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Archive for June, 2008

Ok, Blue Bird fans, it’s Week #17 update time for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Program in the city of Long Beach, on the 45-acre campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center!

So, here is what ‘Master Naturalist’ buddy John and I found today, June 27, 2008, walking around campus during a Friday morning, taking the Blue Bird Trail nesting survey.

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There are dozens of gray squirrels on the SMRC Campus.

Here are this week’s Survey results:

Box #1- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #2- 3 Blue Bird babies. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #3- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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Another campus gray squirrel.

Box #4- 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #5- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #6- 3 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: New Blue Bird nest, 1 Blue Bird egg.

Box #7- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest on Friday afternoon.

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The Killdeer babies on the campus have really grown during the past week, and almost look like their parents now.

Box #8- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #9- 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird babies.

Box #10- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #11- Few old straw. – Last week: Few straw, no activity.

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One of the Killdeer parents is always near the babies.

Box #12- 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: e Blue Bird eggs.

Box #13- Empty Nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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During the past several days, ‘pop-up’ thunderstorms have been very common on the Mississippi Gulf Coast area, and yesterday, provided a very heavy rain storm over the SMRC Campus.

Totals This Week: 12 Blue Bird eggs, 3 Blue Bird babies, 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 0 sterile eggs,
7 empty nesting boxes, 3 Killdeer babies.

Totals Last Week: 12 Blue Bird eggs, 7 Blue Bird babies, 0 Sterile eggs, 7 empty nesting boxes, 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 3 Killdeer babies.

Master Naturalist buddy John continues to be very enthused about the activity, and reports that during the last 17 weeks of the program, 36 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies have flown from their nests, and we also have 3 Killdeer babies who have left their ground nest in one of the grassy areas on campus, and have joined their parents in feeding on the ground, during this first season of the new Blue Bird Trail.

The weather today was partly cloudy, light wind and about 88 degrees.

Another update will be along next weekend.

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I want to provide a quick update on the medical condition of my nephew Steve, who is in Intensive Care at a Madison, Wisconsin hospital this week.

During two serious operations two days ago, Steve came to be in critical condition, after massive internal bleeding requiring over a hundred units of blood to be moved into his weakened body. Doctors said last evening that there were indications that his kidneys were failing, and that the family should come in to the hospital, as he might not survive the night.

The word is today that he did make it through the night. This morning, the doctors administered drugs paralyzing him, so that a ventilator could do all the breathing for him, and his system would be at a minimum stress.

This evening, after just talking with my wife, who just returned home after visiting Steve and his mother in the hospital, his condition is ever so slightly more stable than last night, and the ICU staff are watching his stats very closely.

As I shared last evening, Steve lost his wife to cancer about 5 years ago, a very painful time for all involved. During that time, he was a rock of support and strength and hope for his wife. After being alone since that most difficult personal loss, he was blessed to be able to find a wonderful lady last year, and last September, the two ‘kids’ were married.

At their mid-September wedding, I was their photographer, just as I was at Steve’s first wedding many years ago. Lisa, Steve’s new bride, a small animal veterinarian, never married previously, is a wonderful, loving lady. We were all so happy that he had been able to find another sweet soul to love and spend the rest of his life with. And now it is only a short nine months later, in the rest of their lives…

One of the major things the doctors did during his surgeries two days ago, was to remove his entire stomach, which was no longer functioning as it should. This recent medical problem is related to a previous stomach surgery Steve had some 5-6 years ago.

Steve has some major challenges ahead of him during the next several days, and each day will be a wait-and-see situation, on how well his weakened body will be able to respond to what he must go through to survive.

My wife (Blond Girl) of 40 years (this Sunday), is able to go to the ICU Wing at the hospital every day to be with him and my sister and other family and provide comfort and support in that way.

For me, being all the way down here on the coast, over a thousand miles away, is kind of hard not being able to also go up to see him each day, as I would like to be able to do. But, that is yet another small sacrifice made to be able to do what I am doing down here to help families.

I remember vividly going to visit Steve and his first wife during her final days in the hospital, before she passed from cancer, and it meant a lot to all of us that I could do that. This time, however, it’s being here alone, with the stress, worry and, yes, some tears, and only being able to use the cell phone to check on them and let them know I love them so very much, that adds pain of another kind to the mixture.

Your comments, thoughts, sweet words and prayers have helped to soothe and ease that pain, and for that, I am so grateful.

Thank you again for your prayers for Steve and his family, and please keep them coming..

God Bless!

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PLEASE SAY A PRAYER FOR STEVE

For the Coast Rat, these are most anxious days and hours.

When my cell phone rang yesterday afternoon at 3:30pm, and I saw that the caller was my brother, I knew something was wrong.

When a member of my extended family calls me during the day, it is seldom just to pass the time.

I punched answer, and said “Hey, what’s up?”

He says, “I’ve got some bad news for you.”

Me: “OK, what is it?

Brother: “Our nephew Steve, is in pretty bad shape and isn’t expected to last through the night.”

Bam! Right between the eyes!

My brother went on to explain what happened to Steve during the day, when he was in one of the Madison hospitals having surgery done, and things went wrong.

Then it was another surgery, with massive internal bleeding, and the doctors said: “We’ve done all we can do; the rest of up to God.”

When I talked with my wife last night, she had spoken with Steve’s mother, my oldest sister, only a few moments before that, and the appraisal was the same.

Pray for Steve.

Steve is about 40 years old, has four children, and lost his wonderful, loving wife, about 5 years ago, to cancer, when she was only about 28 years old. It was very sad.

This morning, I called my sister, and she talked about all that happened yesterday, and that Steve had come through the night, was in ICU, and was stable for now, with a couple of encouraging signs.

She said during all the surgery of yesterday, Steve had received over a hundred units of blood. Pretty serious stuff going on…

This evening, just a little while ago, my brother called again.

Well, things are not looking so good; his kidneys are failing, and they are calling in all the family again, to expect the worst.

As you might expect, I am very upset about Steve, and fear for him very much.

Those of you who are still up yet this evening, and into tomorrow, I would ask that you please include Steve from Madison, Wisconsin in your prayers this evening, and ask God to be with him and his family.

Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

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Yesterday and today, I had the pleasure of hanging around with Master Naturalist Buddy John and Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, out at John’s home north of Pass Christian, Mississippi, on Bayou Arcadia, north of The Bay of St. Louis.

You got a bit of a look at John’s place in my recent post, “Week #13 – Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Update.”

The weather this weekend has been pretty nice, with daytime highs around 88 or so, with moderate humidity; not nearly so nasty as it has been the past couple of weeks and will be again soon, as we slide more into the heat of the gulf coast summer.

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A rain shower passes by John’s home on Bayou Arcadia, north of Pass Christian, Saturday afternoon.

I had done quite a bit of work for John last summer and fall, helping to build a new bathroom in a ground floor room (he calls it his ‘shed’) at his home, and he and I were doing some more modifications to his ground level area this weekend.

As you can see from the images in “Week #13 – Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Update,” John’s home is quite a ways up off the ground on wood pilings, but still not so high that he could escape having 5 feet of storm surge during Hurricane Katrina in the living area of his home. That amount of water made it necessary to completely gut the inside of the home up to the ceiling level.

John had the foresight to have had flood insurance on his home structure, and that allowed him to repair it after Katrina finished with it, much of it done with volunteer helpers. He has been frugal in choosing the materials and sources for re-doing his home, and has been able to end up with a beautiful home to live in.

He has planted a large number of flowers, plants and trees on the property, especially in the back yard, between the home and the pier on the bayou. One of the most interesting things he has growing on the ground floor area, above the fish-cleaning table and lower back deck, are the young Banana Spiders. The largest one he has there at the moment, is about the size of an old half dollar. John advises that they will grow to be the size of a canning jar lid, and be beautiful. Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhh, I can hardly wait…

While cutting some boards this afternoon, we chased a Brown Recluse female spider down through the deck floor boards, where the Black Widow spiders hang out. Maybe some of you would like to come and help the next time I go out there to work, huh? If not, I’ll understand.

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The beach next to Pass Christian harbor on Sunday.

John doesn’t let Emily out in the back yard now without watching her so she doesn’t go near the pier and water, since he saw a gator measuring about 6′ in length swimming around there two days ago. If the gator hangs around, he will call the Game & Fish to come and trap it and transport it to an safer location.

After finishing working yesterday afternoon, John and I went over to Kimball’s Shrimp Cafe in The Pass for lunch. They have giant cheeseburgers and great shrimp po-boys. While there, we ran into a fellow I work with and his sister, who is rebuilding her home in The Pass, which Katrina totally destroyed.

This afternoon, with most local cafes closed, John and I went to Shaggy’s Cafe on the beach, in the Pass Christian Harbor, for lunch. Shaggy’s Cafe is located right in the middle of the harbor, on the water, up high on pilings, with various private boats and shrimpers moored nearby.

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Shaggy’s Cafe in the harbor at Pass Christian, Mississippi.

They had a pretty good size crowd when we arrived, and we ended up sitting at a small table out on the deck in the sunshine, directly overlooking the water and boats.

John ordered some Gumbo, while I had the Shrimp Po-Boy, and we dined watching various boats come and go all around us.

A big thrill was when a 39′ banana boat with three engines pulled in and docked directly below our table, and we got to watch the crew unload several large yellow-fin tuna from the fish hold, into the lower portion of the restaurant. The six people on board had been out two days and caught the tuna halfway to Mexico.

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Part of the harbor in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

After we sat down at our table, a young waitress who John knew, named Katie, stopped by our table and said hello to John. He introduced me to her, and advised her that we had been working at his house earlier in the afternoon. I told her I was from Wisconsin, and when I did that, she grabbed my arm and punched me in the shoulder. Then she said she was from Wisconsin, too!

I said, “You’re kidding, where from?” And she says, “Most recently, Madison. My mother just got back from there last week.” I said, “Girl, my home is just south of Madison. What a small world!”

The next time she walked by us, I asked her, “Where are you from originally in Wisconsin?” She replied, “Tomah.” I said, “Really, I used to eat at the supper club in Tomah, ‘The Teepee.'” She says, “No way! My family and I went in there to eat all the time!” Then she said, “I’m going in and call my dad and tell him about this; this is amazing!”

Yes, it is a small world, at times.

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Shaggy’s Cafe at the harbor in The Pass.

As we dined at Shaggy’s, I couldn’t help buy notice the many shrimp boats which were tied up at piers in The Pass Harbor, rather than out in the sound or gulf shrimping. Shrimping season started during this past week, but many shrimpers were not going out, due to the high cost of diesel fuel and the current low price of shrimp, due in part, to the competition from shrimpers in southeast Asia.

Like I said, it is a small world, at times, and what happens on the other side of it, does affect us on this side, more and more as time passes.

Rebuilding Pass Christian, and the rest of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is proceeding along, and much has been done to repair and replace homes, businesses, schools, churches and public buildings damaged or destroyed by Katrina. However, much remains to be rebuilt, as evidenced by the large numbers of empty home slabs remaining, as well as the large numbers of Katrina Cottages and FEMA trailers still left around the coast. Those are families without permanent homes, still waiting to get their lives back.

It is that challenge which brought me to Mississippi Gulf Coast a year and a half ago, and which I will continue to play a small part in the rest of this year.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Ok, Blue Bird fans, it’s Week #16 update time for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Program in the city of Long Beach, on the 45-acre campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center!

So, here is what ‘Master Naturalist’ buddy John and I found today, June 20, 2008, walking around campus during a Friday afternoon, taking the Blue Bird Trail nesting survey.

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These very large Blue Bird babies flew from Nesting Box #7 this afternoon, about 5 hours after this image was taken.

Here are this week’s Survey results:

Box #1- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #2- 3 Blue Bird babies, 2 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #3- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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A Killdeer parent with one of its three babies on the campus.

Box #4- 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: New nest, 2 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #5- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #6- New Blue Bird nest, 1 Blue Bird egg. – Last week: 2 Blue Bird babies flew the next, 3 sterile Blue Bird eggs, nesting box cleaned.

Box #7- 4 very large Blue Bird babies (in morning), 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest in afternoon. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird babies.

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Growing Killdeer baby.

Box #8- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #9- 4 large Blue Bird babies. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird babies.

Box #10- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #11- Few new straw. – Last week: Fresh new straw.

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Growing Killdeer baby.

Box #12- 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: Half of a new Blue Bird nest built.

Box #13- Empty Nesting box, no activity. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird babies flew the nest.

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Watchful Killdeer parent.

Totals This Week: 12 Blue Bird eggs, 7 Blue Bird babies, 0 Sterile eggs, 7 empty nesting boxes, 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 3 Killdeer babies.

Totals Last Week (June 12, 2008): 7 Blue Bird eggs, 8 Blue Bird babies, 5 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 4 sterile Blue Bird eggs, 7 empty nesting boxes (includes the 2 boxes where babies flew the nest).

Late this afternoon, Master Naturalist Buddy John and myself walked over to Nesting Box #7 to show one of the campus officials the large size of the Blue Bird babies in this box. John advised that he had thought with the very large size of these four Blue Bird babies residing in this nesting box, he couldn’t understand why that had not flown from the nest yet.

At Nesting Box #7, we slowly pulled the front open and there they were, four very large Blue Bird babies, all hunched down in the nest. As the official took a couple of quick pictures, one of the babies jumped to its feet, and decided it was time to make the maiden flight, and took off flying from the nest, over to a nearby tree branch.

And just like that, one-by-one, each of the other three babies stood up, and flew from the nest to nearby trees, where the mother and father Blue Birds joined them in a real chirping festival. What an amazing experience, to actual see the babies fly from the nest! Those four brought the total Blue Bird babies who have flown from the nest, to 32 birds, a substantial additional to the area Blue Bird population.

Master Naturalist buddy John continues to be very enthused about the activity, and reports that in addition to the 32 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies who have flown from their nests, we also have 3 Killdeer babies who have left their ground nest in one of the grassy areas on campus, and have joined their parents in feeding on the ground, during this first season of the new Blue Bird Trail.

The weather today was partly cloudy, light wind and about 92 degrees.

Another update will be along next weekend.

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In my recent post “JUKE BOX MAGIC – THE FIRST TIME I REALLY ‘SAW’ THE GIRL I WAS GOING TO MARRY” I wrote about ‘Blond Girl’ and explained how I came to go on my first ‘date’ with her, to a movie.

Fast forward to May 11, 1967.

It was Blond Girl’s twenty-first Birthday.

She had transferred to the State University Campus located in the southwestern part of the State that semester, and was living in one of the women’s dorms on campus.

I was on a hiatus from school and was working as a Line Supervisor for the SCM Corporation, at an assembly plant about 60 miles from Blond Girl. I had made arrangements with her to take her out to eat on her birthday, to a Supper Club located about 15 miles south of her campus.

Around 6:30pm that evening, I stopped at her dorm to pick her up, and we drove south to the Supper Club, which was called ‘The Dugout.’

After parking in the Club parking lot, where there were only a few cars around, we walked inside into the bar room for the start of what she was expecting to be a quiet, intimate birthday dinner for two.

As we walked into the large bar room, Blond Girl’s jaw dropped open in surprise, as sitting there on the other side of the bar having a drink were her mother and father, and beside them, my mother and father.

Talk about a surprised young lady!

Blond Girl just could hardly believe that I had arranged for both of our parents to come down to help her celebrate her 21st birthday!

We walked around the bar where we were both greeted with hugs and handshakes, and she received many expressions of Happy Birthday! A few minutes later, we all adjourned to a table in one of the private dining rooms, where we ordered supper and talked until it arrived.

After a great dinner, both sets of parents gave Blond girl birthday gifts, which she proceeded to open and admire. At that point I reached under my chair and handed her a smallish, neatly wrapped, shirt-sized box, which contained my birthday present to her.

Blond Girl opened the box and the wrapping paper inside, and then BURST OUT LAUGHING!

Inside the box I had given her, all neatly folded and clean, was her waitress apron she had worn to work at my parents Supper Club the previous Saturday night, when she was home for the weekend, and where she helped out on occasion. She had inadvertently left the apron at the Club when she finished her shift then and had gone home without it.

Then as she took the apron out of the box to hold it up for all to see, she stopped, noticing something was in the apron pocket.

“What’s this?” she said, as she reached in the pocket and pulled out a small, wrapped box.

“Hmmmm,” I said, “maybe you should open it and find out.”

And so she did, carefully removing the wrapping paper, and then slowly opening the small, hinged box.

Looking at the open box, she froze, her mouth once again locked open in time.

She looked at the box, then looked at me, then looked back at the box, and then at me again…

Inside the box, was a very large, marque-shaped diamond engagement ring, mounted in silver gold, with a small piece of paper sticking up in the rear of the hinged box, which asked: “Yes, or, No?”

When another 5-10 seconds passed and she was still speechless and hadn’t said anything, I finally asked her: “Well…?”

She silently nodded her head slightly up and down twice.

I then took the ring from the box and put it on her finger, which was followed by a kiss and long hug.

At that point, both moms were crying, and I believe that both dads were wiping away a tear or two themselves, having been present at and witness to a most special event in their children’s lives. Both sets of parents expressed their appreciation for being invited to this special evening.

When we all finally left the Supper Club a little later, I drove a now engaged Blond Girl back to the University campus and her dorm, and said goodnight.

When she got back upstairs to her third floor room, her roommate, Jeannie, from Boston, now was the speechless one when she saw the new ring. The news spread throughout her dorm like wild fire, and soon almost every girl there had to come by and see the newly engaged Blond Girl and her large rock.

It was definitely a special birthday celebration!

Meanwhile, 40 some years later…

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It was about 3 weeks or so ago, that I posted “Dammit! (Not you, Maggie)” about my experience during an evening supper at a Buffet in west Biloxi, when four women sitting at the table next to mine, all ended up talking on their cell phones at the same time.

After finishing my day job late this afternoon, I was over in south Gulfport this evening, working on a home about two blocks north of the gulf, and after finishing up there, decided that as long as I was that far east, and it being the end of my birthday week, I would drive a little more east and treat myself to supper out at the Chinese Buffet I was at three weeks ago.

When I walked inside the restaurant, I was seated in the same general area where I sat last time, and after a quick glance around, I noted with relief that the same four women were not in attendance this evening.

Shortly after I arrived and started eating my food selections, a young family with three children, probably ranging in ages from 5 to 10, were seated at a table next to mine.

As they approached their table, I ventured a quick glance in their direction and noted that the mom was a stunning, young woman, about 5’9″ tall, buxom, slender, long, black, shoulder-length hair, with a low-cut, black blouse on top of a pair of snug, designer jeans. Dad was in a white t-shirt and jeans, also.

What was particularly noticeable about the woman though, in another glance their way a few moments later, was the design of her loose-fitting black blouse.

How can I accurately describe it and due it justice?

Well, it was constructed so that the black fabric stretching from the left shoulder crossed the center of her chest and went over the other expanse of fabric coming from her right shoulder and attaching at her left side. The most notable thing about the blouse, though, is that it was cut very low and very open! In fact, the opening in front was so large as to just about expose most of her breasts.

The next time I glanced over at their table as I was taking a drink of Diet Coke (and yes, I continued to eat my supper; I didn’t freeze and just stare open-mouthed), I almost spit the Coke all over the table, when I saw that her left breast had escaped from her blouse and was right there in the open like a grapefruit sitting there waiting to be picked!

About the same time, her husband, who was sitting across from her, noticed the gate was open, and said quietly to her, “Honey, your breast is out of your top.” She looked down at it, made a quick comment: “Oops!” and deftly tucked it sort of back inside the blouse.

No on else was sitting close enough or at the right angle to have noticed the ‘action’ as myself and her husband had, and as I took another drink of my Diet Coke, I said to myself, “This could be a long meal!”

As it turned out (no pun intended), “IT” happened 3-4 more times during their supper, with the husband noticing and telling her each time, to cover it up.

When the wife/mom went back over to the buffet lines a few minutes later to refill her plate, a younger man from the other dining room came out to refill his plate also, and ended up being near her as she made her way along each line to check out the foods.

It was interesting that when she walked from her table over to the buffet, the husband stopped in mid-bite, kind of like he froze in place, watching every move she made, as well as how close the guy from the back dining room was to her during her selection process. When ‘they’ would become partially hidden by a post or other patron, the husband would half stand and stretched right or left to try to see his wife and what she was doing.

I couldn’t help suppressing a chuckle watching his movements as he watched her so closely, wondering just how much he really trusted her. When she was just about back to their table, the hubby ‘un-froze’ and started eating again, watching her as she sat down. He then said something very quietly to her, so softly that I didn’t catch what was said, but she just kind of made a face and shock her head a little and went back to eating, pretty much ignoring him as she did. A short time later, they finished their meal and left.

I sat there for a few more minutes at my table, slightly shaking my head and chuckling to myself, thinking that one never knows what human drama will play out near him as the minutes and hours of his life pass.

I finished up, paid the bill and then stopped by the Sears store in the Crossroads Mall for a few minutes to purchase a new screwdriver, to replace one I had lost a couple of days ago.

I then headed back west towards Gulfport and Long beach, driving on Hwy 90 along the gulf shore, enjoying the beautiful sunset to the west.

It was an interesting day, and an even more interesting night, down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Earlier this afternoon, just before punching out from my day job, I spent about 20 minutes sitting on the sidewalk beside one of my favorite clients at the Center, Gary, who is wheelchair-bound, repairing his super squirt gun, which had sprung a pretty good leak.

During each afternoon I am at the center, when I see Gary in his mobile chair near his cottage, I usually stop, go over and see if he has his squirt gun with him, and if so, I’ll go inside the cottage and fill it with water, so he can squirt everyone who comes along. Gary gets a great kick out of it, no one else seems to mind, and he ends up fulfilling one of the staff goals for him to flex and exercise his fingers on the one hand he does have the use of.

When ever I see Gary tooling around campus in his motorized chair, we always stop and exercise a crisp, military salute to each other, each one a reminder of our friendship with each other. When I catch him when I am out of my work truck, and am fairly close to him, we also do an ‘Incredible Hulk’ upper body flex action at each other, and then knuckle bump before parting company for that time.

When I finish my two-year hurricane relief personal mission down here around the end of this year, and head back up to Wisconsin, I am going to miss terribly seeing and interacting with client friends like Gary. It will be very hard to leave them.

Tomorrow, I will be working on another home just north of Pass Christian. Hope it isn’t too hot and humid.

But it probably will be.

After all, it is mid June in south Mississippi…

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