Posted by The Shamrock on

Aunt Judy

No one could tell a story like Aunt Judy, she could take what would be for most people the mundane “I went to the store and bought milk” into a humorous or dramatic tale.  Her stories from the days of working at T.G & Y, or Zebco were hilarious and some of my favorites. Even if I’d heard them before, I would anxiously wait for certain parts of the stories as I loved how animated she would get. She brought the people in her stories to life. Even though I had never met a lot of the people in the stories, I had a vivid picture of them in my mind. Her voice inflection was one of a kind. If you put her and her sister Aunt Dino in the same room collaborating on a story, it made for great entertainment.

Though I have lived most of my life away from Sperry, OK it’s where I consider home. I’m a native Okie, and no place else ever made sense to call “home”.  As a kid I always looked forward to visiting Sperry United Pentecostal Church. A bulk of the church was our family members, and a lot of the ones we weren’t related to would seem like family.  Sunday school in Sperry was my favorite, and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to be in Aunt Judy’s class.  She will always be one of my favorite Sunday school teachers, and I loved it when she was in charge of children’s church. 

I’m pretty sure the first time I had Doritos was at Uncle James and Aunt Judy’s house. This is probably silly, but when I look at a bag of Doritos, I usually think of them. I loved going to see them.  She and Uncle James always welcomed us into their home. As recently as this past Thanksgiving, the Briggs family took over their house for the day.  When my Mom passed away in 2014, they once again welcomed us and their home became our gathering place.   I stayed at their house a few nights during that time. After Mom’s funeral, when the crowd was gone, it was all of the sudden very quiet. It was just Uncle James, Aunt Judy, and I sitting in their living room reading in silence. Grief had started sinking in, but I found great comfort just being in the same room with them.

I’m sure most of the people who knew Aunt Judy have similar stories. She always made me feel special, and I know she made a lot of other people feel the same way.  If Aunt Judy was around and thought someone else was getting a raw deal, she would do everything she could to try and make it fair. She was the champion of the underdog.  As an adult, being several years apart from friends and cousins is not a big deal, but as a kid it is a big deal. With the Briggs family I was kind of in the middle. I wasn’t old enough to hang out with the older kids, but was a few years older than the younger kids. When the older kids were teens, I was still a pesky freckled redhead with a bad habit of inadvertently tattle telling.  That bad habit didn’t make me  welcome to tag along with them many places.  They put up with me a lot though. One summer when my brother Brad and I were staying with Grandad and Grandma in Oklahoma, they made a rare visit to Uncle James and Aunt Judy’s house. The older kids were going to Bell’s Amusement Park.  Aunt Judy pulled out $20 and sent me with them.  As a kid in the 80’s, $20 seemed like $100 now.  Hopefully it didn’t cramp the style of my brother and cousins too much, but it’s one my favorite memories from childhood. 

During my 7th grade year, we lived in Sperry. The church chartered a bus to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for a day trip of sightseeing and a night performance of The Passion Play.  Again with the age gap above and below me, I found myself with no one my age to hang out with. I spent the day with Uncle James and Aunt Judy.  We had lunch at a really fancy place called Pizza Hut.  They didn’t seem to mind me tagging along.  I really can’t remember a time when they didn’t welcome me to be around them.  Hopefully I never wore out my welcome. 

Also at the start of my 7th grade year; Aunt Judy took mom, my siblings, and I with her to K-Mart in Owasso. Money was pretty tight in our family, and Aunt Judy bought our school supplies the same time as she was buying for her daughter Kim.  It wasn’t like they were rolling in cash, but she and Uncle James have always had big hearts and great compassion for people.

When Mom was getting bad they made a couple of trips down to see her and I know Aunt Judy was having a really rough time herself, especially making long trips. She did it though.  The kindness and love they showed to my family is a debt that will never be repaid. Though I hope I can follow their example and show others the same.

  Surreal is a word I’ve overused the last few years, but it’s about the only thing I can come up to describe the fog of loss. It doesn’t seem real that I’m typing out a tribute to Aunt Judy, but unfortunately it is very real.  The great comfort is that I know how much of a woman of faith she was, as well a host of loved ones that went before her.  They all set great examples for the rest of us. We lost a great lady today, one of my heroes.

Though she was weak the last time I saw her, she still managed to give me a big hug and her standard “Hey Bud, how are you?” 

Well Aunt Judy, I’m missing you a lot already.  

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Going the Xterra Miles

Sorry for the title, this is going to be very hokey. If hokey is not your bag, then keep on surfing.
I’m really not a car guy, though I do love riding or driving in one as opposed to bumming rides from people. However, I do end up with emotional attachments to my vehicles. They usually give up on me before I give up on them. With my ’98 Chrysler Concorde, it was the car I had driven both sets of grandparents around in on multiple occasions. My ’05 Chevy Malibu that I took multiple road trips in with my parents, including my Mom’s last road trip. In April 2005 an “undocumented person” from Mexico (with no insurance) totaled the Malibu with a slice into the driver’s side door panel.

That is when I was given the 2002 Nissan Xterra by my sister Gaylyna and her husband Jonathan. My brother Brad helped me install a stereo with Bluetooth and rear view camera in it. An occasional can of Freon kept the AC blowing cold. For the better part of almost three years it has taken me back and forth to work, several trips to Galveston, out to see my Dad and his wife in Beaumont, to my brother’s house new place in Smithville and wherever else within a couple of hours from my living headquarters. I actually slept in on New Year’s out at Lake Livingston. Since it was a high mileage vehicle I didn’t take it on any long road trips, but it did what needed it to do.

I guess after 255K plus miles the XTerra decided it needed rest because it started breaking down on me. We took three trips via AAA tow trucks to the Midas shop on Sawdust road in The Woodlands within the last month. My Aunt Pat was very gracious in meeting me at several times and loaned me her car for most of last week. My sister in law Angela gave me a ride last month to pick up a rental car, and my Dad and his wife gave me a ride from the rental car place to get the Xterra on the first repair trip last month.
After over $2000 in repairs, it was still throwing some of the same check engine codes Friday night and Saturday and was running really rough at times. I actually kept waiting for it to break down again and tried not to go too many places with hopes of driving it to a dealership and trading it in for whatever I could get out of it. If I had a garage, mechanic prowess, and money, it would have made sense to hang onto it and try to fix it myself. I knew it would just end up sitting though, so while it was tough to let go, I said goodbye Sunday.

Here are a few memories with the Xterra:





The new ride:




Posted by The Shamrock on

Michael Martin Murphey

When: January 15, 2017

Where: Block 16/Central School, Smithville, TX

As I have probably mentioned in previous posts, my brother Brad, and his wife Angela have moved to Smithville, TX.  It’s a small town about an hour from Austin that has a lot going on art and music wise. Several movies and music videos have been formed around town. Their house is right across the street from Block 16/ Central School which is over 100 years old. Owner Don Jellison bought the property and has turned it into a cool music venue. He also has a residence in part of the building.  When I went and visited Brad and Angela back in September, we saw a local act out of Austin there. The auditorium seats 80 people or so. 

A few weeks back Brad told me Michael Martin Murphey was going to be playing an acoustic show there and asked if I wanted a ticket. I told him if they were going, then to count me in. So yesterday was the day. 

Brad being friendly with his new neighbor Don worked out well for us as we were right in the front row.

There were shows at 2pm and 6 pm; we went to the 2pm show which was about two hours long. Michael Martin Murphey’s voice and guitar playing are both superb!  He told the history about each song and his career journey starting out as a writer that transitioned into being a performer.  He’s a very deep man and offers a lot of philosophy mixed in with humor, and obviously has a great appreciation for history, notably western history.   It was a great afternoon, and was glad I was able to be there.

Here are some pics and videos I took:

This was from Saturday night, I went over that afternoon and we went to eat at Murphy’s Steak House in Winchester, Texas. It’s a great place if you get a chance to go there.

Murphys Steakhouse Winchester TX 002

I took this on our visit before Christmas, but gives a feel for the look inside:
2016 A Very Murphy Christmas

Block 16/ Central School
Block 16/ Central School, Smithville, TX

The Marquee
MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (30)

Front Row High Rollers
MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (34)

Inside Block 16/Central School
MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (37)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (54)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (38)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (2)

Michael Martin Murphey
MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (6)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (44)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (47)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (9)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (9)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (20)

MIchael Martin Murphey Block 16 Schoolhouse Smithville TX 011517 (21)

Video from the show

Posted by The Shamrock on

New Year’s 2017

After vowing to be nestled safely in my leased living space well before 8 pm on New Year’s to avoid the drunks and crazies, I ended up going out to Lake Livingston with my friends Chris and Meredith. Meredith’s parents have some property on Lake Livingston close to Coldspring, Texas.

Chris texted me Saturday morning and asked I wanted to go camping out there. Meredith’s brother Amon was out there with his fiancée and some of their friends.  While sitting at home avoiding drunks and crazies seemed very appealing and has kind of become my personal tradition. I decided to live a little and get out since I do a lot of avoiding drunks and crazies on normal weekends.

We arrived out there about 6 pm and Amon and his friends had the fire going, and were playing a very oversized version of Jenga.  With this Jenga game though, stuff was written on all of the blocks, and if you pulled that block, you had to do what it said. I made it through two turns before bailing out. One of the things I had to do was have an invisible light saber fight with a friend, and the other was do my best cartwheel. I only attempted one of the tasks. Even in my best days as a kid I don’t think I ever pulled off a cartwheel. So it sure isn’t happening now!

Chris demonstrating proper tent construction
My buddy Chris showing proper rain fly installation

Chris again

No drinking for me, I’m a miner:
No drinking for me, I'm a miner.

It was mostly a relaxing night with some grilled hot dogs; I did take my crock pot out there and made some Ro’Tel and Velveeta cheese dip.  A lot of fireworks were popped.

New Year's 2017

New Year's 2017

After midnight passed and the new year had begun, I retired to the back of my Xterra, my sleeping quarters for the night.

Sunday morning I was the first one up. I sat and watched the foggy lake while waiting for everyone else to wake up.

A foggy start to 2017
Lake Livingston New Year's 2017

I call this one, “Man in a boat”
Lake Livingston New Year's 2017

Chris and Meredith had to get back to pick up their kids by noon, so we rolled out by 10:30 am.

It was a good night, nice to get outside for a bit.

Posted by The Shamrock on

I’ve endured 2016

Every year since time began has been ripe with tragedy and disappointments, but for various reasons (celebrity deaths, elections results) the general consensus (at least in the news and social media) seems to be that 2016 has been the worst year ever.  No doubt, this year as any year, has been the worst year for some people. If you lost a loved one, got divorced, etc., you are probably ready to shut the door on 2016. Though the changing of the calendar page is really just a mile marker, if you are feeling pretty low at 11:59 pm on December 31, 2016, it’s not like you are magically happy at 12:00 am on January 1, 2017. If you are fighting cancer, unless you have a miraculous healing this week, you’ll still be fighting it next week in 2017. If Carrie Fisher had clung to life for one more week, would 2017 have been doomed to be bad? Unfortunately, people are going to die in 2017 too, because people die every year.  If I had to pick my worst year, it would be 2014, the year my Mom passed away. Life kept moving, I trudged through it, but when 2015 rolled around I didn’t stop missing her, or grieving. In 2016, I still miss her.

While it is sad to hear that a celebrity that I didn’t know passed away, it’s no more sad than when I hear about the passing of anyone I didn’t know.  God is no respecter of persons, but we humans have decided some lives (celebrities/dignitaries) have higher value than others that we gloss over in 10 second news blurbs. Innocent people killed by drunk drivers for example.

As to the presidential election results making 2016 the worst year ever, the new President doesn’t take office until January 20, 2017. I point this out in case you were sleeping in government/civics class. Love him or hate him, none of us know if he will do a good or bad job as President yet, because he’s not the President yet. Good and bad is subjective too, as I haven’t been too fond of a lot of things for the last eight years, while a lot of people loved everything about it.  Will things get better or worse?  We’re about to find out.

Lately I have been listening to The Avett Brothers a lot. Their songs range from upbeat to really deep. One of my favorite songs of theirs, “Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise”, also has lyrics that have been bouncing around in my brain for the last couple of years:



When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it


If a person is miserable now because of who will be the President in less than a month, my guess is they already had a lot of misery in their life at no fault of the current President either. The year, 2016 had nothing to do with it.  There is no magic year fairy that comes along when the calendar changes to January 1 that cures everything that was ailing. If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, I’m just not buying into 2016 being the worst year ever for society.  If there were a consensus ranking system for bad years, I don’t think 2016 would be anywhere near the top. I really think the whole “2016 is the worst year ever” started out as a bad “ha, ha” joke that people have convinced themselves is true, and you must agree that things are terrible to fit in with the masses.

I don’t write this because 2016 was a groundbreaking year for me personally, and this is my attempt to justify my happiness. There are several aspects of my life I need to work at to make better for myself. There are things I wish were different, but they are out of my control. With that said, there were a lot of great things I experienced this year. I spent quality time with family, visited some new places with and without family. Since you’re here, I’ll roll the highlights.

In January, I found some messages from my Mom that brought a few laughs and tears.

February took me back to my home state of Oklahoma for a week with my family there.

I took a drive down to the pristine Gulf coast in March.

Mumford and Sons came to town in April, and I was able to enjoy it with my brother Brad and his wife Angela, my sister Gaylyna, and friends Jenny, Kurt, and Brian.

The night before I turned 40 in May, I saw the Dave Matthews Band for the fourth time. On May 14th, I turned 40 and went to work (on a Saturday). It was awesome.
Later in May, my sister Gaylyna, her family, our cousin Kristian, and I went on a western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Freedom to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.

The highlight of June was a trip to Amarillo with my Dad and his wife, and my sister’s family again. The nieces stayed in Texas for a few weeks, and we combined safely returning them to their parents with a trip to the Big Texan Steak House, Cadillac Ranch, and the Palo Duro Canyon.

July 4th was spent in Smithville, Texas with my brother and his wife who are relocating there. Evidently I didn’t take any pictures.

In August I went to our annual Jones family reunion in Oklahoma.  Later that month, from a muddy hill, I saw “Signs” of Tesla, while REO Speedwagon helped me “Roll with the Changes”, before Def Leppard started “FFFFooolin’” with my friends Jason and Victoria. (Yes, I know that was pretty bad.)

September took me out west to Arizona and Utah. I took a raft trip down the Colorado River and visited both rims of the Grand Canyon, and had some wings at the Hooters in Mesa.

My friend Chris and I went to Wings Over Houston in October. We saw the Blue Angels.

November means Thanksgiving, which brought a third trip back to Oklahoma.

My brother hosted Christmas at his house in Smithville. All of my siblings were together for the first time this year.
We took a few pictures.

No, I really don’t have anything worthwhile to complain about this year. It would be idiotic for me to say this year has been the worst ever.

I’ve endured 2016 pretty well.

I’ve endured, I’ve endured, how long must one endure
I’ve worked for the rich, I’ve lived with the poor
I’ve seen many heartaches and I’ll see many more
I’ve lived loved and sorrowed, been through success’s door
I’ve endured, I’ve endured, how long must one endure