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For Electric Cooperative Members
June 2011 Letters

TCP Talk

Letters and comments from our readers

Will van Overbeek

Offended by Photos

I find the pictures of dead animals alongside grinning people (“Catch of the Day,” April 2011) to be grotesque and offensive. Not only do we have to see the usual pictures of children and adults holding up some fish as they hang on the ends of hooks, this time we also have to endure a dead alligator with his mouth propped open. Please consider that not everybody in Texas thinks it is fun to harm innocent animals.

Tracy Frank, Director, Society For Animal Rescue and Adoption, Seguin

High Stakes with Snakes

First, please let me compliment you on your magazine. We’ve been getting it for years and anticipate every issue. After we’ve read it cover to cover, we pass it on to friends who then share it with other friends. We love it.

However, I must say something regarding the rattlesnake photo and comments (“Rattled About ‘New’ Rattler”) on Page 6 of the April 2011 issue. The editor’s comments correctly state that a hybrid cross between rattlers and moccasins is a myth, but should then have responsibly pointed out that the plastic rattlesnake in the photo bears no resemblance whatsoever to any living species of rattlesnake. I’ve never seen such a misrepresentation of color and pattern in a cheap souvenir during my 50-year career as a herpetologist. The crude drawings in the Golden Guide children’s book Reptiles and Amphibians are infinitely more accurate. There are many very good books on Texas reptiles with excellent photos of real snakes. Clearly, from letter-writer Michael Nickerson’s comments, showing a photo of that plastic snake is doing no one any favors.

Further, the statement that Mojave rattlesnakes may be “migrating” to West Texas is false. A glance at any book about Texas reptiles would clearly show that Mojave rattlesnakes occur naturally in far West Texas. Any number of books also show exactly which few counties are known to have Mojaves. They look superficially similar to Western Diamondbacks, and they occur in some of the same habitats as Western Diamondbacks, but their bite is considerably more dangerous. Treatment for the bites of the two distinct species is different; thus, it could easily be a matter of life and death to know the difference. Color and pattern are crucial.

Ardell Mitchell, Retired curator of herpetology, Dallas Zoo, Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Wied Hall and Fiddlers’ Frolics

I loved the article about Hallettsville’s Fiddlers’ Frolics (April 2011, “Texas-style Fiddlin’ ”). And as a native resident of Wied, I must point out the misspelling of ‘Weid Hall’ on Page 19. Other than that, the story was a great representation of what the area has to offer in rich culture and history. And beer drinking.

Mark Kelnar, Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Worthy of Prominence

I referred a co-worker to your magazine, only to discover she already receives it. As a member of Bowie-Cass Electric Cooperative, she has received it for 15 years (all satisfying, by the way). We agree on its value to the great state of Texas in this sense:

It’s much like a patchwork quilt, with perhaps no part of it outstanding, but taken as a whole, the quilt bears a beauty of serviceability worthy of the king’s bed or for “hanging in a prominent place.”

We can only say, “Keep up the good work!”

Michael L. McAfee, Hawkins

Post, Texas: Nothing Ordinary Here

I feel there was an unfortunate typo in the story “C.W. Post: Cereal Czar and Rainmaker” in your March 2011 issue. The last paragraph describes the community of Post as “an ordinary little town.” I live in Post and know without a doubt that it is an EXTRAordinary little town. The story mentions some 35 historical markers [in Garza County]. Post also has two live theaters, a movie theater, an art museum, a historic museum and Old Mill Trade Day Downtown the first Saturday of each month. AND the town has enjoyed 14 new businesses during the past two years. Nothing ordinary here!

Rosa Latimer, President, Post Area Chamber of Commerce

Fly the Flag High

Great article in the March 2011 issue (“Flag ’Em Down”). If photographer E. Joe Deering is interested, please let him know that if he does a Google Earth search for “Douglass, Texas” and views about 100 yards west of the Douglass school, he will see a large barn rooftop painted with a Texas flag. I did it myself after my 10-year-old became infatuated with Google Earth a few years ago—I told him we would be visible, and Texas proud from outer space.

Miles T. Bradshaw, Deep East Texas Electric Cooperative

Getting a Handle on Dutch Ovens

This may seem to be splitting hairs, but I find that I must submit a correction for the thread regarding “Dutch Ovens On The Range” (March 2011 letters). To letter writer Milton Sellars, who sent a copy of a Dutch oven oil painting: What a treasure you have— your own dad in the image! Wow. Yet I can’t help but point out that there is only one, not three, Dutch ovens in that image. The one closest to Sellars’ dad, as depicted, is, indeed, a Dutch oven. The other two cast-iron pieces that have been pulled off the fire and are ready to serve chow are skillets.

I have a long relationship with cast-iron cooking. I have given a few talks and demonstrations using my own arsenal of cast-iron, which started with my inheritance of my grandma’s Dutch oven.

Here’s the quick test: If it has a panhandle, it ain’t a Dutch oven.

Shelley Sexton, Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Fire Ant Debate Still Red-hot

I read the fire ants article (“WAR”) in the March 2011 edition and found it very interesting. However, I also found it very biased.

In 1967, I bought a small ranch in central Washington County east of Brenham and stocked it with a few mother cows. Ultimately, I ran as many as 250. In the early days, my biggest problem was ticks! Early on, I was spraying my herd every 30 days in the warm months to try and control the ticks (not too successfully) and later on used insecticide ear tags.

In the early 1970s, I found some very strange mounds in one of my hay meadows that ranged from 6 inches to 18 inches tall. This was black gumbo soil and after a rain, the mounds became almost like concrete. Neither I nor my neighbors knew what this was or what to do about it. We damaged a lot of haymaking equipment trying to figure it out. We soon learned the mounds were made by South American fire ants, and you could control them, but it was VERY expensive.

After a few years of fighting the problem (and not too successfully), I was getting ready early one summer to start spraying my herd for tick control. Much to my surprise after rounding them up and putting them in the working pens, my foreman told me that there were very few ticks on the animals. I put a number in the squeeze chute and looked them over closely and found he was right. Where normally we would expect to see hundreds of ticks on each animal, we found less than a dozen on a few.

Two months later, when we would have normally sprayed again, we rounded them up and, much to my shock, there were no ticks on most of the animals. Instead of spraying, we put on insecticide ear tags. We watched the cattle closely through the year, and the following late spring and early summer we rounded up and found no ticks on any of the animals. I consulted with my neighbors, and they told me they had the same experience! My dogs were also tick free.

Another big benefit was the fire ants also ate chiggers. Since I was a young boy growing up in South Texas, I have been allergic to chigger bites that made a welt on me as big as a silver dollar. I haven’t had a chigger bite in 20-plus years.

As for the fire-ant mounds in the hay meadow, I bought an old disc harrow and for a while, ran it over the hay meadow every year and knocked the mounds down. Soon I only had to do it every other year. A lot cheaper than insecticide! I learned to live with the South American fire ant and in many ways learned to love the fire ant as much as I despised ticks and chiggers.

I am now seeing the disappearance of the fire ants on my ranch, and I am very concerned. Maybe the fire ant ain’t all that bad if you learn to live with him.

I look forward to receiving Texas Co-op Power and read it from cover to cover. Best of its type that I receive.

Jim Kelly, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative

Hopefully, the phorid flies will be the best controller ever of red imported fire ants. However, in the meantime, I disagree with part of the article. When we moved here in 2003, there were about a dozen fire ant mounds scattered over three acres. I tried Amdro and other granules that worked somewhat, but mostly the ants just moved a few feet and made another nest. After about three years I came across Impose Fire Ant Killer in a feed store. I applied it to the beds without much success until I learned to use it only after a rain or yard watering. The fire ants take eggs to the surface so they won’t get too wet. They aren’t stupid.

When the mound is crusted over, but still somewhat damp, stir it with a garden tool or stick and make the ants mad. They will bail out of the ground to fight the intruder and carry the eggs underground. Powder them liberally. On occasion, it might take two doses, but not often. I haven’t seen a mound in four years. Of course, it is not practical to treat a pasture because of the expense. By the way, you might need to clasp a clothespin on your nose.

Milton Sellars, Karnes Electric Cooperative

We fight fire ants with three things not mentioned: First, we scrape away the mound to get to the holes in the ground. The ants, of course, scatter, but we attack them with a spray bottle filled with isopropyl alcohol. We then attack the holes and any leftover ants by pouring a small box of soda on the holes and surrounding area, followed by pouring straight distilled white vinegar on the soda. We follow this with boiling water. They usually move and don’t come back to the same location.

Marcia and Barry Toepp, Bandera

Thanks for Praising Barbara Jordan

This is to thank the readers who spoke so highly of Barbara Jordan. When she spoke, you would just stop whatever you were doing and listen. We attended rival schools, but Ms. Jordan was a remarkable lady.

Ester Breedlove, Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Cut Out This Cordless Mower Talk

I recently read the March 2011 issue, and I was pretty disgusted by the article “A Green Way to a Green Lawn” written by Brian Sloboda of the Cooperative Research Network.

There are a lot of points in this article that truly make no sense to me:

• Sure these are tough economic times, but I don’t think too many folks have any issues buying a little bit of gas to fill up their lawnmowers. A 5-gallon can typically will last me several months, and from November to April, I have to worry about the gas going bad. Air filters and the pint of oil that it takes each year are also very cheap.

• He wants us to buy a corded electric mover and try not to run over the extension cord?! Are you serious? That hassle right there is the definition of regressing back in time and standard of living. We all know that it will happen at some point (running over the cord and destroying it), and then you have just ruined your new $150-to-$400 mower.

• Cordless, battery-powered mowers are very expensive. Small batteries that are seldom used are very hard to maintain and keep charged (I know this from experience). Plus, when they go bad, they have to be disposed of properly, and most folks I know will just do what they do with their old personal computers and cell phones—chunk them in the garbage!

Another point he fails to bring up about battery-powered mowers are those of us with lawns that are a bit bigger than the typical lawn—or how about if your lawn (regardless of size) goes five to 10 days a little too long before it’s mowed again? Is your battery going to run out in the middle of your mowing session?

• If you live in a high rainfall area like me, you’d rather go a summer without air conditioning than try and mow your lawn with a “reel” mower. That’s not the best option—that’s just plain crazy in Texas summers (and not a viable option for a number of people like single mothers, the elderly or those with medical conditions).

Now, I’m going to go put some good old, sweet-smelling petro in my reliable lawnmower and get after it. I’m going to enjoy hearing my powerful little engine roar to life and be thankful that my old man taught me how to change the oil in it. I’m going to appreciate the air filter that I cleaned last month and the spark plug that I just installed this spring. My lawn will get a nice, clean thorough cut in no time at all, and then I don’t have to worry about rolling up a cord or recharging some battery.

Clark Mansker, Karnes Electric Cooperative