Ever been to a trucking show?

The Great American Trucking Show is all bright lights and goosebumps in the beginning. When you first walk through the glimmering hallways of the Kay Bailey Convention Center, you notice the Dallas skyline through the floor-to-ceiling windows to your right, and on the left, photos of past plays hang on the wall, highlighting the history of the building.

Then, there’s the escalators–which I totally forgot I was afraid of, seeing as how I don’t encounter them too much on my way to and from the Bloomington office. Nelson helped. He offered to stand a step below me on the way down, just in case I fell face first onto the scary-looking steel traps which would invariably diverge and lash out to grab hold of my shoelaces, rendering me pulverized meat in a slow agonizing death.

However, I have survived the escalators and I am A-OK, in case you were wondering.

Aside from the sweetly warm heat of downtown Dallas, I’d expect the slightly stormy weather near the closing of the show to envelop me in a sticky embrace, much like I’m used to in Florida, but, the environment is quite arid, to my liking, and once you roll down your shirt sleeves, you can find yourself quite comfortable in the frigid indoor area of the trade show itself.

The people are nice, here in Texas. Nicer than I thought. Most people go out of their way to offer up a nod and smile at any passersby, and when they decide to stop by your booth, they take their time looking through the marketing department’s carefully designed literature before scrunching up their eyebrows, hitching their glasses back in place on the bridge of their noses, and asking you questions.

I found that letting them ask the questions, instead of launching into a spiel right away helps. In one case, a lady with two guys in tow, asked, “Howdy. What’s your spiel?” Since I overheard her talking to her compadres about getting wifi for their truck, I simply said, “Oh, we don’t have wifi. This is satellite TV.” And she raised her arms, “See?” She had won the battle that day, preventing further confusion among her friends. I let her walk away.

But! A huge percentage of the people we talked to seemed generally interested in the product, and we even managed to sell a dozen or so, so the trip was well worth it, in my humble opinion.

I also had a chance to walk around the quaint little tourist town of Grapevine, TX one night after the show. I took a ton of photos of strange cactus (I was informed that the word’s both singular AND plural, there) and if you look carefully in one of the photos, you can see a mannequin of a man standing guard way high up in one of the bell towers, next to that Cotton Patch cafe with the unicorn mascot pointing the way toward justice for all foods fit for southern stomachs.

Long story, short. GATS was great. I met a TON of cool people and I learned a lot from Nelson, not only about Dealey Plaza, Lee Harvey Oswald, the World Trade Center, and various architectural marvels employing sound engineering in the form of bridge construction, but I learned about the relationship dealers have with customers and customers have with sales people, face-to-face. I also learned that there’s a difference between local truckers and long-haul truckers. HUGE difference—as far as selling our product goes. Oh, and it’s quite possible the first long-haul truck was made in 1939. Go figure!

The Great American Trucking Show was an eye-opener, to say the least, and I’m glad I had the chance to participate. Now, let’s see what happens at MATS next year, in March.

 

To be published in next month’s staff newsletter for KING… 

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What Type of Tree is That? 10 Topiaries Found in the Wild

Arbor Day (April 29) is only 10 days away! Now that it’s nice out, why don’t you take the kids on an educational outing through your local nature trail to celebrate? You might not be aware of this simple fact, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different tree species thriving throughout the United States. Each have their own individual average lifespan, some grow flowers, and others produce spindles and cones instead of leaves and flowers. If you’re looking for a brief glimpse into the wide variety of topiaries thriving all over America, here is a handful of trees you might be most familiar with:

 

blackgum-black-tupelo-27Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree. Alternate, glossy leaves (2-5 inches long), generally elliptical in shape, turn bright scarlet in autumn. Male and female flowers are small and greenish white. Abundant fruits resemble dark, elongated blueberries (to 1/2 inch long), with rigid and bitter flesh.

Habitat: Uplands, well-drained valleys and woodlands, though the variety known as swamp tupelo thrives in soggy bottomlands.

Distribution: Southwestern Maine west to Michigan and south to Florida and east Texas

Points of Interest: The nondescript flowers of this otherwise highly attractive tree are an excellent nectar source for bees, producing a very popular type of honey. Black tupelo is also commonly known as blackgum or sweetgum.

 

southern-magnoliaSouthern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) broadleaf everygreen with a pyramidal crown. Glossy, elliptical leaves are large (5-8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide), as are cup-shaped, fragrant flowers (6-8 inches across), comprising six or more creamy white petals. In autumn, conelike pods break open to release red seeds.

Habitat: Bottomlands, low uplands, and coastal plains in moist, temperate regions

Distribution: Eastern North Carolina south to central Florida and west to east Texas

Points of Interest: The state tree of Mississippi, the magnolia is named for Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), a French botanist who influnced the work of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of the modern system of botanical nomenclature. Linnaeus honored Magnol by naming this genus after him.

 

Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa)

monterey cypress

Description: Medium-sized (60-80 feet) evergreen, often with an asymmetrical or flat-topped crown. Bright green, scalelike foliage has blunt tips. Rounded cones (about 1 – 1 1/2 inches long) have a short barb on each scale. Grayish bark becomes furrowed with age.

Habitat: Rocky, exposed coastal headlands

Distribution: Only two native, unmixed groves still exist (both in Monterey County, California), but the widely planted tree has naturalized in other parts of coastal California

Points of Interest: accustomed to the Pacific’s unrelenting winds and salty spray, the Monterey cypress is now a popular windscreen, ornamental, bonsai specimen, and–in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa–source of timber. Naturalists estimate that it can live to 200 or 300 years.

 

cherry_escarpment_blk150Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Description: Medium- to large-sized (50-100 feet) deciduous tree with glossy, elliptical leaves (206 inches long). Tiny, white flowers, arranged in 6-inch-long cylindrical racemes, appear in late spring. Edible cherries (about 3/8 inch in diameter) turn almost black when ripe.

Habitat: Woodlands, fields, roadsides, and bottomlands

Distribution: Nova Scotia west to southern Ontario and south to central Florida and Texas

Points of Interest: As a premium-grade hardwood, black cherry is second only to black walnut in value. The fruit, once used to make pemmican, is now commonly found in pies, jams, and liqueurs. The bark and leaves contain a form of cyanide, which can poison livestock. Wild cherry syrup, made from the bark, acts as a sedative and cough suppressant.

 

holly_american150American Holly (Ilex opaca)

Description: Small- to medium-sized (usually under 30 feet) broadleaf evergreen with a dense crown, often broadly conical or pyramidal in shape. Leathery, elliptical leaves with spiny teeth stay on the tree until the spring of their third years. Berrylike fruit turns bright red when mature; each “berry” contains about four small nutlets.

Habitat: Humid areas, including bottomlands, understory of mixed hardwood forests, and coastal dunes

Distribution: Southeastern United States, as far north as Massachusetts and as far west as Texas

Points of Interest: Settlers quickly endowed this New World species with all the Christmas symbolism associated with English holly. The state tree of Delaware, American Holly has the distinction of being the world’s hardiest broadleaf evergreen tree.


American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

american-hornbeam

Description: Small, shrubby tree (up to 35 feet), often with a twisted or multiple trunk. Toothed, ovate leaves and unisexual flowers are similar to those of birch trees, but fruit is quite distinctive, consisting of paired nutlets, nestled in leaflike bracts, hanging in clusters 2-4 inches long.

Habitat: Bottomlands and the understory of hardwood forests

Distribution: Southeastern Ontario, southwestern Quebec, most of the eastern United States, and south to Mexico

Points of Interest: American hornbeam has extremely tough, heavy, close-grained wood, but its small size makes commercial harvesting impractical. In fact, this species is often eradicated as a weed in forests managed for timber production–despite its role as an important food source for beavers, squirrels, deer, and birds.

 

Sugar Maple (Acer saccahrum)

Description: Large deciduous tree with a dense, rounded crown, growing up to 100 feet. Palmately lobed leaves (about 5 inches long and slightly more across) turn brilliant shades of red, orange, or yellow in autumn.

sugar maple

Habitat: Cool, moist uplands and forests

Distribution: Southeast Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and south to eastern Kansas and North Carolina

Points of Interest: The state tree of New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, sugar maple is one of the most commercially important hardwoods of North America. Its durable and often strikingly grained wood is harvested for use in flooring, furniture, and other items: and its sap, which has twice the sugar content than that of other maple species, is harvest for maple syrup production.


Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Description: Largest tree on earth (in terms of mass), sometimes exceeding 250 feet in height and 20 feet in trunk diameter. Evergreen scalelike foliage has sharp tips. Fibrous, reddish brown bark may be 2 feet thick at the trunk base. Egg-shaped cones are 2-3 inches long.

(PC: Yosemite Online)

Habitat: Mixed coniferous forests, generally from 4,500-7,500 feet

Distribution: Western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada

Points of Interest: Giant sequoias’ longevity is as impressive as their bulk; many are believed to be over 3,000 years old. From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, these mammoth, ancient trees were logged extensively, prompting John Muir to opine, “As well sell the rain-clouds, and the snow, and the rivers, to be cut up and carried away if that were possible.” Today, the sequoias outside national parks (about 50 percent of the population) remain unprotected.

 

dogwood_floweringFlowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

Description: Small (usually under 40 feet), attractive tree with a broadly spreading crown. Deciduous, ovate or elliptical leaves turn red in autumn, as do berrylike fruit (poisonous to humans). Flowers comprise clusters of tiny, yellow-green petals, each cluster bordered by four large, white (or pinkish) bracts.

Habitat: Understory of mixed hardwood forests

Distribution: Southern Ontario east to southwestern Maine and south to east Texas and northern Florida

Points of Interest: While humans admire its ornamental qualities–over twenty cultivars of this lovely tree are now sold commercially–wildlife appreciate this native species for its high-fat, calcium-rich foliage and fruit. Flowering dogwood is the state tree of Missouri and Virginia.

 

Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

live-oak

Description: Broadleaf evergreen of only medium height (to 50 feet) but with a massive trunk (diameter of 4 feet or more) and widespread crown (150 feet or more). Dark green, elliptical or obovate leaves appear leathery with a glossy sheen. Acorns with deep, rounded, scaly cups reach maturity the first year.

Habitat: Coastal plains, barrier islands, sandy areas (including dunes), and marsh borders in temperate regions

Distribution: Southeastern coastal states, from central Texas east to Florida and north to Virginia

Points of Interest: Characteristically drapes in Spanish moss, live oak is the state tree of Georgia and a majestic emblem of the Deep South. Its revered status may explain why its strong timber is no longer used for shipbuilding or other purposes.

 

Can you tell these trees apart? Quiz your friends, or impress your coworkers with your new knowledge of trees, the next time you take a stroll along wooded walkways with them.

 

Descriptions come from the Sierra Club’s Knowledge Cards, printed by Pomegranate Communications, Inc. Photos from Yosemite Online, North Carolina Forest Service, and Drawing from Line to Life. Featured image via Southern Pride Tree Farm, Inc. 

Simultaneously published on KING’s official blog

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Helen Mary Horty, the best surrealist of this century

In offhanded homage to Vincent van Gogh (today is his birthday, they say), I present to you another surrealist artist. Her name is Mary Helen Horty. Though she received a degree in art from the University of Minnesota, she is renowned for her paper collages.

Rifling through the miscellaneous pieces leaning against the back wall of the Bearded Mermaid shop near downtown St. Paul, my fingers came to a full stop upon sight of one of Horty’s collages. It is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and I’ve seen some weird stuff in that shop. I actually have a total of three works of art from the Bearded Mermaid, and I catch myself looking at her’s more often than I’d like to admit.

Looking at this piece, depending on your hunger level, you see three identical stacks of spaghetti, leading the eye to the backside of a woman digging vigorously into the depths of her icebox, then maybe you see the egg yolk floating in space in the panel above her. To the left, there are similar iterations of a woman in the stages of getting dressed for a night out, she’s holding her hair up and she’s smiling at the viewer with a look of commercial ambivalence, much like saying, “Mhmm? You like it don’t you? Ech, well, I don’t care how you think I look, I’m frickin’ ravishing, and I don’t particularly like you anyway.” And there’s a jade jaguar walking down a staircase, a layer above the top half of a man’s silhouette, staring out into a pearlescent sunscape.

I couldn’t find this one online, so here are some of her other amazing works:

Though everyone has their own opinions as to what makes a great piece of art, I say the good stuff sticks with you. You may see a cantalope in real life and think about how its likeness is represented alongside a lightbulb in Horty’s “Fruitful” collage. The images are burned into your mind’s eye, and while you’re making a pot of spaghetti or just falling asleep, you think about distinctions in the art you’ve seen. You’re constantly glancing over at it, hanging there on your wall, just to make sure it still exists, that you didn’t simply dream about someone somewhere someday stealing the breath from your chest, making you think, “Gee. I never would have thought to put that there. How did she do that? Where did she get these ideas?”

Background

Mary Helen Horty was born in 1923 and began working in ceramics, then weaving, then painting, until she gravitated toward paper collages, leaving this life in 2005 with a house filled with artwork and a husband, Thomas, who she had been married to for 60 years.

From the St. Kate website:

“Ultimately, since all images are found, they depend on chance or some mysterious affinity between images. A montage cannot be carefully planned in advance because, as new images surface to tempt me, a work is constantly changing through trial and error. This state of flux continues until I somehow declare a work ‘finished.’ “I am often surprised! If asked why I use certain combinations of images, I can only reply, ‘Why not?’ ” – Mary Helen Horty

And here’s her Wild Rice Casserole recipe that my fiancé found online:

Mary Helen Horty’s Wild Rice Casserole

Savory wild rice dish with sausage mushrooms using real wild rice.
Ingredients
1 lb. fresh crimini mushrooms
1 ½ lb. Italian pork sausage (½ hot ½ sweet)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 C. wild rice, uncooked2
¼ C. flour
½ C. heavy cream
2 ½ C. chicken broth
1 t. salt
½ t. ground thyme
Instructions
Clean and slice mushrooms. Chop onions Remove sausage casings, sauté meat, keeping it in chunks3. Sauté in batches, remove and drain on paper towels. Sauté onions and mushrooms in same pan. Return sausage meat to pan and set aside. Cook rice (thoroughly washed) in boiling, lightly salted water for 12 minutes. Drain and add to sausage mixture. Mix flour with cream in saucepan over medium heat and stir until smooth. Add chicken broth and cook until thickened. Add salt and thyme. Combine with rice, sausage mixture. Pour into large casserole (9X13). Bake, covered, 40—50 minutes in pre-heated 375 F. oven. 1 Mary Helen Horty was a talented montage artist, a knowledgeable horticulturist, a great cook, a superb hostess, and my dear friend for many years. 2 Using lake-harvested wild rice makes a difference, if you can find it. The oxymoronically named “cultivated wild rice” now grown in paddies and harvested like a farm crop, does not have the same chew and texture of the real deal. Real wild rice is a grass—the plants growing wildly in the shallow borders of Minnesota lakes and harvested by local native tribes in canoes, beating the rice with sticks to capture only the grains that are sufficiently mature and ready to dislodge and fall into canoe side baskets. Read any online descriptions or store packages very carefully. The commercially farmed version is not bad, mind you, just not as good. 3 I do not recommend buying uncased sausage meat which may seem like a time saver, and is sometimes cheaper. Unfortunately, it breaks up too much while cooking, like ground beef.

 

What an amazing woman, she was, that Mary Helen Horty. Hope you enjoyed this little stint of an exploration into the life and artwork of the Minnesota artist who may not still physically reside in St. Paul, but her spirit lives on in these pieces that are strewn about in the homes of art lovers everywhere.

Oh, and happy Vincent van Gogh day. You won’t be forgotten either, you fascinating individual. We’re still thinking about you guys, so chin up, there. We’ll see you soon.

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