Don Merideth used to sing the famous country song ” Turn Out The Lights, The Parties Over,” a Willie Nelson staple, when, at the end of Monday Night Football, the losing team was shellacked and had no way to come back. Too bad he wasn’t here to sing this past Sunday evening.
Dandy Don was the quarterback for the Cowboys back when they were a man’s football team and had the best coach in the NFL, Tom Landry. How things change in 50 years. Now they have Jabba The Hut as a coach, and the team is a bunch of woke, “where’s my trophy” pansy-asses.
An Arkansas hillbilly strikes it rich with oil and gas. I guess he was out “shoot’n at some food and up through the ground came a bubbl’n crude.”
He moves the family, not to Beverly Hills, but to Highland Park, Dallas’s equivalent. He then buys the team for a song and ruins the shining silver star of Texas. Just because he played football in college doesn’t make him a coach or an expert, of which he sees himself. Jimmy Johnson was the best thing to happen to the team since Tom Landry, and Jones, in the true style of “Dogpatch,” runs him off with a double-barrel shotgun and rabid hound dogs. Moma Yokum would be proud.
I was a fan since the 60s, then dropped off the cowboy wagon for a decade or so, then back on when my son bought 2 seats at the stadium, and I attended games with him. So I had hope that this season, after 26 years of disappointment, the “boys” would win the playoffs and go to the “big show.” Well, they did put on quite a show Sunday, but it was a “shit-show,” and once again, they will be watching the Super Bowl from their media rooms.
Jerry Jones has made a fortune from building a colossal stadium to house a mediocre team and trick the fans into filling the seats and buying his silver and blue made-in-China crap. In the 1800s, he would have been called a “huckster” or a “traveling medicine show,” and likely ran out of town.
Pictured here is my grandfather on the left and his friend Hymie Rothstein with his horse Miss Golda. Hymie was, or possibly is, the only Jewish cowboy in Texas.
Hymie left the “old country” (New York) in 1910 with a burning determination to become a cattle rancher. With a grubstake from his uncle, he bought 500 acres of prime ranchland between Weatherford and Mineral Wells and stocked the spread with 500 head of Hereford cattle. He named the ranch “The Flying Menorah,” his mothers idea.
His mothers’ cousin in New York owned several restaurants and made a deal with Hymie to furnish him with Kosher meat for his patrons. Hymie, a bit of a slacker in his faith, had no idea how to raise Kosher cattle.
He required his ranch hands to wear Yamakas and grow a long beard. Then, on Friday’s before sundown, he would drive a wagon through the herd with a Rabi from the synagogue in Fort Worth, standing in the bed, blessed the cattle and the land. He assumed that if the cattle were somewhat converted, all would be Kosher. The Rabi was paid twenty-five dollars for the blessing, so he kept his opinion on the cow’s religious transformation to himself.
Hymie purchased a 3500 lb Hereford bull from a neighboring ranch to keep the cows happy and grow the herd. The bull, a massive beast with Hyde-like steel, would walk through any barb wire fence and wander off for days at a time. He named the bull “Little Moses” because of the bovines’ wanderlust.
In early December, a blue norther blew in and dropped eight inches of snow on the ranch. It was two days before the ranch hands could tend to the cattle, and when they didn’t find the herd, they checked the fencelines. At the back of the 500 acres was a section of broken fence. Thousands of cattle tracks led through the opening and onto the vast prairie. ” Little Moses” had escaped again, and the herd was following his lead.
The cowboys tracked the cattle for miles but lost their trail in the rocky hills. Hymie was frantic and called his local Sherriff, JD Ramses, for help. The Weatherford police put out a “missing cattle” alert. A poster showing a group of smiling cows was tacked on telephone poles in town. Calls from West Texas reported a large contingent of cattle crossing Route 66 a few days ago.
Hymie and the boys found the crossing and followed the herd. The cattle had been missing for 39 days and nights without hay or feed, surviving on clumps of prairie grasses and creek water.
On the 40th day, the cowboys located the herd resting at the edge of Palo Duro Canyon. All 500 cows were accounted for, but “Little Moses” was missing.
One of the cowboys spotted a snow-white bull lumbering and stumbling out of the canyon at sundown. It was “Little Moses.” His cow fur had turned completely white. His eyes were bright blue and glowed like fiery coals.
The bull lay down near the campfire. The herd moved in and surrounded the cowboys and the bull. The cows seemed to be saying goodbye to their leader. Hymie fed him some bread and a few sips of Kosher wine, and then ” Little Moses” expired. It was a good way to go. Laying by the warm campfire and surrounded by his minions.
A crack of thunder and lightning bolts hit a grove of trees nearby. Usually, that would spook the cattle, but not a one moved. Instead, there was a sound of trumpets from somewhere above. The herd looked skyward as if they were being summoned.
Two “Heavenly Holstein” cows with angel wings descended from the sky into the camp. They each carried a golden trumpet in their left hooves. The angel cows stood on either side of “Little Moses,” and together, the trio ascended into the clouds, starting their journey to Bovine Heaven.
Hymie and the cowboys were gobsmacked by what they had witnessed. They tempered their shock with a bottle of red-eye whiskey and roll-your-own cigarettes. The conversation around the campfire was sparse.
The herd dispersed into the grove of trees next to the camp. Hymie and the other hands hobbled their horses and bedded down next to the fire.
When dawn broke, the cowboys found a snow-white bull calf with fiery blue eyes standing with the cows. The calf led his herd and the cowboys back to the Flying Menorah.
I can’t bring myself to watch our faux president give a speech. So, I didn’t. Instead, I watched the 4th episode of 1883. But I did catch bits of it on Youtube after the fact, and even then, I cringed and felt a tad oily. I realized that I, at 72 years old, am a domestic terrorist, right up there with the Antifa, BLM, and those crazy boys, the Taliban.
According to that pod person in the white house and Pelosi, I meet all the criteria; a Christian..yep, a gun owner..yep, a white man..yep ( although I am mostly Cherokee American Indian), an American patriot..yep, so I am a terrorist, and also a white supremacist, and a racist. I had no idea I was so damn evil. So it’s better to know now before I pass on.
I vowed after January 1st, I would limit my exposure to such political theater and nonsense in an attempt to lower my blood pressure and perhaps live a bit longer on this planet, which is doomed because most of Europe and about one half of the United States thinks a 16-year-old Swedish screaming savant is an expert on all things weather, climate change and the second coming of Baby Jesus. Sweden gave us ABBA, most of the folks in Minnesota, and Swedish Meatballs, and that’s about it. I’m really sorry that the cow flatulence from Texas ruined the ozone layer above Sweden and robbed her of her childhood.
If Jesus is coming down to kick our sinful butt’s, the ass whooping will likely start in Washington DC and then move on to the west coast, leaving most of America’s heartland alone, except for maybe Austin.
My late father’s late uncle, Harvey, was Biden’s doppelganger of a sort; although he more resembled Ernie Kovaks than Biden, He had the same temperament. I remember him as a demented screaming hot-mess in his twenties, and he lived to be eighty-five or so, perfecting his behavior into an act that the family immensely enjoyed during get-togethers on holidays. Hours of yelling and ranting about nothing, in particular, gave us children an excellent performance, which we much preferred to afternoon cartoons. He did take a piss in the gas floor heater one Christmas during our holiday luncheon, which cleared the house for a few hours, and he tried to roast his cat on a charcoal grill. Still, other than those few incidents, he was everyone’s favorite crazy uncle living in the basement. Today, with the proper handlers, he could have been president.
Poor Ronnie Spector, she passed away “being no one’s baby.” Maybe she’ll send a selfie taken with Clarence, the angel, to Phil Spector, who is most likely roasting in Hell.
Betty White won the contest. She lived to 99 and was a few days short of 100. She outlived everyone she ever worked with or knew. Bad assed gal. Maybe she and Paul Lynde can get an act going and headline at “Sonny’s” Bar and Grill, located right off the main paved in gold highway next door to “Angels Wing Cleaning Service.”
After further and exhausting genealogy research, I found that I may indeed be related to Will Rogers, Chief Quanah Parker, Belle Star, and Butch Cassidy, but not the Sundance Kid. A decade ago, a fellow with the Sons Of The Alamo lodge, a dedicated member of whom did a run on our family tree, and these folks showed up. Queen Elizabeth is in there somewhere on down the tree and Odin the Viking king. I mentioned my family tree to my buddy Mooch, and he said, ” I got ya beat Lil’ buddy. I’m related to Golda Mier, Goldy Hawn, Old Yeller, Golden Earing, Wyatt Erp, King Faruk, Annie Oakley, The Hulk and Batman.” So yeah, I guess he does have one up on me.
White smoke was spotted coming from the CDC smoke stack today, signaling the naming of the newest virus that will be killing us all within weeks. Vaccinated or not, it’s gonna get us.
” Flurona” the new rockstar variant of 2022 has been spotted in Los Angeles and the affluent suburbs looking every bit a Hollywood-inspired virus. It’s so contagious that the smash and grab gangs are taking a break from their criminal activities, giving Rodeo Drive merchants time to replace their smashed windows and replenish the supply of outrageously priced goods.
Maya Sharona, field reporter for NPR caught up with business human unit Libby Caucus in her Rodeo Drive shop. Ms. Caucus stated, “Like it’s been soooo crazy dangerous here on the drive that even the Kardashians have been staying away.”
Kamala (not a real black woman) Harris, this morning on national television compared the January 6th, riot to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attack on New York, aka, 911.
2,500 servicemen died in the attack on Pearl Harbor, so how dare this faux human compare the two. It takes a special kind of brain-damaged moron to issue such an insult to the families of those that died in those attacks. Worse than 911, who in the hell told her to say that? This woman has less brain function than Joe Bee. That reminds me, who has taken more balls to the chin than Mickey Mantel and Roger Marris? Kamala Harris.
I’m an old-school reader. An Amazon tablet rests in my desk drawer but has gone untouched for four years. Electronic devices don’t allow me the same experience as holding a book made from cardboard and ink printed on recycled paper. Technology is fine, for some, but for the written word. No.
It starts with the jacket. Most nowadays are in color, printed on shiny paper with the author’s name as large as the title, a nice photo or drawing, and a few lines of publisher praise to capture your attention and to make you feel the $30 plus dollars you paid wasn’t in vain. It’s a dance of sorts, but our money has been collected, so it’s best to continue the waltz.
Then comes the preface or the dedication to loved ones, friends, or contributors. Some are short, sweet, and curt and fail to credit the deserved; others ramble on until I lose interest.
Truman Capote snubbing Harper Lee’s dedicated research with “In Cold Blood” comes to mind. A few excluded words of thanks ruined a lifelong friendship. He wasn’t the first, but his pettiness was unforgivable.
I notice the typeset and spacing information, the font, the Library of Congress notes, the printing dates, and then the first paragraph that sets the tone for the next few hundred or more pages.
Ernest Hemingway said a book should begin with ‘one true sentence.’ He knew it was a waste of the authors and their readers’ time if it didn’t. His advice has taught me well.
My wife, a Registered Nurse, retired last August. Soon after, she underwent major back surgery, and during her recuperation, she re-discovered her love of reading. So now, in place of watching television until the late hours, we both retire early, prop ourselves on our bed pillows, and read our books late into the night.
I recently revisited ” In Cold Blood,” Capote’s masterpiece that so affected his life that he never fully recovered to write another novel. I enjoyed it more this time around than thirty years ago. It was a butt whooping to the end. Every chapter contained a piece of his soul.
Anthony Doerr’s two newest novels are commanding reads. My wife and I have read both, and she is on the verge of starting his third. I am reading Amor Towels and find his storytelling to be in the style of Steinbeck and Hemingway. I was once a James Elroy fan, but his last two books were an effort from start to completion. He is on my rest list for now.
Besides ” Fun With Dick and Jane,” the first real books I read were Mark Twain’s ” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and then his follow-up “The AdventureHuckleberryberry Finn.”
I come from a family of non-readers, so my love for books comes from somewhere, possibly my elementary school librarian or my father’s sister, Norma. She was a voracious reader that leaned toward romance schlock, Cormac McCarthy, and Micky Spillane noir. I am thankful to both for their influence and guidance. It was aunt Norma that, introduced me to Thomas Wolf. I returned the favor with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.
My wife and I are relieved that the year 2020 is behind us. It won’t be missed. No tears from this household, only two middle fingers pointed skyward. Our ages allow us to forget what we wish to and remember the best. I believe 2022 will be our year of reading dangerously. We may, holding hands and a frosty cocktail, step out onto that literary ledge and take the leap; attempt to leave our comfort zone and take a chance or three. Time is of the essence, my eyesight is on the fritz, I have a blister on my thumb, and the books keep coming.
As a child growing up in 1950s Texas, I never understood the need to put myself behind an eight-ball with proclamation’s I had no way of keeping. New Year resolutions were the worst of them all.
My parents made them by the dozens and broke them without batting an eye.
My mother was the worst of the family bunch. Every year, on the eve of midnight, she would make a grandiose announcement to the family, usually after a few glasses of sparkling Cold Duck wine or too many Old Crow eggnogs. She made many resolutions in her day, but her yearly favorite was “kicking the ciggies.” She smoked like Bogart, one in each hand with a third, lit and waiting in the ashtray. My father, a lesser smoker, was a rank beginner compared to his bride. As a result, our household had more ashtrays than dishes. My sister and I also enjoyed the mild smoke from the ever-present Chesterfield cloud that hung in every room. Mother finally kept her favorite resolution at the age of 74, with some help from emphysema.
So, here I am at 72, and for the first time, I am considering making a New Year resolution or two.
I’ve been kicking around the less painful ones, easy things like giving up red meat or sugar. But then, Ovaltine contains sugar, and there is no way I can sleep without my hot Ovaltine, usually taken between 1 and 2 am, which is also my writing hours so that one is out. But, on the other hand, red meat can give me gastronomical grief, and I like fish more so that one is still doable.
Abstaining from distilled spirits? Now that’s tough, but it seems to be the national favorite.
It’s immensely satisfying to hold a crystal snifter of Jamesons or Tullamore Dew while sitting on my patio admiring the beauty of our local mountain, Comanche Peak. Good Irish whiskey settles my nerves and fuels my literary creativity. Jack Kerouac and Truman Capote will attest to that. Reaching old age without dying is hard work, and suitable rewards are in order. So unless I plan to stop writing and live out my final days as a nervous wreck, that one is kaput.
Attending a non-denominational house of worship with my bride. I can do this one with a few exceptions. Firstly, how does the word “none” go with denominational? There are hundreds of organized religions out there, just pick one and go with it.
Secondly, I’m old school church. I need to hear “the word of God,” not some big-haired pastor with an expensive haircut using the bible as a Cliff Notes report. I don’t dance hip hop in the isles, or clap, or sing songs projected on a screen, or enjoy hearing a choir of off-key screeching women whining about their personal tradgadys to the accompaniment of a Led Zepplin tribute band. I need that old-time religion to soothe my soul. The bubble-haired lady playing that Hammond B3 organ; that old rugged cross hanging on the wall next to the velvet Last Supper painting. A yelling red-faced slobbering preacher that points to me and says I’m going to Hell in a used Honda if I don’t change my sinful ways, and then expects money for admonishing me in front of strangers. Uncomfortable seating is a must. I can’t be a Baptist again, that would require me to give up my Irish whiskey, so it’s best to move on to another resolution or consider becoming a Catholic.
Improving my health. Maybe the easiest one of all, except for the sugar Ovaltine thing and the Irish whiskey thing. I possibly can do this one and make it stick. I beat the snot out of Cancer, so what’s left that could get me?
My doctor is young and hip. He wears one of those Apple watches that keep you alive and listens to TED talks in his wireless earbuds and drives a Tesla. He recommends, walking, hiking, biking, going to the gym, meditating, using fewer medications, and eating less of everything that tastes like food.
I reminded him that I need a knee replacement and major back surgery, so the walking, biking, hiking, and gym are out. Using fewer meds? He’s the idiot that put me on them. Sorry doc, I am not eating bagged weeds, Kale, plant-based meats, or gluten-free anything. Lactose-free milk is as woke as I get. I could only achieve a meditated state after a pipe full of Maui Wowie and Cat Stevens on the stereo.
By writing my resolutions down, I realize that nothing has changed since I was a kid. I’m not standing behind that eight-ball at this age.
In 1966, Maulana Kereuga, a member of the Black Panther Party (the one that Forest Gump messed with), invented a holiday to celebrate African culture in the United States, but not Africa. “Kwanzaa” became the alternate secular Christmas for some black Americans, but not all bought into it. The citizens of Africa think Kwanzaa is a made-up hot-mess of a holiday and had never heard of it until the late 60s. They celebrate Christmas, like most of the world. I’m betting Forest and Jenny didn’t know about Kwanzaa.
“Festivus.” A Sienfield made-up holiday to bring attention to the over-commercialism of Christmas. Held on December 23rd, it celebrates no giving of gifts, feats of strength, airing of grievances, and questionable miracles, as well as a fine meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. In place of a traditional tree, there is an aluminum pole carried by the family elder. Frank and George Castanza convinced Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer that Festivus is a viable and authentic holiday. It makes more sense than Kwanzaa, and at times, Christmas.
So if anyone can make up a holiday, get it printed on a calendar and plastered on television, why can’t I? Well, just hide and watch.
I propose a new holiday that celebrates the elders of our families, the old and almost forgotten, except when birthdays and Christmas roll around and their children expect them to dish out wads of cash on useless gifts for their grand kids.
I’m talking about the senior parents and grandparents. They have toiled in the corporate salt mines, served in the military, died in wars, slaved in the factories and retail stores, walked those miles of isles in Walmart, changed those thousands of bedpans, paved the roadways, built the buildings and houses, and worked the land that provides the food that all our children and grandchildren enjoy. If it wasn’t for Grandma working in that computer chip factory for thirty years, little Johnny and Chelsea wouldn’t have that expensive video game or smart-ass phone that cost a cool grand.
As of today, December 28th, 2021, I proclaim the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve the holiday of “Respectivus.”
Six humbling days of showing respect and gratefulness to parents and grandparents for all they have made possible for their loving family. Shower them with expensive gifts and fine wines. Send them on all-inclusive cruises to warm climates, and maybe pay off the mortgage that they borrowed against to pay for their children’s college education.
Sure, there will be a few million or more that will send their parents a gift card from Walgreens or maybe a jelly of the month membership or a new sleeve of tennis balls for their walker. Those would be the cheapskate brats that threw a conniption fit when they didn’t get a trophy and a pizza after they lost every game, and now their kids do the same when they don’t get the latest techno-gadget under the.. good God, it’s hard to even write it… “Holiday Tree.”
Implementing this hew holiday won’t be easy. It will take a banding together of old folks to make it happen. Marching in the streets carrying signs, some saying hooray for our side, protesting at the post office and in front of city hall, burning our driver’s license at the polling prescient, riding our personal mobility scooters like a biker gang on the freeway’s, and chaining ourselves to the columns of the White House. The old guy in there should get it; he’s older than we are. Us’un old ones have to stick together like we did in the 60s. So put Steppenwolf on the 8 track, and let’s roll.
I am excited about the tennis balls I might be receiving.
I feel like I’m living in a black and white telecast of the Twilight Zone. The ghost of Rod Serling is sitting in my den telling me stories and smoking Camels. That “dead zone” between Christmas and New Year has arrived.
Christmas can be such a damp squib to one’s spirits. Yet, throughout December, we anticipate the evening of the 24th and the 25th. Plans are made, food and wine are consumed with friends and family, phone calls made, presents exchanged, all in a whirlwind of excitement and frivolity. The world is at peace, life is good, we are all out of debt, and the family members we disliked a week ago now sit in our den spilling beer on our new carpet and double dipping the queso.
Then December 26th arrives, the tire goes flat, the cake goes stale, and the wine is soured. A whole week of angst lies ahead. I stock up on Valium and Tullamore Dew to fortify my journey.
I sit in my cushy recliner, slack jaw, drooling, staring at the ladybug on my ceiling. Pat Sajak is droning in the background, and Vanna is marching across the stage, turning those damn letters. The poor lady loses the car over a pause of 2.5 seconds. Sajak is an asshole. The lady goes home, her predicament goes viral on the net, Audie gives her a car, and Wheel of Fortune comes off looking like the dipshits they are. Why doe’s Vanna White even have a job?
My wife and I have doctor’s appointments this week. She, physical therapy, and me for a sinus invasion. We talk of going to the mountains, the ocean, or anywhere, there is no cedar. Christmas kicked our senior butts. We are as broke as 1930s sharecroppers. So I’m searching for old reruns of the Twilight Zone for insight and inspiration.
The coming Friday evening will bring a welcomed end to the year from Hell. According to the newscast, we will be walled into our homes within a few weeks and most likely deceased by February because of the Omicron bug. New Year’s Eve brings revelers blowing their little paper horns, drinking champagne, groping each other’s butts, and making drunken fools of themselves, but come morning, nothing has changed, and no one gets a pass to start all over. So put on your face diaper and shut up.
I think Rod Serling had it right. “Live every day like you’re in The Twilight Zone;” come to think of it, we are.
Christmas Eve 2021 is upon us, and there is no escaping it.
I’m aware that my advanced age drives many of my phobias and fits of melancholia. Still, with our country going to complete crap in a Crate and Barrel wooden box, it’s impossible to fool me into becoming a smiling Father Christmas sitting around the fire drinking hot chocolate while reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our wokie grandkids. But, of course, they wouldn’t understand why someone would write such a fairytale. They are much too smart for their young age, thanks to Google and iPhones.
Yeah, I’m an old school guy with old school thoughts, when I can remember them. My wife says she is worried about me; I don’t remember things she says she told me ten minutes earlier. I tell her, “well maybe you didn’t tell me but thought you did.” It goes both ways. Then I find my car keys in the refrigerator, next to my reading glasses and wallet.
I used to laugh when my father asked me what day is it? Now, I am my father and my son laughs at me. Aging is not for pussy’s. It takes a real man to survive it.
That’s why I write short stories and blog, it keeps my mind sharp, and my wit acrid. The brain is a muscle that craves stimulation. I would think the number of medications I take would do that job, but creating fictional characters and predicaments based on my street rat crazy family makes me a whole person.
Who needs genealogy? I don’t. My grandmother, mother, aunts, uncles, and other relatives tell my sister and me that we are related to the famous female outlaw; Belle Starr. Also to Chief Quanah Parker and Will Rogers. Of course, they have no written proof, only hearsay delivered around a campfire or a supper table. I sent some spit to a genealogy outfit and they sent me a report. It wasn’t what I expected.
Northern European, Russian, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and Neanderthal; not one molecule of American Indian, even though my Granny was born and raised on a reservation in Oklahoma and lived in a teepee. I called them up. The nice lady said the American Indigenous tribes are secretive and don’t give out information. She assured me I was probably a Cherokee and could go on acting like one if it made me feel better. Stupid ass lady. I do feel better.
Have a Merry Christmas and may you live in the land of good water, bountiful game, and cold beer.
A personal recount of my childhood Christmas memories.
Riding a ceiling-mounted “Rocket Train” to nowhere around the basement of a department store doesn’t seem like a Christmas thing, but that’s what thousands of other Texas kids and I did every year in the 1950s.
Leonard Brothers Department Store occupied two square blocks of downtown Fort Worth real estate and was known as the Southwest’s Macy’s. They offered everything the big shot stores in the East carried, and then, hundreds of items no retailer in their right mind would consider.
If you had a mind to, one could purchase a full-length mink coat with optional mink mittens, the latest women’s high-fashion clothing line from Paris France, an Italian cut-crystal vile of Elizabeth Taylors spit, James Dean’s signature hair tonic, Rock Hudson’s autographed wedding photos, a housebroken Llama, an aluminum fishing boat and motor, a new car, a pole barn, a nice two-story craftsman home “build it yourself kit” delivered to your lot, chickens, barb wire, hay, horses and cows, a 30-30 Winchester rifle, a 40 caliber autographed General George Custer Colt pistol, a bottle of good hootch and a Ford tractor. That’s about as Texas as it gets.
The Christmas season in downtown Fort Worth was internationally recognized for its innovative and wonderous decorations. The righteous city fathers figured the best way to out-do Dallas, a full-time effort, was to line every building with white lights from top to bottom and install large glowing decorations on every lamp pole, street light, and building façade available. If that didn’t make you “ooooh and ahhhh,” then you needed to go home and hide in a closet.
A week, or so, after Thanksgiving, my parents would take my sister and me downtown to see the decorations and visit the Leonard Brothers Department Store. Santa just happened to be in their basement taking advanced verbal orders from every crumb cruncher that could climb the stairs and plop on his lap.
My sister, in between screams and crying fits, always asked for the latest doll. She was scared senseless of “HO-HO,” but she somehow managed to spit out her order. Like clockwork, every year, I asked for a Daisy BB Gun with a year’s supply of stainless silver ammo ( for killing werewolves), a full-size Elliot Ness operable Thompson Sub Machine Gun, or an Army surplus Bazooka with real rockets and a long, razor-sharp Bowie knife encased in a fringed leather holster. It was a 1950s boy thing; weapons were what we longed for. How else could we defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo or win World War II, again? Our neighborhood may have sported the best-supplied “kid army” on the planet, and jolly old Santa was our secret arms dealer; parents non-the wiser. I finally got the BB Gun, but Santy was wise enough to not bring the other request.
Walking down the stairs to the store’s basement was the thrill I waited for all year. There, hanging above my head, was the beautiful red and silver tinseled sign, “Toy Land,” kid nirvana, and the Holy Grail all in one room. The smell of burned popcorn and stale chocolate candy wafted up the stairs, and I could hear the cheesy Christmas choir music and the sound the Rocket Train made as it glided along the ceiling-mounted rails. I almost pissed my jeans.
Hundreds, if not thousands of parents jostled down isles of toys, pushing, grabbing, snarling like a pack of wild dogs fighting for that last toy; the holiday spirit and common courtesy was alive and well. The queue of kids for the Rocket Train snaked through the basement like a soup line.
There, sitting on his mini-mountain top perch, sat old red-suited Santa Claus and his elfin apprentices, herding kids to his lap at break-neck speed. Each child got about fifteen-seconds, a black and white photograph, and then it was off the lap and down the steps. Kids were fast in those days; we memorized and practiced our list weeks before our visit for maximum impact. “Ho-Ho” had better be writing this stuff down. Kids don’t forget, squat.
Two Santa visits, four Rocket Train rides, and three popcorn bags later, our family unit departed Leonard’s for the new and improved “Leonard’s Christmas Tree Land,” located across the street from the main building. Thanks to the demolition of several winos infested abandoned buildings, the new lot was now the size of Rhode Island and held enough trees for every person and their dog in Texas.
Thousands, if not millions of fresh-cut trees awaited our choosing. Father, always the cheapskate, chose a sensible tree; not too big, not too small, yet full and fluffy with a lovely piney aroma. My sister and I pointed and danced like fools for the “pink flocked” tree in the tent, that cost the equivalent of a week’s salary. My parents enjoyed our cute antics. The sensible tree was secured to the top of our Nash Rambler station wagon, and we are homeward bound.
Pulling into our driveway, it was impossible to miss our neighbors extravagant holiday display. We had been away from home for 6 hours and returned to a full-blown holiday extravaganza that made our modest home look like a tobacco road share-croppers shack.
Our next-door neighbors, Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister were the neighborhood gossip fodder. The couple moved from Southern California for his job. He, an aircraft-design engineer, and she, a former gopher girl at Paramount Studios. The Misters reeked new-found money and didn’t mind flaunting it. They drove tiny Italian sports cars and hired a guy to mow their lawn. His wife, Mrs. Mister, always had a Pall Mall ciggie in one hand and a frosty cocktail in the other. Father said she looked like a pretty Hollywood lady named Jane Mansfield, but Mother said she resembled a “gimlet-assed dime-store chippy.” I got the impression that the Misters were quite popular in the neighborhood.
Their Christmas display was pure Cecil B. DeMille. A life-size plywood sleigh, with Santa and his reindeer, covered the Mister’s roof, and 20 or more automated Elves and various holiday characters greeted passersby. Twinkling lights covered every bush and plant in the yard, and a large machine spat out thousands of bubbles that floated through the neighborhood. This was far more than Fort Worth was ready for.
The kill-shot was their enormous picture window that showcased a ceiling-high blue flocked tree bathed in color-changing lights. There, framed in the glow of their yuletide decor, sat Mr. and Mrs. Mister with their two poodles, Fred and Ginger, perched on their expensive modern sofa, sipping vermouth martinis like Hollywood royalty. This display of pompacious decadence didn’t go unnoticed by my parents.
Father hauled our puny tree into the living room and began unpacking lights for the decorating that would happen tomorrow evening. Mother hurried my sister and me off to bed. Visions of spying Elves, sugar plum pudding, and dangerous weapons danced in my head; Christmas was upon us.
Sometime after 10 PM, Father got hungry. Searching for sandwich fixings in the kitchen, he found a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon. Then he found a fresh half gallon of Egg-Nog, which of course, he enjoyed with the bourbon. While searching for bread to make the ham sandwich, he found two “Lux Laundry Soap Flake” boxes, with a dish-towel in each one. Then by chance, he discovered the food coloring. This gave him an idea for our sad little tree.
I awoke in a start. The sun was shining in my face, which meant I was late for school. I ran into the living room and was stopped in my tracks.
Our formally green tree was now flocked in thick pink snow, as were the curtains, the fireplace mantel, two chairs, the coffee table, and my father, who lay on the couch, passed out, with a half-eaten ham sandwich on his chest. My Mother sat a few feet away, sipping her coffee and smoking a Winston; my Louisville slugger lay on her lap. I was reluctant to approach her, but I had to know.
I timidly put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Mom, is Dad going to be alright?” She took a sip of coffee and a drag from her ciggie and said, “well, for right now, he will be, but after he wakes up, who knows.”
Since I don’t subscribe to expensive cable television anymore, and my wimpy HD antenna receives only when it feels like it, I missed the annual telecast of Charlie Browns Christmas show.
Actually, there are only two parts I like; when they are dancing to ” Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi and when Linus recites his Christmas speech under the spotlight. The rest is also fun, but those two scenes make the show. Now I’m bummed because I missed it, and the networks along with Disney, who owns the rights, so they show it once a year and don’t let anyone know when, until the last minute. Sort of like Cong-television. Pop-up entertainment.
Jeez-al-mighty, the radicals have kicked Joe Bee to the curb. He is officially a useless old man that has outlived his pecker. Willie Nelson said it first, and he should know; he’s much older than JB and has access to better weed.
With Joe Bee soon to be in the memory care home, that cute dancing Latino congress girl from New York is now free to roam the hallowed halls of Congress and possibly the White House acting like Castro’s daughter while bossing everyone around. But, of course, Jill ( not a doctor) Biden doesn’t give a street rat’s ass if she does; she got Joe Bee to sign everything over to her, even Hunter’s laptop and collection of ancient Mayan crack pipes.
Since a handful of NFL games were canceled, ratings are up!
My wife and I thought we had the Omicron. Watery eyes, coughing, tearing up, a snotty nose, then we realized we were watching The Sound of Music. I’m better today.
Senator Manchin just bitch slapped the radical Democratic party. He saved the country, the economy, and every God-fearing citizen that lives here. Hats off to Mr. Manchin. The only thing that would be sweeter would be for him to sucker punch Pelosi while she’s drinking her Gin and Tonic ice cream float.
I visited our local on the square bookstore today; I purchased a Christmas gift for my wife. It’s a hometown place with a great assortment of the latest books, hot tea and biscuits, and friendly folks. The business was great, and the place was packed to the walls, and not one person was looking at their phone. Imagine that.
New York City is shuttering Broadway for a second year. The Rockett’s were sent home with a fruit basket and a frozen Turkey, and Saturday Night Live is going on with its infamous Christmas show minus a live audience and limited cast and crew, which would improve the performance. So instead, Omicron has arrived in grand style with the highest ratings yet for a virus.
Why was there no “Omicron” balloon in Macy’s parade? An ” Omicron” dressed as Santa sitting in his sleigh would have made the kiddies squeal with delight. DeBlasio knew it was in his city, waiting patiently to make a late but well-timed entrance, descending a gold lame’ staircase like one of Truman Capote’s society Swans. The pesky bug is full of itself, flexing its Christmas muscle and looking every bit, the superstar that it is.
Maya Sharona, head correspondent humanoid for NPR, caught up with a few typical New Yorkers in Times Square that voiced their displeasure with the new shut down and mandates.
Mustafa De’ San Angelo, a well-known homeless beggar, and famous Times Square criminal, told Ms. Sharona that his business is down by Eighty percent since last weekend, so he will have to start robbing other beggers or resume mugging the elderly. Ms. Sharona offered him a twenty-dollar bill, but he punched her in the face and snatched her Gucci purse. A nearby cop promptly wrote her a ticket for bleeding on the sidewalk and crying in public.
The New York Post of the Salvation Army, in its attempt to make the organization more white and less racist, sent all-white employees home without pay for the rest of the year. When asked if the Army would be hosting the annual feed the homeless Christmas dinner at Madison Square Garden, their spokesperson said, ” we don’t have anyone left to work, and they took all their food home with them.” They put in a call to Joe and Jill Biden about donating some grub, but they are not returning calls.
This Christmas may be better than last year. Right?
After hearing president Devo’s dire prediction today, “It’s going to be a cold winter of severe illness and painful deaths.” Taking his prediction to heart, my wife and I are making our final arrangements. Well, not really, but maybe. The drama around the country is so thick you would think the Kardashian’s are writing sniffy’s teleprompter speeches. So our little statement is a wokie stab at black humor. Can I say ” black humor?” Is that too racist? Am I canceled?
It’s not every day our government, meaning head elf Fauci and president Poopy Pants, tells us we are doomed and will likely expire within a few months due to the Omicron BR549 Virus. The vile little bug, engineered to be quite intelligent and talkative, says it doesn’t matter if we are jabbed, the vax is a juvenile joke, and it farts in our general direction. Such a cheeky little bugger.
Our rotting, and recently retired carcasses will be found in our fancy new leather recliners, a melted cocktail still clutched in our skeletal fingers, and Netflix running on the television.
Come to think of it, I don’t believe any American president has given such a grim forewarning to our country. His wife ( not a doctor ), Jill Biden, is busy fielding angry emails on Hunter’s new laptop while making sure Ole’ Joe has plenty of diapers. Prince Charles’s wife ( never will be queen ) Camilla sent JoeBee a Costco UK membership and a coupon for a year’s worth of free Lavender scented adult diapers. For a commoner, she has such a royal sense of humor.
To save money and lessen the grief of our family and friends, when we do expire from the Omicron, after Christmas, we are holding a wake and celebration of life for ourselves. Of course, we won’t be dead quite yet, but this way we can hear the nice things folks say about us and be able to enjoy the excellent food, booze, and lovely gifts. We hope to see you at the gathering.
The Salvation Army, the one outfit I have relied on for the past 50 years to do the right thing, is now going full-blown BLM, Biden-loving butt-kissing wokie bullcrap. Those red kettle bell ringers outside of Walmart and Hobby Lobby can count on nothing from me and most likely a few hundred million other Americans. I regret that this Christmas season, I have already given around fifty dollars to these beggars, and there is no way to get it back. The holidays tend to bring the soured cream to the top of the milk fat. It’s a sad day.
The news is that the Salvation Army hates white people. Well, guess what Salvation Army, it’s the middle-class white folks that give to the organization that allows you to exist and to help others.
Have a Merry Christmas and kiss my non-donating rear.
Maybe Santa can fill your red kettle. Well, maybe the Dallas Cowboys can send a few wokie bucks your way. Morons.
It appears that Mike Nesmith, formerly of the Monkees, made a more significant impact on our culture than anyone imagined. It’s said that he invented the music video format and country-rock, two massive contributions to our video and audiophile obsessed society. He was a fellow Texan, so he gets a 10 in my book for that alone. Mickey Dolenz, the remaining Monkee, will most likely hang it up and enjoy the renewed interest in his former band and maybe make a few bucks. God Bless ole’ Mike Nesmith, and may he keep playing music in his heavenly venue.
I was a fan of the show; how could a teenager in 1966 not be? Rock music, comedy, and a groundbreaking video music format were the perfect show for that time. I played in a rock band, so I felt the show was made for us musicians. The public had no idea that the boys didn’t play their music. Super Beatle amplifiers, Gretsch guitars, and drums, a Vox Continental organ, top-of-the-line gear, and these guys were as famous as the Fabs or any of the English bands.
I don’t recall when I discovered the band was not a real band, but only four funny guys. It wasn’t a devastating blow, but it pissed me off that the television producers had put one over on young people. Don Kirshner likely leaked the truth when he was fired from the show as a music producer. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote the tunes, and the famous Wrecking Crew provided great music. We were duped, but it was a good duping.
My younger sister was a huge fan, so she and I attended a Monkees live show in 1967. They were playing their own instruments and were rumored to be quite good by then. The show was at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas, the best venue for a large crowd but terrible acoustics for music. The crowd was teenage or younger boys and girls, their mothers, and guys like me bringing a sibling too young to drive.
The warm-up act, a local band, Kenny And the Kasuals, put on a solid show. The promoters and the Monkees were likely afraid of being outplayed. As it turns out, they were, but the crowd was there to see the Monkees, not a local act, so it went unnoticed.
When the Monkees took the stage, the screaming began. I could hardly hear their first two songs. Mike Nesmith was playing a 12 string Gretsch guitar and couldn’t keep the beast in tune, so like any good musician, he proceeded to tune up for ten minutes. All music stopped. The crowd grew restless, and folks started to leave. No music and three Monkees standing around smiling and waving at the attendees did not make a good show. He got his instrument tuned, and the music proceeded, but the excitement in the room was gone. The band did an encore, performing “Last Train To Clarksville,” and the show ended. It wasn’t the Beatles, but my sister saw the Monkees live, so it was a good night.
Marjorie Mae has a dozen chickens living on her small farm on the outskirts of San Angelo, Texas. Normal Texas folks don’t think much of chickens except when they eat their eggs or have a piece of it fried or baked. Marjorie Mae is different; she treats her chickens like real folks; all of her fowl have first names and are somewhat educated.
Gilda, Ruby, Tootie, Francis, Lucille, Ethel, Jessie, Rea, Poochie, Piddle, Bebe, and Poteet. Call any one of them by their given name, and they come running like a spotted pup. She rather prides herself on being the keeper of educated farm fowl. She isn’t sure about the depth of their education, but they seem smarter than most run-of-the-mill barnyard chickens.
One day, walking by her barn on the way to the chicken coops to gather eggs, she hears piano music. She instantly recognizes the out-of-tune sound of her ancient broken-down upright piano that’s been stored there for ten years. Unfortunately, her husband Wilfred doesn’t play, so she figures a hobo or possibly an escaped felon from the prison farm must be hiding in her barn, twinkling the ivories. She grabs a 20 gauge from the house and marches off to confront the interloper.
As she gets closer, she realizes this is not some rube pecking around on her piano, but an educated musician, like herself, that knows their way around the 88 keys. So she slows her advance to a near stop to listen a bit more. She can’t be sure, but that sounds like Mozart’s Concerto No. 3 in B minor, but the piano is old and out of tune, so it could be anything short of a barn cat walking on the keyboard.
When she reaches the barn door, the music stops, then starts again. The beautiful haunting notes of Moon River float from within the dark depths. Whoever this trespasser is, she wants to meet them and have a bite of lunch at her kitchen table; hobo or felon, she opens the sliding door and enters the barn.
Thirty steps to the center of the barn, behind the frozen-up Ford tractor, is her dust-covered piano. The tarp cover is haphazardly thrown to one side. In the low light of the barn, she can’t see anyone, yet the playing continues. Finally, the culprit is discovered when she gets within five feet of the piano.
Her Sussex Speckled Hen, Rea, is standing on the keyboard, pecking the keys with her beak and both feet. Not the corny huckster trick pecking you see the chicken at the county fair playing on the toy piano for a quarter, but calculated and coordinated movements that are producing beautiful music. The first thing that comes to her mind is, “I’m going to be rich.”
I’m into the second week of my month-long summer visit to my grandparent’s farm in Santa Anna, Texas. It’s a hot night, and everyone is sitting on the covered front porch drinking sweet iced tea and Pearl beer. My two uncles, Jay and Bill, are visiting for a few days from Fort Worth and are putting the finishing touches on a case of beer they bought this morning at the Dino station. July is beer drinking season around here. It’s considered a main food group but must be served iced-cold to gain the nutritional value from the barley and hops.
Bill gets up from his chair and reaches into the Coleman cooler, extracting another Pearl; he uses his feed store church key and a pen knife to pop the cap. Then, looking out over the Santa Anna mountain, he says to no one in particular, ” I heard this morning there’s a piano-playing chicken over by San Angelo.” Uncle Jay, his brother, immediately replies, ” bull-shit, there ain’t no such thing as a piano-playing chicken. I bet you twenty dollars it’s a can of crap.”
The two brothers are the biggest storytellers and liars in Southwest Texas and will bet on anything. The more far-fetched and unbelievable, the better. Uncle Bill says we are leaving for San Angelo in the morning. I’m excited about this one.
After getting directions from the feed store and a man standing on a street corner, we head towards the farm of Miss Marjorie Mae. She is already a local celebrity and is the gossip fodder of the town. We arrive at her farm around 10 AM.
Marjorie answers her screen door, and uncle Jay states that we are here to see the piano-playing chicken. She says, ” it’s ten bucks a carload and I can’t promise you she will be a play’in if there are eggs to lay, she will most likely be doing that first; she’s a chicken you know.”
We are led to the barn, the door is opened, and there, glistening in the sunlight is a hand-polished upright piano. A silver candelabra and swirled glass vase of fresh flowers rest on top. Marjorie collects the ten bucks from uncle Bill. Jay pokes him in the ribs and whispers, “this is all bull-shit so you might as well pay me now. ”
Marjorie emerges from the barn carrying a fat Sussex Speckled Hen. This chicken is downright gorgeous for a barnyard critter. Its feathers are fluffed up into a fuzzball, and its toenails are painted bright red. A gold nametag hangs around the fowl’s neck. I can tell my uncles are duly impressed, as I am.
The hen is placed on the keyboard and immediately launches into a jive-inspired rendition of Glen Miller’s” In The Mood.” Finishing that tune, she plays a classical number and then goes right into ” Moon River, ” closing with the theme from ” A Summer Place.” My uncles are tapping their feet and laughing like deranged mental patients. Finally, the hen hops down from the keyboard and struts back into the barn; the show is over.
Uncle Bill thanks the lady for her hospitality. As we leave, he asks her name. She replies, “Marjorie Mae Mancini.” Bill inquires if the chicken has a name. She says, “oh yes, that’s Hen-Rea Mancini.” I kid you not.
I miss Blackie Sherrod and Dan Jenkins; two of the greatest sportswriters and humorists of our time. Authors, comedians, and good old boys that drank martini’s with the rich folk at Colonial Country Club and then afterward got a dice game going with the black caddies behind the superintendent’s shack.
Against my wishes and my common sense that told me not to, I did get the vaccine; both shots, in my left arm. Unfortunately, the second jab left me sick for 36 hours.
I lay on my sweat-soaked deathbed dreaming of cold ice water with a lemon wedge and banana pudding topped with vanilla wafers. The CVS lady that jabbed me the second time said I might have vivid dreams with a high fever, but she never mentioned food cravings.
I don’t plan on a third or fourth, or fifth shot. I’m done. It’s clear the vaccine does not work as intended, at least not in most countries. I will stay home, avoid crowds and all that BS from last year, but no more jabs for this old guy. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, a jail-broke Firestick, good Irish Whiskey, and Becker wines, so I’m good.
I have an uneasy feeling that the government may have inserted super-duper-micro-tracking devices and Alexa-inspired listening bugs into the vaccine. I can’t prove it, but it’s a premonition that came to me in a nightmare a few weeks back. My wife had the same dream, so either we are spending too much time together, or some Twilight Zone stuff happening here.
My sister and her husband flew to Frankfurt Germany, to see their incredible Christmas Markets a few days ago. WTH? We have lovely markets here with plenty of lights and decorations, and you don’t risk getting killed by a terrorist. They said the risk is worth it since they got a sweet deal on plane tickets last year; buy one get one free. My brother-in-law is partial to warm German beer, and my sister likes strudel. She asked if I wanted a souvenir; I said bring me an autographed picture of Adolf.
They are fully vaxed, with punched cards, tattoos, baby pictures and all that, and reams of medical records offering more proof than anyone would require, so hopefully, they will make it back to Texas before Germany shuts down. I did advise her to find a friendly Bavarian family to live with if they can’t return home anytime soon.
I learned this afternoon that another caravan of 9,000 well-equipped and well-fed Haitians is on its way to the Mexico/Texas border. Apple has an 18 wheel tech truck traveling with the invaders if their $1500 iPhones or IPads break down. Add that to the other caravan that is a few days away, and you have enough folks to populate a Texas border town.
President Demento is thinking about re-instating the Trump law to stay in Mexico. The Mexican El Presidente’ is panicking. No crossings mean no payoffs from the Cartels and no economy. It’s either that scenario, or the Texas Rangers Cutting Horse Team, the Texas National Guard, and The Sons of The Alamo will be waiting for the invading hordes as they gather on the banks of the Rio Grande. I may go down to watch the battle and wave the 1824 Texas flag. We can open carry firearms with no license here in Texas, so you never know what might happen if some gun-slinging Bubba says “hold my beer and watch this.” It happens all the time.
Biden is now touting that he and the Pope have been good friends for decades. Joe B says he liked all the Pope’s routines when he was on Saturday Night Live. Father Guido Sarducci couldn’t be reached for comment.
The newest rage in urban America is flash mobs breaking into department stores and cleaning out their expensive merchandise. Of course, the cops yawn and have another donut. Not my job, man; I’m defunded. After cleaning out a Gucci Store in Beverly Hills, one mob did a choreographed dance routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and streamed it live on Facebook.
When I was young and started to read books, real books, not the comics my friends read and I had no interest in, I discovered Mark Twain. I thank my elementary school librarian for that. She gently guided me into a world of imagination through a masterful author.
After reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I was going to be Mark Twain. It didn’t matter to me that almost a hundred years earlier, he had already been Mark Twain; I was set on becoming him, through me, a ten-year-old with limited writing ability. However, I did have a colorful imagination, so that was a good start.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t write, I did write exceptionally well for my age, but I didn’t possess the mind of Mr. Twain. I hadn’t known Tom Sawyer, or Jim, or Huckleberry, or lived on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. I was a kid stuck in Fort Worth, Texas, with a Big Chief Tablet and a handful of No. 2 pencils.
I read other authors as well, but they weren’t Mr. Twain. Jack London was too scary, and too many wild animals. John Steinbeck was a masterful storyteller, and I did make it through most of The Grapes of Wrath, which mirrored what my grandparents and father had lived through. I continued to write on my tablet. I didn’t knowingly plagiarize any author, but they did give me good ideas and taught me to group words into a story.
The day my class let out for Christmas vacation, my teacher asked the class to share what we wanted to be when we grew up. It wasn’t a serious exercise, only one to kill the last 30 minutes of the school day.
The usual from our age group was a doctor, a fireman, a policeman, and some of the girls who wanted to be teachers or nurses. When my turn came, I stood up and announced, with all seriousness, that I want to be Mark Twain. Mrs. Badger, my teacher, promptly informed me that there already was a Mark Twain, and he had been dead for a while now.
I answered, ” yes, I know, but, his spirit requires that I continue on with his writings, and witt. So I will be the new Mark Twain.” I was in the principal’s office within a few minutes.
I never became Mark Twain, except in my daydreams or nightmares, but I did learn to appreciate good writing and stories.
The hundreds of hours I wasted thinking about Santa Claus; where he lived, was he happy, did Mrs. Claus make him hot cocoa and cookies, do his deer have a lovely barn, how do they fly, did he get my letter, was I on the nice or naughty list, are his Elves watching me?
My life was consumed by Santa from 4 years old until I turned 9. I was a true believer, a young pilgrim to the point of becoming a child Santa Evangelist. Anyone says something terrible about Santa, it was put up your dukes time or a come to Santa prayer meeting. My younger sister was also a firm believer, but then, she was brainwashed by me, and I was programmed by my parents, grandparents, and the rest of the fam damnly.
On Thanksgiving Day, the trickery commenced around our household. First, my mother, the master of deceit, would warn us about the naughty list and what would happen if we were on it. Then it was, ” the Elves are watching you through the windows to see if you’re good.” That’s the one that got to me the most. I had a plan to catch them.
After lights out, I slinked out of bed under cover of my darkened room. Crawling on my belly like a soldier, I made my way to the nearest window. Back against the wall, I slid up and moved the blinds in a flash, hoping to catch the little guys. I never saw one spying on me, but I knew they were there and faster on the draw. Santa and his gang were tricky.
The annual Christmas visit to Leonard Brothers Department Store in downtown Fort Worth was the ultimate Santa experience. Toyland was akin to holiday Nirvana for us kids. A rocket ship monorail glided around the basement ceiling, kids packed in like sardines on a rocket train to nowhere. Parents rush to purchase presents while the kids are busy, hiding them under their coats or in bags and lying to their innocent children with straight parental faces.
Santa held his court in the middle of Toyland. His throne was 10 ft. off the ground, with stairs leading up and then down. A majestic sight if there ever was one. Sitting in a velvet chair fit for a king while his Elfin helpers lifted the crumb crunchers on and off of his lap, it was pure excellence. A line of snot-nosed kids snaked around the room, waiting for their chance to place their order, up the stairs, on the lap for 15 seconds, then off the lap, and down the stairs. The visit was over before you knew what had happened. It was the same routine for years, and I loved it. I could spit out my order in under 10 seconds. Santa and his helpers were impressed.
I asked Santa for a bicycle when I was 9 years old. A red and white machine with side mirrors, streamers, a headlight, and white-side-wall balloon tires. I also asked for a new BB Gun, a larger Cub Scout knife, and a Fanner 50 cap pistol with green stick-um caps. My sister asked him for a doll that was larger than she was and a dollhouse.
Christmas Eve arrived, bedtime rolled around, and we hit the sack. Hot Ovaltine and cookies put me out like a light. Then, sometime after midnight or later, I had to pee. I didn’t want to get up, but the Ovaltine was causing me some discomfort. Half asleep, shuffling down the hallway, I looked into the living room as I passed the doorway. With a Schlitz beer in his hand, my father was sitting by the tree, assembling a red bike like the one I was expecting. My mother was working on a cardboard dollhouse, and the giant doll my sister wanted was standing under the tree looking creepy.
I convinced myself that Santa must have run out of time and had recruited my parents to complete his work. The reality of the sight was not an option.
My father looked up and saw me standing there; our eyes met, and he smiled like a raccoon caught in a trash can. The jig was up. The big lie was exposed, and my childhood imploded right there in the hallway. Daddy was Santa, and mom was Mrs. Claus. I peed and made my way back to bed, not comprehending what I had witnessed.
I awakened at daybreak, our usual Christmas morning routine. I was thankful to be awake and away from the nightmare that had gripped me most of the night. I was relieved that it was all caused by the Ovaltine. The gifts were under the tree, and life was good. I loved the bike and the BB Gun, but my sister was afraid of the enormous lifelike doll.
After breakfast, I was lying under the Christmas tree building an army fort with my plastic soldiers. That’s when I found a Schlitz beer bottle, assembly instructions for a bike, and a few tools.
The two lead singers from the Swedish pop group ABBA have joined the Order of The Norwiegen Viking Sisterhood.
Maya Sharona, the Europen field reporter for NPR, spoke with the two singers in a Trollandia coffee shop recently.
Agatha Faltskog and Anni Frid Lyngstad, now in their 70s, said they couldn’t deal with the shame any longer because their band alone, was responsible for extending Disco music another 10 years when it should have died a natural death in 1975. They plan to stay at the nunnery for 3 years serving repentance for their sin. The two male members remarked that their former wives looked very hot in their new outfits.
“The Great Christmas Light Battle.” Who dreamed this television show up? People spend thousands of dollars and half a lifetime building homemade Christmas decorations, plywood buildings, small cities, and full-size working trains. One family bragged they installed 10,800 lights on their home, yard, trees, fence, grass, bushes, animals, and anything that moved. I wasn’t impressed. Clarke Griswold did it better. The one house that I was convinced would be a winner was not. A family in Corpus Christi, Texas, built a full-size Nativity Scene in their front yard. A movie of the week couldn’t have done it better. I think they got the meaning of Christmas. ABC has no idea.
The old shuffling Coot and his ( not a doctor ) wife got back from Thanksgiving in La-La-Land, just in time for ‘Papa Elf Fauci’ to inform them he has to lock down the country again, and this time, Fauci wants to be in charge with an office in the white house and his own helicopter. I thought he already had all that and more? So the Old Coot asked his wife, “does this mean I have to live in the basement again?” Jill looks at him and says, ” shit-fire, Joe, carry your own damn diaper bag.”
The New York Post, a good paper getting better all the time, has more evidence on “first spawn Hunter.”The CCP gave him a big jewel and about 10 Million to gain special influence with his poopy pop. Maybe this time, the Post can get the news out before the MSM locks them in the social media gulag. Not holding my breath on this one.
Right on cue, ABC, NBC, and CBS have swept the Wisconsin SUV killer story right under their thick blue rug. They gave it a few days of coverage until the real truth started leaking out. A BLM career criminal and child killer don’t make for good TV. Lester Holt is the best at changing the subject while wearing a 3K suit. Nothing to see here folks. It’s a sure bet the Biden administration and the Squad will be mounting a defense fund for that deranged killer.
Some high-brow officials from the UN say that the world is coming down on Africa too hard. Banning travelers from those 8 countries from flying around and infecting the rest of the world is not friendly. Let’s see how the EU reacts to that. Australia is almost in civil war, Austria is closed for business until the end of eternity, and with the bug in the UK, France, Sweden, Italy, and Germany, it looks like a sad Christmas season for them. Wait until it gets here next week via the Texas Mexican border. Then, things might reach the rough and rowdy town on the Rio Grande.
White smoke was seen billowing from the smokestack at the Wuhan Virus lab, meaning the scientist have picked a suitable name for the newest Covid variant due out next week. But, unfortunately, they said “XI” was a little too close to home, and more than a few of them have already disappeared.
I tend to avoid TV commercials, finding most of them unwatchable. However, there is one about Mom’s spare ribs gaining popularity with the masses, and her son is worried they won’t taste the same once mass production takes over. It ends with Mom and her son at a kitchen table eating her special ribs, and there is a black Lab dog in the background that puts his paws on the kitchen counter and grabs something. I must know what the dog grabbed! Was it a rib, or a sandwich, or the house keys? I’m losing sleep over this. The one commercial I find entertaining, and I don’t know how it ends.
The Squad with AOC in the lead wants to change the name of America’s favorite holiday shopping extravaganza, “Black Friday.” Senorita Castro says the name is racist and demeaning to black Americans. So far, it hasn’t slowed anyone down from shopping. It will be interesting to hear what her alternative will be? It would help if she knew why the day is called Black Friday.
On television tonight; Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. Who would guess that old Tony and the once crazy meat dress-wearing nut job would ever sing together. Well, they do pretty well as a duo. Gaga is a born jazz vocalist and a darn good entertainer, although her dancing is a little goofy because of her 12-inch heels. Old Tony brings out the best in her, and she in him. The man is 96 years old and still able to sing a few great songs through the haze of Alzheimer’s, and that is a feat to be applauded. Lady Gaga should drop the fake name, return to her natural hair color, and hit the road with a big band. Myself and a few million others would pay to see that.
Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas in the 1950s was a great childhood experience. It made me what I am today. Winters were Blue Norther cold with ice storms and the summers were over 100 degrees, capable of turning the front fender of my father’s Nash Rambler station wagon into a griddle. The eggs I fried on said car, turned out perfect. The butt busting not so much.
As a family unit, we would take one vacation a summer. A few times to New Mexico or maybe Port Aransas for some saltwater fishing and beach time. Most summers if money was tight, and it usually was, the go-to trip was to my grandparent’s farm. It was free.
In the summer of 1956, my father purchased a new Nash Rambler station wagon with a factory air conditioner crammed under the massive metal, unpadded dash. In the 50s, an air-conditioned car was a rarity, and I had never seen or ridden in one.
The car was baboon butt ugly, and I wouldn’t have been caught dead inside the beast except for the A.C that gave me a reprieve from the hellish summer heat. If a night was blistering hot, we would sleep in the car with the engine and AC running. Our house was not air-conditioned, as were most in our neighborhood. Attic fans were about the best we could do.
That car air conditioner was so cold, it could be used as a backup refrigerator. Yes, sir, none of that Eco-friendly coolant we have now, this was the real stuff; ozone-earth-killing gas. Eisenhower was no wimpy-ass tree hugger; he and Mamie wanted everyone to be cool in the summer.
My sister and I agreed, the trip that year was going to be an event. Cruising down the highway with the windows up and freezing our toes off while inhaling thick deadly clouds of cigarette smoke from my parents constantly lit Pall Malls. We couldn’t wait.
My mother’s family had a farm a few miles outside the small country town of Santa Anna, Texas. My Grandfather would take his Ford tractor, and plow, then plant diligently for days. Johnsongrass and bull nettle sprouted where Maze should have. Those were the drought years in southwest Texas and growing any crop was a miracle. Granny tended the livestock and chickens, selling eggs to city folk to make ends meet. They had seen tougher times, but no one could remember when.
There wasn’t much to Santa Anna as far as a town goes. A few churches, a school, and the ever-present chickens that inhabited the downtown area. A Dino gas station that never changed their prices on their sign, a feed store, a Dairy Freeze, and a few ma and pa stores, necessary for sustaining a dwindling population. Most of the young folks left during the war to work in Fort Worth at the aircraft plants. Most never returned. It was a town of old people.
The central, vibrant hub of the town was The Biscuit Ranch, a cafe, domino parlor, and gossip emporium. My Grandfather and his farmer buddies spent more time there shuffling dominos than farming the bone dry land. No one had money, so they played for toothpicks.
At the cafe, every order came with a sizeable buttery biscuit flopped on the plate. If you ordered a hamburger with fries and a coke, it arrived with a biscuit crammed next to your burger. It didn’t seem right, but no one complained. In Texas, biscuits are one of our main food groups.
Grandfather usually ate my biscuit because the ones my Granny made were hard within a few hours. They may have been uneatable but darn good for chunking at things. Nothing fly’s like a rock-hard biscuit. Next to my Daisy BB Gun, they were my weapon of choice.
I once knocked a hen dead out with a well-chunked biscuit from my Granny’s breakfast table. The other chickens gathered around the addled hen, making me feel awful for whacking her. I was ready to confess the deed to my Granny when I realized they were not gathered to inquire about her well-being but to peck on the offending weapon. The hen hopped up and strutted away. There is no sisterhood of chickens once you get past the yellow peep-peep stage. They all know that the next stop could be the skillet, so it’s everyone for themselves. There is much to learn from farm-educated chickens.
Over the years, it’s been my observation that there is a favorite uncle, aunt, or cousin in most children’s immediate families that they look up to. It matters not whether the adulation is deserved, kids don’t get twisted up with social, criminal, or married life. All we want is a jovial role model that makes us laugh and gives us things our parents would never approve of. The more eccentric and crazy, the better.
My favorite offender was my Mothers brother, Ray. A hulking piece of humanity with a face as red as a Nehi strawberry pop. His jaw was home to an ever-present plug of Red Man tobacco.
He was a proud veteran of WWII, having served in the Navy. He told us many times that he had thoroughly enjoyed his job of shooting down Japanese planes from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet. He said it was like shooting a dove in a maze field, leading them a bit, and then blasting them out of the sky. He claimed to have over 50 kills. His brother said that Ray didn’t like to brag, but it was more like 200 kills. He was a hoss.
Uncle Ray drove the obligatory rusted-up pickup truck, but his “Sunday come to visit” ride was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air convertible with genuine Mexican crafted, red and white roll and pleat seats. The body had pinstriping covering every inch, and the money shot was a full longhorn rack mounted on the front of the hood. The interior had little Mattel derringer cap pistols for the radio knobs and a big black and white ivory dice stick shift for esthetics. It was the hands-down most incredible car in the state. My cousin Jerry and I took a ride to town with him one Sunday in June, and it was the highlight of my summer visit.
We piled into the back seat between his two shotguns, a bowling ball, and a Coleman ice chest full of cokes and Pearl beer. Uncle Ray told us to drink all the cokes we wanted, but take the church key and start “popping him some Pearl.” I was struggling to keep up the demand for Pearl because Uncle Ray could drink one in a single gulp. I couldn’t get one sip of my coke down before he was calling for another beer. Those were the days when a real man could enjoy his favorite cold brew while driving a 3,500-pound tank down the highway at 70 miles per hour.
When we rolled into the city limits, the ice chest was void of beer, and Uncle Ray commenced singing. A person would expect a big old farm boy like Ray to sing country tunes or at least a few religious songs. Not this feller. He began belting out Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and Patty Paige’s songs like nobody’s business. We had no idea he could sing so well or drink so much beer.
When he broke into Judy Garlands’ “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” he stopped the car, got out, and did a great show tune finish complete with hands held high in the air, hat off, and a bow at the end. Cousin Jerry and I clapped and gave him a bravo for the performance.
He was appreciative, but then turned to us, and in a hurtful voice, said, “my family has no use for the finer things in life such as music, broadway show tunes, and good booze, and, I love all those things, so they have no use for me either.” We didn’t know what in the hell he was talking about but just nodded in kinship agreement.
By then, I guess the beer had kicked in, along with the emotion of the singing performance and his long harbored hurt feelings, so he started bawling like a baby that had lost its bippy. All we could do was stare at the floorboard of the most incredible car in Texas.
After his embarrassing session of bawling and gagging, Ray pulled out a lovely hanky from the glove box and dabbed his tears away.
In a low, growling voice, he told us that he would kick our little scrawny asses and feed us to the Mountain Boomers if we ever said anything about this. Naturally, we nodded in agreement not to say a thing.
Uncle Ray got his gas and more beer at the Dino station, then peeled out in front of the Dairy Freeze, and we headed back to the farm.
Later that afternoon, Jerry and I were sitting under the oak trees talking to my cousin Beverly, who was setting up her playhouse with her collection of 6-inch plastic “Dolly” dolls.
At the age of seven, Beverly was beginning to communicate with humans through her dolls. She was the nontalkative and strange one of the bunch, so no one thought much of it. “Just a kiddy phase,” my Aunt Charmaine would say, “she’ll outgrow it.” I found her behavior scary, but I rather enjoyed speaking to a six-inch plastic doll that talked back. All questions had to route to Beverly through the doll; answers were returned the same way. We were kids; it was fun.
I told the doll, in the strictest confidence, about the incident with Uncle Ray on the side of the road. The doll, in a squeaky mouse voice, said that “Beverly’s mommy thinks that uncle Ray is a big old fruit. I asked the doll what a big old fruit was? The doll said it was a boy that liked to blow kisses to other boys and painted his fingernails. I told the doll that uncle Ray didn’t blow kisses to us, but he sang Judy Garland songs. The doll said it was the same thing; it was a sign from above.
My mothers’ large family was never one to let a gathering of the sisters go to waste. It was agreed that because most of the Fort Worth family had missed Easter at Grandmothers that year, we would celebrate Easter while everyone was here, in June; the hottest part of summer.
Granny and a few cousins went to the chicken coops and gathered eggs for boiling and coloring. Then, Aunt Charmaine drove to Coleman and purchased chocolate to melt for the candy. She came back with a massive bag of Peeps, the little yellow marshmallow chicks that contained enough sugar to keep a kid humming like a top for days. Peeps were something new, and all of us kids thought they were the best candy there was.
Everything was humming along fine until cousin Beverly saw our bag of Peeps. She turned pale, crossed herself, which was strange because she was Baptist, then grabbed her box of plastic dolls, and scooted off to the smokehouse, locking the door.
When we were enjoying the damp coolness of the storm cellar later that afternoon, Beverly, via her talking doll, filled us in on the real and true story of Peeps.
She said that the little marshmallow chicks were the “reincarnated souls” of all the eggs taken from the chickens, and the Peeps were going to get even. After explaining what reincarnated meant, it all made perfect kid sense to us. Peeps were going to kill the whole town. Beverly’s doll made us swear not to eat any Peeps, or they would come looking for us too. We agreed but kept our fingers crossed behind our backs.
Later that evening Jerry and I sneaked some Peeps, went behind the barn, and ate our fill. There was no scream as we bit the little squishy heads off, just the excellent taste of yummy Peeps melting in our greedy cavity-ridden mouths. We agreed that Beverly and her dolls were idiots, and she needed to go see preacher Wilson and get some special prayers. He said his momma took her there, but the preacher said he wouldn’t talk to a darn Dolly Doll, so that was the end of the healing days.
At supper, Granny informed everyone that uncle Ray would be joining us for the egg hunt and celebration the following day, Sunday, the usual day for Easter. It didn’t matter if it was June 15th, 1956; the festival was happening.
After supper, which consisted of buttermilk fried chicken and chunk-able biscuits, we kids retired to the screened-in porch to plan for tomorrow’s egg hunt and the looming Peep attack. Cousin Beverly’s doll, once again, warned us all not to eat Peeps or it would be horrible death for us all. We listened to her doomsday doll, then trudged off to get ready for bed.
Being summer and hot at night, all the cousins slept on the screened-in porch on pallets made from Granny’s quilts. It was a bit scary because being out in the country, there was no city light and that night, no moon, so we used candles to find our beds. The sounds of crickets and the breeze blowing through the Mesquite trees lulled us into la-la land.
Uncle Ray, knowing for once he was almost not in the dog house with his family, decided to drive to San Angelo and get a new suit for the Easter in June celebration. Maybe showing a cleaned-up side to his sisters would raise his respect-o-meter a few bars.
A shopping trip, a chicken fried steak at Woody’s Drive-In, and a visit to the Fishing Shack for a few beers made for a long day. It was around 2 AM when Ray headed back to Santa Anna. In his semi inebriated state, he thought it was morning and he wanted to be at the farm for breakfast, so he stopped on the side of Highway 84 and changed into his new, bright yellow sear-sucker suit. To top off the ensemble, Ray had purchased an orange feed store ball cap. Quite the dresser he was.
Ray parked his Chevy down the road from the farmhouse. Full of beer and looking like the grand marshal of a Mardi Gras parade. He was so tired he didn’t realize that everyone was still asleep because it was 4 AM. He quietly made his way around to the side of the house to the screened-in porch.
Uncle Ray had a devilish side to him that we all knew too well. He was always scaring us kids in some way, so why not now. A moonless night, sleeping kids, it all made perfect sense to him.
Earlier in the day, in San Angelo, he had come across some tiny plastic whistles he bought as an Easter gift for the kids. Thinking that he would scare the fool out of us, he put one to his lips and stepped through the screen door onto the porch where four sleeping kids lay in fitful semi-slumber.
The scene was right out of a movie. We all awoke at the exact same moment, hearing the squeak of the screen door; we froze in fear. The Peeps were coming to do their foul deed. I was so scared I started getting hot and itchy and could hear Jerry whining on the pallet next to mine. We all lay there, stiff as a plank with eyes closed, waiting for the end.
Uncle Ray, a former championship smoker with a prize-winning hack, chose that moment to expel a drunken cough, and when he did, he sucked the plastic whistle down his throat, where it lodged. He was gasping for air and trying to speak, but it came out as a “Peep-Peep-Peep.”
We all sat up at the same time, seeing a “Giant Yellow Peep” standing there with its wings flapping wildly and chirping. That was it. I dove through the screen-in porch into the flower bed, rolling twice then turning on the after-burner. Cousin Jerry and little Charmaine made their own hole in the screen and took off down the dirt driveway screaming.
Cousin Beverly backed into a corner, held up her dolls in both hands, and commanded the big Peep to go back to hell from whilst it came. Ray, arms flailing, was attempting to get her attention for some help.
Seeing cousin Beverly about to get her head bitten off by the giant Peep, I cried out, “I should not have eaten those sweet little Peeps behind the barn I’m sorry Beverly.” I had to save her, so I grabbed a shovel from the flowerbed and ran onto the porch. I made a mighty swat right onto the back of the Big Peep, hoping to take it down in one whack. When I hit the peep, the whistle dislodged from uncle Ray’s throat, and he spits it out. He turned around, ready to kill the one who had whacked him. He then realized I had struck him and possibly saved his life, and he started laughing.
Beverly, too afraid to escape, passed out cold on her pallet.
I was so relieved to see it was Uncle Ray and not a “Giant Peep from Hell” that all I could do was give him a big hug. He was laughing so hard he was crying after realizing what he had done to us.
The whole house was awake and on the porch. The aunties gave Ray Holy Hell for this antic and told him to get out now. He said he would, but first, he had to “clear the air” about some things. High noon was here.
First, he told my mother and her sisters that they all had corn-cobs up their butts and didn’t know “crap from fat meat” about the finer things in life. He then broke out into Ethel Merman’s version of “There’s No business Like Show Business,” followed by Judy Garland’s “Mister Sandman.” We kids sat and listened to some great vocals, and it didn’t matter if it was coming from a Giant Peep.
When Ray stopped singing, cousin Beverly walked up to him and held out her plastic Dolly Doll. Ray bent down on one knee and leaned in close to Beverly. The doll, in her squeaky mouse voice, asked uncle Ray if he was a big fruit? To which he replied, “I’m as fruity as Carmen Miranda’s hat.” Aunt Charmaine yelped, “see I told you so,” to the rest of the cast on the porch. Us kids didn’t care; Uncle Ray could sing his ass off and still had the most incredible car in Texas.
We had a good June Easter that Sunday. Uncle Ray asked that he be allowed to stay for one last celebration and his sisters agreed. He hunted eggs with us, sang show tunes all day long, and even took us behind the barn for a chew of Red Man and a few sips of Pearl.
He drove off that afternoon, convertible top-down, waving and singing Doris Day’s big hit, “Que Sera Sera,” a perfect departure to end a perfect day.
The family stood in the road listening to the fading song until the dust trail settled.
No one said anything; perhaps it was too much to talk about at that time. Supper was quiet that night. Beverly left the dolls in the smokehouse, and Grandmother made a buttermilk pie to comfort everyone. It wasn’t discussed, but everyone felt they wouldn’t see uncle Ray for a long spell. His way of life didn’t fit in Santa Anna, Texas, in those times.
We went back to Fort Worth the next day and didn’t hear much about uncle Ray for quite a few years.
When I was twelve, I received a Christmas package in the mail, which is quite a great thing for a kid. My mother watched as I ripped it open and lifted out a record album.
The cover picture showed an overweight woman wrapped in a towel. The title was “Let Me Tell You About My Operation.” This made no sense to me; who would send me this flaky album?
My mother gasped and said, “Oh my God, that’s uncle Ray.” I looked real close, and sure enough, it looked like him, but I still didn’t believe it. I opened the small card in the package and read, “To my favorite nephew Phil, I still have my cool car and like my Pearl. Enjoy the songs”, Auntie Rae. I listened to the album on the hi-fi and fondly remembered that crazy Easter in June of 1956.
If I was of Greek descent, and I am not, I would be royally pissed that the WHO named another mutant virus from China via Africa after the beloved Gods of Greek mythology. Who are these simpletons that populate the WHO? Don’t they know that is a racist action against all old school Greeks?
Two days ago, in an online UK paper, I read that Africa was almost Covid free; natural immunity, they said. Now, 48 hours later, Africa is the new hotspot for the end of humanity. HIV Ebola Omicron-infected zombie visitors boarding passenger planes to Europe and our beloved USA, waiting to infect everyone at JFK and Heathrow upon arrival. What changed in 2 days? I know this mutant bug travels fast but damn Sam.
Mindless, Joe Biden is banning travel from Africa and is adding more countries to the list in the coming hours. That’s nice of him. (not a doctor ) Jill Biden is feverishly working on Hunter’s new laptop to come up with the list. Until Father Joe, The Grinch Xmas secures our damn borders, North and South, people from around the planet can walk in without being tested for disease, get an ” Everything is Free” card, an airline ticket to the city of their choice, and a bag of cash. All they have to do is pledge allegiance to the Democratic party when the sneaky bastards can figure out a way for the invaders to vote in their crooked elections. So, Joe, we don’t want to hear a word from your pie-hole about mandatory vaccinations and lockdowns until you stop your well-planned invasion.
Europe is shutting it down again; there go the Christmas Markets and their economy. Austria is already closed for business, Germany and France are next, and then the rest of the continent will follow. So how long until the US and Canada do a repeat of our lost year? The people in charge that should know; don’t know.
What a disaster of a football game, on Thanksgiving day yet! Us-un’s in Texas collectively had a conniption fit right there in front of our big-screen televisions. The Cowboys snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Just a few days ago, Smiley Jones, the Arkansas hill-billy owner of the hapless Dallas Cowboys was speaking to a TV sports head saying,
” this is the year, I’m telling you, I’ve got a good feeling about that Super Bowl.” WTF! Has he changed brands of scotch or had a stroke? This man is delusional. Look at that face; watery rummy eyes staring at something no one else can see and spouting grandiose predictions like a lunatic king.
14 penalties with 4 on the same Cowboy defensive player for pass interference. Who coaches these thugs? The Raiders also racked up 14 penalties, so it was all even-steven; the refs wanted to keep it fair.
Yesterday’s fair-haired children couldn’t capitalize on one Raider mistake., then, to make matters worse, a brawl broke out on the sideline involving both teams, and a referee got smacked on the chin, drawing blood and a huge penalty.
I am my own worst influence. Not watching the Cowboys was my declaration for this year, and I broke it. The Jones family has ruined a once proud and respected team. Maybe Mark Cuban will make them an offer they can’t refuse.
My wife and I managed to sit through the Oprah adores Adele show. Nice touch using the observatory as the backdrop. The smoggy sunset never looked more lovely. The beautiful lawless city of Angels twinkling in the valley below. I wonder, did they edit out the sounds of gunshots drifting up from the city proper? Most likely they couldn’t be heard because of Adele’s screeching. The Hollywood celebs attending are numb to such things. I did notice many of the stars were drinking to the point of sloshiness.
Chef Ramsey, the wonder boy of the food world, appeared nervous and looking for a way to exit, he had cooking to do. Many of the anointed ones were in disguise wearing baseball caps, and sunglasses, at night no less. I thought I spied John Lennon on the back row but then realized if he was to come back from the other side, it wouldn’t be for this show.
Did the Hollywood contingent pay a ridiculous amount for a seat, or were they free gratis from Queen Oprah? Was that Snoop Dog coordinating the valet parking?
At one point, when the screeching reached devastating levels, I expected to see the ghost of Pavarotti float onto the stage to give her Adele’ness a singing lesson or three.
The woman possesses a beautiful voice; so why does she feel the need to scream and wail to the point the lyric is lost? Every song is written in a minor key that gives it the feeling of a funeral dirge. Each song sounds the same; sad, sad, and then more sadness.
So she got herself divorced and lost 100 pounds and stopped drinking wine and eating real food while hiding out in one of her many mansions in an attempt to find herself. We’ve all been there. Right?
Is it worth an entire album to tell us about her daily routine, lack of control, and what a good mummy she is? Sounds like Adele is blowing smoke up her own proper British backside.
At seven years old, I learned of my first, but far from the last Texas legend. One of the best storytellers and liars I ever knew, my uncle Bill told my cousins and me about Santa Anna’s “Mountain Boomers.”
Supposedly, man-size lizards that ran on two legs came down from the Santa Anna mountain searching for food. Anything would do, but they were partial to goats, chickens, and tiny humans. If you were caught outside in the wee morning hours, it was a sure bet a Mountain Boomer would get you. Us kids were scared shitless of even going out after dark.
With no air conditioning in the farmhouse, we were forced to sleep with the windows open and would lay in our beds shaking all night, waiting for the monsters to break through the window screen and carry us away. Our Granny was no help; her standard goodnight to us was ” sleep tight and don’t let the Mountain Boomers bite.”
Summer evenings on the farm were made for sitting on my grandparent’s covered porch, watching lightning bugs dance, listening to the crickets chirp, and catching the far away howels of an occasional Coyote pack running the pastures.
The sky was black as pitch, the Milky Way as white as talcum powder, and heat lighting in the West added to the drama of the evening. We kids were ripe for a big one, and my uncles never disappointed. First, homemade ice cream was eaten, then the cooler of Pearl Beer came out, and the stories commenced.
Already that June, my cousin Jerry and me had been to see the hero pig and the three-legged chickens, so we needed a new adventure. But, unfortunately, the hobos had left the railroad bridge down the road, and our summer was losing air like a punctured tire.
“Did you kids see that over there in the trees? I think that might have been one of them Mountain Boomers,” says uncle Bill, in between swigs of Pearl. Then, of course, we strained our eyes to see what he said he saw, but nothing. Then a few moments later, ” there it goes again, I tell you kids, that was one of them sumbitches running on two legs carrying a goat.”
He had us hooked and scared. Then he starts in on the story.
Uncle Bill took a swig of Pearl and says, ” Right down this road here, about twenty-years ago, a families car broke down. The daddy, a man I knew well, walked into town to find some help. He left his wife and small son in the car. It was late at night, so he figured they would sleep until he returned. The little boy, got out of the car to pee along side the road. His Momma heard him scream and came out of the car in a hurry, there was a 7 foot Mountain Boomer standing there with the little kid in it’s mouth. The poor boy was almost chewed in half already. His guts were hanging out and dragging on the ground. The big lizard took off running with the Momma chasing it. Another of them Boomers was hiding in the scrub brush and got her too. A few days later, the sheriff found their bloody remains up on the mountain. They knew a Mountain Boomer had got em because they found their tracks. That’s why we never go outside after midnight around here.” Jerry and I were almost pissing our pants.
When we stayed at the farm, I don’t believe either of us ever slept well again after that night. But, even after we were adults, my Uncle Bill swore the legend and the story was true. I still dream of them.
Where shoud I start, or should I start at all? This is the Dallas Cowboy team we have been used to for the past 25 years. Off to a good start, players get hurt, the team goes to shit in a Christmas basket. The owner, Smiley Jones, doesn’t give a crap. As long as the fans keep coming to his temple and paying outrageous prices, he is making money, and that’s what matters. I will be very clear and upfront about the team I used to support. As long as the Jones family owns the Dallas Cowboys, they will remain mediocre to a terrible football team. Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliot, just two hot-shot players who make millions of bucks, can’t get their shit together to save their own asses.
The Dallas Cowboys are less than a mediocre team, they can’t beat a decent college team. Kansas City beat their ass handily, and the Cowboys couldn’t score a touchdown. When was the last time that happened? So kiss you’re smiling surgically enhanced gold card hillbilly smiling rummy watery-eyed alcoholic cheerleading groping ass goodbye Jerry Jones. May the ghost of Tom Landry haunt your Highland Park mansion forever, and your dick shrivels up and falls off.
Did I say too much? Please tell Mark Cuban to buy the team.
It would seem that after 72 years on this doomed and dying planet, I would have learned the lesson of letting crap go. It’s impossible for me to do. My wife tells me, ” chill out, let it go, calm down, you are too serious, too hateful.” Yep, all that and more.
Just today, I honked at a lady blocking the driving lane in front of my local HEB Grocery store. She drove a lavish Black SUV and was talking on a jewel-encrusted Apple iPhone but could have cared less that she was holding up a line of cars full of starving people, so she could snag the closest parking spot to the store. God forbid she had to walk ten extra feet. So I honked to reprimand and remind her that there is accountability in this world. Then my wife tells me that she was waiting for a handicap spot. Sum-bitch, now I will worry about that tonight.
If global, planetary or even local events are going to mentally cripple somebody, that dumb ass will be me. I take on the worries of the weary, the worries of the ones too stupid to worry, or those who don’t know their ass from fat meat. As the Bible says, “bring me your unwashed, your worried and the habitually stupid and I will heal them,” or something along those lines. Unfortunately, Bible verses tend to get mixed in with modern lingo. Sometimes it helps them make sense.
Gas prices, now that’s a great one to start with. To fill up my Honda CRV today cost $48.00. Last December, when the world was sane and bordering on rock damn solid, it took around $18.00, and I had enough change left over for a Whataburger and a Dr. Pepper.
Now President “Brian Fart” wants to launch an investigation into our oil boys, saying they are gigging us, while he is shutting down our energy production, and giving 12th-century child marrying oil zealots in the middle east an early Christmas present and free rein to charge us whatever they see fit. At the same time, their citizens roam the streets chanting ” Death To America” while burning effigies of Trump, and he’s been out of office for a year. That’s the useless stuff that you or I can do nothing about, and that’s what keeps my eyes focusing on my bedroom ceiling and taking copious amounts of physician-prescribed drugs in an attempt to capture sleep. Please tell me that God did not purposely make folks as stupid as we have in Washington. But, I know the answer before it is asked. Yes, he did. And he is in on the big joke.
I am not a fan of Walmart, but they do have the best prices on Christmas lights, so I suck it up and give them my money. The same lights at Home Depot are double what I pay at Wally World.
The parking lot was full, people streaming into both entrances.
There is a line in the personal scooter queue. Seems Walmart purchased new ones that are comfier and a bit faster. I notice that many of the riders are suspiciously fit and healthy; maybe just too tired to walk. One lady had her Chihuahua in the scooter basket; the dog seemed afraid, probably knows she can’t drive the thing. Finally, the Walmart starter gives the group the checkered flag, and they roar into the store.
I snag a basket and proceed to the Christmas Decor isle, which is about one-third of the store.
A family of 15 is fighting over which lights will look better, multi-colored or red. Arguing in Spanish and some English, as to not offend us Anglos, although I know most of what they are sputtering. They finally grabbed two dozen or so boxes of the lights I wanted. Bam… lights cleaned out. Mission aborted, done, canceled.
I ask a lady that seemed to be wandering around in a daze checking her cell phone. She wears a Walmart vest and name tag, so I assume she knows something. Wrong, she doesn’t know if there will be more lights or even more Christmas decorations once the shelves were empty. I get it, supply chain problems, or perhaps clueless employees. Take your pick. I settle for similar lights, but not the ones I needed.
Standing in line, five people are ahead of me and one is a woman with an overflowing basket of groceries. Mostly junk food items; chips, beer, Hostess cupcakes, frozen dinners, cookies, Mountain Dew, and Coke. That might explain why she is as broad as tall. Not one healthy item in her basket.
What the hell? This is the garden / Christmas decoration department, not the market. The poor checker, not used to scanning grocer items, is bumfuzzled and doing the best he can. The line grows longer, now about 15 people behind me. The checker is getting slower, people are getting irritated, low blood sugar is kicking in. Christmas decorations need to be installed; the hours are ticking away.
A smallish Asian lady is in front of me; she’s done with it, walks over to the grocery lady, and loses it. Arms waving, jabbering in Chinese, but I could be wrong. She has lights that need installing and glass balls that are growing mold. The grocery lady tells her to F..k off. The checker finishes her groceries and the 20 six-packs of Mountain Dew, then she reaches into her purse and proceeds to write a check. The checker boy panics. A check, who writes checks? It’s doubtful he’s ever seen one before. He calls for a manager. Things are getting growly. My arms are going numb from the 8 boxes of lights I am holding.
The line behind me is now up to about 30 bodies, some with full carts of Christmas decorations and whiny kids. One man about halfway back is carrying a sidearm, possibly a 9 MM. We open carry here in Texas, everybody has a hog on their hip, in their car, or hidden in their purse. He is scowling, not a happy shopper.
My turn arrives. I plop my lights onto the counter. Checker boy starts scanning. ” Wait a minuet here buddy,” I say. ” These lights are suppose to be $6.79 a box not $10.79.” He scans again, then checks his cell phone and scans with that.
” Nope, they are $10.97,” he replies. Well, holy crap, all this waiting and I am getting screwed. I tell him to keep the lights and walk out.
Exiting the Garden / Christmas Department, I pass by a guy sitting on a Home Depot bucket just outside the gate. He has a sign that reads, “Homeless, Anything Can Help.” His bucket has a few coins and maybe four dollars in bills. I drop in a fiver. He says thank you and God Bless.
I’m a sucker during the holiday season. Why not. I have more than a lot of folks, and a lot less than many, but I can afford a five-dollar bill.
He looks up, our eyes meet for a split second, so, I ask him his story; everybody has one.
His name is Ted. He’s a Vietnam vet, has some PTSD and alcohol problems, and his daughter won’t let him live with her and his grandchildren, so he and the small dog sitting beside him sleep behind Walmart or wherever. So, I give him another fiver for the pooch.
I am humbled for being such a winy assed old man over a few boxes of Christmas lights. I am inwardly embarrassed. I quietly ask God’s forgiveness, hoping he is listening today.
Before I leave, I tell Ted, that he might want to find another store, people shop at Walmart because they “don’t have any money.” He laughs and wishes me a Merry Christmas.
I stopped by Whataburger today for a bit of decadence. I have refrained from my burger addiction for a while now, attempting to eat healthily and stay as fit as a 72-year-old can.
While waiting in line at the drive-through, I noticed three teenage boys trying to enter the dining room, jerking and knocking at the doors. Dining room closed, use the drive through the sign read. They were not happy. Since when does Whataburger close their dining room? I guess now would be the answer.
The three fell in behind my car as I barked my order into the speaker. Ten minutes go by, and I am at the window, the three boys on foot are still behind me. The lady that gave me my order looked at them like they were committing a crime. I received my food bag, but I was curious as to why the dining room was closed, so I asked her.
“Mam, is there some reason the dining room is closed? The boys behind me wanted to order, so now they are walking up the drive-through lane.
She replied, ” we can’t find anyone to work. Starting pay is $15.00 an hour with benefits, but we can’t keep anyone more than a few days. That Biden free money has ruined the country.” I said, “yes Mam, I hear you loud and clear.” She was an older lady, maybe in her early 60s, and was clearly frustrated with the predicament her store was in.
I parked and ate my burger, although it wasn’t that good, and the fries were cold and no ketchup in the bag. I let it go. But what she said, I couldn’t let go.
$15.00 an hour is $ 31,200.00 per year based on 52 weeks of work. That is what working at Whataburger will pay a young worker. Throw in insurance benefits, and that is not a bad gig if you have no education, trade, or degree. I raised a family of 4 on that 35 years ago, so don’t tell me it’s slave wages. Sure, inflation has ruined everything and wages have not kept pace with our growth and we are in one hell of a mess and it’s growing worse by the day or even the hours.
Once the Biden free money runs out, what are these people going to do? Go back to work for whatever they can get? Will that $15.00 per hour sound like chicken feed then? The Covid pandemic and shutting down our country because of a planned invasion from China has nearly ruined our economy, our workforce, and our American heritage. I know, the same old bat-shit-crazy argument that half the damn country doesn’t think China did it on purpose, but then they voted for Biden, so that doesn’t leave them with much to argue.
Gas is almost $4.00 per gallon now; how will it go over when it reaches $8.00 per gallon, a pound of hamburger will be $12.00, and a loaf of bread will be triple what we pay now. Everyone is in the same boat, liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians, black, white and brown, we all will suffer, while the people in Washington that caused this shit-storm will still be eating at their usual expensive restaurants, drinking fine liquor and wine, and wondering what the less fortunate Americans are doing tonight? And that would be us.
The organizers of the SXSW Music Festival thought it would be a great throwback piece of nostalgia to invite the infamous Wavey Gravy of Woodstock fame to speak at one of their Hipster symposiums during festival week.
Mr. Gravy, while giving a book signing at the “University of Woke Texas” bookshop, had a few choice words for his admirers. His new book, ” How I Survived The Brown Acid and Made A Million,” is a New York Times bestseller and attracted a crowd that stretched around the block. Everyone in Austin thinks they are a retro-hippie.
Maya Sharona, head reporter for SXSW News caught up with Wavey as he was returning from the men’s room.
” Mr. Gravey,” she asked, microphone inches from Waveys face, ” can you give your loyal throwback fans in Austin some advice on how to get through the destruction of humanity, the scourge of oil pollution that is changing our climate, killing Polar Bears and Tiddy Wink minnows, turning women into men and men into newts, and is destroying our universe while rendering all highly educated females infertile and unable to return to work because we can’t afford a Prius ?” No shit, she was dead-out serious.
Wavey thought for a moment, took a swig of his Mylanta Antacid Margarita, lit a joint, checked the time on his Rolex, scratched his balls, cleaned his ears with a bandana and spit, hocked a snot ball, farted, and said to Ms. Sharona, ” take the Brown Acid kid, it did wonders for us at Woodstock.”
I have written about my childhood neighbor and his wife before. Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister of Ryan Ave, Fort Worth, Texas. Every kid should be so lucky to have known the original mad scientist.
Pictured above is Mr. Mister’s early prototype of “The Mister Mower 5000,” a self-propelled riding reel mower suitable for golf courses and yard snobs. This baby was something else.
Constructed from junk jet aircraft parts he pilfered from Carswell Air Force Base, his employer, this little hummer would reach a top speed of 20 miles per hour and cut the grass so low it would give an ant a flat top haircut. It was the first riding mower with a zero-turning radius, a drink holder, an ashtray, and an under-dash air conditioner taken from a wrecked Chevy Corvette. The fathers in our neighborhood would gather and watch when Mr. or Mrs. Mister would mow their front lawn. Mrs. Mister was a Hollywood starlet type, so she usually garnered the most significant crowd because she always wore a bikini bathing suit for maximum tanning effect.
In 1956, sales for “Toro” lawnmowers were sagging, so after learning of Mr. Misters’ new invention, the executives arranged a demonstration of his invention at the Colonial Country of Fort Worth, home to the prestigious “Colonial Golf Tournament.” Mr. Mister was ecstatic.
The demonstration was the day before the big golf tournament, so the Fort Worth big wigs could attend and be handy for photo-ops. The Misters arrived with the “5000” strapped to its custom-made trailer towed behind their menstrual red Alfa Romeo sports car. Fred and Ginger, their poodles, were strapped into their car seats, both wearing head scarfs and sunglasses like Mrs. Mister. Ben Hogan was almost as impressed with the invention as with Mrs. Mister, so he asked if he could be the first to drive the contraption. Of course, Mr. Mister, a huge Hogan fan, agreed and instructed Mr. Ben to operate the mower. Keep in mind, this machine was experimental and subject to total failure at any moment.
The mower was rolled into place on the 18th green, which was a bit shaggy and in need of a buzz. Ben Hogan, his ever-present cigarette in his mouth, seated himself on the machine. Mr. Mister set the required mowing height and gave Ben a few final instructions.
Now, Ben Hogan was the world’s best golfer at that time, but he didn’t know Jack-squat about driving or operating any form of machinery. So Ben put the mower in gear and started around the green. “Ooohs and Ahhhs” from the crowd gave him a bit of encouragement; the newsboys were snapping some great shots, folks were clapping and whistling, so he upped the speed a bit and pulled a lever underneath the seat, hoping to increase the efficiency of the “5000.”
At that moment, Mr. Mister realized that he had failed to warn Ben about that one lever that was hands-off. Too late. Ben engaged the “Scalp” mode, which increased the power and lowered the blades to the “Eve of Destruction” setting. At twenty-five miles per hour, the “5000” and Ben Hogan holding on for his life dug up the 18th green deep enough to plant summer squash and Indian corn. Dirt and dwarf Bermuda was flying like a Texas twister. The Leonard Brothers, part owners of the club, fainted in unison. Mrs. Mister, a track star in her early years at Berkley and still in great shape, sprinted to the runaway mower and leaped onto Ben’s back, hoping to reach the kill switch, another part Mr. Mister had failed to show Ben.
Mrs. Mister made a final attempt to reach the switch by climbing over Mr. Hogans head and wrapping her track star legs around his neck. Finally, on her last effort, she reached the toggle, and the mower abruptly stopped, throwing her and Mr. Ben off the machine and into the beautiful pond adjacent to the green.
Ben waded out first, lit a Camel, and strode across the destroyed green to the bar where he ordered two double Scotches. Mrs. Mister, wearing a promotional white tee-shirt with ” The Mister Mower 5000″ printed on the front, waded out of the pond to a round of applause. The news photographers were popping flashbulbs like firecrackers.
Of course, Toro passed on the mower, Mr. Mister was distraught until he started his next invention, the 18th green was re-sodded in a few hours, Ben Hogan won the Colonial Tournament, and Mrs. Mister inaugurated the first Wet Tee Shirt Contest in Texas.
7 months ago, here in Texas, gasoline was $1.70 per gallon. Yesterday it was $3.19 per gallon. Pipelines? Who needs them. Buy it all from the middle east and pay triple. Guess what, the folks that gave us JB, you have to pay the same prices I do. So how’s this Biden loves Harris thing working for ya?
Beef, poultry, fish, and veggie prices are up 30-50 percent. I may be forced to join Sir Paul’s Vegan Lonely Meatless Band. With enough seasonings, I might be able to make ahead of Ice Berg Lettuce taste like a Filet Mignon. It’s worth a shot, and it saves a cow. JB’s followers, you have to pay the same price I do. Voting for Biden didn’t guarantee you a discount or cutting in line privileges. To add salt to our fresh wound, illegals coming across the border get free food stamp credit cards, so when we can’t afford food, they can. Cum-by-yaa, ya’ll.
You best be carrying a pistol when you go shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. I hear everything is already gone or will be handed out to the highest bidders. Turkey theft will be the new norm. But hey, President Sniffer says he talked to Walmart and Target, and they assure him the shelves will be completely packed. So how’s that build-it-back better thing working for ya, kids? Assuming that your kind actually celebrates Thanksgiving in a secular way, of course. But wait! Mayor Buttercup says free child care will cure the economy and save the world. He needs to go back to breastfeeding his twins. Can someone please explain how he does that?
I get calls from car dealers telling me they will give me double what my 2008 Honda CRV is worth. Now that’s some car salesman BS there, old buddy. The problem is, if I sold it to them, I would have to pay double to repurchase the damn thing. So I keep it. Runs good; why not.
I got a call from some East Indian fellow wanting to extend my car warranty. So we got to visit, and the dude lives in a cardboard box under a bridge in Delhi and bathes in a river, yet, he feels sorry for us poor Americans. He said he used to want to live here, now, not so much.
The closer the Russia hoax gets to Hillary and Bill, the more worried I would be if I knew anything about their direct involvement. But, unfortunately, poor Epstein wouldn’t listen and was left hanging. Let us hope that Durham makes it out the other side alive.
Prince Harry now says that he warned the Biden kiddos about the January 6th attack on the capitol. This coming from the child of the village idiot. Did the Aliens tip him off? The queen is not about to step down and will do whatever is needed to outlive Charles by one day, then she will abdicate to Prince William, who is a better choice if there is one in that family. I did enjoy the series on streaming. God Save The Queen and my friends in the UK.
Alec Baldwin is now calling for cops on all movie sets to protect the actors from shooting themselves and others. This comes from a man who is on record stating that he hates cops and guns and America. Now I remember what Alec said, ” I will move to Canada if Trump wins.” Guess he couldn’t get a U Haul truck. You can’t have everything, buddy, and your brothers are better actors than you are, and your wife ain’t from Spain.
My friend Mooch says he lost his religion a while back. He was a Jehova’s Witness but decided he didn’t want to get involved. So he became a hard-drinking, two-stepping Baptist.
Let’s Go, Brandon!
Did I say too much? If so, give me a call at BR-549 to register a complaint.
Some folks in the fishing village of Port Aransas Texas say that Ted first showed up in the early 70s. I remember him being there as early as summer of 1968, pushing his lawnmower around the village, mowing air, and stirring up a dust devil or two. The mower had no blade or very little of one, and most of the time, no gasoline.
Ted was a vagrant; a bum and a lush, but only after 5 PM, he had an image to protect. Ted was also a masterful storyteller; truth or lies, it made no difference, he could put you right there in the heart of the yarn he was spinning. His unkept vagrancy and a mellow low voice gave authenticity to his tale. That talent alone kept Ted in meals and booze contributed by the well-meaning local villagers. Everyone loves a well-told story and is willing to part with something of value as payment.
It was rumored that Ted slept underneath Shorty’s Bar, which at the time was raised to 5 feet above the ground for hurricane flood protection. Lord knows how he fought off the mosquito hoards and the numerous Rattlesnakes if he truly did reside there.
Ted knew that Shorty, the crusty owner of the bar was always good for a few beers and a package of Pork Rinds for sweeping the porch and trash duty. Lunch might be a mis-ordered cheeseburger from The Chicken Coop or a back door chicken fry at Mrs. Pete’s Cafe. Betty’s Liquor Store kept him in Ripple and Mad Dog as payment for unloading inventory or breaking down boxes. The locals watched out for Ted. Every little town has its flamboyant character, and Ted decided he would fill the bill for Port Aransas, briefly stealing the unofficial title from Mr. Jack Cobb, the true-to-life flamboyant owner of The Sea Horse Inn. The two of them unknowingly traded the title from year to year.
Local businessmen and island historians, Spanny Gibbs, the owner of Gibbs Cottages, and Carlos Moore of Bilmores Hardware claimed they knew for a by-damn fact that Ted had worked as a nuclear scientist building The Bomb at Los Alamos Labs in 1945, or maybe it was a Professor of Mathematics at Harvard or both. A mental breakdown or three, and Ted finds himself an amnesiac vagrant wandering the streets of Port Aransas pushing a rusted Craftsman lawnmower. Both are good stories in themselves, but no one factually knew where Ted came from, and he wasn’t telling. Back in those days, Port Aransas was a good place to come if you wanted to drop off the edge of civilization and hide in plain sight. The town was full of guys like him. Shrimp boats always needed a deckhand, asked no questions, and paid in cash.
After watching Ted’s antics for a decade, I finally met the man one afternoon on the covered porch at Shorty’s Bar. Dexter Prince, myself, and my Father were sitting around an outside table having an after fishing trip Lone Star beer when Ted wanders up, lawnmower in tow.
Dexter, never the shy one, tells Ted he’d buy him a six-pack for a good story. Well hell, a sixpack is almost worth his life’s story, so Ted joins us at the table, pops a longneck, clears his throat, and says, ” did I ever tell you about the time I was working on a dive boat sailing out of Vera Cruz Mexico, looking for sunken Spanish gallons full of stolen treasure?” Dexter passes Ted another beer and says, “please go on Ted, I don’t believe we have heard that one.” Truth is, we had never heard any of his stories in person.
The yarn, which lasted the better part of an hour, ended with Ted procuring twenty boxes of Castros favorite cigars from a Cuban shrimp boat that tried to hold up the treasure hunt at gunpoint. Ted made enough money selling the contraband smokes back in Texas, that he took another few months off from building the bomb and stayed in Harlingen, only returning to Los Alamos when Oppenheimer himself flew down and dragged him back to New Mexico. We all knew it was a crock of crap, but damn the man could make you believe anything. Dexter was so impressed, he sprang for Ted’s supper, and my father threw in a bottle of Jack Daniels.
The last time I saw Ted was in the mid-80s. He was ancient and barely moving along Cotter Ave, still pulling that old mower. I should have stopped, bought him a burger, and requested a yarn, but I missed my chance. A year later, no one knew what happened to Ted, he just faded away into the sunset leaving Jack Cobb the surviving winner of the town’s most flamboyant character.
Two Catholic boys, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassidy are on a road trip by car across the American west to find the meaning of life. The badlands of New Mexico held all the secrets that New York City would never have. It could be a great book are a movie. But, as it turns out, it was a book first. What could go wrong?
It was 1947, and half the country still lived in a Norman Rockwell painting, and the other poor souls struggled with keeping food on their table and a decent job. The war was but a few years ago, and the scars were fresh and raw. As the movies would have you believe, not everyone had the good fortune to live in New York City and shop at Macy’s and Bloomingdales. The Hollywood boys covered everything in Fairy Dust and Unicorn Piss, and the commies were coming to your neighborhood. The two young men sensed the growing change and needed to find the “real America”; the wide-open, gritty, in-your-face, working man culture that made their country run on regular.
“On The Road” was published in 1951. The author, Jack Kerouac, a French Canadian American that didn’t learn to speak or write in English until he was six years old, became an instant literary celebrity and a reluctant prognosticator to the “Beats,” which would become the “Hippies” in the 1960s. He tolerated the Beats and the new intellectuals because he helped birth them, but grew to despise the Hippies before he died. He wrote many times that he was sorry they found his books and used them as their warped ideological drug-addled bible that led to the near destruction of his beloved country. The “beat generation,” another term he loathed, wasn’t meant to survive past 1960. The writings and musings made no sense after 1959. He believed everything had an expiration date.
Ginsburg and Burroughs kept the plates spinning; the publishing cash and the adulation were too strong to walk away just yet. So Kerouac moved on and became a drunkard and pill head. Fame, and all that came attached, was not his bag.
The only comparison to the book that I can think of would be the “road” movies of the 1940s. Two pals and a gal road-tripping to Nirvana. Kerouac would have been Bing Crosby and Cassidy a bi-polar Bob Hope with his girlfriend a sluttish Dorothy Lamour. But, of course, their adventure was adults only. Weed, booze, Minga Minga, and foul language would not have made it with old Bing and Bob.
The two main characters, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarity, were the essential bad boys before it was cool. Their names alone were enough to make you buy the book. Every teenager that read it could easily place themselves in their universe for a while. Who knows how many ill-fated trips the book influenced.
My cousin and I toyed with the idea. First, to California and back to New York, then home to Texas in his Corvair Monza; then the effects of the pot wore off, we ate a cheeseburger and shit-canned the plan.
James Dean was a disciple, as was Marlon Brando. They wore bad boy cool like a soft leather jacket. The movie boys jumped on it. “Rebel Without A Cause” and “The Wild Ones” sent parents screaming through their middle-class neighborhoods with hair ablaze. Ozzie and Harriet doubled down. Pat Boone turned up the heat. Art Linkletter had a meltdown. The fifties were dying before our eyes.
I may revisit “On The Road” again. It sits on my bookshelf, aging like wine, and needs to be jostled.
After sixteen-year-old Tex Styles is inducted into “The Sons Of The Alamo Lodge,” and gets his big write-up in the Fort Worth Press and a shout-out on the Bobbi Wygant Television show, his status as a “wonder kid” champion griller is increased by ten-fold. So, naturally, everybody wants a piece of Tex, or at least a plate full of his Brisket and sausage.
His face is on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine and Sports Illustrated, thanks to Dan Jenkins. The Michelin Travel Guide lists him as the top meat griller in America and gives him a five-star rating. Julia Childs is fuming mad.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are Texas BBQ fans from way back. So, they send Tex an invite to prepare a meat feast at Buckingham Palace; the boy lives in high cotton and cold beer and has not yet graduated high school.
Upon his graduation from Pascal High School in 1968, the Army drafts Tex and sends him to Viet Nam for a visit. His captain happens to be a Fort Worth boy who knows Tex’s hometown celebrity status, which, in turn, gets Tex a gig as the top generals’ chef. He won’t hold a rifle or fire a shot for his two-years tour. Instead, a smoker grill large enough for thirty steaks and ten briskets is his weapon. A color photograph of his boyhood grill instead of the usual Playboy fold-out hangs next to his cot. The general tells his men that he “loves the smell of smoking brisket in the morning.” Tex is an immediate rock star.
Tex used his time in Vietnam wisely by learning exotic cooking techniques from the locals.
For example, a shriveled up old Mama-San educated him on using “Vietnamese Death Peppers,” the hottest pepper in the world. If a man ate one whole, death would occur within twenty minutes, or so the Mama-San said. Tex nibbled a small end piece and was on fire for two days, unable to leave the barracks bathroom, so he figured she wasn’t bullshitting him.
A month of experimentations with the “Death Pepper” resulted in an edible and survivable pepper sauce. Tex called it “Davy Crocketts Ass Canon,” since he is a “Son Of The Alamo” and all that.
He found a local business in Siagon to bottle the product, and a local artist produced an excellent illustrated label for the bottle. It pictures Davy Crockett with his buckskin pants around his ankles, torching Mexican soldiers with a massive fiery flame shooting from his buttocks. In addition, the label said it’s a marinade, a pepper sauce, a medicinal elixir, and a hemorrhoid eradicator. All of this is true, so it’s bound to be a huge hit.
In June 1972, Miss Piddle Sonjair was a nineteen-year-old winner of the “Miss Chigger Bayou Louisiana” contest. Although she is not the prettiest girl entered, she is the only one with a complete set of straight white teeth, no baby bump, and doesn’t have a snot-nose kid hanging off her hip, making her the popular winner via unanimous decision.
As the newly crowned “Miss Chigger Bayou,” Piddle Sonjair makes her appearance at the “Shreveport Annual Crawfish, Sausage and Meat Smoking Festival,” where she meets handsome Tex Styles as she awards him the winner’s trophy.
She is bug-eyed- shaky-legged enamored with his triple-crusty-peppered Angus brisket and his ten-alarm jalapeno wild boar sausage smothered in his secret chipmunk sauce.
Marriage follows a few months later, then two sons and two daughters round out the Styles family. So naturally, all the kids take to grilling and smoking, just like dear old Dad.
Tex, Piddle, and the children travel the country in their two custom tour bus’s, pulling a 30-foot smoker and grill for the next twenty years. They smoke, grill, and serve the best meats in the south, winning competitions and elevating Tex to legendary status in the grilling world.
His Fort Worth boyhood home, listed in the state historic register, is a traffic-jamming tourist attraction. His first Weber grill is cast in bronze and displayed at Will Rogers Auditorium during the “Fat Stock Show.” Men worldwide come and pay homage to “the masters,” sacred covenant. It’s a moving sight to see grown-assed men weep while kneeling and touching the small grill. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the south.
Tex is now seventy-two and retired from competitive cooking. The only folks that get a Styles brisket and fixin’s are his select clientele of fifty-plus years and Father Frank, the priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance church of which Tex and Piddle are members in good standing. He has more money than King Faruk, a large home on Lake Granbury, and a cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico, so he’s in the cooking game for fun.
Ten days before Christmas, Tex gets a call from his old pal Willie “the Red Headed Stranger,” Nelson.
Willie, his family, his band, their families, and numerous relatives and hangers-on have planned a “Santa Claus Pick’in and Grinn’in Christmas” shin-dig at Willies Dripping Springs ranch. Willie has a hankering for a Tex Styles holiday meat feast with all of Miss Piddle’s fancy fixins’.
Tex and Willie exchange the usual howd’ys, and then Willie drops his order.
Expecting around two-hundred-seventy-five people and assorted animals at the shin-dig, Willie needs enough food to satisfy a herd with possible pot munchies and other self-induced disorders.
Willie’s list is a booger bear, and Tex isn’t sure if he and Piddle can fulfill it in time, so he calls in his two sons and a couple of grandkids for backup.
Willie needs 38 each of Tex’s 30-pound “Goodnight Irene Ranch Briskets,” 45 each of West Texas spoon-fed bacon wrapped-beer can pork butts, 35 pounds of San Saba wild pig sausage, and 59 educated and certified free-range smoked chickens, with documentation attached.
All of the sides and fixin’s, are Piddles forte’, and will consist of 175 pounds of “Jacksboro Highway Red Skinned Tater Salad”, 175 pounds of “O.B. Jauns Canobi-Oil Mexican Macaroni Salad”, 120 pounds of high octane Shiner Bock Ranch Style beans, 235 pounds of Piddles special “Nanner Pudding,” 50 gallons of Tex’s secret sweet n’ spicy Chipmunk sauce, and one bottle of ” Davy Crocketts Ass Cannon” hot sauce.
Finally, to wash’er down, 135 gallons of Tex’s unique Dr. Pepper CBD oil-infused sweet tea and 5 commercial coffee urns of Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Blend coffee. The order is too big to ship, so Tex’s fifth grandson and granddaughter will deliver it to the ranch in the Styles family food truck. Money is not a worry for Willie, so he doesn’t discuss cost, which rounds out to be about $18,000 without taxes and tips.
Tex fires up his 30-foot trailer-mounted smoker and three custom-made “Styles Grills.” The next morning. Grandson number 3 unloads a pickup bed full of Mesquite, Peach, and Oak firewood purchased from the “Little Bobs” wood co-op in Eastwood, Texas. Tex won’t use wood or charcoal that doesn’t come from West of Fort Worth; if he suspects it may have come from Dallas or anywhere East of there, he throws it out. He is a Fort Worth boy to a fault.
At midnight, Tex pulls a tester brisket and carts it into the kitchen for a “slice and chew,” checking for tenderness, aroma, and flavor.
When he pulls back the foil wrap, he gasps and stumbles a few steps backward. Piddle hears this and bolts to the kitchen, where she finds a “white as a ghost” Tex sitting in a chair. Thinking he is having “the big one,” she dials 911, but Tex stops the call, assuring her he is alright.
He asks Piddle to join him next to the Brisket, telling her to describe what she sees. After a few seconds, she lets out a hound-dog yelp and crosses herself.
There, on the kitchen counter, resting in a tin-foil boat of succulent juices, sits a 20-pound brisket perfectly shaped like the Virgin Mary holding her baby Jesus. The contour of the torso, the flowing robe, her angelic face, and the little baby in her arms look as if a great master had carved that hunk of beef. Piddle gets all weepy-eyed and announces that this is a “Christmas Miracle Brisket.” Tex takes a picture with his phone and sends it to Father Frank, telling him to get over here now; we may have a miracle on our hands.
An hour later, Father Frank and two Nuns from the rectory view the miracle meat in the kitchen.
Father Frank is skeptical; these things usually happen in Latin America and tend to be the face of Jesus on a tortilla or a piece of burnt toast, not a 20-pound hunk of beef brisket.
The two Nuns intensely study the Brisket for a good thirty minutes. Then, finally, sister Mary and Sister Madgealyn, renowned experts in miracles of all things holy, inform Father Frank that this is the real deal and he should contact the Vatican, stat. So Father Frank dials the Popes’ secure red phone hotline. The Holy Father answers.
The conversation is in Latin and lasts for a few minutes. Then, finally, a bit shook, the good Father hangs up and tells Tex that the Vatican’s special investigation team will arrive tomorrow afternoon and to please hire armed guards to protect the miracle meat. Tex agrees.
Father Frank asks Tex if he might take a tiny slice of the useless burned fat home for religious reasons. Tex cuts a sliver from the back of the meat and wraps it in foil. The nuns, Father Frank, and the miracle sliver depart.
The following day is Sunday, and Tex and Piddle are too busy cooking to attend services. Then, around 1 PM, Father Frank calls Tex and tells him that “we have got a problem.”
Seems that the good Father couldn’t resist a tiny taste of the burned miracle fat before bedtime; he said it was the most Heavenly thing he had ever put into his mouth.
When Father Frank stared into the bathroom mirror this morning, he thought he had died and gone to Heaven. But he was still here, and, instead of a 70-year-old white-haired man in the mirror, a younger version of himself with thick jet black hair and perfect white teeth stared back. His hemorrhoids are gone, his gout is healed, his vision is excellent, his knee’s and hips don’t hurt, he took a dump like a big dog, his skin is as smooth as a baby’s bald head, and he has a woody so hard a cat couldn’t scratch it. This miracle brisket is the real deal for sure. But, Tex senses there is more to the Father’s explanation. So, he presses him for the rest.
Father Frank comes clean and begins to weep like a teenage girl having her period, telling Tex that the experience is a flat-out-miracle, and he was compelled by the all-mighty to share it with his congregation during mass this morning. So, he told them the whole beautiful story. Tex murmured, sum-bitch, and hung up the phone.
Before Tex can get really good and pissed at the good Father, his buddy down the street, Mooch, calls and tells Tex to check his front lawn. “It ain’t good little buddy,” was all Mooch said. News travels like wildfire in a small town, especially if it involves religion.
A hundred or more people sit, lay, stand or take up space in wheelchairs, hospital gurneys, and walkers on the front lawn. The overflow takes up his neighbors front yard.
The block is a traffic jam, and two news trucks from Fort Worth are parked in his driveway, antenna raised and going live. Last night, the two Nuns accompanying Father Frank are now standing on Tex’s front porch, signing autographs and giving fake communion using Goldfish crackers and Sunny Delite grape drink instead of sacraments. The healing circus just hit town.
Two police officers show up. They demand to see Tex’s permit for a gathering of over fifty people and organizing an outside church service. Tex explains there is no church service, but the two nuns giving fake communion show otherwise. The cops write Tex a few tickets and leave.
As soon as the cops depart, the Vatican Special Forces arrive.
Five burly boys in black Georgio Armani suits wearing mirrored aviator sunglasses and sporty Italian Fedoras force themselves into the house. So, naturally, they want the miracle meat. Two black limos with fender flags are parked in front of Tex’s house. The news folks go apocalyptic. Father Frank is curbside giving a live interview to Vatican Television News. It has officially hit the fan.
The main burly boy produces a document printed on expensive Vatican parchment saying that “All Miracles involving God, Jesus, The Virgin Mary, or any relative or likeness thereof on an article of food is the sole property of the Pope and the Catholic Church LLC.” It’s signed by the Pope and has a small picture of him glued next to his signature.
Tex claims bullshit and tells the Pope’s boys to hit the road. Piddle stands in the kitchen doorway, 9mm in hand. Her look says, “don’t mess with a Coon-Ass gal this Brisket ain’t leaving Granbury, Texas.”
The Vatican boys, muttering select Italian curse words, leave in a huff. Tex knows what he is meant to do with the Miracle Brisket.
Willie Nelson sees the news coverage down in Austin and calls Tex on his cell phone. ” I sure could use some of that Miracle Brisket when you deliver my order. The old lumbago and prostate cancer has been acting up and it hurts so bad I can hardly roll a joint or pack my pipe. I’ll be glad to donate a couple of hundred grand to any charity you choose.” Tex says he will send a piece if there is any left. Willie’s word is as good as gold.
Father Frank rushes into the house, arms waving, screaming like a fainting goat. ” What in God’s name have you done you backwoods cow cooking toothless hillbilly? I’m ruined!”
It seems the good Father made a sleazy back door deal with the His Popeness for a secret trip to the Vatican and a fancy appointment to some committee if he delivered the Miracle Brisket to Rome. So, Tex tells the good Father, in a non to gentle way, that the meat is staying in Granbury and will do whatever good it can here at home.
Father Frank yells, ” you double dog crossing sum-bitch,” grabs the two nuns, and they are history. Tex tells them, “don’t let the door hit you in the ass.” He had a feeling that Father Frank was never as holy as he pretended to be, and the nuns were probably ex-hookers.
Tex goes to the kitchen, lays the meat on a cutting board, and slices the Miracle Brisket into tiny slivers, wrapping each morsel in a square of tin foil. He and Piddle then distribute the bites to every person in their front yard that is ill or has an apparent medical condition. He also gives a nibble to his fifteen-year-old dog, McMurtry.
Tex then sends his two sons, his two daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters along with himself and Piddle to every nursing home, mission, physician’s office, memory care facility, hospice, veterinary clinic, and hospital in town with pieces of the Miracle Brisket.
Summer afternoons with temps in the upper 90s. There is no air conditioning in your house, and you have a bad case of chiggers you picked up from the vacant lot down the street. Your front tooth is loose, and two toes on your left foot may be broken from being run over by your uncles’ station wagon. Life for kids in the 1950s was hard. But, the one thing that made it all worthwhile was the Ice Cream Man.
You could hear the cheesy music from two blocks away; plenty of time to make it home for some change. It didn’t matter if there was an entire half-gallon of Blue Bunny in the freezer, the Ice Cream Man was coming, and he had what we needed, the good stuff; Popsicles, Dreamsicles, Chocolate Cows, Rockets, Push Up Sherbert, Fudge Bars, and Eskimo Pies.
I thought selling ice cream from a white truck while dressed in a uniform was my career path. So I told my father that’s going to be me in a few years. But, yessir-ree-bob, it didn’t get any better than Mr. Good Humor pushing frozen sweets to kids. Of course, my father was concerned about my plans, but I was 7 years old and likely to change professional aspirations within a few hours. I also thought the Milk Man was a great gig. Half the kids on our block resembled him.
My pal Skipper and I once crawled into the back of the Vandorvorts Milk truck and rode for two blocks before being caught. We drank as much chocolate milk as we could hold before being discovered. It was freezing cold inside, but we did our best. It was worth the butt-busting.
There is nothing quite as funny as a bunch of kids with Popsicles stuck to their tongues running and screaming bloody murder. I always thought that ice cream man had a mean streak.
In 1957 there was a coffee house and Beatnik hangout in downtown Fort Worth, Texas called “The Hip Hereford,” named in honor of the owner’s prized champion bull.
Sargent ( Salvatore )Tulane York was related to the legendary war hero, Sargent York, on his fathers’ side of the family, thus his naming after his famous cousin.
Growing up on a vast cattle ranch outside of Weatherford Texas, Salvatore wanted one thing; to be a singing cowboy, like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and maybe Tex Ritter.
All-day, every day, from the time he could sit a saddle, Salvatore sat on his shetland pony, “Giblet,” playing a plastic ukulele while singing “Home On The Range” and “Oh Susana.” This behavior went on for years, and his parents finally gave up on the little savant, letting him ride the range singing his two-song songbook to the cattle and the critters. At times, his parents forgot to call him in for supper, or when it rained, and little Salvatore would make camp with the doggies, showing up a few days later as if nothing strange had happened.
When Salvatore turned 17, he began going by his family name of Sargent. It made him feel dignified and a little important. He and a few boys from school formed a little guitar and fiddle band and began playing around Parker County. Chicken fights, church fundraisers, and intermission at the Cowtown Drive Inn were about the only gigs they could get. They knew four songs and were hard to listen to. They called themselves ” The Parker Valley Ranch Boys.” They met Buddy Holley once and asked for his advice. He told them to stay the hell away from him and his Crickets and to get a real job.
The band didn’t work out, so Sargent decided he would try being a Beatnik. It didn’t take talent or an education, both of which he had none of, so he figured he could make it work.
He opened the first Beatnik-type coffee house in Fort Worth near the Majestic Theater. He gave the guitar and fiddle band one more shot but it didn’t fit the atmosphere. He had another idea that would work. Why even have music! Just have a few guys playing bongo drums while people speak or recite poetry. How cool is that? No messy music or instruments, just the gentle beat of the soothing bongo to accentuate the moment.
The picture above is the first incarnation of “Sargent Yorks Lovely Beatnik Bongo Band,” onstage at The Hip Hereford. Sargent York, the band leader, is the dude in the middle wearing the striped shirt.
Word got out about how cool and hip the place was, and soon every performer around wanted to be seen there. Elvis Presley was at Fort Hood serving his time in the Army, so he would come up on Saturday nights and sing a few tunes. Jack Ruby ( yes, that one ) would bring Candy Barr, the famous stripper to do her show, and Lyndon B.Johnson and Lady Bird would stop by to shake a few hands and recite the latest bill he was introducing in the senate. Lady Bird would give gardening advice. Brother Dave Gardner, the famous comedian made a few appearances, as did Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Phylis Diller, Jonny Carson, Alvin, and The Chipmunks, Soupy Sales, and Rabbi Schmolie and his singing dog, Moses.
The place rocked on for another year, then when interest waned, Sargent closed the doors and went to Greenwich Village to become a folk singer.
The rumor that floated around for years, even into the mid-60s, was that some English musician was vacationing in Texas and caught a few acts at the Hip Hereford. He dug the name of the house bongo band and later passed it along to some of his blokes over on Abbey Road. Who knows, it could have happened?
My late fathers’ late Aunt Bee, and her late sister, Hunny, had the most unique beauty parlor in town. Happy Texas was, and still is, not known as anything but a place you wind up if you get lost. In the 1950s, it was so small it wasn’t shown on road maps, so most of Texas didn’t know the hamlet existed. The one gas station in town always had a father behind the wheel of a station wagon full of screaming kids and barking dogs, asking directions to anywhere but there. Any wrong turn within twenty miles always put you smack in the middle of Happy.
In the 1970s, some oilman from Lubbock started himself a bank there. The Happy Texas State Bank was born so the caddie driving cowboy could embezzle from himself instead of the big banks. The feds couldn’t pop him because he always managed to pay back the money before they moved in to arrest him. Then in the 1980s, a bunch of Hollywood boys came to town and made a movie. All the citizens were used as extras. Aunt Bee and Hunny found themselves genuine movie stars. Their beauty shop was used in many of the scenes.
The movie was about a little cowboy kid that lived on a cattle ranch with his grandparents after his Daddy Jake got stomped by a bull, and his Mama ran off with his Daddy’s brother. Little cowboy Gabby also got kicked in the head by a mean Shetland pony and was a real slow after that, so his Granny had her ranch dog, trained as a service animal to watch after her addled grandson so he wouldn’t wander off onto the prairie and get eaten by Coyotes or Dingos.
The dog that was hired to be in the movie was a relative of the famous, Lassie but developed a prima-donna attitude and wouldn’t do anything but chase chickens and bite the movie boys. They were in a spot and needed a four-legged actor pronto.
Hunny Bee happened to have a cattle dog named Lester Munroe the II, which was a female. Being the only dog in town that was trained, Lester was hired to replace the star. Unfortunately, the movie script called for a male dog, so the poor canine had to wear a prosthetic penis and gonads, which didn’t jee-haw with Lester Munroe the II.
Lester had to spend two hours every morning in make-up and then was sedated so the movie vet could apply the prosthesis, turning Lester Munroe the II into a boy dog.
After a few weeks of filming, Lester started hiking her leg to pee and commenced humping the actor’s legs. The pooch was a nervous wreck.
Finally, Hunny Bee took poor Lester to her beauty shop and gave her a set and curl, one of the dogs’ favorite things, but nothing helped; the dog had gone through the change. The vet decided to leave the prosthesis on Lester because it wasn’t worth getting bit trying to remove it. He said it would eventually fall off.
After the movie crew left town, Lester Munroe the II pranced around town for a few days like she owned the place; he/she was the big dog in town. Then one day, it rained, the prosthetic gonads fell off, and the fake penis followed. After that, Lester Munroe the II got moody and depressed and real squirrelly, so the town vet had to give her Valium, Xanex, and some hormones to help her out. The picture above is after Lester Munroe the II started going back to the beauty shop for her weekly curl and set.
After spending two hours rummaging through a vacant lot along Morningside Drive, I’m dragging my rusted and barely operable Western Auto wagon full of discarded soda pop bottles home for counting. Redeemable for 2 cents each, the glass containers will yield the change I need for a few Moon Pie’s and perhaps an RC Cola, readily available at our neighborhood grocer.
Unfortunately, money for me is scarce. When I asked for a dime or even a few pennies, my parent’s stock answer was, “money? kids don’t need money. What in the world will you do with money? Go out and play.” As a result, I am habitually broke and maybe the only kid I know with an empty piggy bank and lint-filled pockets.
Three houses away from home, a stout man in white tee-shirt plants himself in front of my wagon, blocking the sidewalk and my path home. He is not a large man, and his manner is more friendly than intimidating.
I’ve seen him a few times before, mowing his grass, trimming a bush, or sweeping the sidewalk in front of his tidy home, which happens to be the envy of our block.
A black Buick sits in his driveway. A banker or a young doctor’s car if they can’t afford the required Caddie. Professional folks drive Buicks; the rest of the peons must drive Fords or Chevrolets, or in the worst case, a Plymouth or Studabaker. My family owns a Chevy and my grandfather a Plymouth. One of my cousins drives a Corvette with factory air conditioning, but he is single and spends money like a sailor on shore leave.
The man extends his arm with a large hand attached. I lack proper adult protocol and stare at his appendage like a moron. It takes a moment to realize his intention, and then I reluctantly put my small hand in his. We shake hands, and he introduces himself.
Milo Cohen is the first adult male to shake my hand.
Unfortunately, my father or grandfather hasn’t found the time to educate me on the social requirements of impending manhood, so I am young and culturally ignorant. Until this time, my contact with the adult world has been limited to a few of my parent’s friends, my baseball coach, teachers, and relatives who view me as a noisy nuisance to be constantly reprimanded. At that moment, I grow up a little.
Mr. Cohen makes pleasant talk about the neighborhood. He and Mrs. Cohen have lived here for the past 8 years since they came to Texas from the old country. He speaks with an accent I’ve not heard, so I imagine he is not from Texas.
My collection of throw-away bottles catches his attention. I tell him it’s my way of making a bit of change for Saturday movies or a Moon Pie. He nods as if he understands my predicament, then excuses himself and walks to his garage, returning with a wheelbarrow full of empty soda pop bottles. There must be a hundred bottles stacked in rows upon rows. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Grapette, RC Cola, and Frosty root beer; all the best brands. Mr. Cohen says he has been saving them for years, and I could make better use of them. He graciously gifts me his collection of classic bottles.
Dumbfounded and grateful, I struggle to find my voice and finally manage to spit out a squeaky “thank you.” He accepts my awkward attempt, and we are immediate friends for life.
The following Saturday, I notice Mr. Cohen trimming the bushes in front of his house. I walk down for a visit, assuming that we are now friends and I can come onto his property uninvited to pester him. Instead, he welcomes my presence and appears to enjoy my childish questions. ” Why do you cut some of the roses off and leave the others?” I ask.
He explains, ” I cut the spent and almost spent blooms off to make room for the new ones. Always break apart the old blooms and throw the spent petals onto the ground because they become fertilizer for the plant.” This bantering about pruning goes on for a while, then we are on to other botanical mysteries. For example, I had no idea that the angle a stem is pruned reflects rainwater and deters rot, and cut correctly, it will coax the branch to grow in a specific direction. Finally, he asked me if I would care to learn more about plants? I accept his offer. Lifes education comes in different forms, at the most unusual times.
Mr. Cohen’s landscape is a picturesque postcard of beauty, and not by accident. His story is, as a boy, back in the old country, he learned the care of plants and all things botanical from his mother and father. But, unfortunately, he doesn’t say where the old country might be, and I am too polite to inquire.
My Saturdays and some Sunday afternoons find me at Mr. Cohens, assisting him with his gardening. But, unfortunately, I feel that I am more a hindrance than a botanical apprentice.
After a few weeks of instruction, he gives me an older pair of rusted pruning shears, warning that they are sharp and will lop off my finger if not used properly. Under his guidance, I prune my first bush, an Autumn Rose Salvia that has become unruly and obstinate. An hour goes by, and I finish the task. Mr. Cohen tells me it’s one of the better pruning jobs he has seen in a while. I know it’s a little better than a hot mess, but I smile like a drooling fool. “Next week,” he says, ” we will tackle a pithy Pitisporum.” He assigns human traits to his plants. Odd, but I like it.
A week before Halloween, my grandfather passes away. It was expected to happen sooner than later. Mustard Gas from the first world war is the likely reason for his cancer, says the doctor at the VA Hospital. No cure; his days were numbered from the moment he inhaled the gas. The trenches of France offered no retreat.
It’s my first funeral, and I don’t know how to grieve as expected. My grandmother and relatives are professionals; they should be paid for their performance, wailing and thrashing about sporting contorted faces for days. I feel the loss of his presence, but I can’t find a tear to shed.
Mr. Cohen, with my assistance, plants a Gardenia bush in our front yard in memory of grandfather. Then, Mrs. Cohen delivers a large basket of comfort food and a bottle of wine to our household. She tells me it’s what is done in the old country. Food for the comfort of the soul and wine for soothing the spirit. Her accent echos Mr. Cohens. She is a kind lady with sad brown eyes and unruly hair.
While digging the hole for the Gardenia bush, I notice a series of crude black numbers on the inside of Mr. Cohens’ left forearm. I’ve seen him with dirt to his elbows and never noticed the numbers before. It looks to be a tattoo. So, I ask him what they mean. He pauses for a moment, then says, ” those numbers are my phone number, so in case I am run down by a bus, the authorities will know to call Mrs. Cohen.” Makes perfect sense to me; everyone should be so considerate.
A few days later, I mentioned Mr. Cohens’ tattoo and his explanation to my father. He laughs, then takes a moment and sits with me on the back porch steps, something he rarely does.
“Mr. Cohen,” he says,” is, from what I hear around the neighborhood, is of the Jewish faith. Before, and during the war, the one that I fought in, the Nazi’s incarcirated many millions of men, women and children in camps across Europe. They were treated horribly. Most died, but a few managed to survive and come to America to start a new life. I believe the tattoo on his arm might be his identification number. It will always be with him as a reminder.”
I know nothing of the Jewish faith, or the Nazi’s or of camps. But, public schooling is teaching us about the Alamo and the Revolutionary War and not much of recent history. Now, I know just enough to embarrass myself, so I pledge not to question Mr. Cohen further. I am sad to know my friend endured that treatment. The adult world is a cruel one. I wonder if there is a way I can remain at this age forever?
Thanksgiving arrives with bitter cold and sleet. The trees drop what leaves remain, and Mr. Cohens’ landscape, within a few days, turns from green to hues of gold and brown. Winter is early this year, and my botanical apprenticeship is paused until next spring. He gives me a binder of handwritten gardening instructions to study. His book is much more challenging than any from school. I vow to be ready when March arrives.
Ten days before Christmas, and I have not seen Mr. Cohen. His car has not moved from its usual spot in his driveway. At night, there is one light burning in the kitchen. The rest of the house is dark and lonely.
One afternoon, after school, I knocked on their door. Mr. Cohen answers but doesn’t invite me inside, although it is bitter cold. He says Mrs. Cohen is ill and needs her rest. I ask if there are any chores I can help with? He says that removing the remaining leaves and hauling them to the backyard compost pile would be a great help. He pays me a new quarter, knowing I am suitable for the work. I notice his eyes are rimmed with dark blue circles, and the pallor of his skin reminds me of my grandfather’s last days.
Christmas Eve arrives, and there are snow flurries in the air. Father stands on our front porch, smoking a cigarette and checking the weather. He finds a small wrapped package leaning against the front door jamb. It’s for me.
The Cohens gift me a shiny pair of pruning shears and leather yard gloves. I feel bad because I slipped a rather childish Christmas card that I made into their mailbox, being all I could afford. Crayons and construction paper only go so far. It’s the thought that counts from what I am told. I need more soda pop bottles.
New Year passes, and I have still not seen Mr. Cohen. School is back in session, and I am distracted with my studies and homework. But, then, my mother tells me there was an obituary in the newspaper for Mrs. Cohen, and her funeral service was a few days ago. Why did I not know this? I am crushed.
I take my pruning shears and gloves and retreat to the front porch steps. It’s a bitter day, and my jeans do little to protect my rear from the cold concrete. But I am already numb, so it doesn’t matter.
The tears that couldn’t be found for my grandfather now flow for Mrs. Cohen and then for other things as well.
I cry for my sweet dog that my parents gave away when we moved without telling me. I call for my dead puppy. I yearn for my old neighborhood, and my friends and home that was taken from me without explanation, and because my parents planted me in this hell hole of a neighborhood. I cry angry tears for my treatment from the snotty rich kids at my new school that called me white trash because I have patches on my jeans and an old winter coat. It all comes out at once. Finally, my final tears flow for my friend Mr. Cohen, who I know is suffering from a broken heart, and there is nothing I can do to help him.
At the end of February, I visit Mr. Cohen. He asks if I have studied my notebook and am I ready for spring gardening? Of course, I reply yes on all counts. It’s good to have him back, and I am happy to resume my newfound craft.
The weather is still cold, but there are woody shrubs to prune, flower beds to turn, mulch and compost to spread, bulbs to plant, it’s an overwhelming task, but I enjoy every minute. My mentor notices my happiness, and in return, it makes him proud. He is back to his old self as much as he can be. March is a week away, and spring will not wait for dawdlers. Green blades of grass are poking up through his brown lawn; we had best hurry up.
April comes, and spring explodes. Mr. Cohen’s landscape, with my help, will have an award-winning year if he chooses to seek recognition from the Botanical Society of Fort Worth; but, he is a shy man and doesn’t require accolades for his passion and craft. So, I, too, now share that passion.
In June, my parents announced that we were again moving. This time to Wichita Falls, Texas, not quite the end of the world, but almost halfway there. My father is starting a new career building homes and will no longer be a professional musician. Once again, within a few years, my life will be uprooted and thrown to the wind. I have no say, so I offer no resistance. It will be good to be away from that hateful school and this part of Fort Worth. I spend as much time with Mr. Cohen as possible, helping him with chores and tending his landscape before we leave.
Moving day arrives, the truck is loaded, the doors locked, and we follow the moving truck out of town. I said goodbye to Mr. Cohen that morning. He gives me additional pages for my notebook, his address if I find time to drop him a line, and his phone number if I ever get in a jamb. We shake hands, and I am gone.
A decade passes in what seems like a matter of months. I have graduated high school and live in Plano, Texas. My father is a successful home builder, and those miserable days in Fort Worth seem a lifetime back. For some reason, there is a family gathering in Fort Worth, and I take my own car, so I might leave early and visit Mr. Cohen. There were a few Christmas cards over the years, and then correspondence dwindled. I got older, and so did he.
When I pull up in front of his home, I instantly know Mr. Cohen doesn’t live here. In the driveway are a Volkswagen Bug and a station wagon. No black Buick. The landscape still looks cared for but is many steps below Mr. Cohens’ standards. The trim of the house is a different color. The large Sycamore tree in the yard is gone. But, it was bound to happen.
A woman answers the door. She looks to be in her early thirties; I hear children from somewhere in the house. Her husband joins her. I introduce myself, explaining that I lived a few houses down for four years and was a good friend of Mr. Cohen, the original owner. The couple has lived in the house for five years and purchased it from Mr. Cohen’s estate. That explains the cease in correspondence. Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen is no longer alive.
The woman leaves and returns with a binder full of notes. A book much like the one I have. It seems Mr. Cohen left specific written instructions, with notes, letters, and sketches, for whoever buys his home. The new owners will care for the landscape for a minimum of five years, following his instructions in the book to the letter. The man says my name is mentioned many times in the book and that I was Mr. Cohens’ only apprentice. I felt they were fishing for a compliment, so I stretched the truth a bit and said, ” the landscape looks beautiful; I’m sure Mr. Cohen would approve.” It was a little more than a hot mess. The both of them smiled like drooling fools.
I am a Beatles fan from the night I saw them on Ed Sullivan back in February of 1964. I bought all of their albums, and when I played in a rock band starting in 1965, I played their music with a vengeance. Loud amplifiers and crunching electric guitars, that’s what the lads inspired us to do. They also taught me that there are more than three guitar chords as well as diminished and augmented ones to boot. The poor Beach Boys never figured that out until Brian Wilson wrote and engineered Pet Sounds. The boys from Liverpool gave them a lesson or two.
I watched the trailer for the upcoming Beatles documentary by Peter Jackson a few nights ago. “Let It Be” is and will be a huge hit and seen by millions if not more. Beautiful cinematography and soundtrack make this the best rock music movie ever made. Hats off to Peter for his effort and talent.
The Beatles, as a band, hasn’t played a lick together since 1970, and then it was an unpleasant experience from what I have read. The movie gives us a glimpse of their shared acrimony, but we will never know the sordid details, nor should we.
Recently, Sir Paul, the fossilized bass player said it was John that killed the band, not he. I can see that being true, but at this point, there are not many who still care who’s fault it was, or is. John and his muse, Yoko, or was it the other way around? drove a stone wedge into the heart of the lad’s kindred spirits ending the greatest musical act ever known to humans of my generation and perhaps a few after.
Paul also said a few days ago that the Rolling Stones were basically a blues cover band. Well, that is true, that is what they were and still are. Their music pales to the catalog of the Beatles. It’s almost amateurish in comparison, and if you have seen the Stones live in the last 10 years, you wonder who keeps digging up their graves and reanimating them, although Charlie Watts checked out with some class the others will never have. And that is what brings me to this next observation.
The Beatles had their time in history and used it well. Their legacy and music will be around for centuries in one form or another, the two remaining members will not. Ringo Starr has throttled it back and enjoys being in his late 70s, playing a gig here and there, and enjoying what few years he has left. Paul McCartney, the cute one, the mop-top lovable narcissist can’t seem to let it go. Once the “old man” voice sets in, then it’s curtains. Paul has it bad. Time to pay the valet and get the hell home, drink your Ovaltine, and hit the sack. It’s a bit embarrassing to see an old geezer jumping around on stage flicking his hair about like he is 20 years old. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Mick the Jagger does, but only a bit better, and he is more agile and thinner because he hasn’t eaten a cheeseburger in 50 years and lives on good booze, spring water, and replacement organs.
I find as the years have slipped by, I am less a Beatles fan than I was in the 80s, 90s, or even the early 2000s. I still have all the albums, but rarely spin them. I guess one could say I suffer from Beatles fatigue, or misplaced envy, or even old age, of which I am, at 72. One thing good is that I am still a musician and singer, and can play most of their tunes if I wished to. The trouble is, I don’t wish to now. I’m not hating on the boys, and I hope Peter Jackson makes a zillion bucks with his film, and it wins an Oscar or some trophy.
I am only suggesting that maybe after 57 years, maybe the Beatles should just say goodnight, and Let It Be.
Pictured above is the first graduating class of the “Taliban School For The Perfoming Arts and Martyrdom,” founded in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Biden administration is financing their graduation trip to the United States to create goodwill and harmony.
Maya Sharona, Middle East correspondent for National Public Radio, caught up with the group as they boarded the first US evacuation flight out of Kabul.
Paul- Ah’ Abdula, a spokesman for the class, said, ” we are all pleased about coming to America; we have seen the film many times. We are supposed to have a luncheon with Mr. Eddie Murphy and tour the movie studios. “
” Where do you see yourself in a week after you have had time to adjust to America?” asked Ms. Sharona.
Mr. Abdula replied, ” oh we will definitely be blown up and dead and will be humping our virgins in Heaven with our other martyrs. Oh yes, I almost forgot; death to America you infidel whore.”
Before Ms. Sharona could field another question, a department of Justice attache’ ushered the group onto the plane, telling them, ” calm down, boys, there will be plenty of time for this stuff when you get to Los Angeles.”
I can never remember a time when Ovaltine was not in our kitchen. When I turned five years old, my father introduced me to the heavenly malted milk powder. He had been and still was a fan of the drink that “built a better kid.” It wasn’t my Mother’s slow brew hot chocolate, but better. If Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight endorsed it, that was good enough for my buddies and me. We were addicted to the stuff.
My father gave me his childhood Orphan Annie decoder pin since I was the firstborn son and the heir apparent to such collectibles. The radio show was long gone, so the pin was useless for spying, but I kept it in a goody box under my bed, just in case.
Cold winter nights usually included a mug of hot Ovaltine from the home galley right before hitting the sack. My sister and I couldn’t sleep without our steaming cup of Motherly love. The brew was almost always accompanied by a few cookies to quiet the midnight hunger pangs and keep the nightmares at bay. Ovaltine was considered its own food group; right up there with Eggs, Dairy, Kool-aid, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Sometime between 10 and 12 years old, my beloved Ovaltine vanished from our pantry shelf. It was an abrupt exit. I was heartbroken. I pleaded with Mother to bring my Ovaltine back; I was in withdrawal. But, unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf Mother’s ears. Her mind was made.
Nestles Quik was the new drink on the block. ” Deliciously smooth and chocolatey when mixed with cold milk, and it builds strong bones and fortitude,” said my Mother. Unfortunately, it was crap; a brown powder full of additives and fillers resembling warm chocolate spit when heated in a pan. It wasn’t Ovaltine.
The new product was all over the television shows on Saturday morning. The Nestle Quik cartoon rabbit zipped around the television screen like a manic Bugs Bunny, touting the health benefits of Quik. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody were pushing it, and Roy Rogers was gulping it down as he chased the bad guys. But, of course, the good Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans still drank Ovaltine, so all was not lost quite yet.
Decades go by, Ovaltine is replaced with boutique chocolate kinds of milk from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Sleeping meds are the norm. Insomnia is a national pastime. Unfortunately, I am a member of that pitiful sport.
A few months ago, I was shopping at my local H.E.B. grocery store. Ambling up one aisle then down another, list in hand, checking it twice and all that, it’s my typical weekly shopping trip. I coughed and dropped the list. Then, bending over to retrieve it, I came eye to eye with a jar of Ovaltine, sitting there next to the Nestle Quik and Bosco syrup. I hadn’t thought of Ovaltine in forty years. I grabbed a jar and threw it in my buggy, then, just for good measure, I grabbed two more jars, just in case. I never cared for Boscoe, but since Sienfield made it famous again, what the hell; I grabbed a jar of it also, just in case.
I called Mooch and told him that the world was good today; Ovaltine is back. He asked me to grab him a couple of jars, just in case.
It’s well past midnight, and I am sitting here writing on my laptop; I am finishing my second mug of hot Ovaltine before heading off to bed. It’s good to have my cup of Motherly love once again. I may enjoy a third cup, just in case.
“Do not forsake me, oh my Darlin,” on this our wedding day,” who didn’t know the first verse of that song from the radio? A massive hit from the 1952 movie “High Noon,” performed by everybody’s favorite singing cowboy, Tex Ritter.
In 1957, I was eight years old, and on some Saturday nights, I got to tag along with my father to the “Cowtown Hoedown,” a popular live country music show performed at the Majestic Theater in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. My father was the fiddle player in the house stage band, so I was somewhat musical royalty, at least for a kid.
Most of the major and minor country stars played Fort Worth and Dallas as much as they did Nashville, and I was fortunate to have seen many of them at this show. One, in particular, made a lasting impression on my young self.
I was sitting on a stool backstage before the show, talking to a few kids; who, like me, got to attend the show with their fathers.
My father came over and asked me to follow him. We walked behind the back curtain and stopped at a stage-level dressing room. There in the doorway stood a big fellow in a sequined cowboy suit and a 30 gallon Stetson. I knew who he was; that is Tex Ritter, the movie star and cowboy singer. My father introduced me, and I shook hands with Tex. I was floored, shocked, and couldn’t speak for a few minutes. What kid gets to meet a singing cowboy movie star in Fort Worth, Texas? I guess that would be me.
Tex asked my name and then told me he had a son the same age as me. We talked baseball and cowboy movies for a bit, then he handed me a one-dollar bill and asked if I would go to the concession stand and buy him a package of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. So I took the buck and took off down the service hallway to the front of the theater. I knew all the shortcuts and hidey holes from my vast exploration of the old theater during the shows.
I knew nothing of the brands and flavors, not being a gum chewer, but the words Juicy Fruit made my mouth water. Not having much money, what change I did get from selling pop bottles went to Bubble Gum Baseball Cards, not fancy chewing gums.
I purchased the pack of gum for five cents. Then, gripping the change tightly in my sweating little hand, I skedaddled back to Tex’s dressing room. He was signing autographs but stopped and thanked me for the favor. He then gave me two quarters for my services and disappeared into his dressing room for a moment. He handed me an autographed 8×10 photograph of him playing the guitar and singing to the doggies when he returned. I was in country and western music heaven. He also gave me a piece of Juicy Fruit, which I popped into my mouth and began chewing, just like Tex.
Juicy Fruit became my favorite gum, and now, whenever I see a pack or smell that distinct aroma as someone is unwrapping a piece, I remember the night I shared a chew with Tex Ritter.
I resumed Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy today; not by choice, mind you, but of necessity. The necessity part of it is; do it, get healed, or lose my bladder and pee in a zip lock bag until I check out.
Well, no-shit, that’s a hell of a choice. So I allow myself to be encapsulated in a large Iron Lung looking diving bell, taken down to 3 atmospheres while breathing pure oxygen for two hours. If I had to pee during that time, the tech gave me a little plastic urinal; not much help.
Just to be a smart ass, I ask the nurse if this machine is approved by Lloyd Bridges. She gives me a puzzled look. “You know, Sea Hunt, the television show about the diver?” I say. No laughing, she’s all business; and much too young.
This will be my life for two months, five days a week, two hours a day. I tell the nurses that I am so excited to be back. I have already been through six weeks of this a few months back.
In 2019, I was diagnosed with a whopping case of prostate cancer. Ok, if any old man lives long enough, they are likely to develop a case of it. Mine was terrible, but the good doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said they could save the sickly gland and me with a radically new form of treatment. SBRT High Dose Radiation, the latest thing out there, and only they had the machine and the know-how. I was in like Flint.
For a month before the zapping, I was stuck with large needles, drained of my blood, prodded, poked, had things inserted into my body that was far too large for the opening, and radiated via MRI and other expensive machines of which my insurance would pay for. I was begging like a hound to get it over with.
After all of that, I had no modesty left. A cute 25-year-old nurse tells me she wants to stick this evil-looking object in my what? Yeah, go ahead, what the hell. Of course, she is smiling the entire time. The little sadist in scrubs. I whine to my wife about my brutal treatment. She’s a nurse, one of them, so no pity from her.
The big day arrives. Five treatments of intense radiation over 5 weeks. The specialized nurses tell me this is the “good stuff,” the same type of secret Plutonium 54 that Oppenheimer used to develop the bomb. I am impressed but also scared shitless. I remember what happened to Nagasaki.
Strapped onto a padded bed similar to Frankenstein’s laboratory, heavy metal bars hold me down, and my head is immobilized. More needles and tubes inserted, and then, the giant machine is whirling around me like an H.G. Wells time machine. I see the nurses standing behind a radiation-proof glass booth smiling and waving. They seem to be drinking coffee and eating Crispy Creme Doughnuts. Damn. I feel a burning sensation through my body. I’m humming like a top and see colored lights before my eyes. The radiation is doing its thing. Country music is playing from somewhere in the room. I see the ghost of Hank Williams standing at the end of the machine. He’s eating a doughnut and washing it down with Jack Daniels.
Four more treatments, and I am done. My Oncologist says I am healed; a miracle it is. The nurses give me a certificate and a hug, then I am out the door. See you in a year, they say.
Less than two years later, I am pissing blood like a vampire and am a hurting unit. My urologist says, ” didn’t they tell you that that SBRT sometimes fries your innards?” Well, hell no, they didn’t tell me that! Doc Finger tells me that It did a number on my bladder, the surviving prostate gland, and my Urethra Franklin, all as crispy as Waffle House bacon.
So, I am back for more Hyperbaric treatments, and I am praying that these next two months will fix the problem. More later.
I was told not to go near the railroad tracks or the bridge that went over them; Ho-bo’s lived there. My Grandmother warned me daily of the consequences, and they were all bad. Scary men, vagrants with no home and no family, they were just there, alone, living their life as best they could. I was seven years old and unafraid.
The dirt road along the tracks took me past Mrs. Ellis’s shack of a home. She didn’t live much better than the Ho-bo’s, but she had a home, a warm dry bed, chickens, and a dog, so she was poor but stable. She waved as I walked by, then as I got a few yards past, she took off to my Grandmothers farmhouse to tattle on me. I knew I was in trouble even before I got to the bridge. I considered turning back, but no, I needed to see this through.
As I got closer to the bridge, I could see there was a lone figure sitting on a bucket next to a campfire. I was puzzled because Granny always said there were dozens of those evil men under the bridge. Now, there was only one, and he appeared to be old and not much of a threat, sitting on his bucket cooking a can of something in the campfire. I approached him but with caution and a bit of fear. The Ho-bo waved me over. He was an old black man with hair as white as south Texas cotton. His clothes, mostly rags, hung on his frail frame; he resembled the scarecrow in my Papa’s garden. Next to him was a Calico cat, curled up in an old felt hat, purring and licking its paw. In the fire was a can of pork and beans cooking on a flat rock and bubbling like a witch’s brew. I sat crossed-legged on the dirt next to him.
” Does your Granny know you are here?” he asked.
” No sir, she don’t know, and I’m in a heap of trouble.” said I.
He smiled at me and said, ” It’ll all be good, your Granny knows old Bebe. I used to do odd jobs for her and your Papa and she paid me good and always fed me her heavenly biscuits and gravey. She is a wonderful lady, your Granny.” I couldn’t disagree with that, so I smiled back.
He took a worn-out spoon, heaped a large serving of beans into a dirty tin cup, and handed me the food. I was hungry. We ate our dinner together without talking. He gave the cat a spoonful of his beans. It was then that I noticed he had given me most of the can, and left little for himself. This old Ho-bo living under a bridge with hardly any food and nothing of value to his name, except maybe the Calico cat, shared with a stranger, possibly his one meal of the day. In the mind of a seven-year-old, this seemed normal.
Bebe told me a little about his life and how he came to be a Ho-bo. I shared what little of life experience I had accumulated up until now. We laughed a little, and then he said I had better head back to the farm. We shook hands; I scratched the cat and walked down the road towards a switching I knew was coming.
My Granny took my explanation well. There was no switching my butt this time and no dressing down. As I walked through the screen door headed for the barnyard, she said “sometimes the folks that have the least, share the most, remember that.” I have.
I’m a 50s kid. That means I was born in 1949 at Saint Josephs Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the lean and mean Eisenhower years. My hometown was different back then, as most of our hometowns are today. But, change is inevitable, and it happens at the oddest times; while we sleep or mow our lawn. Progress is sneaky.
First, it’s a few new buildings downtown, then a slick freeway cutting through quiet neighborhoods, and maybe a landmark building demolished to make way for a new hospital. Then, out of nowhere, a train full of people from the West or the East is arriving, and the pilgrims try to make it “not so Texas.” It’s a gradual thing, and most of us are too occupied or young to notice until it bites us in the rear.
My grandfather was old-school Fort Worth from the late 1800s, a cow-puncher who rode the cattle drives and sang cowboy songs to the little doggies. He loved his city to a fault. The word “Dallas” was not to be spoken in his home or his presence. Violaters usually got punched or asked to leave. The old man was a tough Texan and a supporter of Amon Carter, the larger-than-life businessman that put Fort Worth on the map and started the rivalry between the two cities.
In the 1950s, if you asked Fort Worth residents what they thought of Dallas, they would most likely tell you it’s a high-on-the-hog-East coast-wanna be-big-shot rich-bitch city. We didn’t sugarcoat it. That rivalry was always just under the surface.
In October, Dallas has the “State Fair of Texas,” and Fort Worth has the “Fat Stock Show” in February. I didn’t attend the State Fair until I was ten years old, and even then, it was in disguise, and after dark, it was to the fair and then back home, hoping no one in our neighborhood noticed we had crossed enemy lines. Unfortunately, I let my secret visit slip around my buddies, and they banned me from playing cowboys and Indians for a week. Even us kids were tough on each other.
Three things got us kids excited; Christmastime in downtown Fort Worth, Toyland at Leonard Brothers Department Store, and The Fat Stock Show. But, unfortunately for us, the rest of the year was uneventful and boring. Summer was pickup baseball games and Popeye cartoons.
60 years ago, the winters in Texas were colder and more miserable. February was the month we froze our little gimlet asses off, and of course, that is the Stock Show month. Wrapped up in our Roy Rogers flannel pajamas and all the clothes we owned, we kids made the best of it as we visited the midway, the cattle barns, and animal competitions. The rodeo was for the real cowboys, and it was too expensive; the free ticket from our grade school only went so far. We were kids and had not a penny to our name. It wasn’t the flashy affair that Dallas put on, but it was ours, and we loved it. I still have a round metal pin I got at the Stock Show, a lovely picture of Aunt Jemimah promoting her flour, something that would get me canceled, or worse today. I’ve often thought of wearing it to the grocery store to see the reaction. Maybe not.
For those of us who were born and grew up there, Fort Worth, Texas, is where the west begins, and Dallas is where the East peters out. Nothing has changed.
The “Dillo-Cong” is on the run. I strafed the yard with a mixture of water, dish soap, and Cayenne Pepper. It wasn’t Napalm, but it appears to have worked, and I didn’t torch the whole neighborhood.
In the process, I damn near ruined my respiratory and sensory systems. I can no longer smell or taste food or drink; everything tastes like Cayenne Pepper. My Oatmeal is chemical mush, and to top it all off, my Irish Whiskey has no taste whatsoever. I’ve ruined my body attempting to rid my property of a pestilent placental mammal. For what? To save my lawn and a few landscape plants? Well, hell yes! I worked hard installing that grass and plants, and I will not allow that little digging shit to defoliate my landscape.
If the pepper spray fails, then I will try plan B. It’s widely known in Texas, that Armadilloes enjoy a beer and a toke once in a while. We can thank the cowboy-hippies down in Austin for turning the critter into a lush and a weed addict. I will put a few cold bottles of Lone Star around the yard and once he is inebriated, I will transport him to a new locale. Beats shooting the little beast.
‘Associated Press reports, “Taliban terrorists have been photographed enjoying fairground rides with AK-47 and M4 assault rifles cradled in their arms while the rest of the country deals with the social strictures imposed by the newly declared Afghanistan Islamic Emirate.“
After a few weeks of murdering women and children and hanging other poor Afghans from lamp posts and cranes, these poor over-worked terrorists need some real relaxation and downtime.
“Six Flags Over Afghanistan” opened its doors to a capacity crowd, mainly Taliban, IsIs, and other murdering demons from Hell.
Mohamud Mohamud, the first visitor in line, said, ” I’ve always wanted to visit the American amusement parks, but this is much better; here I can carry my rifle.” It was reported that dozens of terrorists were shot during disputes for cutting in line at the most popular rides. No women were permitted to visit the park.
General Manager of the park, Allah Opensesame, said that the park was paid for by our new best friend, Joe Biden. His good friend Nancy Pelosi arranged for private donations to be flown to the airport in the middle of the night. He also hinted that they are designing new water and skateboard parks and plans to send a skateboard team to the next Olympic Games.