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 fa├žade available. If that didn’t make you “ooooh and ahhhh,” then you needed to go home and hide in a closet.

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

My sister 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.

┬áThirty 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.

In Search Of My Family History; Didn’t My Mother Own A Pen and A Sheet Of Paper?


Left foreground: Terry The Terrier, Uncle Jack, My Grandmother, My Grandfather, and my Aunt Norma

I am dismayed that the numerous members of my father’s and mother’s families didn’t have the foresight to record their family history for future generations. So there we were, a passel of kids that would grow up to have our own passel of children, but not a paragraph or a sentence was penned for historical value. For all we knew, the entire gang of us were adopted from the Masonic Home.

A note in an old bible or a scribble on the back of an old picture. Who is the old farmwife holding a baby goat in front of a ramshackle barn in 1935? She may as well have been Ma Joad.

Ancestry has been no help, I know where my father’s family came from; England, Ireland, and Scotland; via ships with vast yards of sails, they made landfall in New York, kissed the Statue of Liberty, and then on to Pennsylvania, and points west these were men and women of Celtic origin, who could handle a sword and drank Jameson Irish Whiskey instead of water. They were the refugees of the potato famine and the Catholic-Protestant conflict that still rages today.

My mother’s family is vague, shrouded in indigenous Indian mythical mystery. Relatives who grew up on the Cherokee Indian Reservations, also known as The Indian Nation in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

These folks lived in Buffalo skin teepees and log cabins and hunted for their food, and there are rumors they killed more than a few white settlers. My grandmother had a large mass of human hair she claimed was a scalp her father took during a raiding party; she would bring it out at Christmas to add drama to the children’s holiday.

From what I’ve been told, my great-grandmother had a serious “thang” with the violent but educated Cherokee Chief Quannah Parker, and that “thang” is still a family mystery. Still, my grandmother looked like him, so the family story calls us relations. There may have been more than holding hands in the moonlight on the banks of the Canadian River.

Belle Starr, the infamous outlaw gal, is another relation on my mother’s side. My grandmother said she never intentionally shot anyone but did shoot her husband’s pinky toe off when he wouldn’t help dry the supper dishes Dime Novels made a fortune off of her antics.

Belle was a larger-than-life fixture residing in the old Fort Worth district known as “Hell’s Half Acre.” Butch, Sundance, and Etta Place were her drinking partners, and it’s rumored that she could out-shoot Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, who also had a “thang” for Belle. The famous quick draw Sherriff Jim Coulter was puppy-love sick for her, but he knew she could likely out-draw him, so he loved her from afar.

A famous uncle also worked as a US Marshall out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and rode with the legendary black marshall, Bass Reeves. Bass handled a Colt 44 as gracefully as a forkful of steak and taters. Unfortunately, he had to replace the handles on his pistols twice after he ran out of room for the notches related to the count of bandits he had plugged. The uncle in question was likely the model for the character July Johnson in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Lonesome Dove.” I’m waiting for confirmation that I may be related to Will Rogers, Sasquatch, Blue Duck, and Amelia Earhart.

I was a teenager when I heard one of the better stories from within the family. My mother’s brother’s wife shot and “more than killed” their only daughter’s mean-spirited husband during an “Old Crow” inspired confrontation of which there were many. The old gal shot her son-in-law three times in the chest with a 38 Police Special and then once more in the head, just to ensure he wouldn’t get up. She got off in self-defense. However, the thoroughly dead fellow was unarmed and stupid drunk.

The famous weapon hung on the wall in a framed case, still loaded with the two remaining bullets. Family badges of honor come in all forms.

For me, time is of the essence because it’s running out. I hope to complete some family history for my grandchildren by Christmas. It may not be pretty, but it will be a good read.

A Special Rant From The Cactus Patch


Good Lord in Heaven, the news flashed a moment ago that Biden is sending the oil from our national reserves to China instead of using it to lower the cost at the pump.

“Just Go Buy That Electric Car,” I ask you, what kind of man, much less a president does something like this? Perhaps because he is secure in China’s back pocket because of his sons’ dirty dealings, from which he undoubtedly benefited? Maybe dementia has altered his state of reality and he is of the mind of a child? Doe’s the Democratic Party not have a clear-thinking member that opposes the ruination of this country? All valid questions, and I am but one of the millions with like thoughts.

” Silence Is Not Golden,” although the Tremeloes had a great hit with that term. Why has the Republican Party not offered answers to their constituents? Where are the press conferences and full-page newspaper ads? The gonads of McConnell, Medows and a dozen other so-called leaders are safe in a drawer in their bedroom credenza. Most likely next to their useless pricks, which renders them, useless Eunuchs. Our saving grace may be some of the firebrand female senators that pack a pistol on each hip and mean business.

How does the majority of America receive its news? Good old NBC Lester Holt, the metrosexual young man on ABC, and that green-eyed red-headed pronoun devil on CBS, an avowed conservative Christian hater, although her family all served in the military. She is a contradiction.

There is Fox and Newsmax for conservatives, then the rest of us peons watch the three-letter networks or Google, or Yahoo, or the hundreds of leftist sites that populate the net. It’s an orchestrated effort to feed the population a constant flow of misinformation. Biden’s almost cute little Nazi misinformation Frau didn’t last a full week. She was yet another of his appointments with no experience in anything except producing sing-song Tik Tok videos. To date, AOC is the only one to successfully pull it off, only because her voting base in her hood is as moronic as she is.

Who is the wizard behind the green curtain? Soros, Biden, Pelosi? The Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man? More than likely it is a combination of Obama, Hillary, Eric Holder, and Susan Rice, all with direct lines to the Biden residence. Scoff if you may, but I might be right, based on what I have read in and between the lines. Of all the experts in written media, Victor Davis Hansen may be the most accurate. His assessments and predictions are spot on and should keep us awake at night.

” Come And Take It,” is the flag waved by the outnumbered Texans during the battle of Gonzolaz against the Mexican army. Our illustrious pontificating governor should learn a thing or two from our history, starting with that flag. So the DOJ is filing suit against Texas declaring our border an invasion from a foreign power. It is exactly that and more. Let Merrick Garland and his lackeys try and stop us. They are chickenshit at best. Mexico’s government shrugs their shoulders, “no english” they say. The hordes keep marching to the castle walls with no end in sight. Abbott had a good idea when he held up the trucks at the border, he should reinstate that law. A large chunk of Mexico’s economy is ” Western Union” money from illegals in our country. Halt that and see how fast President Pedro does the sideways shuffle and puts on the brakes. How about our National Guard with a shoot-to-kill order on anyone that resembles a Cartel or drug mule? Maybe some well-placed Texas militia in the scrub brush? That sounds drastic and cruel, but we are eons past the point of civility. This is a war against our country. As in Washington, under the current administration of our once proud state of Texas, the sons of the Alamo have been silenced. It’s heartbreaking.

“Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?” The sixties group “The Barbarians” had it right over 50 years ago. A tongue-in-cheek jab at our parent’s generation of intolerance. It was a catchy tune that if revived today, would likely become a breakthrough hit. If a boy wants to dress up and play Girlie-Girl and a girl wants to dress up and play Manley-Man, then do it. Don’t expect special treatment or rights from the rest of us, except maybe a butt whooping once in a while. We all played cowboys and Indians back in the 50s, and none of us grew up to be Roy Rogers or Tonto; well maybe a few of my friends did. My childhood friend Billy Roy grew up to be the Texas version of Pretty Boy Floyd and spent his entire life on the dope farm in West Fort Worth. I also had a cousin that dressed like a woman and robbed a Piggley Wiggley, but he got off after pleading insanity. The judge sent him to live in Dallas…nuff said.

Remembering the 4th of July, 1957


The whirling of the push mower blades sings their song of torment as I struggle to advance the heavy beast forward. I miss cutting the grass by two days; now, it’s akin to whacking my way through a South American jungle. I’m eight years old, and it’s the 4th of July, 1957.

Later this afternoon, friends and relatives will arrive for a backyard cookout and fireworks at dusk. There is a watermelon packed in an ice-filled tub. Cold beer and soft drinks fill another. Both tubs are sitting in the shade of our backyard Mimosa tree. My father’s beloved Leonard Brothers all-steel charcoal grill sits on the driveway, loaded with briquettes.  

Many of the relatives are on my father’s “shit list,” but being the nice fellow, he extends the invitation on this day and the Christmas holidays. They always come, and the reason for their banishment soon rears its ugly head. Beer gives them the strength to make a beautiful ass of themselves. I’m a kid and could care less. I want to play with dangerous fireworks and blow things up.

People arrive around four. A few cousins close to my age make the party tolerable. My tomboy cousin Ginger brings her bow and target arrows. She wastes no time shooting my cousin Jok in his left buttock. My father removes the arrow, and a band-aid dresses the wound. Kids were tough back then. A speeding bullet is the only thing that might stop us. We move on to firecrackers, cherry bombs, and sparklers.

Burgers are served along with “tater salad” and watermelon. Pearl beer gives my father’s uncle Orum the ability to talk like Will Rogers. His home-spun recounts of past family gatherings captivate the adults. Without the lubrication of beer, he is as humorless as a cardboard box. Cousin Ginger finds her bow and arrows and sends one through the bedroom window glass. She gets a well-deserved butt whooping. It’s not often I see a girl get a butt busting. She does the one-arm dance as her mother delivers the blows. Cool.

I destroy every ant mound in our alley with Black Cat firecrackers and send a tin can into the stratosphere with a Cherry Bomb. Cousin Jok sits a cherry bomb on top of the front tire of his older brother’s new MG convertible to test the velocity of the explosion. The firework blows an outward dent in the fender. Jok is a doomed kid when he gets home.

Darkness arrives, and we swirl sparklers in figure-eight patterns. Sticks of metal burning at 3,000 degrees. Kids holding a welding torch; what could go wrong?

Ten o’clock arrives, and I’m lying in bed after my bath. The soft whir of my bedroom swamp cooler lulls me into La La Land. The adults are still in the backyard. I hear their laughter and catch a few words of some dirty jokes.

Drowsiness comes; sleep is but a minute away; then I hear my mother singing God Bless America, and the others join in. It feels good to be a kid on the 4th of July.

Which Came First? The Writer or the Author?


A while back, an obnoxious blogger that fancied herself a serious author said that writers are not authors, and real authors are those that have been published and cut their teeth in academia, meaning a teacher or a professor of sorts. The rest of the poor souls plodded on through pages of typos and third-rate editing. I hope Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Capote don’t become too riled over her observation. I know in my heart, those men could give a flying shit.

Being the smart-ass that my mother raised well, I challenged the blogger on her assessment of the current literary scene and its “wink-wink” secret membership.

I knew she was a teacher right away because the following lecture and browbeating reminded me of high school. Much high-handed rhetoric and pontification without explaining anything. Sound familiar?

My measured response was that you must first be a writer to become an author. A writer is anyone that puts to paper a story of fact or fiction. It matters not if anyone ever reads your effort; it’s done and sealed. If your writing makes it to a publishing house or a website, you may call yourself an author, but you are still a writer. Nothing changes but a definition and perhaps a fat check.

My first writing was around ten years old and was on a Big Chief tablet. I was working my way to being the second coming of my beloved Mark Twain.

My uplifting teacher at the time had no problem telling me I would likely become a writer. Of what, I asked? She said maybe a book or a novel or a newspaperman; she thought I had a knack for the genre. She did encourage me to learn typing, which I did on a 1930s-era Underwood that occupied my parent’s dining room table. I was the only kid in our neighborhood that knew typing. My friends were google-eyed envious as if I had broken the enigma code or figured out the Orphan Annie decoder ring. I did gloat a bit, but not too much.

So, at 72 years old, I consider myself a writer; A hundred-plus short stories and interviews later speak of my efforts.

I have, over the years, been published a few times; Interviews about the rock scene in the 60s and early country music, so even though I received little to no money, I could, if I wished to, call myself an author. But it’s all a wordplay around egos. So, until I can come up with something as serious as Thomas Wolfe, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, or my beloved Mark Twain, I will remain a humble writer.

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