For my birthday a few weeks back, my wise and thoughtful wife gifted me with a classic 1970 Underwood 310 manual typewriter. It is a wonderful present that I would never have purchased, although I have yearned for one for a while now.
For sometime, possibly five years or so, I have been whining and casually threatening to go “old school” with my writing and get away from this demon laptop. It’s too easy to keep on tapping and spit out a page or two of gibberish that has more words than needed and makes no sense. It’s not about speed and what your program does, it’s content. A typewriter makes you think before striking that key. The delete button does not exist.
Hemingway would tap for hours on end, and then if he wasn’t pleased with his effort, to the waste basket it went. Using a typewriter for transposing your thoughts to paper, is a commitment; and not an easy one.
There was a typewriter in our household when I was a child. It was a large black Underwood, all metal, and took a grown man and a half to lift it. I would peck on it for hours and eventually come up with something legible. I never once saw my parents use it, so it’s presence in our home was a mystery.
My love of the machine started at an early age, and came into full blossom as a teenager in the 1960s, when I started to write stories. I took typing in high school to sharpen my skills and learn the keyboard. I studied two years of journalism, and learned to love the written word. My teacher was my mentor. She pushed me and helped me excel. It all paid off well. When computers came about in the late 80s, I was a good typist and had no problem adapting.
I will keep you posted on how this “old school” project turns out. I typed a page on my Underwood, and my fingers are throbbing.
A final installment of “feel good” stories from the country of Texas. The resemblance to any person, horse or cow, living or not, is purely intentional.
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 the history of Texas.
Hymie left the “old country” (New York) in 1926 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.
Another relative in New York opened a number of 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.
Using the best methods and practices formula, he required his ranch hands to wear Yamakas and grow a long beard. Every Friday before sundown, he would drive a wagon through the herd with the local Rabi standing in the back, blessing the cattle and the land. He assumed if the cattle were somewhat converted, then all would be Kosher.
He purchased a 3500 lb. Hereford bull from a nearby ranch to keep the cows happy and grow the herd. The bull, a massive beast with a 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 December, a blue norther blew in and dropped 12 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. There 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 with a poster showing a group of smiling cows. Calls from West of Mineral Wells 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.
At sundown, one of the cowboys spotted a snow-white bull lumbering and stumbling out of the canyon. It was “Little Moses.” His cow fur had turned completely white and his large pink eyes glowed like fiery jewels.
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.
There was a crack of thunder and lightning bolts hit a grove of trees nearby. Normally that would spook the cattle, but not a one moved. There was a sound of trumpets from somewhere in the sky. 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 hoove. 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.
The herd dispersed and laid down in the grove of trees next to the camp. In the morning, as they were preparing to saddle up and lead the cows back to the Flying Menorah, one of the cowboys found a large white sack where the angel cows had landed. He looked inside and found it to be full of chicken strips with honey mustard dipping sauce.
I wrote this story a few years ago and decided to bring it back for a re-visit. Given todays headlines with the hipster crowd in Seattle and Portland grabbing our attention. I think a good recount of how ridiculous we can be about out coffee.
A while back, my wife and I visited the new and improved Fort Worth landmark, Sundance Square. Beautiful place, well planned, and functional architecture. Good job, Bass boys. After a few loops, we got a hankering for a cup of coffee and maybe a pastry.
We found a coffee house cafe with little sidewalk tables. Not our style, so we went inside.
Passing through the door, I caught the name on the storefront window, “The Door to Perception.” The famous beat author Aldous Huxley wrote that book. He and Jack Kerouac birthed the beat generation via literature. This might be a cool place.
We queued in line at the counter. The young man in front of me smelled of Petiole oil. An odd scent for a man. Didn’t mix well with my Old Spice. Hippie chick perfume is what we called it back in the day. My wife nudges me and whispers “what kind of place is this? These kids all look alike.”
Her observation was spot on. Every male in the room had a similar symmetrical haircut, facial hair, garage sale chic mismatched clothing, and skin-tight jeans. Birkenstock sandals seemed to be the shoe of choice. The girls were ditto, but without the facial hair. Stepford children they were. I knew immediately that we had stumbled into a Hipster coffee house. I told my wife to please be calm. This is no more dangerous than wading into a gob of old hippies at a Steppenwolf reunion concert. She wasn’t amused.
The Petiole boy in front of me was ordering his coffee. I caught the conversation with him and the barista. “I’ll have a Trenta in a recycled rain forest cup, free-range, green label, fair trade grown, Andean, but not from the higher region but the lower valley, harvested by virgins no older than 16, aged in a cave on the coast to a bold bean, roasted on a log fire made from non-endangered rain forest trees, lightly pressed, and kissed with a serious pour of steamed spotted Syrian goats milk, then ever so slowly, pour two Cuban sugars at the same time on opposite sides of the cup. Oh yeah, and Kale sprinklers. Don’t stir it, I need to experience the aura.”
“Ahhhh… that’s my favorite. An educated choice sir,” cooed the barista. We are stunned. What in the hell did that kid just say?
I stepped up to the counter. “Two coffees with two creams and sugars each, please,” I say. “And what region will your coffee be from, sir,” says the young barista. “How about from Columbia, you know Juan Valdez and his little burro,” asked I. “Don’t know that one, sir, don’t know a Mr. Juan Valdez,” she replied. “Got something from Mrs. Olsen or Mrs. Folgers ?” I asked. “No, sir, don’t know them either,” she said. “Got anything that comes in a vacuum-packed can?” I ask. “No, sir, our beans come in hand-sewn burlap bags from India,” she replies. “Do you have any coffee grown in the United States?” asked I. She perks up and replies, “Yes sir, grown in California, Big Sur area by the Wavy Gravy Mystical Coffee Co-op. I hear it’s harvested every third quarter when Jupiter aligns with Mars, and the moon is in the seventh house. You know, sir, this is the age of Aquarius.” “Yes, I know the song,” I say. “Is there a song, sir?” she replies.
At this point, my head was about to explode, and I needed to wrap it in duct tape to contain the splatter. My wife saved me by stepping up to the counter, addressing the barista.
“Look, Moonbeam, just give us two cups of that Gravy Wavey coffee, and you pick out the sugar and cream, deal?” “Names, not Moonbeam mam, its Hillary,” says the barista. “Of course it is, sweetheart, I should have guessed that. I suppose you have a brother named Bill too? “No mam, just a little sister, Chelsea.” My wife shot me her “get me out of here before someone dies” look. The barista sensed where this was heading and promptly pushed the coffees across the counter. I paid, and we left. We stood on the sidewalk, took a sip of the gruel, and poured it into the gutter.
On the way home, we went through the McDonalds drive-through for a red, white, and blue cup of coffee. Can’t go wrong with good old Mickey D’s. None of that Hipster crap.
“I’ll have two coffees with cream and sugar; please,” I said to the voice. “Sir, will that be a Latte, a breakfast blend, a dinner blend, a dessert blend, an anniversary blend, or an I love you blend, a save the children blend in a reusable cup or an expresso, chilled or topped with sprinkles” the voice replied. I pulled out of line, and we headed home to our old and extremely un-hip Mr. Coffee.