Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Podunk Poets - The Unofficial Official Band of The Lower 48 (Plus 2)!

Country Music. The Official Music of The Lower 48 (Plus 2)!

I mean real Country Music - Merle Haggard, George Jones and Loretta Lynn. That kind of Country Music.

Not long ago I was introduced to a band, in Los Angeles of all places(!), that plays exactly that kind of Country.

Introducing The Podunk Poets: Cindy Jollotta & Kelly Kidd - Vocals, Patrick Generosa - Drums, Doug Carrion - Bass, Jake Kelly - Guitar

And a 1 and a 2 and a 3....!!!

Now that's Country!

I became familiar with the Podunk Poets through one of the band members, Cindy Jollotta. I have known Cindy for about six years, although I have only seen her in person two or three times. Cindy is my wife's cousin and I was made aware of her (Cindy's) music through my wife. When Heather, my wife, told me that Cindy was a singer, I thought, "Yeah sure, so what?". Then I heard Cindy sing. Holy smokes!

Cindy does this thing called Bedhead Theater. She explained it to me in an email, "Bedhead Theater is something I started doing last year to keep me playing the piano every day. Basically, I wake up, immediately come downstairs, and play a song. So, often I look ridiculous and my voice is raspy, but that is sort of the fun of it." 

                                                                 Bedhead Theater

You take an angelic voice like Cindy's and pair it up with the dulcet tones of Kelly Kidd, throw in some extraordinary musicians like Patrick, Jake and Doug and you've got a recipe for greatness.

More Podunk Poets!

The Podunk Poets are all over the internet, so contacting them to book a gig or perhaps order some Podunk Poets swag, is as close as the click of a mouse!

Find the Podunk Poets on: Facebook, Twitter (@ThePodunkPoets), YouTube, and Reverb Nation.

I had so much fun listening to the band while putting this post together, I hereby proclaim The Podunk Poets The Unofficial Official Band of The Lower 48 (Plus 2)! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Family Vacations Are Coming! Plan Yours w/FREE State Travel Guides for All 50 States!

Today is March 15 and that means that we are just a few days away from the First Day of Spring!

The Fruited Plain
While our attention may be focused on warmer weather and all the grand activities that accompany it (gardening, camping, fishing), we should also remember that vacation time for tens of millions of Americans is also rapidly approaching.

The United States is a glorious land with so much to see that it can be a daunting task to figure out just where the heck we want to spend our vacation.

I am here to help you in making that very difficult decision.

Each state of the Union, except Washington State, offers for free an Official State Travel Guide that showcases that state's natural beauty, history, events and points of interest. Most, if not all, of the guides also come with brochures that have information on food and lodging as well. Each site also offers one (or several) free email notifications about upcoming events and travel specials.

The price is right (FREE!) and the information invaluable, so click here and order the state travel guide of your choice.

From sea to shining sea, the Lower 48 (Plus 2) await you!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hero Cop Pulls Man From Burning Car - w/Rescue Video!

Hero. A common word describing common people performing uncommon acts of valor.

Today, I present to you an Honest-to-God American Hero.

Urbandale, Iowa Police Officer Zac McDowell.

Fiery Crash

An 18 year old man was doing doughnuts (driving in circles at an unsafe speed) in his car in a church parking lot when things went very wrong.

The man lost control of his automobile while performing the stunt and crashed into an air conditioning unit. The collision resulted in the man's car bursting into flames.

Luckily for 18 year old Ian Waseskuk police officer Zac McDowell responded to the call.

Raw Video posted this dramatic video of Officer McDowell not taking into account his own personal safety, braving inferno-like flames and billowing smoke to perform one of the most selfless acts of courage I have ever seen.

Fortunately, neither Waseskuk or Officer McDowell were seriously injured in the incident, but Waseskuk will face charges after a brief stay in a local hospital.


It is young men like Urbandale, Iowa Police Officer Zac McDowell that make up the fabric of this great country - ordinary men facing extraordinary circumstances, reacting with uncommon valor.

Simply put, Zac McDowell is an American Hero.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Son of Honest Abe: Robert Todd Lincoln, An American Story

Robert Todd Lincoln (Age 22)
A few days ago I got an email from my Mom. The subject of the email was Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the 16th President of the United States.

It's an incredible story.

Who Was Robert Todd Lincoln?

He was the only child of Abe and Mary Lincoln to survive into adulthood - with his three brothers having died from illnesses at young ages.  Believe it or not, Robert lived until 1926, dying at the age of 83. But along the way, he lived a remarkable  life.
For  starters, he begged his father for a commission to serve in the Civil  War, with President Lincoln refusing, saying the loss of two sons (to  that point) made risking the loss of a third out of the question.  But  Robert insisted, saying that if his father didn't help him, he would                                                            join on his own and fight with the front line troops; a threat that drove Abe to give in.

But you know how clever Abe was. He gave Robert what he wanted, but wired  General Grant to assign "Captain Lincoln" to his staff, and to keep him well away from danger.
The  assignment did, however, result in Robert's being present at Appomattox Court House, during the historic moment of Lee's surrender.

Then, the following week, while Robert was at the White House, he was awakened at midnight to be told of his father's shooting, and was present at The Peterson House when his                                                           father died.

Little Eddie died at age 4 in 1850 - probably from thyroid cancer.  Willie was the most beloved of all the boys.  He died in the White House at age 11 in 1862, from what was most  likely Typhoid Fever.
Abe  grieved the hardest over Willie's death. It took him four days to pull  himself together enough to function as President again. Lincoln had a  temporary tomb built for Willie, until they could return home with his  body to Springfield , and he often spent long periods of time at the tomb.

I  guess Tad was a real hellion. None of his tutors could control him,  which is why he grew up unable to competently read or write. He was a  momma's boy, he had a lisp, and was probably mildly  retarded.
He  died at age 18 in 1871, most likely from the same thyroid cancer Eddie had died from, suggesting a genetic flaw.

But  - back to Robert, following his father's assassination, he moved to Chicago with his mentally  ill mother, and brother Tad, who was 12 at the time. Robert  finished law school and practiced the craft for a time, while constantly struggling to keep his Mother in check.

As  she had done as First Lady, Mary went on shopping binges that far exceeded common sense, driving what was left of the family fortune  into bankruptcy, and leading to violent disputes between Robert and  she.
Robert  also had torrid battles with Mary to keep her from destroying Lincoln's private papers, not just for their financial worth, but for  their historic value also, with Mary forever trying to tear them apart and burn them in fireplaces.

In  fact, her irrational behavior (she was probably schizophrenic) grew so destructive that Robert had to have her put away, with his signature  signing her into a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed locked up  for three months. Mary never forgave him for it - and they remained estranged from then on - until Mary died at age 63 in  1882.

Worth  noting, as a deceased President's wife, Mary had petitioned Congress for a pension, and she got one! She received $3,000 a year, a sizable sum back then.

Of  profound interest, as an adult Robert wrote there was a lot of  distance between his father and he - caused mainly by Abe's being  absent so much of the time during Robert's formative years. Abe was  forever gone on state wide judicial circuits, or campaigning for  office - or serving in the state legislature.

Robert  writes that his most vivid memories of his father were seeing him pack  his saddle bags to be off again. Nonetheless, Robert respected his  father - and he wept obsessively the night he was  killed.

Abraham Lincoln, II on His Death Bed
In  1868, Robert married a senator's daughter and they had  three children -- two girls and a boy, Abraham Lincoln's only  grandchildren. Their son, whom they named Abraham Lincoln II (but whom  they called "Jack") would die in 1890 from an infection arising from  having a boil pierced under his arm. He was 15 at the time, and at left is a blurry, but still remarkable photo of him lying in bed,  shortly before he died.

The  two daughters, however, lived fairly long lives, one living until 1938 to die at age 69, and the other until 1948, dying at age  72.

The last direct descendent of Abraham Lincoln would be the child of one of  Robert's daughters - Abe Lincoln's great grandson - a guy named Bud Beckwith, who died married but childless, in 1985.

In  his own right, Robert made quite a life for himself. He got into politics and was highly regarded in those circles. In fact - he served  as Secretary of War under President Garfield - and, incredibly, was  with him when Garfield was shot at the Washington train station!
And  then - some years later, Robert would also be present when President McKinley was gunned down in Buffalo ! If you were President, you'd  probably be leery about having him around, wouldn't  you?

In  later years he would  serve in other political appointments and ambassadorships, and later  became president of the Pullman train car company, a booming  enterprise back then, and a position he would hold for the rest of his  life.

Worth noting, Robert was an avid amateur astronomer, and even had an  observatory built into his Vermont home (which is better described as  a mansion), but the telescope was so well built and powerful  that's it's still used today by a local astronomy  club!

In  the photo at right is Robert (far right) appearing in his late 70's at  the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922.

A  footnote. Abe Lincoln once said he doubted Robert would do very  well in life.  Beyond the fact that Robert was able to live in a  mansion, he was several times offered the chance to run as President or Vice-President, with his every time refusing the offer.  So, Old Abe's assessment of his son was way off the mark, wasn't it? Of course, who knows how much being Abe's son influenced Robert's success in life?

Anyhow, and now for the most incredible thing there is to know about Robert Lincoln's story.

In his 20's, Robert was standing on a train platform in Jersey City, buried among a crowd of passengers attempting to buy sleeping births from a haggard conductor, when the train  suddenly moved.  Robert was standing so close to the train  that it spun him around and sent him dropping into the space between  the train and the platform -- a perilously tight place to be --  against a moving train threatening to crush  him!
Suddenly  - a hand grabbed Robert by the neck of his coat and pulled him up onto  the platform, a quick action by a solidly strong man who saved Robert's life.  And you know who that man was?
It  was Edwin Booth - the brother of John Wilkes Booth who had murdered Robert's father!


Are all the claims in this story, especially towards the end, true? If Wikipedia is to be believed, the answer is a resounding yes!

No matter, I found the story to be fascinating. And I hope you did too.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Houston Police Department K-9 Hero Needs Your Help

Alpos - Houston PD Hero
Sadly, a common story.
He loves donuts, but can’t have them now.
Worked all his life.
No pension.
While protecting others, stabbed on the job.
Recovered and kept going.
Only to get old.
Read the rest at PhilosoperMouseoftheHedge.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6 1836 - The Fall of the Alamo

Today marks the 177th anniversary of probably the most significant event in Texas History. 

On March 6,1836 the Alamo fell, and with it some of the most legendary men to ever live - Davy Crockett and James Bowie being the most recognizable.

The Battle  

On February 23, 1836, the arrival of General Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna's army outside San Antonio nearly caught them by surprise. Undaunted, the Texians and Tejanos prepared to defend the Alamo together. The defenders held out for 13 days against Santa Anna's army. William B. Travis, the commander of the Alamo sent forth couriers carrying pleas for help to communities in Texas. On the eighth day of the siege, a band of 32 volunteers from Gonzales arrived, bringing the number of defenders to nearly two hundred. Legend holds that with the possibility of additional help fading, Colonel Travis drew a line on the ground and asked any man willing to stay and fight to step over — all except one did. As the defenders saw it, the Alamo was the key to the defense of Texas, and they were ready to give their lives rather than surrender their position to General Santa Anna. Among the Alamo's garrison were Jim Bowie, renowned knife fighter, and David Crockett, famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee.

The final assault came before daybreak on the morning of March 6, 1836, as columns of Mexican soldiers emerged from the predawn darkness and headed for the Alamo's walls....
Read the rest of this amazing story at

In addition to Crockett and Bowie, there were roughly 185 more defenders of the Alamo, and while not nearly as well-known, are no less heroes than their more famous compatriots. These men, including a Black Freedman, came form all over the world to settle in Texas and were among the first to take up arms against a brutal dictator, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, in the name of Texas Independence. The list of Alamo defenders includes the names of men from England, Ireland, Denmark, Germany and other states and territories of the United States. 

It is the Battle of the Alamo that, in my mind and in the minds of tens of millions of my fellow Texans, binds us together as a unique and proud people. One hundred seventy-seven years later we honor and revere the men who, even, or maybe especially, in defeat, left future Texans a legacy of bravery, courage, honor and duty that serves as a constant reminder that Freedom isn't free. The cost of Liberty demands of a free society   vigilance and, at times, the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Remember the Alamo and God bless Texas!

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4 1789 - Meeting of the 1st Congress of the United States

This date is one of the most important in the history of the United States of America. I bet you a dollar to a doughnut that if you asked a hundred people why this date is significant to our country's history, one, maybe two, would know the answer. I sadly admit that I am firmly ensconced in the former group. You wanna know how I learned of this date's importance? On my Twitter time line. (Hat tip to @Blueberrier0341 via @Snarky_Basterd)0...thanks!)

March 4, 1789  

The Place: New York City.
The Event: Meeting of the 1st Congress of the United States of America

Eleven states were represented by nine of twenty-two Senators and thirteen of fifty-nine Representatives. There were only eleven states represented because North Carolina and Rhode Island had yet to ratify the United States Constitution. has more.

Quoting Hank Williams, Jr, "Every time we solve a problem, ten others take its place, but you won't see those refugees goin' the other way, welcome to the USA today..."

I wouldn't have it any other way.

God bless America.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 2 1836 - Texas Declares Independence!

Today is Texas Independence Day. 

I am a Texan.  As such, I hold this day in a reverence superseded by only the Holiest Days of  my Catholic Faith. You see, being a Texan is not so far removed from being of person of Faith. Being a Texan is not just a birthright, it's a spiritual thing, a state of mind. For non-Texans, the best way I can equivocate this is to compare it to being an American, with a little extra pride and a touch of bluster thrown in for good measure. 

Former Houston Oilers coach and legendary Texan Bum Phillips' Grandpa perhaps said it best when he told a young Bum that "Texans are forged of a hotter fire". 

Following, you will read of men, Texans, forged of a hotter fire. Men, who against great odds gave us Texas. Men whose courage and bravery were exceeded only by the Natural yearning for Freedom and self-determination embedded in each human's soul. Men over matched by superior firepower willing to give their lives for what God had bestowed upon them - inalienable rights that guide the destiny of free men. Men on a mission for a cause greater than temselves. Heroes. Texans.

Texas Independence Day  

In the early 19th century, the initials "GTT" sometimes were found carved in haste on the doors of homes abandoned by folks fleeing unpaid debts and other life problems. The three letters were shorthand for "Gone to Texas," the frontier sanctuary of choice for folks in these kinds of unfixable fixes. The three letters have found a place in our state's lore and legend. (Houston Chronicle)

On March 2,1836 "Texas became a republic. On March 1 delegates from the seventeen Mexican municipalities of Texas and the settlement of Pecan Point met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to consider independence from Mexico. George C. Childress presented a resolution calling for independence, and the chairman of the convention appointed Childress to head a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence. In the early morning hours of March 2, the convention voted unanimously to accept the resolution. After fifty-eight members signed the document, Texas became the Republic of Texas. The change remained to be demonstrated to Mexico."
Sam Houston

The Battle of the Alamo would soon come. Her defenders including Davy Crockett and James Bowie,  would fall at the hands of the Mexican Army lead by General Santa Ana. A few weeks later came a battle that would change Texas, and perhaps the World, forever - San Jacinto.

Thus was born the Republic of Texas.

May the Spirit of Texas live forever in the hearts of men.

God bless "The damnedest lady you ever saw" (John Wayne) 

God bless Texas and Texans - a land and a people forged of a hotter fire.