Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from Texas

Biden Wins Nobel Peace Prize!


Breaking News from The Dead South News Service, Figaro Scaramooche reporting.

The Nobel Prize committee says this morning that President Joe Biden will receive the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021, even though he has been in office for one day and has accomplished nothing constructive. The committee did indicate that ” canceling every good thing that former President Trump accomplished and ruining America for eternity” counts as a logical reason to receive their distinguished award.

Hajkevek Neadervon, the spokesman for the committee, said that President Biden has asked that the 1,000,000 dollar prize be deposited into the Biden family account at the “Bank of The Happy Bat” in Wuhan, China.

” Waffles of Insurrection”


Photo courtesy of Colonel Sanders

Old Pal Mooch called me early this morning. I was dead asleep and dreaming of Pioneer beer batter pancakes slathered in Aunt Jemima syrup. In his usual excited state, he tells me that his band of patriots, the Hood County Plowboys drove straight through from Granbury to Washington DC, stopping to buy gas and some North Carolina jerky and pork rinds. I believe about half of his stories, so it never occurred to me that he and his bunch of armed rag-tags were serious about forcefully taking back the country before old Joe lays his hand on the “Good Book.” I will pay more attention to his wild schemes from now on.

He said that the closer they got to Washington, the more National Guard troops and armored equipment they saw. Thousands of soldiers posted along the highway, eating from food trucks and playing games on their phones. It was the scariest thing he ever saw.

Arriving in the city, they tried and failed to get to the mall, but installations of razor wire, armed troops, tanks, cruise missile installations, and claymore minefields blocked their way. A group of large and menacing soldiers told Mooch to take his raggedy-ass pop-gun carrying hillbillies back to Texas and then pointed a 50 caliber machine gun at the would-be insurrectionist. They got the message.

I asked Mooch what their plan B was and if they might be in peril. He took a moment to answer and then told me that since they couldn’t shoot anybody or get to see Old Joe, they found the nearest Waffle House. When all else fails, it’s time for a waffle.

“Plowboys and Snowmen”


Last week we had snow in Southwest Texas. It wasn’t our typical donut powder dusting, but 7 inches of heavy, wet snow that required the tree limbs and plants to muster all of their natural strength to stay upright. The hundreds of cedar trees surrounding my rocky plot fared well; my salvias and a few sissy cacti lost the assault and lay flat like a pancake, wondering what the hell hit them.

My wife channeled her inner-child and fashioned a decent 2-foot snowman in our backyard. Organic cucumbers for eyes, a carrot for the nose, and organic red grapes for the mouth. She said since snow is organic, then the building materials must also be. She topped it off with my worthless Texas Rangers ball cap. I took pictures with my smartphone, knowing that it may be years before another storm comes our way, and by then, who knows? I may be resting in a colorful Fiestaware container on the mantle, not caring about the weather at all, but If it wasn’t for keeping close tabs on the weather and waiting for the postman to deliver my favorite junk mail, my life would be over. I’m especially fond of H.E.B. ads.

Old pal Mooch called me yesterday. We haven’t met at Whataburger for six months, thanks to the “Rona,” and it was good to hear from him. He said himself, Mrs. Mooch and his chihuahua “Giblet” are now “vegan” and as happy as summer squash. He donated his freezer full of West Texas venison to Father Frank, the priest at Our Lady Of Perpetual Repentance, and the Mexican taco trailer in the Discount Tire parking lot.

After a few pointless pleasantries and howdy’s, he asked me if I would join his group of senior citizen revolutionaries and ride in his pick-up truck caravan to Washington, so on January 20th, they can take back our country. I entertained the invite for a few moments until he said his group’s name is “The Hood County Plowboys.” They wear overalls and gimme caps and have loads of AR guns and other assorted weaponry. I told him it sounded more like a hillbilly jug-band than armed insurrectionists and declined his offer; I don’t care for overalls or gimme caps. I told a disappointed Mooch I would watch for him on the TV news and to send me some pictures on his smart-ass phone.

It’s Alright To Speak Your Piece


I started my blog twelve years ago as an outlet to publish my short stories, opine on everyday life, and serve as a recounter of odd-ball Texas history. America and the “blogosphere” is different now.

My blog,” Notes From The Cactus Patch,” was born on another blogging site, and then switched to WordPress, which for me, a non-geek, was challenging and difficult to navigate. It took a while, but I became friends enough with this platform that writing and posting is no longer an ordeal.

Readers have inquired about the name of my blog. “Why do I write notes from a cactus patch?” they say. At the time I started my blog, my wife and I lived in Georgetown Texas, north of Austin, and was surrounded by cactus and cedar trees. Now we live atop a rocky hill in Granbury, over-looking Comanche Peak and I am once again, surrounded by cedar trees and cactus. The locality has changed, but the fauna is the same, so the name remains.

I discovered the “Search” button in the “Reader” category a while back. Not that I am keeping a count, but, I find that leftist-leaning blogs have hundreds, if not thousands, and possibly millions of more followers than conservative ones. Why is that? Coincidence? maybe, because more bloggers are in that twenty-to-thirty something age range. Us older bloggers, also known as “boomer’s and deplorable’s” are gaining on them. What else do we have to occupy our time but collect our Social Security check, clean and load our gun collections while reading our Bible, go to doctor’s appointments between medical procedures, and yell at kids to get off of our lawn? Blogging is a welcome and healthy distraction. A recent study finds that for seniors, blogging can add five years to our lifespan, or, cause us to stroke out and face plant into our laptop. Who did this study, Dr. Fauci?

This morning, I am sitting at my laptop watching the north wind whip the trees into a formidable frenzy. The sky is gray and spitting cold rain, the windchill is way below what I can stand, and, there is snow in the forecast for tomorrow’s eve. Not our typical Texas weather, but it’s dawning January, and winter’s appearance is late this year. The Cardinals visited their feeder a few times before giving up; too windy to eat. These hunker-down days are for writing, tuna sandwiches, and strong coffee. I will read and write for a while, then succumb to a nap.

After suffering through a dozen or more random blog posts, one, in particular, grabbed me. His blog picture was the spitting image of that “Jack the dude” that owns Twitter. Short un-even haircut, a ZZ top hipster beard, and that “no one is home” look in his doll eyes. I clicked on his post.

It seems that this slightly if at all educated young fellow is dead certain that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will save the world in 30 days or less by un-doing every good deed our President has put into place the last four years. The dynamic duo will correct the wrongs that plague every third or fourth world country on the globe, but will save our fascist, greedy white privileged racist America for last; It’s the right thing to do, and yes, America will foot the bill. He supports the movement to make AOC a saint, even though he is an atheist and has no idea how religion and the Catholic church works. I am assuming this young man was born in the late 80s and started his education around the same time the teacher’s unions became a full-blown socialist organization. They still are but now have “outed” themselves because they feel “empowered” by “the movement” and the great reset that is due to premiere in 2021. Let us pray he doesn’t have access to a Harry Potter wand.

His comment section was fat with support for his soliloquy. ” Go dude, we are with you” and “f… America and the conservatives.” I cringed more than once as I read on.

I don’t care for his poisonous pen or his misguided forecast of the future, but people that share common beliefs bond together, no matter the outcome. That is what shaped our Republic, and that mindset is what made us America. Let all free citizens speak their piece, but don’t be offended when others challenge that piece. God Bless Texas and Willie Nelson.

“Get It Right!”


As a guitar player of 50 plus years, and one that has played and heard others play this song hundreds of times, get it right, fool, it’s not that hard. Also, learn how to tune that damn instrument. Another thing while I’m thinking about it, stop watching YouTube; those guys making those guitar teaching videos aren’t any better than you are.

The American Classics at Eno’s in Bishop Arts District

Pictured above, The American Classics at Eno’s in Dallas’s Bishop Arts District. Yes, we are playing that song “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and then went into “Take It Easy.” That’s me on the left with my 80s Epiphone Casino. It was so thoughtful and nice of the management to leave the televisions on while the band plays.

“Wont You Be My Friend? Or Not”


Photo by: Burt and Ernie

Fred Rogers had it right. He wanted to be friends with everyone, if even for an hour a day. He kept his personal opinions to himself and focused on the positive. Fred would have made a terrible politician. He was the kind father that every kid wanted and every adult wished for. Mr. Rogers would have walked on broken glass before intentionally hurting anyone’s feelings. Not so much with the rest of us knuckle-dragging neanderthals.

If you read my blog, you know that I like to poke fun at both political parties. I am an equal opportunity abuser; no one is over-looked. My dislike for each camp is about even, so it’s easy to throw each under my bus and back over them a few times. Nothing is more satisfying than imagining the screams of a crooked-scum sucking-lying-thieving politician as they are squished into asphalt pancakes.

Maybe two days ago, I discovered that I may have lost a few friendships over my past satirical post. Was it something I said? Probably not, but more like something I wrote. These posts were not offensive, at least not to me, but meant to be informative and jovial; light-hearted little digs covered in glitter and dancing unicorns. I didn’t know these friends were liberal in their thinking. Politics are rarely mentioned when we are together, but it’s possible that after a few bourbons, my inside voice became my outside voice, and a wayward word or two slipped out, and there you have it; friendship canceled—no return calls or text, no email addressing the possible offending reference, only non-confrontational silence.

I feel bad about these misunderstandings, but not too bad. Friendships can be strong and unwavering, and I have a few of those, or they can be as casual as a tank top and flip-flops, and I have some of those too.

When I turned ten years of age, my late father shared a pearl of wisdom with me. Speaking from experience, he said,” there are two things you should never discuss with family or friends; religion and politics.” A wise man he was. Having forgotten his advice over the years, I have paid the price many times over; and it appears I continue to do so.

Merry Christmas to all.

“Two Kings In A Caddie”


I wrote this story back in 2014. A few changes and editing have been made for a smoother read. Of course this is pure fiction, but if you believe everything that has happened to us in 2020, this could as well.

The high desert at night, is solitude. The velvet blackness holds wondrous things.

The “57” Caddie pulled away from the gas station, spewing gravel and dust. The old man that had filled it up a few minuets ago watched until the tail lights disappeared down the highway. Two, twenty-dollar bills for ten dollars of gas, go figure. There was a two-dollar bill mixed in the bills; TCB was printed on the front. What the hell did that mean?

The most comfortable place in the world to the aged singer was sitting behind the wheel of his beloved white Cadillac.  

Not the sleek crooner in size thirty-six sport coats anymore, he really didn’t care to be. He was comfortable in his own skin.  After decades of dieting, he surrendered to the siren’s call of biscuits and gravy, and his beloved peanut butter and banana sandwiches. “Hell, everybody gets a little heavy as they age,” he told himself, and after seeing an old girlfriend in a supermarket trash magazine, he felt better about his expanding looks. The once sleek red-headed dancer was now as portly as himself. It’s a shame he couldn’t call her up. But then again, she loved the man he used to be and he loved the girl she once was.

The decision to disappear back in the late 70s was his way of escaping the hell he had created for himself. Drugs, alcohol, guns, crazy-ass women, and an army of hanger-on’s. The whole scene was sucking what life he had left from him. Realizing, that, if he was going live incognito, Las Vegas Nevada was ground zero. Every casino on the strip had Elvis impersonators. He could hide in plain sight.

To stave off boredom, he worked for a while at one of the cheesy late-night wedding chapels, imitating himself. He loved the irony of it all. He would have the wedding party crying and gagging with laughter, telling stories that only the “real Elvis” would know. The patrons were appreciative of his stories and his one-man karaoke performance, and he could still make a few young brides swoon.

At times, he became bone-weary of it all and yearned to go home, but he knew that could never happen, except in dreams. These long rides in the desert calmed him and allowed sleep without prescription drugs. He was clean now and was damn – straight going to stay that way.

The Caddies headlights illuminated the figure of a man standing by the roadside, thumb in the air. Aaron had never picked up a hitcher, but a tingling feeling in his scalp told him he should stop for this one. Pulling over, he waited for the stranger to approach the car. The door opened and a figure slid into the seat beside him. He turned to introduce himself.

In the glow of the dash lights sat an old man; long gray hair was tied into a ponytail, and a neatly trimmed gray beard filled his face. He wore a loose-fitting red running jacket with matching sweat pants. His gold lame’ running shoes, shined like gold bars.

Aaron studied him for a moment and then asked the old man, “I know you, mister, I’ve seen you on TV, aren’t you Willie Nelson? What are you doing out in this desert this time of night?”

The old man looked at Aaron and spoke softly, “No, I’m not Willie Nelson, and that’s a fine compliment, to be sure. I’m not going far and it’s nice to meet you Elvis.”

He spoke Aaron’s first name as if he had known him forever, and the tone of his voice made him squirm. Elvis ditched his first name years ago and now referred to himself as Aaron, his middle name. It was part of the plan; Elvis was who he used to be.

“No sir, I don’t know who you are if you’re not Willie,” Aron stammered.

In a slightly scolding tone, the old man addressed Aaron, “young man, I’m shocked that a Christian boy like yourself from a Baptist church in Tunica would not recognize me. Don’t you find it strange that I know who you are? In fact, my boy, I know everything about you from the day you were born. And while we are here together, let’s ditch the Aaron thing. I will address you as you are known back at home. Elvis fits real nice, don’t you think?” Elvis nodded agreeably.

The old man pushed the button on the caddie’s glove box. The door dropped down with a clunk. From inside, came an angelic light that illuminated his face in a soft glow.  Elvis found himself staring into the most striking blue eyes he had ever seen; endless in depth, filled with kindness and forgiving but tinged with a bit of sadness. The old fellow looked to be as old as dirt, but in that light, his features were as soft as a pastel portrait.

“Does this help?” he asked.

“No sir it doesn’t, any lounge magician from Vegas can do those light tricks, although that’s pretty darn good coming from that glove box, that light hasn’t worked twenty years. While you’re in there, hand me one of the banana and peanut butter sandwiches would you?” asked Elvis.

“Surely, may I have one also? I haven’t eaten in a while,” asked the old man.

Elvis, turning to face his visitor, replied “Help yourself, sir. You’re pretty good with them tricks, I could probably get you some work in the lounges back in Vegas if you’re needing some cash.”

The old man sighed, and in between bites said, “No, but thank you, I’m pretty busy most of the time, seems like I’ve been working for an eternity, but I could use a little excitement.”

“Looky here now, I’m going to give you a final chance to figure out my identity and why you felt so compelled to give me a ride young feller, pull this caddie over by that pond up there” ordered the old man.

Elvis, laughing, said “Pond, there ain’t no ponds in the desert, unless they’re concrete, and in someone’s back yard.”

The old man said, “just pull over here please, just by that beautiful cactus patch.”

Elvis parked the caddie on the shoulder and turned off the engine.

The old man motioned for Elvis to follow “Come with me please, I think you will like this. It’s not everyday that I go through this much work to impress one of my children.” He said.

Elvis, now a bit amused by the scenario, followed him into the desert. Ink Dark and no moon, they were both stumbling on rocks and bumping into cactus, so the old man switched on that angelic glow to light the way. This impressed Elvis. This guy was really good.

They walked a short distance until they came upon a small lake. It wasn’t a stock tank, or a catch basin, and it wasn’t your typical Las Vegas casino pond, but a beautiful sparkling lake with palm trees and lush tropical plants lining the shore. Small waterfalls cascaded to the water’s surface producing a peaceful sound. The perimeter of the lake was back- lit with that same eerie light.

The old man turned to Elvis and said “Okay, my son, I usually don’t pull this one out much, but you’re a real special case boy.”

And with that said, he walked down the bank and out onto the waters surface. He didn’t sink, but skimmed across the surface like a dragon fly. Stopping about twenty yards out, he turned, faced Elvis, and raised his arms to the sky. The water boiled and swirled, flashes of lightning hit the surface, and the waters parted into two walls on either side of him.

On the bank, Elvis jumping up and down, screamed, “Hot Dog, I’ve seen this before. I know who you are now…you’re Charlatan Heston, that actor… you played Moses in that Easter movie, the Ten Commitments.”

That did it for the old man. It took the weight of the universe to tick him off, but this hillbilly in an old Cadillac had succeeded.

The old man walked to the bank, and directly to Elvis. Without saying a word, he pointed his finger at Elvis forehead, looked up to the sky and said, “Father, thy non-believers shall wallow with the hounds beneath the porch of the out-cast, let this man of doubt feel your wrath.”

There was a blinding flash of light. Elvis, knocked on his rear, found himself looking up at the old man. “Way up”.  He felt funny. He itched, his breath smelled like a skunk, and he felt the urge scoot his butt on the ground. Looking down, instead tennis shoes, he saw paws, and a lot of dirty, matted hair. He attempted to speak but his words came out in barks. This went on for a few minuets until he became a nuisance.

Another flash of light, and Elvis was once again eye to eye with the old man.

The old man smiled and said, “Elvis, I’m sorry I turned you into a dog, but like I said, you are a special case.” The glowing light usually convinces most people, but you’re just a little thick ain’t you boy.”

The old man smiled, put his arm around Elvis’s shoulder, and said, “Look, let’s get back to your car, I’ve got someplace to be, and I want you to go with. We can have a little visit along the way, a counseling session of sorts, no charge, it’s on the house. And by the way, when I’m down here, in this realm, I prefer to be called just plain old Sonny, it’s less frightening…puts people at ease.”

After driving for a while, Sonny turned to Elvis and said, “You know son, I play in a band when I’m home, and your name comes up often, the guys are always asking me when you’re coming up to join them.”

Elvis said “that’s nice sir, who might your band members be?” and where exactly, is home?”

“Well, home is where my Father is; Heaven. You know, the pearly gates and such, sitting on clouds, the weathers good all the time, all of that stuff you read about.”

“You mean streets of gold and everyone lives in their own temple type of Heaven?” asked Elvis.

Sonny replied, “Well not exactly, the streets of gold were a real maintenance nightmare, so we went back to Jordanian river – rock. The temples were a little small, so we made some major changes right after Frank Lloyd Wright came up. Everyone now has a nice little place with a view of the garden…everyone’s equal in Dad’s eyes you know. Your Mamma and Daddy’s place is an exact copy of Graceland. Bet you didn’t know that!”

Elvis swallowed hard and said “You seen my Momma and Daddy?”

“Well of course I have you nimrod. Didn’t I just tell you who I am and where I live. Don’t you listen!” replied Sonny.

Sonny clapped his hands on his knees and said, “Now, back to my band for a minute. It’s made up of the best musicians that ever lived.  Your old buddies Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash just recently joined up, and I’ve got Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison on guitars, Gene Kruppa and Keith Moon on drums, and I’m looking forward to Ringo joining up pretty soon. There’s Count Basie and Mozart on keyboards, Roy Orbison, Bobby Darin, Buddy Holly, and Old Blue Eyes on vocals. Man, that Orbison can hit those high notes…really ticks Sinatra off. Frank has a bad attitude about everything, always wanting to get the Rat Pack up and running again. Dads always sending him “down below” for a few days, just to keep him in line.”

Elvis was struggling to comprehend what he was hearing, he knew all those dudes when they were alive, and Bobby Darin was a running buddy back in the day.

Sonny on a bit of a roll continued, “Myself, I play a little bass sometimes, if Noel Redding is busy greeting the British arrivals down at the gate.  John Lennon still claims it wasn’t Yoko that broke up the band, he swears it was McCartney’s doings, and old Ed Sullivan already has a Beatles reunion show planned, just waiting for the other two to show up. I told him it wouldn’t be too much longer, but it wasn’t a deal if he had that stupid little mouse puppet Popo Gigio on the bill.  I just wanted to squeeze him until his little eyes popped out. Puppets make me uncomfortable.”

Elvis, staring at the road ahead was sweating like a lawn sprinkler. His mouth, dry as cotton, and he couldn’t catch a good breath. This was too much for him to digest at one time. Here he is, giving a ride to the Son of God. “Is this the way it’s suppose to be” he thought, “Aren’t you suppose to see a white light and your loved ones coming to meet you?” Not the Lord telling you he plays in a rock band full of dead musicians and hates mouse puppets. Maybe he was having an LSD flashback.

Sonny turned to Elvis and said, “No, Elvis, you’re not having a flashback, and you don’t always see the light…and yes, I can read your thoughts.  Really, this is pretty much the way it happens. I make special provisions for people as needed, and you are a special provision type of fellow, so enjoy the evening.  I’m not saying it’s your time to come home to “my place,” but who knows. Take the next right up here; you’re going to like where we are going.”

Elvis turned the caddie down the dirt road and after a mile or so came to a ramshackle tin building. The exterior looked to be an old military barrack, and over the door was a cheesy neon-sign that read “Sonny’s Place.” No cars parked in the lot, and no tire tracks in the sand. This joint was really out of the way.

Sonny escorted Elvis through the front door where they were greeted by a kindly lady with big hair sitting behind a counter. Elvis noticed her name tag read “Patsy C.” When she saw Sonny, she lit up and said, “My Savior, how good to see you again, everyone’s been asking if you were going to come by tonight, who’s your pal?”

Sonny replied, “This is the famous Elvis Presley darling, but he’s not here officially yet, he’s just visiting for a spell, slap one of those silver wrist bands on him please.”

Elvis interrupted, “Excuse me sir, what’s the silver band mean?”

Smiling, Sonny said “Oh, it means you can’t have the top shelf drinks, can’t use the nice restrooms, and most of all it means you’re not dead yet…understand.”

Elvis understood alright, and that was okay with him. As long as he had not assumed room temperature, that’s all that mattered.

When they walked into the main room, thunderous applause greeted them. Sonny humbly waved and nodded, and Elvis, slack-jawed and gob-smacked, stared at all the dead musicians and singers he had known.

On stage, Bobby Darin was kicking off “Mack The Knife” accompanied by an all-star band made up of Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Mozart, Charlie Bird, Gene Krupa, Glen Miller, Harry James and a full horn section. Bobby saw Elvis and gave him a big smile and a thumbs up.

When the song ended, Bobby directed a spot light to the small table occupied by Sonny and Elvis, and in that “oh so cool voice,” he announced “Ladies and Gents, in the crowd tonight we have the one and only, my good friend, Mr. Elvis Presley, stand up and take a bow, E”

The crowd went wild. Everyone, was on their feet, applauding, and from the back of the room a chant was growing, “Elvis..Elvis..Elvis.” A shaking, teary-eyed Elvis stood as best he could and acknowledged his peers…. dead peers.

Sonny touched his arm and said, “Go on up there my son, give it all you got.”

When Elvis walked onstage, the band came over and gave him a hug. His old friend Bobby held him the longest. Elvis grabbed the microphone, turned to the band, and yelled “Viva Las Vegas in the key of G.”

Strutting, gyrating, not missing a note, the crowd dancing in the isles, and Elvis was putting on the show of his life. His heart was so full of joy that he felt it would burst; and then it did.

As he floated backward, he felt hands engulfing his body, lowering him to the stage. He was aware of people standing around him, and then he saw a beautiful bright light, and from that light emerged his parents, and were leading him through a heavenly garden to a beautiful Graceland.

The musicians, formed a circle around his body, heads bowed, quietly praying.

When Sonny came on stage, they parted, and he knelt next to Elvis’s body. With his hand on Elvis’s forehead, he said, “wake up Elvis, you’re home now.”

“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 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, 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.”

“Thomas Fowl Is Laid To Rest”


Drawing by Betty Crocker

Now the “Rona” has ruined Thanksgiving and is well on the way to destroying Christmas. Santa is no fool; that flimsy mask will not protect him from the vile germ that inhabits every surface in our homes. God forbid he drinks that warm milk and eats those germ-infested homemade cookies, and then brushes against that hot zone of a tree. He won’t last the night, and millions of children will be left presentless.

Our large cities, New York, Chicago, and others are adding Thanksgiving dinner to their list of hit crimes. A family can’t commune and break bread together or go to church on this peaceful day, but a family can have a funeral or go to Walmart or a strip club. How considerate is that?

This year, I will post in the local obituary that our family is mourning the loss of an esteemed member, Thomas Fowl. Visitation and the funeral service will be at our family home on Thanksgiving day. Out of respect for poor Thomas, the family and friends are requested to bring a side dish of comfort food for the attendees. Thomas will be laid out for viewing on a beautiful china platter with all the trimmings. A toast of good wine will be made in his honor. The governor is invited to attend if he pleases. Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

” The Plan”


A short story by Phil Strawn

A short time back, in a country much like ours was at one time, a young boy lived a good life. His parents, third-generation immigrants from Europe, we’re proud that their only child will be the first in their family to attend a university.

When Babalou was six years old, he asked his mother about two pictures hanging on the wall in their dining room. There was a painting of a sad-eyed man with long hair and a beard, hands clasped, staring upward. The other picture was not a painting, but a fancy written document on yellowish paper. His mother said the man with the sad eyes is our Lord and Savior, and the other picture is what we live by every day as a free nation. Babalou never understood her explanation, but he knew his mother was wise, and he trusted her.

When Babalou turned ten, he worked after school with his father in the family shoe repair shop. His father, a proud citizen, wanted his son to know the value of hard work and learn life’s lessons to build the boys’ self-esteem. Babalou was diligent and learned well. He flourished and became a good student and a fine young man.

The day Babalou arrived at the university, as he and his parents stood by their old car parked in front of his dormitory, they hugged him harder than he could remember. His mother said to him, ” Babalou, take this gift of education that you have been blessed with, and use it to better yourself and your future family. Don’t forget that this country allows you to be anything you wish to be. Go with the grace of God.” He nodded that he would do just that.

Two years into his university education, Babalou was a changed man. The years of professors preaching inequality and pushing socialistic doctrine had soured his once optimistic look on life. He believed God to be a fraud. The professors said the revolution is upon us, and ” The Plan” is being implemented as we speak. How could he argue? They knew everything.

His visits home became less frequent, and when there, he argued with his parents about the smallest of things, calling them fools and ignorant and useless old people because they couldn’t see his way is the only way. His family didn’t know their son, and it broke their hearts. In the last year of school, he didn’t visit for the holidays or summer and didn’t call home once. Letters from home were tossed into the wastebasket; the uncoupling was complete. The “Plan” had secured another convert.

The world of technology awaited Babalou. He invented an application for smartphones that was so new to the industry that the country’s largest companies begged to purchase it. He declined to sell what he had worked so hard to build. His pride was still intact but waning. His university education had paid off well. His parents saved their entire working life to pay for his newfound success, but not one word of gratitude came from Babalou.

Babalou formed a company that soon became the largest and most powerful in the tech world. He resisted selling and fought numerous hostile takeovers, but he lost the battle one day, weakend from the constant barrage, he signed their documents. His company was taken from him for the better of the people and for the “Plan.” Babalou was pushed out and swept away.

A rich man beyond anyone’s dreams, he lived a quiet life in a beautiful beachfront home in the land of the sun. Contact with his parents had ceased years ago. He sometimes wondered what they were doing, but he cared not enough to contact them.

The television news said the “Plan” was now in full effect. Social Pensions were canceled, the money to be used for illegal immigrants and others without. Medical insurance was banned. Others came first; citizens came last. Seniors and the disabled and infirmed were sent to retirement camps to live out their last days. Their property was re-distributed to the needy. They were of no use to this “one society” and contributed nothing. Babalou was not concerned; he had more money than God in off-shore and foreign banks. So what if he had to give some to the less fortunate. The “Plan” is right.

Babalou awoke from a sweaty, hellish nightmare. He is now, after many years, concerned about his parents and their well being. Why has he been such a self-centered, greedy fool? He had no answer, but he felt he must see them.

The private jet landed at the small mid-western airport, and Babalou chartered a limo to drive him to his childhood home. The neighborhood was different now, rundown and dirty. Old cars on jacks littered the front yards of the manicured lawns he knew as a child. This was not home; this was block after block of Hell. He knocked on the door of his parent’s home. A young boy answered. In broken English, he explained that the former owners had been moved to a “Retirement Camp,” and his family lived here now. The rose bushes so beloved by his mother lay dead in their flowerbed.

Babalou used his own application to track his parents to a Retirement Camp located an hour away. Arriving, the agency representative, a young lady with a surly attitude, took him to their apartment. She unlocked the door and led him into a small room with a double bed and a kitchenette. Babalou asked where his parents were. The young lady said they had died a few weeks before but had left a large envelope for him. She reminded Babalou that all of their belonging were now the property of ” The Plan,” and he could remove nothing from this room. He was gobsmacked. The Plan was implemented to help everyone live a better life, not put old people in camps and confiscate their personal belongings. What in the Hell has happened to his country? Where had he been?

Babalou sat on his parent’s bed. The quilt his grandmother made, the satin pillow with the cross his mother loved so dearly, and his father’s worn pipe lay on the nightstand. Childhood memories flooded his senses, and tears of sorrow and regret came to his eyes. He opened the envelope. The first document he removed was the man with sad eyes, our “Lord and Savior.” His mother’s words came to him. The second document was the written words that hung in the lovely frame in their dining room. He studied it for a moment and then began to read aloud The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America for the first time in his life.

Post Navigation

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: