A few days back, my wife and I visited one of the big box stores looking to replace the water filter in our fancy refrigerator.
After reading the directions that came with the stainless beast, I realized that the filter is two years past its recommended change date, and it should be changed every six months. That explains why our ice tastes like garlic and smells like a stinky foot.

I said to my wife, ” don’t get me started on why a two-thousand dollar refrigerator needs a water filter. Back in the day, we got cold water from an aluminum pitcher that sat in the icebox and our ice from trays, and that was plenty good enough.” She agreed and knew better than to push the matter when I use the term “back in the day.”

The orange store didn’t stock the filter but said they could order one, and it may take up to six months to arrive. That got under my skin but good because we bought the sickly beast from them. We moved on to the other box store, the blue one.

The young lady at the blue store was no help. We gave her the part number and the model. She took a picture of the instruction page with her cell phone, then took a selfie and said she would be right back. Twenty minutes later, we are left standing in the appliance department, and the young lady is missing in action. My blood pressure is now up at least twenty points, and my hypoglycemia has kicked in, so I’m officially pissed, and dangerous.

I find the kiosk for the appliance department and the young lady is sitting at the desk, talking on her smart-ass cellphone. The conversation was much too personal and not related to customer service. I stand directly in front of the kiosk, hoping to catch her attention when she holds up one finger and shushes me away. I don’t mind my wife doing that, but when a total stranger does it, its pure audacity. I can’t tolerate impertinence and rudeness, especially from youngsters.

I am now in full meltdown mode. My face is burning hot, my back is itching, and this seasoned body is trembling like a dog trying to crap a peach pit. And, of course, I have to pee. The bladder of a senior has no conscience or timeline, so I hustle off to the men’s room.

Returning to the kiosk, the young, “essence of rudeness” little moron is now texting. I snap and reach for her cell phone with the grace and speed of Mr. Miyagi teaching young Daniel-San to wax on, wax off. I remove the phone from her fingers. I then throw the device on the floor and stomp the smart-ass piece of technology to pieces. Miss Moron of the year, is too stunned to react.

I don’t remember the few minutes that followed the killing of the phone, but my wife said it was the most epic display of cursing, fit throwing and thrashing around that she has witnessed. Rightly deserved she added.

While driving home, my wizened mate tells me, “you are going to see Doc Bones tomorrow.”
Still shivering and twitching from the effects of the demon that possessed me earlier, I ask,” why?”

She leans over, gives me a peck on my cheek and says, ” darling, I believe your social filter is about twenty years past its change date.”

A Girls Got To Look Good When She Goes

Thanks to the new Netflix movie “The Highwaymen,” the two most famous outlaws from Texas are captivating a generation that has never heard of them. I’m referring to those two crazy kids from West Dallas; Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Their hijinx and daily run-ins with the law kept many a small town newspaper in print and propelled the two young delinquents into living legends of their own time.

The car chases, robberies of banks, merchants, grocery stores, five and dimes, gas stations, gumball machines, lemonade stands, produce stands and just ordinary citizens made spectacular fodder for the papers. They were the new folk heroes of the southwest, and as bad as these two were, their antics were pure journalistic gold. And, they didn’t mind killing a few lawmen and citizens if deemed necessary.

In 1933, my Fathers Aunt, Katy Eberling owned and operated a beauty salon on the corner of Rosedale and Hemphill Street in Fort Worth Texas. For seven years it was prosperous and allowed her to employ four beauticians and a manicurist. She was thriving and often turned away new clients or referred them to other shops. She wasn’t wealthy but made a darn good living for the times. Then, along comes that pesky old depression and she loses three beauticians and the manicurist because her clients now do their hair at home, or go to Leonard Brothers Department Store for two dollars less per set. Katy is weeks away from closing the doors when a visit from a new client changes her luck.

A cold December Friday afternoon finds Katy sweeping up the shop and preparing to close when a man and women enter through the back alley door.

The women, a frail, bony little thing is dressed in the best clothes that money can buy. A pale yellow cashmere sweater with a beige camel hair skirt. A string of pearls drapes her little neck. The man that accompanies her wears a three-piece pin-striped suit and a black fedora. These two are right out of Macy’s of New York. 

The woman is small, almost child size, no more than eighty pounds. She strides up to Katy, extends her tiny hand and says, “ My name is Bonnie and could you please give me a wash, cut and set. I know its late, but I will pay you nicely if it is not too much trouble.”

Katy, having made little money that day, agrees and escorts her to the shampoo sink. As Katy is shampooing Bonnie’s hair for the third time, she notices the man sitting by the back door holding a shotgun in his lap. It is then, reality sets in, and Katy realizes who this new client might be. She removes her hands from the woman’s wet hair and retreats a few steps.

 Bonnie, sensing her fright, assures her in a kind voice, “ Mam, I am here for a beauty appointment, we mean you no harm and will pay for the service.” Katy assured that she will not be gunned down, completes the shampoo and leads Bonnie to the beautician’s chair.

Once Bonnie Parker is seated, it’s as if she’s a lost Catholic girl returning to confession.

She recounts her childhood, being married young, wanting to be a poet and attend a good university and make her Mama proud. She then makes mention of that mongrel over there by the door and how he has ruined her life beyond repair.

 Once she begins the tales of their lives on the run, she cackles like a mad witch and has Katy laughing along with her. First-hand knowledge makes it all the crazier. Katy knows that Bonnie is leaving out the killing parts to spare her.

Two hours later, the appointment is finished. Bonnie Parker hands Katy six twenty-dollar bills and says she will be back next month around the same time of day if that is alright. Katy says that will be fine, and Bonnie departs with Clyde in tow.

Knowing she has to keep this to herself, she tells her husband Harvey, and no one else. Katy is full of remorse, knowing that the money she accepted is probably blood money or someone’s life savings, yet she took it because it will allow her to keep her shop open for another few months. If she is truthful with herself, she enjoyed the excitement it produced.

The next month, on a Friday, the two most wanted crooks in the land arrive at 4:30 PM. Bonnie receives a wash, trim and set and the confessions continue. Katy earns another six twenty-dollar bills. This time, she is less remorseful and less frightened.

Bonnie visits twice more. The last visit was un-nerving for Katy. Bonnie Parker is unwashed, and her clothes need to be cleaned. She is gaunt and hollow-eyed. There are no confessions or funny stories. Clyde remained in their car and Bonnie, upon being seated in Katy’s chair removes a 38 pistol from her purse and cradles it in her lap as if she was expecting trouble.

When the appointment is finished, Bonnie Parker checks her makeup in the mirror, straightens her skirt and says to Katy, “ My mama always says, a girl’s gotta look good when she goes. How do I look, Miss Katy?” Katy replies, “ You look lovely as ever.”

Bonnie hands Katy eight twenty-dollar bills and says she will see her next month.

A few weeks later, Katy reads in the newspaper that Bonnie and Clyde were killed in a shootout with the law in Louisiana. Katy hopes she looked good when it happened.

This story was told to myself and my cousins many times. When we were young, Aunt Katy left out much of the detail. As we grew older, into teenagers, the story became more graphic and colorful. I had no idea Aunt Katy was so famous.

See, I Told You I Was Sick!

A true account of why doctors scare the hell out of us, by Phil Strawn

About a month ago I, I started feeling lousy. I couldn’t finger what was wrong, but I felt like crap, all day, every day. At my age, health issues can be expected and are dealt with appropriately. After a week of misery, I did what most people do; I turned to the internet to find out what’s wrong.

I found a medical site, typed in my symptoms and waited for the diagnosis. Within ten minutes, a web site called “Doctor E” sent me an email with his expert diagnosis attached. It’s a good thing I was sitting when I opened the report because I damn near passed out.
I have symptoms of 14 significant diseases including early onset Ebola and the rare Racoon Flu.
Realizing, that I may not last until supper, I called my wife and asked if I should drive myself to the hospital now or wait for her to get home so I can expire in her presence.
My wife, a wise nurse, knows how to handle delicate situations and tells me to “get off the damn internet and book an appointment with Doc Bones.”

The next morning at 9 am, I see my doctor. He prods, pokes, looks into my eyes and ears, takes the blood pressure, and then hands me over to nurse Dracula for a blood draw. I’ve had blood drawn many times, and there is never a problem, but this woman stabbed me four times before finding a vein. Once the suitable vessel is accessed, she proceeds to harvest six vials of my precious elixir for the lab testing. A half-gallon of blood lighter, I head home to await the lab testing.
In a few days, a nurse calls with the results. My PSA is off the charts, so she shuffles me over to a urologist for further diagnosis.

I meet with Dr. Finger, and he tells me there will be a biopsy of the offending gland. First thing I ask is, “will it hurt?” in which he responds, ” you might feel a little prick,” which in medical terms translates to it’s going to hurt like hell, so bring a bullet to bite.

The morning of the biopsy procedure, finds me laying on an exam table with an alien anal probe biopsy vehicle violating my body. Now I know how those poor alien abductees felt, and I thought they were just whiners.
Two weeks pass, and I see Dr. Finger for the follow-up visit. He doesn’t candy coat my diagnosis: prostate cancer #7, moderately passive-aggressive.
“It’s a form that lolligags around for a while, won’t cause a fuss until it gets pissed off and decides to hit back,” he explains.

My options are robotic surgery to remove the little demon, massive doses of radiation for eight weeks or tiny radioactive pellets implanted into the sickly gland.
Doc says, ” the Chernobyl seed implants work well, but I can’t pass through airport security for a year, and pee will glow in the dark for at least a decade. The massive radiation will leave you weak and whiny as a pre-teen girl.”

The robotic thing catches my attention, I say to Doc, ” I’m imagining the Lost In Space robot zipping around the OR, arms flying screaming “danger..danger.” ” Oh, its nothing like that,” he says. “The surgery is performed by a medical robot called DaVinci. Think of it as R2D2 with a grey beard, a velvet beret and cape with an Italian accent. Very efficient and European. When the surgery is over, little ” Leonardo” paints you a small portrait of the Mona Lisa and gives you a gift basket of wine and cheese from the Tuscany valley. You also receive the evil little gland encapsulated in an Italian crystal jar. It makes an unusual conversation piece at parties.”
Doc and I shake hands, and my wife and I depart for home. We have options to consider, but time is of the essence. Like rust, cancer never sleeps.

Father Frank Saves The Church

I visited my local Sun City H.E.B a few days ago to do my shopping for the week. Just so you know, I loathe shopping for groceries; negotiating the crowded aisles, pushing a cart that steers hard left, while trying to read your shopping list and dodge the blue hairs wanting to run you over. It’s more than any man my age should have to endure.

The geriatric inhabitants of “Clan Sun City,” have christened this store as their domain and they make their own rules of engagement. I’ve had my toes run over, my legs pinned between a grocery cart and the dairy cabinet, rammed from behind for being too slow, and was verbally assaulted by an 80-pound octogenarian because I got the last loaf of “dollar bread.” The old bag pulled out an ancient flip-top Motorola cell phone and threatened to call 911 to report me, so I reluctantly handed over the loaf. She shook a bony finger in my face and growled, “And your little dog too.”

Wednesday is the big day for the sample girls to push their wares on the shoppers. You can’t go twenty-feet without a chirpy hostess wearing her “Pioneer Woman” apron wanting to stick a sample of food in your face. Forget trying to get away, they track you until you stop and then thrust the toothpick impaled morsel into your protesting mouth. I unwillingly managed to taste sushi, sausage roll, carrot cake, cheese whiz, and wine before I could get to the first aisle, and by then I needed a Prilosec OTC, so I bought that as well.

Shopping completed I proceeded to the checkout stand, and when rounding a corner near the book section, I bumped hard into a table partially blocking the aisle.

There, sitting behind a 6-foot fold out table was Father Frank, the priest from my church, “Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance.”
On his table is a stack of leaflets, bottles of water and give away key chains shaped like the Virgin Mary. It’s been a while since I have seen the good Father, so we exchange our pleasantries.

After a brief howdy conversation, I asked Father Frank why he is staffing a table at a grocery store.
With a deep sigh, he explained, “The church is losing so many of the flock that the diocese has put me here to drum up new members.”
Not wanting to offend by asking delicate questions I say, ” I suppose you have to start somewhere, and the crowd here is about the right age to be finalizing their looming Heavenly travel arrangements.” He thought that was prolific and says he will use that phrase in a future sermon.

Now, more curious, I ask him about the giveaways laid out on his table.
With a big smile, he explains, “The bottled water is actually blessed holy water, bottled right in my church by altar boys. We figured if it was good enough to drive out demons and christen babies, it is strong enough to cure the pallet and insides of foul offenses. It has a slight hint of mint so it may be used as an alcohol-free mouthwash in a pinch. I drank a bottle a few days ago and was confined to the rectory bathroom for many hours. Nothing like a happy gut you know”.
I said, “Yes I know that feeling and my cousin Beverly could have used a case of that for mouthwash if you know what I mean.” He said he did and gave me a bottle for her deliverance.

The good Father is on a roll and excitedly explains that they have made considerable changes to his church as to attract new members.
Handing me the leaflet he proudly proclaims, “look at these pictures! We now have a glassed-in section of pews with flat screen monitors installed on the back of each bench so the young ones can access their computer games and social media during the sermon, which is piped into the enclosure by a high powered HD digital audio system.
In order to save parishioners time, confessions can be uploaded via your home computer or smartphone, and communion has an optional wine flight, that, for a nominal fee, comes with a small crystal goblet.”
Am I not hearing him right? Preteen kids gaming in the pews, computer confessions, wine tasting? How about the singing choirs, the fire, and damnation, the rock hard pews that make your butt sweat and your legs go numb? A church service is supposed to make you miserable, not comfortable.

I tried to interrupt, but the good Father was in over-drive, as he continues to exclaim: “the most daring change and the one I’m most proud of is the conversion of the adult Sunday school room to a sports bar for after service football games. It’s a brilliant concept, come to church then walk across the hall and watch the game on 70 inch flat screens. We call it “The Blue Nun Sports Bar,” and with the help of Mother Prudy, I recruited some of the younger nuns from the Abby to come over and wait tables after their service. The sisters are doing a great job, but grumbling about the miserly tips and are threatening to hold a sit-in.”
I told them to stop offering a repentance prayer over every beer served, and the tips may improve. Its best to reserve a blessing for food service only.
Next thing I know, they are wearing t-shirts with “We Aren’t Your Mommas Nuns” on the back. I don’t know what gives with these younger sisters. The piercings and spiky hairdos are not what I‘m used too. Nuns are supposed to be stoic and mean, not cute and hip.
Well, I say, ” you’re certainly doing everything you can to increase membership, I may have to come to see you next Sunday. I need a good dose of religion and football.”
I shake the good Fathers hand, bid him adieu and shuffle on to the checkout.

On my way out of the store I notice, tucked in by the potting soil and flowers was a table staffed by a young, tanned, rock star haired, frock clad fellow flanked by two bikini-clad girls handing out free cold beer and hot dogs.
The sign above them read “Rolling Rock Love and Peace Community Church Membership Drive.” I was thirsty, so I scooted on over. Looks like Father Frank may be in trouble here.

“Back In The Saddle Again”

My friend John Payne was raised in West Texas, and I have, with his permission, used his antics as a teenager to inspire my favorite character, Ferris Ferrier. This story was inspired by John.

Ferris Ferrier lives in Happy Texas. It’s 1958, and he is as happy as a resident can be. Ferris reads an article in the Amarillo newspaper about a movie filming in Fort Worth, and the company is auditioning for cowboys that can sing and play guitar while riding a horse.

Ferris plays guitar, a bit, and has some fancy cowboy duds, and his father has Ole Rip the cutting horse, so he’s convinced he could give this a shot. His parents give him their blessing, and its arranged that his cousins Jimmy Jam and Mary Meredith will take him and Ole Rip to the casting call.

Ferris isn’t nervous about the singing and playing, but more about Ole Rip getting spooked and bucking him off. Ole Rip is a working horse and used to cattle and his pen, and he is pretty unpredictable, but he’s the only horse on the farm, so Ole Rip it is.
Jimmy Jam suggest that Ferris and Ole Rip give a practice performance in the upcoming Christmas Parade next week. “Give the folks in Happy a preview of their soon to be movie star.” says Jimmy. Ferris agrees, and plans made.

The day of the parade, Mimi Jo Musson, the coordinator, moves Ferris and Ole Rip to the front of the show, right behind the baton twirlers. “Might as well give our new movie star a plug, right?” she said. Ferris is nervous as hell. Why right in front of the high school band? Ole Rip is bound to have a meltdown once that loud music starts. He explains to Mimi Jo the scenario that will likely happen, but she says “it will be fine, horses love music.”

At noon, the parade is lined up in the alley between the Prairie Bank and the Big Biscuit Café. Baton twirlers, Ferris and Rip, the drum major and high school band along with six floats followed by a stagecoach driven by Gabby Pat Parnell where Santa Claus rides and will throw candy to the children.

Ferris is freaking out. His throat is dry as sand, he has to pee, and Ole Rip is cutting one fart after the other, a sure sign he is not happy. As the parade turned the corner out of the alley onto the main street, Ferris starts to play and sing, and Ole Rip is doing fine. Then, the drums start, and the band kicks into Jingle Bells, and Ole Rip loses it. It is the first time Ferris has seen him rear up on h is back legs like Trigger, and is for a moment, impressed…until the horse makes a hard right turn and runs into Miss Molly’s Beauty Parlor.

As Ferris and Rip enter the business, Ferris hits his forehead on the door jamb and is spewing blood like a fountain. Ole Rip manages to demolish half the parlor before turning around and heading out the front door. They travel a few stores down, running parade watchers off the sidewalk.

The next stop, Western Auto and Rip is doing a similar demo job on the best store in town. Ferris is bleeding, his guitar is smashed, and the saddle is beginning to slide sideways. As they exit Western Auto, there are three vacant lots before you reach Bramwell’s Feed Store. Ole Rip picks up speed and heads for the feed store lot.

As the duo enters the lot, Rip is smelling oats and makes a beeline for the warehouse, where he abruptly stops in front of an open bin and proceeds to chow down.

The saddle slips off, and Ferris is on the ground.

He is a sorry sight, bloody face, torn clothes, his precious Harmony guitar smashed to sawdust, and then Margie Lou, his secret crush shows up. She is so excited she can barely speak.

” Good God Ferris, I have never seen a demonstration of horsemanship like that in my whole life, and I’m a rodeo queen. That was fabulous, and sensational” she screams. Ferris picks himself up and thanks, Margie Lou.
She adds, ” and next week you are going to audition for that movie, you should be so excited.”

Ferris says “you know Margie Lou, I think I’ll do my guitar playing on the ground from now on. Who knows, in a few years I might start me a band. By the way, that’s a good idea for a name, The Fabulous Sensations, and I’ll keep that in mind.”

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