Internet Dating – 50s Style

This post is a little bit off of my usual style, but it will serve as an example of how things can work out, even if a little unorthodox.  But, most importantly, how having faith in the Man upstairs, can make things work out.

It started when Ann and I were down at Beverly Stribling’s ranch, leading eleven delightful ladies on a birding tour.  After that was done, lunch was served, wine was imbibed, and  conversation was entertaining.  One of the ladies insisted that Ann and I tell them how we met, since we have been married 58 years.  After I told them that it was at bit unusual, to say the least, they wanted the complete unabridged story.  I believe that I may have touched a bit on the subject in a post several years ago, but I will be more thorough this time.  I think you will find it a little entertaining.  Perhaps a little unbelievable.  So here we go……..

I am from Muskegon, Michigan originally.  In March of 1958 I was stationed at Ardmore AFB, Oklahome.  Ann had just moved to Muskegon from her home in Beulah, Michigan.  She did this to attend Muskegon Business School.  She was nineteen year of age.  She just happened to rent an upstairs room and my grandmother’s house.  (You can see where this going, can’t you.)

Yep, my sweet grandmother, decided that she should do the right thing and notify me of the cute girl upstairs.   She provided me of her address, just in case I was interested.  This was in mid March of 1958.  Well, since I was a lonely service man, of course, I was a little interested.  (heck, a lot interested).  I decided to write this lass, and introduce myself as the grandchild of her landlord.  She wrote back immediately with a very nice letter, telling me about herself, etc.  So I wrote her back again.  We struck a neat friendship that blossomed as we got to know each other.  She sent me a couple of pictures of herself.  This was the first one.

Ann – 1958

Ann – 1958

You have to agree, she has great looking legs.  So, anyway, I sent her a couple of mine, as I wanted her to know what she was getting into.  Here I am, dressed to impress.

Bob – 1958

We continued to write each other.  By mid-April we were writing each other every day. Before, I had been writing to about 50 other girls.  (Well that figure may be inaccurate.  Maybe it wasn’t that many  I will need to go back and check my records.  After all, I am nearly 83 years of age, and my memory is a bit fuzzy.)  Anyway, I remember sending both of them a Dear Joan letter.  Things were getting more serious, but I still hadn’t met or even talked to Ann.

In about mid-June, I decided to ask Ann if she would marry me.  Yep, that’s right.  Sight unseen, I knew she was the one for me.  I waited in anticipation for her answer.  Three days later I got the return letter.  She said “I’d be honored to be your wife.  Wow! I thought, what do I do now?  Well, I got my calendar out and did some calculating.  First,we needed to set a date.

I decided a fast trip home was in order.  I could only ge a three-day pass, but that didn’t stop me.  I decided to hitch-hike to Oklahoma City, go to Tinker AFB and get a hop (free-right) on any military aircraft that was heading to Michigan or vicinity.  I figured I would hitch-hike to Muskegon, see my future bride for a few hours, then grab a bus back to Ardmore.  I called my dad and asked him go to Ann’s apartment and inform her of my plans.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans.  I made it to Tinker just fine.  But as I was sitting, waiting in the transient lounge a fierce thunder storm hit.  It included rain, very high winds, and large hail.  All flight operations ceased and all aircraft were grounded.  I had no choice but to hitch-hike back to Ardmore when weather cleared.  When I got there I called my dad again and asked him to go to Ann’s place again and tell her of my aborted mission.

Okay, I decided.  Time to go to plan B.  I decided to call her and talk to her on the phone.  This would be the first time I would hear her voice.  I called my dad once again.  (By now, my dad is getting to know Ann quite well.)  My grandmother didn’t have a telephone, so I asked my dad to, once again, go get Ann and bring her back to the house.  I would then call home at a designated time, and Ann and I would have our first conversation…….to make wedding plans.

Well, to have a private conversation at my parents house is not easy.  My dad has his favorite chair, a huge recliner that is where he spends his time relaxing.  Our phone is, yep, you guessed it.  On a stand, right next to that chair.  There are no other handsets.  I do not know if my dad gave up his seat for her, but I didn’t ask, as I had other things on my mind when she said hello to me…..for the first time.  We chatted a little then I asked her how August 18 would work for her.  I mentioned that date because of my plans that I worked out, explained in the following paragraph….

I had made some preliminary  plans vis-a-vis our wedding date.  I knew the how many paydays I would need to have to get enough money to rent an apartment, buy groceries, and get a round-trip ticket for me.  All the little things need to start a sucessful marriage to get off the ground.  So I had calculated all of this and figured if I could leave on Friday the 15th, after getting paid of course I could get to Chicago.  A friend of mine was heading that way and he would give me a ride there to the bus station, where I could buy a ticket for the final leg to Muskegon, Michigan.  Ann was to meet me at the bus station, at 2:00 PM the following day, Saturday.  Then we could get married on Monday the 18th.

So, back to our very first telephone conversation.  She said that date would be fantastic.  She would graduate from business school the previous week, so our timing was impeccable.  She said she would make all of the plans, get the license, line up a church and preacher, and send out invitations.  Before I forget, I also went to a jewelry store and paid 79.00 for a set of diamond rings.  Yes, they were real.  Remember this is 1958.

It worked out exactly as planned.  I pulled into the bus station at 2:00 and she was sitting on bench looking pretty much as she did in that picture above. It was like we had known each other forever.  We got a taxi to head for my parents house.  Remember, back then co-habitation (shacking-up) before marriage usually wasn’t done, so I would be staying there until we were married.  She mentioned on the way to the house, that I wouldn’t have much time to relax, as the wedding rehearsal was at 4:00.

All went well, we got to know each other more as the weekend went by.  The wedding was very nice, except for the absence of her parents.  They we up in age and didn’t feel up to making the 150 mile trip from Beulah to Muskegon.  On the following day, Tuesday, we did drive up there, though, so I could meet my in-laws.  They turned out to be awesome people.  There was only one minor snag.  I didn’t have enough money for Ann’s bus ticket back to Ardmore.  I had hoped to get some cash in our wedding gifts.  Alas, there was none.

The Melody Rangers – Ardmore AFB – Me 2nd from the right.

But no fear.  Since I was a professional musician before and during my Air Force career, I had an extra alto saxophone that my parents were keeping for me.  I took it to the local music store, that I used to haunt as a teenager.  I talked the owner into buying that sax so I could buy Ann’s bus ticket.  Problem solved.  We packed all of Ann’s belongings, including dishes, pots and pans, etc. into seven suit cases.  We checked them through on the bus.

Back in Ardmore.  The following day I took Ann out to the airbase.  She got a civil service job working in base supply.  Our landlord, thought we were a sweet couple.  Their son had a cream-puff 1953 Buick Roadmaster that he was willing to sell us for 795.00 and he would tote the note.  I would make payments to him.

So there we were.  All of a sudden we went from, ah, let’s see.  I won’t say a struggling couple, as we didn’t have enough sense to know what struggling meant.  We were just taking each day one at a time, having the time of our lives.  But there we were, Ann had a great job, we had a great car, and I was about to get promoted and add another stripe.  You see, the Good Lord was following our antics all the way, making sure we wouldn’t get lost.  It has now been nearly 59 years.  I wouldn’t recommend our way of getting ‘hitched’ but if I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Wedding photo

Wedding photo.

I hope you enjoyed this fun, but true story of love and adventure.


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Bob’s Big Return……with a Bang!

Well, after a six week absence, I am finally ready to get back to posting.  I have my health issues corrected and I am feeling great.  Actually, my health problems go back several years, when I had fits of depression, blood pressure issues, numerous IT infections, and finally culminated with skin cancer problems about two months ago that prompted me to take several weeks off.  I really need to thank my adoring wife, Ann,  for putting up with me and supporting me through all of those years.  I also had the support of several close friends, includding Deb and Paul Tappan, Laren Green and many others, plus a host of FaceBook friends who had me in their prayers.  But the most important individual was, of course, Ann.  If it wasn’t for her, I would not be where I am today.  Now at the age of 82, I am feeling much younger.

During the past several weeks, although I was slowed down a bit, I was able to amass a collection of photos during short visits to surrounding areas.  I am not going to post them in any particular order, but feel free to click on any of them to see some nice enlargements.  If you are interested in any prints, they are available at my on-line store.  Prices starting at 17.56.  I would be greatly honored if you decide to hang one in your home.  If you would just like to have one of my beautiful coffee mugs, check them out here

Okay, let’s start with this wonderful image of a Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher – 1/640 sec, @ f7.1, ISO 800.

By the way, for those that would like to know, my basic equipment for my bird photography is a Canon EOS 7D Mk II and a Tamron 150-600mm Gen 2 zoom lens.

I love the Summer Tanagers.  Evern the female pictured here, has  distinct beauty of her own.

Summer Tanager – female – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

It is migration time in Texas, and the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are returning.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 125.

This is probably a Western Meadowlark.  However I am not positive as the Eastern is so nearly identical that I have a hard time discerning which is which.

Western Meadowlark – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800.

I was proud of this image of the secluded White-eyed Vireo.  Very hard to catch one for a decent photo.

White-eyed Vireo – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 2500.

The Lark Sparrow is one of the most recognizable of the sparrows.  That distinct marking of the head that reminds me of a football helmet.

Lark-Sparrow – 1/640 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 200.

The Northern Bobwhite is one of the quail family that is much in abundance in this area.  Some of you photographers may have noticed that I have no qualms about shooting at high ISOs.  My Canon 7D Mark II handles high ISOs very well.  But if there is excessive digital noise, I use a Photoshop plug-in, Topaz DeNoise, that removes it rather nicely.

Northern Bobwhite – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

Great Kiskadees are, or have been, very rare to the Concho Valley.  They were practically unheard of around here.  But back in late September of 2016, four of them made there way to the Lake Nasworthy area.  By late March of this year we thought they had disappeared.  But on April 4, Ann and I were cruising around Spring Creek Park.  She said that she could hear one nearby.  I thought she imagining it, but she opened her iPad’s  iBird Pro app.  She played the sound for me, and one of them answered and flew to a nearby tree for this shot.  I guess they have found a home here.

Great Kiskadee – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 400.

Sometimes I  pass up chances if a bird or subject feels like it is too far away.  Such was the case with this Osprey.  He was very tiny, even in the viewfinder, but I made sure my camera and lens was firmly seated on my bean bag on my window sill.  With spot focusing I squeezed off the shot and it proved to be sharp enough to make a nice enlargement.

Osprey – 1/1000 sec. @f7.1, ISO 320.

This was my first photograph of the year of an Ash-throated Flycatcher.  There was a rumor of a similar Brown-crested Flycatcher in the area.  I discounted it as it would have been a rarity for here.  I don’t know of any recorded, confirmed sighting ever in this area.  However, “show me the picture”, and I will believe.

Ash-throated Flycatcher – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 800.

I love the little Kinglets, but they sure as heck really hard to photograph.  Always on the move.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

Bluebirds.  A crowd favorite.

Eastern Bluebird – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 640.

I was lucky to catch this Nashville Warbler when he was showing a bit of his rusty crown, which is usually hidden.

Nashville Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 640.

The Chipping Sparrow is another sparrow which is easily recognized.

Chipping Sparrow – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.

There are two sub-species of the Yellow-rumped Warbler; Audubon and Myrtle.  This one with the brilliant yellow “chin” is an Audubon.

Yellow-rumped Warbler – 1/1000 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 3200.

The problem with this Rock Wren is they are very hard to see.  We find them in the rocks, or riff-raff, on the side of O. C. Fisher Dam.  We know they are there, so we must be patient and watch for movement along the huge structure.  Finally, when we get a glimpse, it is easier to track them as they move along the rocks.

Rock Wren – 1/800 sec @ f7.1, ISO 1250

This little Bewick’s Wren was singing his little heart out.

Bewick’s Wren – 1/640 sec @ f6.3, ISO 320.

I watched this Great Horned Owl patiently for several minutes.  I was about 200 yards away so there was no way that I was going to agitate him.  I was waiting for him to open his eyes.  I moved his head many times but never opened them.  After about 15 minutes I gave it up and left the building.

Great Horned Owl – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, ISO 800.

Well, I think that is it for this post.  It felt wonderful to be posting again.  This particular post has a record number of photos, nineteen.  That is the most I have ever published in one post.  I hope you enjoyed every one of them.


What?? Shoot birds on an overcast day??

I have been thinking about the subject of this post for quite awhile.  Photographing birds on a heavily clouded, overcast day.  Today was one of them.  It reminded me of a close friend that almost refuses to try any photography if the sun isn’t shining.  The way to be sucessful is to forget about the color of the sky.  Think about the subject, your birds, and focus (pun intended) on photographing them, and not on the color of the sky.  If you want to photograph a blue sky, wait for a clear day.  If you want to photograph birds, be prepared to do just that.  You just do what you usually do.  In my case, I shoot shutter priority, set the shutter on about 1000/sec or higher depending on the lighting. I set auto ISO, and just let that exposure float along.  That is basically how I shoot birds regardless of the weather.

I also am prepared to boost the EV adjustment to the right about 1/3 or 2/3 stops.  Sometimes it may be necessary to go higher.  It may produce higher ISO exposures, but what’s the big deal?  Most popular SLRs have no problem with that.  It’s not going to keep me at home.  Like I said, just shoot what you would do on a normal day; cope with the usual exposure problems.  Focus on the birds and let the exposures fall where they may.  YOu will notice also, that in overcast weather, the color is nicely saturated.

On the subject of high ISOs, I know of a photographer that refuses to shoot if it is a high ISO day.  Hogwash!!  What kind of a photographer thinks that.  Not the kind that is very successful.  I hope my friend that doesn’t like overcast days, will think about what I have said, and go give it a chance.  Other than that quirk, she is a talented photographer.

Okay, now that I am through ranting, I will tell you about today.  I woke up with a forecast for the day, of cloudy with a 20% chance of rain.  The forecast held true.  It was very cloudy, looking like it could rain at any time.  In fact, a few times there was a hint of a few sprinkles on the windshield.  But they disappeared in a minute or two.  As usual, I didn’t want to stay home.  I am shooting with my Canon 7D Mk II and a Gen 2, Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I will post the exposure data along with each image.  Click on any of those images to see enlargements.

We started out at Spring Creek Park at about 8:00 AM.  We were apprehensive about whether we would see any birds at all.  Most of the tiny birds were keeping themselves hidden.  However there were a few other hardy ones.  This yellow-shafted Northern Flicker was in a bush and I was able to get him in focus.

Northern Flicker - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

Northern Flicker – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 6400

The resident Great Horned Owl made an appearance again.

Great Horned Owl - 1/1250 sec. @f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Great Horned Owl – 1/1250 sec. @f6.3, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

After seeing that owl, we decided to go to San Angelo State Park, since it was pretty wet in and we were driving through some sloppy areas.  The state park provided some more paved roads.

White-crowned Sparrow - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

White-crowned Sparrow – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 1000.

Northern Cardinal, female - 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

Northern Cardinal, female – 1250 sec. @ f7.1, ISO 4000.

As were taking a little drive through one of the picnic areas, we happened to glance towards the lake and saw hundreds of American White Pelicans and what looked like hundreds more of Double-crested Cormorants.  In this photo, I decided to change to aperture priority an set the camera to f8 to provide more depth of field, to capture more of this vast armada of water fowl.  This is just a small portion of the crowd.

Pelicans and Cormorants - 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

Pelicans and Cormorants – 1/800 sec. @ f10, ISO 1000

That exposure set-up worked out fine, but I made a rookie error and forgot to set the camera back to my original setting of Shutter priority for the rest of the session.  But no harm, no foul, as the following photos came out very nice.  Buy this time, it was getting near noon, but the weather hadn’t changed except for the temperature, which was a little warmer.  Still very cloudy with occasional mist.

Eastern Meadowlark - 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Eastern Meadowlark – 1/800 sec, @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 1250.

Curve-billed Thrasher - 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Curve-billed Thrasher – 1/1000 sec. @ f8, +0.7, ISO 1600.

Lincoln's Sparrow - 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

Lincoln’s Sparrow – 1/640 @ f8, +0.7 EV, ISO 6400.

As you can see, you can get great photos if you dis-regard the cloudy skies and just take what comes at you.  My ISOs varied, of course depending on whether the bird was in the open or in open shade or in the brush completely.  I came home happily with some good results for my efforts.  One additional thing I should mention, I am not foolish enough to shoot if it is raining.  Cameras and water do not mix well.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the images.  As I said, click any of the images to see some very nice enlargements.

Until the next post, Happy Birding!

Good start to the year……..

This past weekend, the last of January, Ann and I decided to see if we could add a few more to our 2016 list. We did, and ended up with 98 for the month.  Not bad, but heck, that’s better than last January when we only had about 75.  So we’re happy with the start.  Oh, I know what some of you are thinking.  If we lived in east or south Texas we probably would have about 150 already.  But it is what it is.  We love being where we are.  We love the challenge of actually having to go out and hunt for the birds.

So back to the details.  We started out at Spring Creek Park.  We had been told of a location where a Great Horned Owl was nesting.  We had no trouble finding it,but it was located about seventy-five yards back in the trees.  I lugged my camera and tripod back in to find a line of sight where I had a somewhat un-obstructed view.  Not easy to do.  I wanted to be able to train my long lens on the nest. Here is the result, from about 50 yards.

Great Horned Owl on nest.

Great Horned Owl on nest.

I will continue to monitor the nest to see some young ones come along soon.  The adults incubate the eggs for 30-45 days.  Then they will feed them for another month or so.  I also want to scout the area for another view, perhaps more free of tree branches, but still far enough away so as not to disturb the owl.

After photographing the owl for about fifteen minutes, I stole away quietly.  We then head for another area near the water where we had seen a bit of activity the past several days.  There in the early morning light we saw this happy Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

singing Carolina Wren

singing Carolina Wren

Nearby, several Cedar Waxwings flew into a tree.  One of them obliged me by flying down to perch near the water for a few minutes…….

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

as did this Northern Mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

After the tree was free of the waxwings, this little Eastern Phoebe decided to stop by.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

After spending about two hours there, we decided we had time to drive to the north portion of San Angelo State Park.  It had been several weeks since we had visited that area. We had the place to ourselves.  That part of the park isn’t visited as much since it was much farther away.  We spent a couple of hours there, too.  We love to get off the beaten paths and drive through the boonies.  We spotted this Ladder-backed Woodpecker working hard at something.

Ladderbacked Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker – female

Also a Vesper Sparrow…..

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

…….and a juvenile White-crown Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow - juvenile

White-crowned Sparrow – juvenile

So that’s about it for this post.  Hope you enjoyed it.  I welcome any comments.  Also, click on any image to see enlargements.

An exciting weekend……

Ann and I woke up early this morning.  The weather look great, so we had this great idea, to get out to Spring Creek Park early enough to get a look at a Gray Catbird the has been seen regularly.  We got to that designated spot about 7:15.  Alas!  Just as we drove near we spotted a grayish bird fly across the water.  We don’t know if that was the catbird or not, but after 30 minutes of waiting and watching, we decided to get back home for breakfast.  We missed him, but we will try again tomorrow morning.  So stay tuned.  But all was not lost.  During the time it took to get there and watch, we observed a Song Sparrow, Osprey, Ringed-bill Gull, Northern Cardinal, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Mockingbird, Wild Turkey, and several White-tailed Deer.

Over the weekend, we got out a couple of times and although the birding was not great, I got some nice looking photos if I do say so myself.  Here’s a re-cap.

On Friday we got out for a little while but not much was stirring.  However, I got lucky and came up with this nice photo of a Dark-eyed Junco.  This is a slate-colored variety.  He was back-lit and in the shade, but with a little finagling in my digital darkroom I was able to correct the lighting.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

On Sunday, things were a little better but not as good as usual.  However we decided to hit Spring Creek Park and Middle Concho Park.

First up was this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This Great Blue Heron was standing a log and not doing much of anything, but just staring.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Before leaving the lake area we drove by the little beach area at Mary Lee Park.  I tried my luck at photographing gulls in flight.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

That was it for the Lake Nasworthy area.  We had plenty of time, so off to the San Angelo State Park we went.  We drove around through the area where they had burned off the unwanted Mesquite trees and brush.  Not much stirring, I imagine because of the loss of so much habitat.

We headed in the direction of the Burkett multi-use area.  Along the way it finally got real exciting.  Off to the right of the road was an American Kestrel clinging to the top of stem from a bush.  I was hesitant because these birds are known to not hang around very long.

But since he appeared to be just enjoying himself, I decided to take a chance.  I turned right and drove into this rough area, carefully avoiding driving over any prickly pear.  I swung around enough so I could photograph from my driver’s side window.  One thing I have learned, folks, is to never get out of the car.  The birds will fly for sure.

So, I was in position, about thirty yards away.  Believe it or not, he continued to sit and sway in the wind, at times staring at me.  I managed to get off about forty shots of varying poses.  Here are two of them.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

I love this one………

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

After those forty shots, I was getting brave and decided to do what I tell people not to do.  I got out of the car. Hey, I wanted creep closer.  Instantly, the kestrel took flight.  Of course, I knew it would.  Will I ever learn??

But that ended our day on an exciting note.  It was definitely the highlight of the day.

I hope you enjoyed the story and the photos.  Click on any of them to see nice enlargements.

Happy Birding!!

Footnote:  I always try to live by the rule that you should never disturb the wildlife.  I violated that principal by trying to get out of the car.  I didn’t need to get closer.  I had all of the shots I wanted.  My long lens gets me as close I need to be.  I should have stayed in the car and drove away.  So, in recflection, I am sorry for my actions.