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 “June, 2020”

Defending Texas 2.0


I am, by my own admission, a proud Texan that will go toe to toe with anyone that diminishes the history and heritage of my state. I haven’t needed to do that in many years, but the piss and vinegar is still there if needed.

Statues are inanimate objects. They can’t shoot you, slap you or speak to you. The only way they might cause harm to one, is to fall on you as they are being pulled down by an uneducated mob of hoodlums wielding ropes and ladders.

Texas has more statues than Forest Gump has shrimp. There are brass, bronze, metal and stone statues of the defenders of the Alamo, various animal hero’s, horned toads, our founding fathers, soldiers from all wars, questionable politician’s and scores of others. I saw a statue of Flipper the dolphin in Galveston, so I guess everyone that has their own statue is not bad.

In Granbury, where I live, the town is named for a famous southern general named Granbury. He served in the confederate army and lived in Waco, where he practiced law. He has a statue of course, and the town carries his name, and has for over well over a hundred years with no complaints or problems created by the inanimate object.

Now, in Granbury, like the rest of the state, and country, people want them removed because the site of a statue hurts’ their feelings or makes them think of injustices, either real or imagined, committed centuries ago in a country that was far different than the one they are now attempting to ruin. With young men and women that depend on Google for information and education, can we expect less? Our education system has failed them. Texas history is barely touched on and smoothed over with a pacifist brush.

Our state history is not pretty: It is rough and tumble with a lot of bloodshed and dying by all. Indian wars, The Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto, hand to hand knife fighting musket shooting battles that were horrific. In those hard scrabble days, people were tough: life was tough, and a young Texas ranch wife would kick your butt as good as her husband. My grandmother was one of those gals.

The Alamo mission, in San Antonio, is the most sacred piece of history in our state. It is a shrine held in reverence by Texans since 1836, when the mission, held by volunteers and led by William Barret Travis, fell to General Santa Anna and his army. Most of our counties and many of our towns are named for the defenders. Now, there are mobs and hooligans that want to tear down the mission because it hurts their feelings. Fortunately, our Texas Rangers and other patriots are guarding the Alamo to keep this from happening. Texas history will not go down without a good fight. God bless The Alamo and Davey Crockett, and God Bless Texas.

Entertainment Is But A Phone Call Away


This past year or so, I noticed that phone calls from friends and family had dwindled drastically. Not that they were that frequent in years past, but now, the calls have almost ceased. The holidays count for a few, and if there is a surgery or accident, that will bring one or two sympathy or curiosity calls.

One can assume that as you age and become a seasoned person, your friends and family are in the same boat, and you can talk about medical issues and health only so much before your head explodes. My sister, bless her heart, does call every few days to chat about nothing in particular, but she is down from four dogs to one and is easily bored. She watches a lot of Netflix.

My multi-tasking son rarely calls. He lives in North Padre Island, by the beach, surrounded by an impressive collection of “man toys.” He and his wife own a business that keeps them hopping, so I get it. The rest of his time he divides between Cub Scouts and baseball games with my grandson. He is a busy young man and appears to have broken all his fingers on both hands, or lost my phone number. I am considering sending him an amazon package with my picture and a burner cell phone.

My generation X grandson keeps in touch via text, the preferred form of communication for people in their twenties. Sometimes he will answer his phone, and it takes me a second to remember his voice. He sounds much like his father, who passed away seven years ago, and if I am melancholy, it unnerves me a bit, so texting is alright for now. As he ages, actual speaking will replace texting.

My late-late mother, ever the geriatric comedian, in her golden years, remarked on how lonely life can be, and she wouldn’t have anyone to talk with if the telemarketers and scammers stopped calling. I laughed at how ridiculous that sounded, but alas, I may be in that same position.

Medicare enrollment is upon us with a vengeance, and I receive a dozen calls a day, most of which my spam app catches and disperses them back into cellular orbit. I did answer one a few days ago because it displayed a number with fourteen digits, and I was curious who has that many digits. What the hell, have some fun.

The youngish man on the line started his spiel about Medicare, and I could tell he was either “in” or “from” India. I listened for a minute then asked him where his call center might be? he answered, ” Indiana.” Then I asked his name, which he replied, ” Ronnie.” I politely told him that was bull crap, you are in India, and your name is not Ronnie.

He was busted, so he fessed up. Speaking in a pleasant accent, he said, ” yes sir, I am in India, and my name is Aakash. I work at the call center for American Exploitive Insurance.” He seemed like a polite young man, so I continued the conversation.
“Tell me, Aakash, do you have Netflix and Amazon Prime in India, and if you do, have you seen Jack Ryan and The Kaminsky Method ?” I enquired.
He was quiet for a few seconds then responded, “yes, we have those, but we watch only Bollywood movies here. Our movies have much drama, love love, and shooting guns, then everyone dances and sings happy songs. It’s joyously entertaining. India is a happy place, mostly.”
” And what do you mean by mostly?” I say.
I could sense his hesitation and the frustration in his voice, but he needed to vent to someone, and I am three-thousand miles away, and that’s as safe as it gets.

This young telemarketer begins spilling his guts to a stranger, in America, over the telephone, hoping to receive a form of absolution from a non-Catholic, even though I am wearing a black t-shirt and eating Mrs. Pauls fish sticks for lunch so that counts for something. Speaking in a comforting voice, I urge him to continue. He lets it all hang out.

In a desolate cracking voice, he wails, ” my girlfriend lives with me in a tiny, tiny, tiny apartment, and all day, she plays this Brittney Spears person’s records and dances about like a hoochie lady. It is making me a crazy man. Last week for the evening meal, I try to make American Texas Terlingua chili using Indian spices and goat meat, and it gives us both the running bathroom visit for days. We have more nuisance monkeys in our neighborhood than residents. The little mean shit animals dismembered my moped, and then they break into my apartment and eat my James Taylor albums and raid the food closet leaving my home a mess. I have no gun, so I can’t shoot them dead; the mean monkey has more rights than me. I have applied for citizenship in your country, but it takes two lifetimes. I have four degrees from a university but make little money. My life is a hot fresh cow pie residing in the middle of the road.”

I am bewildered by his predicament but yet amused at the absurdity of it all. We exchange pleasantries, and I tell him to call me again next week for another chat, to which he agreed and wished me well.
Who knew telemarketers could be so exciting.

Little Audie Murphy


A third installment of “feel good” stories from my childhood. Virus’s, Riots and Looters…Oh My! The only thing missing is the gang of Flying Monkeys terrorizing Granbury.
With all the mayhem now in our small towns, I should take my firearm when shopping at H.E.B. for groceries. You never know when ANTIFA will come down the aisle and set fire to “Uncle Bens” and “Aunt Jemimah” products. This recount should take your mind off of the bad stuff and hopefully leave you sedate and smiling.

The farm. Santa Anna, Texas. July of 1955. My two uncles, Jay and Bill, need more to occupy their time. I need them away from me. I’m a six-year-old kid, and their influence is ruining my childhood. They told me Howdy Doody is not real, and Captain Kangaroo hates kids. I cried for days.
The chaw of Red Man chewing tobacco behind the smokehouse was the last straw. Seeing a kid puking for two hours seemed funny to them.
My grandfather told the two grown kids that a man in Coleman has a pig that won the ” Purple Paw” award. Every year, the governor of Texas bestows the prize on an animal that has performed a heroic act. Who knew there was a hero nearby?
Of course, my two uncles have to see this pig, so they head for Coleman with my cousin Jerry and me in tow. Arriving in Coleman, we stop at the feed store for directions and a coke.
The owner tells my uncles to be very respectful of the pig since he saved the farmer and his family’s lives. In appreciation, the farmer named the pig “Little Audie Murphy,” after the famous WW11 hero and movie star. I am more than impressed. This pig is the real deal.

Arriving at the farm, we are met at the gate by the proud farmer. My uncle Bill has a $10.00 bet with Ray that this is a load of bullcrap. They never stop.

Ray wants to hear the pig’s story, so the farmer is more than happy to recount.

The farmer takes a chaw of Red Man and begins, ” I was plowing one day, and my old tractor hits a stump and tips over, trapping me underneath. I’m yelling for help for an hour, and finally, my old pig shows up. The pig grabs a timber and scoots it underneath the tractor, then stands on it so’s the tractor tilts up, and I can scoot out. That porker saved my life.”
I can tell by the look on my uncle’s faces that they think this is B.S.
The farmer continues, ” about a week after that, I’m in town at the domino parlor, and my house catches on fire. My wife and kids are knocked out by the smoke, and the pig pulls them out of the burning house and revives them—a true porcine hero, that pig.”
Now my uncles are impressed. I see a tear trickle from Bill’s eye. I got a lump in my throat.

At this point, we want to see this pig for ourselves, so the farmer takes us to the barn. He stands outside the corral and yells, ” Little Audie, come on out.”
A huge Yorkshire pig wearing a ribbon and gold medal around his neck makes its way out of the barn. I’ve seen pigs before, and this wasn’t any normal pig. He was missing an ear and a front and back leg. Where the legs had been, the pig now sported homemade prosthesis. He seemed to walk fine and was friendly.

My uncle Jay was shocked and asked the farmer what the hell happened to the poor pig?
The farmer took a minute to answer that question. Then he smiled and said, ” well, a pig that special, we couldn’t just eat him all at once.”

The End of The Innocence


A perspective and opinion from a proud Texan. I’m not sure what is going on with WordPress, but I am re-posting this. The first post was an un-edited version. My apologies to my readers. I blame ” The Rona.”

Dazed and Confused ?

The death of George Floyd is a turning point in our United States of America. I have heard many times from mystic sources of the unknown, that “out of tragedy comes good,” but not always. I believe Churchill spoke these wise words, but it may have been the captain of the Titanic, or perhaps William Travis, and we all know how that ended for him.

The weeks of peaceful protest is gone. We now have groups of anarchists that hi-jacked the Black Lives Matter movement for their use.

America’s soft spongy underbelly lies exposed while thugs and criminals lay waste on our cities and society. Parts of our pristine city blocks look like a war zone. Protesters, bystanders, and business owners that wish to make their point peacefully are attacked and beaten by the infiltrators if they intervene. These hoodlums even had the nerve to destroy and loot a Starbucks in Portland.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when the people that want and need the change in our police departments and city governments or the ones seen on television carrying a shopping cart full of flat screens or a pair of $600.00 Nikes from a looted store. Nothing builds the bridge of peace and brotherhood like looting.

In Austin, Texas, the capital of my home state, a black American capitol policeman, was mobbed and attacked by a group of “keep Austin weird” type of folks. My apologies to Austinites that do not wish to stay weird. They appear, on television, to be young, white, and likely students from our prestigious University of Texas, and they are damn lucky they weren’t shot. Knowing UT, I’m sure there were a few Antifa kiddies in the group to add flavor and support. One can assume that the food trucks on South Congress didn’t do much business that day. All there customers were busy at the capital.

My parents taught me a valuable lesson when I was a young’n. You don’t assault a police officer: in any way, or it is likely to turn out bad for you. Do these young people not have parents to teach them right from wrong? The “everyone gets a trophy, and I want it for free” generation has a lot to learn.

Thank you, Austin, for showing us what you are, pulling back the tye-dyed curtain for us to see the wizard. The “hippy-dippy live music capital of the world persona” you have pushed for decades has soured and gelled into a smelling heap of Whole Foods dumpster refuse. I have friends that live in Austin, so this doesn’t include them unless they were at the dust-up, as mentioned above.

“Keep Austin Weird” was once a fun slogan that the city was proud of owning. I wonder now if that slogan is appropriate? God Bless Davy Crockett and The Alamo.

The Father of the Austin Music Scene


I wrote this story in 2012 after a visit to Threadgills on Barton Springs Road. I was in, and out of Austin in those Armadillo Headquarters days, and knew many of the musicians that were responsible for it’s progressive music scene. No one can remember who, what, or how it started, so I figured, why not make it an Armadillo.

A. Dillo was the influence of a generation of Texas musicians and tunesmiths. This precocious little Armadillo was found on the lawn of the state capitol one hot day in September 1970, by a group of hippies lounging on the grass sunning themselves, and smoking pot.

He was a sad little armadillo, lost, searching for his family unit, after being separated from them in Zilker Park a few days earlier, during a vicious thunderstorm and flash flood. A happy reunion was not to be. His mother and father were tits-up on Congress, and his siblings had been lunch for a pack of wild dogs. He was an orphan.

The dazed but kindly hippie’s were drawn to the friendly little tank. They took him back to their pad just off Congress and proceeded to raise him as one of their own. They christened him A. Dillo.

One of the girls in the house was majoring in animal behavior and journalism at the University of Texas and was soon tutoring the ardent little critter in reading and writing.

Within six months, A. Dillo had mastered penmanship and was writing prose. Within a year, he was writing short stories and speeches for the university’s professors and prolific student protesters.

He experimented with strange substances and started hanging out with artist types and deep thinkers. He could write about current events, political science, theology, and music with the best of them. He was, in a sense, humanized.

A. Dillo’s popularity grew off the charts, and he was invited to give readings of his work at private parties and student gatherings. He was, in a sense, a critter version of Alan Ginsburg.

But, being an armadillo, he couldn’t wear human clothes, so he employed an artist friend to decorate his shell to resemble a fashionable tie-dye t-shirt. He took to wearing round, rose-colored sunglasses and a variety of peace symbols and buttons. He was beyond cool and a perfect fit for Austin.

His popularity, rapidly spreading beyond the tribal bounds of the Congress neighborhood, and into the local community of aphorism, infuriated his adopted bohemian family. Jealous, though silently envious, they accused A. Dillo of ” selling out” to the man.

The bad vibes from his former adoring family were bringing him down.
Unable to create in the hostile atmosphere, he packed his sparse belongings in a Piggly Wiggly shopping bag and headed for Barton Springs and Zilker Park, to find some peace and tranquility among the woods and good water.

While shuffling down Barton Springs Road, he happened upon a recently opened venue called Armadillo World Headquarters.

Delighted to find a place that so openly celebrated his kind, he immediately scurried through a hole in the fence and took up residence beneath the beer garden stage. Enjoying the clamorous musical atmosphere and the continual supply of spilled Lone Star beer that flowed through the cracks of the stage floor.

A group of guitar picking musicians that frequented the club’s beer garden eventually befriended the little fellow, and soon he was anointed as the “official mascot” of the headquarters. He was cool again, but he didn’t understand this new scene where long-hairs wore cowboy hats and listened to country music. He just assumed it was not his to follow.

The little poet was soon inspired by his energizing surroundings, once again, began putting his thoughts and prose to paper. In a moment of trusting innocence, he exposed his talent, and shared his library of work with a few of the beer garden musicians, hoping for a morsel of recognition.

The musicians were so impressed, they immediately confiscated his poems and lyrics and made them their own. That this library of written work came from an Armadillo, at that time, to this group, seemed utterly reasonable. After all, it was Austin in the early 70s, and it’s a well-documented fact that if you remember that time, you weren’t really there.

Within a few months, the musicians and wailers at the headquarters were singing songs about Austin and everything Texas. A handful of the local artist was drawing A. Dillo’s likeness on their concert posters to promote the rapidly changing musical landscape.

Willie and Waylon took up residence at the headquarters and became the shaggy royal ambassadors of Austin music. Heady times they were.

A. Dillo was heartbroken. He had been bamboozled by the “love your brother and sister” preaching musicians, who were nothing but scoundrels, thieves, and false profits. His trust had been violated. His soaring soliloquies, his enlightening prose, his ramblings about his Texas, all stolen or plagiarized, with no hope of recovery, in a hundred different tunes. One cruel musician, blatantly and without remorse, took his favorite poem and made a song about taking himself “Home with the Armadillo.” That was the deepest cut of all. He was a broken critter. ” Oh, the pain of it all,” he wailed.

He soon left the headquarters, again packing his Piggly Wiggly bag and stealing away into the night.

A. Dillo returned to his home burrow in Zilker Park. He reconnected with the park’s inhabitants, giving nightly readings of his poetry, to an enthusiastic and adoring crowd. He was elevated to star status among the park’s animal population, and his name was known to all creatures for miles. He was finally at peace with himself and his life.

A. Dillo was the real spark of inspiration for Austin’s progressive music scene of the 1970s. Without his influence and the spread of his stolen words, tunesmiths, musicians, and vocalist all over Austin would still be writing and singing those dreary Three-chord hillbilly songs.

Jerry Jeff, Willie, Waylon, and the boys would have had to seek inspiration elsewhere, and the city would not have evolved into Austin as we know it today.

It was rumored that some years later, on a stormy night, much like the one that started his journey, A. Dillo was hit by a vehicle while attempting to cross Barton Springs Road.

An old lady that lived in the Shady Grove trailer park scooped up his remains and fed them to her two Chihuahuas, using the painted shell as a planter to adorn the steps of her small Air-Stream trailer.

That little shell, its colors faded from time, sat on the steps of that old trailer for decades, and, Couples with gray hair, walking to one of the many restaurants on the street, grandchildren, and dogs in tow, would sometimes notice the little shell full of colorful flowers. The ones who had known the little poet, or knew the legend, would approach the small shrine and pay homage by explaining to their grandchildren, the true story of the “real” father of Austin music.

“Let Go of My Lego”


If you raised kids, then you have lego’s in your home.

A Danish company invented these small interlocking blocks 87 years ago. The Lego playsets are considered the staple toy of one’s childhood. My two sons and now my grandchildren love these things. Having stepped on a few in the dark, barefoot, I consider them small weapons that masquerade as an educational toy.

The Dane’s, besides giving us Lego’s, introduced the world to Toaster Struddle Danish, Swedish meatballs, modern teak furniture, Ericson phones, Ikea, and of course, my favorite, the Vikings. They view themselves as a modern progressive save the world and planet type of folks.

Blond, fair-skinned, healthy, and a bit too educated, the populace of this country believe that a 16-year-old girl is an expert on climate change and world affairs. She dressed down the poor folks at the United Nations with an epic screaming and crying fit. The bewildered world organization was crushed. They had no idea the U.N. destroyed her childhood.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from NBC news this morning. Lego is ceasing production and sales of playsets that feature first responders or police because of the ongoing brutality against the poor, misunderstood rioters. The company is afraid that it may be targeted for violence if it gives the impression they support law and order in the United States. What the hell? I guess there is no law and order in Daneland? I don’t think ANTIFA is going to take a plane over to Europe and blow up Lego headquarters, but then, they might, loot and pillage the Lego Land installations in our high-end malls.

Don’t be surprised for this Christmas season, Lego introduces their new line of ” Protest and Riot” playsets. Wow! The kids get two choices: a peaceful protest with little mask and signs, or a riot set, complete with Lego figures equipped with spring-loaded arms that throw small Lego bricks and bottles into Lego block built Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Target stores. For an additional charge, you can purchase the electronic and Nike displays for looting. Our kids have a penchant for violent video games, so my guess is the riot set will be the best seller.

I have a suspicious feeling that a 16-year-old girl has been talking to the Lego folks.

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