Monday, April 12, 2021

In the blink of an eye

 Well, with one exception, it was a pretty uneventful week at Rancho Juvat.  The exception? I made some progress on my "Minor Project" portion of my "All Projects" list with the completion of a couple of chores that, at the time, were low priority.  However, they had the potential to cause great consternation, fury and expense were they to erupt.

First, I installed the TV in our second Guest House, now being inhabited by DIL and GrandDog, Tex.  Tex has been growling at me a bit every time I stopped by, wondering when he was going to be able to watch re-runs of "Rin Tin Tin" and "The Westminster Dog Show".   Not wishing to annoy a German Shepherd, I gladly conceded to his request for priority.

Upon completion of said task, I began a Sisyphus-like task of trying to eliminate Texas Thistle (also called Bull Thistle) from the yards and surrounding area of the Guest Houses.


I'm not a gardener by trade, but what I've learned (The hard way, Beans, the hard way) is this little Thistle begins life under ground as a seed. After it germinates it sticks a minute little stem above the ground for light and oxygen. So far, so good, just like any other plant right?

Not a chance! At that point it then sends a root down to the very core of the earth and wraps the root around it.  This does two things for the plant.  First, when you touch those thistle thorns, they convey the heat from the core directly into your unfortunate finger, causing you to say "Bad Words".  

Second, it is nigh on to impossible to pull the  *!***!!! thing up.

See what I mean about "Bad Words"?

But I did manage to eliminate any visual (aka above surface) evidence of said plants in the two yards.  Tex was very happy about that also.  He informed me that while touching the spines with a hand could be compensated for by wearing gloves (he added the word "Dummy" to that sentence), the effect was much worse when stepped on by a large German Shepherd.

So....As I said... progress.  Or not!  At the same time I removed two items from the list, five new items were added.  A 250% increase, not quite as high as the official CDC Covid infection rate in States with Republican leadership, but still high.

"Stay on Target, juvat!"

On Target, Aye, Sarge.

While on Active Duty, I'd always heard folks describe flying as "... hours of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror."  Those folks never flew Fighters.  Flying a fighter was 15 minutes of boredom, followed by 30 minutes of intense exhilaration, followed by 15 minutes of boredom.  Somewhat frequently interspersed with moments of sheer terror.'s been a while since I've experienced any of those phases of flight.

Well, until last Thursday.

Mrs J and I are headed into "The 'Burg" to run a few errands.  It's about 3ish and traffic is moderate, but moving at the speed limit.  We are in the middle of an S turn and about to enter the second turn of it.  I've got two cars behind me, a little closer than I'd like, but not too bad.  

Locally, it's known as Dead Man's Curve.  Apparently, in the mid-90's a foursome of local HS girls was returning from the next town south, entered the Curve a little too fast, lost control and that was that.  

Hears what it looks like from where I was at the start of this "Adventure".

Imagine that white vehicle in the center is an older model minivan, also white.  It's driven by a female which isn't germane to the story other than one factor which I'll address shortly.  If you look just beyond the dark car in the right lane, that tree is where the minivan first came into my field of view.

It was very nose low, but still traveling fast and further to her right, on the shoulder.  I take my foot off the gas, but don't hit the brakes because of the guys following.  As I do and she's now at the position of the white vehicle in the picture, I realize she's now pointing directly at me and coming into my lane.  

I start to move for the brakes, but realize there's no way I can stop in time and most likely neither can she. So, I flick the wheel to the right, and then immediately back to straight.  I exit the shoulder and end up on the grass with a short excursion airborne as I cross the ditch.

Now, there's three complicating factors I'm encountering at the moment.  First there's a concrete drain  (the white spot to the right of the dark car) I don't want to enter.  Second, there's fairly sturdy Oak Trees to the right and third, the Pedernales river is to the right of the trees. It's not too deep at that point, but it's pretty far down. I don't want to encounter any of these.

In the split second that's elapsed, I'd taken a look at the minivan.  I'm close enough to see that she's a young woman.  With Blue Eyes!

I hit the brakes and steer towards the grass to the left of the drain, as the two guys behind me pass on the shoulder.  I'm now at a dead stop. Looking around, I can't see the minivan around the corner, so have no idea what happened to her (There's a rest stop at that curve, there was no vehicle or persons in it when I passed by on RTB.)  But, I can't see if anybody is coming around the corner either.  

That's my tracks in the grass. Photo taken Sunday.  I believe one of her skid marks is the line just to the left of the grass at the curve itself.
I'd rather be lucky than good!

I'm also in need of breath, so I pause in the grass for a minute.  

Enjoying life.

At this point, Mrs J pipes up with "That was fun, but let's not do it again."

Gotta love her!

After I had mumbled a few hundred thousand "Thank you's" to the Big Guy, we went about our business.

On a lighter note, the semi-annual hummingbird migration is in full swing as they make their way from Central America to the upper Mid-West and Canada.  Mrs J's Nectar recipe must be getting rave reviews as more and more stop by daily.  It makes for some interesting photo ops.

Hummers: "Isn't Mrs J's nectar divine?"
Schnmedly: "I seeeee you!"

Hummer's:  "Where're are you off to in such a rush, can't you see he's behind a fence?"
Schmedly: "Dammit!"

Peace out, y'all.  Enjoy life, you never know when.....


  1. Wow - glad you still have your feline reflexes, juvat. I see from the pic you also avoided signage on the grass - well done! It's always an "interesting" experience when you make the right 'best of bad choices' and things turn out OK. Good illustration as to why maîntaining a constant relaxed awareness of your surroundings in all directions and all reasonable distances is so important. It buys time to react and thus gives options.
    Glad to see the hummers are back. Very mean of y'all to torture the kitty's by putting the feeder so close to the petio enclosure.

    1. The sign was the least of my worries at the time. I knew it was there, but was more concerned about the hazards to the right. Fortunately, or more likely, with the Grace of God, I managed to avoid both.

      I think the cats are ok with the Petio. This way their feline reputations are intact. "Yeah, we couldn't catch a hummer, that mean old juvat has us locked up." versus "Dang, those buzz birds are fast and maneuverable."

      Thanks, Tom.

  2. Generally, a cell phone is an integral part of such incidents. Your reflexes may be older, but they are still fine tuned.

    Hummingbirds are arriving in my section of the woods. They must have followed the Cedar Waxwings that left last week; after consuming all the woodpecker log they could hold. We fed them last year, but they started numbering in the dozens, two fills of the feeder was required each day, and we decided the mess they made demanded we enjoy the Hummingbirds at the in-laws down the street.

    1. Cell phone distraction is Mrs J's causal theory. I think she might have blown a tire (Left front) based on how fast the nose came around. But I don't know for sure.

      Living out in the country, hummingbird "mess" is more easily hidden/ignored. We do maintain feeders at the Guest house for our guests from the big cities to enjoy. But, you're right, if you feed them, they'll tell their friends and next year you're increasing the number of feeders.

      Thanks, Jess

  3. Whoa. The almost accident description had my heartbeat speeding up. Well done.

    Note to self. No Texas Thistle.
    If you decide to launch a napalm strike against the plants using quadrotors, I really, really, want to see the film.

    We were sorta hit-or-miss about keeping our hummingbird feeder topped up, and as a result we never saw much HM-B1RD action.
    After reading what Jess wrote, maybe we will let it go and put the resources into something else.

    1. John,
      It's a good thing I wasn't on my way to see my cardiologist, he might have had a heart attack reading my numbers.

      As to Thistle, the article I cited says the taproot can go over 2 feet deep. Given that about 6 inches down, I was hitting caliche (the Texas word for God's Concrete) and still hadn't seen the bottom, I just cut it off and dropped some herbicide in the hole and filled it in. Probably won't stop it from coming back, but I employed the tactic more as a delaying action, just to get through the growing season. We'll see.

  4. Good to see you still have Eagle reflexes juvat.........:) Being able to discern the eye color of an opposing driver, way too close! As far as your Texas Thistle my two cents is "Nuke it from orbit.....because it's the only way to be sure" crowd. Ah....poor Schmedly, so close and yet so far.

    1. Nylon,

      Thanks, but as I said, I'm pretty sure I had divine help. "Nope, juvat, haven't made my mind up about you. I'll just teleport you, Mrs J and the truck about 10' to give me a bit of more time to come to a conclusion."

      As to Thistle, I'm thinking pinpoint phasers from the Enterprise. Nuking from orbit may be the only way to be sure, but...a bit imprecise in execution.

  5. Those thistles remind me of the old blue weeds we had in Lubbock. They suck water, the roots are wrapped around the devils ankle, and Roundup can't even make them sniffle. But blue weeds didn't sting you.

    Dad told me never to swerve in front of a car, they would be trying to go right and would get you. One fine Easter morning after a sunrise service, I had to do just that, as the kid coming home from an all-nighter drifted right at me, and onto the shoulder.... It was quick, coming around a corner just like you. I went left, and fishtailed back onto the road. He was smooth faced, and his eyes were open, but unfocused. Asleep is my guess. That was 36 years ago, still sharp in my memory.

    May all your breaks be right so you will be left!

    1. STxAR

      I remember seeing those weeds, fortunately never had to try and weed them. One of the articles I read said they were edible if cooked. Let's just say, I'd have to be pretty darn near death from starvation before....

      I don't remember much about the thought process other than "...not going to be able to stop, gotta bail right, Trees, ditch, river, stopped, Holy Crap!"

      But, rather be lucky than good. Luck is more reliable.

    2. Many things are very edible. But I tend to stay away from things that have "boil, then throw away the water, reboil" as part of the instructions.

      Thus, well, nettles, dandilions, acorns and such will forever not touch my kitchen, plate or lips.

    3. There's a few more things I'd add to that list, turnips being one, but you're list is a good start.

    4. There is one place where you can swerve to the right and not have them come at you - railroad trestle underpass. That large, looming retaining wall will keep them from aiming for it, so you can do a quick(and slight) right toward the wall, punch the accelerator, and do a power slide toward said wall, giving just enough space for the lunatic coming head on to go on past.
      (Prim voice) - I would prefer not having to do that again.

    5. Frank,
      I would prefer not having to do that once. But...nice to know it CAN be done. Glad you're OK.

  6. Holy Crap!

    Been in similar circumstances twice, time slows down, your brain looks at the possible options, you choose.

    If you come out the other side, you chose wisely, otherwise...

    There but for the Grace of God...

    1. Thanks Sarge,

      Be very careful, you know what they say about "Third time is..."

      Yesterday when I stopped at the roadside park to take the picture of the tracks, several folks drove by going both directions. Some of their speeds were quite....impressive. Unfortunately, there isn't a good way to get into town. Just going to have to keep my head on a swivel.

      As for the "Grace of God"...exactly!

  7. So did you ever think driving to the Burg would be exactly like flying an F-15? Boredom, terror, and boredom all in a short drive. A friend has multiple hummingbird feeders. He's a fighter guy as well and enjoys watching the ACM as the more territorial ones go 1v1 on the regular, full scissors to the vertical, breaking hard decks, etc. Cute things, but vicious sometimes.

    1. Tuna,
      Interestingly, Mrs J, a few days before the incident, had asked why I always crowd the right shoulder when I'm on the inside of the turn. I'd shrugged and mumbled something about shortest distance or something. I think the real, if subconscious, reason is fractionally increased reaction time.
      Mrs J and I have taken to sitting out on the back porch (with an adult recreational beverage) and watching them. She's named that point in the day "Flappy Hour". My inner Fighter IP finds little to critique in the little guy's dogfighting skills and a lot of "Man, I wish I could have done that"-esque comments.

    2. Pretty much, no Jet Noise, but a very pleasant hum from their flapping wings.

  8. Texas Thistle--any decent broad leaf weed killer should work wonders. Also, they are annuals, so a broadcast pre-emergent should help too. We had to fight those when I was a kid. Not one of my favorite chores, hiking around in the summer sun with one of these--

    As mentioned, you neatly missed the road sign. I am reminded of a story about the late Jeff Cooper. The rifle range on the Gunsite property went out to some distance. No surprise, they had a dirt road running the length of the range. At one point, the road made a left turn, and Cooper decided to put a metal gong target off the high side of the curve. As he had occasion to round the curve on an ATV, he would unlimber whatever handgun he had with him and let fly at the target while rounding the curve. One day, his staff secretly placed a wooden head stone next the curve, with this inscription--

    Here lie the bones
    of Uncle Vern.
    Hit the gong
    but missed the turn.

    1. RHT447,
      Carrying a can with 5 gallons of any liquid in the Summer Sun can be....character building, as well as improving your "Bad Words" vocabulary. We had similar upbringings in that respect.

      I liked your tale and the verse. A sense of humor goes a long way in making a point.

    2. The state trooper giving a driving safety class said he ALWAYS hugs the right side of the road. While approaching a semi coming from the other way (who was also hugging his right side) a young man driving fast pulled out to pass the truck. There was just enough room between the trooper's car and the truck for the young man's car to barely squeeze through. After which the young man pulled off the side of the road and had a minor nervous breakdown. What made it more interesting - the young woman riding with the young man was screaming her lungs out during the entire rite of passage.

    3. There is something to be said for the Trooper's advice. Things on your side of the road are only traveling at your speed if that. Things on the other side of the road are traveling twice as fast if not more.

      People ask me why I accelerate (even exceed the speed limit) when I pass trucks. I explain that I've had them switch lanes into me 3 times. I want to minimize the time in that danger zone. As soon as I see them in my mirror I decelerate down to the cruise controlled speed. I explained that to a trooper once, he tore up the ticket he'd been writing.

      Kids! I used to tell my HS students "You guys think you're omniscient, omnipotent and infertile. You're wrong on all three." Since this was a computer class, I'd very shortly thereafter hear some typing followed by a few chuckles. As I said earlier, a sense of humor goes a long way in making a point.

  9. You need a Goat. Eats anything. And a Moat. Hinders Eat-Anything from Eating Everything. Also, congratulations for dynamic transposition over depressingly sad imitation of Moat whilst piloting passenger vehicle in proximity to Earth. A pair of J79's might have come in handy after all....

    1. I've suggested goats or sheep, The Powers that Be (aka Mrs J) have veto'd the ideas. Too smelly is her reasoning. My countering with "31 acres" doesn't carry much weight apparently, but then again her sense of smell is much better than mine.

      Moats take a lot of water. I'd have to substitute spikes in the bottom instead of water. Unfortunately, the spike salesman is self-quarantining and isn't taking house calls right now.

      Thanks. J-79's would always come in handy, if for nothing else, lighting the afterburner and pointing it at thistles.

  10. Good save Juvat. I know that section of highway as I recognized the name of the road on the sign. That is a horrible curve and taking it much over the suggested speed can be "interesting" to say the least.

    The Texas Thistle is a pain in the posterior but at least the flowers are pretty. I have to start getting rid of them around The Last Frontier. Fortunately we don't seem to have Bull Nettle down here in South Central Texas. Had that up in North Texas where I moved from. If you just brushed against it the pain was terrible. I dug a huge one up once from a small corral and it had a root the size of a grapefruit.

    1. Bill,
      I figured you'd driven that route a time or two (thousand).

      I try (and fail mostly) to get them before they get to the flowering (aka seeding) stage. I've yet to be able to dig up one (other than very young ones) and get all the root. Dumping some weed killer into the hole is my tactic at this point. But I am open to advice.

      Other than thermonuclear weapons of course! ;-)

  11. "Better to be lucky..."

    GOD YES!!! (experience of yours truly says..) P.S: Rule of thumb: Most of the time (but not always, YMMV) 'tis better to reflexively steer first viz break.

    1. Agreed! Which is why I stopped breaking when I realized neither of us would stop in time and came up with Plan B. Another good R.O.T. Never trust Anti Skid brakes, they will fail when you need them the most. Wet Runway, KwangJu ROK, leading 6 Eagles in an instrument recovery. Took the barrier in the overrun to get stopped.

  12. Regarding thistle, had a friend that Mrs. Andrew and I used to hang out a lot and do stuff with. Since her ability to drive was, when paying attention, pretty equivalent of the young lady in your story, well, I served as the chauffeur for the attentionless twit. So, one day on the way to the local pottery shop, which wasn't in our little town but down a long windy road heading towards Williston, FL, we are passing cow pasture after cow pasture and Ms. NoAttention spouts out these immortal words, "Cows love to eat thistle, you can tell, because there's so much in those fields."

    At which Mrs. Andrew says, "Yes, well, they love them so much they must be saving them for dessert."

    Which made Random Scatterbrains actually shut up for a few minutes as she digested the not-complementary sentence. Then she fumed for a few more.

    So, of course, if Mrs. Andrew is in the van and we see thistle, well, whomever shouts out "Cows love thistle" or "Cow dessert!" first wins.

    Ms. Random Comment Generator, well, does not understand us as we, to this day, when we see Scatterbrains Running Mouth, tend to also repeat the phrases above.

    She's Dame Bramaged... Sweet lady, but definitely Dame Bramaged...

    Glad you survived your encounter with either a cell phone lurker, a blown-tire driver or a random English chick (or combination of all three.) There's a certain moment after moments like that, when the heart rate returns to normal, when one realizes one hasn't fouled oneself, when there are no other cars playing demo-derby with yours, that the giggles occur.

    And Mrs. Juvat's comment? She must have gone to the same snappy comment school as Mrs. Andrew. The School of Gracious Sarcasm. Or something. When Not-Mrs. Andrew dropped a few comments like that, well, that was when I knew she was for me (along with a few other things but this is a family show and throwing dice at me is a tad more violent than our noble host allows...)

    1. Yes, a sharp witted Wife is worth her wait in gold-plated Latinum. Good for a laugh and making sure you keep your wits about you.

      "....saving them for dessert." That's a hundred rounds of 20MM through the bullseye with the sarcasm cannon. Well done.

  13. And Buzz-birds? Did you know that scientists were freaking out because their ranges are expanding and the scientists couldn't understand why? Until some smart-arse pointed out that, coincidentally, the ranges that the buzz-birds are expanding into are coincidentally where people are moving into, and people love feeding the darned things directly (via feeders) or indirectly by planting plants that hummingbirds like.

    I think at that point the smart-arse got the treatment all smart-arse scientists get when they smart-arse an actual solution as told by the late Douglas Adams in his "Hitchhikers'" series, which is death at the hands of all the other non-smart-arse scientists for, well, the smart-arsed but accurate and correct solution. (I first encountered said "Hitchikers' Guide to the Galaxy" on public radio eons ago... Much better than the tv series, by the way.)

    1. I've been told, (OK, by my wife, but I'm not going to contradict) that Buzz-birds eat their weight in Mosquitos. Given that we're in the transition area from humid/swampy Texas and dry/desert Texas, there are still quite a lot of mosquitos. Since Hummer's don't weigh very much, we need to make up for that by encouraging more of them. Mrs J is doing quite well in that task.

  14. HumBirds, Yes! One of God's little creations to give us joy and wonder. We had two feeders going at a point in time in Santa Cruz and we never tired of remarking as to their ACT and hovering ability. We watched them from the kitchen (with a view like your cat). If you walked out the front door quietly and slowly, you could get quite close.
    When you have been driving as long as many of us on this list, we'll all have had fun times whilst simply driving around. Excitement usually caused by others. Jeanie and I were driving along the 880 in San José one nice afternoon when a car, a hundred yards ahead of us, or so, did a 180° turn and was suddenly looking at us. How strange. You're correct when you say you enter another time warp and it goes by you at seventy-five MPH. What happened? Hand of God, that's all. Like delivering "bombs for peace" to Hanoi in the day. Coming out of there, finally pointing more or less South, we would say "What the hell was that all about?" Enough said. D4

    1. Fortunately I never had the opportunity to experience "delivering bombs for peace". However, I've experienced the "What the hell was that all about?" exiting the Red Flag airspace enough to somewhat understand the feeling. The term "Sensory Overload" doesn't begin to describe it.

  15. Juvat, reason number 585 I love the right lane. Yes, I know that I have to deal with the people merging on, but I can see them coming. Someone aimed at a missile for me, not so much. Glad your reflexes are still lightning quick.

    Even after my father sprayed for Star Thistle at The Ranch, he would still have small stands of them. He took to day and evening walks with his hoe to get them out.

    Our version of the Bull Thistle is the Russian Thistle. Same concept. I hate them to death. Turns out you cannot just clip the heads off; you have to get the whole thing.

    1. TB,
      Another part of the problem, is if they've started flowering, if you just dig them up and leave them, the seeds will drop and begin germinating. You have to transport them someplace to dispose of them (I prefer a hotter than the fires of Hades firepit, but a plastic bag and a dumpster works in a pinch. I'm hoping my weed killer shot on top of what's left of the root works. We'll see.

    2. Yes, to my sorrow I have also learned that.

  16. Yep, Bull Thistles play #$@$% with yards and the things that use them. And glad you've still got 'reactions' and aren't afraid to make a decision and take action!

    1. Yeah, they do indeed. I think most of us with the background most of us have also have those traits. Indecisiveness is not a desired trait in the military although it does exist, unfortunately.

  17. We've had stuff bustin' up through the soil all over here. Mixed up a bunch of Weed-B-Gon (2-4-D) and clobbered all the dandelion/thistle things we had sprouting. And I'm sure there's more to come....

    Had a similar thing happen the day Sweet Little Wife (To Be) and I came back from getting our marriage license. I was piloting my Grand Cherokee, and Sum Dood in an older Trans Am went blasting by us, weaving in and out of traffic. About 1/4 mile down the road, he cut it too close to somebody, and BLAM! Spinning cars on the 91 freeway, and we're closing at about 70 kts. I did my best Mario Andretti, and maneuvered through the spinning cars all around us. SLW (To Be) was in shock for about 10 minutes after that, and it took about 20 minutes for me to calm down from the adrenaline surge....

    1. That little talk I used to give to my students that I mentioned above? I added immortal to the list after one of them had a similar experience. Unfortunately....

  18. Only a few people that I would let drive; Juvat, the ex who grew up in Mongolia and Larry Bird. Well played, Juvat


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.