Yakkety-Sax Man – Part VI: The Final Chapter


Note:  Since Ann and I are going to the Big Bend country to spend the weekend and our 55th wedding anniversary at the Far Flung Adventures Casitas, I am publishing this final Part VI a few days early.

In May of 1968 we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.  The purpose for the move was that Ann was transferred by the San Angelo Coca-Cola Bottling Company to their Las Cruces location, with the aim of re-organizing the office there.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got a job as a car salesman for the Chevrolet dealer there.  I also joined the Optimists Club that met for breakfast every Thursday morning.  It was soon after that that club members met one evening at Gene Peugh’s home for a cocktail party.  Gene and some of his buddies were providing the music.  I had been in town only a few days and was looking for music work.  During the evening I asked Gene if I could sit in.  I went home, a few blocks away, and brought my sax back.  What a blast that was.  I was welcomed into the band immediately.

The band consisted of Gene, (AKA Stinky Peugh) who played the piano;  B.L. Wicher, the local tax collector who played rhythm guitar;  Gene’s teen-aged son, Dean, played the drums.  There were only four of us but we were pretty effective.  Because of age differences, we called ourselves “ZAP, The Generation Gap”.  We played at small functions around town and at the Las Cruces Country Club.  (Note:  ZAP was for Zeller and Peugh.)

ZAP The Generation Gap L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

ZAP The Generation Gap
L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

My salesman position, was at the beginning, a complete disaster.  I was a bad introvert, not a good trait in a salesman.  I was afraid to talk to people.  The owners of the dealership were very nice and they liked me enough that they didn’t want to lose me.  They gave me a job in the accounting department instead of firing me.  Of course, I was really in my element there because bookkeeping was my thing.  I was happy there for quite awhile.

However, being in the Optimist Club, with their outgoing members really had an effect on me.  I started coming out of my shell, so to speak.  I overcame my shyness in a complete turnaround.  All of a sudden I knew I could sell cars, but of course they, the Chevy dealer, wouldn’t take a chance again.  But the sales manager of the American Motors, (think Nash), and Mercedes-benz dealer said he would hire me.  I went to work there and sold a new car within an hour on my first day.  From then on, I was to become a successful car salesman for another ten years.  As for my shyness??  My friends can’t shut me up now. 🙂

In May of 1972, Ann was invited to move back here to San Angelo, to resume her career as office manager.  I got back into the swing of things in the music world again.  But I wasn’t as active as I was in the “old” days.  The Cavaliers as I knew them, were defunct, but another generation of musicians were re-organizing them again.  Their genre was more in keeping up with the then current pop type music of the 70s.  They were all friends of mine, and James Thomas, a local real-estate agent played sax.  Whenever I was at a function where they were playing, he always invited me to sit in.

When word got out that I was back, my old friend Billy Aylor called me.  He said that there was going to be a contest for choosing a local western singer to go to Dallas for another competition.  I don’t recall what that was all about.  But he wanted me to help him judge the competition, along with Chill Wills, the movie star and another guy whom I don’t remember the name.  Too many years have passed.  It was held at another club near the air base.  There were about fifteen competitors performing in front of a crowd of about a hundred.  Well, during the contest, Chill, Billy and I were enjoying liquid refreshments.  I do remember that the winner was very happy…….as we were.

In February of 1982, I got a call from Gene Peugh, back in New Mexico.  The old band was getting back together for a reunion and playing at a Battle of the Bands, held in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn de Las Cruces.  It would be us against the New Mexico State University band.  Gene had got a bunch of musicians from Nashville to come in to help us out.  It was for a charity benefit.

Now a “Battle of the Bands” is just show, no contest involved.  One band plays for an hour then the other band plays for another hour, and it goes back and forth.  The NMSU band set up at one end of the ballroom and we at the other.  We, both bands, put on great shows.  The NMSU band was great, organized, and well practiced.  We on the other hand was a bunch that half of us had never worked together; the Nashville musicians had just gotten in that afternoon.  What we lacked in organization, we were overwhelmed with star power.  I think we had, piano, drums, upright bass, trombone, two saxes, a rhythm guitar, trumpet, two or three fiddles.  There were about 500 people in attendance and the proceeds went to a local charity.

Back here in San Angelo, I was playing a lot at the Twin Mountains Steakhouse and Supper Club.  We had a country/western band called the Concho River Boys, and we worked there about four nights a week.  It was a neat place.  Nice tables and cushioned chairs for dining, then the music started about 9:00 for dancing.  It was quite different from some of the cowboy hangouts that I had worked on occasion where you had to look out for low-flying beer cans.

I slowly began to curtail my playing.  Music was changing too much for my tastes.  I didn’t like the trend of the way music was headed, such as  hard rock music.  My time was passing and didn’t want to be looked up as a washed-up has-been.  I just retired gracefully.  My last gig was with a band of musicians of my own choosing, playing for the Christmas party of West Texas Utilities Company, at the San Angelo Convention Center.  That was December 20, 1986.

Looking back, I have decided that if I had it all to do over again, there is not a single thing that I would change.

I sold my saxophone to a young airman at Goodfellow AFB.  It was a Selmer Mark VI that I purchased with my re-enlistment bonus back in 1957.  It could still sing……….

Author’s note:  I hope everyone enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Will there be a book?  I doubt it.  But there are an awful of tales that have yet to be told.

Okay, Okay, I Accept the Award


For the fourth time in as many weeks I have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I already had been awarded this pseudo prestigeous award for achievements in the profession of blogging.  I was going to ignore them this time, but it would be unkind to do so, as I don’t want to appear un-appreciative to those who nominated me.

These people who nominated me are, in no particular order are, H.J. Ruiz who writes Avian 101, a blog about birding in general;   Bruce Stambaugh of Roadkill Crossing, stories from the Amish country of Millersburg in northwestern Ohio;  Katie Johnson’s Camera Blog, writing and photographing about the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico;  and the lovely Nandini Dhiman of Life Just Is, writing from the lap of the Himalayas in India.

If I remember correctly from my first time receiving this award, I must list 10 interesting facts about myself, the following that task, to list 10 more deserving recipients of the award.

First, my 10 interesting facts about myself.  This isn’t going to be pretty. 🙂

  1. I met my wife, Ann, for the first time in person, only 2 hours before the wedding rehearsal.  Click (here) for details of that adventure. 🙂
  2. I was a professional musician, saxophonist, for a large portion of my life.  During about 45 years I appeared at clubs, arenas, convention halls in U.S. and abroad.  Big bands, jazz, country music.  You name it, I did it. 🙂
  3. Also during my life, at various times I sold furniture, tires, used cars and encyclopedias.
  4. For three years, I owned a lawn and landscape business.
  5. I was the city bowling champion of Las Cruces, New Mexico during the season of 1971-72.  My average was 198 and I beat a bowling pro by the name of Rocky Thompson, by one pin.
  6. I have Marfans Syndrome.  A genetic disease with no cure.
  7. My photography has been published in four magazines, on the cover of one.  My work is also featured in a book, “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, written by local author, Ross McSwain.  A photograph of mine is also on the cover.
  8. I have a great, but sometimes, weird sense of humor.
  9. I am a dog lover.  However, the older I get the smaller my dogs get.  I once owned a large Collie, named Trooper.  Now I have a little 15 lb. Shih Tzu named Suzie.
  10. I love crossword puzzles.  I work the daily challenge from the local newspaper every morning.  No one will play Scrabble with me

Next is the nominating of some other deserving individuals to also receive this award.  But I will go a bit astray on this.  Many or most of my blogger friends already have received the award, and of course, some have not.  So I am not going to demand that any of them do these lists unless they really want to.  But I am going to honor the following individuals, whether they want me to or not.  Click on their names to visit their blog.

  1. Mia McPherson.  This blog should be must reading for anyone who aspires to be a wildlife photographer.  The photographs are awesome and breath-taking.  I was reluctant to name her, because I am afraid I might lose some of my followers to her blog. So after checking her out, please come back.  Please.
  2. Melissa Koski.   One of my favorite people.  She has great wildlife photos and stories from around her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She sometimes makes me homesick, (but only sometimes)  because I was born and raised only 40 miles from her in Muskegon.
  3. Holly Stanley.    Another Michigander from Lansing, the state capitol.  I have watched her grow from a rank beginner in photography, to an accomplished artist in that genre.  All in the past two years or so.  Way to go, Holly. 🙂
  4. Jeff Lynch.   A man after my own heart.  He, like me, is in love with west Texas, particularly the Big Bend National Park area.  His photography and articles about that part of the state, urges me to go back again and again.
  5. Linda Rockwell.  Great wildlife photos and articles from the Land of Enchantment, particularly I like her photos from the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
  6. Cindy Kilpatrick.   I am certain that she already has been nominated for this award, but doggone it, she certainly deserves to be one of my honorees.  Her beautiful, awesome photographs, and accompanying beautifully written articles are something to behold.
  7. Denise Richter.    If you are ever planning a trip to the Alamo City, (Texas talk for San Antonio, Texas), you need to first visit her blog.  San Antonio’s Chamber of Commerce should be paying her.  She can answer all of your questions as where to stay, where to eat, things to do, and tell you how to get on the boat to tour the downtown Riverwalk.
  8. Teresa Silverthorn.  Her blog is one of the most interesting, mysterious, eerie, things you can ever read.  For me, she is a must read, and I check out her latest happening every day.
  9. Jim Miller.   Jim is a personal friend who is in the U. S. Air Force, now stationed in San Antonio, Texas.  I met him when he was stationed here in San Angelo and our interests are the same.  Wildlife photography.
  10. Martina Landolt.   Martina photographs what she sees.  My favorites are her beautiful landscapes.  But you can expect photos of wildlife and interesting places, too.

So those are my nominees/honorees for this time.  I know I have left out some other people, but that comes with having so many loyal and loving followers.  So if you are not on the list, I still think highly and appreciate each and every one of you.

Raptors of Bosque Del Apache NWR


As you may remember, Ann, Jodie Wolslager, and I made a trip to New Mexico to visit the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  As I usually do on a trip like that, I shot around 500 images.  Yesterday morning, I was browsing through them and tossing some of the bad ones.  (And you thought that I didn’t take any bad pictures.  Boy, would you be surprised.) 🙂

Anyway, I needed to thin them out, and I came across several pretty good ones that I had forgotten about.  I love to photograph raptors and these are three of my best shots.  I saw several more while we were there, but either the birds were hidden or the light was bad.  In any case, there were many hawks that were “un-photographed”.  I hope to return there again later this year, to remedy that situation.  It is such an amazing place.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos, and of course, click on any of them to see an enlargement.

Red-tailed Hawk

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon100-400mm zoom lens
  • 1/250 sec. @ f5.6 – minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 400
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Bald Eagle

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens w/1.4 tele-converter
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod w/Wimberley II gimbal head
  • 1/1000 sec. @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 100
  • Lens focal distance – 700mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Sharp-shinned Hawk

  • Canon 7D
  • Canon 100-400 zoom lens – hand-held
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6 minus 1/3 EV
  • ISO 2500
  • Lens focal distance – 400mm
  • Shutter priority
  • Partial metering

Outstanding Achievment Award for…………


Wow!!  The good news keeps pouring in!!  My good friend Holly over at Photos by Holly presented me with this decorous award:

Needless to say, I am beyond thrilled to receive such a citation for my creative achievments above and beyond……… 🙂  Holly, who herself is an outstanding blogger, received the same award recently, and decided to pass it on to me.  Thank you, Holly.  I will cherish it. 🙂

So I am going to pass it on to some other qualifying bloggers, whom I feel that they rightfully deserve the same credit.

First here are the rules.

1) Thank the person who honored you and give a link to their blog.

2) Tell 7 random facts about yourself.

3) Pass the award to 15 new found bloggers.

4) Contact each blogger onto whom you pass the award and let them know.

5) Let the giver of the award know you accept it or not.

Now for the seven random facts about myself.

1.  I didn’t meet my wife for the first time until two hours before the wedding rehearsal.

2.  I am a former saxophone player that played with some of the best bands in the land.

3.  I am 76 years old, have the mind of a 25 year old, and I don’t look any older than a 90 year-old.

4.  When I enlisted in the Air Force, I was 6 foot, 1 inch tall, but weighed only 119 pounds.  My nick-name was Slim.

5.  My friend from Maine, Toby, has given me a new nick-name:  Funky Old Dude.

6.  I once appeared on stage with Brenda Lee.

7.  A photo of mine was on the back cover of the August 2011 issue of National Wildlife Magazine.  My goal is to be on the front cover of Sports Illustrated, the swimsuit issue.

Now with a blare of trumpets, here are the new recipients of this outstanding award.

1.  Cindy Kilpatrick  A lady from Canada who is definitely a versatile blogger.  A great author and a great photographer.

2.  Toby Shoemaker.  A former Texan who gets a little homesick, now living in the great state of Maine.  His blog is one of the most entertaining and educational that I know of.

3. Mike Ziegler.  A friend of mine from Austin, Texas.  He keeps me up to date about the water lilies that he grows, and where his travels lead.

4.  Dave  Another Canadian blogger.  He writes about his daily life.  Very interesting reading.

5.  Cindy McIntyre is a park ranger at Big Bend National Park.  She and I have a lot in common, hunting the trees, crawling the weeds to find new birds.

6.  Raven is a full-blooded Cherokee Indian.  His photography is phenomenol.

7.  Johnnie Harper is a very dear friend of mine.  He is recovering from stage 4 nymphoma, and planning another trek in the Himalayas.  Read about his adventures from a previous trek to that location.  An amazing man.

8.  ClassyRose.  A very interesting blogger from Australia.

9.  Jim Miller is another outstanding nature photographer.  He writes about his experiences in Iceland and shows his awesome photographs.

10.  Deb Tappan.  She is not a blogger per se, but she is an awesome photographer who has inspired me in many ways, especially to write my own blog.  Her photographs highlight many of the areas of the National Park System.

11.  Katherine Hoehm is a consultant inside the beltway in Washington. D.C.  Outstanding nature photographs from along the East Coast.

12.  Linda Rockwell writes about her experiences in New Mexico, and especially the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

13.  White Noise.  A blog about the nature happenings from Central Texas.

14.  Michael Lam.  A photographer from Guyana.  An outstanding eclectic collection of image.

15.  Shelly Jefferson.  Her life in a photo per day.  Great photos of flowers.

16.  Syl Lobato.  Awesome, gorgeous paintings on stone.  Must see to believe.  A new addition to my blog-roll.

PLEASE NOTE:

If you are one of the recipients – you can either save the Versatile Blogger image, and then post to your own page, or you can copy the image location, and put in the html code.  Congratulations to all.

Bosque Del Apache Trip – Part II


The Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge consists of open fields, copses of trees, and several large lagoons or ponds.  Also included is a board-walk over one watery acre where there are reeds and water birds.  But the main part is the 12-mile driving tour that goes through and around these areas.  You may take your time and do it at your own pace.  You may stop anywhere you desire.  All you have to do is pull to the side of the road.  There are also many permanent viewing areas placed along the drive.  At the visitors center you can use the blinds and cactus gardens to see quail and other birds and small wildlife.  Rather than bore you with a lot of narrative. I will show some more images that I captured there.

But before I do that, I want to relate one our most thrilling experiences.  As we were doing the driving tour, we came upon this large lagoon that was filled with several species of ducks.  I spotted with my naked eye what I at first thought was a rather large white breasted duck.  Then through my binoculars, I realized that it was a hawk trying to sink it’s claws into a Northern Shoveler.  I figured that I might have as much as a minute to grab my 500mm and the tripod.  But just I reached for them, a beautiful Bald Eagle swooped down, snatched the duck from the hawk, and flew away.  An awesome image that I regretted that I wasn’t able to capture.

Gambel's Quail in tree

Cactus Wren

Black-throated Sparrow perched on Cholla

A young Western Meadowlark

Merlin in the brush

Sandhill Cranes in afternoon sun

So those were some of the highlights of the trip photographically, that is.  While in Las Cruces we enjoyed the fine Mexican food that can be found there.  However, a trip by Bob Zeller must have a dramatic ending, shouldn’t it.  After dining at La Posta restaurant in Old Mesilla, I stepped off the curb.  Then after seeing an automobile approaching, I stepped back up on the curb, slipped, fell and badly abraised my arm and hand.  So a trip to Walgreen’s drug store, for bandages, etc. ensued, followed by going back to our room to get cleaned up.  No broken bones, fortunately, but it will be several days before my arm and hand will be without bandages.

Organ Mountains, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Happy Birding!!

Bosque Del Apache Trip – Part I


Well, after a quick, but wonderful trip to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, we are back and getting things back to normal here. 

The trip nearly didn’t happen.  The distance from San Angelo to Soccoro, New Mexico, the nearest city with lodging, is about 640 miles.  We decided that was too far to try to travel in one day.  After all, in addition to my wanting to do some photography, the three of us are also birders and we tend to get distracted if we see something perched on a telephone pole.  So we decided to stop in Las Cruces , NM and go from there the second day.

We had originally wanted to leave Monday morning, but because we could not get the lodging we wanted, we opted to stay at the Dream Catcher Inn, a bed and breakfast.  But even then, we could get our three night stay only starting on Tuesday night.  So we left on Tuesday morning. 

A good thing we did.  On Monday morning we awoke to no hot water at home.  Our hot water heater was leaking water and had to be replaced.  If we had left on that Monday morning we would have had a mess to clean up after getting home.  So things happen for a reason.

The inn is east of Las Cruces, up near the foothills of the Organ Mountains.

View from our room at Dream Catcher Inn

On Wednesday morning we woke to the view pictured above.  Our hosts, Ken and Anita McLeod, were already awake and had our breakfast ready.  Hot coffee, sizzling bacon, a wonderful egg quiche, and bowls of fruit.  We then hit the road for the Bosque Del Apache NWR.  It was a drive of about 140 miles, but well worth it, as you will see.

At the bosque, you can take a 12 mile self-guided driving tour through the refuge.  You can stop anywhere along the way and there are several observation points.  There are numerous lagoons filled with water birds of all kinds, dead tree snags in the ponds with Bald Eagles perched,  tall trees where you can find many hawks.  At one end of the reserve was a large concentration of several thousand Sandhill Cranes.  It was late in the day by time we reached them, and they were just arriving after spending the day feeding in nearby fields.

Sandhill Crane

I will continue with more in Part II.  More pictures to come.  My monitor crashed  yesterday morning, so I ordered a new one, but it will be a couple of weeks before it arrives.  But I did manage to get another image or two edited besides these.  Click on either one for an enlargement.

Red-naped Sapsucker and Meadowlark


The weather is starting to warm up again.  However, it got down to 16 degrees again this morning.  We checked out the San Angelo State Park, though, as the sun is starting to heat up.  No wind, very nice.  However we didn’t see much bird activity, but we didn’t stay long.  I have to get photo equipment sorted out and then wash the van for our trip to Bosque Del Apache NWR, in New Mexico.   We saw several Western Meadowlarks.  They were just about the only thing stirring, except for some cardinals, sparrows, etc.

Western Meadowlark

Tomorow is our monthly Adult Birding Adventure at the park.  It is lead by yours truly, and we usually have a good turnout of participants.  It consists of spending a little time at the bird blind, then the balance just driving slowly through the park, to see what we can see.  The reason for this is that several species don’t ever frequent the bird blind, and vice versa.  So we never know what we will come across.  Last year one time, we were surprised by a Burrowing Owl sitting on an old Prairie Dog mound.  More recently we saw what we at first thought was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  I managed to get a photograph (below) and that was when we discovered that it was a Red-naped Sapsucker.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Click on either photograph to see an enlargement. 

Happy Birding!!