Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from The Great State Of Texas

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“Maybe It’s Time For The Beatles to Just, Let It Be”


The Mop Tops, photo by Mick Jagger

I am a Beatles fan from the night I saw them on Ed Sullivan back in February of 1964. I bought all of their albums, and when I played in a rock band starting in 1965, I played their music with a vengeance. Loud amplifiers and crunching electric guitars, that’s what the lads inspired us to do. They also taught me that there are more than three guitar chords as well as diminished and augmented ones to boot. The poor Beach Boys never figured that out until Brian Wilson wrote and engineered Pet Sounds. The boys from Liverpool gave them a lesson or two.

I watched the trailer for the upcoming Beatles documentary by Peter Jackson a few nights ago. “Let It Be” is and will be a huge hit and seen by millions if not more. Beautiful cinematography and soundtrack make this the best rock music movie ever made. Hats off to Peter for his effort and talent.

The Beatles, as a band, hasn’t played a lick together since 1970, and then it was an unpleasant experience from what I have read. The movie gives us a glimpse of their shared acrimony, but we will never know the sordid details, nor should we.

Recently, Sir Paul, the fossilized bass player said it was John that killed the band, not he. I can see that being true, but at this point, there are not many who still care who’s fault it was, or is. John and his muse, Yoko, or was it the other way around? drove a stone wedge into the heart of the lad’s kindred spirits ending the greatest musical act ever known to humans of my generation and perhaps a few after.

Paul also said a few days ago that the Rolling Stones were basically a blues cover band. Well, that is true, that is what they were and still are. Their music pales to the catalog of the Beatles. It’s almost amateurish in comparison, and if you have seen the Stones live in the last 10 years, you wonder who keeps digging up their graves and reanimating them, although Charlie Watts checked out with some class the others will never have. And that is what brings me to this next observation.

The Beatles had their time in history and used it well. Their legacy and music will be around for centuries in one form or another, the two remaining members will not. Ringo Starr has throttled it back and enjoys being in his late 70s, playing a gig here and there, and enjoying what few years he has left. Paul McCartney, the cute one, the mop-top lovable narcissist can’t seem to let it go. Once the “old man” voice sets in, then it’s curtains. Paul has it bad. Time to pay the valet and get the hell home, drink your Ovaltine, and hit the sack. It’s a bit embarrassing to see an old geezer jumping around on stage flicking his hair about like he is 20 years old. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Mick the Jagger does, but only a bit better, and he is more agile and thinner because he hasn’t eaten a cheeseburger in 50 years and lives on good booze, spring water, and replacement organs.

I find as the years have slipped by, I am less a Beatles fan than I was in the 80s, 90s, or even the early 2000s. I still have all the albums, but rarely spin them. I guess one could say I suffer from Beatles fatigue, or misplaced envy, or even old age, of which I am, at 72. One thing good is that I am still a musician and singer, and can play most of their tunes if I wished to. The trouble is, I don’t wish to now. I’m not hating on the boys, and I hope Peter Jackson makes a zillion bucks with his film, and it wins an Oscar or some trophy.

I am only suggesting that maybe after 57 years, maybe the Beatles should just say goodnight, and Let It Be.

The Graduates


2021 Graduating Class

Pictured above is the first graduating class of the “Taliban School For The Perfoming Arts and Martyrdom,” founded in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Biden administration is financing their graduation trip to the United States to create goodwill and harmony.

Maya Sharona, NPR Corrospondent

Maya Sharona, Middle East correspondent for National Public Radio, caught up with the group as they boarded the first US evacuation flight out of Kabul.

Paul- Ah’ Abdula, a spokesman for the class, said, ” we are all pleased about coming to America; we have seen the film many times. We are supposed to have a luncheon with Mr. Eddie Murphy and tour the movie studios. “

” Where do you see yourself in a week after you have had time to adjust to America?” asked Ms. Sharona.

Mr. Abdula replied, ” oh we will definitely be blown up and dead and will be humping our virgins in Heaven with our other martyrs. Oh yes, I almost forgot; death to America you infidel whore.”

Before Ms. Sharona could field another question, a department of Justice attache’ ushered the group onto the plane, telling them, ” calm down, boys, there will be plenty of time for this stuff when you get to Los Angeles.”

Hot Ovaltine, Just In Case


The good stuff, back before additives

I can never remember a time when Ovaltine was not in our kitchen. When I turned five years old, my father introduced me to the heavenly malted milk powder. He had been and still was a fan of the drink that “built a better kid.” It wasn’t my Mother’s slow brew hot chocolate, but better. If Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight endorsed it, that was good enough for my buddies and me. We were addicted to the stuff.

My father gave me his childhood Orphan Annie decoder pin since I was the firstborn son and the heir apparent to such collectibles. The radio show was long gone, so the pin was useless for spying, but I kept it in a goody box under my bed, just in case.

Cold winter nights usually included a mug of hot Ovaltine from the home galley right before hitting the sack. My sister and I couldn’t sleep without our steaming cup of Motherly love. The brew was almost always accompanied by a few cookies to quiet the midnight hunger pangs and keep the nightmares at bay. Ovaltine was considered its own food group; right up there with Eggs, Dairy, Kool-aid, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Sometime between 10 and 12 years old, my beloved Ovaltine vanished from our pantry shelf. It was an abrupt exit. I was heartbroken. I pleaded with Mother to bring my Ovaltine back; I was in withdrawal. But, unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf Mother’s ears. Her mind was made.

Nestles Quik was the new drink on the block. ” Deliciously smooth and chocolatey when mixed with cold milk, and it builds strong bones and fortitude,” said my Mother. Unfortunately, it was crap; a brown powder full of additives and fillers resembling warm chocolate spit when heated in a pan. It wasn’t Ovaltine.

The new product was all over the television shows on Saturday morning. The Nestle Quik cartoon rabbit zipped around the television screen like a manic Bugs Bunny, touting the health benefits of Quik. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody were pushing it, and Roy Rogers was gulping it down as he chased the bad guys. But, of course, the good Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans still drank Ovaltine, so all was not lost quite yet.

Decades go by, Ovaltine is replaced with boutique chocolate kinds of milk from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Sleeping meds are the norm. Insomnia is a national pastime. Unfortunately, I am a member of that pitiful sport.

A few months ago, I was shopping at my local H.E.B. grocery store. Ambling up one aisle then down another, list in hand, checking it twice and all that, it’s my typical weekly shopping trip. I coughed and dropped the list. Then, bending over to retrieve it, I came eye to eye with a jar of Ovaltine, sitting there next to the Nestle Quik and Bosco syrup. I hadn’t thought of Ovaltine in forty years. I grabbed a jar and threw it in my buggy, then, just for good measure, I grabbed two more jars, just in case. I never cared for Boscoe, but since Sienfield made it famous again, what the hell; I grabbed a jar of it also, just in case.

I called Mooch and told him that the world was good today; Ovaltine is back. He asked me to grab him a couple of jars, just in case.

It’s well past midnight, and I am sitting here writing on my laptop; I am finishing my second mug of hot Ovaltine before heading off to bed. It’s good to have my cup of Motherly love once again. I may enjoy a third cup, just in case.

Sharing A Piece Of Juicy Fruit With Tex Ritter


Tex Ritter, photo courtesy of Roy Rogers

“Do not forsake me, oh my Darlin,” on this our wedding day,” who didn’t know the first verse of that song from the radio? A massive hit from the 1952 movie “High Noon,” performed by everybody’s favorite singing cowboy, Tex Ritter.

In 1957, I was eight years old, and on some Saturday nights, I got to tag along with my father to the “Cowtown Hoedown,” a popular live country music show performed at the Majestic Theater in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. My father was the fiddle player in the house stage band, so I was somewhat musical royalty, at least for a kid.

Most of the major and minor country stars played Fort Worth and Dallas as much as they did Nashville, and I was fortunate to have seen many of them at this show. One, in particular, made a lasting impression on my young self.

I was sitting on a stool backstage before the show, talking to a few kids; who, like me, got to attend the show with their fathers.

My father came over and asked me to follow him. We walked behind the back curtain and stopped at a stage-level dressing room. There in the doorway stood a big fellow in a sequined cowboy suit and a 30 gallon Stetson. I knew who he was; that is Tex Ritter, the movie star and cowboy singer. My father introduced me, and I shook hands with Tex. I was floored, shocked, and couldn’t speak for a few minutes. What kid gets to meet a singing cowboy movie star in Fort Worth, Texas? I guess that would be me.

Tex asked my name and then told me he had a son the same age as me. We talked baseball and cowboy movies for a bit, then he handed me a one-dollar bill and asked if I would go to the concession stand and buy him a package of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. So I took the buck and took off down the service hallway to the front of the theater. I knew all the shortcuts and hidey holes from my vast exploration of the old theater during the shows.

I knew nothing of the brands and flavors, not being a gum chewer, but the words Juicy Fruit made my mouth water. Not having much money, what change I did get from selling pop bottles went to Bubble Gum Baseball Cards, not fancy chewing gums.

I purchased the pack of gum for five cents. Then, gripping the change tightly in my sweating little hand, I skedaddled back to Tex’s dressing room. He was signing autographs but stopped and thanked me for the favor. He then gave me two quarters for my services and disappeared into his dressing room for a moment. He handed me an autographed 8×10 photograph of him playing the guitar and singing to the doggies when he returned. I was in country and western music heaven. He also gave me a piece of Juicy Fruit, which I popped into my mouth and began chewing, just like Tex.

Juicy Fruit became my favorite gum, and now, whenever I see a pack or smell that distinct aroma as someone is unwrapping a piece, I remember the night I shared a chew with Tex Ritter.

Deep Diving With Lloyd Bridges


That’s not me in the tube!

I resumed Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy today; not by choice, mind you, but of necessity. The necessity part of it is; do it, get healed, or lose my bladder and pee in a zip lock bag until I check out.

Well, no-shit, that’s a hell of a choice. So I allow myself to be encapsulated in a large Iron Lung looking diving bell, taken down to 3 atmospheres while breathing pure oxygen for two hours. If I had to pee during that time, the tech gave me a little plastic urinal; not much help.

Just to be a smart ass, I ask the nurse if this machine is approved by Lloyd Bridges. She gives me a puzzled look. “You know, Sea Hunt, the television show about the diver?” I say. No laughing, she’s all business; and much too young.

This will be my life for two months, five days a week, two hours a day. I tell the nurses that I am so excited to be back. I have already been through six weeks of this a few months back.

In 2019, I was diagnosed with a whopping case of prostate cancer. Ok, if any old man lives long enough, they are likely to develop a case of it. Mine was terrible, but the good doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said they could save the sickly gland and me with a radically new form of treatment. SBRT High Dose Radiation, the latest thing out there, and only they had the machine and the know-how. I was in like Flint.

For a month before the zapping, I was stuck with large needles, drained of my blood, prodded, poked, had things inserted into my body that was far too large for the opening, and radiated via MRI and other expensive machines of which my insurance would pay for. I was begging like a hound to get it over with.

After all of that, I had no modesty left. A cute 25-year-old nurse tells me she wants to stick this evil-looking object in my what? Yeah, go ahead, what the hell. Of course, she is smiling the entire time. The little sadist in scrubs. I whine to my wife about my brutal treatment. She’s a nurse, one of them, so no pity from her.

The big day arrives. Five treatments of intense radiation over 5 weeks. The specialized nurses tell me this is the “good stuff,” the same type of secret Plutonium 54 that Oppenheimer used to develop the bomb. I am impressed but also scared shitless. I remember what happened to Nagasaki.

Strapped onto a padded bed similar to Frankenstein’s laboratory, heavy metal bars hold me down, and my head is immobilized. More needles and tubes inserted, and then, the giant machine is whirling around me like an H.G. Wells time machine. I see the nurses standing behind a radiation-proof glass booth smiling and waving. They seem to be drinking coffee and eating Crispy Creme Doughnuts. Damn. I feel a burning sensation through my body. I’m humming like a top and see colored lights before my eyes. The radiation is doing its thing. Country music is playing from somewhere in the room. I see the ghost of Hank Williams standing at the end of the machine. He’s eating a doughnut and washing it down with Jack Daniels.

Four more treatments, and I am done. My Oncologist says I am healed; a miracle it is. The nurses give me a certificate and a hug, then I am out the door. See you in a year, they say.

Less than two years later, I am pissing blood like a vampire and am a hurting unit. My urologist says, ” didn’t they tell you that that SBRT sometimes fries your innards?” Well, hell no, they didn’t tell me that! Doc Finger tells me that It did a number on my bladder, the surviving prostate gland, and my Urethra Franklin, all as crispy as Waffle House bacon.

So, I am back for more Hyperbaric treatments, and I am praying that these next two months will fix the problem. More later.

A Life Lesson Learned From A Ho-bo


I was told not to go near the railroad tracks or the bridge that went over them; Ho-bo’s lived there. My Grandmother warned me daily of the consequences, and they were all bad. Scary men, vagrants with no home and no family, they were just there, alone, living their life as best they could. I was seven years old and unafraid.

The dirt road along the tracks took me past Mrs. Ellis’s shack of a home. She didn’t live much better than the Ho-bo’s, but she had a home, a warm dry bed, chickens, and a dog, so she was poor but stable. She waved as I walked by, then as I got a few yards past, she took off to my Grandmothers farmhouse to tattle on me. I knew I was in trouble even before I got to the bridge. I considered turning back, but no, I needed to see this through.

As I got closer to the bridge, I could see there was a lone figure sitting on a bucket next to a campfire. I was puzzled because Granny always said there were dozens of those evil men under the bridge. Now, there was only one, and he appeared to be old and not much of a threat, sitting on his bucket cooking a can of something in the campfire. I approached him but with caution and a bit of fear. The Ho-bo waved me over. He was an old black man with hair as white as south Texas cotton. His clothes, mostly rags, hung on his frail frame; he resembled the scarecrow in my Papa’s garden. Next to him was a Calico cat, curled up in an old felt hat, purring and licking its paw. In the fire was a can of pork and beans cooking on a flat rock and bubbling like a witch’s brew. I sat crossed-legged on the dirt next to him.

” Does your Granny know you are here?” he asked.

” No sir, she don’t know, and I’m in a heap of trouble.” said I.

He smiled at me and said, ” It’ll all be good, your Granny knows old Bebe. I used to do odd jobs for her and your Papa and she paid me good and always fed me her heavenly biscuits and gravey. She is a wonderful lady, your Granny.” I couldn’t disagree with that, so I smiled back.

He took a worn-out spoon, heaped a large serving of beans into a dirty tin cup, and handed me the food. I was hungry. We ate our dinner together without talking. He gave the cat a spoonful of his beans. It was then that I noticed he had given me most of the can, and left little for himself. This old Ho-bo living under a bridge with hardly any food and nothing of value to his name, except maybe the Calico cat, shared with a stranger, possibly his one meal of the day. In the mind of a seven-year-old, this seemed normal.

Bebe told me a little about his life and how he came to be a Ho-bo. I shared what little of life experience I had accumulated up until now. We laughed a little, and then he said I had better head back to the farm. We shook hands; I scratched the cat and walked down the road towards a switching I knew was coming.

My Granny took my explanation well. There was no switching my butt this time and no dressing down. As I walked through the screen door headed for the barnyard, she said “sometimes the folks that have the least, share the most, remember that.” I have.


Fort Worth Is Always On My Mind


Don’t Mess With Texas.

I’m a 50s kid. That means I was born in 1949 at Saint Josephs Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in the lean and mean Eisenhower years. My hometown was different back then, as most of our hometowns are today. But, change is inevitable, and it happens at the oddest times; while we sleep or mow our lawn. Progress is sneaky.

First, it’s a few new buildings downtown, then a slick freeway cutting through quiet neighborhoods, and maybe a landmark building demolished to make way for a new hospital. Then, out of nowhere, a train full of people from the West or the East is arriving, and the pilgrims try to make it “not so Texas.” It’s a gradual thing, and most of us are too occupied or young to notice until it bites us in the rear.

My grandfather was old-school Fort Worth from the late 1800s, a cow-puncher who rode the cattle drives and sang cowboy songs to the little doggies. He loved his city to a fault. The word “Dallas” was not to be spoken in his home or his presence. Violaters usually got punched or asked to leave. The old man was a tough Texan and a supporter of Amon Carter, the larger-than-life businessman that put Fort Worth on the map and started the rivalry between the two cities.

In the 1950s, if you asked Fort Worth residents what they thought of Dallas, they would most likely tell you it’s a high-on-the-hog-East coast-wanna be-big-shot rich-bitch city. We didn’t sugarcoat it. That rivalry was always just under the surface.

In October, Dallas has the “State Fair of Texas,” and Fort Worth has the “Fat Stock Show” in February. I didn’t attend the State Fair until I was ten years old, and even then, it was in disguise, and after dark, it was to the fair and then back home, hoping no one in our neighborhood noticed we had crossed enemy lines. Unfortunately, I let my secret visit slip around my buddies, and they banned me from playing cowboys and Indians for a week. Even us kids were tough on each other.

Three things got us kids excited; Christmastime in downtown Fort Worth, Toyland at Leonard Brothers Department Store, and The Fat Stock Show. But, unfortunately for us, the rest of the year was uneventful and boring. Summer was pickup baseball games and Popeye cartoons.

60 years ago, the winters in Texas were colder and more miserable. February was the month we froze our little gimlet asses off, and of course, that is the Stock Show month. Wrapped up in our Roy Rogers flannel pajamas and all the clothes we owned, we kids made the best of it as we visited the midway, the cattle barns, and animal competitions. The rodeo was for the real cowboys, and it was too expensive; the free ticket from our grade school only went so far. We were kids and had not a penny to our name. It wasn’t the flashy affair that Dallas put on, but it was ours, and we loved it. I still have a round metal pin I got at the Stock Show, a lovely picture of Aunt Jemimah promoting her flour, something that would get me canceled, or worse today. I’ve often thought of wearing it to the grocery store to see the reaction. Maybe not.

For those of us who were born and grew up there, Fort Worth, Texas, is where the west begins, and Dallas is where the East peters out. Nothing has changed.

“I Love The Smell Of Cayenne In The Morning”


The “Dillo-Cong” is on the run. I strafed the yard with a mixture of water, dish soap, and Cayenne Pepper. It wasn’t Napalm, but it appears to have worked, and I didn’t torch the whole neighborhood.

In the process, I damn near ruined my respiratory and sensory systems. I can no longer smell or taste food or drink; everything tastes like Cayenne Pepper. My Oatmeal is chemical mush, and to top it all off, my Irish Whiskey has no taste whatsoever. I’ve ruined my body attempting to rid my property of a pestilent placental mammal. For what? To save my lawn and a few landscape plants? Well, hell yes! I worked hard installing that grass and plants, and I will not allow that little digging shit to defoliate my landscape.

If the pepper spray fails, then I will try plan B. It’s widely known in Texas, that Armadilloes enjoy a beer and a toke once in a while. We can thank the cowboy-hippies down in Austin for turning the critter into a lush and a weed addict. I will put a few cold bottles of Lone Star around the yard and once he is inebriated, I will transport him to a new locale. Beats shooting the little beast.

“Six Flags Over Afghanistan”


‘Associated Press reports, “Taliban terrorists have been photographed enjoying fairground rides with AK-47 and M4 assault rifles cradled in their arms while the rest of the country deals with the social strictures imposed by the newly declared Afghanistan Islamic Emirate.

After a few weeks of murdering women and children and hanging other poor Afghans from lamp posts and cranes, these poor over-worked terrorists need some real relaxation and downtime.

“Six Flags Over Afghanistan” opened its doors to a capacity crowd, mainly Taliban, IsIs, and other murdering demons from Hell.

Mohamud Mohamud, the first visitor in line, said, ” I’ve always wanted to visit the American amusement parks, but this is much better; here I can carry my rifle.” It was reported that dozens of terrorists were shot during disputes for cutting in line at the most popular rides. No women were permitted to visit the park.

General Manager of the park, Allah Opensesame, said that the park was paid for by our new best friend, Joe Biden. His good friend Nancy Pelosi arranged for private donations to be flown to the airport in the middle of the night. He also hinted that they are designing new water and skateboard parks and plans to send a skateboard team to the next Olympic Games.

“Armadillo Dream Wrecker”


A few days ago I approached an Armadillo that was nosing around in my backyard. Having lived here in the country for over two years, it’s the first one I’ve seen on my property.

Last night, the little tank dug up a few plants and excavated a two-foot deep hole in one of my flower beds, then rooted around in my lawn, leaving nose holes like Swiss cheese. I am not pleased with nature at this time. But, I am respectful of nature and the animals that live around me. I still like Armadillos, but barely.

A trip to Home Depot arms me with a sure-fire critter deterrent. A shaker full of granules that resembles the classic Twenty Mule Team Borax; the product mined in Death Valley and was the backdrop for a great western television show in the 1950s starring Ronald Reagan. I also picked up a few shakers of Cayenne Pepper powder for an added kick; Dillers hate pepper powder.

Two hours later, I am gagging from the Cayenne Pepper powder that somehow got up my nose and in my eyes, which are blood red and producing copious amounts of tears, along with streams of red snot flowing from my burning nose. So this is what it was like to be gassed by the Krauts in WWI? Not a shot fired, and the little critter is kicking my butt.

My trap is set; the war is on. The chemical attack is imminent. My battle plan had better work because I am faring worse than the critter. I think for a moment that my Savage 12 gauge might be a better option, but then I would need to console my wife, then plan a funeral and say a few words, possibly invite a few neighbors over for the service and such, so I will stick with the deterrents for now.

01200 rolls around and my eyes are open; no sleep or sweet dreams for me. I roll out of bed, disarm my security system and sneak onto the patio, LED lantern in hand. I smell a skunk and hear frogs croaking; a rustle in the woods behind my shed startles me; it could be Sasquatch, or worse, a Haitian invader. We have night snakes around here; Copperheads and rattlers like to bite, so I am careful where I step in the grass. No Diller to be seen. No evidence of digging as of yet, but I will launch another reconnaissance mission around 3 AM. Wish me luck.

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