Monday, April 25, 2016

I Lost Another Uncle

Well, I lost another uncle.  This time it was my Uncle Robbie.  

Here’s what the obituary says:
Obituary for Robbie Randall McMillin
A celebration of life service for Robbie Randall McMillin, 88, of Jonesville, Louisiana will be held at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on April 26, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. with Bro. Craig James, Bro. Dustin Robertson, and Bro. Lynell Hatten officiating. Interment will follow at Heard Cemetery in Manifest, Louisiana under the direction of Young’s Funeral Home. 

Robbie was born on October 14, 1927 in Catahoula Parish to Tolbert Roy McMillin and Lillie Hazel Terry. He passed away Saturday, April 23, 2016 at his home in Sandy Lake. 

He was a retired Gas Inspector for the State of Louisiana, owner and operator of the Lakeside Fish Finn. Robbie served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was a member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. His life revolved around his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a host of family and friends. 

He was preceded in death by his wife, Imogene (NeNe) Swayze McMillin; children, Randy McMillin and Janice Pritchard; grandchild, Jamie Pritchard; sisters, Maxine Gumbaravic, Irene Wiggins, Helen McMillin; and brother, Leroy McMillin. 

Survivors include: one sister, Margie Beasley; two brothers, Charlie McMillin and Terry McMillin; three daughters, Robbie Wilson and husband, Mike Wilson; Corrie Porter and husband, Bobby Porter; Mary King and husband, Ken King; one son, David McMillin and wife, Gayla; eighteen grandchildren, Elizabeth Spinks and husband, Denny; Jennifer Kinberger and husband, Robert; Nick Nicholson and wife, Cari Ann; Karen Richmond and husband, Kevin; James Porter and wife, Kelli; Corrie Davis and husband, Chris; Kristy King; Vanessa Graves and husband, Chris; Camille Charrier and husband, John Michael; Cliff Wilson and wife, Candy; Morgan Woods and husband, Will; Angela Neal and husband, Kyle; Dani Pendarvis and husband, Drew; Kelcey King; Davin Sullivan and husband, Matt; Justin Richmond; Chase McMillin; and Avery McMillin; twenty-six great-grandchildren; Carter Spinks, Cameron Spinks; Hunter Nicholson and wife, Jessica; Natalie Nicholson; Ali Kinberger; Emma Kinberger; Autumn Jackson; Blakely Porter; Addsion Porter; Taylor Neal; Kullen Neal; Rowyn Sullivan; Rilynn Sullivan; Roman Sullivan; Brooke Graves; Katheryn Graves; Gabriel Graves; Peyton Graves; Ava Wilson; Madeline Wilson; Austin Marceaux; Leila Marceaux; Eli Charrier; Davis Paul; Brandtly Davis; and Gahvin Davis. 

Pallbearers are grandsons and great-grandsons: Nick Nicholson, James Porter, Carter Spinks, Hunter Nicholson, Justin Richmond, Cameron Spinks, Chase McMillin, and Avery McMillin. 

Honorary Pallbearers include: Ken King, Mike Wilson, Bobby Porter, Robert Kinberger, Denny Spinks, Will Woods, Drew Pendarvis, Kyle Neal, Matt Sullivan, and Kevin Richmond.

Obituaries never tell the whole story of a person.  How could it.  There's always more to a person's life than the few words that try to say so much to so many.

But as I read it I was immediately reminded of the first time I can ever recall seeing him.  I was probably about five years old.  He had just returned home from World War II, and was lucky enough to get a job at the ice house in Jonesville, Louisiana.  

Mama and Daddy were living in Jonesville too because I remember stopping by the ice house sometimes when Mama and me would walk down to Brown Brothers store where Daddy was working, or as he told me later in life, ‘learning the grocery and meat business.’

Anyway, when we stopped at the ice house we always ended up with a piece of ice to suck on.  It tasted good and it was cold.  Apparently, that was enough to keep me happy back then.

One time, Uncle Robbie took me for a tour of the plant in back where they made the ice.  He talked about how the ice was being made but it just went in and out of my head, mostly because I was mesmerized by seeing water turn into huge blocks of ice.  When the ice was ready, someone would lower some big ice tongs down into the vat and grab onto the ice.  Then as if by magic the ice would rise and then be moved over to a room where it was kept cold. 

And the hole where the ice came out started filling with water again, just like magic.

I stayed there a long  time with him one day and watched how people would come up and say they wanted to buy some ice.  Some just wanted a dime’s worth, which was about the size of his hand.  Others wanted large pieces that might cost a whole dollar.  But most just wanted about a quarter’s worth, or as the customers would say, "About two bits worth."

The reason I’m mentioning the size is because of the way that huge piece of ice that came out of the hole, was dragged out and quickly chipped away with an ice pick to the size the person wanted.  My eyes almost popped out as I watched that ice pick, pick away at the ice, almost always into a perfect square and size for the money.

But that was nothing after I saw what they did to a big block of ice when the customer wanted it crushed.  Uncle Robbie would chip out just what the customer wanted and then toss it into a big machine that turned it into small pieces, scaring the daylights out of me with the noise it made.

One time Uncle Robbie asked me if I wanted to go deliver ice to folks out in the hills near Manifest.  Mama said I could go and all I could remember about Manifest was a spring where Mama and Daddy and me always stopped for water.  It was cool there under those trees by the spring.

Only we didn’t stop at the spring.  That old rickety ice truck with a load of ice in the back under a tarp just passed it up.  We went way back in the hills around Manifest, places I had never been, stopping now and then at people’s houses to deliver ice to them.

Most of the time, there wasn’t anyone around and he would take a chunk of ice inside and place it in an ice box.  There would be a dine or sometimes a quarter on the table and Uncle Robbie would take it back to the ice house and turn it in to somebody.  We would ride around in those hills all day and stopping a lot to deliver ice, so there were a lot of dimes and quarters to take back. 

Sometimes there would be a letter to be mailed and a nickle for a stamp.  And sometimes there would be a slice of pie sitting there.  He would take out his pocket knife and cut it in half and always give me the bigger half.

I noticed that sometimes the dime size pieces of ice were larger than he sold at the ice house but I figured he had a reason for giving them more than a dime’s worth.  I think it was because they were real poor.  My Daddy did stuff like that too when he opened his own grocery store.  I learned later in life that there’s some who really appreciate being nice to like that, but there’s also some who kinda grow to expect it and will get mad when they don’t get it.

Later on Uncle Robbie had a gas station about a block from the ice house.  I liked the smell of the gas and how he would sell people a quarter’s worth of gas and put air in their tires and clean their windshield and lights, check their oil and even sweep out the floorboard if they wanted. 

It was about twenty years later that I went to work for him one summer while on break from LSU.  He worked for a butane company and said he needed some help.  I didn’t know anything about the butane business but he figured I’d learn soon enough.  The first thing I learned was that there was no training program of any kind. He just gave me the keys to the service truck and turned me loose.  I guess he knew I was mechanically inclined and figured if being ‘self taught’ about the butane business was good enough for him, it should be good enough for me.

The second thing I learned about the Butane business is that it’s endless hard work with a considerable amount of danger thrown in to make it more interesting.  Going back to LSU was a little easier to take when that summer job ended.  But I'll never forget it.

We rarely saw each other after that, but when we did meet and talk a bit, it was like he still had that natural presence about him that demanded respect.  I still do.   

Goodbye Uncle Robbie.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In case you're interested, we’re still high and dry here after the latest storm, mostly because the rain finally moved on.  

The sun even came out yesterday afternoon.  Up until it came out, we were both numb from all the negative news we kept hearing and seeing on our computer and then later the TV as reporters began to venture into the flooded areas.

A LOT of areas are flooded, some that had never been close to being flooded.  I’m betting there are at least 10,000 cars flooded, many completely under water.  And some of these cars are in apartment complexes, million dollar home areas, and shopping mall parking lots where people tried to get their cars to safety.  The water just kept rising and rising because the creeks and bayous could not handle that much water.

A national news organization reported that some areas of Houston got 16” of rain in 24 hours.  I can believe it.  According to the National Weather Service, we got between 7” and 8” here before the second front came through,  and about 5 miles west of us got 10”  After the final band of rain roared through dropping another 2" on us, we probably hit 10" total.  Here's the rain amount chart from the National Weather Service.  We live in the circle just above Houston.

And the image does not even come close to showing the rising water that flooded neighborhoods that never flood.

Click HERE and you can see some videos of the flooding.

We stayed home, but a neighbor ventured out and pretty much found herself blocked from even getting out of our neighborhood.  Even if she did get out, most businesses were closed.  Oddly, our Target store just up the street was open, but I’m betting even it shut down due to lack of staff and lack of business.  Most people in our area just stayed home.

Damage assessments will surely be in the Billions of Dollars, but they won’t know until it’s over so that damage estimators can get into areas.  Right now, they are just doing it by ‘guesstiment’ by taking areas and determining approximately how many homes, businesses, etc were inundated by how much water.  Then applying some formula to come up with an approximate amount.  Even then, it’s not an exact science.  

Plus, when they start to re-build, there will all kinds of additional charges due to lack of manpower, equipment and materials.  The delay creates a problem for black mold development which can greatly multiply the costs due to its toxic nature.  Mold, by law, has to be completely eradicated and inspected before any repairs can begin.  There’s not enough mold treatment technicians and inspectors in the US, much less Houston, to get the job done quickly.

Add to that the long term effects of the flood regarding re-sale value of property and flooded cars, and the drop in property taxes due to homes being declared unfit for human habitation, and must be torn down, usually because the owners had no insurance of any kind, much less flood insurance.

When you take everything into account, it could be a Trillion Dollar Storm.

To make matters worse, one very highly regarded TV news anchor/reporter said that no matter what the government says about ‘flood zones’ and ‘100 year flood exempt zones’ that any property in Harris County is susceptible to flooding, and owners (like us) really should buy flood insurance from the government. 

Well, that’s unnerving to say the least, especially after we purposely built on high ground 27 years ago.  Even so, being 90 miles from the Gulf and 110’ elevation will certainly keep us from getting flooded from the Gulf of Mexico, while our house is built on the highest point in our area will keep us from getting rain-flooded.  Unless, of course, God is out to get us.  Then it probably won’t make much difference.

As of today, 4-21-16, the rain is over for a while, but not the flooding.

Once again, the Coop held up well in the 50 + mph winds and suspected tornado in the area, and although it got pretty wet from the horizontal rain, I was able to wipe it down without seeing any damage.  

For us, it was just another storm, but for tens of thousands of people, it was a disaster they may never recover from.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Growing Problem At The Chicken Ranch

Ever since the Mini-Max came out, I've wanted one. But since "Patience" is one of my middle names, I have waited and waited and waited, all the while seeing the cooks done by the early Mini-Max'ers. The photos they shared definitely stretched my patience to the limit. But I've always managed to work through it.

That is until the Athens Eggfest...

Yes, we came home with a Mini-Max.

But now what! That now makes 6 'Girls' working here at the Chicken Ranch. And there's just not enough room to put 'em all.

There's Lily Large, Shirley Small, Maggie Mini, Lulu Large, Lola Large, and now Molly Mini.

It's nice to have at least one of the 'Girls' working, even two at the same time, but there's little chance that all 6 of the 'Girls' will be working at the same time, no matter how big the party is.

Plus, the Coop just wasn't built for a half dozen 'Chicks' to have their own nesting place.

The Ranch Madam, suggested we send two or three of them packing. But they're like 'flock' here. I would hate to lose any of them. Even Lily, circa 1999, with her wrinkled and broken body, is still a favorite when it comes to providing the ultimate in entertainment. She knows what she's doing. She also serves as an inspiration to the others who look up to her as a "Mother Hen" figure.

Shirley Small was the next "Girl" to start working here. She was and still is very popular with smaller customers. Still is.

Maggie Mini came next. And she has served the Ranch well. She quickly established herself as the Go-To 'Girl' when all you want is a quickie for mid-day, or even late night.

Lulu Large sorta just turned up here by accident. She was supposed to work out of our New Orleans branch, but an opportunity came along for a new 'Girl' to be assigned there, leaving Lulu here. She's done well here and more than paid her own way.

Lola Large is the result of Lily's many problems. She came here with absolutely no EGGsperience but was quickly accepted by the other 'Girls' and established herself as more of an 'All Purpose' member. Her customers have all turned out great. She even moved into the coveted space where Lily Large worked for many years.

Lily, as some of you know, went through extensive cosmetic surgery that required a considerable amount of change to both her appearance and ability to perform. She was moved outside the Coop to accommodate her wishes to live out her life as a 'Free Range Girl.' She loves the freedom to come and go as she pleases, although she hasn't moved from her nest in months. Rarely working these days, she still gets fired up easily and does a respectable job of servicing a customer.

And now there's Molly Mini...

The challenges of running a Chicken Ranch are sometimes difficult, but I wouldn't change my job for any other. It's always fun here...

Spring "Six Eggs For A Three Egg Recipe" Chicken

Spring Texas USA

Monday, April 11, 2016

Athens Eggfest 2016 Was Wonderful

It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun can be had when everything goes right at an Eggfest.

As complicated and difficult to plan and coordinate with so many people as Eggfest are, plus all the gear and demo Eggs and weather to contend with, it's not something the weak of heart wants to take on. Unless you are a "Cook" or "Taster" you will have to be physically fit and brain-waves working overtime to pull it off.

And 'Pull it Off' they did last weekend.  It was wonderful from start to finish.  I took no photos at all this year.  But others did and they are sharing them on the various forums.

Every one of the six years of the Athens Eggfest has been bigger and better than the previous years. This one was no exception.  Here's a quick summary:

Most Attendees
Most funds raised
Most Eggs sold
Most Cooks cooking
Most Servings handed out
Most Wonderful treats ever
Most Fun ever...

It was wonderful!

We'll be back next year.

Oh, and we came home with a Mini-Max Egg.  She's already assembled and in the Coop waiting for me to make a place for her.  Her name is Molly Mini-Max.

Right now, the Chicken Ranch has six 'Working Girls' all just chomping at the bit to cook something.

I'm working on it.

Next one is the Texas Eggfest in Austin on April 30th, followed by the Space City Eggfest in Houston on May 21st. Both will have hundreds of attendees, if not thousands.  We'll be working our tail-feathers off over the next six weeks.

And it's worth ever minute of it.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Magnum Loads vs. Howitzer Rounds

Before I start with this post, it's not about guns or cannons.  It's about food.

As you know, Judy and I are avid fans of the Big Green Egg ceramic smoker and grill.  We are also among a continuously growing number of Eggheads (the name we BGE owners call ourselves) around the world.

We Eggheads like to gather from time to time at Eggfests around the country where we can enjoy meeting our fellow Eggheads and people who are interested in learning more about the Big Green Egg.

At these Eggfests, a number of us cook and serve samples of various foods, mostly bite-size morsels, that will give the Taster an opportunity to not only taste something cooked on the Egg, but also talk to the Cooks about the food and any other questions they may have about the Egg.  It's a lot of fun for everyone, especially us Cooks.  Judy and I have been to almost 75 Eggfests and Egg related events over the years and will continue to do so as long as we can.

We try to cook and serve something that will be unique and tasty.  Other Cooks do the same.  We really want the Tasters to go home with a "Wow!" feeling, and perhaps become Eggheads themselves.

One of the more popular items that we cook is what we call Magnum Loads. When I describe it, you will quickly see why we named it Magnum Loads. From a healthy food standpoint, it's a 'killer' and that's probably why everyone likes them.

We start with a 1" section of smoked sausage, bore a hole through it end to end, insert a Little Smokey cocktail sausage, wrap that with a generous handful of pork sausage, and then wrap all of it with bacon.  Then cook on the Egg until done and serve.  Yes!  It it delicious.  Here are some photos of them being made and ready to be served.

This year I wanted to try a variation of this same treat, so I came up with something I call Howitzer Rounds.  These little jewels are initially made larger but are then sliced thin for serving.  Like this:

I also made a video of the process so anyone can try it.  It's simple enough to make and you can actually cook it on your own grill, or even in your oven.  Here's the YouTube link:  Howitzer Rounds

We'll be cooking and serving a few hundred of the slices at the upcoming Athens Eggfest this weekend in Athens, Texas.  Athens Eggfest 2016

I'm sure we will have them again at the Texas Eggfest in Austin on April 30th and the Space City Eggfest in Houston on May 21st.

The tickets are well worth the price and the money goes to a worthy cause.  So come on out.  You will be glad you did.