cool at 66 degrees but it should rebound to 74 pretty quickly now. That's when I get in to boogie surf and cast for fish.

Sure, there's a few people on the Island but the Spring Breakers and Winter Texans are long gone, and the cold ran off the entire Semana Santa crowd. It's not deads-ville but I really cherish this time of year. By Memorial day it will be hot, as if the Lord flipped a big switch in the sky. The vegetation will all go brown and dormant. It gets rather boring after that, even though most of the locals are working furiously to make their annual wages in three short months.

Best of all, the allergies haven't been all that bad. That's one reason I moved down here from Austin, as that place is really Allergy City. It's supposed to be a bad year for allergies because of all the winter rain but so far, no sinusitis, migraine headaches, or sneezes, excepting my loving wife.

Yep, sure is nice down here right now. See you on the beach,

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Orphaned Lots

Here is the Law of Unintended Consequences at work again. The Town of SPI requires new buildings to be built up 5-8 feet above the street level. So what happens when people build on all three sides and you're left in the middle? Basically, you have most of the ingredients for a small swimming pool that can breed mosquitoes when it rains.

Add to that the heavy-duty trucks and now you have some pretty good ruts - contractors will use any empty lot as their private staging area without even asking.

In this case, the outcome has a good ending, at least we hope, since the builder turned out to be a real good guy and promised to help. But then I got to thinking, hey wait a minute here, my lot is at Ground Zero, dead level with the street. Therefore, if folks built up on the adjacent properties, I could be in the same boat.

Well, dang, I'm already in a house so I can't raise my yard and house 5-8 feet without the use of a bulldozer and starting over again. I know the Town has good intentions, but some of us in the cute old beach bungalows from the 70's and 80's could be condemned by virtue of Town fines and a lien. Bummer.

Then I got to thinking, that these old pole houses were meant to flood, but the waters quickly recede by soaking into the sandy ground. The houses built on San Benito foundation clays do not allow water to percolate as well, so they end up actually making the runnoff problem WORSE.

I don't have any solution to the problem other than perhaps a better culvert and french drain system could be used on the side streets. For example, the joint in my driveway by the road (a little dip there for water drainage) allows water to seep down quite rapidly, whereas all the new construction is water-tight and they all have standing water for days after mine is dry. According to the experts with the Town for years, such a culvert and drainage system was proposed at one time but died due to ... some kind of opposition.

Funny how my lot works great and the problems are with the elevated lots. Maybe it's time to rethink the issue again.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bird Drop, Casino Updates

I need a break from the "blowing up the bay issue." We've had some bird migration going on for a while now but with the latest cool front ... and another Saturday, the birds are dropping in again. The last front pulled mainly to the Northeast so most blew inland but hey I saw ... well a yellow belly and two orange bellies and they're not orioles or sap suckers ... man I need a class real bad. And a better camera and some binoculars that actually work. But it is fun to watch them. We just put out some sugar water and grapefruit halves to try to scope them in closer.

On a different note, not near a nice, latest word is that the casino issue is firing up in the Legislature. Doyle Wells and his crew have a lease on 27 acres next to Isla Blanca Park and today's local paper said he was going to court to allow a casino on "his" property. Yes, SPI was selected as a prime candidate and being the little weasels they are, they'll sue to make a buck ... even though they haven't invested a dime on the land itself as far a making improvements.

Sorry to bum you out, as the birds are already checking out our booty we just put out for them. Skittish little things, they are!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Still on it

April 19 is the day of the Eco-Tourism shindig at the Convention Center, 1-4. Latest I heard, Jerry Patterson, GLO Commissioner, would fly hisself down for a 4:30 meeting to talk about the "boondoggle in the bay" and oil & gas development. Important day on your calendar.

Then on April 25 we're having another SAVE THE LAGUNA MADRE meeting on the bay oil & gas issues. We've signed up some leaders from Cameron County and plan to get Surfriders and maybe a geo-teck person - more to develop as invitations are accepted. If you can be there, it is at Club Padre on South Padre Island at 6:30.

Just the facts, ma'am.