Friday, November 28, 2008

Sailing South Padre

Went out on Thanksgiving evening for a wonderful sailboat ride to the jetties and back. It was supposed to blow over 20 MPG but it dropped to flat calm really quick. So relaxing ... our best Thanksgiving ever!

Being a wee bit snoopy, I asked about how much hs sailboat drafted and why we didn't get a lot of "winter cruiser" sailboats down here. The captain thought, and said "I draft about 4-foot eight, although the bluewater boats are deeper, like six feet or more. Even I have to watch the shifting bars and even I get stuck. Simply stated, we don't have any deep water unless you want to park in the Shrimp Basin."

I was rather shocked at the answer but then the captain continued "and what are the cruisers supposed to do, go to Sea Ranch and Louie's once and that's it? There's nothing for them to do here."

He mentioned a Galveston to SPI sailboat race where the large sailboats raced ... and had to turn right back to Galveston without even landing here at Port Isabel or South Padre. They were too big for the docks and too deep for the channels. Think of all that money just passing us by.

This was something of a revelation to me, although I've had my share of being stuck in the mud (many times) even with a motorboat that only needed a foot or so of water. I guess that's why the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit goes to Bimini, the Virgin islands, and other Caribbean destinations becase we don't want them. I wonder if we can change that ... sailing is the "green" thing to do, right?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Uncle Buggies Gone

I drove to the bank today - I love putting money in the bank and I saw Captain Al Stewart putting money in the bank there too - and was watching for all these hideous, damaged T-shirt shops, of which I only found four. Four out of maybe hundred shops on Padre Boulevard. I was thinking that the Town Vision Gestapo was maybe getting a little carried away ... when all the sudden I noticed that the letters had fallen off the Uncle Buggies sign.

Nope, somebody had purposely taken the letters off the sign, shuttered the store, and put up a "For Rent" sign in the front door. The property was empty, clean as a whistle. Bummer!

It's just another casualty of history I suppose, like the Dolphin Cove Oyster Bar, Josephs, Kelly's and all kinds of time-hallowed places that made the island what it is. In fact I had listed it in my History Channel blog because it was a neat old building, possibly an old gasoline station. There's a really cool story about the young man who came here from California to set up shop, although he got sick a few years ago and died ... which I guess is why all the dune buggies are gone now, as the family didn't want to fool with it anymore.

R.I.P Uncle Buggies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is what will happen ....

This is what will happen to our town if we don't clean up that SPI Boulevards right now! Those T-shirt shops need to be repaired NOW! It has been four months after Hurricane Dolly, and if we don't fix up these old shops we're doomed. Cousin Jed shown in the picture will move in, and that shack has wheels, baby. It'll be squatter city before you know what hit ya.

Actually, that's a half famous Smithsonian picture of a Hooverville dwelling during the Great Depression, which was quite a find - and a popular topic these days as the economy lurches along, swooning. There were Hoovervilles all over the country and at its worse, 25 percent of working men were unemployed - they didn't count women in the working force back then.

Funny, right when many cities and counties are running out of money, we want to fix everything up all spiffy, spend a few million, and by doing so, people will shower out town in coins and hundred dollar bills. I really don't know who these people are, or how many there are, but they sure are vocal pests. Of course the Main Drag looks a little frumpy - we just had a hurricane here. Of course they're supposed to secure their property a little better. I think it takes time and insurance money but these folks are definitely chomping at the bits. I just saw three condo roof jobs being started last week, for crying out loud.

And that's exactly why I picked the Hooverville picture. The well-heeled, conservative, and richer townsfolk kept trying to run off the poor people, and the attitudes are just the same. Where is that compassion, that ability to reach out and help?

And gosh, now I think about it, I have about 3-4 months I can make it if I loose all my income and I'll be just like ole Jed up there in the picture. But let us not talk about how close we live to the dark side with the poverty, the hurricanes, and all that. We're on South Padre Island! Yay!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Raccoon

It's not fair to take a picture of my first raccoon we trapped, they look so innocent and intelligent. The sad dog eyes with round masks around them, the "please let me go" whimper.

Finally the local animal control guy - actually two of them - came by to offload the critter way up the beach, since my dog was going absolutely nuts. Malia out dog is pretty easy with the possum now but the raccoon must be some kind of mortal enemy.

And a nasty one too, after posing like an angel for Lori and me. "Watch this," said the officer as he dangled a dog leash into the cage. The varmint yelled, hissed, spat, took a mighty swipe with a paw, and then bit the leash almost in two. "Don't stick your fingers in the cage." He used a six-foot snake pole to move the trap into his truck.

I asked the officer if raccoons were normal for the island and he said they don't see them for a long time and then they seem to be everywhere - I just started noticing them after the hurricane. Sure enough, another acquaintance says he say four down by the beach right next to a beach access.

One more tidbit: another islander who traps varmints now and then did an experiment and dabbled some nail polish on the possum that were taken up north by the town. Within a matter of two weeks, about half the pack was ... back in the trap again. Are you folks picking up some rather strange hitchhikers or what?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beautiful November

Here's a kingfisher, a belted kingfisher like the kind that winters down here every year. We have a pair of them at the end of our bay-end street and they are a wonder to watch because they're true acrobats, sometimes diving and coming up with minnows. I wish my camera could catch them but they look fly specks - thus the stolen picture.

They're ornery bastards I can vouch for that, always arguing and I swear they swoop my dog to try to run it off - while I'm walker her. No wonder why they invented Thanksgiving at the end of the month, because November is such a bummer month, especially this year.

True, many fellow islanders have gotten sick or need surgery and many folks are down. I'm just recovering from a case of the flu that tried to morph itself into walking pneumonia, but thanks to Lori's Mexican drugs, that sucker is about gone. You folks still under the weather take care. Lori herself seemed like she was catching something just tonight.

But it is still wonderful on the island, very seasonable weather, and we got the kingfishers back in town. The kite and wind boarders are fun to watch. When the wind gets up there are about three or four locals that waddle down the street in their gear looking for that 40 MPH ride.

The kingfishers get to bark at them, too!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pinkie Still At It

This is probably the last plumeria bloom of the season but as you can tell, "Pinkie" is still going strong. I've never had plumeria in November before so this is really something - I think she likes the island weather. Hmm, a rather delicate lavender smell.

When she goes dormant this winter, I'll have dig her up and reset the plant, which like many others is leaning with a 45-degree list because of Hurricane Dolly. Alas, several died, in addition to a natal plum and the citrus trees.

Anyway, all fixed up and a handful of fertilizer mixed in the hole, she should be back in business by next April or May, flowers and all.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sam, Sam ... the Fur Trapper?

Well after I sent a nutty complaint to our town using some whacky form, I got a call today. "I heard you had a raccoon that was attacking you, Mr. Wells?" After about a week I had forgotten all about that, how a mama raccoon and her baby had gotten all defensive when Lori was feeding the outside cats before dawn one day.

So staff was understanding and had heard of some raccoon on the island, and loaned me one of the larger sized Have-A-Heart traps. Whatever they're called, they're humane, just a cage and a trap door. And some kitty food.

First off all I caught every single dumb cat in the neighborhood, including my domestic part Siamese that should have known better. So I guess the trick is to run traps well after ten o'clock at night. I let all the cats go, since none were feral or bobcats.

Bingo, after reloading with another rasher of kitty food for bait, I bag a small possum. Not heavy enough to trip the trigger on the large animal trap so I dropped an old beach sandal on the trap from the upstairs porch, which made a nice "ka-chunk" sound as the gate snapped closed.

In case you are wondering, any trapped wild animals are unloaded about 5 to 7 miles to the north end of the beach, where they are released - the town insists on doing this. Domesticated animals go to the pound on the mainland to the south for an examination and such. My possum is taking the northern route, I expect.

Meanwhile I heard the raccoon because it was sniffing around when I dropped the shoe - it made a big ruckus running into the pepperwood tree where I think it lives. I know it is there but I have to fight through all these dang cats and possum first. All in a day's work, my friends.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm gonna huff and puff and ...

Much as I hate to see an old semi-historical house go down, this one really did need to be demolished. It is - or was - on Lantana Street on the bayside. About an hour or two after I snapped this picture, there was absolutely nothing left but a few piles.

The one thing you noticed right away is that all the wild animals ran off and the wild bees were everywhere - some very seriously upset bees. The crews had to keep their windows closed and I had to sorta run away!

I think that's where a bunch of raccoons and tequatche (possum) had been living. Anyway, parts of the old structure had been blowing off into the neighbors yards, such as Dr. Sher next door. It didn't take much for a 200 horsepower CAT 950 to make it fall down. No telephone poles, interestingly...

A nice gentleman walked up to take some pictures too and said that he could have bought that property 25 years ago, but that it was in very bad shape then. I didn't say he'd probably be a millionaire if he bought it just for the property, but back then such a lot was what, maybe $60,000 in the early 80s? Dr. Sher says that 12 years ago somebody offered $600,000 for it.

By then the bees had discovered us and we were, like the poor old shack, solid gone.