Rusty Haggard Blog


Rusty’s Banana Pancakes: No Sugar, Just As Sweet

pancake cropHere’s a recipe for banana pancakes that sure to please. No sugar added.
1 cup flour (can be all-purpose, whole wheat or a combo)
1 cup milk (2% low fat is fine)
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 TBSP butter (melted)
1 ripe banana

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Separately, mix the milk, egg, and butter. Pour that into the dry ingredients in the bowl. Mash the ripe banana flat, and then stir that into the batter in the bowl. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat a griddle (a good Teflon coated griddle shouldn’t need oil at all) to 400 degrees. When hot, pour in about a ¼ cup of the mixture for each pancake. Wait for bubbles to show up thoroughly, then turn. Allow to brown on the bottom side (about 30 or 40 seconds) and they’re ready. Serve with butter, syrup and a side of strawberries and orange slices.

I’ve been making these for years. Never added sugar. And it has minimum amounts of baking powder and salt.


Dream Job Reunion: Lifeguards

barton springs cropA job is a job. But one of the all-time dream jobs is lifeguard. You’re cool at the pool, it’s always sunny, and the tan…well, you get the idea.

When my old friend Boston Bob sent me a Facebook message about a Barton Springs lifeguard reunion, the dream job image shot through my mind. Bob, a true New Englander, left Austin after his lifeguard stint in the early ’80s. We had played on the same softball team back then. I hadn’t seen him since, but Facebook reconnected us. He resides in Atlanta, but he’s still a Red Sox fan. No surprise there.

The problem for me with the reunion: I was never a lifeguard. Maybe I should’ve been. I certainly wanted to sit up on that tall white platform above Austin’s favorite watering hole. And since the lifeguard reunion would include the fine folks who actually did sit way up high from 1976-82, I might recognize some faces besides Bob’s. I was at Barton Springs all the time, swimming, snorkeling, checking out the scene. It was the place to be.

scholzSo on a sunny afternoon in early May, I showed up at Scholz Garten, another Austin treasure, to meet up with Bob and his fellow lifeguards. I got to Scholz’s just as the Kentucky Derby was announcing post-time. Bob wasn’t there yet, so I sipped a Real Ale Fireman’s Four and watched as the greatest two minutes in sports flew by on the big screen just above the bar.

The race was over and still no Bob, so I wandered out to the beer garden area. I sat at a table across from a guy who was there because his brother had been the pool manager back in the day. So here the two of us sat, neither of us lifeguards. From our vantage point at a worn out picnic table in an old Austin icon, we watched the joy of a reunion: hugging, laughing, and people maybe not recognizing each other.

I didn’t know a soul. One or two faces seemed familiar. Even lifeguards get old.

Lifeguards chatBob did show up. As we talked, I realized the tough road he’d had. He was sober for one thing, and had been for nine years. I was glad for him. He was divorced for another, but remarried. And he had a twenty-something son he was very proud of. Showed me pictures on his smart phone. I was happy for him. About the divorce, he joked, “I didn’t get along with my wife’s boyfriend.” He grinned, and I saw the same confident look in his eyes from back in the old days when he was sitting up on the lifeguard stand.

As darkness descended and the twinkle lights in the trees came on to provide some outdoor lighting, a lifeguard (well, a retired lifeguard) with her smart phone camera asked everyone at our table for a group photo. I stood and moved to the side, but she insisted I get in the photo. Click! We all laughed and for one evening, I was a Barton Springs lifeguard. What a cool job.


Saying Good-Bye, Saying I Love You

hazel couey photo crop april 16My mother passed away last Saturday. She was 94, so wonderful and so wise, and strong and beautiful until the very end. I hope that sharing part of her story will bring me strength.

Hazel was her name, an uncommon one even for her times. She was a Georgia Peach, having been born in Georgia in the summer of 1918, the oldest child of three. A younger sister and brother shared a lifetime of love with her until they passed a few years ago.

When she was four, her family moved to Houston, Texas. She was a teenager during the Depression and had such high hopes and dreams. The times, however, made it difficult and sad. Her father left the family, making it even sadder. Still, she endured the hard times, found strength in friends and family, and became a wonderful, popular, and inspiring woman, a natural leader with an irresistible kindness that was evident to all.

In 1940, she married my dad, Tommy, and over the next 12 years they had four children: three boys (I was the youngest of them) and then my baby sister. My mom was the epitome of the classic housewife and mother of the era, raising children, going to church, selling Beauty Counselor products to earn extra money for us, and then later helping my dad, once he quit the refinery work he was doing, run the business he started out of our garage, Hollywood Boat Works. The boats, fishing and ski boats, were a success and changed our quality of life drastically. We moved from our humble beginnings and were part of a brand new neighborhood, a new school, and a new life. But it wasn’t to last as far as their marriage was concerned. It was the 1960s by then, and the pending social revolution hit our family early and hard.

They divorced in a time when divorce wasn’t that common. It was even considered a social stigma. My older brothers had already gone off to college, and my sister and I were there to take the brunt of the dissolution of their seemingly wonderful marriage. It was painful, and the pain never really went away. They both remarried and moved away from Houston and went their separate ways. But I’m not sure that either one of them was really happy without the other. Sure, their lives continued. They had different families and in-laws and holidays and so forth. My mom picked up golf as a hobby, and she played cards and dominoes with the neighbors and sought solace in the church and bible study classes and grandkids.

She moved back to Houston when her husband died in the late 1990s, and eventually ended up living with my sister the last seven years of her life. The two of them reconnected and healed their relationship, and that was a good thing. And my mom was back where she could be close to her sister, her brother, and other family. They got together often.

With the advent of satellite communications and cable TV, she faithfully followed her favorite teams the Houston Astros, Texans, and Rockets through all their many games, win or lose, but especially enjoyed it when they won. She watched almost every game on TV, clapping her hands, and yelling, “Be there!” She was a true fan.

Above all else, Hazel enjoyed studying the Bible and going to church on Sundays. She found such solace in reading the Bible, underlining passages, and praying. In the last years when I would visit, we’d sit around the kitchen table and talk about old times, sometimes talking about the times when she and my dad were still married. Times before his alcoholism led him to make terrible decisions and then stay away from us even though she would have forgiven him if only he had come back. It was something that was hard to understand for both she and I all these many years later.

Now she’s at rest. She’s in a peaceful place, and I’m sure she’s with her sister and brother and mother and they’re having fun, just like the old days. I miss her. But I know I’ll miss her more as each day goes by.

Aging Eyes

aging eyesHer aging eyes, cloudy brown after more than 90 years, smile sweetly. And it rings true: somehow we become the parents of our parents. Caretaking, giving, encouraging, sometimes sitting in a hospital room staring at a sleeping heart attack patient that once raised us, taught us, loved us. And still loves us.

The familiar laugh scratches its way to the surface of our minds, still unchanging after decades of heartache, of living life, of seeing friends and loved ones and husbands and brothers and sisters pass on. Missing each one day after day, beckoning a memory of a conversation to return, but only silence answers. Familiar nicknames whispered to no one now.

Doctors try, with gentleness, sometimes with a blunt statement, to ease those in their care into a reality unsought. A greater unknown speaks louder. The physicians’ wisdom is sought after in the hallway outside the room, their news often shattering instead of uplifting. The low tones and beeps, the blinking lights and the neon graph lines of the expensive equipment dangling near the hospital bed muffle and tweet and track across the screen. Young nurses in purple scrubs float in and out, tucking a sheet here, reminding their patient to follow instructions there, at last disappearing from a cold dim room.

Pills and potions, milliliters and injections, elevated beds and elevated blood pressure readings are all part of the daily routine. A Bible verse is flipped from a daytimer, a morning paper read in its entirety joins a stack from the days before on the side table of an easy chair.

At night the blinds are drawn on that eastern window, and in the morning they’re opened again. Frail fingers leave the walker momentarily to complete the task. Daylight to dusk, daylight to dusk. The passing of days, the passing of years, the passing of life.

Yet beauty is seen in those very hands. And love is felt in that laugh scratching the silence. And dawn gives way to daylight. And hope shines on the roses still sleeping in the morning dew.

New Health Food Kick: Mango Margarita

It’s got all the new age characteristics of a healthy way of living: rich in Vitamins A and C, a great source of fiber, and it contains plenty of antioxidants. It even has an enzyme to smooth the digestive process. What could be better than a mango? Well, try one in a margarita. You’ll be on the right track to the new health kick: mango margaritas.

Mangos have been grown for over 4,000 years. The fact is that mangos are eaten fresh – in their natural state, so to speak – more than any other fruit in the world. This delicious and beautiful fruit comes primarily from Mexico, Haiti, and the Caribbean. So now try this…

Put the usual eight or ten cubes per margarita in a blender. Add two tablespoons of frozen limeade concentrate per drink, a shot of tequila (preferably a good tequila and golden in color) per marg, a half shot of Cointreau per marg, and a quarter cup of freshly cut mango. Blend until frozen, serve immediately.

Cutting the mango is tricky, only because most people are not familiar with how to go about it. The easiest way is to use a sharp knife and cut the two cheeks of the fruit away from the pit. Cut a checkerboard pattern into the two halves and then slice the peel away, leaving the cubes for the blender.

Get started on a healthier life style: try a mango margarita.




Limeade Crisis Fades, Reappears

Austin, TX – When we last reported, yes, a shortage of frozen limeade was in effect – meaning those nice little frozen concoctions, as Jimmy Buffet sang, were tough to come by without that key ingredient, frozen limeade. There’s plenty of tequila. Don’t worry about that. It seemed like that – for now at least – the crisis had eased…until Cinco de Mayo last Saturday.

Cinco de Mayo is perhaps the most celebrated misunderstood holiday ever. Why? People think it’s Mexico’s Independence Day. Wrong. It’s a David and Goliath type thing. The Battle of Puebla in 1862 is remembered on May 5 each year because it was that battle that resulted in a vastly outnumbered group of Mexicans fighting, stopping (temporarily) a much larger French Army force on its way to Mexico City. Underdogs. Against all odds. You get the picture. I’ll drink to that, and millions of other people join me each year – on Cinco de Mayo.

Chris called and invited Cherie and me over for fajitas Saturday night. “And bring some frozen limeade,” he said. When we arrived at his place, he told us that he had gone to the store to buy some limeade frozen concentrate and there was none. The store manager told him people had been coming in the previous day and buying cases (24 cans to a case) in preparation for Cinco de Mayo. We handed over our requested delivery (we had some on hand only because we stocked up the last time we couldn’t find any) and moments later were – yep, celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Limeade: it’s getting harder to find all the time. People buying 24 cans at a time? Really?

Stock up wherever you are. The crisis continues.


Greetings from Asbury Park: On the Boardwalk

Asbury Park, NJ – Cherie and I tripped through here last summer. She’s a Jersey girl. Used to pay fifty cents to see Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Stone Pony before they made it big. For me, finally making it to Asbury Park was many moons too late. Still, I had to smile walking along the boardwalk. All of those lyrics by Springsteen came back to me. “Kids huddled on the beach in the mist…”

Out on the beach a few families hung out, a rocky pier jutted out about 50 yards into the cold blue Atlantic, and a lifeguard stood nearby. At the end of the boardwalk was a long, red-brick building stretching from Ocean Avenue to the edge of the shore – the Asbury Park Convention Hall. We walked inside: shops, a concert hall, posters announcing the coming concert featuring the Turtles and other ‘60s rock groups, and a restaurant and bar.

A crowd gathered on the boardwalk to watch guys pound a sledgehammer and try to ring the bell at the top of the tall mark. Moan and groans. Nobody was coming close to reaching the top.

The Stone Pony faces the beach in Asbury Park, NJ. A little bar in a little Jersey beach town. So simple, so beautiful. This is where it all began for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band a long time ago. The great Clarence Clemons, the band’s saxophonist, had died two weeks before. Pictures and posters and flowers lined the beach side wall of the Stone Pony on that cloudy Sunday afternoon in July. The Big Man, the big smile, the big sound – gone.




Further down the boardwalk stood a fortune-teller’s shop. “You know the cops finally busted Madam Marie for telling fortunes better than they do…” I wish I had been here forty years ago.