A fond farewell

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Last week was a sad one, and the world lost one of the gentlest souls it’s ever had.

Mr. Clint Prothro passed away on Tuesday, September 19 after a short, yet courageous battle with cancer.

The evening prior I was surprised to hear he had taken a turn for the worse. Last I’d heard he was down a little from his “fighting weight” but holding his own.

I can’t even imagine Mr. Prothro taking a swing at anyone, but I envisioned some fancy gold boxing trunks and matching gloves clobbering cancer. I was even going to tell him about it when I saw him next. He’d blush, flash an aw-shucks grin and play it off like fighting for his life was no big deal. 

That day will never come.

There is a poem by an unknown author that begins, “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” 

Mr. Prothro came into my life for a season. And while I wish the season could have been longer, I know they must change for time must march on.

I met him four years ago as a newly-elected member of the Chambers County Appraisal District Board of Directors.

NON-EDITORS NOTE: If the mere mention of “Appraisal District” makes you want to jump in the ring and tussle over property values, know that this particular board has no say in those matters.  Spare me the hate mail . . . on this point, at least. All other malevolent love letters will be addressed in the order in which they are received. Thanks for your cooperation, and have a nice day.

From the beginning of my tenure on The Board I was seated just opposite Secretary Prothro.

Most times we saw eye-to-eye on the business at hand and on those rare occasions we didn’t, well, we still had to look straight at each other.

Being the absolute gentleman he was, he always kept his long legs curled up over on his side of the table. Invariably, we’d kick each other from time-to-time.

 So kind and soft spoken, he’d start apologizing before I could. Now that was a feat because where he was wise and thoughtful —slow to pick just the right words before speaking—my mouth runs at light speed, often unaided by my brain.

Anyway, the kicking was never his fault.

He was the still, dignified elder forced by nameplates to sit across from a rambunctious young’un who squirms in her seat.  He was far more patient than I can ever hope to be.

He loved his family and church family—always had plenty of tales on their adventures to tell.

I also had the privilege of hearing about some of his childhood antics. It was hard to picture such a genteel man having ever been a mischievous little boy.

He listened to the escapades of my boys and reassured me they’d be just fine in spite of themselves.

And sometimes after meetings we’d talk national politics.

It wasn’t until then that I really learned of Mr. Prothro’s sense of humor.  He was one of those folks who spoke gently and even in mimicking a yell remained quiet about it, but he’d slip a zinger in.

I learned to catch it by the twinkle in his eye as he anticipated those listening to “get it”.  As soon as we did, a broad, toothy smile would span his face.  I’ll miss that the most.

Farewell, my friend.  I’m a better person for having had my feet planted close to yours, if only for a season.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Humming along

Author: natalie  //  Category: Baytown, Texas

Life surely hums along. We’re nearly a month into the new school year, and with any luck the next few weeks will move the stifling heat to the rear-view. Change is good.

Seasonal variations have always captivated me. I have a hard time deciding whether I like the transition from summer to fall or winter to spring better; suppose I love them equally but for different reasons.

What I’d really love would be to live in a location where there were four distinct seasons visible to the naked eye and even felt by not naked skin. A girl can dream, but I digress. 

As of now, our neck of the woods is geographically in the migratory path of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which must exit its northern home for the upcoming winter.  Yea for us!

Before I go any further, please know I am not a member of the Audubon Society or even a serious bird watcher, but rather a curious rank amateur who thoroughly enjoys sitting on the back patio watching the hum of activity around a feeder filled with sugar water.

A quick search brought up long reading.  I’ll aim to hit the highlights. If I miss something pertinent, let me know.

Generally speaking of all hummingbirds, aptly named because of the “hum” of their rapidly moving wings: Did you know they are the only bird that can fly backwards? They owe that to the fact that unlike all other birds, they can rotate their wings in a full circle. They can also fly upside down.  

Watch two males fighting and you’ll see “rollover maneuvers” mimicked today by fighter jets.  Add that prowess to the fact that proportionately speaking they have larger brains than others in the feathered kingdom and these tiny iridescent wonders pack a punch. They can fly at speeds averaging 25-30 mph and dive at 60 mph.

While we spot others here besides the Ruby-throat, named for the red band on the males’ throats (the females lack the colorful attribute), that’s the variety I’m seeing at my feeders.

And as I’ve enjoyed their territorial feeder-fighting antics, I had no idea they were feeding—needing to double their weight— for a feat that baffles scientists: A non-stop, 18-20 hour, 500-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico to their warmer-climate winter home in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

In late July the males began their southward movement close to our coast, followed by the females and young.  They’ll spend weeks here fattening up, and will start flying over in mid October. By mid November the migration will be complete.

When they head back north in March, they’ll stop by again only briefly as the long flight is then behind them. Plus, they’ll have a trail of spring flowers providing nectar all the way back to Canada where they will spend their summer.

With the severe drought this year, these birds don’t have many nectar-producing flowers to feed upon. And while they get most of their nutrients from eating insects, the nectar is essential in getting ready for their lengthy travel.

If you’re interested in a great show or just helping them in their journey, hang a few feeders (out of sight from each other helps with the territorial bickering) with a boiled 4-to-1 sugar solution (1/4 cup sugar to each cup of water). No need for fancy commercial food or even food coloring, but do allow it to cool before offering it to our little friends. They will come.

Sit back and enjoy the frenzied pace of life humming along. It’s a sign cool changes are coming.

 © 2011 Natalie Whatley

I’ll never forget

Author: natalie  //  Category: Issues, National

Ten years ago this morning I stood stunned in K-Mart’s electronics department trying to understand the images on at least 30 television screens airing the exact same footage: a second plane hitting The Twin Towers in New York. It seems like a lifetime ago, and it seems like yesterday.

Having already heard of the first plane “accidentally” hitting on the drive over, I suppose I knew at precisely the same time every other American did: We were under attack. The first one was no accident.

It was a beautiful September morning, much like the ones we’ve enjoyed this past week. The day had promise as I embarked on a shopping excursion in preparation for my son Jeremy’s fifth birthday party scheduled that weekend.

I was on a mission to snag a radio shown in the sales flyer for the birthday boy and gather up party supplies to boot.

My usual modus operandi would have been to make a beeline to secure the on-sale radio first, but for some reason I attended to the other items on my shopping list instead. That turned out to be a wise move.

Watching the fiery explosion and smoke billowing out of the high rises, knowing the horrific fate of the air passengers and building inhabitants, I no more could have remembered what I was there for or even comprehended my own handwritten list.  

Something as important as celebrating the birth of one of my own children all of the sudden seemed trivial and selfish. (Of course it wasn’t, but that’s how I felt at the moment. And by the way, I got the radio. ) And as bad as it was; the nightmare wasn’t over.

Tearing my eyes away from the suffering of fellow Americans, I believe I floated up front to pay. The entire store was eerily quiet.

I vividly remember a whispered conversation with the older lady working behind the register. I can still see her shaken, angry face. She had been around far longer and experienced more than me. I’ll never forget how her immediate resolve assuaged my fear.

Upon arriving home I went straight in and turned on the TV. It didn’t matter what channel . . . the broadcast was the same on every network. I sat down and stared helplessly through teary eyes while trying to wrap my mind around the new news and images of The Pentagon having also been hit. Then came the crash of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field.

In George Bush’s book Decision Points, he talks about that day and what was going through his mind as the events unfolded: “The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.”

If there was any silver lining to be seen, it was a unified America in the days following.  

A mere two years later, singer Darryl Worley had a smash hit with the title “Have You Forgotten?”

Have you forgotten, how it felt that day? To see your homeland under fire and her people blown away. Have you forgotten, when those towers fell? We had neighbors still inside goin through a living hell.

You took all the footage off my TV. Said it’s too disturbin for you and me. It’ll just breed anger is what the experts say. If it was up to me I’d show it everyday.

Amen, brother.

God bless the families who lost a loved one that day, the President and his staff who steered us through some of our darkest hours, the first responders, and the soldiers who continue the fight for our freedom.

I’ll never forget.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley

Get thee bee-hind me

Author: natalie  //  Category: From me to you

Sometimes life stings. We’ve all had our bee-in-the bonnet moments and some of us handle such excitability and/or distress with style and grace. Others of us, not so much.

Earlier this week a Lynden, Washington man took rather explosive retaliation against a beehive.  One of the hive’s inhabitants had stung the man’s friend earlier in the day.

The online Associated Press story stated the man dumped gasoline on the beehive in a tree, and then ignited the hive, causing an explosion heard throughout the man’s suburban neighborhood.

The fire chief also reported that the night fire caused a large “whoosh”, singed the tree and killed the bees. No humans were hurt.

At first glance, I harbored some admiration for the unnamed man who took decisive action rather than brooding over the seeming injustice.

 I recall many times when life buzzed on over to my person and planted its bee-hind’s stinger into my flesh, enraging me with a trivial annoyance that provoked a way-too-explosive response. Raise your hand if you can relate.

Anyway, my smug grin and I were about to move on when I noticed plenty of folks were inflamed and felt compelled to comment.

As I read others’ thoughts, I became very ashamed of having related to bee-havior that was deemed idiotic and irresponsible by the masses. How embarrassing. Please forgive me for enjoying living vicariously through—in the words of our brethren— “an idiot”.

Now, I’m usually a big-picture kind of girl, but I have to admit I totally missed the horrific implications of the bar-bee-cue.

While the fire and the ensuing explosion could have been big trouble for the man’s neighbors, it was the killing of all those bees that had folks fired up.

Without getting all scientific and further showing my ignorance, bee populations have been dwindling since 1972 and folks who are up on apiculture (beekeeping) have been buzzing the alarm.

In 2006, the term “colony collapse” started circulating as concerns rose over lack of bees to pollinate food crops, and in the past five years the problem has only gotten worse. Recent studies suggest the issue is a combination of environmental stressors that are setting off a cascade of events that in turn cause worker bees to be more susceptible to pests and pathogens.

In short, we need every bee we can get.

And there I was: sad, stupid sap thinking he sure showed those stingers who was boss! 

But then I was zealously reminded of certain death by starvation coming to all human-kind should bees die off entirely – some say they’re closer than they’ve ever been in our recorded history.

Local officials involved in the incident stated the proper course of action would have been to call a beekeeper for removal. It did not appear the man was going to be cited.

I’m sure the public humiliation of his bee-havior being the “demise of all mankind” (that’s an actual quote from an interested party) will be punishment enough.

I think the bigger story was in how anger often moves us to fiery explosions – the implications of which we simply don’t see in our enraged state. I certainly don’t bee-grudge the man on getting his retaliation, but since I was so sympathetic, anger should get thee bee-hind me before I blow something up.

© 2011 Natalie Whatley