tryinglearn

Zack Coombes
New Braunfels TX, United States
Joined
Nov 26, 2011
Last Login
5 hrs ago
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Supporting member since Jan 29, 2012

Two sons, ages 47 and 14---one from each marriage.  My oldest is an electrical engineer in Austin, Texas, who has not yet married or produced children;  my youngest, John---slender, blond, blue-eyed, 5' 3" tall, weight 133# and 14 years old as of late July 2016--is a ninth grade student here in New Braunfels, Texas.   John is pictured at age 8 in his scout uniform as my avatar.   I'm old and damaged and not as pleasing to look upon as young John.   Other than chess, I read, garden, and sometimes find time to do woodworking in my garage shop.  I am a full time parent---John's mother is an ex-wife, and has been for 7 years now; John lives with me---and I don't have much free time.   I play chess to relax, often in the wee hours of the morning, when John is asleep and I can't do any activity that makes noise;  other times, I play while John is at school or visiting his maternal grandmother---he's an only grandchild and spends many weekends there--- and adverse weather conditions limit outdoor or garage activity, or maybe while just taking a break from some sort of yardwork.   Now age 74 and comfortably retired, my career track was military, sales, accounting, and store management.   New Braunfels is a historic German colony in south central Texas dating to days of the Texas Republic (1845), built where the flatland prairie meets the hill country, and multiple springs burst from the ground.   A lovely oasis in an otherwise arid landscape.   John's mother is a descendant of one of New Braunfels' founding families.   Coombes is an Anglo-Saxon name;  well...actually it's Celtic in origin, a legacy of those Roman Britains who fled to the mountains of Cornwall before the invading Saxons during the Dark Ages.  My sons' and my freckles give testimony to our Celtic blood.   On my father's side, my family traces its descent from one John Coombes who arrived in Virginia from England in 1635.  That John's sons went to Kentucky, and from Kentucky my great-grandfather came to Texas as a 10-year-old in 1843 as part of the Peters Colony that settled what is now Dallas.   He's in the online handbook of the state of Texas.  He died in 1895, the year my father was born, and is buried on the banks of Coombs Creek, near where it joins the Trinity River in Dallas.   The creek was named for his uncle William, who built the first log cabin in the area, and mispelled in Dallas records in a frontier time when state and city officials were only marginally literate.   I was 16 years old when my father, a veteran of 3 wars, a holder of 3 Purple Heart medals awarded for wounds suffered in combat, a state legislator, and an attorney, died in my arms of a cerebral hemorrhage (1958), the morning after his 63rd birthday.   My Czech mother, Bertha (1906-1993), was an athlete from a family of athletes in a time when it wasn't popular for women to be athletes, then a schoolteacher, and later, a bridge master, and a gardener growing prize-winning iris.    She still had my younger brother to deal with, so shortly after graduating from high school (June1959), I was off to the army (24th Inf Div USAREUR, then 149th MP Co, TX Natl Guard, hon disch, Sgt E5).  I learned chess at age 23 during a lengthy recovery from the first of my two near fatal and life changing auto motorcycle collisions.   This first one mangled my right arm and crushed my left wrist, among other injuries.   An elderly lady in an oncoming big car made a sudden left turn in front of me and hit me head on, just 5 blocks west of the state capitol in Austin, Texas, the summer of 1965.   That mishap changed my career plans.   Since I had over 3 years of active duty, the Army gave me an honorable discharge for medical reasons rather than a medical discharge (distinction important for veterans benefits, like college tuition assistence under the GI Bill).   For a prolonged period, both arms were in casts and my activities severely curtailed.   My younger brother (Dr. R. F. Coombes, 1943-1998) gave me a chess book with diagrammed positions, rather than text.  They were puzzles;  I could visualize the pieces moving to solve the puzzles.   I didn't have to set up a board and pieces, and caregivers didn't have to frequently turn pages for me as they would with ordinary books.  I found that I had a modest knack for the game.   After regaining most of the use of my arms over the next several years---this was 1965, and many of the procedures were experimental, like the microsurgery used to rebuild my right arm, and though right-handed, I now use my left hand for many tasks involving fine motor skills, like typing, using a computer mouse, and to take dexterity tests---I went to college on the GI Bill and played in a school chess club (BA '68, UT Austin).  Later, at various times, I was a skip tracer/bill collector, a salesman for various companies and products, a bank messenger, a tax examiner for the IRS, a Realtor, a manager for several retail store chains, and finally, an investor.   Twice I've been a target for armed robbers (1972 and 1981); I have a concealed handgun license, a carryover from my time as a bank messenger, and both times grand juries "no-billed" me (i.e., declined to press any charges) in cases of what was clearly justifiable homicide.  In November '72 in Chicago, Illinois, where I was a bank messenger, three guys jumped me, and after I fought them off enough to rip open my overcoat---it was the middle of winter, and my Colt Detective Special was in a left-side belt holster under my coat---I fired once at the closest and they all fled.  I thought I had missed, and the police who responded only checked that I was licensed to own and carry the weapon.   The next day the guy's body was found in an abandoned car a block away, a known felon.   Some months later, after my first wife finished up her coursework for her PhD at the University of Chicago, we felt that we had had all the excitement of the big city that we could handle and moved back to sleepy Austin, Texas, which, after four years,  was no longer small or sleepy!   The guy in 1981, in an isolated convenience store in the countryside north of Austin, Texas, was going to kill me just to eliminate witnesses to a $23 robbery---he had already killed several others that summer in similar robbery/homicides, robbing his victims, ordering them into a back room where they wouldn't be discovered for a time, and shooting them in their heads---and as I was stepping aside with my hands in the air to come out from behind a counter as he had ordered,  he looked away briefly to see if anyone else was coming up the walk to the door, and I drew from my left-hand back pants pocket and fired three quick shots into his chest and side.  His last words were a shrill "Oh Shit!",  and he died with his gun still in his hands.   Afterwards, as my reaction set in and I was shaking and stammering, the police were very supportive, saying that they had no doubt that I had saved my life and ended the guy's string of robbery/homicides.   The event was recorded by the store's security camera, and a couple of weeks later the Grand Jury had no questions for me.   A couple of years ago (Sep 2013) I had to use a pistol again, my little pocket .32 (aka 7.65mm Browning---a Beretta "Tomcat" model), when two large pit bull dogs (a very muscular breed especially bred for fighting and known for being high strung and unpredictible---the internet is full of reports of people killed or seriously injured in pit bull attacks, including elderly neighbors and the children of owners) escaped a nearby enclosure and attacked me in my back yard.  They came at me so fast that I barely got it out and up in time.   I have since replaced my backyard 4' chainlink fence---which they jumped over with ease---these were large dogs!---with a 6' wooden privacy fence.   The dogs' owner simply had a 4' chainlink fence to restrain his dogs!  And police and animal control put him on notice that he needed to build a higher and more secure enclosure.   John had arrived home on the school bus just 15 minutes earlier and thought it was all very exciting.  I don't think people should be allowed to own such dangerous animals in urban settings, certainly not in unregulated and inadequate enclosures.   I have cats myself, and they keep the grounds clear of rats, snakes, and other small pests.  It's also amusing and amazing to watch Fluffy, a big orange-colored long-haired tabby and the hunter among my three fur children, stalk, catch, clean and eat the occasional fat white-wing dove, a local game bird, which he regards as an hors d'oeuvre to the food and clean water I provide, leaving the feet, feathers, head and wings for me to discard.   He also leaves the occasional rat body by the front steps so that I can praise him for his prowess.   As John was passing the most recent rodent corpse several mornings ago, his reaction was: "Cool!"  Now that I'm retired I can turn to chess for relaxation and enjoyment; it's less expensive than other vices, and It also helps to hold off the onset of alzheimers.Smile  Since I no longer keep up with current chess trends and analysis, I play offbeat openings that help to even the field with all you "booked up" youngsters.  I've even developed my own defense system with the Black Pieces, which I call the "Peculiar Defense", 1 e4 f6?!, with the idea of developing the Knight to f7.  What successes I've had with this system have lead to warnings that it is "not good", that I'm "deluded", and to accusations of being "lucky", usually from opponents who fell victim to the opening.   Well...let me share my mottos:  "if I can't be good, it's good to be lucky", and, "age and treachery will triumph over youth and virtue."   Offbeat openings are good for speed chess, since they eat up the time of opponents who have to cope with an unfamiliar opening and puzzle out moves under time pressure.   I don't do Facebook anymore, not since my account got hacked about 4 years ago and a bunch of virus infected emails got sent out in my name.    I changed all my passwords and cleaned up the mess as best as I could, but I now rarely use the email address associated with the Facebook account, and I play directly from the chess.com/login site.  Also, having several times been the target for internet scams and identity theft, I'm seriously concerned and uncomfortable with the amount of personal data easily accessible from Facebook accounts that can be used to set up bogus identities or to hack into legitimate accounts.  Many of the "security questions", which are used to establish identity in cases of lost passwords can be answered with information easily obtained from Facebook.  Oh...I should probably mention that several decades ago I was three times Texas Senior Chess Champion (1992, 1993, and 1994) before I took a 15-year hiatus from chess due to remarriage, a second go-round at parenting, and financial pressures.  My highest USCF rating was 2186, though I'm nowhere near that strong anymore; and being old and a head injury survivor---I was thrown over 50 feet, bounced off a concrete retaining wall, landed in a gravel culvert and cracked a crash helmet as well as being pretty badly broken up in my second near fatal motorcycle mishap---I have good days and bad days.  And as for my gun handling skills, I've fired a total of five shots in three incidents, three with my left hand and two with my right, with four hits and a miss.  My one miss was against the dogs, but the blast of the gun going off in their faces was enough to cause them to flee, jumping back over my 4' fence.   I spent summers in my early teens on my uncle's farm in central Texas hunting cottontail rabbits and hares---jackrabbits---with a 4" barreled .22 caliber revolver fitted with target sights in uncle Henry's maize and corn fields after chores were done.  He paid me a  dime bounty for every one I got, saying that three rabbits or jackrabbits did as much damage to his crops as one steer loose in the fields.  Back then, a bottled soda cost a nickel, a slice of Bruce's apple pie was 10 cents, and a box of 50 .22 rounds was fifty cents.  After collecting the bounty, I would give my rabbits and jackrabbits to a local Hispanic farmworker, whose family processed them into tamales and shared them with me.  Halcyon days!   But the family farm is no more.   In the early 1960's the government built a huge dam 60 miles northeast of Austin, and that farm, along with other area farms and the neighboring small community of Friendship, Texas, with it's general store where I would use my bounty money to buy soda pops, snacks and more ammunition,  is now at the bottom of Granger Lake.

Best regards and peace to everyone!

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