Sheep or wolf?

Aug 8, 2018–When I owned my first flock of sheep, I learned something about people.

One day my wife called me at work to tell me the sheep had escaped from the pasture. This was no surprise, since my fences include sections of uptilted pallets and repurposed fire grates.

So I rushed out of the office to undertake what in my mind had grown to become a wild west roundup.

Veteran ranchers know what happened next. I arrived home only to find the sheep back in their pens, contentedly chewing their cuds and waiting for me to refill their feed buckets.

And that’s what we are like, as our least ambitious selves. Here, the sheep had broken free of their bondage of boredom, and entered a wide open world teeming with fresh grass, sparkling streams, secret corners to explore, and rocky outcrops to scale. They took one longing look, then decided inside their little sheep brains, nah, we’re good. They turned and went back to their pen, to patiently await feeding time.

Tellingly, I did the same, turning around and going back to the office. Who is really the sheep?

For much of my life, I was bewildered by those who need to do things in groups. For example, why are there 5K races? What drives us to sign up in advance, get a number, gather in one place, buy a T-shirt, and hopefully end up in the same place as 150 other individuals? If we want to run, why don’t we just lace up our sneakers, head out the door, and start running?

A veteran 5K-er explained it to me: running with others holds him accountable. He likes the incentive of running against people in the same age group. Not as a challenge of whether he can beat them, but as a way to measure his own progress and standing in the group.

I realized I do the same. I can always shoot baskets in the driveway. But I also like to join a group for a game–as long as they are over a certain age, over a certain weight, and under a certain shooting percentage. You still get a workout, but it’s more fun to run with the herd.

But are we trading our freedom, time, and energy for the security and safety of a regular feeding time, a workplace surrounded by a boundaries we don’t even notice?

It’s a calculation we all make, and it works most of the time, or at least for short stretches. Trading freedom for security makes sense when you are raising a family, caring for a damaged loved one, or dealing with a range of unexpected contingencies. The danger is that complacent contentment becomes the default position. We need to feel secure, with a regular paycheck, insurance, and coworkers who pretend they are family at the company white elephant gift exchange.

I’m not judging or preaching, just pondering. I’ve been all of the above. A free-spirited, free-range entrepreneur. The loyal tenured employee. A self-employed scribbler that starved and self-employed scribbler whose legions of fans breathlessly await his next scribble (not mutually exclusive, come to think of it).

Each has its vices and virtues. But we need to be aware of the position we prefer, and our reasons for being there.

Are you the sheep? Are you the lone wolf.

And why?

Magnolia Pearl: Found Experience

Aug 1, 2018–There I was, immersed in what I call a “found experience.” Hovering in breezy shade, buoyed by fellow music travelers. Ten feet away, Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs plucked his bajo sexto. Accordion legend Flaco Jimenez added lilting counterpoint. Asleep At The Wheel guitarist Johnny Nicholas filled in with tasteful guitar riffs. ItContinue Reading

Hye Cider

July 25, 2018–Back in high school, Cherry Graham and her friend Brian Came couldn’t buy alcohol, so they started making it. “Basically, we’re nerds,” said Cherry, who is now one of the “Home Team” of owners of Hye Cider Company, along with high school buddy Came, and her husband, Travis Graham. Six years ago theyContinue Reading

Symphony season a “thing of beauty”

Aug 2, 2018–Spotlight Feature Kerrville’s Symphony of the Hills has announced the concerts for the 2018-2019 season, and according to Dr. Eugene Dowdy, Conductor and Artistic Director, every one is a highlight. “We only get to do five concerts per year, so there is no reason to compromise on quality,” Dowdy said. “Every piece, everyContinue Reading

The Astronaut Maker

SPECIAL: PRE-LAUNCH BOOK REVIEW July 18, 2018–Like many who grew up in the 1960s, I was a NASA nut. I followed every launch, and have vivid memories of the Mercury flights, the Gemini rendezvous, the Apollo moon landings, and the shuttle saga. I memorized the names of the original astronauts, and could tell you theContinue Reading

A-V 101

July 11, 2018–How much of your current knowledge can be traced back to a filmstrip you saw in 5th grade? Anyone old enough to remember watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday evenings will remember filmstrip Fridays–or “naptime”–in elementary school. Those were the days your teacher dragged out the filmstrip projector. The filmstrips–whichContinue Reading

Suzy Bogguss: Making every song her own

July 4, 2018–The first thing you notice when listening to Suzy Bogguss do a song like Night Rider’s Lament is the bluesy tinge to her strong clear voice. Now I grew up in a small town in the Midwest just 75 miles from the small town in the Midwest where she grew up. And IContinue Reading

License to carry

June 27, 2018–I’m going to write about guns. More specifically, the training to get a license to carry a gun. This is not advocacy. If you have strong feelings about this issue, on either side, you might want to skip this one. For context, I, as did anyone growing up on a farm, became familiarContinue Reading


June 20, 2018–I have a confession: I never absorbed mythology. Lord, I tried. I really did. I read about the travels of Ulysses, and the Minotaur in the labyrinth. And as a curious kid, I started to learn about the pantheon of gods, mainly through comic books. They were all there–Thor and Odin and LokiContinue Reading

Come into the cold

June 13, 2018–In the midst of hellish Texas heat, doesn’t 150 degrees below zero sound divine? You can literally immerse yourself in that thrilling chill at CRYOTHRIVE at root•ology. “We want people to have a great experience,” said Cynthia Kemp, owner of CRYOTHRIVE. “You will feel energized and excited. The treatment releases endorphins, so itContinue Reading