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Hittin’ the dusty trail for a few down time experiences

Today is Labor Day in America and most everybody is off for the holiday enjoying some good old leisure time. Down time, sit back and rest a spell. Barbecue smoke is filling the air with those delicious smells that raise cholesterol just from sniffing. Unhealthy yes, but oh so tasty!

We feature several stories this week about entertainment, eating out and leisure time in general. I thought it might be interesting to survey my little circle of friends and see if I find any unique or, at least, interesting leisure activities. So, I did. Since I am committed to wearing out my body rather than just allowing it to rust out, my research put emphasis on active leisure pursuits. Sorry fellows, but fattening up the old body trying to wear out the TV didn’t make my list.

Since it’s my column, I’ll start with me. On several occasions I have enjoyed sitting by a bat cave at dusk and watching the bats fly out for their evenings hunt. The Texas Hill Country is blessed with a half dozen or more bat caves where Mexican free tail bats make their annual pilgrimage to fatten up on Texas bugs.

At the old railroad tunnel, near Fredericksburg, somewhere around three million bats hang out (literally, hang out) until dark and then fly out past the spectators. It takes around 15 minutes for all the bats to emerge, spiral up into the air and get on their way. This sport, bat watching, is not for the squeamish since the bats leave behind an awful odor in their wake. However, it is truly a phenomena of nature and very interesting.

My survey showed that three of my friends fly airplanes for a hobby. Though it holds no interest for me, it is an obsession with them. It’s a very expensive hobby, but apparently one that provides a lot of satisfaction. But, considering that airplanes don’t depreciate much and may actually go up in value, maybe it’s not so expensive after all. By contrast, the money I spend chasing whitetail deer is sunk cost with no prospect of gaining in value.

One of my friends satisfied a lifelong desire to visit Spain last year. I enjoyed the tales of really, really small cars and very expensive gasoline. Seeing Moorish castles that date from the Middle Ages was intriguing and whetted my appetite to visit Europe myself. Oh well, maybe someday I’ll make the trip. But, for my friends it was a long-term dream come true.

Similarly, one of my friends visited Japan and New Zealand several years ago. Now there’s a trip off the beaten path! Another friend went by herself to China and spent weeks exploring all sorts of places that were off limits to outsiders until just recently. As exotic and interesting as these excursions are to me, I would choose to visit Alaska before I ventured off to other continents.

Speaking of Alaska, it’s on my travel agenda as soon as I can persuade my doctor to replace my knees. Since new, store-bought knees only last about 15 years, he wants me to wait a few years before replacement. I want them now even if it means that I’ll be less mobile in my 80s. Even if I live that long, I probably won’t know who I am or where I’m going by then so it won’t make much difference anyway.

This October, wife Debra and I are going on a little adventure out in South Texas. We’re going on a cattle drive at the K O Ranch near San Antonio. I tried to dodge this bullet by telling the organizer that, at my size, I’ll need a horse the size of a Budweiser Clydesdale to haul me around. No problem. Oh well, we’ll be off to follow some tame longhorns around, eat beans by the campfire, and, perhaps, sleep on the ground at night. Ouch!

As an aside, I understand that 80’s rocker Ted Nugent hunts regularly at the K O Ranch. Maybe I’ll expand my circle of friends if I run into the Motor City Madman. You never know, I like all kinds of people. Maybe Alice Cooper or Tiny Tim will show up at the old K O Ranch. Surely a good time will be had by all.

I hope this decidedly non-scientific survey puts some ideas in your mind for spending your leisure time away from the TV and in pursuit of some serious life experiences. I’m already thinking about getting my boots ready to mount old Clyde and follow some tame cows around the K O Ranch and, maybe, hang out with Ted Nugent.

Thought for the Moment

We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.

— Omar N. Bradley (1893-1981),

U.S. Army General

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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