In my last blog entry, I mentioned that I grew up in the Texas hill country. In the course of writing that entry, I ran across this photo of the swimming hole where I spent most of my summers.
This swimming hole is on Rebecca Creek, located about a mile from my house. In the photo, you can see a concrete platform with a ladder out of the water and a very large cypress tree next to it. When I was young, there was a platform about 8 feet above the concrete platform, though it was cut down when I was a teenager.
The swimming hole is about ten feet deep, and when I was growing up, there were 2×4 steps nailed up the cypress tree. The first branch over the water is at about 35 feet with an awesome rope swing hanging from it. Originally, you could swing off the platform, but after that was gone, we just climbed a few steps up the tree to swing. A rope swing that long makes for a nice wide arc over the water.
You could also jump directly from the tree, either from any step or by climbing up to the first limb. I still remember the first time I jumped from the limb. I was probably eight or nine years old.
The steps led to two higher branches, maybe 45 and 55 feet, but I never went up to those branches–not because I was afraid of jumping from those heights, but because it was more difficult to get from the steps out onto the branches. That part scared me.
In the summer, there were always people at the swimming hole–if not swimmers, then teenagers hanging out, drinking, and/or smoking pot. I didn’t partake, but I was known to be ‘cool’ about it.
There were a lot of disadvantages to living in such a remote location–the solitude and loneliness, the 1-2 hour bus rides each way to school, etc.–but all in all, I consider myself pretty damn lucky to have lived in such a place, and the swimming hole was a big part of it.
As part of a post on gun control, Gordon Atkinson describes the history of hunting in his family:
I am not a hunter, but I come from a family of hunters. One of my grandfathers grew up in a poor family of sharecroppers. When he was a boy, his family hunted animals, killed them, and ate them…
My uncles and father hunted with my grandfather, but by that time hunting was no longer a necessity. It was something that they enjoyed. There were old rituals involved that reminded them of their roots and of the land and of our close ties to it. They chose to hunt and eat what they killed instead of buying all of their food from a store.
My father moved to the city, and I grew up in that environment. I went hunting with my grandfather, father, and uncles when we were visiting East Texas. It was something that men did together in our part of the world…
I don’t want to get into the gun control issue, but Gordon’s description of the tradition of hunting in his family caused me to reflect on my own history with hunting and guns.
Guns were an important part of my upbringing. I learned to shoot at an early age, had a BB/pellet gun from as early as I can remember, and had gun safety drilled into me. My dad hunted some for sport, mostly with business contacts in South Texas (though we always ate what he killed), but I was mostly only involved with deer hunting which we did primarily for food purposes.
Living in the Texas hill country, we shot deer close to home, and we weren’t concerned with killing bucks with big racks. We also butchered and processed all our own meat (unlike many hunters who take their deer to a meat processing plant). I never knew whether we were eating store-bought beef or home-processed venison.
I have not hunted since I left home for college, but I go through phases when I would like to take my son Samuel hunting. It’s important to me that he learn where his food comes from. After reading Gordon’s post, though, I realize why I have never done so. It would lack the social significance that Gordon describes. For Samuel and me to hunt, we would have to go about it as other suburban sportsmen–get a deer lease, buy gear, etc. It would be an event or an outing, not part of our family routine, as it was when I was a kid.
I also recently bought Samuel his first BB gun. He shot targets with it for a few days and then lost interest in it. I realize now that I was disappointed with this. To me, getting your first BB gun is an important rite of passage. In his suburban life, it was just another toy.
Here’s an inventory of the electronics that we took on our recent vacation to New Mexico:
- Three ipods
- Two laptops and all the cables for the associated electronics
- Two digital cameras
- Two GMRS two-way radios
- Three LED flashlights, and the AC cord for the one that’s rechargeable
- Portable DVD player
- Samuel’s Nintendo DS
I’m a big photography fan, so I brought my laptop primarily so that I could upload, view and edit photos from my dSLR camera (The house we rented didn’t have internet access, so I couldn’t upload the photos to my Flickr account until we got home). We also brought Katie’s laptop so that we could work (check email, etc.) concurrently when we had internet access. Due to the lack of internet access at the house, we only used her laptop at the hotel on the drive up there. We could have left it home.
The ipods, DVD player, and DS were very helpful on the 14-hour drive each way; the the two-way radios were useful once we got to New Mexico, since we had to take two vehicles whenever we all wanted to go somewhere.
I don’t really have a problem with what we took. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have thought about it if it weren’t for the fact that we vacationed with a family that had virtually no electronics along. Just an interesting observation: we are a wired family.
We had a great two-week in northeastern New Mexico, where we stayed in this rented vacation home outside Angel Fire, with Katie’s cousin Kay, two of her kids and her husband Mark.
I’ve posted several sets of photos: general vacation photos, photos of the Taos Pueblo and photos from the Rodeo de Taos.
I’m definitely an old fart when it comes to mobile phone use. One of the many things that bugs me is people who continue to talk on their phone when participating in public interactions. Here’s what happened this morning at Einstein’s while I was waiting for my bagel:
Woman walks into store talking on cell phone. Cashier comes over to his register to take her order.
Woman stops about six feet in front of the cashier to continue her conversation. Cashier looks confused. I think he’s trying to decide whether he can go back to the other task or should remain at the cash register to wait for this woman.
A minute later, still talking on the phone, the woman walks up the register and orders. The cashier asks her some questions (dine in or to go, her name so they can call her when it’s ready, etc.) and has to repeat every question because the woman is paying him no attention.
What a way to communicate to the people around you that they are of no consequence compared to your all-important conversation.
I’ve studied the German language and Germanic culture for years, but sometimes the intricacies of cultural understanding still allude me.
Last week, I visited my company’s R&D office in Linz, Austria, for the first time. Please note that, as far as I know, I’m pretty much the only U.S. employee in the company who speaks fluent German–except the couple of Germans who work in the US offices, of course.
When speaking German, I assumed that all of my fellow software engineering colleagues would address me with the informal ‘Du.’ That was true with one exception.
As I opened the front door to walk Samuel to school this morning, I found five police cars and two news crews in front of the house. During the night, car thieves had abandoned a car across the street and shot at the police as they fled. The photo below was taken from my next door neighbor’s front yard.