Memories At 4: 00 AM


My father, Port Aransas, Texas, 1957

     My father didn’t own a beach chair, nor did he want one. He preferred to sit on his haunches or stand when he fished. My grandfather, the old salt of the clan, felt the same; real men took their fishing seriously in 1957 and didn’t need such things. They smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes and carried a Zippo lighter and Barlow pocketknife in their pant pocket. If it was summer, my dad waded into the surf, sometimes up to his waist, which worried my mother; she feared a sand shark or a giant octopus would drag him beneath the waves and leave my sister and me fatherless. She fretted about the monsters in the ocean and would have a panic attack if she got more than knee-deep in the surf. She couldn’t swim a lick, thanks to her mother’s lifelong fear of water which she instilled in her children. However, my baby sister was fearless and would keep plodding headlong into the surf until one of my parents or I rescued her.

     My family lived inland, four hundred miles to the northern part of Texas. The journey from Fort Worth to Port Aransas took eight, sometimes nine hours, but we could have made it in six if not for my mother wanting to stop for lunch at Franks restaurant in Schulenberg and a potty break every hour. The women in her family were cursed with an uncooperative bladder.

     We were city folks, but our hearts and souls were one with the Gulf of Mexico and that small island village. I never considered myself a city boy; Fort Worth was where we stayed until our next trip to our natural home, the ocean. Home to me was Gibbs Cottages or the Rock Cottages on G street. Bilmore and Son’s Hardware sold tackle, bait, and gas, and the Island Grocery had the best baloney and rat cheese sandwiches in Texas. The only church in town kept everyone saved and signed up for heaven, and Shorty’s was the most popular beer joint in town and served ice-cold Pearl beer in dark glass bottles.

     The magic was always there, winter or summer; it never changed. The ever-shifting dunes and beach grass waved like grain fields in the southern breeze. The sea birds ran along the shoreline, paying no attention to us interlopers. The gulls would assault me if I had a sandwich or a bag of potato chips, and the brown Pelicans glided above the water like a formation of B-24 bombers. There were rattlesnakes in the dunes, but I never ran across one. I once disturbed a napping Coyote; it snorted and trotted off into the grasslands behind the dunes.

     Memories come to me at inconvenient times. This one woke me up at 4:00 am, so I figured I had better write it down. Who knows what memory tomorrow may bring?

You’re Only As Young As You Look


My granny, a Cherokee woman from another century, used to tell me, and anyone else that would listen, ” you’re only as old as you feel.” She had a good point. She lived into her 90s and seemed to feel good most of her life, even though every meal she cooked was in bacon grease and hog fat. She would take-back those wise words if she could see her oldest grandson now.

I stared at the reflection in my bathroom mirror this morning and said, “Dad, is that you?” Who is this old guy? My grandmothers’ words came back to me, but in this case, she is dead damn wrong.

I guess 73 years old is a milestone of sorts. I have already outlived my father, that passed at 72, so I got a year up on him. The odd thing is that I, or so folks tell me, don’t look 73. “Oh, look at yeeew, I swear yeeew could pass for 55 if not a day older; bless your heart.” Words like that make an old guy feel proud for a few minutes, nothing more.

My grandfather, my dad’s pop, passed on when I was ten years old. Born in 1891, he looked as old when I was a wee-one as he did when he left us. Early pictures from the 1930s showed him with white hair and wrinkly skin. The man was born old but never aged after that. Maybe that’s the gene I inherited. He came out of the womb with whiskers, white hair, and a Daniel Boone pocket knife used for whittling and sharpening pencils. Strange things like this happen in the south, especially in Texas. Our state is shrouded in mystery and could be a part of the Twilight Zone.

My wife, a few years younger than me, is of good German and Irish stock from the hills of Pennsylvania. She wasn’t born in Texas but got here as quick as she could via her wandering parents. She has but a little gray hair and very few wrinkles, and her eyes are bright, and her nose is cold. We’ve both had our medical maladies lately, each suffering through major back operations, cleaned-out knee joints, and other minor nuisances.

Speaking for myself, I may hold the family record if one exists; my sister is checking the family bible just to be sure. A case of prostate cancer back in 2019, and I thought it was clear sailing after that. No such luck. Now, the good stuff; three ear surgeries on both ears, a cute little prostate operation, as if the cancer didn’t do enough damage, major back surgery that included a lot of stainless steel parts, and next week major nerve and leg surgery to correct drop foot caused by the back surgery with all the parts. All of this is within a twelve-month period. Now, I will kiss your hiney and buy you a Whataburger if that ain’t a record of some kind; and I’m still ambulating, but with a fancy cane from the Walmart.

Sympathy or donations via the mail is not the goal of this story but letting other readers know what the future holds if you’re a young whipper snapper. Better start saving your cash, suck it up and get ready for the big show. The good news is; I still have all my luxurious white hair, which makes me look like a TV preacher. Amen, brother.

Resolutions Are Made To Be Broken


The night of January 2, 2023, I resolved not to write about politics. It was 2 am in the morning, and I was lying in bed fretting about the news I had watched earlier in the day. There is no “good news”; it’s all bad, given to use in small doses by people on my television screen that couldn’t talk their way out of a robbery without a teleprompter.

I vow to take immediate action to mend my mind and soul from the poison I am fed daily at 5:30 pm. I fought the compulsion to limp to my recliner and write a scathing blog post about the current suicidal condition of our country, but I stayed in my warm bed. Sarcasm can wait until breakfast.

Goodbye, old Lester Holt. Your suits are lovely and fit you well, but you are a liar, and I would readily join you for ten million dollars a year. You have no backbone or conscience as you continue spitting bullshit into the camera. I’m done with you and the others. You know, the nice-looking news anchor women with perfect hair, white teeth, and store-bought breast. I will give them one compliment: they don’t resemble a Kardashian woman.

I began to read The Fort Worth Press when I was a child, 9 years old, to be exact. Reading books came to me naturally, and so the newspaper was also. Starting with the comics, then sports, and from there, real news, the front page. Bad news makes for a good readership. The writers at the Press understood this. The front page was their “kill shot.”

I wanted to be a writer like the men in the newsroom, typing on their Underwood machine while smoking an unfiltered Camel and downing lousy coffee with a shot of Old Crow added for flavor. My earlier quest to be Mark Twain didn’t work out, so this would be the next best thing. I let my father know of my intentions, which led him to remind me that last year I had wanted to be a Good Humor man with my own ice cream truck. He was right, but a kid can change professions daily. I was years away from holding a job.

My mothers’ ancient typewriter weighed at least a hundred pounds. It had belonged to her sister, that once had aspirations of being the next Ayn Rand but lost interest in becoming an author when she married a college professor that was an author. It gave me a hernia around my young groin when I heaved it onto the kitchen table. I rolled a sheet of paper from my Big Cheif tablet into the machine, ready to start my first article that will be mailed to the Press.

Grandfathers Magic Watch


The makeshift sunblock my father had fashioned from a tarp and four cane fishing poles wasn’t beautiful, but it worked fine. Sitting under the contraption was me, my little sister, my mother, and my grandmother. I was eight years old. He and my grandfather were not far away, holding their fishing rods after casting into the rough surf. Whatever they caught would be our supper that evening. I wasn’t invited to fish with them; I was too young, and the surf too dangerous. Besides, my small Zebco rod was only strong enough to catch a passing perch.


The visit was our annual summer fishing trip to Port Aransas, Texas, a small fishing village on the northern tip of Mustang Island. I don’t remember my first visit, but my mother said I was barely one year old. After that, the Gulf of Mexico, the beach, and that island became part of my DNA.


I’m an old man now, but I can recall every street, building, and sand dune of that small village. Over the decades, it became a tourist mecca for the wealthy, destroying the innocent and unpretentious charm of the town. Gone are the clapboard rental cottages with crushed seashell paving and fish-cleaning shacks. Instead, gaudy stores selling tee shirts made in China sit between the ostentatious condominiums, restaurants, and hotels. I prefer to remember it as it was in the 1950s when families came to fish, and the children explored the untamed beaches and sand dunes.


Born in 1891, my grandfather was an old man by the time I was eight. Tall and lanky, with white hair and skin like saddle leather. He was a proud veteran of World War 1 and as tough as the longhorn steers he herded as a boy. He lost part of his left butt cheek from shrapnel and was gassed twice while fighting in France. Nevertheless, he harbored no ill feelings toward the Germans, even though he killed and wounded many of them.


On the contrary, he disliked the French because they refused to show proper gratitude for the doughboys saving their butts from the Krauts. As a result, he wouldn’t allow French wine in his home. He preferred Kentucky bourbon with a splash of branch water or an ice-cold Pearl beer. His hard-drinking days, he left in Fort Worth’s Hell’s Half Acre decades ago. He told a few stories about the infamous place, but he was careful to scrub them clean for us youngsters.


His one great joy in life was saltwater fishing with my father, playing his fiddle, and telling stories to whoever would listen. The recounting of his early childhood and life in Texas captivated my sister, cousins, and me for as long as the old man could keep talking. He told about being in France but never about the horrors of the war. He lived a colorful childhood and, for a while, was a true Texas cowboy. Half of it may have been ripping yarns, but he could tell some good ones. My mother said I inherited his talent for recounting and spinning yarns. If that’s true, I’m proud to have it.


He could have been in a Norman Rockwell painting while standing in the surf, with khaki pants rolled to his knees, a white t-shirt, and a duck-billed cap. I was in awe of the old man but too young to know how to tell him. My grandmother said he was crazy for wearing his gold watch while fishing.


The timepiece was a gift of gratitude from his employer when he worked in California during the depression years. A simple gold-plated 1930s-style Boluva. It was an inexpensive watch, but he treated it like the king’s crown, having it cleaned yearly and the crystal replaced if scratched. He called that watch his good luck charm and wore it when fishing for good juju. It was a risk that the salt water might ruin it, but he took it. He caught five speckled sand trout and half a dozen Golden Croaker that day, so the charm worked. Add the three specs my father snagged, joined with the cornbread and pinto beans my mother and grandmother cooked, and we dined like the Rockefellers that night.


The next few days were a repeat. I rode my blow-up air mattress in the shore break and caught myself a whopper of a sunburn on my back. The jellyfish sting added to my discomfort. I was miserable and well-toasted, but I kept going, determined to enjoy every second of beach time.
We returned to Fort Worth as a spent and happy bunch. The family would give it another go the following year.


Two years passed. One day, my father told me my grandfather was sick and would be in the veteran hospital in Dallas for a while. He mentioned cancer. I was young and didn’t understand this disease, so I looked it up in our encyclopedia; “An illness that attacks the body’s cells with over ten strains, some are incurable and deadly. One week he seemed fine, sitting in his rocking chair playing his fiddle and telling stories, and the next week, he was in a hospital fighting for his life. His doctor said being gassed in the war was the cause of his cancer. It was not treatable and would be fatal.


Near a month later, he was not the same man when he came home. His face was gaunt, his body, lean and meatless before, now was skin and bone. The treatments the doctors ordered had ravaged him as much as the disease. My grandmothers’ facial expressions told it all. There was no need to explain; I knew he would soon be gone. My father was stoic, if only for his mother’s benefit. His father, my grandfather, was fading away before our eyes, and we couldn’t do a thing to change the outcome.


A week after returning home, grandfather found his strength, walked to their living room, and sat in his rocking chair. He asked me for his fiddle, which I fetched. He played half of one tune and handed it back to me. I cased it and returned it to the bedroom closet; he was too weak for a second tune. His voice was raspy and weak when he spoke, but he had something to say, so I took my position on my low stool, as I often did when he recounted his tales. I noticed his gold watch was loose and had moved close to his elbow. His attachment to the timepiece would not allow removal. It was a part of him. He spoke a few words, but It was a painful effort to continue. My grandmother helped him to his bed. He removed his watch, placed it on the nightstand, and then lay down. He was asleep within minutes. From that day on, he would sleep most of the time, waking only to be helped to the bathroom or to sip a few spoonfuls of hot soup. I would visit after school, sitting next to him while he slept, cleaning his watch with a soft cloth, winding it, and ensuring the time was correct. I felt he knew I was caring for this treasured talisman.


I came home from school on a Friday, and my grandfather was gone. I could see the imprint in the bed where he had laid, and his medication bottles and watch were missing from the nightstand. Mother said he took a turn for the worse, and my father took him back to the veteran’s hospital.


The following day, my father came home and told us my grandfather had passed away during the night. I noticed he was wearing his gold watch. I thought if the timepiece was such a lucky charm, as I had been told all these years, why had it not saved my grandfather?


Life continued on Jennings Street; for me, some of it was good, a little of it not. Father wore grandfather’s watch in remembrance and respect. He waited for the magic to come. He gave me his worn-out Timex, which was too big for my wrist, but I wore it proudly.


The magic of the watch began to work for my father. He acquired two four-unit apartment houses near downtown, fixed them up a bit, rented them out, and sold them. We then moved to Wichita Falls, where he started building new homes. A year later, we moved to Plano, Texas, where he continued to build houses. It appeared the good luck of the watch was working overtime. I became a believer in this talisman. The hard days in Fort Worth were well behind us now. The future for our family was filled with promise.


On a day in 1968, riding with my father to lock his homes for the night, we had a long overdue father-to-son talk. I rarely saw him because of his work, so I welcomed the time. Had I thought about college? What was going on in my life? I played in a popular rock band, so that was a point we touched on. He didn’t want me to become a professional musician as he had been. I assured him this phase would end soon. He and my mother were worried I would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. We talked for two hours. He remarked that as long as he wore his father’s watch, everything he touched turned to gold. Father was successful, so how could I doubt his belief?

In the summer of 1969, the band on the old watch broke while we were fishing for Kingfish in the gulf. While gaffing a Kingfish, my father bumped his wrist against the side of our boat. The watch fell into the water, and in a flash, it was gone. He said that if he had to lose it, this was a fitting end; lost to the water that his father loved so much.

“A Fort Worth, Texas Kind of Christmas”


When I first published this story, readers asked me if the characters were real or did any of it actually happen. Our neighbors, the Misters, were real folks and became our neighborhood mentors. Leonards’s Department Store Toyland in downtown Fort Worth was a sight to behold, and the attempted flocking and ruination of our Christmas tree is true. My father was able to negotiate peace with my mother, and my uncle delivered a new tree, so Christmas was saved. A flocked tree never adorned our living room, but we did buy an aluminum tree with a rotating color wheel. Years later, in the early sixties, I used that rotating wheel as part of a hokey light show for our rock band.

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, 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 wonderful decorations. The righteous city fathers figured the best way to outdo 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 façade 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 always asked for the latest doll in between screams and crying fits. 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 had 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 off my jeans.

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

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.

After 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, which 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 were homeward bound.

Pulling into our driveway, it was impossible to miss our neighbor’s 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 sharecroppers 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 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 with a start. The sun was shining on 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.”

When Baseball Was A Kids Game


The padlock on the gate to the baseball diamond would have taken a welding torch to remove, and the metal sign attached to the fence above spelled doom for our summer of pickup baseball games. The sign read, “The Forest Park Baseball Facility is closed to public play. Only organized teams will have use of the diamonds. Call for times and additional rules. JE-74428

 What is this? Our neighborhood team has been playing on these two fields since we were six, roughly 1956 until now. This dirt and grass are hallowed ground, and we had laid claim to it years ago. This was our land and we will fight for it. Damn the Parks and Recreation Department; a bunch of fat old men sitting behind desks.

After a brief discussion, we agreed on, and did what any nine or ten-year-old pack of boys would do; we climbed the fence and started our game.

 Thirty minutes into our play, two Parks and Recreation men chased us off the field. We didn’t take them seriously until a Police car showed up. The officer was friendly but told us if we did this again, he would haul us downtown, fingerprint us and take a nice picture for the newspaper.; we were gone in a flash.

My mother, upon hearing my sad story, which included real tears and wailing, and the possibility that I would be under her feet every day for three months, drove to the Parks and Recreation building and came home with their list of rules. We were desperate, but not as much as she and the other mothers in our neighborhood.

To play baseball, now known as Little League, we need an organized team, a coach, an assistant coach, proper uniforms, and certified safety equipment. The baseball committee will schedule all practices and games with no exceptions. Unfortunately, our neighborhood band of brothers was screwed. Our dad’s worked, and our mothers weren’t about to coach a baseball team, so we went to our mentor and Svengali for guidance, my neighbor, Mr. Mister. He had all the answers.

Mr. Mister read the document and winced, “Looks like they got you by the gonads, boys. We had Little League in California. It wasn’t bad because it evened out the teams by age. I coached a few of the units myself.” Ha! Our problem was solved. Mr. Mister could be our coach. He told us to sit under the Mimosa tree and disappeared into his house. Ten minutes later, he and Mrs. Mister came out with a pitcher of Kool-Aid and a large plate of cookies.

“Here are the rules, fellas,” he said between bites of an oatmeal cookie. “I work at Carswell and don’t get off until 3:00. Mrs. Mister will be your assistant coach and run the show until I get to the ball diamonds. Fred and Ginger, our two Poodles, will be your mascots; no wiggle room on that one.”

He saw the shock on our faces. “Don’t worry, boys; she played in the Air Force women’s league during the war and coached her team to win two championships. She can out-run, out-pitch, and out-hit any of you and has forgotten more about baseball than you mound rats will ever know. Take it or leave it.” We took it.

Mr. Mister found a gold mine of baseball equipment stored on the base. Five years ago, the officers had tried to start a league for their kids, but the brats lost interest. So, as usual with the government, they ordered triple what was needed. Multiple boxes of Rawlings baseballs, shoes with metal cleats, uniforms, caps, and a box of assorted gloves. It was a treasure trove from baseball heaven. The uniforms had the name “Jets” across the front, and the caps sported a USAF insignia. We were hot crap on a china plate. The Air Force was our sponsor, which kept us at arm’s length for their protection.

Our first practice was a rousing success. Mrs. Mister had us shagging balls from every part of the outfield. Holding the bat with one hand, she could put a ball anywhere she wanted with pinpoint accuracy. She corrected some of the boys batting stance and grip and taught Freckled Face Bean how to catch a fly ball like a pro. The team on the adjoining diamond looked like idiots compared to us.

Mr. Mister showed up and immediately took our two pitchers, Skipper and Georgie, to a corner of the outfield and started reworking their pitching technique.

This was the big league, and we became rather full of ourselves within an hour. Mrs. Mister sensed our overstuffed self-evaluation and made us run 20 laps around the field to bring us back to reality. She advised us as we lay on the grass, wheezing and on the verge of death. “This is Little League baseball, and you are nine -year old boys; this isn’t the big leagues, so get over yourselves” She knew how to bust our bubble.   

In June, we won all but two games and were at the top of the heap. Mr. Mister had turned Skipper and Georgie into pitching machines.

Mrs. Mister let it slip one day that her husband used to throw for UCLA back in his college days, something he had failed to tell us, boys.

The gang of hoodlum players from Poly grade school gave us the most trouble. “The Pirates,” and the skull and crossbones were sewn into their jersey. They looked and carried themselves as a group of hard-assed boys from the bowery; their name was a perfect fit. More than a few of the 10-year-old boys smoked ciggies and a few carried switchblades.

Their coach was a chubby sleazy guy that constantly had a cigar in his mouth. He also processed the vocabulary of a one-eyed rummy Pirate. The only thing missing was the peg leg and the Parrot on his shoulder. The boys had been taught the fine arts of cheating and could pull it off because we had one referee, and he was behind home plate.

The first time we played the Pirates, the referee ejected their leading pitcher because of a layer of vaseline under the visor of his cap. The second pitcher had 3-in-1 motor oil on his rag in his back pocket. The third was because the bats they were using had been drilled and filled with pine tar, and the infielders had filed their metal spiked to needles, guaranteed to give any of our boys a nasty injury. Nine and ten-year-old kids don’t think this stuff up. Their coach was a world-class mobster, making the entire team an accomplice. We felt terrible for most of the boys; all they wanted was to play ball, and they got stuck with a little Al Capone for a manager because of their school district. The team was banished from playing for 3 games.

Mr. Mister, our coach, was also an inventor and a world-class engineer that designed jet fighters. He also sent his wife’s two poodles, Fred and Ginger, into the stratosphere with a homemade backyard rocket, so he knew his groceries. He noticed our bats were too long, too heavy, and out of balance for our size. We carried an assortment of old bats from Rawlings, Wilson, and Louisville Sluggers. So he set to work on building the better little league bat.

The folks at Louisville Slugger said he could change the balance, handle and head weight as long as the bat didn’t exceed the approved lengths or carried inserts of any kind to change the weighting.

Mr. Mister sent a redesign for approval and a fat check for $50 per bat. Five bats would arrive if Louisville Sluggers could have them within a week. Finally, we all agreed “The Jets” were about to change little-league baseball.

The new bats arrived the day before our big game with our new nemesis, the “Aces,” the second group of ‘hard guys’ from the Crozier tech area. They were supposed to be nine and ten-year-olds, but a few of them were already shaving and sporting tattoos.

The “Jets” could feel the difference in their new bat’s balance and swings. So Mr. Mister said to line up the wood-burned star towards the top of the bat facing the pitcher; that sweet spot would send that white ball screaming.

The first three batters for the Jets struck out. After that, Ace’s pitcher threw hard and used a slider and a mean curve. He was a long tall knuckle dragging kid.

When the Jets took the field,  Georgie let the Aces get three men on base, two walks, and a bounced line drive off the second baseman. A kid named “Brutus” drilled one over left field and emptied the bases. So the Aces are up by 4. The jets came into the dugout hangdog and hopeless. Freckled Face Bean, in center field, had dropped the ball and then kicked it another 30 feet, trying to retrieve it. Mrs. Mister let him have it with both guns, which were big ones. She was pissed.  

I got a base hit to second. Willy got one to second, which advanced me to third. “Brutus” walked Georgie; the bases were total, and the game was tied. Now the dilemma. Our worst batter, Freckled Face Bean, was next in the rotation. Mrs. Mister pulled him aside for a heart-to-heart and a big hug. He was going for it. The last thing she told him was, “use the sweet spot.”

First pitch and Freckled hit the sweet spot sending the ball over the fence, bouncing onto the street and into the woods. The game was now tied.

Bottom of the ninth, one Jet is on base, and Skipper steps up to the plate. Second swing, the ball soars over the fence into the woods. The ‘Jets win.

We finished the season by playing the ‘Aces’ for the city championship. By that time, the boys in the league were afraid of us. A newspaper clipping of our team and our small trophy is somewhere in a box I hope to find. It was the best year of baseball in my life.

Now we have high-living billionaires playing a kid’s game. It’s all for money and not an ounce for the fun of it.

Happy Trails Till We Meet Again, But Only For A Little While


Photo by; Gabby Hayes

Tomorrow morning at approximately 7:15 AM, one of the two surgeons assigned to my medical predicament will be slicing into my stomach on his way to my spinal column. This has been a while coming, and alas, the highly anticipated moment has arrived. I have total faith in both surgeons since they are from foreign countries, attended multiple the bet medical schools, and are highly rated in their field.

The first surgeon, (the general surgeon,) and the stomach expert showed me a beautiful 4K video of the actual operation. Stunning color with sharp close-up photography of what one’s insides actually look like. They don’t use scalpels nowadays, but tiny light sabers similar to the ones used in Star Wars. Funny that his nurse is named Leia and the examination room I was in was labeled Exam R2.

Cutting through the viscera and old muscles, the soft pliable pinkish and rose-tinted innards, pulling back guts, tendons, and vital organs, blood veins pulsing with every beat of my 72-year-old heart, tons of escaping blood, and then driving a stainless steel wedge in between my L5 and S1 disk, that is no longer functional and are bone on bone and constantly fighting about who gets to cause me the most pain. He did mention, in passing, that if a blood vessel or artery burst he would be there to repair it, if possible. But, if I do pass on to the “other side” I wouldn’t feel a thing since I will already be halfway there. I told him “I would rather not wake up dead.” He thought that was witty, and giggled a bit.

He assured me the hardware and the tools are made by Craftsman and have a lifetime warranty from Lowes. I exhaled in comfort knowing that bit of information. He also adores Craftsman tools, so we talked a bit about home improvement. Seems he is remodeling his ranch house in Weatherford and forgot to support the main beam which allowed the den to collapse, resulting in the home being razed. Oops!

He congratulated me for not fainting since 99 percent of his patients do when viewing the film. I gave the presentation a 4 popcorn box rating and continued on to the next surgeon’s office.

My second surgeon, the spinal expert is rated so highly in his field, that he is considered a revered legend. The medical people don’t use his real name, but in the circle of surgeons, he’s called “The Spine Man.” It’s all rather James Bondish.

He’s repaired numerous high-profile and talented sports figures including Dac and Tony. It’s said that the first surgeon in his family tree corrected Qusimoto’s condition after the famous Notre Dame debacle, but that’s part of the legend I assume.

He also uses Craftsman tools and parts and showed me a brief presentation on how he will slice me in three or more places and install stainless plates, screws, rods, and spacers into my spinal column around the spacer wedge assisted by the spinal surgeon. They don’t use real bone for splicing anymore, but bone pieces are taken from recent and highly rated cadavers. He assured me not to worry, the cadaver looked a bit like me and didn’t object to the donation. That’s a good thing, I don’t want to wake up to ” It’s alive!” screaming in the operating room.

The question of years of practice came up and he told me he got his start at ten years old repairing mopeds and motors so he gained expertise early on with repositioning wiring harness, to accommodate nuts, bolts, and screws. Another good thing to know.

I will likely not be able to write on my blog since I will be as doped up as a San Francisco street person for a few days, then in excruciating pain which will require more drugs. I will not be in any state of mind to write about subjects that will surely offend every one of my readers and friends. My wife says I cannot have my laptop until I am reasonably sane again.

All kidding aside, I have complete faith in my surgeon’s skill and the care of the nurses and staff at Medical City Fort Worth. After all, it’s God’s gifted hands working through these two blessed surgeons.

Let’s hope all ends well and I’ll see you on down the trail in a short while. Happy Trails until we meet again.

A Monday Morning Rant From The Cactus Patch


Elon Musk admits to being on the high side of Autism. He also sees world situations in a way that 99 percent of us do not. So how is it that he is the wealthiest person on the planet? Not by accident or insider trading.

Yesterday, he remarked that the moronic Brittney Griner should serve her time in a Russian prison. She is known and praised as an American-hating, pot-smoking lesbian that makes millions playing basketball in Russia and owns a home on the outskirts of Moscow. She got her ass in a big crack, and now she wants Biden’s cavalry to ride in and whisk her home. Musk is right about one thing, if Biden makes the trade for some Russian criminal arms dealer to get her home, then every American locked up for the exact crime she committed should be released, and their charges dropped.

The likes of Fox News are hyping that the final and complete report on Hunter Biden’s salacious life as a traitor, drug abuser, con man, and pervert is due any minute. The blonde news girls, the ones with the dark stripe down the middle of their hairline, are standing by to give us the skinny on the corrupt first family. There will be nothing there. He will not be incriminated for fear that his father was knee-deep in the same muck his perv son was. The public will exhale and go on about their daily lives, just like we did in the 1950s when Rock Hudsons wedding pictures were plastered all over Hollywood news stands. Good ole Rock, what a man’s man he was; at least Doris Day thought so.

Governor Abbott’s Texas Express is dropping off illegals in New York faster than a shuttle bus at a Yankee’s game. The poor imbecilic mayor is begging Washington for intervention. “Send in the National Guard or the Marines,” we need help and some more Biden cash. Our homeless people have to share their cardboard boxes with these people from South Texas. The local criminals and BLM are up in arms because now the illegals are getting the free shit they’ve been getting. ” This ain’t fair, man, now we gotta start robbing more convenience stores, and I need a new iPhone and another Glock,” said one hoodlum to CBS news. he snatched the news girl’s purse and took off.

Chris Pratt, our favorite Velociraptor trainer, and T Rex killer, told Hollywood to buzz off regarding his new movie. He likes shooting large guns, killing terrorists and commies, and exposing the white underbelly of the CIA. Pratt has made a lot of dough from the Dino’s. It’s called “screw you” money. JK Rowling is another controversial and wealthier person than Pratt that has told the trans community to buzz off. But she has more money than Bubba Gump, so she uses more expletives. All that cash for writing children’s books, back when kids actually read real books printed on paper. She got in on the deal early on.

Now that the dorky Pete Davidson has escaped from Kim Kardashian, could he arrange for her and the entire Kardashian strain to be kidnapped and held on a hidden island for at least 30 years, so we don’t have to read about them or see their faces on television every day of our lives? He would be doing humanity a favor. He should probably include her ex-drug-dealing husband to join them in exile. With all this hoop-la about banning Pit Bulls, I say let’s start with the Kardashians.

Didn’t you love Nancy Pelosi’s little girlhood ditty about digging holes in beach sand to reach China? She was in Japan, a country so close to China that it could also be reached by a deep hole in the sand. The Japanese officials looked puzzled, if not offended, as she made another one of her flying hands word salad gibberish speeches. This is the “thing” that would become president if Biden bites it. Keep that in mind when you wish he would stay in his basement in Deleware watching Jill make her wardrobe out of curtain material from the local Walmart and helping Hunter design artistically beautiful crack pipes for distribution in the wokie cities. But, the obvious may not be the best solution.

So Ellen’s old squeeze, Ann Heche, drives around Los Angeles with a bottle of vodka in her cup holder, a bottle of Ripple in her lap, and crashes into a local citizen’s home, destroying the poor lady’s house and her meager belongings. Poor Ann is toasted up a bit and was most likely drunk as a wino on skid row. But she can’t seem to let that “Ellen” thing go. The old gunslinger, Alec Baldwin, is praising Ann for her courage when he should be organizing his buds to rebuild the poor lady’s burned-out home. A 12.5 earthquake in LA would be nice; any time now.

Mitch and his boys better get their country club asses in full war mode. The cheating for the mid-terms is in full swing. If the Repubs had run stronger candidates in Georgia, this entire collapse of Western civilization would not be happening. Someone slip this incompetent fossil a mickey in his scotch.

I probably have said too much and offended half the world, but it’s my blog, it’s Monday, it’s hot in Texas, and I am old and pissed off most of the time.

When Larry McMurtry Had Texas In His Back Pocket


Over the past few years, I’ve harbored two “bucket-list” items to fulfill before I reach room temperature. One was to visit Marfa, Texas, the self-proclaimed and pompous art nouveau hub of Texas and the holy ground where the movie “Giant” was filmed. I envisioned a hip desert town with fine food, good booze, and every inhabitant wearing Justin boots. I got a dusty, dirty, ugly little town with two nice hotels and no decent food.

My Marfa bubble was busted within thirty minutes of entering the town. I would have suffered a breakdown or a medical event, but my wife held me together until we made it back to Alpine, packed our gear, and headed back to Granbury.

The second and most anticipated bucket item was a visit to Archer City, Texas, the hometown of our revered Texas Nobel Laureate, Larry McMurtry. The small town boy knocked William Travis and Stephen F. Austin of the “favorite son” list.

Mo and I were headed to Colorado Springs to visit her daughter and family, so stopping in Archer City to visit McMurtry’s hallowed book store ” Booked Up” would make the trip an event to remember. This bubble was more significant than the one I had for Marfa. If not for Hemingway and Steinbeck, there would have been no McMurtry. If not for McMurtry, there would not be other great writers that learned from him.

The website said the store is open for business. It wasn’t and had not been for a while. I peeked through the dusty glass front door, and some autographed books were displayed on a table, where they once had been for sale. I was about as hang-dog as a man can get.

A fellow pushing his garbage bin to the street was helpful and filled us in on the particulars. It’s a good yarn but could also be a steaming pile. Small towns run on gossip, rumors, and legends.

The old man leaned on his trash bin, got close to the window where my wife sat, and let her rip.

When McMurtry passed on, he left his two town bookstores, his typewriter, and 30,000 rare books to the lady that ran them for years; Khristal Collins. His wife Norma Fay and his writing partner Diana Ossana got the cash. His estate hired a hot-shot New York book bow-tie-wearing appraiser to give the books a value. It seems the fellow opened a few books and some stock certificates fell out, then some more books and more certificates hit the floor. Now, he had to go through every book in both stores. It may take years. Let’s hope his wife checked their mattress.

In the literary world, the man is not a mere mortal, except that he did pass away at home a while back, so I was disappointed that a writer of his Homeric wizardry could actually expire.

I can imagine Larry sitting on his front veranda in the late afternoon, enjoying a good glass of scotch while contemplating his next book about the fictitious town of Thalia, Texas, and he fades with the setting sun.

When and If the Booked Up store re-opens, I will make the trip back to Archer City. I’m still hoping to meet Sonny, Duane, and Jacy.

Larry McMurtry Made Me Crazy


This coming Wednesday, July 27th, my wife and I are driving to Colorado Springs to visit her daughter and family. New transplants from Fort Worth, Texas to the liberal and hip state of legal pot and “mile-high-hipsters.” We are making a bucket list stop along the way to the small Texas town of Archer City.

My wife Mo, is accomodating, but she thinks the head injury I suffered two years ago has effected my mental priorities. “What the hell is an Archer City?” she asked. I can’t explain without choking up. How can a writer explain the reverance of visiting the holy grail of litature. I get so excited, I piss my pants a bit, but that’s because I am 73 years old and cancer did a whammy on me.

For the illiterate non-book readers who are followers of my blog, Archer City is the hometown, and for 70 years, the home to one of the greatest authors in American literature; Larry McMurtry.

Born, raised, and recently died there, he is the fair-haired favorite son that put this one red-light town on the map. A true son of Texas that accepted his many awards in jeans and Justin boots. He may have lived in New York City for a spell, but he got back to Texas as soon as he could. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his book “Lonesome Dove” in 1986. A good ole boy from hicksville Texas writing about the famous cattle drive inspired by Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, both legendary and larger than life figures in the old west; bet it pissed those Swedes off but good.

Like many great novelist, he was an educater at North Texas State and Rice University; but I don’t hold that against him. He wrote on a portable typewriter and didn’t own a computer or a cell phone. He could play the rube with the toothpick in his teeth then write an essay that would bring tears to a grown mans eye. He also kept a rebelious streak in his back pocket as he was one of the Merry Pranksters along with Ken Kesey and his Acid Test for a few days when the circus stopped at his home in Houston. He said the LSD made him a tad anxious and preferred whiskey. For reasons unknown, in his last years, he married Ken Keseys widow and moved her to Archer City.

One of his novels, “The Last Picture Show” was a Peter Bogdonovich movie that raised a public ruckus in 1971 for the nudity and taboo liason between a high school football player an the coaches wife. A young Cybil Shepard even showed her little titties in a swimming pool scene. Good Lord.

The cast of characters in his books was drawn from the townspeople he grew up with and even with the slightest of name changes, they were easily recognized and plenty pissed until the movie and books put their one horse town on the tourist map. The movie was shot in black and white and filmed in a ramshackle Archer City which took on the 1950 look and name of “Thalia, Texas.”

As in many of his books, the places folks spent their time was at the Pool Hall, The Kwik Shack, The Movie Theater and the Dairy Queen. I plan to visit his book store, “Booked Up,” and of course have a burger and a shake at the famous Dairy Queen. One more thing striked off my bucket list. Who knows; I might see Jacy and Duane eating a chicken fried.

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