Saturday In The Cactus Patch


Photo by Ansel Adams

Back in the 60s and 70s, a popular country singer known as “Whispering Bill Anderson” had a string of hits. He didn’t actually whisper but used a low, breathy voice to punctuate parts of his mourning love ballads, thus the name.

Now we have “Whispering Joe” stealing “Whispering Bills” schtick. Joe needs to stick to his demented yelling and barking and leave the vocal techniques to “Whispering Bill” and “Whispering Garrison Keillor,” of the now-defunct NPR Radio program, “A Prarie Home Companion.” Keillor was the master of the “whispering orator.” He pulled you into his fictional world of Lake Wobegon using his low, “woe is me down-home small-town boy” vocalizations. You had to pay attention or miss the show. It was a great program, and too bad it’s longer with us.

“Whispering Bill,” and “Whispering Garrison Keillor” should sue “Whispering Joe” for stealing their acts. I found out today that A.O.C., the social media love child of Castro, is now whispering to her followers on Tik-Tok and Twitter. First, “Whispering A.O.C.,” and next will be “Whispering Nancy.” Soon, everyone in Washington will be whispering, which is not a bad thing considering we won’t be able to hear their B.S.

Bless their hearts.

Sharing A Piece Of Juicy Fruit With Tex Ritter


Tex Ritter, photo courtesy of Roy Rogers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Light Crust Doughboys Are On The Air”


The Light Crust Doughboys 1990s

I am posting a picture of the legendary Texas western swing band, The Light Crust Doughboys, in memory of National Country Music Day. Top L to R; Jerry Elliot and Bill Simmons, bottom L to R; Smokey Montgomery, Johnny Strawn ( my father) and Jim Boyd.

As a small child growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, these men were part of my life until I helped carry some of them to their final rest. Texas, country music, and I are better because of them.

“Back In The Saddle Again”


My friend John Payne was raised in West Texas, and I have, with his permission, used his antics as a teenager to inspire my favorite character, Ferris Ferrier. This story was inspired by John.

Ferris Ferrier lives in Happy Texas. It’s 1958, and he is as happy as a resident can be. Ferris reads an article in the Amarillo newspaper about a movie filming in Fort Worth, and the company is auditioning for cowboys that can sing and play guitar while riding a horse.

Ferris plays guitar, a bit, and has some fancy cowboy duds, and his father has Ole Rip the cutting horse, so he’s convinced he could give this a shot. His parents give him their blessing, and its arranged that his cousins Jimmy Jam and Mary Meredith will take him and Ole Rip to the casting call.


Ferris isn’t nervous about the singing and playing, but more about Ole Rip getting spooked and bucking him off. Ole Rip is a working horse and used to cattle and his pen, and he is pretty unpredictable, but he’s the only horse on the farm, so Ole Rip it is.
Jimmy Jam suggest that Ferris and Ole Rip give a practice performance in the upcoming Christmas Parade next week. “Give the folks in Happy a preview of their soon to be movie star.” says Jimmy. Ferris agrees, and plans made.


The day of the parade, Mimi Jo Musson, the coordinator, moves Ferris and Ole Rip to the front of the show, right behind the baton twirlers. “Might as well give our new movie star a plug, right?” she said. Ferris is nervous as hell. Why right in front of the high school band? Ole Rip is bound to have a meltdown once that loud music starts. He explains to Mimi Jo the scenario that will likely happen, but she says “it will be fine, horses love music.”


At noon, the parade is lined up in the alley between the Prairie Bank and the Big Biscuit Café. Baton twirlers, Ferris and Rip, the drum major and high school band along with six floats followed by a stagecoach driven by Gabby Pat Parnell where Santa Claus rides and will throw candy to the children.


Ferris is freaking out. His throat is dry as sand, he has to pee, and Ole Rip is cutting one fart after the other, a sure sign he is not happy. As the parade turned the corner out of the alley onto the main street, Ferris starts to play and sing, and Ole Rip is doing fine. Then, the drums start, and the band kicks into Jingle Bells, and Ole Rip loses it. It is the first time Ferris has seen him rear up on h is back legs like Trigger, and is for a moment, impressed…until the horse makes a hard right turn and runs into Miss Molly’s Beauty Parlor.

As Ferris and Rip enter the business, Ferris hits his forehead on the door jamb and is spewing blood like a fountain. Ole Rip manages to demolish half the parlor before turning around and heading out the front door. They travel a few stores down, running parade watchers off the sidewalk.

The next stop, Western Auto and Rip is doing a similar demo job on the best store in town. Ferris is bleeding, his guitar is smashed, and the saddle is beginning to slide sideways. As they exit Western Auto, there are three vacant lots before you reach Bramwell’s Feed Store. Ole Rip picks up speed and heads for the feed store lot.

As the duo enters the lot, Rip is smelling oats and makes a beeline for the warehouse, where he abruptly stops in front of an open bin and proceeds to chow down.

The saddle slips off, and Ferris is on the ground.

He is a sorry sight, bloody face, torn clothes, his precious Harmony guitar smashed to sawdust, and then Margie Lou, his secret crush shows up. She is so excited she can barely speak.

” Good God Ferris, I have never seen a demonstration of horsemanship like that in my whole life, and I’m a rodeo queen. That was fabulous, and sensational” she screams. Ferris picks himself up and thanks, Margie Lou.
She adds, ” and next week you are going to audition for that movie, you should be so excited.”

Ferris says “you know Margie Lou, I think I’ll do my guitar playing on the ground from now on. Who knows, in a few years I might start me a band. By the way, that’s a good idea for a name, The Fabulous Sensations, and I’ll keep that in mind.”

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