Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Chicken Shit Makes You A Winner

You are hollering. Loud. A simple number. 18. Over and over. Your eyes are fixed on a number grid. You are not alone, there are 50 others screaming numbers; just not yours. Some try it with "here, here,...." No, you are not in Las Vegas at a roulette table, you are cramped around a wire cage west of San Antonio, in Big T's Roadhouse and you watch a chicken strut the grid. Finally, relief is here, the chicken sets a wet one on a number and that number wins. Wins, wins big, the whole pot.

That's how you experience "Chicken Shit Bingo." What started out at carnivals under tents, is still played in the country. Also known as "Chicken Drop" it actually has universal appeal, in the Alps furry cows do it on a gridded meadow, they call it "Cow Patty Bingo." But back to the fowl in St. Hedwig, where Big T's draws a big crowd every Sunday.

Whenever the band takes a break people rush to the pool table covered in a randomly numbered and gridded plywood top with a chicken wire cage on top of it. Two dollars gets you in and gives you "your number." And then the protagonist of the afternoon arrives. Shiny feathers, a comb reaching the sky. He knows it's his 15 minutes of fame to make you a loser or a winner.

Normally the 15 minutes get cut short - a mild laxative helps to keep the attention span at bay. Originally brought into Austin by Country musician Dale Watson, the by now worldwide famous Chicken droppings event, started around 2000 in Ginny Kalmbach's bar, "Ginny's Little Longhorn." She retired in 2013, new owner Dale and part of his family took over. Dale also bought Big T's in St. Hedwig. By now Dale left the central Texas area, sold his interest in both bars and moved to Memphis. So I assume there soon will be a "Chicken Shit Bingo" - maybe at Graceland? But the tradition in Austin and St. Hedwig goes on, after church and lunch you spend the afternoon at the bar, having a couple of cold ones and scream your numbers.

And when relief comes, I heard more than one patron shout "shit," not to encourage the barnyard fowl, but realizing that they just lost. 5 won the pot, 18 the sneer. Glad there is another round of playing the next time the band takes a break. Let's get a beer and dance to the band like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sun Pillar At Dawn

A blog or at least the newsletter I try to read every day comes from Earth & Sky, many of you may know from NPR. Their daily look up into the stars, planets, constellations and other astronomical happenings are a little guide, of what I may expect during the night hours.

Today's newsletter featured the atmospheric phenomenon of a sun pillar (light pillar), who form when the sunlight is reflected from millions of drifting hexagonal ice crystals are in the air. These pillars may reach upwards or downwards normally with a low sitting sun at dawn or dusk and may reach 5 to 10 or even more degrees up or down.

If the light stems from other sources like the moon or streetlights they are called light pillars - you may have seen them, especially in winter night landscape photography.

The website Atmospheric Optics also taught me the difference between rays and pillars; rays are normally visible when the sunlight is scattered because of dust, aerosols or moisture droplets.

Sources: amu communications photo, Atmospheric Optics, Earth & Sky
The photo on top is available for commercial use through Dispatch Press Images.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Monarch On Cowpen Daisy

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) clinging to a Cowpen Daisy (Verbesina encelioides).

Somehow I missed them for two years. Not the Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) which I could find all over the 17 acres, but that single spot of Cowpen Daisies (Verbesina encelioides) right on the fence to our neighbor. Venturing out in mid-October they were still in full bloom with clusters of late migrating Monarchs clinging to the blooms like cars in line to fill up at a Buckee's gas station next to the highway, destination Mexico.

After a first cold front most of the Monarchs were gone, other butterflies and bugs using the daisy as a late nurturing place. By early November the plants had wilted, dried out and the flowers have become clusters of white seeds. I collected the seeds, planted them and I'm trying to grow them so I can build some more "gas stations" for the migrating butterflies this coming year. I will post some more pictures of Monarchs and other butterflies and bugs visiting this interesting plant in another blog, but now I gotta go water the ones I planted.

Sources: amu communications photo, wikipedia

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pumpjack (Oil Rig) In The Sunset

North Central Texas only has a smaller oil basin compared with the Permian in West Texas or the Eagle-Ford in South Tecas, so Pump Jacks are rather a rare sight. This one is located above the Bend Arch - Fort Worth Basin oil reserve between Alexander and Stephenville, Texas. I thought that the silhouette with the setting sun would make a great shot.

Not only refers it "romantically" to the old days of using fossil fuels, but it may also signify the end of doing exactly that. As the barrel prices are currently quite low, the pump jack stands mostly idle waiting for better times, where the parent company may make more profit. Also as the cost of a pump jack is "only" around a million dollar, many prospectors are coming back to this old method of gaining oil and gas resources out of the ground instead of using fracking.

Let me know what you think about the picture and our future concerning fossil fuels.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sunflower Glowing In The Sunset

This is the only sunflower that started to grow from one of these strips that are supposed to produce a whole 10 feet of sunflowers in a row. Well, one is better than none and the other day my wife told me to take a picture of the flower in the evening, as the flower will be completely formed.

I waited right before the sun would set behind the cedar bushes, a couple of first shots, I did not use my flash and obviously got pictures with a relative dark silhouette of the sunflower. So to get more details from the flower I started using the flash, slightly diverted from the white brim of my cowboy hat, to not make the extra light not too harsh on the flower.

In post-processing, I had to enhance some of the darks and whites, basically playing with the contrast, till I had the picture I wanted. I also had to increase some of the blue tones in the sky a bit, to get a bit more life into the sky as well.

I then proceeded to make a BW version of the picture, with different contrast settings to make the monochrome tones work. Thanks to the solar flares, I think that picture works as well.

What do you think? Leave me a comment!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Buckeye Butterfly Perched On Unknown Yellow Flower

I do love Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia), their big eyes or eyespots on the fore- and hindwings. With the pigmented spots they are actually able to scare off predators. It is believed that the spots developed through evolution to give them a functioning defense mechanism. A Swedish study claims that the spots not only keep birds away but that also chickens are intimidated by the frightening eyes.

We have one or two roaming around our "ranch" so I will share more of these beauties as I shoot them. Last October I posted a picture of one sitting on top of a false thistle in my blog "Buckeye Riding On Top of Leavenworth's Eryngo" and even mentioned that the US Postal Service had a stamp honoring the Buckeyes.

Handrail - Light & Shadow

There is beauty in the urban jungle.
Open your eyes, wander and wonder.

This entry to an office complex was next door to where I was living, so strolling by I was immediately taken by the play of Light & Shadow. Even when I shot it, it was clear to me that this will be a Black & White picture.

I also like the dichotomy between the concrete and metal on one side and the tree in the background. Urban minimalism.