Boat Rides Headline Stay-cation

Stay-cation. I first heard the term during the summer of 2008 when gas prices went to four dollars a gallon and I had just bought a used Chevy Suburban, mpg: 14.

The term gained strength through the recession of 2008-2009. It was perhaps more utilized in San Antonio because of our nearby tourist attractions. A stay-cation in Shreveport is still probably known as a family budget cut.

Now that gas prices have ticked down and the stock market up, the term, if not the concept, has generally been shelved. It seemed like every other Texan I called in July answered in Colorado, Wyoming or Montana.

When the better half suggested I use a few vacation days before school starts, I resurrected the stay-cation idea and priced out the usual suspects.

For a family of seven, a day at Six Flags would cost $400; a day at Sea World, $500. And that’s just for parking, discounted admission and a bucket of fried food for lunch.

Throw in a few rigged games, some stuffed or lighted souvenirs and a $25 refillable drink, and a two-day escapade gets you well into the four-figures.

A dusk fireworks display at Six Flags, however, only costs the price of a family meal on Chuy’s patio across the interstate. I prefer “innovative” over “cheap,” please.

After thinking outside the tourism box, I called Crane’s Mill Marina on Canyon Lake. They offered a pretty new 8-seat ski boat with all the accessories for about half the cost of a day at Sea World.

With positive attitudes, fishing bait and half a shelf of consumer packaged goods, we embarked. None of the above lasted long.

The positive attitudes fell in with our twelve-year-old when he got thrown hard from the tube. This, after he asked to be thrown hard from the tube.

Then, a ten-year-old covertly tossed the bait overboard. His sensitive heart couldn’t stand to watch live minnows impaled by an eight-year-old with catfishing hooks.

All along, snacks settled into stomachs like Jonah in the whale, long before the required protein and fiber were consumed. What leverage does a parent have in the middle of a lake?

As time ran out, kids were still wanting tube rides. They still wanted to fish. And somehow they wanted yet another plastic-wrapped cupcake.

We left the marina with plans to return and with our eyes set on a second stay-cation boat ride: a dinner cruise on the Riverwalk downtown.

The better half explained to the tribe that some couples would be on date nights. I explained that “facilities” meant bathrooms and that there wouldn’t be any on the river taxi. No, going off the side wouldn’t be an option.

The kids minded their manners particularly well. They stayed in their seats. They tried what was on their plates. They survived without lemonade. They even listened to the tour guide talk about things older than their dad.

Evidently, someone is listening during those broken-record family dinners at home, the ones where it feels like we’re doing it all, again, for the very first time.

Or maybe they just believed me when I said the annual dredging of the Riverwalk turns up jewelry, cell phones, patio chairs and misbehaving children. How’s that for leverage?

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 

Cops Face Catch-22s

When Dallas Police Chief David Brown said recently that we’re asking too much of cops, he meant we’re demanding the impossible.

Not only are we asking the blue to salve a variety of societal ills, we have also put officers in a perpetual catch-22.

On the one hand, we expect them to sniff out horrors before they happen. On the other, we have restricted their instincts and their ability to use past experiences to predict future events.

Across the decades a few rogue officers have certainly committed atrocious injustice against civilians of all races. But most agents enter law enforcement because they believe in order and rightness. They want to give and serve.

Most are like Boerne Police Officer Jason Abbott. He and other local law enforcement faced a catch-22 in recent weeks.

Gun advocates are scattering the countryside to flex their Second Amendment rights. They are walking populated streets of various jurisdictions with arms overtly born. One carried a rifle through Boerne recently with his cell phone camera rolling.

The law allows open carrying so long as no alarm is caused. Unfortunately, defining alarm is about as subjective as choosing the best breakfast taco in San Antonio.

What I find alarming is different than what my six-year-old finds alarming. Yet, cops must decide what’s actually alarming.

The rifle-carrying activist posted his interactions with officers on YouTube. You could tell by his tone he wanted a tussle. “Am I being detained, officer?” he asked as Abbott approached him near the intersection of Main and Blanco.

“No, sir,” Abbott responded respectfully. “I just want to ask you some questions.”

“I feel like I’m being detained. My rights are being violated,” the visitor replied with profanity mixed in.

“If you’ll stay calm, I just want to have a dialogue. Is the gun loaded?” Abbott inquired.

The gentleman pleaded the Fifth Amendment for a moment, but then couldn’t help himself.

The remainder of the video consists of the activist lecturing Officer Abbott on how he should handle calls from concerned citizens about people like him.

It also shows Abbott explaining that he is not taking away anyone’s rights by approaching the subject of another citizen’s call to determine whether a safety concern exists.

Tactfully, Abbott kept the interaction subdued. He seemed to understand that simply allowing passionate voices to be heard usually defuses their intensity.

This situation represents the classic quandary cops face:

Intervene when a situation is safe and get accused of harassment and rights violations; fail to intervene when something is wrong and get accused of missing the chance to stop a tragedy.

I asked a good friend and San Antonio policeman how he’s changed as an officer in recent years.

“I’m less proactive. I’m still willing to lay down my life to protect innocent people like those guys in Dallas did, but I’m more cautious. We all are. That’s why violent crime is up nationwide, 17% in San Antonio this year.”

Along with Chief Brown in Dallas, my friend points to the absence of fathers as the primary driver of the disorder facing our nation. Officers know. They’re on the front lines everyday. They see the decay firsthand.

Meanwhile in ivory towers, distant leaders bark of background checks and gun control. They never mention the best form of gun control ever invented: fathers and sons going hunting together.

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

Columnist’s Headshot Gets Refresh

For the past 8 years, a headshot photograph taken in my twenties has graced the pages of my local newspaper. I am now in my thirties, late-thirties. It’s time to update my profile.

To spin two phrases from FBI Director James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton’s email habits, the old headshot is not “grossly negligent,” but it is “extremely careless” in its handling of reality.

This is not the only time I have been misrepresented in a widely-consumed publication. An August 2015 edition of Bankers Digest showed my face next to an article about a Kevin Thompson of the Centennial Bank headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

The Arkansan Thompson had been named an emerging leader of the Arkansas Bankers Association. He sounds like an impressive young man.

My “friends” back here in Texas ridiculed me incessantly for an honest editor’s honest mistake. They obviously don’t understand the frantic nature of the 24-hour community banking news cycle. They accused me of moonlighting and wondered if everything were okay at home.

I assured them I was fine, except for the emotional pain and suffering one endures from being taken advantage of because of his good looks. I’m still considering a lawsuit.

Back to Boerne and the great headshot update of 2016. A variety of factors has compelled this pictorial refresh. For one, autograph requests at the grocery have dipped.

In fact, the only time in the last year I have been recognized in public was at my kids’ school. According to one of their friends, I showed up in art class under a paper mache project.

That was almost as embarrassing as the time a local pharmacy tech flattered me about a recent article while handing me a less-than-flattering prescription. Small-town pharmacy tech would be a fascinating job.

I have also decided to update my headshot because of my fundamental commitment to under-promise and over-deliver. There’s enough baiting and switching going on out there.

Growing up in Nashville, I once barely recognized Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at a local meat-and-three. Things just aren’t the same without the makeup and styling. It’s worse when your headshot is almost ten years old. Perception-as-reality has its limits.

I understand the tension, though. As much as stars don’t want to get old, fans don’t want their stars to fade. It’s sad enough hearing about the Oak Ridge Boys playing second-tier casinos. I don’t want to see what forty years of tryin’ to love two women will do to you.

Hence, most celebrities believe an older photo of a newer subject trumps a newer photo of an older subject.

Not this celebrity. I’m all about authenticity. Therefore, I submit to you today a new headshot…that is almost four years old.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

 

Strategic Thinking on Leadership

The most basic challenge of leadership is to get followers. The second most basic challenge is to keep them.

Whether it’s getting employees to stick with your vision or getting customers to stick with your brand, leadership is principally about getting and keeping followers.

San Antonio-based management consultant Keith Hughey led a strategic planning and leadership development course in Dallas last month. He offered some insights that are worth repeating.

The freshest and most intriguing concept was a descriptive juxtaposition of an organization’s vision versus the truth about that organization. Hughey’s model was built on the work of sales consulting firm Critical Path Strategies.

Two equilateral triangles sat side by side. One pointed down representing the vision, the other pointed up representing the truth. A listing down the side of the chart showed stakeholder levels, from owners and executives at the top to front line workers and customers at the bottom.

Here’s the crux: The board of directors and “C-suite” management know a lot about the organization’s vision, but only a little bit of the truth.

Conversely, customers know little of the vision but 100% of the truth about what it’s like to do business with that firm.

As you go up the stakeholder chain (front line staff, supervisors, middle management, etc.), stakeholders know progressively more about the vision, but less about the truth.

The instruction is two-fold: (1) Find ways to understand what customers actually experience about your organization; and (2) Find ways to display your company’s vision throughout all stakeholder levels, down to your customer base.

Hughey had a simple but meaningful definition of value: experience minus expectation.

If my experience of your company surpasses what I expected from it, I will assign it value. Otherwise, I will not pay for a product or service that leaves me with more expectation than satisfaction.

Addendum: Once you exceed a customer’s expectation, you just have to be consistent. You don’t necessarily have to keep raising the bar.

This principle applies to personnel, as well. Hughey says seventy per cent of voluntary turnover is caused by something a supervisor did or didn’t do. In other words, experience fell short of expectation.

“People don’t quit their job. They quit their boss,” Hughey states.

With help from the late management science guru, Peter Drucker, Hughey gives seven needs of workers: teamwork, training, communication, recognition, growth opportunities and fairness.

Lacking any of these leads to employee disengagement and turnover.

In evaluating existing staff performance, ask two questions: (1) Would you hire them today? and (2) If they told you they were leaving, would you try to keep them?

“The toughest decisions you will make have to do with people,” Hughey told us.

Finally, Hughey tossed out a twist on Einstein’s famous definition of insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results.

“The new definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting the same results. The world is changing too much and too fast,” Hughey believes.

Old methods of gaining and keeping followers (e.g., command and control) are quickly losing effectiveness. People have too many options.

Leadership today must be aware, intentional, convincing and value-producing.

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

 

Rules of the Roost

The better half and I had discussed getting chickens at some point in the hypothetical future. Such as when the kids were older, and the house was restored to order.

So, I was slightly surprised when a box of chicks showed up the week before Easter. Slightly more surprising: two ducklings appeared in the box of fowl.

Boerne, Texas, is actually a hotbed for the “chicken-as-pet” movement. Randall Burkey Company on Industrial Drive produces the Happy Hen Chicken Treats sold in Tractor Supply across the country.

Several friends of ours have entered the backyard chicken craze with varying results. The more rural their properties, the less success they seem to have. Evidently, it’s still the Wild West for white meat out there.

I was unaware. Unlike most men in the hill country, I have no motion-activated, Internet-accessed hunting camera in the woods.

So, hearing of hawks, foxes and coons, I planned for the worst as I planned my coop. Its walls would extend twelve inches into the earth. Its frame would consist of commercial grade pressure-treated two by fours.

And despite its name, chicken wire simply wouldn’t do. We would use half-inch steel-welded wire. I stopped just short of a reinforced concrete safe room.

As coop construction commenced, the chicks and ducklings roamed half a refrigerator box in our garage. We quickly realized ducks grow faster than chickens and that ducks have only one kind of stool: loose.

If anyone knows of a company that removes duck movement stains from a garage floor, I could use a recommendation.

After the first week or so, we began to let the youngsters get some fresh air around the yard. Of all the predators I had contemplated, “family dog” was not one of them.

But to a half-Labrador retriever, a chick is basically a ball that throws itself.

For a time, we fended off friendly fire from Hank, as well as from his partner in crime, the family cat, who seemed quite intrigued by the yellow mice that had taken up residence in the garage.

Then, having momentarily let down both our guard and the walls of the barricade the birds occupied, disaster struck.

In three days, Hank eliminated four chickens. The attacks weren’t mutilating bloodbaths. He’s too friendly for that. He basically just played them to death. He literally wrung their necks.

We buried the fallen chickens just days before they were to move into their poultry palace.

About this time, the ducks began sleeping in the yard. After a couple of weeks of safety, one fell prey to a more traditional predator. We’re not sure what it was, but it was at least kind enough to cover funeral expenses.

So, a quick recap of the fowl count: Seven chicks are now 3 chickens, including a rooster; two ducklings are now 1 duck.

Rather than the remaining duck soiling my pristine poultry palace, we released it into the wild at Cibolo Creek. There, we watched her face a predator of another type: a male eager to start a family.

Back at the coop, the young rooster has started to crow. It sounds more like a fog horn than the perky “cock-a-doodle-doo” I remember as a child. Accordingly, I have added an entry to the potential predator list: neighbor with gun.

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

 

Fathers according to kids

Question: Why is Father’s Day six weeks after Mother’s Day?

Answer: Some guys were shooting the bull about a month after the first Mother’s Day when one of them said, “Hey! Wait a minute!”

Father’s Day is a convenient time to poke some fun at the men who brought us into the world and, according to Bill Cosby, could have taken us out of it.

“Dad,” read the card from my kids last year, “When God made you, he made the world a much better place…a little weirder, maybe, but much better.”

If you want the truth, you ask kids. Their frontal lobes and filters simply aren’t fully developed. Even one’s physical appearance is not off limits.

After looking at the back of my head recently, my five-year-old son said, “Dad, you have a Bob spot.” His twin sister was no less observant a few days later. “Daddy, did you know you can cut your eyebrows? They’re so big! They’re like a monster!”

Fortunately, their nine-year-old brother has more accurate awareness. When asked on a Father’s Day questionnaire why he is proud of his dad, he responded, “He has a six pack.” His share of the estate went up that day.

He was also asked, “What was your dad like as a child?” “Handsome,” he wrote. Evidently, he sees himself in me.

The Father’s Day questionnaires are particularly revealing. All my kids filled one out at church last year.

There seems to be some confusion among my children about their dad’s favorite food. The younger kids said broccoli, while the older ones said pizza.

The discrepancy may or may not highlight the difficulty I may or may not have with aligning words and actions. Do as I say, kids, not as I do!

According to the surveys, I am as big as a soldier and thirty years old. My kids love me because I make cupcakes and because I am so pleasant. In my free time, I like to go to a hotel. And if I were a cartoon character, I would be Bugs Bunny.

When asked, “What is something your Dad always says to you?” one of them responded with “This is unacceptable.”

Well, of course! My kids are never going to be a pleasant and ripped, formerly handsome soldier of a man if they eat pizza all the time! What’s up, Doc!?!

On second thought, it would have been nice if the first thing he thought of was more like, “I love you, son. I am really happy with you.” Something a little more consistent with what our Heavenly Father thinks about us.

There are certainly times to pronounce an act unacceptable. But the person of the child is and will always be profoundly acceptable. To convince children of their innate value and uniqueness, this is the great point of parenting.

A silver lining: kids live neither in the future nor in the past. Everything is present tense. Therefore, the past is not indelible. Kindness and care today can cover yesterday’s frustration and negativity.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Update on a fine(d) canine

A few months back, I wrote of an outlaw canine who retrieved an unlicensed dog notice for his owner. It was news to me. I couldn’t believe anyone would effectively tax a man’s best friend. “Un-Texan! Un-American!” I called it.

As I began planning civil disobedience against the city’s $4.00 annual pet licensing “fee,” a hand-addressed envelope arrived.

Inside: a green carbon copy of a City of Boerne Code Enforcement citation. “Code Enforcement” was scribbled out. “Animal Control” was written in. It read like a traffic ticket:

Violator: Thompson
Color: Tan
Year Model: “Hank”
Make: Lab/X
Violation(s): 6605 Unlicensed Dog

The summons ordered me to appear at Boerne Municipal Court on or before May 4, 2016. I chuckled and put it in my stack of stuff, wondering how it would fit into my civil disobedience plan.

As May 4 approached, I modified my plan to include a stop at animal control. Hank would sniff, chew and mark territory above reproach, I decided.

KT: “Hi. I need to get a dog license, please.”
Animal Control Officer: “Come around to the building in the back.”

As I entered the back building, an orange feline with fur shaved like a lion greeted me.

“Are cats licensed, too?” I inquired. Several acquaintances had asked me this question since Hank’s story broke earlier this year.

“Yes, sir. And if you have more than four cats or dogs, you’ll need a permit. They are $100 a year.”

The officer briefed me on the specifics of a dog license, and I wrote a $4.00 check to legalize Hank. The officer kindly matched his license expiration with his next rabies shot. No reason to space out pet expenses.

As I stepped toward the door, I could tell the officer’s wheels were turning.

“So, do you have a cat?”

After quickly consulting my civil disobedience plan, I prepared to say no. Besides, he’s not mine. He’s the person’s who left him at the Alamo Springs Café in far north Kendall County where he rubbed his soft kitten fur against the left leg of a 5 year old.

“Yes.” I told truthfully remembering Mother’s Day was Sunday.

Another four dollars later, I headed to municipal court ready to waive all my new pet licenses and have all charges dropped.

Not so fast. According to the city attorney, the canine’s file had already wandered too far. I would be assessed both a fine and court costs. There is upside, she told me cheerfully: Deferment.

If Hank stays on good behavior for ninety days, the citation would stay off my record. My record?!? What about his!?!

Dumbfounded, I asked the judge if community service were an option. Hank would do well at a nursing home or a pre-school, I told him. He wouldn’t hurt a flea, unless it’s on his belly.

Unconvinced, the judge passed me to the clerk who passed me to the cashier. She passed me back my debit card back after running it for more than I ever thought I’d spend on that sorry dog.

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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