For The Dallas Cowboys…The Parties Over


Don Merideth as a Dallas Cowboy

Don Merideth used to sing the famous country song ” Turn Out The Lights, The Parties Over,” a Willie Nelson staple, when, at the end of Monday Night Football, the losing team was shellacked and had no way to come back. Too bad he wasn’t here to sing this past Sunday evening.

Dandy Don was the quarterback for the Cowboys back when they were a man’s football team and had the best coach in the NFL, Tom Landry. How things change in 50 years. Now they have Jabba The Hut as a coach, and the team is a bunch of woke, “where’s my trophy” pansy-asses.

An Arkansas hillbilly strikes it rich with oil and gas. I guess he was out “shoot’n at some food and up through the ground came a bubbl’n crude.”

He moves the family, not to Beverly Hills, but to Highland Park, Dallas’s equivalent. He then buys the team for a song and ruins the shining silver star of Texas. Just because he played football in college doesn’t make him a coach or an expert, of which he sees himself. Jimmy Johnson was the best thing to happen to the team since Tom Landry, and Jones, in the true style of “Dogpatch,” runs him off with a double-barrel shotgun and rabid hound dogs. Moma Yokum would be proud.

I was a fan since the 60s, then dropped off the cowboy wagon for a decade or so, then back on when my son bought 2 seats at the stadium, and I attended games with him. So I had hope that this season, after 26 years of disappointment, the “boys” would win the playoffs and go to the “big show.” Well, they did put on quite a show Sunday, but it was a “shit-show,” and once again, they will be watching the Super Bowl from their media rooms.

Jerry Jones has made a fortune from building a colossal stadium to house a mediocre team and trick the fans into filling the seats and buying his silver and blue made-in-China crap. In the 1800s, he would have been called a “huckster” or a “traveling medicine show,” and likely ran out of town.

“Little Moses” of Texas


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 Texas.

Hymie left the “old country” (New York) in 1910 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.

His mothers’ cousin in New York owned several 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.

He required his ranch hands to wear Yamakas and grow a long beard. Then, on Friday’s before sundown, he would drive a wagon through the herd with a Rabi from the synagogue in Fort Worth, standing in the bed, blessed the cattle and the land. He assumed that if the cattle were somewhat converted, all would be Kosher. The Rabi was paid twenty-five dollars for the blessing, so he kept his opinion on the cow’s religious transformation to himself.

Hymie purchased a 3500 lb Hereford bull from a neighboring ranch to keep the cows happy and grow the herd. The bull, a massive beast with 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 early December, a blue norther blew in and dropped eight 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. 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. A poster showing a group of smiling cows was tacked on telephone poles in town. Calls from West Texas 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.

One of the cowboys spotted a snow-white bull lumbering and stumbling out of the canyon at sundown. It was “Little Moses.” His cow fur had turned completely white. His eyes were bright blue and glowed like fiery coals.

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.

A crack of thunder and lightning bolts hit a grove of trees nearby. Usually, that would spook the cattle, but not a one moved. Instead, there was a sound of trumpets from somewhere above. 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 hooves. 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. They tempered their shock with a bottle of red-eye whiskey and roll-your-own cigarettes. The conversation around the campfire was sparse.

The herd dispersed into the grove of trees next to the camp. Hymie and the other hands hobbled their horses and bedded down next to the fire.

When dawn broke, the cowboys found a snow-white bull calf with fiery blue eyes standing with the cows. The calf led his herd and the cowboys back to the Flying Menorah.

More WTH News From The Cactus Patch


I have since given up smoking in my last portrait and had an ear reduction.

I can’t bring myself to watch our faux president give a speech. So, I didn’t. Instead, I watched the 4th episode of 1883. But I did catch bits of it on Youtube after the fact, and even then, I cringed and felt a tad oily. I realized that I, at 72 years old, am a domestic terrorist, right up there with the Antifa, BLM, and those crazy boys, the Taliban.

According to that pod person in the white house and Pelosi, I meet all the criteria; a Christian..yep, a gun owner..yep, a white man..yep ( although I am mostly Cherokee American Indian), an American patriot..yep, so I am a terrorist, and also a white supremacist, and a racist. I had no idea I was so damn evil. So it’s better to know now before I pass on.

I vowed after January 1st, I would limit my exposure to such political theater and nonsense in an attempt to lower my blood pressure and perhaps live a bit longer on this planet, which is doomed because most of Europe and about one half of the United States thinks a 16-year-old Swedish screaming savant is an expert on all things weather, climate change and the second coming of Baby Jesus. Sweden gave us ABBA, most of the folks in Minnesota, and Swedish Meatballs, and that’s about it. I’m really sorry that the cow flatulence from Texas ruined the ozone layer above Sweden and robbed her of her childhood.

If Jesus is coming down to kick our sinful butt’s, the ass whooping will likely start in Washington DC and then move on to the west coast, leaving most of America’s heartland alone, except for maybe Austin.

My late father’s late uncle, Harvey, was Biden’s doppelganger of a sort; although he more resembled Ernie Kovaks than Biden, He had the same temperament. I remember him as a demented screaming hot-mess in his twenties, and he lived to be eighty-five or so, perfecting his behavior into an act that the family immensely enjoyed during get-togethers on holidays. Hours of yelling and ranting about nothing, in particular, gave us children an excellent performance, which we much preferred to afternoon cartoons. He did take a piss in the gas floor heater one Christmas during our holiday luncheon, which cleared the house for a few hours, and he tried to roast his cat on a charcoal grill. Still, other than those few incidents, he was everyone’s favorite crazy uncle living in the basement. Today, with the proper handlers, he could have been president.

Uncle Harvey, during one of his classic dementia, inspired performances

Poor Ronnie Spector, she passed away “being no one’s baby.” Maybe she’ll send a selfie taken with Clarence, the angel, to Phil Spector, who is most likely roasting in Hell.

Betty White won the contest. She lived to 99 and was a few days short of 100. She outlived everyone she ever worked with or knew. Bad assed gal. Maybe she and Paul Lynde can get an act going and headline at “Sonny’s” Bar and Grill, located right off the main paved in gold highway next door to “Angels Wing Cleaning Service.”

After further and exhausting genealogy research, I found that I may indeed be related to Will Rogers, Chief Quanah Parker, Belle Star, and Butch Cassidy, but not the Sundance Kid. A decade ago, a fellow with the Sons Of The Alamo lodge, a dedicated member of whom did a run on our family tree, and these folks showed up. Queen Elizabeth is in there somewhere on down the tree and Odin the Viking king. I mentioned my family tree to my buddy Mooch, and he said, ” I got ya beat Lil’ buddy. I’m related to Golda Mier, Goldy Hawn, Old Yeller, Golden Earing, Wyatt Erp, King Faruk, Annie Oakley, The Hulk and Batman.” So yeah, I guess he does have one up on me.

Breaking News from The Front Lines of Rural America


CDC Smokestack

White smoke was spotted coming from the CDC smoke stack today, signaling the naming of the newest virus that will be killing us all within weeks. Vaccinated or not, it’s gonna get us.

” Flurona” the new rockstar variant of 2022 has been spotted in Los Angeles and the affluent suburbs looking every bit a Hollywood-inspired virus. It’s so contagious that the smash and grab gangs are taking a break from their criminal activities, giving Rodeo Drive merchants time to replace their smashed windows and replenish the supply of outrageously priced goods.

Maya Sharona, field reporter for NPR caught up with business human unit Libby Caucus in her Rodeo Drive shop. Ms. Caucus stated, “Like it’s been soooo crazy dangerous here on the drive that even the Kardashians have been staying away.”

Kamala (not a real black woman) Harris, this morning on national television compared the January 6th, riot to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attack on New York, aka, 911.

2,500 servicemen died in the attack on Pearl Harbor, so how dare this faux human compare the two. It takes a special kind of brain-damaged moron to issue such an insult to the families of those that died in those attacks. Worse than 911, who in the hell told her to say that? This woman has less brain function than Joe Bee. That reminds me, who has taken more balls to the chin than Mickey Mantel and Roger Marris? Kamala Harris.

“2022, The Year Of Reading Dangerously”


I’m an old-school reader. An Amazon tablet rests in my desk drawer but has gone untouched for four years. Electronic devices don’t allow me the same experience as holding a book made from cardboard and ink printed on recycled paper. Technology is fine, for some, but for the written word. No.

It starts with the jacket. Most nowadays are in color, printed on shiny paper with the author’s name as large as the title, a nice photo or drawing, and a few lines of publisher praise to capture your attention and to make you feel the $30 plus dollars you paid wasn’t in vain. It’s a dance of sorts, but our money has been collected, so it’s best to continue the waltz.

Then comes the preface or the dedication to loved ones, friends, or contributors. Some are short, sweet, and curt and fail to credit the deserved; others ramble on until I lose interest.

Truman Capote snubbing Harper Lee’s dedicated research with “In Cold Blood” comes to mind. A few excluded words of thanks ruined a lifelong friendship. He wasn’t the first, but his pettiness was unforgivable.

I notice the typeset and spacing information, the font, the Library of Congress notes, the printing dates, and then the first paragraph that sets the tone for the next few hundred or more pages.

Ernest Hemingway said a book should begin with ‘one true sentence.’ He knew it was a waste of the authors and their readers’ time if it didn’t. His advice has taught me well.

My wife, a Registered Nurse, retired last August. Soon after, she underwent major back surgery, and during her recuperation, she re-discovered her love of reading. So now, in place of watching television until the late hours, we both retire early, prop ourselves on our bed pillows, and read our books late into the night.

I recently revisited ” In Cold Blood,” Capote’s masterpiece that so affected his life that he never fully recovered to write another novel. I enjoyed it more this time around than thirty years ago. It was a butt whooping to the end. Every chapter contained a piece of his soul.

Anthony Doerr’s two newest novels are commanding reads. My wife and I have read both, and she is on the verge of starting his third. I am reading Amor Towels and find his storytelling to be in the style of Steinbeck and Hemingway. I was once a James Elroy fan, but his last two books were an effort from start to completion. He is on my rest list for now.

Besides ” Fun With Dick and Jane,” the first real books I read were Mark Twain’s ” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and then his follow-up “The AdventureHuckleberryberry Finn.”

I come from a family of non-readers, so my love for books comes from somewhere, possibly my elementary school librarian or my father’s sister, Norma. She was a voracious reader that leaned toward romance schlock, Cormac McCarthy, and Micky Spillane noir. I am thankful to both for their influence and guidance. It was aunt Norma that, introduced me to Thomas Wolf. I returned the favor with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.

My wife and I are relieved that the year 2020 is behind us. It won’t be missed. No tears from this household, only two middle fingers pointed skyward. Our ages allow us to forget what we wish to and remember the best. I believe 2022 will be our year of reading dangerously. We may, holding hands and a frosty cocktail, step out onto that literary ledge and take the leap; attempt to leave our comfort zone and take a chance or three. Time is of the essence, my eyesight is on the fritz, I have a blister on my thumb, and the books keep coming.

Committing Myself To New Years Resolutions


As a child growing up in 1950s Texas, I never understood the need to put myself behind an eight-ball with proclamation’s I had no way of keeping. New Year resolutions were the worst of them all.

My parents made them by the dozens and broke them without batting an eye.

My mother was the worst of the family bunch. Every year, on the eve of midnight, she would make a grandiose announcement to the family, usually after a few glasses of sparkling Cold Duck wine or too many Old Crow eggnogs. She made many resolutions in her day, but her yearly favorite was “kicking the ciggies.” She smoked like Bogart, one in each hand with a third, lit and waiting in the ashtray. My father, a lesser smoker, was a rank beginner compared to his bride. As a result, our household had more ashtrays than dishes. My sister and I also enjoyed the mild smoke from the ever-present Chesterfield cloud that hung in every room. Mother finally kept her favorite resolution at the age of 74, with some help from emphysema.

So, here I am at 72, and for the first time, I am considering making a New Year resolution or two.

I’ve been kicking around the less painful ones, easy things like giving up red meat or sugar. But then, Ovaltine contains sugar, and there is no way I can sleep without my hot Ovaltine, usually taken between 1 and 2 am, which is also my writing hours so that one is out. But, on the other hand, red meat can give me gastronomical grief, and I like fish more so that one is still doable.

Abstaining from distilled spirits? Now that’s tough, but it seems to be the national favorite.

It’s immensely satisfying to hold a crystal snifter of Jamesons or Tullamore Dew while sitting on my patio admiring the beauty of our local mountain, Comanche Peak. Good Irish whiskey settles my nerves and fuels my literary creativity. Jack Kerouac and Truman Capote will attest to that. Reaching old age without dying is hard work, and suitable rewards are in order. So unless I plan to stop writing and live out my final days as a nervous wreck, that one is kaput.

Attending a non-denominational house of worship with my bride. I can do this one with a few exceptions. Firstly, how does the word “none” go with denominational? There are hundreds of organized religions out there, just pick one and go with it.

Secondly, I’m old school church. I need to hear “the word of God,” not some big-haired pastor with an expensive haircut using the bible as a Cliff Notes report. I don’t dance hip hop in the isles, or clap, or sing songs projected on a screen, or enjoy hearing a choir of off-key screeching women whining about their personal tradgadys to the accompaniment of a Led Zepplin tribute band. I need that old-time religion to soothe my soul. The bubble-haired lady playing that Hammond B3 organ; that old rugged cross hanging on the wall next to the velvet Last Supper painting. A yelling red-faced slobbering preacher that points to me and says I’m going to Hell in a used Honda if I don’t change my sinful ways, and then expects money for admonishing me in front of strangers. Uncomfortable seating is a must. I can’t be a Baptist again, that would require me to give up my Irish whiskey, so it’s best to move on to another resolution or consider becoming a Catholic.

Improving my health. Maybe the easiest one of all, except for the sugar Ovaltine thing and the Irish whiskey thing. I possibly can do this one and make it stick. I beat the snot out of Cancer, so what’s left that could get me?

My doctor is young and hip. He wears one of those Apple watches that keep you alive and listens to TED talks in his wireless earbuds and drives a Tesla. He recommends, walking, hiking, biking, going to the gym, meditating, using fewer medications, and eating less of everything that tastes like food.

I reminded him that I need a knee replacement and major back surgery, so the walking, biking, hiking, and gym are out. Using fewer meds? He’s the idiot that put me on them. Sorry doc, I am not eating bagged weeds, Kale, plant-based meats, or gluten-free anything. Lactose-free milk is as woke as I get. I could only achieve a meditated state after a pipe full of Maui Wowie and Cat Stevens on the stereo.

By writing my resolutions down, I realize that nothing has changed since I was a kid. I’m not standing behind that eight-ball at this age.

“RESPECTIVUS” “For the Rest of Us” A New Holiday Coming Soon


In 1966, Maulana Kereuga, a member of the Black Panther Party (the one that Forest Gump messed with), invented a holiday to celebrate African culture in the United States, but not Africa. “Kwanzaa” became the alternate secular Christmas for some black Americans, but not all bought into it. The citizens of Africa think Kwanzaa is a made-up hot-mess of a holiday and had never heard of it until the late 60s. They celebrate Christmas, like most of the world. I’m betting Forest and Jenny didn’t know about Kwanzaa.

“Festivus.” A Sienfield made-up holiday to bring attention to the over-commercialism of Christmas. Held on December 23rd, it celebrates no giving of gifts, feats of strength, airing of grievances, and questionable miracles, as well as a fine meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. In place of a traditional tree, there is an aluminum pole carried by the family elder. Frank and George Castanza convinced Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer that Festivus is a viable and authentic holiday. It makes more sense than Kwanzaa, and at times, Christmas.

Festivus

So if anyone can make up a holiday, get it printed on a calendar and plastered on television, why can’t I? Well, just hide and watch.

I propose a new holiday that celebrates the elders of our families, the old and almost forgotten, except when birthdays and Christmas roll around and their children expect them to dish out wads of cash on useless gifts for their grand kids.

Poor old used-up Parents.

I’m talking about the senior parents and grandparents. They have toiled in the corporate salt mines, served in the military, died in wars, slaved in the factories and retail stores, walked those miles of isles in Walmart, changed those thousands of bedpans, paved the roadways, built the buildings and houses, and worked the land that provides the food that all our children and grandchildren enjoy. If it wasn’t for Grandma working in that computer chip factory for thirty years, little Johnny and Chelsea wouldn’t have that expensive video game or smart-ass phone that cost a cool grand.

As of today, December 28th, 2021, I proclaim the period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve the holiday of “Respectivus.”

Six humbling days of showing respect and gratefulness to parents and grandparents for all they have made possible for their loving family. Shower them with expensive gifts and fine wines. Send them on all-inclusive cruises to warm climates, and maybe pay off the mortgage that they borrowed against to pay for their children’s college education.

Sure, there will be a few million or more that will send their parents a gift card from Walgreens or maybe a jelly of the month membership or a new sleeve of tennis balls for their walker. Those would be the cheapskate brats that threw a conniption fit when they didn’t get a trophy and a pizza after they lost every game, and now their kids do the same when they don’t get the latest techno-gadget under the.. good God, it’s hard to even write it… “Holiday Tree.”

Implementing this hew holiday won’t be easy. It will take a banding together of old folks to make it happen. Marching in the streets carrying signs, some saying hooray for our side, protesting at the post office and in front of city hall, burning our driver’s license at the polling prescient, riding our personal mobility scooters like a biker gang on the freeway’s, and chaining ourselves to the columns of the White House. The old guy in there should get it; he’s older than we are. Us’un old ones have to stick together like we did in the 60s. So put Steppenwolf on the 8 track, and let’s roll.

I am excited about the tennis balls I might be receiving.

“Another Sunday Night In The Twilight Zone Between Christmas and New Years”


Photo by Captain Kirk

I feel like I’m living in a black and white telecast of the Twilight Zone. The ghost of Rod Serling is sitting in my den telling me stories and smoking Camels. That “dead zone” between Christmas and New Year has arrived.

Christmas can be such a damp squib to one’s spirits. Yet, throughout December, we anticipate the evening of the 24th and the 25th. Plans are made, food and wine are consumed with friends and family, phone calls made, presents exchanged, all in a whirlwind of excitement and frivolity. The world is at peace, life is good, we are all out of debt, and the family members we disliked a week ago now sit in our den spilling beer on our new carpet and double dipping the queso.

Then December 26th arrives, the tire goes flat, the cake goes stale, and the wine is soured. A whole week of angst lies ahead. I stock up on Valium and Tullamore Dew to fortify my journey.

I sit in my cushy recliner, slack jaw, drooling, staring at the ladybug on my ceiling. Pat Sajak is droning in the background, and Vanna is marching across the stage, turning those damn letters. The poor lady loses the car over a pause of 2.5 seconds. Sajak is an asshole. The lady goes home, her predicament goes viral on the net, Audie gives her a car, and Wheel of Fortune comes off looking like the dipshits they are. Why doe’s Vanna White even have a job?

My wife and I have doctor’s appointments this week. She, physical therapy, and me for a sinus invasion. We talk of going to the mountains, the ocean, or anywhere, there is no cedar. Christmas kicked our senior butts. We are as broke as 1930s sharecroppers. So I’m searching for old reruns of the Twilight Zone for insight and inspiration.

The coming Friday evening will bring a welcomed end to the year from Hell. According to the newscast, we will be walled into our homes within a few weeks and most likely deceased by February because of the Omicron bug. New Year’s Eve brings revelers blowing their little paper horns, drinking champagne, groping each other’s butts, and making drunken fools of themselves, but come morning, nothing has changed, and no one gets a pass to start all over. So put on your face diaper and shut up.

I think Rod Serling had it right. “Live every day like you’re in The Twilight Zone;” come to think of it, we are.

Is Christmas Over Yet?


My great great great something, Belle Starr.

Christmas Eve 2021 is upon us, and there is no escaping it.

I’m aware that my advanced age drives many of my phobias and fits of melancholia. Still, with our country going to complete crap in a Crate and Barrel wooden box, it’s impossible to fool me into becoming a smiling Father Christmas sitting around the fire drinking hot chocolate while reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our wokie grandkids. But, of course, they wouldn’t understand why someone would write such a fairytale. They are much too smart for their young age, thanks to Google and iPhones.

Yeah, I’m an old school guy with old school thoughts, when I can remember them. My wife says she is worried about me; I don’t remember things she says she told me ten minutes earlier. I tell her, “well maybe you didn’t tell me but thought you did.” It goes both ways. Then I find my car keys in the refrigerator, next to my reading glasses and wallet.

I used to laugh when my father asked me what day is it? Now, I am my father and my son laughs at me. Aging is not for pussy’s. It takes a real man to survive it.

That’s why I write short stories and blog, it keeps my mind sharp, and my wit acrid. The brain is a muscle that craves stimulation. I would think the number of medications I take would do that job, but creating fictional characters and predicaments based on my street rat crazy family makes me a whole person.

Who needs genealogy? I don’t. My grandmother, mother, aunts, uncles, and other relatives tell my sister and me that we are related to the famous female outlaw; Belle Starr. Also to Chief Quanah Parker and Will Rogers. Of course, they have no written proof, only hearsay delivered around a campfire or a supper table. I sent some spit to a genealogy outfit and they sent me a report. It wasn’t what I expected.

Northern European, Russian, English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and Neanderthal; not one molecule of American Indian, even though my Granny was born and raised on a reservation in Oklahoma and lived in a teepee. I called them up. The nice lady said the American Indigenous tribes are secretive and don’t give out information. She assured me I was probably a Cherokee and could go on acting like one if it made me feel better. Stupid ass lady. I do feel better.

Chief Quannah Parker; I inherited his hair

Have a Merry Christmas and may you live in the land of good water, bountiful game, and cold beer.

“A Fort Worth, Texas Kind of Christmas”


A personal recount of my childhood Christmas memories.

Photo by: Elf -O-Mat Studios

Riding a ceiling-mounted “Rocket Train” to nowhere around the basement of a department store doesn’t seem like a Christmas thing, but that’s what thousands of other Texas kids and I did every year in the 1950s.

Leonard Brothers Department Store occupied two square blocks of downtown Fort Worth real estate and was known as the Southwest’s Macy’s. They offered everything the big shot stores in the East carried, and then, hundreds of items no retailer in their right mind would consider.

If you had a mind to, one could purchase a full-length mink coat with optional mink mittens, the latest women’s high-fashion clothing line from Paris France, an Italian cut-crystal vile of Elizabeth Taylors spit, James Dean’s signature hair tonic, Rock Hudson’s autographed wedding photos, a housebroken Llama, an aluminum fishing boat and motor, a new car, a pole barn, a nice two-story craftsman home “build it yourself kit” delivered to your lot, chickens, barb wire, hay, horses and cows, a 30-30 Winchester rifle, a 40 caliber autographed General George Custer Colt pistol, a bottle of good hootch and a Ford tractor. That’s about as Texas as it gets.

The Christmas season in downtown Fort Worth was internationally recognized for its innovative and wonderous decorations. The righteous city fathers figured the best way to out-do Dallas, a full-time effort, was to line every building with white lights from top to bottom and install large glowing decorations on every lamp pole, street light, and building fa├žade available. If that didn’t make you “ooooh and ahhhh,” then you needed to go home and hide in a closet.

A week, or so, after Thanksgiving, my parents would take my sister and me downtown to see the decorations and visit the Leonard Brothers Department Store. Santa just happened to be in their basement taking advanced verbal orders from every crumb cruncher that could climb the stairs and plop on his lap.

My sister, in between screams and crying fits, always asked for the latest doll. She was scared senseless of “HO-HO,” but she somehow managed to spit out her order. Like clockwork, every year, I asked for a Daisy BB Gun with a year’s supply of stainless silver ammo ( for killing werewolves), a full-size Elliot Ness operable Thompson Sub Machine Gun, or an Army surplus Bazooka with real rockets and a long, razor-sharp Bowie knife encased in a fringed leather holster. It was a 1950s boy thing; weapons were what we longed for. How else could we defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo or win World War II, again? Our neighborhood may have sported the best-supplied “kid army” on the planet, and jolly old Santa was our secret arms dealer; parents non-the wiser. I finally got the BB Gun, but Santy was wise enough to not bring the other request.

Walking down the stairs to the store’s basement was the thrill I waited for all year. There, hanging above my head, was the beautiful red and silver tinseled sign, “Toy Land,” kid nirvana, and the Holy Grail all in one room. The smell of burned popcorn and stale chocolate candy wafted up the stairs, and I could hear the cheesy Christmas choir music and the sound the Rocket Train made as it glided along the ceiling-mounted rails. I almost pissed my jeans.

Hundreds, if not thousands of parents jostled down isles of toys, pushing, grabbing, snarling like a pack of wild dogs fighting for that last toy; the holiday spirit and common courtesy was alive and well. The queue of kids for the Rocket Train snaked through the basement like a soup line.

There, sitting on his mini-mountain top perch, sat old red-suited Santa Claus and his elfin apprentices, herding kids to his lap at break-neck speed. Each child got about fifteen-seconds, a black and white photograph, and then it was off the lap and down the steps. Kids were fast in those days; we memorized and practiced our list weeks before our visit for maximum impact. “Ho-Ho” had better be writing this stuff down. Kids don’t forget, squat.

Two Santa visits, four Rocket Train rides, and three popcorn bags later, our family unit departed Leonard’s for the new and improved “Leonard’s Christmas Tree Land,” located across the street from the main building. Thanks to the demolition of several winos infested abandoned buildings, the new lot was now the size of Rhode Island and held enough trees for every person and their dog in Texas.

Thousands, if not millions of fresh-cut trees awaited our choosing. Father, always the cheapskate, chose a sensible tree; not too big, not too small, yet full and fluffy with a lovely piney aroma. My sister and I pointed and danced like fools for the “pink flocked” tree in the tent, that cost the equivalent of a week’s salary. My parents enjoyed our cute antics. The sensible tree was secured to the top of our Nash Rambler station wagon, and we are homeward bound.

Pulling into our driveway, it was impossible to miss our neighbors extravagant holiday display. We had been away from home for 6 hours and returned to a full-blown holiday extravaganza that made our modest home look like a tobacco road share-croppers shack.

Our next-door neighbors, Mr. Mister and Mrs. Mister were the neighborhood gossip fodder. The couple moved from Southern California for his job. He, an aircraft-design engineer, and she, a former gopher girl at Paramount Studios. The Misters reeked new-found money and didn’t mind flaunting it. They drove tiny Italian sports cars and hired a guy to mow their lawn. His wife, Mrs. Mister, always had a Pall Mall ciggie in one hand and a frosty cocktail in the other. Father said she looked like a pretty Hollywood lady named Jane Mansfield, but Mother said she resembled a “gimlet-assed dime-store chippy.” I got the impression that the Misters were quite popular in the neighborhood.

Their Christmas display was pure Cecil B. DeMille. A life-size plywood sleigh, with Santa and his reindeer, covered the Mister’s roof, and 20 or more automated Elves and various holiday characters greeted passersby. Twinkling lights covered every bush and plant in the yard, and a large machine spat out thousands of bubbles that floated through the neighborhood. This was far more than Fort Worth was ready for.

The kill-shot was their enormous picture window that showcased a ceiling-high blue flocked tree bathed in color-changing lights. There, framed in the glow of their yuletide decor, sat Mr. and Mrs. Mister with their two poodles, Fred and Ginger, perched on their expensive modern sofa, sipping vermouth martinis like Hollywood royalty. This display of pompacious decadence didn’t go unnoticed by my parents.

Father hauled our puny tree into the living room and began unpacking lights for the decorating that would happen tomorrow evening. Mother hurried my sister and me off to bed. Visions of spying Elves, sugar plum pudding, and dangerous weapons danced in my head; Christmas was upon us.

Sometime after 10 PM, Father got hungry. Searching for sandwich fixings in the kitchen, he found a bottle of Jim Beam bourbon. Then he found a fresh half gallon of Egg-Nog, which of course, he enjoyed with the bourbon. While searching for bread to make the ham sandwich, he found two “Lux Laundry Soap Flake” boxes, with a dish-towel in each one. Then by chance, he discovered the food coloring. This gave him an idea for our sad little tree.

I awoke in a start. The sun was shining in my face, which meant I was late for school. I ran into the living room and was stopped in my tracks.

Our formally green tree was now flocked in thick pink snow, as were the curtains, the fireplace mantel, two chairs, the coffee table, and my father, who lay on the couch, passed out, with a half-eaten ham sandwich on his chest. My Mother sat a few feet away, sipping her coffee and smoking a Winston; my Louisville slugger lay on her lap. I was reluctant to approach her, but I had to know.

I timidly put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Mom, is Dad going to be alright?” She took a sip of coffee and a drag from her ciggie and said, “well, for right now, he will be, but after he wakes up, who knows.”

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