Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from The Great State Of Texas

Archive for the month “March, 2021”

“A Small Miracle”


I wrote and published this true story in January of 2014.

My Grandfather was a farmer. His life was Seventy-five acres of cruel land in South West Texas. He would not have had it any other way.

On a scorching July afternoon in 1955, I stood next to him at a fence row along the south pasture watching anvil thunder heads form in the West, behind the Santana Mountain Peak, the namesake of his town, Santa Anna.
Little rain had fallen the past few years. The stock tanks were dry, animals were suffering, crops almost dead and the soul of the town was faltering. The prayers on Sunday were plentiful and to the point: please bring rain.

At the domino parlor, there was talk of bringing in a rainmaker, but the town had little money for such a wild idea. The town folk felt as though the good Lord wasn’t listening. A miracle was needed, even if it was a small one.

We had been standing at that fence row for a good hour, Grandfather not flinching or diverting his eyes from those clouds.
I wanted to see what he was seeing, but I couldn’t. He seemed to be taunting those thunderheads to come over that mountain, staring them down, challenging those clouds to bring what they had to his farm.
Looking away from the clouds for a moment, I looked at his weathered face. Just like his land, deep furrows everywhere. It’s as if each wrinkle was his reminder of a furrow that hadn’t produced a crop. He was only sixty, but his face looked decades older.
He glanced down and caught me staring. Embarrassed, I asked the first thing that came to mind “Grandfather, why are you a farmer?”
Still staring at the clouds he cleared his throat and said “I’ve always been a farmer boy, It’s all I ever knowed. One night, when I was about your age, the good Lord sent a tiny angel to my bed. She lit on the quilt and said Jasper, you’re going to be a farmer, and you will grow food to feed the children and the beast. This will be your life. How can you argue with the Lord boy? So, here I am.”
Up until then, we had never had a real conversation, and I liked the kindness in his voice. I wanted to know this man that had been so elusive and indifferent to me.
“Does the good Lord always tell people what they will do?” I asked.“It’s what I here’d” he replied.
Now you best go tell Granny to get the cellar ready, it’s going to come up a cloud tonight.” And with that, our first visit was over.
I came round the barn and saw Granny carrying an armful of quilts and pillows to the storm cellar. She already knew a storm was coming. She always knew.
Grandfather missed supper, unwilling to leave that fence row, afraid that if he did, those thunderheads would retreat. They didn’t.
The first crack of thunder shook the walls and sent me and Granny running for the storm cellar.
Grandfather wouldn’t come with us. He stood at that fence row until the hail stones pounded the cellar door. Only then, did he come down, wet and bleeding from the cuts on his scalp. Granny fussed over him for a few minutes and then he laid down on a cot and fell asleep.
We passed the night in that damp cellar. Granny, sitting, reading her Bible by the light of an oil lantern, Grandfather, snoring, and me slumbering between fitful dreams of thunder and lightning. The storm did what it was sent to do.

At dawn, we came out to a sea of water. The fields, flooded, reflected the sunrise like a new jewel. The farm animals rejoiced in unison. Grandfather checked the rain gauge on the fence, seven inches” he yelled. Granny cried into her cupped hands, and “I can’t remember why, but I cried with her.
Around lunch time, we loaded into the old Ford and drove into town. People lined the sidewalks. Women hugged each other, old farmers patted one another on the back, dogs barked and children laughed. The town had regained its spirit and hope overnight.
The Biscuit Café was alive, as was the domino parlor and the feed store. Everywhere the people of Santa Anna rejoiced and gave open thanks for this small miracle.
At the Biscuit Café, Grandfather treated us to a nice lunch of fried chicken. Pastor Bobby and his wife came in, and standing in the middle of the café, offered up a prayer of thanks for the rain. Grandfather, not a church going man, bowed his head and gave a hearty “amen” along with the rest of the patrons.

As we made our way back to the old Ford, Granny’s old friend Miss Ellis came up to Grandfather, hugged him tight and in a weepy voice said “it’s a miracle Jasper, God gave us a miracle.” He politely endured her hug for a minute, then we moved on towards home.
That seven inch rain didn’t end the drought for Santa Anna, but it gave the farms enough relief for the crops to stand tall again and the stock to survive that summer and fall. Grandfather became a church going man, never missing a Sunday, and his farm produced the best crop in years.
Fifty-eight years later, my wife and I took a day trip back to Santa Anna. I was curious if the town had grown and prospered. It hadn’t. The Biscuit Café, the feed store, the domino parlor and most of the other shops I remembered, gone. The old church still stood, showing its age, but still holding its head high.
We drove out to the old farm. The house, the barn and the smokehouse, all gone, lost to a fire. The only thing left was the windmill and the cellar. The fields were taken by scrub brush and weeds. Not a furrow survived.
I stood at that old fence line, and looked west to the Santana Mountain. Just like that day in 1955, thunder heads were building behind the peak. It was going to come up a cloud. I never forgot that conversation with my Grandfather that day, and sadly, I never got to know him better before he passed a few years later.
I have always believed that the power of prayer can produce miracles, and on that day, standing at that fence line, Grandfather and the Lord struck up a deal. The town got their small miracle, and Grandfather got religion.

“Grandad Is Way Too White?”


With all the hub-bub with big corporations and people, in general, being “too white” I knew I could count on my old pal Mooch to discover a solution.

I was in H.E.B. yesterday, and feel a tap on my shoulder. I turned and said, “can I help you?” I didn’t recognize this man at first, then I saw that possum grin and heard that stupid laugh.

” Hey old buddy, It’s me, the Mooch man. How do ya like my new look?”

” Holy Crap Mooch, you look like a gingerbread man; what happened to you?” I exclaim.

He got a little teary-eyed and said, ” my twin, spoiled, rich grand-daughters said they wouldn’t see me no more cause I am too old, too redneck, too Texan, and too darn white. They are sorority college girls at UT so I guess they know about all the latest woke stuff. They are graduating next week and each is getting a new Porsche and a trip to Europe from my son Harry, and his wife Karen. Those girls say I can’t attend their ceremony, and they don’t want to see me until I change my old ways. I found these pills in my “Popular Gardening” magazine and ordered a bunch for me and Mrs. Mooch. I can’t change my age or my redneck-ness, but I sure can change my color. Well, how do I look?”

I told him he looked real fine, but somehow, I think Mooch missed their absurd point.

“The Banjo Boy?”


Breaking Real Hot News From; The Dead South News Service. Photo’s courtesy of author James Dickie.

Obie Wahn, the hotshot reporter for the Dead South News Service is in Northeastern Georgia with a breaking story that is sure to get everyone’s attention.

Uncle Gus’s Riverside Rafting and Fish Camp located on the Chattooga River has been in operation since 1962 and is well known as the location where the actors and film crew stayed, and filmed the 1972 movie “Deliverance”.

Uncle Gus has long since departed the camp but his memory and influence are kept alive by his constant presence. When Uncle Gus passed back in 1982, his only daughter, Sparkle, had his body stuffed by the local taxidermist, and today, he sits in his favorite easy chair near the potbelly stove at the back of the camp store. For a few dollars, visitors can pose for a picture with old Gus and his two blue-tick hounds that are also stuffed and obediently sitting at his feet. Framed pictures of Uncle Gus and Sparkle with the cast of “Deliverance” decorate every wall in the store. A life-size cardboard Burt Reynolds stands behind the counter next to the cigarette display.

‘Miss Sparkle,’ as she is known around these parts, is a feisty red-headed single lady in her sixties. She contacted me on the Facebook saying she had a story that would beat all.

Miss Sparkle tells a whopper of a story so I will share it with you in her own words.

She tells it like this; “back in 1984, a bunch of rich bigshots from Washington DC came down to ride the Chattooga like in that famous movie that was filmed here. They were nice men and treated me with respect, even though I was just a river rat. Daddy hadn’t been gone long and I was real sad, so it was nice to have some company at the camp. One night the bunch of us were sitting around the campfire drinking daddy’s famous “shine” and this one fellow they called Joe B started sniffin’ my hair. I didn’t mind cause I had just washed it with lye soap and it smelled pretty good. He was a nice man, in a creepy sort of way. Too much “shine” always gets you in trouble, and I’ve had plenty of it since then. Well, about a year later the stork shows up with this bundle of joy. I call him Joe Bee. He ain’t no kid no more and doesn’t want to do anything but sit in that swing all day long playing the same song on that damn banjo. I’ll tell ya, it’s driving us all to drink more than we normally do, and that’s a bunch. We tried hiding it, but he always finds the darn thing. Little Joe Bee just wants to know who his daddy is. My two other boys, the twins, Smokey and Bandit, their daddy never comes to see them neither, but he gave them each a black Pontiac Trans Am for their sixteenth birthday. At least Joe Bee’s daddy could send him a monster truck or something.”

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