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Friday, October 28, 2011

Birds on South Padre Island

Northern Harrier - female
Yesterday the Bay Area Birders spent the morning at the Convention Center on South Padre Island. They hit the jackpot with a large number of sightings. Chuck Lorenz, a member of the group, captured some of the birds with his camera. He graciously gave permission to share the link. Take a moment to find out why birders and nature lovers enjoy South Padre.

Thanks Chuck!

link to photos:  #       

Luke the Detective Dog went to a party

Gettin' all dressed up. I hate hats!
Spooktacular Yappy Hour at Animals Galore in Harlingen, TX. That's the location of Luke's first party. He wants to share his thoughts and photos with you so please check out

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writers Forum on South Padre Island

Mix diverse topics, creative writers and a knowledgeable guest speaker, stir in laughter and companionship and the final product - a fun evening at the Writers' Forum at Paragraphs on Padre Blvd.

Steve Hathcock, a well-known Rio Grande Valley historian and treasure hunter, introduced his new website, Filled with South Padre stories Steve has written over the years, the site offers readers the opportunity to learn about local happenings, historical events and the unique characters who have called the island "home."

Check it out and plan to spend some time browsing. If you have a question about the island, Steve can probably answer it or, if not, find the person who can.

After Steve's presentation, attendees read from their work. We covered colorful recollections of childhood in the 1940s, ghostly stories, recipes, the Coast Guard, Billy Boomerang of South Padre Island and cinematographer John Bax.

The Writers' Forum is the 4th Monday of every month from 7:00 - 9:00.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More Sandcastle Days Fun!

Texas State Championship competitor
Texas State Championship competitor
Masters of Sand competitor
Masters of Sand competitor
Sandcastle Days is a fun time for everyone! I'm sharing more photos of finished sculptures. The good news is that this is an annual event in South Padre Island so plan your vacation time for next year.

Don't you just love these sculptures?

To promote the art of sand sculpting, our local masters of the art are creating a new Sandcastle trail. Various pieces of sand sculptures will be built along the trail.

Masters of Sand competitor

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sandcastle Days, South Padre Island

Art, sand and sun mix to produce beautiful, large sand sculptures on South Padre Island this weekend. This is the 24th year for the event and the first at its new location on the beach behind Clayton's Bar & Grill, La Quinta and the Hilton Inn.

Although some sculptures are still a work in progress, I took pictures. People celebrate the event by viewing and/or voting on the sand sculptures, watching the sculptors at work, taking sandcastle building lessons, entering the amateur competition, flying kites or simply enjoying a beautiful day at the beach.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

John Bax and Friends

John with his 16 mm camera
John Bax is a nature cinematographer who began his remarkable career in the late 1960s when he was in his early 40s. Today, in his 80s, John is a role model for younger photographers and cinematographers.

Yesterday I visited John in the hospital. He is critically ill. Two of John's photographer friends, Seth Patterson and Steve Sinclair, were there and shared their "John adventures."

I listened to stories of parrots, parakeets, screech owls, mangrove warblers, quail, barn owls and many other species. Seth talked about John's focus and determination in learning modern technology to the point where today he edits his own HD video.

Steve commented that he learned more about birds in 30 minutes of John's company than he could learn on his own in a year.

Both spoke of John's incredible gift to communicate with birds. Steve shared amazing stories where John called the birds and actually led a hummingbird into the kitchen.

Seth remarked that John pushed him to a higher level as a photographer.

The stories flowed and will definitely appear in the story of John's life. The book, Emergence: The Story of Cinematographer John Bax, will be available late Spring, 2012.

Love of nature filled the otherwise bland hospital room. Although John spoke only at intervals, his smiles and nods communicated volumes. It was an awesome experience for me to spend an evening in the company of such remarkable talent.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Murder is for the Birds awarded Best Book

The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) recently awarded Murder is for the Birds the 2011 Awards-in-Craft Best Book award. The award is sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.

Thanks to both AGLOW and Ducks Unlimited. I take pride in receiving the award from an organization of distinguished and talented writers.

Marais des Cygnes Massacre in 1858

On May 19, 1858, approximately 25 pro-slavery Missourians captured 11 Kansas Free-State men near Trading Post, Kansas, and marched them to a ravine where they lined them up and shot them. Five died, five were wounded and one fell to the ground escaping injury.

John Brown, the famous Kansas abolitionist, arrived a few days later and built a two-story log fort near the ravine. He and his men occupied the fort through that summer. Later Charles C. Hadsall, a follower of Brown, bought the property and built a stone house which still stands today.
Unlike the bloody ravine of 1858, the area today is home to tall trees and historical markers that tell the story of what took place. Picnic tables and grills line the road. For those who enjoy quiet walks, the gravel road offers, not only the massacre site, but also a trail through the fields, an old stone fence and Hadsall’s stone home.

If you’d like to know more about Kansas Territorial history and the Civil War, this historical site is located about forty minutes south of the Kansas City area on Hwy 52 between the Missouri state line and Hwy 69 in Kansas. Follow the Marais des Cygnes Massacre markers. Once you turn off the highway, the road winds a couple of miles through the country before you enter the site.
The new rest area at the junction of Hwy 69 and Hwy 52 offers a nice display of places to visit along the Frontier Military Scenic Byway.

A wife's bravery

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First Border Book Festival in Brownsville

The Brownsville Border Book Festival is hosted by the Mexican Consulate and the University of Texas-Brownsville. Located at the university campus ITEC Center at Palm Blvd and Mexico Drive, the event runs through Saturday, October 15.
The festival offers a series of lectures by visiting authors, book signings, art exhibits and book vendors. It celebrates the written word, in English and Spanish, and the multicultural lifestyle that defines the Rio Grande Valley.

The Mexican Consulate and the university plan to make this an annual event. Plan now to attend this great event and support the effort to promote literacy, reading and the arts.
Attendees will have the opportunity to spend time with the authors, vendors and the host staff. I plan to be at the Paragraphs on Padre Blvd booth again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Blessed Day

Green palm trees still rattle in the wind in drought-stricken southern Texas. The Laguna Madre Bay’s blue waters glisten in the sun. Light rays kiss the highrises on South Padre Island and I am overwhelmed with the vivid colors of fall in the Rio Grande Valley.

I sit, iPad in hand, trying to paint a verbal picture of the stunning vista of the bay to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. Life doesn’t get much better.
I stopped at Paragraphs Bookstore where Joni and Griff busily prepared for the opening tomorrow of the Border Book Festival in Brownsville. Best part of the visit, as I walked in the door, Griff sat reading my book, Murder Takes a Ride. A set up – sure, but I loved it.  Wish I'd had my camera!

Outdoors or in, there’s plenty to brighten my day.
I head home, across the causeway, as the afternoon settles into long shadows. A sailboat, three fishing boats and a sightseeing boat splash their own color against the intense blueness of the bay. The wind merely ruffles today instead of blowing, so the shallow bay waters radiate calm and serenity.

I catch glimpses of five Osprey starting their night-time hunt for food. Their white breasts and magnificent heads capture the last of the sun’s rays. One already has a fish in his talons.
I turn in my driveway and wish I’d stayed on the island for the sunset.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Luke interviews on his new blog!

Today Luke does his first interview on his very own blog. He's excited!

He invites you to read and follow his blog at:

This week's interview is with Bubba Rodgers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Horicon Marsh NWR, near Fond du Lac, WI, is the new home to eight Whooping Crane chicks who were hatched and raised by costumed biologists at the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, WI. The chicks range in age from 10-14 weeks old.

After a couple of weeks in a protected area, the chicks will join the older cranes in the area. They will learn the migration route south by following the older birds.

The photos are courtesy of the International Crane Foundation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Energized for Fall

September was filled with conferences: Missouri Outdoor Communicators at Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, MO; the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers at Honey Creek Resort in Honey Creek State Park in southern Iowa; the Writers Police Academy in Greensboro, NC; and the Military Writers Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

All have broadened my knowledge and expanded my network of fellow writers.  Like fall colors clue us in to changing seasons, these conferences trigger change in a writer’s life. They offer the opportunity to learn from others, share ideas and fellowship, identify new markets and improve skills.

For me, they instill new energy and an eagerness to get to work on existing and new projects. I have two books in the works and I’m excited to complete both manuscripts.