Daily Archives: March 20, 2020

The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feed Lot Clearance Sale – #15

(The Texas Triffid Ranch Occasional Newsletter and Feedlot Clearance Sale is a regular Email newsletter, with archives available on the main TTR site at least a month after first publication. To receive the latest newsletters, please subscribe.)

Originally published on February 21, 2020.

Installment #15: “What To Do When Jimmy Hoffa Gives You The Final Logs of the Marie Celeste. And Tells You How He Got Them”

So the last couple of months have been a wonderful time at the Triffid Ranch. The last open house was a blowout, the NARBC Arlington reptile show booth was a hit (and yes, I’m signed up for the September show), and the biggest problem right now is constructing new enclosures to replace ones going out the door. With that came an extensive cleaning, both of the gallery and the Web site, with more to come. Among many other things, the Enclosure Gallery section of the site was finally stripped of its endless scrolling option and everything put into separate links, for further perusal at the reader’s convenience. Oh, and we have stories.

A little backstory here. People who knew me in the days before the Triffid Ranch know that I was a professional writer between 1989 and 2002. “Professional writer” as in “actually getting paid for publication,” even though a lot of the muck shoveled out of my typewriter and computer didn’t quite qualify on either category. (Everyone brings up the tropes of “People DIE from exposure” or “pay the writer,” but amazingly nobody brings up the number of articles, stories, essays, and reports commissioned for publication that are then spiked because they inconvenience a friend of the editor’s, thrown back because the editor saw some other bright shiny object and says “this isn’t what I wanted,” kicked down the road and then tossed back because “it’s no longer timely,” or, my favorite, simply neglected because the editor is more worried about getting attention than in doing his/her job. With all of these, does the writer get paid for lost time, lost effort, or lost hair and stomach linings? Oh, it happens…about as often as the Dallas Cowboys come home with a shutout World Series pennant.) With a few relapses, I’ve stayed away from pro writing since then, because the aggravation isn’t worth the strain, and this comes from someone who had to threaten to dox every senior executive at SyFy in order to get payment, one per day until either I received a check or the president was getting phone calls on her personal number about why this freelancer hadn’t gotten his check, because nothing else made a difference to them. Others can do the pro writer tango, and that’s fine.

That said, when the gallery opened in 2015 and the first plant enclosures first went public, a strange thing happened. When the gallery first opened, I relished the sense of mystery, and when people would ask “So what’s the story behind this?”, I assumed they meant a discussion of themes or materials or concepts. No, what they meant, quite literally, was “what is the story?” The first response was “What story do YOU want from this?”, and it wasn’t wiseacre: it was serious. The problem was that viewers and purchasers both didn’t want their story about what they were viewing. To an individual, they wanted my story. In many ways, the enclosures were like museum displays or zoo exhibits: people could stare at them all day, but they wanted context and an explanation of what they were viewing. They didn’t always need one, but they wanted to know that one existed, and that there was more to the enclosures than carnivorous plants with neat backgrounds. 

At the same time as that was going on, it was hard as the enclosure creator not to create “What if?” scenarios, instead of leaving everything to the viewer. Asking a viewer to answer the question “So what story do YOU want?” became an internal comparison between the scenario suggested and the one roiling around in my head. Think about it for a while, and the stories became more and more elaborate: who put this here? Why are the plants here? Are they interacting, or did one come before the other? Most importantly, if an unknown protagonist came across that scene, what were the characters and situations that led to that moment? It’s now up to the viewer: how does this story end, and why?

To help that along, every enclosure debuting at the gallery from here on out has its very own backstory, available at your convenience. Much as with the QR codes on museum or zoo displays offering further information, the nameplate on each enclosure has a QR code, readable by the vast majority of smartphones and tablets, so that it can be pulled up right then, or you can go to the Enclosure Gallery section of the Web site to read at your leisure. Some may be silly, some may be humorous, and some may be really, really dark. With the exception of ones that are obvious tributes to other writers or artists, though, they’ll be as unique as can be managed.

Don’t look at this as a return to writing. To paraphrase the old Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety, “I don’t hate writing! I hate publication!” Look at this as “augmented fiction.”

Other News

It took long enough, but the Triffid Ranch presence on Facebook is now as dead as cathode-ray tube monitors, and it was for a lot of reasons. The biggest and foremost was needing to focus on the gallery, but recent developments with Facebook’s algorithms as to which posts would and would not be shared with Page subscribers, as well as how much getting them boosted was going to cost, made being on that platform intolerable. Instagram and Twitter are both still destinations, but getting off Facebook was a plan for the better part of a year, and the current gallery efforts just expedited that. (And yes, this is a shameless plug for subscribing to this newsletter, early and often.)

Recommended Reading

Because more enclosures have gone out the door this year than in all of 2019 (and it’s mind-boggling when considering that the original gallery at Valley View Center opened up five years ago next August), it’s time to recharge the creative batteries by immersing in other people’s dreams and seeing how they influence mine. With the next newsletter, this section splits off recommendations into fiction and nonfiction, but for now, go out and buy yourself a copy of Medusa Uploaded and its sequel Medusa in the Graveyard, both by Emily Devenport. I refuse to hide my partisanship, as Emily and her husband Ernest Hogan have been friends and cohorts for three decades now, and that’s aggravated by the fact that the two consistently write fiction that plays Whack-a-Mole with my subconscious. By the time I’m finished with Medusa in the Graveyard, I should have some really interesting dreams that need to be turned into carnivorous plant enclosures.


Friends joke and grumble about this being “the worst timeline,” but they’re not entirely wrong. If it weren’t, then blues musician Cricket Taylor would be coming back home to Dallas to sold-out shows, heading back for yet another world tour, and taping the latest opening song to the biggest shows on Netflix. Let’s fix the timeline by making this happen, shall we?

Have a Safe Weekend

Because even a pandemic is a little better when narrated by Vincent Price.

Enclosures: “One Giant Leap” (2020)

This is an excerpt from the transcription of the Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Transmission (GOSS NET 1) from the Apollo 11 mission.

Communicators in the text may be identified according to the following list.

CDRCommanderNeil A. Armstrong
CMPCommand module pilot   Michael Collins
LMPLunar module pilotEdwin E. ALdrin, Jr.
SCUnidentifiable crewmember
MSMultiple (simultaneous) speakers
LCCLaunch Control Center
Mission Control Center:
CCCapsule Communicator (CAP COMM)
FFlight Director
Remote Sites:
CTCommunications Technician (COMM TECH)
Recovery Forces:
RRecovery helicopter
ABAir Boss

A series of three dots (…) is used to designate those portions of the communications that could not be transcribed because of garbling. One dash (-) is used to indicate a speaker’s pause or a self-interruption and subsequent completion of a thought. Two dashes (- -) are used to indicate an interruption by another speaker or a point at which a recording was terminated abruptly.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/15 Page 395

04 14 28 22 LMP (EVA)
As I look around the area, the contrast, in general, is *** comes about completely by virtue of the shadow *** down Sun … very light colored gray, light gray color, a halo around my own shadow, around the shadow of my helmet. Then, as I look off across *** the contrast becomes strongest in that the surrounding color is still fairly light. As you look down into the Sun *** a larger amount of *** shadowed area is looking toward us. The general color of the *** surrounding *** the contrast is not as great. Surveying all the dusty area that we’ve kicked up *** considerably darker in texture. Now, I’ve kicked up one, and I imagine that this is *** Surveyor. The same is true when I survey across on – along the area that we’re walking. In general *** to the fact that there are footprints there. General terrain where I’ve been kicking up a lot of this surface material is generally of a darker contrast *** color.

04 14 31 29 LMP (EVA)
The panorama I’ll be taking is about 30 or 40 feet out to plus ***

04 14 31 39 CC
Say again which strut, Buzz?

04 14 31 43 LMP (EVA)
The plus Z strut.

04 14 31 47 CC

04 14 31 48 LMP (EVA)
And right in this area, there are two craters. The one that’s right in front of me now as I look off in about the eleven o’clock position from the spacecraft, about 30 to 35 feet … There’s several rocks and boulders 6 to 8 inches across … sizes.

04 14 34 13 LMP (EVA)
I’m now in the area of the minus Y strut taking some … photographs.

04 14 35 52 LMP (EVA)
How’s the bulk sample coming, Neil?

04 14 35 56 CDR (EVA)
Bulk sample is just being sealed.

04 14 36 58 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Houston, Columbia.

04 14 37 01 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. Go ahead. Over.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/16 Page 396

04 14 37 09 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Roger. No marks on the LM that time. I did see a suspiciously small white object whose coordinates are – –

04 14 37 25 CC
Go ahead with the coordinates on the small white object.

04 14 37 28 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Easy – Easy 0.3, 7.6, but I … right on the southwest end of a crater. I think they would know it if they were in such a location. It looks like their LM would be pitched up quite a degree. It’s on the southwest wall of a smallish crater.

04 14 37 58 CC
Roger. Copy Echo 0.3 and 7.6, and –

04 14 38 27 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. While I’m talking to you, LOS will be at 111 19 31; AOS, 112 05 43. Over.

04 14 39 04 CC
Columbia, this is Houston. Did you copy LOS AOS times? Over.

04 14 39 14 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Negative, Houston. You broke. Disregard. I’ll get them off the flight plans.

04 14 39 19 CC
Roger. Out.

04 14 39 56 LMP (EVA)
There’s something going on out here/

04 14 40 12 CC
You’re breaking up again, Buzz.

04 14 40 18 LMP (EVA)
I say there’s something going on out here. A shimmering…what the?

04 14 40 53 CC
Clarify, Buzz.

04 14 40 58 LMP (EVA)
Something just appeared in line of sight. It wasn’t here before, and it wasn’t visible before touchdown. It was preceded by a shimmer around the area, and now we’re looking at a structure.

*** Three asterisks denote clipping of words and phrases.

04 14 41 07 CDR (EVA)
I see it as well. A large assemblage of vertical struts, much lighter in color than the surrounding area. It has a large area of what appears to be vegetation of some sort, of a red-purple coloration, along the base.

04 14 41 25 LMP (EVA)
And there’s a door.

04 14 42 01 CDR (EVA)
Yeah. A door.

04 14 42 14 CC
Houston. Please clarify. A structure? A door?

04 14 42 39 LMP (EVA)
The structure is approximately one hundred yards high, constructed of stone. Points at the top, appearing to be eroded slightly at the top, as if by meteoroid ablation. No obvious entryway, no windows, but there’s a door way up, a little more than halfway up the face. I’m turning the TV camera…now.

04 14 43 18 LMP (EVA)
*** get the panorama now. Okay.

04 14 43 33 LMP (EVA)
Did you get it?

04 14 43 50 CC
Holy mother of God.

04 14 43 55 CDR (EVA)
The structure is odd enough, but there’s a big blue door. It looks like it came off a farmhouse. It’s big enough that we could walk through with EVA suits, if we could get in.

04 14 44 45 CC
Neil and Buzz, this is Houston. Is there any way to access this door? Over.

04 14 45 03 CDR (EVA)
Not unless we packed a ladder. It’s up about four times the height of Eagle, maybe five.

04 14 46 36 LMP (EVA)
I’m moving past the vegetation to get a closer look from underneath. Yeah…it’s a door, but it’s not attached to anything. It’s suspended maybe two feet from the structure surface, with no visible means of support.

04 14 47 17 CC
Roger. Out.

04 14 47 18 LMP (EVA)
Houston, I’m going for samples of the vegetation.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 71/18 Page 398

04 14 47 37 CC
Negative, Buzz. We don’t have any way to transport biological samples.

04 14 47 55 LMP (EVA)
Roger, Houston. Otherwise, I see nothing other than the door. No artifacts, no displaced regolith, no signs of who made it or why. I’m attempting to chip a piece off, and it’s denting the shovel. The structure looks from a distance like sandstone, but on closer observation, it appears to be sintered from what looks like diamond.

04 14 48 04 CDR (EVA)
Houston, what is the status of our consumables?

04 14 48 48 CC
Neil and Buzz, this is Houston. To clarify my last, your consumables are in good shape at this time. Over.

04 14 50 26 LMP (EVA)
Not enough time to go through the door, even if we could reach it?

04 14 50 34 CDR (EVA)
Yes. I think you are right.

04 14 51 29 LMP (EVA)
Houston, what are our options? We can’t enter it, we can’t break in, and the EVA’s running out.

04 14 52 01 CDR (EVA)
Houston, orders?

04 14 52 07 CC
Complete the other objectives. Do not get any biological samples, but look for artifacts or other signs of technology. We’re otherwise keeping the schedule. Over.

04 14 52 20 LMP (EVA)
Roger, Houston. We’re returning to Tranquility.

04 14 52 27 LMP (EVA)
As if we’ll get any sleep next to that thing.

04 14 52 47 CC

Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 36″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 91.44 cm x 45.72 cm)

Plant: Nepenthes bicalcarata

Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, resin.

Price: $350

Shirt Price: $300