Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo – and probably only Ol’ Robbo – is delighted by this article:  State-Owned Bexar County Ranch At The Center Of Latest Warbler Fight.

Short story, the State of Texas buys up a ranch in far northwestern Bexar County, with plans to develop it for residential use as an outer luggshury burb of San Antonio, the profits going into the state’s public educational funds.  Reasonable enough, especially when real estate is booming.  The plans are kyboshed, however, when it is alleged that said ranch contains a micro-environment crucial for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.  As of the date of the article, the state was trying to unload the property and recover its initial investment.  The bulk of the article describes the debacle and the resultant finger-pointing, due-diligence claims and counter-claims, and questions whether said warbler is even really endangered.

A ridiculous enough situation and one that may be snark-worthy in and of itself, but the reason it got Ol’ Robbo’s special attention is this:  The ranch involved is the one on which we used to hunt back in my misspent yoot!

Yes!  It’s referred to as “Rancho Sierra” in the article, but back in the day it was the Karsch Ranch, the name of the then-owner, a hell of a nice fellah.  (It’s been better than 35 years since I was last there.  I don’t know if Mr. Karsch or his heirs sold directly to the state or whether there have been intermediate owners.)  He sold something like twenty or twenty-five deer leases for hunting the bulk of the ranch during the season, although we also went for wild turkey and Russian boar.  We held a lease for maybe twelve or fifteen years altogether.

The tallest peak in Bexar County (located on the ranch) also gets mentioned, although the article calls it Mt. Smith.  To us, it was known as Flag Top.  I have no idea where the “Smith” came from – I’ve seen the marker at the summit and although this was a loooong time ago, I’m reasonably sure our name was the right one.

Flag Top, then, contained two deer stands.  One was called “Flag Top Road”.  It was a tree-blind on the main trail across the mesa.  (The view out the back over the valley was pretty amazing.)  I helped the Old Gentleman overhaul it when it started falling apart, and indeed it was from that blind that I bagged my first buck.  I was eight at the time.  (I save this little factoid for only the very specialist of my snowflake acquaintances.)  The other one was called “Flag Top North”.  I cannot recall if it was simply a box on the ground or if it was a small tower, but I know it wasn’t in a tree.  It was on a spur from the main track, maybe a couple hundred yards off and right near the summit.  In all our time there I do not recall ever hunting that blind, although we did drive up to restock its feeder now and again and to have a look at the marker I mentioned.

And speaking of driving, it was on this ranch that the twelve-year-old Robbo learned how to drive.  (There are a couple photos in the article that give a sense of the terrain and trails.)  The Old Gentleman got hold of a VW Beetle.  He had the shell, the dashboard, and the back seat removed, and put on a roll-bar, a plywood rear platform and engine box, and oversized tires.   Reasoning that if something happened to him when we were way out in the back of beyond, he insisted that my brother and I learn the trails and, when we were big enough to reach the pedals, how to drive the buggy.  Once I grasped the mysteries of driving a stick, it was loads of fun.

Good times.  Good times.

Incidentally, I myself never saw one of these warblers, but I gather they only visit the old ranch during the nesting season and I was really only there during the winter, so there’s that.

Oh, one other piece of nostalgia?  The article quotes a good bit from one Gene Dawson, an engineer who did some assessment work for the state.  His parents were our next-door neighbors in San Antonio and his mom often invited us to use their pool.  (We did.)  Gene is probably eight or nine years older than me and we never had much contact, but his younger brother Sam, who I think graduated high school a year or two before I entered, was infinitely patient and good-humored about playing with us younger kids in the neighborhood.

Small word, ain’t she?

And you never know when the past is going to come bubbling up again.

A glass of wine with my brother, who stumbled across this article recently and mentioned it to me over Thanksgiving.

UPDATE:  As long as Ol’ Robbo is thinking about it, a few more fun facts about the old Karsch.

The article mentions a couple of springs on the ranch.  I knew one of them and indeed sipped water out of it more than once.  It was located in a small, deep valley known as Wolf Hollow.  The story went that Texas Rangers once got the drop on some desperado camped out there and shot him down, burying him in his boots.

Whether that was true or not, this is: Nestled up against one side of the hollow are or were the remains of an old settler homestead, a hearth built out of stone.  I knew one or two others scattered around the ranch as well.  There was also said to be a settler graveyard, but I never saw that.

An old stagecoach road runs across the ranch, linking Leon Springs and Boerne in the east with who knows what to the west.  I remember one section of it in particular that, instead of trying to go up and over the top of a small hill, followed a contour line on one side around it.

Shortly after WWI, a single-engine plane carrying mail ran out of fuel and crashed on a hillside deep inside the ranch.  When a search party arrived, they found the pilot had broken his neck in the crash.  We hiked in one time to find it.  Of course the canvas had long since rotted away, but the iron framework was still there and remarkably intact.  I kept a piece of rusty aileron as a souvenir.

During WWII, a heavy bomber got lost in a fog and slammed into another hillside, blowing up on impact.  I knew approximately where this happened but never tried to find the actual site.  It was said there was nothing left to see anyway.

Finally, the article also mentions a ranchhouse.  I wonder if it’s the same one we used back in the day?  It was a little house set a bit aside from the rest of the compound and served as the hunters’ HQ.  There was a kitchen, a bedroom with bunks (we never stayed over), and a main room.  In the main room was a large wall map of the ranch with all the deer blinds marked and named on it.  (There were maybe twelve or fifteen altogether.)  The map was overlaid with a clear piece of plastic and a grease pencil was tied to a string next to it.  When you went out, you circled which blind you were going to and wrote your name in the circle.  Not only did this ensure two different parties didn’t try to get the same blind, it also acted as a sort of buddy-system to ensure everybody came back in at the end of the day.  (I think somebody from the ranch came round late in the evening to check the map to ensure the last party got in okay.)

I suppose that if the place does eventually get overrun with McMansions, all this history will be wiped out.  So maybe the golden-cheeked warblers aren’t such a bad thing after all.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s been away from the decanter for the past couple days owing to a biznay trip that took me up the coast.  Since my destination was within the “Acela Corridor”, I took the train there and back.  Aside from the typically grungy stations with which one has to deal, I really don’t mind train travel at all.

I happened to be in the “quiet car” on the way up.  A couple of young jackass lawyers (but I repeat myself) were seated in front of me, talking at the top of their voices.  I was amused the first time the conductor came by and told them to knock it off.  I was delighted the second time he came by and said he’d throw them out of the car if they didn’t shut up immediately.  It took much willpower to stop myself from getting up and shaking his hand.

On the way back, I found myself sitting behind a bunch of young middle-management types.  Amongst other things, they were discussing tactics and strategies for ongoing deal negotiations by their firm.  Ol’ Robbo was shocked:  Does nobody understand the concept of proprietary information and the conscious need for security these days?  How did they know I wasn’t a representative of the other side furiously scribbling down everything I overheard?  Sheesh!

They were also comparing the lavish overseas vacations they had taken or were planning to take with their wives and girlfriends.  In the mixed company of a train car, this strikes me as downright rude and vulgar, and just the sort of thing to set the Bolsheviks rioting.  I believe the not-so-prosperous-looking yoot sitting across from me felt the same way.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had good Thanksgiving Day celebrations and are now loafing about, recovering from the after-effects.

As usual, the Family Robbo packed up and went to see my brother and his down in North Carolina.  Brother managed to crock his back a few days ago, which meant that we didn’t go for our usual “Black Friday” hike and also that Ol’ Robbo found himself the Official Lifter Of The Heavy Things as far as dinner preparation went, but a good time was had by all.  Just a few observations:

♦  There really not being enough room at my brother’s house for ten adults and a small boy, we stayed at a hotel while down there. It’s a brand-new place, having still been under construction when we went last year.  It is astonishing to observe that, nearly one-fifth of the way through the 21st Century, there are still interior decorators who believe avocado green is a good idea.

♦  What with not hiking yesterday, we instead flopped in front of college football all afternoon.  I really thought Virginia Tech was going to beat the gentlemen of T.J. State, but the Hokies fell apart in the last ten minutes or so and blew it.  Too bad.  (My nephew attends Tech, so the whole family was rooting for them.  Clemson and South Carolina play today and I’ve a niece at each.  The family dynamic over that one is….somewhat more complicated.)

♦  Ol’ Robbo really dislikes those X-mas car commercials in which one spouse surprises the other with a new car with a big bow on top or, even worse, with a his n’ hers matching pair.  I could never, ever contemplate making that kind of financial commitment without consulting Mrs. R first.  (There is also a smarmy-elite feel to those things – $50 grand? Walking around money! – which I would think more likely to generate seething envy in the mind of the average teevee viewer than anything else, but what does Ol’ Robbo know.)

♦  I was cajoled into reading The Monster At The End Of This Book (starring lovable, furry, old Grover) to our youngest guest, my 4 y.o. great-nephew.  It’s been quite some time since I used to read this to the Gels, and I’m not sure the boy is totally clear on who Grover actually is.  But I was pleased to find that I can still do the shrill, hysterical voice, wave my hands around in panic, and generally behave quite silly, and whatever the boy’s Sesame Street-foo, he enjoyed the performance.

♦  Ol’ Robbo wanted to get an early jump on the longish drive back to Port Swiller Manor today, so last evening he said to all the Gels, “Be ready to go by 5:45 AM.”  This morning they were……ready to go by 5:45 AM.  Amazing what a smooth start will do for a trip.  And fortunately, the traffic was really not bad at all, so we got home in very good time.

Well, that was Thanksgiving 2019, that was.  Advent starts tomorrow and once again Ol’ Robbo finds himself having left it late to see whether he has a sufficient supply of purple ribbon and candles.  Better go check on that…..

UPDATE:  Huzzay, huzzah, my fellow port swillers! We found out last night that Youngest has been accepted early decision by Miami of Ohio!!  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, she went out to tour the place last summah and fell in love on first sight, so she put in her E.D. application this fall.  We’ve been on pins and needles ever since.  (She wrote an amazingly quirky and clever personal essay about her education to date which I’m pretty sure is what got her in.)

So far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned, Miami is a perfectly decent school full of perfectly decent people in an absolutely beautiful spot.  (Distinguished alums include Peej O’Rourke, World Champion Nationals’ right-fielder Adam “Mighty Mouse” Eaton, and a cousin of mine from my great-grandmother’s family.)  Ironically, it’s greatest rival is Ohio University, where Robbo’s parents met as undergrads.

So go…..a, lessee…..REDHAWKS!!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo probably won’t be able to get at his keyboard for the next few days, so I’ll go ahead and wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving now.

Remember,  It is not, as the SJW mob would have it, about celebrating Indian exploitation, nor is it a platform for hectoring your troglodyte relatives about impeaching Trump.  Further, it isn’t simply a marker for the start of the shopping season as Big Retail would like you to believe.

Images courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art

No, cheesy pin-up art aside,  Thanksgiving is first, last, and always about gratitude, something not very fashionable these days, but absolutely vital to a healthy soul.  Make sure to take the time to meditate on this and to be truly thankful for who and what you have, and not to stew in envy over what you don’t have.

See you on the other side!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Both the Elder Gels are home from college for Thanksgiving Break now, bringing the roster at Port Swiller Manor back up to full strength for the first time in months.  We’ll see how long the peace can be maintained.

Over the weekend Eldest and I were chatting of this and that when the topic came round to chess.  “Did you know,” she said, “that the Queen was originally restricted to moving only a single space at a time?  The rule changed because of the rise of powerful queens like Catherine of Aragon during the Renaissance.”

I must admit that I had never heard of this, so this evening I hied me to the innertoobs, where everything is true, and found that at least somebody has put forth an argument that this was, in fact, the case.

There actually are a couple different articles on line, but they all seem to go back to a single source, one Marilyn Yalom’s Birth of the Chess Queen: A History (2001).  I’ve no idea if the argument that this fundamental change in the game of royal warfare was indeed made in recognition of the likes of Elizabeth I and Isabella of Castile, but it’s at least plausible as well as highly interesting.  Plus, it would seem to kick the stuffing out of the notion that all wymmnz in the West were treated like doormats and chattels before 1968.

Has any friend of the decanter ever read this book?  I’m somewhat curious about the argument, but at the same time I don’t want to repeat the mistake I made in wasting several valuable hours, based on a brother-in-law’s recommendation, reading a hopeless trainwreck of a book about how the Chinese actually discovered and colonized the Americas in the 1450’s.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So Ol’ Robbo sees this article this morning: W&L Students Demand Right To Strip George Washington And Robert E. Lee From Their Diplomas.

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo did his undergrad studies at The People’s Glorious Soviet Of Middletown, CT, a hard left outlier back in the mid 80’s.  After that, I specifically chose Dubyanell for law school because it was then such a conservative school and I wanted to get back some of the traditional college experience of which I felt I’d missed out at Wes, and because I so loved the rich history of the place.

Well, the school obviously has gone to Stalinist hell now.  Not another dime do they get from me, even the nominal amounts I’ve been giving just to pump their class participation rates.  I know this is just a student petition, but even if it gets turned down, I guarantee you the very name of the school is going to change within the next couple years.

When my office moved to a new building a couple months ago, I brought my diplomas home.  I’ve had little inclination to go through the bother of taking them in to the new place, but now I find myself more tempted to do so, just to put Ol’ George and Bobby Lee up on the wall in defiance.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has had occasion from time to time to note that there is something about his person that seems irresistibly attractive to cats and to crazy people.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in Philly’s 30th Street Station waiting for the train to whisk me back to Ol’ Virginny and squinting vacantly into the middle distance when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was an older fellah sitting next to me who I’d half-seen out of the corner of my eye busy about something for some little time.

“Excuse me,” he said.  “Could you turn and look this way for a moment?  I’m sketching you.”

He did, indeed, have a pad in one hand a couple pencils in the other.

“Sketching me?” I said.

“Yes.  See, I used to be homeless and I started sketching people’s portraits for food.  I’m not homeless anymore, so I do it now because I enjoy it and to help out other homeless.  When I’m done, you can decide whether you want to help, too.”

Having got a look at the Robbo face full on, he started up again, in the meantime delivering a rolling monologue. He proved to be quite the raconteur.

He talked about his life and hard times.  He showed me his artificial leg (the real one apparently having been run over by a car).  He joked about Philly cheesesteaks. (“I’ve eaten around a million of them but never knew Philly was famous for them.”)  He talked about who he chose to sketch.  (“Never women eating by themselves.  It makes them nervous.”)   He offered words of wisdom.  (“Are you married? When you get home, tell your wife she’s beautiful.  Then ask her if she knows she’s beautiful.”  He said this several times.)  He kept calling me “pretty boy” (but said that he was the original “pretty boy”) and, when he found out what I do for a living, cracked several lawyer jokes.

For my part, I went along with it.  (He posed no threat.  What was I going to do?  Stand up, yell “Good day, Sir!” and march off in a huff?)  I insisted on an exact count of the number of cheesesteaks he’d eaten.  I said even a rube like me from the sticks had long known Philly’s reputation.  I topped his lawyer jokes with my own and said they were all funny because they’re all true.  He was delighted and said he was surprised that somebody who looked so stone-faced could banter back like that.  (Well I can, you know.  And no, I’m not always scowling.  As I said above, it’s squinting.)

As he was winding up, he said, “Okay.  What are you going to do when you get home tonight?”

“Tell my wife she’s beautiful,” I said.

“And what else?”

“Ask her if she knows she’s beautiful.”


“Yes,” I said.  “And then I’m going to tell her to make me a sammich.”

He burst out laughing.  “Man, you’re funnier than I am!”

I wound up giving him some money.  He seemed legit, and indeed had a short article about himself from one of the local rags.  (He’s here, too.  Scroll down to the fourth bio.)  In the middle of things, a bum came up to panhandle him.  He said he’d buy the guy some food in a moment, but he wouldn’t give the guy any money.  The guy went away disgruntled.  And even if it was just a hustle, he’d obviously worked hard at it and given it real entertainment value.  Further, he was extremely polite and personable, and I enjoyed chatting with him.  So it was worth it either way.

Oh, and the sketch?  He put it in a clear plastic folder and gave it to me.  I replicate it here for your consideration with the sole caveat that it looks absolutely nothing like me.  Enjoy!


Portrait Of Robbo. Or Not.


“Aw, Hell……”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Once again the Babylon Bee proves its status as Americas’ new paper of record:  Chick-Fil-A Trades Adoring Christian Fans For Outrage Mob That Won’t Be Appeased Until Their Every Demand Is Met.

From what Ol’ Robbo can figure out, there are actually several layers of reasoning to the CFA Foundation’s decision to redirect portions of its charity giving, some of which may actually be legitimate in terms of producing more beneficial results.  But the way nooz of this move broke was an absolute P.R. train-wreck, and the resultant popular perception correspondingly disastrous from a culture war point of view:  Whether CFA actually caved to the SJW cry-bullies in moving away from funding the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, many people on both sides sure as heck think it did.  The result is going to be an enormous loss of good will among CFA’s Christian supporters, but there’s not going to be any corresponding gain in such good will on the other side.  When the cry-bullies smell blood, they only push harder.  And I don’t think any amount of post hoc damage control spin is going to have much effect on either of these camps.

As far as the Family Robbo is concerned, we’ve been patrons of CFA since long before any of this culture war stuff erupted because we think the food is tasty and we like the fact that the service is almost invariably polite and efficient., the stores almost always spotlessly clean.  So for now, we’ll most likely keep on chikin’in.  That changes, we’re gone.

(And having written this post, now Ol’ Robbo is all hungry again……)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got an especially heartfelt chuckle from this article:  Scholars Now Believe Saul Threw Spear At David For Playing Christmas Music Well Before Thanksgiving.

It’s from the Bee so it’s satire, of course.  Or is it?

I haven’t heard any X-mas tunes yet (nor have I seen, for example, reindeer antlers or Rudolph noses on any cars) but they’re coming.  Oh, yes, they’re certainly coming.


As I’ve mentioned here before, the local classickal station starts inserting “holiday” musick into its rotation right after Thanksgiving.  At first, these insertions are fairly sporatic, and I always fall into the trap of thinking maybe it won’t be so bad this year.  But they inevitably crank it up to eleven, and by the time Christmas Eve actually rolls around and the stuff is nonstop, the only feeling the umpteenth airing of “O Holy Night” or “The Holly and the Ivy” raises in my soul is the urge to grab a machete and run amok.  (On the other hand, it takes but a single airing of “If Bach Had Written Jingle-Bells” to make me start smashing the furniture.)

As a matter of fact, I’m considering some Advent abstinences this year.  I usually give up musick for Lent, so perhaps I’ll do the same thing.  As well as being a good spiritual exercise, it might help the ol’ blood pressure, too.

Supplemental greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo rarely does double posts on Saturdays, but my muse provoked me to offer up second helpings this evening in re various DVD’s I’ve watched over the past couple days, baseball season now being over and done.

Know what remains a perpetual delight to me? “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“.  I’ve watched it umpteen times over the years, both in videotape and now as part of my DVD library, and its loose, good-natured, non-serious tone never grows old.  One of my favorite bits of dialogue:

Bill:  You ditched Napoleon?  Deacon! Do you realize you’ve stranded one of history’s greatest leaders in San Dimas?

Deacon:  He was a dick!

The original Bill and Ted became a cult classic, largely because it didn’t take itself seriously.  The sequel tried too hard to capitalize on this success, largely IMHO because the suits got hold of it, and to me was a dud as a result.  I understand they’re trying for the hat trick now.  Eh, it could go either way.  I’d love if they could recapture the original goofy spirit, but I’m also doubtful.

On another comedic note, I have come to the conclusion on my second viewing that “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” simply isn’t funny.  Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, I know.  But it just. doesn’t. click.  Sorry.

Speaking of Cary, though, this evening Ol’ Robbo indulged himself in “North By Northwest“, probably his very favorite Hitchcock.  The presence of a young and talented Eve Marie Saint may or may not be part of the appeal.  Certainly the fact that I love the theme musick is.

Incidentally, to show what an ignoramus Ol’ Robbo actually is, it was only within the last few weeks that I became aware that the title of this movie was a direct nod to Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Hamlet: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

– Act 2, Scene 2

Makes a lot of sense when you think about it, given that the whole damn plot of the film is built on concentric circles of confusion, play-acting and deceit.



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