Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall tales from Texas about characters I know and have known. Who knows, you might be one of them.

Archive for the month “October, 2018”

Faster than a speeding…


Surfing Netflix and Amazon Prime a few nights ago, I was surprised how many movies feature superheroes. Sure, the two originals are there, Superman and Batman, but then there are at least a dozen others. Did I sleep through some cultural entertainment shift?

The original Superman television series premiered in 1952, and by 1953-54 every kid in my neighborhood pretended to fly while fighting for truth-justice-and the American way. The girls wanted to be Super Girls, but the boys wouldn’t allow it. Superman was a man’s man, so they had to settle for Lois Lane.

The family that possessed the largest television screen was the meeting point where the gang gathered to watch our hero. My Father purchased the largest black and white television available, 15 inches, so our den was the destination.

There he stood in his padded super suit, cape flapping in the wind, a steely look on his all-American face. What a man! Only years later did we notice the slight paunch, the double chin, and the bad teeth.

At Leonard Brothers department store in Fort Worth, you could purchase a genuine Superman cape for $4.00 or for $20.00, a kid could have the full suit, which included blue stretch top and tights, a red speedo, and super boots. The kids in our neighborhood couldn’t afford the suit, so they settled for whatever fabric they could find for a cape.

I was the lucky one. My Aunt Norma, a seamstress extraordinaire made me a custom fit Superman suit. It was a beauty; dark blue stretchy top with little super muscles sewn in, blue tights with a red swimsuit, gold fabric covers to over my PF Flyer tennis shoes and the bright red cape with the super “S.” I was in super heaven and the envy of all my pals. We immediately planned a flying demonstration, and I was the vehicle. Our home, the only two-story house on the block was the designated launch point.

After gathering in my den for our afternoon viewing of Superman, the gang rushed to our backyard, awaiting the flight. I sneaked upstairs, squeezed into my super suit and slipped through a window onto the roof.

The usual gang of six had suddenly swelled to thirty or so kids of all ages. “How can I fly in front of strangers? What if the suit doesn’t work?” I was getting a severe case of “cold feet.”

The roof grew higher with every breath as I inched my way to the peak. Looking down to the yard, it may as well be the grand canyon. I was shaking like a wet dog, and a dribble of pee leaked down my leg. A kid in the crowd yelled, ” What’s wrong kid…chicken.” That did it. I was by-golly flying today.

I crossed myself and ran down the slope of the roof. A millisecond before launch, my Mother yells from the window, “don’t you dare do that.” It was too late. My six-year-old super legs launched me into thin air. I hear theme music, feel the air under my cape and below, my pals, a look of wonderment on their faces, cheer me on to super glory.

Instead of gaining height and accelerating to supersonic speed, I made it twenty feet or so then dropped straight down, landing in the midst of the admiring crowd. Our thick lawn saved me from certain paralysis.

My Mother was on me like a duck on a Junebug. Jerking me up by my super cape, she proceeds to whip my little butt with a flyswatter; the only weapon she could find. I was mortified; young Superman receiving a whooping from his super Mom. The crowd dispersed, leaving me sitting in the grass in my super shame.

The next morning; miraculously recovered, I am sent out to play with my pals. Walking through the back gate, I noticed a bit of my super cape hanging from under the garbage can lid. My super days are over.


Someone Done Messed With Texas


Back in 1985, some cowboy hat wearing, dope smoking senator in Austin came up with a slogan and a television campaign to keep our sacred highways litter free. It was a stated fact, by known experts at TXDOT, that the litter on our state highways and FM roads come from young white males ejecting refuse from their pickups. I didn’t believe that, but that’s what the powers to be in Austin ran up the flagpole. Highway litter is indigenous.  Purveyors of trash have no color, no age or given vehicle type. All citizens are prone at one time or another.

Being an aware driver in those years,  I did, on occasion, witness assorted elderly motorist  throw the following  from their Buick or Cadillac : McDonalds, Dairy Queen or Sonic bags, assorted catheters, used depends, a walker, various canes, a walking boot, Rockport walking shoes, a personal scooter and a dead Chihuahua. On I-35 outside of Georgetown,  a young couple in a gray primer Chevy tagged my windshield with a poopy diaper at 70 miles per hour.   Lets be honest folks, it was everyone in the damn state. The shoulders of our highways looked like an alley in down town Detroit.

The first commercial of the campaign ran during a super bowl and featured Stevie Ray Vaughn playing “The Eyes of Texas” on his beat up strat and then leaning into his mic and speaking “Don’t Mess With Texas”. Yeah Bubba, we believed him because he was who he was. Willie also did a good commercial.  The Red Headed Stranger himself, standing there plucking that raggedy-ass flamingo guitar, pigtails hanging down and singing half a meter behind the music. That was back in the days when he was seriously being considered for a saint hood, so he could have persuaded any Texan to walk barefoot on a trail of broken Lone Star bottles.  Sassy gal, Governor Ann Richards and a cattle call of  Texas born actors and musicians proudly put themselves out there for the sake of garbage.  The campaign was wildly successful and within a few years the appearance of our highways was improved. What a difference three decades can make.

My wife Maureen and I drove to Dallas and Fort Worth this past Sunday from our recently adopted home in Galveston. She, to see grand children and myself to pick up my old Honda CRV from my sisters house in Plano.

Monday morning, I drove past downtown Dallas on I-45 and came upon a stretch of highway over the Trinity River. On either side of the roadway was garbage piled against the barriers. Not your standard trash bags, but sofas, chairs, lawnmowers, a dishwasher, a stove, televisions, a lemonade stand, various bumpers and tires and three cars on concrete blocks, wheels removed. It looked as if a convoy of Waste Management trucks had overturned and not bothered to cleanup the wreckage. So this is what Don’t Mess With Texas has become? City of Dallas, TXDOT…what the hell? A major highway through your city looks like a dump. At that moment, I was glad that we had left Dallas years ago. I was embarrassed for my former town. This carnage went on for at least a mile and as the long bridge ended, I saw a large travel bus parked on the right shoulder. An old bearded man in a black track suit and pigtails  was walking down the side of the highway picking up garbage. I did a double take but kept on driving.

 

 

 

Sea and Cactus


Well…we finally did it! Sold the house in Granbury Texas, packed up and moved to Galveston Island, all in one week. Now we sit on our condo balcony and stare at the ocean which is about a good pitching wedge away from our perch. It rained every day the first week and now, a few days past our second, its much cooler and less humid. Not bad weather for people our age. I assume the weather is what draws people our age, since there are throngs of them in all corners of the island. Could Galveston be the new redneck Miami Beach?  My bet would be yes.

This blog has been Notes From The Cactus Patch for a while, so my dilemma is, do I keep the name or change it? I found one small gathering of cactus about fifteen miles down the island highway, so if that counts as a patch, then the name remains.

Every surfer outside of Texas knows there “aint no surf in Texas”. Well Bub..let me tell you about October 10th. Hurricane Michael paid a visit to the Gulf and kicked the crap out of Florida, but along the way, he provided perfect sets of 8-10 foot  waves here in G-Town. We sat on our balcony and watched surfers at Jimmy’s Pier tear those bad boys up. Every surfer in the region converged on Galveston Island for that one day and it was epic. Being a surfer myself, I ached to be out there with them, but in reality, I probably could not have paddled through the break. I haven’t surfed for 25 years, so I will for now, leave that sport to my son and grandsons.

Now that I am retired ( in my own mind) I will be more diligent in keeping this blog current. I am working on a series of short stories and a children’s book about the Alamo.

More soon….

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