Listen to your Wife!

Here is a life lesson.

When traveling on a turnpike at 75+ MPH and your wife suddenly says, “STOP!! PULL OVER!! I SAW A BALD EAGLE!!”, the smart thing to do is to stop, pull over, and ask her to clarify. This is exactly what happened this weekend as we were traveling to Oklahoma for our yearly Thanksgiving family get-together.

For some reason, let’s just call it providence, I had decided to leave my camera out in the back seat on this trip. Usually, nothing happens so it is safely stored away in the back with the rest of the luggage on these trips. The drive to family is about 4 hours and we were at about the 3 hour mark, making good time when the aforementioned actions took place. I pulled over.

After discussing the fact that what she likely was was just some exposed broken branch in a tree, she finally convinced me to back up. So here I am, backing up on the shoulder while traffic is whizzing by, narrowly missing a mile-marker sign (oops) when Karen declared, “I see it!” It was quite a distance away, and I still could not see it. So I hand her the camera. Of course, my camera settings are completely different than hers so she has a hard time getting a shot but once she does and shows me the proof, well, I hop out of the vehicle with the camera and head toward the field.

There were a line of trees between the and the great bird, but I was able to get a couple of clear shots before it flew off.

So, listen to your life and you may just see something amazing!

Oh, and here are a couple of shots of the Bald Eagle! Quite a distance away, and shooting through a stand of trees, but still a magnificent bird.

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Kilgore Football: Part 2

Welcome to Kilgore College vs Tyler Junior College, part 2. Thanks to the KC win over TJC of 50-29 the previous week, these two teams, with a long history, had the opportunity to meet up once again the very next Saturday in the first round of the SWJCFC playoffs. So sit back and enjoy along with me as I had the opportunity to shoot this game from the field level rather than from the stands! So, while this post may seem one-sided, remember I was there at the courtesy of Kilgore College, so they were my focus.

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The Kilgore band was in place and ready to go as the teams came onto the field.

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KC Special Teams coach Gary Wade stands with his players as the game gets underway.

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#6 Joe Lewis, was seen making quite a few big plays during the game. Once he got the ball he was off!

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As the teams line up, eye-to-eye and nose-to-nose, you can almost feel the tension from the years of rivalry between these two schools.

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#32 Alvin Kenworthy and #41 Dillon Hall stand on the sidelines, ready to jump in at a moments notice.

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Another play maker for KC, #15 Kyle McBride, runs for another first down.

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The Kilgore crown was certainly appreciative of their Rangers as they continued to score over TJC.

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Hard working guys resting before being put back into play.

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Celebration after another first down.

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Being an old band member myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance from the TJC Band. If I understood the announcement correctly, this is the professor of woodwinds at the school, jazzing-out with his students during halftime.

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The TJC band leader caught my eye as she directed from atop a ladder.

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Go brass section!

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TJC’s percussion section was equally impressive.

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Kilgore’s band is smaller, but performed quite well. Marching up and down the field sure brought back memories of friday nights from my youth.

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And of course, you can’t have Kilgore football without the world famous Rangerettes!

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Back to the game.  #2 Chandler Eiland looks to pass the ball before the approaching Apaches make contact.

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Playmaker #7 Tyreik Gray, light on his feet making yardage before being brought down.

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#3 Hasan Deense takes control of the ball for yet more yardage.

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Sometimes there is just no stopping #7 Tyreik Gray as he hurdles over an attempted tackle and continues on for yet another touchdown!

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Coach Wade had a discussion with one of the Refs

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But once the game is complete, all harsh moments are put aside and congratulations all around are shared from both sides.

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As the Rangers celebrate their 58-51 win over TJC with singing their school song

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And closing for a word or prayer, thanking God for the victory and safety of both teams. The next week KC lost to Trinity Valley Community College in overtime, but they have been invited to play at the Mississippi Bowl in Perkinston MS on Dec 4th. We with them good luck in their game against East Mississippi Community College.

So, that’s it. My first chance shooing a game from the sidelines. It was a great opportunity and one I’m hoping to continue into the future. Defiantly as unpredictable as wildlife but certainly more action packed into a shorter amount of time.

Hope you enjoyed. Looking for my next adventure!

Michael

 

All photos copyright of Michael Hampton 2016 and taken with the Canon 5DS-R or Canon 7D Mark II

Tyler Highland Games

Okay, I’m a little behind on my photo editing, but wanted to share these. Near the end of October was held the Tyler Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Having never been to one, and always admiring men willing to wear a kilt in public, we packed up the cameras and headed over. There were multiple tents for vendors selling their wares, as well as Scottish music and games. As you’ll see, the games were not limited to only men.

When we got there, the games were already underway, but we got to watch a couple of weight toss and caber toss events which I found interesting.

First up were the 56lb and 28lb weight toss events. This was kind of like a discus throw, but with a weight which has a handle attached. The participant spins in a circle to gather momentum, and then lets it fly. These guys and gals were pretty impressive with their strength, as well as their ability to not let it fly in the wrong direction and injure those behind them.

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The one I really found interesting was the caber toss. I had see this before, but never understood what the rules were, until now. The purpose is to toss the large pole, have it flip end over end, and then you are judged on how straight it lands to where it was thrown. While it looks easy, apparently it is not. Of course the biggest hurdle is first picking up the rather long pole and balancing it before you actually try to flip it. This was very impressive.

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This guy actually accomplished the feat! I think the yelling at the pole actually pushed it over the edge and got it flipped.

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The parade of the clans was quite a site. They paraded around the area being led by the piper to the traditional song you usually hear on bagpipes. All the clans and their colors (tartans) were on display. Each clan had their own tent where you could learn some history of the clan and even see if maybe you were a descendant from them.

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And of course, what sort of festival would it be if there wasn’t music? This is the Reel Treble Band, hard at work entertaining the crowd.

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I didn’t get to stick around as long as I would have liked, but thoroughly enjoyed everything we saw. Next year I’ll plan a full day and see and learn even more!

Until next time…

Football!

Admittedly, I’m not a huge sports fan, but when offered tickets along with friends to see the big (local) game between the Kilgore College Rangers and their rivals the Tyler Jr College Apaches, well, who could turn that down? What follows are shots I took from the stands as a regular attender of the game.

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Special teams coach Gary Wade talks with his players
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#7 seemed to be the play-maker of the team. He was given the ball on several occasions for many gained yards
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Blocking for the quarterback allowed for even more yards gained
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#7 once again for the run
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Once more, zigging and zagging past the opponents
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Half time started with the TJC Marching Band. They were pretty impressive, playing songs from the 80s, which means I knew most of them. 🙂
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They had a full percussion section present
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And of course, the TJC Apache Belles dance troup
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Quite the athletic set of girls
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Founded in 1947, they have been around for quite some time
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However, the Kilgore College Rangerettes were the first! Founded in 1939, they were the first team of their kind to grace the college halftime shows.
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Not having my wide-angle lens, I couldn’t get them all in one shot
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The Kilgore College marching band was also present. Not as large or flashy as TJC’s but still a good performance.
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But when the Rangerettes sat down and did their synchronized hand-jive, it was very impressive. Their timing was impeccable.
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It is easy to see why these girls are world famous, having preformed on 4 continents and 11 different countries.
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Their poise and attention to detail continue to show whey they are the best
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Back to the game. More running and dodging
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Nose to nose, the teams face off
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QB gets rid of the ball just before the coming tackle
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Coach Wade giving instructions
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At the end of the day, there can be only one winner, and this day that winner was the Kilgore Rangers, 50 to 29! Great ending to their homecoming game!

As I said, I’m not a huge sports fan, but this was definitely a treat for us. I actually look forward to attending another game.

East Texas Adventure: Part 4

Day 4 of the East Texas Adventure 2016 began at the Mineola Nature Preserve. On the banks of the Sabine River (this thing really gets around) it is a preserve set apart with trails, marshes, and birds of all kinds. There is also a pollinator garden there to attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

One of the larger animals you can see there is a small herd of American Bison. While commonly referred to as a “buffalo”, its correct name is actually bison. These massive creatures can surprise you with their speed and agility. I remember watching them in Yellowstone leaping over fences. Many other “tourons” (tourist morons) have approached them too closely, only to learn that that massive head can toss a person quite a few yards, sometimes straight up!!

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One of my goals for coming here this day was to get a good shot of the pronthotory warbler. My friend Danny Pickens comes here often and had been posting some very nice shots. With my first sighting of one the previous day I had hopes of getting a cleaner shot of one out in the open and I was not disappointed! This one came out and landed on this small branch just a few feet away from the wildlife viewing station. This is a shot that made me happy.

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Just like the three days prior, the weather was hot and humid, but I didn’t let that stop me from spending some time on the trails here. I walked down to the gator pond, but did not see any gators. They have been spotted here, but not by me.

I did however spot this indigo bunting on the trail as I was walking back towards the parking lot. I’m always happy to see these little beauties! Combine this with the earlier warbler and I was a hot, sweaty, and happy photographer this day!

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After spending the morning here it was off to the town of Mineola to get lunch and decide where to go next.

After a quick lunch at MickyD’s I decided to go tourist for a bit and check out the East Texas Gator and Wildlife Center. I’ve been looking for gators all week, so why not go someplace where I know they exist? This is quite the interesting place and they do a lot of work with local schools and educational organizations. In fact there were a couple of school groups going through the place when I arrived.

Here you can see several young children being introduced to “lemon drop”, the rather large snake.

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While they have several reptiles and other animals inside, I came to see gators, so I headed outside to see some gators!

I came to the first pond and looked and at first I saw no gators, but then I saw the eyes sticking up out of the muddy water. If you look closely, you can see them too. And if you look even closer, you can see another on hiding in the muddy water behind the grass on the right. The gators are here all right, but they are very stealthy, at least at first glance.

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As I walked around, I soon began to realize that there were many more gators here than I first thought. Of course they are all behind fences for safety, but they are quite close. I would not be wise to be reaching over the fence to try and pet one. This one was practicing some form of gator yoga and it stretched it neck and soaked up some sun.

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And while this one looks like it is snarling at me, I think it was just being lazy and waiting for something to land it its mouth for a quick snack.

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These are truly ferocious looking creatures and I understand they can bite a mans arm or leg off with a single bite! As I was leaving I asked how many gators they have and they have well over 40 in their ponds. When asked where they get them I was told that they are all local East Texas gators that people have found on their property. Rather than kill them, they have a trapper that can bring them here where they can be cared for.

After spending some time talking with the people here, in their air-conditioned building, I figured I would make one more stop since I was out this direction, and headed to lake Tawakoni. Yet another of Texas’ great state parks where you can enjoy the great outdoors, no matter how how and humid it may be.

The first thing I saw was a squirrel, so like any good dog, I froze to watch it.

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Not realizing just how tired I was at this point, I parked my car in the parking lot, and with the motor and AC running, ended up taking about an hour long nap while I was waiting for the sun to get a little lower in the sky. My hope was to stay here until sunset because the sky was full of big fat puffy clouds.

After my little nap, I gathered up my cameras and headed to the nature trail which the rangers at the gate had informed me were well known for birds. And while the trees were not exactly full of birds due to the heat, I did hear a familiar call in the trees and was able to catch this beautiful painted bunting. This is one of my favorite birds and one that I don’t see to see nearly often enough. I occasionally hear their call at my place, but I have yet to actually see one there. Luckily, this male stuck around long enough for me to grab a few shots before heading back into the trees.

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And speaking of trees, I also ran across this very interesting looking tree on the trail. With its branches twisting and twirling all around, I could imaging this tree in the middle of some Halloween scene and drunk teenagers are running through the woods being chased by some crazed person with a chainsaw and machete. I’ll just keep walking for now.

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Sadly, as I picked out my spot to wait for the sunset over the lake, every last cloud in the sky began to dry up and disappear. At this point, hot, sweaty, and the beginnings of hunger beginning to set in, I decided to head for home. I was about a hour away at this point and I figured I could take a picture of a “bla” sunset anywhere. So I picked up my gear and headed back down the trail towards my car. Once there I loaded up, leaving the cameras in the front seat next to me, just in case.

And am I glad I did. Just as I was exiting the park, this greater roadrunner runs across the road directly in front of me. Seeing that no one else was on the road, I cut across the road to the oncoming side, pull over to the shoulder and grab for my camera. Apparently it was its dinner time as well because I watched as it bug up a rather large worm and then went after this cicada. Unfazed by my presence in my car, it continued on hunting as if I wasn’t there.

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Then to my surprise, another roadrunner showed up. I don’t know how to tell the male from the female, but I would guess this was one of each.  I thought maybe that red behind the eye of the second one may be a hint, but from what I’ve read, that is more an indicator of age with the young not having the red patch.

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After spending some time with the roadrunners, I headed home to wind down my this four day adventure. and as I pulled into the driveway, I was greeted with this beautiful sunset, right in my own back yard. Now that is a great ending to my week of adventure.

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Was the week hot and sweaty? Yep. Was it full of adventure? Yep. And was it worth it? You bet! But next time I will try and schedule my time off at a time when it might not be quite so hot.  And I’ll try to sneak in some shorter adventures in the mean time to keep this blog updated. I’ve had several comments from people who have enjoyed reading this and taking the adventure along with me, so I’ll try not to disappoint.

Until next time,

Michael

All photos copyright of Michael Hampton 2016 and taken with the Canon 5DS-R or Canon 7D Mark II