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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 • Posted April 20, 2011

Whoopers and Whoppers…

Port Aransas, Texas, known for its Whooping Crane Festival each February, has been cited as “America’s ‘birdiest’ small coastal city.”The celebrated endangered species, down to just 49 whooping cranes in 1975, has grown steadily, and the count reached 574 last year. Laid end to end, these rare North American birds would span almost a half-mile, since some are nearly five feet tall!A colorful Port Aransas printed piece trumpets “Festivals—Mustang Island Style”—one of which is a “celebration of whopping cranes and other birds.” If whooping cranes are rare, how much rarer “whopping cranes” must be....* * * * *When it appeared that whooping cranes might join other extinct creatures three dozen years ago, a wiseacre attempted to find a silver lining.He called a news conference, and media reps gathered in gaggles to hear the joker’s plan.His suggestion: “Get some regular cranes and teach ‘em to ‘whoop’.”…* * * * *In a similar vein, a wealthy Texas rancher became interested in ornithology. Hungry to learn more, he became a regular at Audubon Society get-togethers.At one out-of-state meeting, bird fanciers were fascinated by his accounts of sightings on his ranch. He invited them to visit; many ornithologists accepted the invitation. The rancher phoned his foreman to make sure the ranch was ship-shape for guests who wanted to “watch the birds.”“Watch ‘em what?” the foreman questioned….* * * * *How about all the webcam viewing of the three baby bald eagles hatched in a 1.5-ton nest near Decorah, Iowa? At this writing, computer YouTube “hits” totaled 32 million and counting.Smiles, it is said, are universal. So, too, is our fascination with creatures like the young eaglets.Lots of chores are left undone, projects delayed and transactions put on “hold” as viewers throughout the world keep close tabs on streaming photos of the infant birds….* * * * *We saw East Texas at its finest during a speaking junket to Jacksonville and Baytown.Azaleas in a variety of colors draped landscapes like giant blankets in Tyler, and spring wildflowers were plentiful alongside roadways.Love’s Lookout Park, tucked away a few hundred yards from Highway 69 four miles north of Jacksonville, is a hidden wonderland to most folks. But to East Texans, it’s long been a jewel for picnicking and vista-viewing—as well as for numerous recreational pursuits—across a century or so. Just as folks in Fort Worth’s tallest buildings can see Dallas on clearest days (and vice versa), park visitors are able to see hills 35 miles away. Some East Texans swear they’ve “seen Louisiana” from Love’s Lookout. Others remember a large concrete swimming pool—the first in East Texas—where a dime bought a day of swimming in a pool featuring underwater lighting when it opened during the Great Depression. Fears of polio linkage with pools signaled declining use around 1950.In town, we noticed the East Texas Awning/Canvas Company’s sign: “We Love Shady Customers.” And in Liberty, one small building houses an unlikely business combo. “A.M. Donuts/Michael’s Fitness and Personal Training.” Maybe they add pounds in the morning and take ‘em off in the afternoon.)…* * * * *In Baytown, the city’s mayor, Steve DonCarlos, delighted the 66th annual gathering of the community’s chamber of commerce as emcee. “He does ‘stand-up’ as well as he ‘lawyers’ and ‘mayors’,” one attendee said of the Jeff Foxworthy devotee.An exceptional emcee, DonCarlos inserted “just right” humor as he moved the program along. Keying on Foxworthy’s shtick, he suggested that YOU might be a chamber member if:1) Your retirement plan hinges on winning the cash prize at a chamber mixer,2) You’re elected to the board without being a candidate, and3) You’ve ever attended a luncheon and had a staring contest with someone you know you know, and they know they know you, but neither can remember the other’s name!...* * * * *DonCarlos’ timing runs counter to that of late Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who often “over-stayed his welcome” at speaking lecterns. Someone said he “had the knack of inspiring you and then talking you out of it.”Still on overkill, evidence was heavy a while back on a series of billboards on a south Texas highway. One proclaimed: “Does billboard advertising work? It just did.” A couple of miles later, the same sign appeared, and a few minutes later, there it was again—the third time in 10 miles.Hmmmmmmmmmm. Veeeery interesting….* * * * *Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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