Old Faithful 1959

In this photo, Old Faithful erupts in August 1959.

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959. (Photo: ©2016 Craig and Colleen Dunning)

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959. (Photo: ©2016 Craig and Colleen Dunning)

Yellowstone Bears 1959

Recently we inherited a large cache of slides of Colleen’s grandparents’ travels in the 1950s-1970s. Not only did Urban and Sallie Childers have some really neat vacations, they left us with some really interesting photos.

One of my favorite places in the world is Yellowstone National Park, which I had the opportunity to visit in May 1996. I didn’t see any bears up close like the folks in this picture. I can’t even imagine people surrounding a mama bear and her cubs like this today.

A mama bear and her two cubs are surrounded by park visitors at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959.

A mama bear and her two cubs are surrounded by park visitors at Yellowstone National Park in August 1959.

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, TX

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April, 2016)

Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

I learned to play golf at Sunset Golf Course, which sits just inside Grand Prairie’s eastern city limits. It was really convenient for me as a child, as it was (according to mapquest) less than 5 minutes from our mobile home park in west Dallas. I started playing there when I was about 9; my mom would drop me and a friend off for the day and then came back to get us when we were through.

Sunset was (and apparently remains) a simple course. And by simple, I mean “not flashy.” It has been billed as “a poor man’s golf club” or as a place for the “tennis shoe” crowd to play golf. This simplicity, I think, is what gave a kid like me the chance to learn the game. After paying the minimal green fee, I could play all day, repeating the 9-hole course as many times as I desired. It was not uncommon for us to play 36 holes before calling it quits. Interestingly, regardless of how many times we played the course, I never grew bored of it.

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

Hole number 9 at Sunset Golf Course, Grand Prairie, Texas (April 2016)

My favorite hole was #9, a par 3 over water to an elevated green. My least favorite hole was number 6, which was long and uninteresting. Number 7 was probably next on my least favorite list because the left side was woods into which I hit a lot of balls. I also found a lot of balls there because the casual nature of Sunset allowed me the opportunity to ball hawk. In those days, there was no course marshal to keep golfers moving along, so it wasn’t unusual for me to spend 20-30 minutes looking for balls in the woods, or in the water on numbers 8 and 9. I had no problem letting others play through, particularly if my ball bag was getting filled. On several occasions – long before recycling golf balls became big business – I spent a half hour or longer in the water feeling around for balls in the muck. The delay didn’t do anything for my golf rhythm, but it was fun and kept me from buying golf balls.

Holes 1, 5, and 9 surround the driving range, and I have to admit to grabbing a range ball here and there. I seem to remember actually going into the range to gather balls, too. Playing #3 on Saturdays and Sundays was always interesting because it was side-by-side with Yellow Belly Drag Strip. No amount of “quiet please” signs could mute the blaring music and roaring engines. You simply had to deal with the noise.

When I was about 11, a friend and I played 18 holes during the Thanksgiving holiday; it was 25 degrees. When I was in high school, my dad started to play golf and this is the course we most often played.

It’s been decades since I played at Sunset, but it remains embedded in my happy memories.

Here’s a blurb on the history Sunset Golf Course from the Golf 18 Network:

The original Sunset Golf Club was established in the 1930s. It was a Grand Prairie golf course at the corner of Cockrell Hill and Davis, and it was instantly a popular tee time for nearby Dallas golf lovers. The club moved to its current, picturesque setting in 1953, and it has been owned and operated by three generations of the Mims family, who have a long, rich history with the classic sport of golf. C.B. Mims was the architect and PGA professional at Sunset until he died in 1992 at age 75. C.B. played on the tour in the ‘40s and ‘50s, including in the 1941 U.S. Open and several times in the Dallas Open. His family’s continued dedication to the sport they love shows in the excellent quality of Sunset Golf Club.

Happy Birthday, Zach!

Zach at the playground (3/26/2016).

Zach at the playground (3/26/16).

Five years ago today, you burst into our lives. Wow! I could not have imagined how much energy you would have. I can’t keep up with you.

What a blessing you have been and are. I’m so happy that God gave you to us. Wit, creativity, and compassion are so apparent in your life. I pray that God will continue to develop those things in you. Your interest in and knowledge of the human body is simply amazing!

I love reading to you each night. And more special than that is when you ask me to pray that you will not have a bad dream. I love your heart for Jesus. Please keep pursuing him.

You are one special kid. Happy Birthday, Bubby. I love you!


I was mugged!

The Plaza Hotel on Akard Street, Dallas, Texas

The Plaza Hotel on Akard Street, Dallas, Texas (Click to enlarge.)

In January 1983, I was a high school senior and I was mugged next to the Plaza Hotel on the edge of downtown Dallas.

Early that morning, I had been taken to the United States Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPS) by my Marine Corps recruiter. The command was a centralized location to process recruits for all branches of the military. At MEPS, the recruits complete aptitude tests, background screening, and a physical. From what I remember, the process was quite streamlined; the recruits arrived early, were put through their paces (mental and physical exams), then sent to lunch at the Plaza Hotel on Akard Street just across I-30.  After returning from lunch, the recruits were inducted by swearing an oath of service to end the day.

Everything went fine until lunch. We were instructed to walk over to the Plaza Hotel, which back then, was only a few minutes walk from the location of the processing center. Since I was the only recruit from the Grand Prairie station, I walked to lunch by myself. As I crossed the Akard Street bridge, I passed a group of guys going the opposite direction. They were about my age and a little older, and there were five or six of them. Ten, fifteen, maybe twenty seconds after I passed them, I had a strange feeling and looked over my shoulder. At that moment, they had turned around and started back my direction. I kept walking toward the hotel, which was located immediately at the end of the bridge. After a few paces, I looked back again. By now, they had started to run my direction. I continued to walk toward the hotel, which was even closer by this point. However, the entrance was around the corner, and before I got there, I was surrounded.

Craig Dunning was mugged under this tree at the Dallas Plaza Hotel on Akard Street in January 1983

Craig Dunning was mugged under this tree at the Dallas Plaza Hotel on Akard Street in January 1983.

One of the most vivid memories of the event was the tree. I had been herded off the sidewalk into the grass, and the tree was right there. Until recently, I hadn’t been back to that location since it happened, which is now 33 years ago. When I arrived at the location, not only was the tree still there the memories were still there, too. It’s amazing how vivid the memories are all these years later considering the encounter was not more than 1 minute long.

The group of guys surrounded me. And as I turned toward the tree to see the guys on that side of me, one of them hit me square on the chin and another grabbed for my wallet in my back pocket. Although I was staggered, I was able to slap his hand away from my pocket with my right hand and gather myself without falling to the ground. As I stood up straight, we all froze in place … the prey surrounded by the hunters. I looked at them. They looked at me. And after a few seconds, I said, “That’s enough!” and proceeded to exit the circle toward the entrance to the hotel. They remained frozen as I walked between them. I have no idea why they let me leave. Perhaps they were stunned that I resisted. Or that I decided to leave. Or that I didn’t fall to the ground from the knockout punch. I don’t know, and it sounds unbelievable as I type it. But, that’s what happened.

As I walked away, they broke full speed in the opposite direction. Once inside the hotel, I found a seat among other recruits and sat down. I was stunned and apparently disheveled enough that one of the guys asked me what was wrong? “I just got mugged,” I said without emotion. Everyone at the table looked at me in disbelief. I explained the details, and one tough young recruit scolded me for not fighting them. He went on to describe what he would have done had he been in the same situation. Everyone at the table laughed at his bravado before describing to him how poor his chances would be against a group of five or six guys. He insisted he would have wiped the floor with those “blankety-blanks.”

Eventually, I was able to eat and when I finished, I walked back to MEPS with a couple of the guys. Immediately upon our arrival, they reported the incident. One of the managers brought me in to find out the details before calling the police. The police showed up pretty quickly and began to scour the area for the gang, but never saw anyone fitting the description I had provided.

My recruiter finally returned to bring me back home. He was shocked at my story and was humored by the machismo of the tough guy at lunch. He assured me I did the right thing by not engaging with the gang, but he also said that once I finished boot camp I would be able to manage five or six guys with no problems.

I never had nightmares nor flashbacks from the event, but I did have sharp jaw and ear pain for a few years. I also began to keep a better watch on my surroundings when I’m out and about. One other thing: I don’t think I would keep walking if such a situation were to occur again. I. Would. Run.

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