Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall tales from Texas about characters I know and have known. Who knows, you might be one of them.

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

C – PAP To La La Land


I got a C-Pap machine last week. I have never slept better even though I look like a Borg from the television show Star Trek.
Mask, tubes, a device under my nose, a machine on my bedside stand, distilled water, filters, computerized mainframe. It’s daunting at best. My little computer box gives me a big star every morning, so I assume there will be a trophy arriving in the mail soon. I had no idea that I don’t breathe when I sleep? How did I not wake up dead?
My wife has been checking my vital signs for years, and occasionally thumping my chest to start me up again. Now, she can get some sleep without worrying that I have assumed room temperature.
This C-PAP device is like a self-driving Tesla. Hook up, turn on, and let it do all the work for you. Now all I need is a painless catheter so I don’t have to get up to pee.

Fast Food Testing


The fast-food industry needs to step up to the plate just as Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreen’s has done. The CEO’s of these companies have pledged space in their parking lots for drive-up Corona Virus testing tents. Novel Idea. Pull up to a tent full of people in hazmat suits and get swabbed and disinfected. I don’t know how the rest of America feels, but I am afraid of people in hazmat suits. It always turns out bad, or they wouldn’t be wearing them. Young children tend to be easily frightened, so screaming kids trying to escape from the car is not a good scenario. Let’s use a kinder and gentler approach.

Why not have Ronald McDonald, The Burger King king, and Jack from Jack in The Box stand by the order speaker and offer free food or a toy with every swab? Since half of America eats at these places, its a perfect solution.

When Good People Go Stupid


By: Phil Strawn

My pal Mooch called me a few minutes ago from the HEB grocery store. He is standing in the toilet paper aisle, watching two middle-aged women fistfight over the last 8 pack of Northern toilet paper. He and another male shopper are betting on the skinny gal because she was moving faster, and had the other older women in a Nolan Ryan headlock.

We continued our conversation as he walked the store, commenting on how low the stock is on each aisle, and how stupid people are acting. You would think Channel 5 called for snow flurries tonight. Suddenly, Mooch screams and starts cussing at no one in particular. ” HEB is sold out of pork rinds and beer!” he yells into his flip phone.

Now, I know this virus is severe. Rednecks cannot survive without pork rinds, and beer, its a food staple and will last for years in any bunker or deer camp. They are gluten-free, fat-free, and carb-free, so at least a boy can eat healthily if he is quarantined.

I could hear a scuffle over the phone. Voices yelling, carts bashing into one another; general mayhem. Mooch said,

” I’ll call you later, buddy, there’s a brawl at the Red Barons Pizza freezer, and I have to get me some of those.”

Just In Case You Forgot


Yes, folks, she’s in the news again. Popping up here and there, accepting little awards and being fussed over by an age group of devotes that don’t know what the Vietnam war was, or when it happened. Just in case you forgot what “Hanoi Jane” ( Jane Fonda ) really was, and is, I included this adorable picture. I think it catches her best side. I would assume she took some excellent color shots of our POWs with her fancy camera and shared the photos with their families back in the United States.

Hipster Dogs Are Among Us


By: Phil Strawn

Pictured for your educational pleasure is a sweet little dog with a strange name. “Graphon Chardonnay” is what’s known in 2020 as a “Hipster Companion Service Dog.” I’m sure little Graphon would rather be out pissing on trees and digging holes in flower beds than wearing a beard and leather jacket. Dogs look odd in human clothing, and they look alien when they sport the same beard as their owner.

While strolling the “hot new neighborhood” on West 7th street a few weeks ago, my wife and I stopped into a small outdoor café for lunch. It was one of those sunny February days where it wants to be pleasant, but you still need a coat if you dine outside. A teaser day, us Texans call it.

A nice looking couple sat down next to us with their small dog. They were dressed in expensive “Fort Worth Hip” to the tee. The young man had a formidable beard, a ” Stallone” pork pie hat, Ray-Ban sunglasses and skinny jeans. The woman was dressed similarly but without facial hair. These aren’t your poor retro-hippies, these Kats have dough, good jobs in IT and live in an expensive high rise overlooking the Trinity River. They most likely drive a Tesla or a hybrid Beemer.

The two diners immediately immersed themselves in their Apple I Phones. Hipsters are required to use Apple products only: Sorry Samsung and HTC.

I felt sorry for the little pooch, he didn’t have a phone of his own or even a bowl of water, so I asked a kind waitstaff to bring the wee fellow a dog bowel of H2O. When his bowl of water arrived, the man gasped and removed the water dish before the parched dog could catch a drink.

” Graphon does not drink regular water” he shrieked. ” He’s chlorine intolerant.”

Of course, I apologized for not knowing the dog was allergic to water, so I asked his father, what does Graphon drink?

The young woman looked up from her I Phone and smugly replied “Graphon Chardonnay drinks only Starbucks decaffeinated coffee, “Chateau La Pew” white wine and natural spring water from Tibet. He is also vegan and has an IQ of 165.” Well, holy hot-shit, I am impressed that this furball with two names is smarter than most of us humans; myself included.

I had already figured out these two were vegans, so when our juicy hamburgers arrived, we made a big deal of our meal, loudly commenting on every greasy bite we took. The two gave us the ” hope you die” look.

In my meat-eating frenzy, I accidentally knocked a French fry off my plate. The little genius, Graphon, caught it before it hit the ground and gobbled it down. His father screamed, grabbed the dog and began the “Heimlich maneuver ” until the dog coughed up the slimy fry.

” That fry is cooked in animal fats, are you trying to murder my dog! Graphon could die if he ingests anything other than his special veggies” he shouted. The woman was crying and having a small breakdown after witnessing her vegan dog eating the evil French fry.

The young couple was so traumatized, they took little Graphon Chardonnay and departed the patio. I got the last laugh. I slipped the pooch a nice bite of my burger while they weren’t looking. I’m pretty sure he is going to have some righteous gas.

I’ll Have An Order Of Fries With My Blessing


A Short Story by; Phil Strawn

On Ash Wednesday, I made a somewhat firm decision to give up my beloved Cheeto’s for Lent. Last year it was Ding Dongs and Pepsi Cola, and I wound up eating Twinkies and Dr. Pepper when after three days, I fell off the Lent wagon. At least, I stuck with my original plan. 

On my way to see Father Frank, my priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance, I stopped by Walmart for one last Cheeto fix. Standing in line at the checkout, I noticed shoppers with a tiny ink cross on their forehead. Odd. Then, I saw the lady behind me sported a small “Pokemon” sticker on her forehead. She noticed I was staring like a goon and said, “our priest ran out of palm ashes, and this was all he had left. It’s the blessing that counts.” Well, she had a point. When the Holy Father runs out of blessed stuff, he has to make do with available products. 

I headed over to the church, finishing my bag of Cheeto’s and hiding it under the seat like a teenager does a beer can in the family car. 

Two blocks from the church, the traffic was hardly moving, and I think business must be brisk for the good Father. 

As I inched closer, I saw Father Frank standing at the curb, giving his blessing to the occupants in the car, leaning through the windows, and marking their forehead. Next car up, the same protocol. He was running cars through the line like a good day at Jack In The Box. Then it dawned on me, Father Frank was offering take-out Lent blessings to our flock. What a novel idea, so 2020. 

I pulled up to his curbside church and rolled down my window. The multi-tasking Priest handed me a pamphlet with a prayer, crossed himself, and touched my forehead. ” Go in Peace, my son,” he muttered and gave me the peace sign. “Sorry about running out of ash,” he said.

 ” Back at, you, Father,” I responded and drove away.

When I arrived home, my wife asked me where I had been for so long. I explained the trip to Walmart, the Cheeto binge, and then Father Franks take-out Lent blessing and such, thus the extended time frame. She was staring at me like a goon when she asked, ” did you find anything at the garage sale?” 

” What garage sale?” I replied.

She reached up to my forehead and pulled off a small round orange sticker with $1.00 written on it. 

The good Father has to make do with what he has available. It’s the blessing that counts. Right?

Traumatized By Puppets!


By: Phil Strawn

The asphalt parking lot is so hot it’s melting the rubber soles of my PF Flyer “tinny” shoes to the pavement. It’s July of 1957, and there are at least one hundred kids, including our neighborhood coterie of twenty-five standing on that lot, waiting to see our television idols, Mickey Mud Turtle and Amanda Opossum.

Piggly Wiggly Food’s hired the puppet duo from Channel 11, for the grand opening of their newest grocery store on Berry Street. With the following the show had developed, the folks at Piggley are betting on a full house, because every kid in Fort Worth, Texas, wanted to meet Mickey and Amanda up close and in person.

Without an introduction, the puppets popped up onto the stage of their television theater and launched into their shtick. The jokes are age-appropriate and corny. Birthdays are shouted out and then more jokes, but with no cartoons to kill time, the felt and cardboard critters are out of material and are bombing like the Hiroshima fat boy.

The Mud Turtle launched into a commercial for Piggly Wiggly, and the Opossum began her’s for Buster Brown Shoes, over-riding Mickey, which in turn made him mad, and he grabbed a small bat with his mouth and popped Amanda Opossum a good one. The kids loved it. Watching the two puppets fight is better than cartoons, any day, hands down.

I feel a tug on my shirt, and realize my mother is dragging me into the grocery store. As we pass the back of the puppet theater, a gust of wind blows the side curtain open and there, in living color is two adults, sitting on low stools with their hands stuffed up the butts of our beloved stars. Kids are good at fooling themselves into believing things that aren’t real. I know they are cheesy, cardboard, and fabric puppets, but destroying my imagination is serious stuff.

Mortified and traumatized from the scene I witnessed, my mother drags me through the air-conditioned store as she completes her shopping. There is no sympathy or coddling from this Cherokee woman. She mumbles something about puppets being stupid, and I feel tears forming on my cheeks. I may never recover from this destruction of my childhood.

Leaving the store, we pass the stage, and a man and woman are putting the puppets into their wooden boxes and autographing glossy postcards of the critters. I still have mine.

Father Frank Saves The Church


By Phil Strawn. This is an earlier post from March of 2012 when I lived in Georgetown, Texas, and was forced to shop in the Sun City HEB.

I visited my local H.E.B a few days ago to do my shopping for the week. Just so you know, I loathe shopping for groceries; negotiating the crowded aisles, pushing a cart that steers hard left, while trying to read your shopping list and dodge the blue hairs wanting to run you over. It’s more than any man my age should have to endure.

The geriatric inhabitants of “Clan Sun City” have christened this store as their domain, and they make their own rules of engagement. I’ve had my toes run over, my legs pinned between a grocery cart and the dairy cabinet, rammed from behind for being too slow, and was verbally assaulted by an 80-pound octogenarian because I got the last loaf of “dollar bread.” The old bag pulled out a flip-top Motorola cell phone and threatened to call 911 to report me, so I reluctantly handed over the loaf. She shook a bony finger in my face and growled, “And your little dog too.”

Wednesday is the big day for the sample gals to push their wares on the shoppers. You can’t go twenty-feet without a chirpy hostess wearing her “Pioneer Woman” apron wanting to stick a sample of food in your face. Forget trying to get away, they track you until you stop and then thrust the toothpick impaled morsel into your protesting mouth. I unwillingly managed to taste sushi, sausage roll, carrot cake, cheese whiz, and wine before I could get to the first aisle, and by then, I needed a Prilosec OTC, so I bought that as well.

Shopping completed, I proceeded to the checkout stand. As I rounded a corner near the book section, I bumped hard into a table, partially blocking the aisle.

There, sitting behind a 6-foot fold-out table, was Father Frank, the priest from my church, “Our Lady of Perpetual Repentance.”
On his table is a stack of leaflets, bottles of water and give away key chains shaped like the Virgin Mary. It’s been a while since I have seen the good Father, so we exchange our pleasantries.

After a brief howdy conversation, I asked Father Frank why he is staffing a table at a grocery store?
With a deep sigh, he explained, “The church is losing so many of the flock that the diocese has put me here to drum up new members.”
Not wanting to offend by asking delicate questions, I say, ” I suppose you have to start somewhere, and the crowd here is about the right age to be finalizing their looming Heavenly travel arrangements.” He thought that was prolific and says he will use that phrase in a future sermon.

Now, more curious, I ask him about the giveaways laid out on his table.
With a big smile, he explains, “The bottled water is actually blessed holy water, bottled right in my church by altar boys. We figure if it’s good enough to drive out demons and christen babies, it is strong enough to cure the pallet and insides of foul offenses. It has a slight hint of mint, so it may be used as an alcohol-free mouthwash in a pinch. I drank a bottle a few days ago and was confined to the rectory bathroom for many hours. Nothing like a happy gut and pleasant breath you know”.
I said, “Yes, I know that feeling, and my cousin Beverly could have used a case of that for mouthwash if you know what I mean.” He said he did and gave me a bottle to aid in her deliverance.

The good Father is on a roll and excitedly explains that they have made considerable changes to his church to attract new members.
Handing me the leaflet to inspect, he proudly proclaims, “look at these pictures! We now have a glassed-in section of pews with flat-screen monitors installed on the back of each bench so the young ones can access their computer games and social media during the sermon, that is piped into the enclosure by a high powered HD digital audio system.
In order to save parishioners time, confessions can be uploaded via your home computer or smartphone, and communion has an optional wine flight, that, for a nominal fee, comes with a small crystal goblet.”
Am I not hearing him, right? Preteen kids gaming in the pews, computer confessions, wine tasting? How about the singing choirs, the fire, and damnation, the rock hard pews that make your butt sweat and your legs go numb? A church service is supposed to make you miserable, not comfortable.

I tried to interrupt, but the good Father was in over-drive, as he continues to exclaim: “the most daring change and the one I’m most proud of is the conversion of the adult Sunday school room to a sports bar for after service football games. It’s a brilliant concept, come to church, then walk across the hall and watch the game on 70 inch flat screens. We call it “The Blue Nun Sports Bar,” and with the help of Mother Prudy, I recruited some of the younger nuns from the Abby to come over and wait tables after their service. The sisters are doing a great job, but grumbling about the miserly tips and are threatening to hold a sit-in.
I told them to stop offering a repentance prayer over every beer served, and the tips may improve. It’s best to reserve a blessing for food service only.
Next thing I know, they are wearing tight fitting t-shirts with ‘We Aren’t Your Mommas Nuns’ on the back. I don’t know what gives with these younger sisters. The piercings, tattoos and spiky hairdos are not what I‘m used too. Nuns are supposed to be stoic and mean, not cute and hip.”
Well, I say, ” you’re certainly doing everything you can to increase membership, I may have to come to see you next Sunday. I need a good dose of religion and football.”
I shake the good Father’s hand, bid him adieu and shuffle on to the checkout.

On my way out of the store, I notice, tucked in by the potting soil and flowers was a table staffed by a young, tanned, rock star, poofy haired, frock clad fellow flanked by two bikini-clad girls handing out free cold beer and hot dogs.
The sign above them read ‘Rolling Rock Love and Peace Community Church Membership Drive.’ I was thirsty, so I scooted on over. Looks like Father Frank may be in trouble here.

The Dreaded Report Card


by Phil Strawn, based on personal experience

There is a school system on the East coast that is changing its grading system so every student can “feel better” about themselves. This smells suspicious, and is likely extracted from the same rotten bag of education as  “everyone gets a trophy.” Every letter grade is now lowered by five points, promoting a grade of “C” to a “B” and so on. Who benefits from this PC madness?

From personal experience, I can tell you that bringing home a low grade on your report card does have negative consequences. The younger you are, the fewer repercussions from your Mother since you are still her baby. As you age, the fear factor increases.

There is nothing that scares a kid more than bringing home the dreaded “F” or even the slightly better “D.”

You slow walk your way home, looking for every excuse to prolong the firestorm that the small piece of cardboard is going to create. You’re begging God to intervene and miraculously change that red “F” to an acceptable, blue “B.” Nothing changes, and you accept your fate. God is likely a teacher on the side.

With a cheesy fake smile on my face, I hand the report card to my mother, hoping for leniency.

Everything is fine until she sees that miserable sixth letter of the alphabet. Her happy smile fades, and she paralyzes me with that squinty-eyed mom stare.

My young life flashes before my eyes; I’m a goner. In desperation, I blame everything except my own stupidity. I fall to my knees, squeezing out fake tears, begging for forgiveness. She has none of it. The mom court is adjourned. I await my sentence.

Short of being sent to the “orphans home,” my mother’s go-to threat, I guess I get off good. No cartoons for two-weeks, no playing outside for a week, no Hostess cupcakes or Saturday baseball for a month, which is alright, its winter.

My next report card was better; no bad grades. My fear of personal failure and my parents were a determining force in my education. Everyone wants to make good grades, and many students struggle to meet those expectations. If that bar is lowered, then the students that excel will be punished, and the students that strive to excel will take it for granted.

Living the Keto


My wife and I are on day 4 of the keto diet. Tonight we are having keto pizza. Looks yummy, right? Well, it is after you remove the pepperoni, the cheese, the peppers, and everything but the crust, then you eat the meat and veggies and toss the rest. I told her tomorrow I’m going to Whataburger for a keto swiss and mushroom burger. I’ll figure out the particulars after I order the sandwich. Last night I dreamed of a McDonalds Filet of Fish and french fries, even though I haven’t had one in years. This keto thing gives you nightmares. Got to go now, too weak to type.

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