Author Archives: travis

Accounting for Fishermen

“Babe – we could leave at 6 am Saturday morning; we’ll be home by 3, 3:30.  All it’ll cost is gas to and from the boat ramp . . . maybe $40, and that’s high . . . ”

What follows is a map to get you to the point where your Saturday adventures really only cost you $40.  Think of this as a helpful guide.  Please note that numbers are approximate, to be used only for reference . . .

To go fishing, you really need a boat.  Not just any boat, either mind you.  I mean, you only get to go so often, so, when you do, it makes sense for it to be on a vessel that you enjoy.  Think names like Maverick/Hell’s Bay/Pathfinder.  Let’s say you can find a really nice one, used, for $20k

Now – no self respecting angler is going to roll out his new boat with a bunch of pickle poles from the bargain bin at K-mart, am I right?  No sir – you’ll need the latest Shimano creation with 84 ball bearings and liquid filled nitrogen drag washers.  Of course, it’ll need to be spooled with a space age polymer line that is used to hold the doors closed on the shuttle, and mounted on a rod made with a special carbonite/kryptonite/kevlar blend, and invisible guides.  This combo will run you about $500.

But wait – you can’t just have one combo – what if some googan fishing partner steps on it or drops it overboard.  Safest bet is to have 3 or 4, exactly the same, just in case.  Plus, that allows you to have them rigged differently – top water, live bait, soft plastic . . . your arsenal is ready . . . $1500 (call it 2k, and add in the original combo, too)

Wait a second – you only get to fish, maybe, what, two weekends a month?  What if a tarpon crashes the party?  Are you supposed to miss out on the fish of a lifetime because you limited your combos to only those targeting inshore species?  That, boys, is what we’ll call a “rookie move” – go ahead and get a couple of combos, both larger and smaller than the ones above.  Keep them top of the line, though.  $2k

What are you going to catch these fish with?  Mirrolures?  Zara Spooks? Live Targets? Gulps?  Honestly, you need 10-12 of everything – hard baits, topwaters, divers, soft baits, suspenders, plastic shrimp, plastic fish, plastic eels, plastic crabs, plastic octopi – plus, and this is key, you need at least a duplicate of every one.  Lord knows that if a snook breaks off your only bone colored spook, you can’t very well leave the water and go buy another one.  Gotta have a spare.  $500

Plus you need a tackle bag to keep these things in – $100

I shudder a little, when I think what happens when that tarpon leaps, you fight him for 20 minutes or so, then he throws the hook.  You were going to release him anyway, but you didn’t get the picture.  Enter the GoPro, complete with all the mounts.  That’s an easy $750.  You should also look into a drone, because those pictures will definitely trump your buddy’s.  $3k

Also, you should get a water proof submersible case for your phone.  $80

Have any of you thought “but wait – fishing isn’t fishing without beer?”  Not to worry – pick up a Yeti (must be tan) – Yeti’s are space age engineered bear proof roto-moulded boxes of magic that will keep a 6 pack of Ultra cold for up to 7 years without any ice.  $300 +$30 for beer

Throw a few sandwiches in the Yeti ($30) and you’re good to go for the day.  But what if the fishing is really hard.  Sometimes, it’s best to get off the water for a little while, regroup, strategize, and figure out the rest of the day.  This should be done in a dive bar/restaurant over a frosty beverage and grouper sandwich.  Also a slice of Key Lime Pie.  You can do the same thing if you’re slaying the fish, as a celebration of your awesomeness.  $50

Push Pole – $400.  Power Poles (dual – duh) – $2500.  Remote controlled trolling motor with GPS and Xbox attachment – $1500.  New batteries that weigh less than a ham sandwich – $800.  Fly rods – $75,000*.  Fish finder (even though you’re in 5 inches of water) – $800.  GPS (even though you can see the Skyway bridge) – $800.  Non ethanol fuel for the boat – $160.  Bait (not that you’d ever use bait, but just in case) $40.

*Attention wives – most fly rods didn’t actually cost $75k – nope – I bought all of mine at a garage sale to benefit homeless puppies.  I think I got them out the door for $40 bucks or so.  Amazing deal, right?

Which leaves us, I think, with the tow vehicle.  Lord knows you can’t roll up to the ramp with this rig behind the Windstar – you need a man’s truck.  Preferably one with mud tires and black rims.  Nothing too egregious, we’ll keep it under – $40k.

Hmmmm . . . $40k plus $40 plus $160 plus $800 plus $800 plus $75k . . . let’s see, carry the 2, carry the 3 . . .

So, since all the above money is accounted for, all the trip really costs is $40 or so.


Make sure to tune in soon – we’ll teach you how to duck hunt 3 times a week, all season, for a grand total of $75.00, including ammo and decoys.

Lawnmower stories . . .

My sister, who is awesome, said I should tell you guys about the time I set the lawnmower on fire.

That right there, folks, is called a tease.  Because what ensues are my greatest lawnmowing stories.  Enjoy.

Once, my dad bought a riding lawnmower,  It was a John Deere.  I was probably 14 or so.Kumquat tree

My mom had a kumquat tree that grew in the field between our house and the Swart’s.  That field has seen a lot of things over the years.

The tree was adult height, maybe 6 feet tall or so.  She loved it.  It was loaded in fruit.

Anyway – I’m mowing along, minding my own business, when the kumquat tree is gone.  Leaves and kumquats littered the field.  Also the mower made a loud noise.

The same thing happened to our gardenia bushes.  Yes.  Bushes, plural.  I mowed down three of them, each the size of a 5th grader, planted along the back of the house.  Each time I’d run over one, I was like “crap, now what do I do” and before I could solve the problem, I hit another one.  This chain was broken, ironically, by a chain link fence I ran into.  I hooked (ironically) a chain to the lawnmower and my truck to extract it.

Also, I did the same thing to our lamp post.  And maybe a dogwood tree.

I once forgot to change the oil, or check the oil, in the mower for, you know, a couple of years.  It caught on fire.  Pretty aggressively. While I was turning around in the cul-de-sac.  My mom was screaming at me, yelling for me to stop.  I waved back.  I thought she was just happy I was mowing the yard. Until I got really hot.  Then I stopped.  My shirt had caught on fire from the flames leaping off the engine.  Yes.

That also happened to the John Deere.  The fire catching part, not the part about my shirt or my mom.  Flames were creeping out of the little shifter thing where you raised and lowered the blade.  I shut it off and put the fire out with a water hose.  Then I finished mowing.  Crisis averted.

Once, I went through a phase of mowing in different patterns.  My history teacher at school had told me that, by mowing in different patterns, the grass would grow better.  So I tried all different sorts of patterns – diagonals, and straights and boxes and circles, and some weird herringbone thing.  It started raining during that one, so I left and went home.  The old lady from church had a perfect swastika in her yard.  It was unfortunate.

As a 30 year old adult, I pressed the clutch instead of the brake and dropped the front two tires into our pond.  Only the mowing deck, catching on a root, kept me from sinking it.

While in high school, I worked for a very large mowing company.  I was partnered up with a guy named Kenchan, who was nuts, but that’s a different story entirely.  Anyhow, one day, I hit the water main with a Toro and knocked out the water to the Pepperidge farms bakery in Lakeland.  I also flooded their parking lot.  The bad part was I really had to pee, but couldn’t, because they didn’t have any water.  I grabbed a complementary bag of goldfish, left and went to the 7-11 and then went home.  300 workers in hair nets and white aprons stood around in the parking lot wondering what had happened.

I think that’s everything.  The chamber is empty.  I now pay a guy to mow my yard.  It’s better for everyone.

Creative mowing

I suppose a blog is nothing, if not a place to share stories.  I like that idea.

This post should be subtitled “The time my mom should have beat me but didn’t but still almost killed me because of what I did to our yard”

September 28th, 1991.  I was 3 months shy of my 15th birthday.

How can I be sure that was the day?  Oh.  I’m sure.  See, Florida State was playing Michigan in Ann Arbor.  Amp Lee was the FSU running back, and he was silky smooth all day long.  State won, by like 20 points.  It was an epic moment for my football youth fandom.

Some of the details of the day are a bit foggy, but some I remember like it was yesterday.  Because, the day wasn’t really about FSU/Michigan so much as it was about Night of Joy.

Night of Joy.  If you were a teenager in the Central Florida area, this was one of the greatest nights of your life.  For those of you outside the Central Florida region, NoJ is a Christian music festival held at Disney World.  The park would stay open until midnight or 1 am.  Kids that had never been to church in their life would suddenly appear at youth group the week before, and then be on the van for the ride over.  As a hormone filled 14 year old (almost 15) boy, this event was met with wonder at the fact that the hot cheerleader who never seemed to notice you at school was now sitting behind you on the church bus.

I just want to also take a moment and interject here that, in full disclosure, as a devout Southern Baptist raised teenager, I knew that sex and kissing would both send me to hell.  But I also knew that I could be forgiven for my sins, and that honestly, how could I help it if she came onto me during the Haunted Mansion ride, and I could just re-pray the sinner’s prayer come Sunday morning and we’d be all good.  Needless to say, I had it all figured out.

3:23 – our youth pastor always always ALWAYS picked odd times like that for us to leave.  I don’t remember for sure that it was 3:23.  I am certain that it was an odd time, like 3:23, or 4:17.  He felt like we would remember those times better.  I believed him.

Anyway – I’m rambling.  The story goes something like this:

I had won a free ticket to NoJ through some kind of game at youth group.  FSU/Michigan was, to my recollection, a noon kickoff, which meant it’d be over by 3:15 or so, 10 minutes to the church, 45 minutes to Disney, and 30 minutes later I’d be in 7 minutes in heaven with Miss Junior Cheerleader.

And, as I remember it, my dad waltzed in around 11 (again, these times are from memory, so they may be off by a minute or two), and announced that, unless the yard was mowed, I was not going to Night of Joy.

Yeah right.  There’s no way Steve and Joy (as my parents are called by people who aren’t their offspring) are going to keep me from going.  I’d won a free ticket.

So I settled in and watched FSU/Michigan.  It was a turf game, wherein Bobby Bowden would claim that the Noles would go in, beat an opponent on their field, and bring back a block of the turf to some sort of cemetery for sod in Tallahassee.  I remember learning about turf games on ESPN right before kickoff.

This is incredibly nerdy, but I remember Terrell Buckley intercepted an Elvis Grbac pass and returned it for a touchdown.  I’m savant-like that way.  I also remember a trick play where Casey Weldon passed out to a backup quarterback named Charlie Ward, who passed it back to Weldon for a big gain.

The game was INTENSE.  Like.  If I hadn’t been home, I might have VCR’d it, ’cause it was huge.

So the game ends, and I go get dressed to hit up the church.  And my parents drop the hammer.

“You’re not going to Night of Joy until the yard is mowed”

Did anyone else’s mom have that tone, that “damn right I’m serious boy” tone?  This was that.  I knew that arguing was pointless.  I trudged outside and cranked the lawnmower.

Someone should remind me to do a post about lawnmower theatrics, because how I survived my teenage years with my lawnmower experiences is a definite thing.

My parents lived on an acre lot, about 2/3rds of which was mowable.  So I started plugging along.  With a push mower.

The days were getting shorter, and the sunlight was almost perfect.  I could see my jerk best friend Tony sidling up to blondie on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while I was toiling in the Florida heat, where a fall evening is still 82 degrees.

By the time I reached the field between our house and the neighbor’s, I had made up my mind – this was not fair!  I’d had to forgo my free (earned!) ticket!  Tony was getting the girl!  My parents were slave drivers!

And that’s when it hit me – what could I do to protest?  How could I show them that I would mow their stupid yard, but not without lodging a complaint.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy with a push mower.  I had to stop at the end of every row and raise and lower the wheels with precision.  It probably took me an extra hour.  But it was.  SO.  WORTH.  IT.

Because, while my friends were busy scoring at Night of Joy (in all honesty, no one ever scored at any youth event – we just all thought we would), I was having my Sistine Chapel moment.

There, on the gently sloping field between our house and the Swart’s, I had carved the perfect Disney Channel logo, complete with Mickey Mouse ears, alternating stripes, and the words “Mickey Mouse” above and below it.

To this day, I’m fairly certain the only reasons Steve and Joy didn’t kill me were: a) the yard was mowed, and b) they were laughing too hard . . .

Bedtime Stories

Every night, almost without fail, I pile into Will’s bed to read Harry Potter.

August 24th, 2012 is when we started.  Every night they are at my house, we read.

Some nights it’s a page.  Other nights it’s a chapter.  photo

Liv has crashed in for some of the highlights – the first page, the introduction of Delores Umbridge, Dumbledore’s death; but it’s usually Will and me.  Me and Will.

And I’ll read.  I’ve been know to read for over an hour.  He’ll raise his hand when he has a question – “what does condescending mean,” or “Who is Cattermole?”

When we’re done, without fail, he’ll ask “how many pages did we read?”

And I answer.  2.  12.  28.

So far, we’ve read about 3800 pages.  187 chapters.

Every time we finish a chapter, he studies the illustration on the next chapter . . . there are these little drawings above the chapter names . . . We spend a few minutes, every time, talking about that drawing, and what we think it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . .

The thing is, the end is in sight.  Harry and Hermione are in the tent.  We only have about 10 chapters left.

Will’s a different little guy.  When I was his age, I was all about baseball and kickball and football and hunting and fishing and being outside.  He isn’t.  I mean, he goes fishing with me, or hunting, but he’s way more into electronics and gadgets.  How things work and why.  So sometimes he comes to my world and sometimes I go to his.

I’ll fumble my way through a minecraft session, he’ll play with the fishfinder on the boat.

But, for that brief period every night, no matter how our days went, our world’s intersect . . . our interests blend . . . over magic and wizards and heroes and villains . . .

And, each night, at the very end, he’ll look at me, with those tired brown eyes – “Can I roll over on you daddy?”

I lie there on my back, and he crawls up on me, and nuzzles his head against my neck.

And we lay there, and listen to each other breath, and he giggles at my heartbeat.

“I love you daddy . . . you’re my best buddy.”

And I lie there, my arms wrapped tight around my son, my boy, and I think about what it means, about what’s coming, about what’s next . . . and I reply “I love you too buddy . . . I love you too”



The Gifts I Gave . . .

This is not even remotely close to a serious post.  However, every last word of it is true.

From December of 1992 until February of 1997, I worked at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  It changed names and owners a couple of times, and it wasn’t a continuous period of work (there was a 3 month sabbatical at JByron’s Department Store, and a 3 month run in the Winn Dixie Seafood department, and the worst lawn service job in the history of the world – but this isn’t about those).

I cannot even believe I’m allowing you guys into this side of my mind, but my friend Katherine somehow drew this out in the comments on one of her posts, so hang with me.

Because, without fail, every gift I gave anyone during that time period was purchased at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  Every single one.  All of them at either 10% or 20% (different owners equal different discounts) off.

I bought my mom most of the seraphim Angel collection.  She loved ‘em, or so she told me.  They were kinda creepy, I thought.  I put them on layaway for, like, 18 months or something.  Longest layaway plan in history.  Then I bought her a Bible.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional Bible.

I bought my dad a genuine leather Bible, KJV.  Then I bought him a Charles Stanley Devotional.  Then I bought him a Rick Warren Devotional.  Then I bought him the Men’s Devotional Bible.  Then I bought him . . . you get the picture.

I also used my employee discount to score items of affection for potential women in my life.  I’ll never forget scouring book after book of “birth name” cards.  Come to find out, these were for newborns, and you’d put them in a first Bible or something.  But they’d have the name, a la “Amanda” and its definition (“worthy to be loved” or “beloved” – they all basically had the same definition since there were no Amandas in ancient Rome).  It’d be a glossy card, with like a picture of a seagull or a mountain or a sunset in the background; text would be in the the calligraphy font straight from Microsoft Works 1.0.  How I didn’t score more dates by leaving those $.49 cards on girls desks and in their lockers at school, we’ll never know.  I was certain that would leave a trail of cheerleaders in my path.  I did not.

Anyway, my sister reaped the most benefits of all, because I ascended to the man in charge of the music side of the store . . . This means she benefited from my behind the scenes music access.

First, you need to understand that I was under the impression that I was IN the music industry.  Sure I was making $7 an hour selling Bill and Gloria Gaither Videos . . . but that doesn’t take into account the perks.

Like free backstage passes to meet Steven Curtis Chapman?  Mark Lowry?  Petra?  Michael English?  How could you put a price on that*?

*Technically, those tickets all had prices on them.  But whatever.

When Christafari sold there 100,000th record, and the band decided to call Christian Bookstores and thank them, who picked up that phone?  Mark Mohr didn’t carry on that conversation by himself.

When Jars of Clay decided to send a Gold Record to all their mega-stores, who was only 9 album sales short?

So I was kindof a big deal.  Which meant I could take home the standup displays after they’d run their useful life.  And this is where my sister really benefited.

Off the top of my head, I remember bringing home:

A life sized Carmen.  A 3/5 scale cutout of PFR.  Andy Griffith (because she was a huge Andy Griffith fan).  The Steven Curtis Chapman Great Adventure display AND the SCC Signs of Life display.  Signed Third Day posters.  Signed DC Talk posters (not actually signed by them; but really good reprints).

This is to say nothing of the bands I brought home who never made it, but woah if they had, we would have some serious memorabilia for the Alt-Rock-Christian-Retro movement that’s afoot* . . . a Believable Picnic Poster?  Boom.  Imagine This promo tents?  Nailed it.  Keith Brown, well, anything?  Give me a hard one.  Oh, a signed East to West Poster, by the dude who’s now in Rascal Flats?  Please . . . I could’ve had tons of those if I’d wanted (if by “signed” you meant “not autographed so much as re-printed”)

*What do you mean it’s not afoot.  Just wait.

None of this really has any point at all, I just felt like y’all needed to know.

Anyway.  That was life with me in the mid-90’s.

I thought, he walked, on the water

Leland Thompson was the truest Floridian you’ve ever met.

He was my first hero.  And he passed away on Sunday evening.

Uncle Leland was my grandfather’s brother.  He spoke with a rattle in his voice that belied his years of life; slow, deliberate speech, with a southern drawl and that gravel that told me maybe he’d smoked in his past.

He and Aunt Margaret lived on a farm in Dade City.  If you imagine a farmhouse from the 30’s, complete with wood paneling and hardwood floors, a gorgeous front porch – the exterior painted white.  No trim colors of any kind.  Just white.  Set by a pasture, next to the woods, under a hammock of the most stately oaks ever seen, just at the end of a dirt road near the river . . .

In his younger days, he was elected sheriff of Pasco County.  As an officer, he once apprehended a man after the man shot another officer while the three of them were in an elevator.  His farm had hundreds of cattle, and pigs and gardens and all the stuff farms should have.  He was a real life hero, as well as one in the imagination of a little boy.

When I was little, he’d always slip my mom a dollar for both me and my sister, right at the end of our visit.  He’d pretend we were in on it, and wink, and say “Now, Mrs. Joy, these young’uns need some ice cream – so here’s a little money for each of them.”

He would always make time to take us on rides on the Grey Gopher, his old army jeep.  Some of the most thrilling memories from my childhood were of my parents telling us we were going to Dade City on Saturday, and getting there, knowing we’d take the Gopher out for a ride.  We’d see deer and hogs and turkeys and alligators – some of my love of Florida was formed in those tattered vinyl seats.

There were summers when I’d spend whole weeks on that farm

His barns were filled with hay bales we could climb on, or a recent batch of kittens, or maybe some little fluffy chicks he’d give us to bring home, much to my mother’s chagrin.  There might be a horse in the stable, or a docile cow, or his tamed deer Buddy might show up in the pasture.  He once let me pet some buffalo that wandered in.  His front porch was a southern Sunday in the south with old folks in rockers and someone singing gospel and sweet tea and chicken and dumplings . . . in short, it was everything a country boy could want out of life, all in one place . . .

I’m rambling a little bit, but it’s hard to put into words . . . the last time I saw Uncle Leland was 2011 . . . we had brought him some furniture from my apartment.  Cancer and time had savaged my hero.  He met Will, and Olivia.  He teased her about how pretty she was, about boys and school, and he gave Will a watch.  We visited for a couple of hours.  He bragged about his grandkids and kids, and I knew, when I shook his hand and hugged him goodbye, that it was probably, you know, a real goodbye . . .

Each of my kids, in turn, gave him a hug, this man who was so large in my mind, a frail and genial old stranger to them.  In that moment, I flashed back to my childhood:

My grandfather, my Poppy, Uncle Leland’s brother, died when I was 12, and Em was 7.  It was sudden – I talked to him on Saturday, and Sunday he was gone.  Poppy was buried in Dade City, in the city cemetery there.  As was always the case, after the funeral, we all headed to Uncle Leland’s after the service.  All of my cousins and uncles and aunts were there, and it was a family reunion of sorts, somber at first, but warming as the day went on.

If Uncle Leland was my hero, Poppy was my buddy – we talked on the phone almost every day, about sports and fishing and who knows what else.  But like most 12 year olds, I didn’t fully grasp the situation.  I was sad, but I didn’t completely understand.

And, as we got ready to leave that June evening, in the late 80’s, I’ll never forget saying goodbye – he put his arm around me, and around my sister – he looked us in the eye, the only time I’ve ever seen him misty, just hours after burying his brother.  He always called my mom “Mrs. Joy,” and his raspy voice scraped the words one more time . . .

“Mrs. Joy – the young’uns are gonna need a grandfather now . . . here . . . Let me get ya’ll some ice cream money . . . ”

I’m out of town for work today, 2500 miles away, so I won’t be there this afternoon, after the funeral in Dade City, when all the Thompson’s will head down that dirt road out to the farmhouse near the river.  Bring a dish, comfort Aunt Margaret . . . it’ll start somber, but warm as the day goes on . . . there’ll be sweet tea and chicken and maybe a gospel song . . .

And I’d give all the ice cream money I’ve got, just to do it one more time, to sit there with him, in that little white house, under those stately oak trees, set by the pasture . . .

Happy Birthday, Gilly

In honor of your birthday, here’s a list of things I love about you:

  1. I love what a fantastic mom you are to my kids.  You truly show them unconditional love, and you make me a better dad.
  2. I love that you’re always willing to go on an adventure.  Alabama, Pennsylvania, build a tower, climb a mountain, or getting ice cream.
  3. I love the crazy way you dance, arms flailing all over the place.  It’s my favorite.
  4. I love how you are addicted to the DIY network.  Can’t stop, won’t stop.
  5. I love how you hate movies, but put up with my crazy shenanigans anyway.
  6. I love the way you make baked ziti.  I think about it at least three times a day.
  7. I love the way you snuggle with these crazy-nuts dogs I stuck you with.
  8. I love fishing with you.  First mate.
  9. I love when you get excited about a project.  Any project.
  10. I love the way you’ve made our house a home.
  11. I love the way your mind works
  12. I love when you go for a run or workout, and you come home and your hair is a mess, and you look so incredible to me.
  13. I love how sexy you are.  This could’ve been on here 30 times.
  14. I love that you do dates with Will.  He’ll remember those long after we’re gone.
  15. I love that you spend so much time with Liv – homework and girls days and coffee and haircuts  and running.
  16. I love the way you love my crazy family.  Bacon Sundays and birthdays and drop ins and vacations.
  17. I love that you read, that you continue to learn.
  18. I love, no matter how much I tease, how much you love John and Sherry.
  19. I love your style – sexy, professional, and appropriate for our teenaged daughter to emulate.  That’s not an easy balance to achieve.
  20. I love how excited you get over good food.
  21. I love even more how excited you get over your good friends and spending time with them.
  22. I love that you love to fish with me.
  23. I love that you encourage me.  No matter what.  I know you have my back.
  24. I love when you make that adorable face, the “Gilmer face” as the kids call it – it’s cute and fun loving and reassuring, as crazy as that sounds.
  25. I love when you act silly.
  26. I love when you kiss me
  27. I love when you hug me.  Every day when we get home.  That’s a big deal.
  28. I love that you always want to fix whatever you can for me – be it a job, or a truck, or a hurt . . .
  29. I love your skills with a sniper rifle and energy sword.
  30. I love being your husband.  You are my dream come true.

Happy Birthday, Babedro!