Notes From The Cactus Patch

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

Archive for the tag “Texas”

Defending Texas 2.0


I am, by my own admission, a proud Texan that will go toe to toe with anyone that diminishes the history and heritage of my state. I haven’t needed to do that in many years, but the piss and vinegar is still there if needed.

Statues are inanimate objects. They can’t shoot you, slap you or speak to you. The only way they might cause harm to one, is to fall on you as they are being pulled down by an uneducated mob of hoodlums wielding ropes and ladders.

Texas has more statues than Forest Gump has shrimp. There are brass, bronze, metal and stone statues of the defenders of the Alamo, various animal hero’s, horned toads, our founding fathers, soldiers from all wars, questionable politician’s and scores of others. I saw a statue of Flipper the dolphin in Galveston, so I guess everyone that has their own statue is not bad.

In Granbury, where I live, the town is named for a famous southern general named Granbury. He served in the confederate army and lived in Waco, where he practiced law. He has a statue of course, and the town carries his name, and has for over well over a hundred years with no complaints or problems created by the inanimate object.

Now, in Granbury, like the rest of the state, and country, people want them removed because the site of a statue hurts’ their feelings or makes them think of injustices, either real or imagined, committed centuries ago in a country that was far different than the one they are now attempting to ruin. With young men and women that depend on Google for information and education, can we expect less? Our education system has failed them. Texas history is barely touched on and smoothed over with a pacifist brush.

Our state history is not pretty: It is rough and tumble with a lot of bloodshed and dying by all. Indian wars, The Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto, hand to hand knife fighting musket shooting battles that were horrific. In those hard scrabble days, people were tough: life was tough, and a young Texas ranch wife would kick your butt as good as her husband. My grandmother was one of those gals.

The Alamo mission, in San Antonio, is the most sacred piece of history in our state. It is a shrine held in reverence by Texans since 1836, when the mission, held by volunteers and led by William Barret Travis, fell to General Santa Anna and his army. Most of our counties and many of our towns are named for the defenders. Now, there are mobs and hooligans that want to tear down the mission because it hurts their feelings. Fortunately, our Texas Rangers and other patriots are guarding the Alamo to keep this from happening. Texas history will not go down without a good fight. God bless The Alamo and Davey Crockett, and God Bless Texas.

Little Audie Murphy


A third installment of “feel good” stories from my childhood. Virus’s, Riots and Looters…Oh My! The only thing missing is the gang of Flying Monkeys terrorizing Granbury.
With all the mayhem now in our small towns, I should take my firearm when shopping at H.E.B. for groceries. You never know when ANTIFA will come down the aisle and set fire to “Uncle Bens” and “Aunt Jemimah” products. This recount should take your mind off of the bad stuff and hopefully leave you sedate and smiling.

The farm. Santa Anna, Texas. July of 1955. My two uncles, Jay and Bill, need more to occupy their time. I need them away from me. I’m a six-year-old kid, and their influence is ruining my childhood. They told me Howdy Doody is not real, and Captain Kangaroo hates kids. I cried for days.
The chaw of Red Man chewing tobacco behind the smokehouse was the last straw. Seeing a kid puking for two hours seemed funny to them.
My grandfather told the two grown kids that a man in Coleman has a pig that won the ” Purple Paw” award. Every year, the governor of Texas bestows the prize on an animal that has performed a heroic act. Who knew there was a hero nearby?
Of course, my two uncles have to see this pig, so they head for Coleman with my cousin Jerry and me in tow. Arriving in Coleman, we stop at the feed store for directions and a coke.
The owner tells my uncles to be very respectful of the pig since he saved the farmer and his family’s lives. In appreciation, the farmer named the pig “Little Audie Murphy,” after the famous WW11 hero and movie star. I am more than impressed. This pig is the real deal.

Arriving at the farm, we are met at the gate by the proud farmer. My uncle Bill has a $10.00 bet with Ray that this is a load of bullcrap. They never stop.

Ray wants to hear the pig’s story, so the farmer is more than happy to recount.

The farmer takes a chaw of Red Man and begins, ” I was plowing one day, and my old tractor hits a stump and tips over, trapping me underneath. I’m yelling for help for an hour, and finally, my old pig shows up. The pig grabs a timber and scoots it underneath the tractor, then stands on it so’s the tractor tilts up, and I can scoot out. That porker saved my life.”
I can tell by the look on my uncle’s faces that they think this is B.S.
The farmer continues, ” about a week after that, I’m in town at the domino parlor, and my house catches on fire. My wife and kids are knocked out by the smoke, and the pig pulls them out of the burning house and revives them—a true porcine hero, that pig.”
Now my uncles are impressed. I see a tear trickle from Bill’s eye. I got a lump in my throat.

At this point, we want to see this pig for ourselves, so the farmer takes us to the barn. He stands outside the corral and yells, ” Little Audie, come on out.”
A huge Yorkshire pig wearing a ribbon and gold medal around his neck makes its way out of the barn. I’ve seen pigs before, and this wasn’t any normal pig. He was missing an ear and a front and back leg. Where the legs had been, the pig now sported homemade prosthesis. He seemed to walk fine and was friendly.

My uncle Jay was shocked and asked the farmer what the hell happened to the poor pig?
The farmer took a minute to answer that question. Then he smiled and said, ” well, a pig that special, we couldn’t just eat him all at once.”

The End of The Innocence


A perspective and opinion from a proud Texan. I’m not sure what is going on with WordPress, but I am re-posting this. The first post was an un-edited version. My apologies to my readers. I blame ” The Rona.”

Dazed and Confused ?

The death of George Floyd is a turning point in our United States of America. I have heard many times from mystic sources of the unknown, that “out of tragedy comes good,” but not always. I believe Churchill spoke these wise words, but it may have been the captain of the Titanic, or perhaps William Travis, and we all know how that ended for him.

The weeks of peaceful protest is gone. We now have groups of anarchists that hi-jacked the Black Lives Matter movement for their use.

America’s soft spongy underbelly lies exposed while thugs and criminals lay waste on our cities and society. Parts of our pristine city blocks look like a war zone. Protesters, bystanders, and business owners that wish to make their point peacefully are attacked and beaten by the infiltrators if they intervene. These hoodlums even had the nerve to destroy and loot a Starbucks in Portland.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when the people that want and need the change in our police departments and city governments or the ones seen on television carrying a shopping cart full of flat screens or a pair of $600.00 Nikes from a looted store. Nothing builds the bridge of peace and brotherhood like looting.

In Austin, Texas, the capital of my home state, a black American capitol policeman, was mobbed and attacked by a group of “keep Austin weird” type of folks. My apologies to Austinites that do not wish to stay weird. They appear, on television, to be young, white, and likely students from our prestigious University of Texas, and they are damn lucky they weren’t shot. Knowing UT, I’m sure there were a few Antifa kiddies in the group to add flavor and support. One can assume that the food trucks on South Congress didn’t do much business that day. All there customers were busy at the capital.

My parents taught me a valuable lesson when I was a young’n. You don’t assault a police officer: in any way, or it is likely to turn out bad for you. Do these young people not have parents to teach them right from wrong? The “everyone gets a trophy, and I want it for free” generation has a lot to learn.

Thank you, Austin, for showing us what you are, pulling back the tye-dyed curtain for us to see the wizard. The “hippy-dippy live music capital of the world persona” you have pushed for decades has soured and gelled into a smelling heap of Whole Foods dumpster refuse. I have friends that live in Austin, so this doesn’t include them unless they were at the dust-up, as mentioned above.

“Keep Austin Weird” was once a fun slogan that the city was proud of owning. I wonder now if that slogan is appropriate? God Bless Davy Crockett and The Alamo.

The Home Prison Blues


A personal observation and rant by Phil Strawn

I have lost count of my days in this government-induced social distancing hysteriademic-in-home prison sentence. Being confined to the cactus patch has made it bearable to a point, but then on some days, I want to run screaming down the county road that runs alongside our home. Our local sheriff, a nice young man, would find me and be obliged to return me to my wife. He’s a youngster, but astute enough to know that old people can go batshit crazy at any time. They don’t need a jail, just a bowl of corn flakes.

It’s been eight weeks since my last haircut, and I can, if needed, pass as a 1970s televangelist or a former musician at Woodstock. I considered asking my grandson to assist me in starting a Youtube channel with a donation button and deliver deep-daily thoughts to the confined masses. I have the required icky look but don’t possess the lack of morals it requires to rip other old people off. So I watch pap on Amazon and Netflix instead.

I have turned into that old guy that sits by the window, awaiting the postman to deliver his junk mail and utility bills. At my age, even grocery store flyers can lend some comfort. It’s quite exciting when you get a coupon for buy one get one free.

The nice young man in India has stopped calling me about my automobile warranty, and the fraternal order of the Hood County Police knows better than to ask me for another donation.
My wife has baked every pie and cake imaginable and a few days ago made a banana pudding that would send Aunt Bea to the woodshed.

Young folks are whining and gnashing about being confined and missing their friends and graduations and parties and all that their age group does. Cry babies and pansy asses. They have years ahead of them when things return to normal. So shut up and do your homework on your laptop. And get off my lawn. I hope this mess ends before I do.

Everyone Gets A Trophy!


Good Lord, what has happened in the great state of Iowa? The most sacred caucus in our country has been dusted, busted and is no longer trusted. Either some geek tweaked the app or there’s a Russian in a basement somewhere in Iowa messing with the internet signals. I’m barely a step above neanderthal when it comes to AI and such, but damn folks, cant you at least get this right with all those Millenials you have working on your behalf?

I ran into an old liberal buddy of mine at Whataburger this morning at breakfast. That’s what us Texans do, we eat biscuits at Whataburger and talk shit about everybody, family included. My pal Squeaky had his pet chihuahua nestled in his chest-mount baby carrier and was feeding him bites of sausage from his sandwich. Squeaky is not your average Democrat. For most of his life, he was redneck, four-wheel driving, gun-toting, Alamo loving, beer drinking Republican, that had a Rebel flag hanging in his garage.

While hunting wild pigs in San Saba, Texas, Squeak ran his ATV through a bob-wire fence and messed up his vocal cords, so he now sounds like Mickey Mouse when he speaks. While he was lying there close to dying, he said the ghost of former Democratic Texas Governor Ann Richards visited him. Hovering over his body, giving him sips of sweet tea, she said if he converted his political affiliation from conservative to liberal, he could live on. We thought it was complete bull-shit, but he swears it true: and he’s still here.

I grabbed a biscuit and coffee and sat down across from Squeaky. His chihuahua, Giblet snarled his teeth at me, so I gave him a bite of my hashbrown to take the edge off. Small talk and trashing family finally got down to the Iowa caucus, which I knew he watched last night. He takes it seriously, even posting a picture of the brisket and sausage he was smoking for the event.

I know Squeak is kind of fragile after his accident and cries easily, so I gingerly asked him, ” what did you think of that hot mess of a caucus last night?” I’m not a tender guy when it comes to politics. He looked at me kind of squinty-eyed and said, ” My boy Buttercup says he is the winner. Somebody tried to mess with those computers and put comrade Bernie and Pochahontes in there, but Mayor Buttercup is gonna be the nominee.” I know that Mayor Pete’s name is hard to pronounce and remember, so I didn’t offer a correction. I agreed with him on that, Mayor Pete is the less frightening of the bunch. ” What if there is no clear winner?” I asked.

Squeaky didn’t answer right away, but pondered the question a good five minutes, thinking between bites of his sausage biscuit. I was afraid I had offended him in my usual way, but he surprised me when he answered, ” well, I guess everybody gets a trophy and a pizza.”

Why A Wine Cave, You Say?


Prototype Wine Cave for Hidey Hole Wine Caves in Granbury Texas

Wine Caves are back in the news. The beleaguered, but smiling, Mayor Pete can’t catch a break. One measly fundraiser in a friend’s elaborate wine cave and the press brands him an elitist – extended – pinky finger – chardonnay guzzler. You know most of the folks in Hollywierd have them. I’m betting that Brad Pitt has one in each home. Hugh Hefner had multiple wine caves stocked with excellent wines and even better bunnies. I’m pretty sure the Cowboys owner, Old Smiley Jones, has one for wine and another for scotch. Hell, everyone deserves a wine cave, so that’s why I am launching my new business, ” Hidey Hole Wine and Survival Caves,” because every citizen deserves to have one.

I called Hector, a buddy of mine in Granbury that owns a concrete business and asked if he could dig a tunnel and a large room under the foundation of a home without the house caving in.

” Hell ya, man, I’m a concrete dude; we know how to dig,” he proudly exclaimed. He gave me a price, which was much less than I had planned, so Hector is on board. His cousin lays block and stucco, and another cousin finishes interiors, so I have my crew in place. I placed an ad in the local DFW “Wine Sniffer” magazine, so now, I set back and wait for the work to come rolling in.

Update from this morning, ” Wine Sniffer” magazine rejected my ad on the basis that it sounds like Rednecks and Mexicans digging holes under houses. How did they know?

The Black Plague of Friday


It’s raining and cold here in North Texas today. Perfect weather for Black Friday, my most reverently hated day of the year. While driving home with my wife from Thanksgiving supper in Fort Worth last evening, we passed the Walmart in Granbury. The first impression would be the zombie apocalypse was attacking the store, but then we both knew it was ” that day” pushed back by twelve hours so the Walton family could make an extra billion while their employees have to eat and run to work instead of spending the day with their families. I don’t think this is what old Sam had in mind when he started the store decades ago. But alas, here we are, and the greedy children are running the show.

The weather was wet, cold and miserable, so who in their right mind would put themselves through that to save a few bucks. That single 65 inch HDTV for $39.99 will be gone within thirty seconds. Then, because of that retail trickery on other featured items, there will be numerous brawls, knifings, shootings, and thefts. Black Friday at any Walmart brings out the worst in humanity.

My last outing on a Black Friday was more than a decade ago with my son and grandson. We were in Frys Electronics, and my son Wes had managed to grab the last Epson HD Projection TV for the incredibly low price of $200.00. He turned his back to look at cables, and a full-grown idiot man grabs the box from his basket and takes off down the aisle sprinting like OJ Simpson through the airport. Wes was and is a big old boy, and my grandson, a young teen at that time, is also a large boy, so what does this guy think that he could get away with this? They tackled him within 30 feet, and after a gentle roughing up, they returned the goods to their basket while the thief and his young son were removed from the store. All of this for a TV.

To put the final nail in the holiday coffin, the Dallas Cowboys went tits up, at home, in front of a sold-out crowd and a pissed off owner, but yet today, the Howdy Doody hand-clapping coach still has a job. Its going to be a rough holiday season here in DFW.

A Performance to Remember


Pictured here is my 17th cousin, Carmalita “Cookie” Zevon. In Texas, if we are unsure of our relations, everyone becomes a cousin. Its a big state with a large gene pool.

In the fall of 1958, the first beatnik style coffee house opened its door in Fort Worth Texas. Calling itself, “The Cellar,” I can assure you that Fort Worth did not welcome its presence or the caliber of inhabitants it attracted. Cousin Carmalita, preferred the name Cookie, was a perfect fit and secured a gig as the first waitress at the new establishment.

Being six years younger, myself and the other cousins had limited interaction during her teenage years, but I know from the sordid family stories and the “almost out of earshot whispers” that she was a real hellion of a girl.

Immersing herself in books by Kerouac and Ginsberg that glorified the new lifestyle created by the “beat generation,” Cookie began dressing in black tight-fitting clothing.

Waist-length black hair and a resemblance to a young Ava Gardner didn’t endear her to the Sandra Dee girls club at school, which resulted in a cliquish form of petulant bullying, so Cookie dropped out of Paschal High School at sixteen to live in sin with her next to worthless hoodlum boyfriend; a motorcycle riding teenage hubcap stealing thief from the north side of town. This decision resulted in her instant banishment from the family. Polled by a phone-in family vote, she was christened the “little trollop.” Her name was not to be spoken at gatherings, and her mother requested all photographs containing images of Cookie be returned to her for proper disposal by fire. Her father, unable to watch her sweet sixteen birthday present, a Ford Fairlane convertible sit abandoned in his driveway, sold it to Frank Kent for next to nothing. Rebellion was not tolerated well in the 1950s, especially in Texas, and our extended family.

The Cellar grew in popularity and crowds of the literary unwashed and self-absorbed poets made it their rightious digs. High octane coffee and bad poetry create a tolerated misery for the sake of being cool.

Cookie grew tired of the bland poetry readings from ancient books and tried her hand at writing. Engulfed in her rebellion, and possessing a heart full of childish resentment, it didn’t take long for her to dish on everyone and everything she felt had “done her wrong.” Her parents were the main course in her cauldron of teenage hate. She petitioned the clubs owner to let her perform a personal poem about her life. He agreed.

Saturday evening is reserved for the serious night dwelling “hip beats.” They convene and hold literary court to any who will listen. Mixed groups of the hairy educated gather around small tables arguing about poetry, politics, sex and the meaning of life. Old Crow adds the extra kick to the java. An occasional strange cigarette makes the rounds.

Cookie senses the time right and takes the stage cradling a cardboard box under her left arm and a large pair of sewing shears in her right hand. She sets the box on the floor next to a tall stool. Tears stream from her sad eyes, forming dark streams of running Maybelline mascara onto her peach pale cheeks. A tinsel thin string of snot drips from her left nostril resting on her upper lip catches the spotlight, bathing her face an ethereal glow. She gags a few times, composes herself and begins her poem.

Retrieving her favorite childhood doll baby from the box, she places the doll on the stool, produces a small meat-cleaver and beheads the poor toy. A gasp erupts from the crowd. Earlier, for maximum effect, she filled the doll’s plastic head with Heinz Ketchup and potted ham to simulate blood and brains. When the doll’s head is guillotined and bounces onto the table nearest the stage, the ketchup splattered patrons recoil in horror. A beautiful 8×10 glossy photo of her parents is pulled from the box and cut to shreds with the sewing shears. She produces a Girl Scout uniform and rips it to pieces, throwing the all American remnants of the uniform into the audience.

Cookie leans into the microphone, takes a drag from a Pall Mall, and in a low growl says ” I never liked dolls or toys, but you made me treat the little shits like real people. I fed them imaginary food, bathed them in imaginary water, changed their tiny poopless diapers and dressed them in stupid clothes, and for that I hate you and I cut my hair.” With that statement, she grabs a chunk of her beautiful lady Godiva length hair and removes a large portion with the sewing shears. She continues ” I didn’t want to be a Girl Scout, I wanted to be a Brownie, but no, I had to be like the other girls on our street, you know I don’t like the color blue, and for that, I hate you and I cut my hair.” Whack, another large section falls to the stage. ” you hate my boyfriend because he is a bad boy, and he is all that, but I love him and want to spend my life on the back of his ratty-ass motorcycle holding a nursing baby in each arm as we travel west to find the meaning of life.” She then whacks the left side of her hair to the scalp. The audience is on the verge of bolting, fearing her next move may be severing an artery and expiring in front of them. A voice from the back of the room yells “this chick is crazy.”

Cookie ends her act and exits the stage leaving a pile of black hair mixed with ketchup and photo paper. The crowd of poets and hip cats give her a lukewarm reception. This performance was too unhinged for the normally unshakable.

That performance at the Cellar that night was the debut of what would come to be known as “Performance Art.” Carmalita Cookie Zevon performed once more before she and her boyfriend and a nursing baby rode west on a ratty-ass motorcycle to find the meaning of life. We can assume they found something.

Uncle Nehi’s Nap Camp


 

I read an article in my local paper a few days back about a youngster from Louisiana that fed his pet earthworms small amounts of nuclear waste, which in turn, made them glow in the dark and grow to the size of a state-fair hotdog. 

He is now raking in cash, hawking them on his own late-night infomercial. Every fisherman in the south wants a giant wiggling glowing worm. Every bass needs one. I wondered, what kind of person would come up with such an idea?

My family tree back in the “old country” was chock full of these sorts. Dreamers, schemers, and medicine show hucksters. All died poor except one.

Take my Great-Great-Great Uncle Nehi, a puny Scott with a sweet tooth. He spent his spare time in search of sugary delights. One night, while experimenting with various potions of colored water, fruit, and healthy doses of sugar, he invented “Nehi Soda.” Now It wouldn’t be summer without a grape Nehi and a Moon Pie, would it? His tinkering resulted in the “all American soda.” Soda pop made him wealthy, and he died young from a roaring case of Diabetes, but he died prosperous and happy. 

I always preferred Dr. Pepper, but my parents made us drink Nehi every year on the anniversary of his passing.

If it wasn’t for “dreamers and hucksters,” a beloved section of our economy would not exist. There would be no infomercials on television. Drug stores would have fewer isles full of useful little “as seen on TV” things. People would be wondering how to make their fresh juice or cover that bald spot. How could they make their hair puff out to look like a jelly roll while roaming around town in a snuggly blanket with armholes? Hanging upside down tomatoes would not exist. How would the astronauts write upside down without that nice ballpoint pen? I get a little scared thinking about what life would be like without these gadgets.

This past Saturday, my wife and I enjoyed lunch at a quaint restaurant alongside the Guadalupe River in Gruene, Texas. It was a hot one. A real sizzler. 100 degrees in the shade and we were sitting outside on their covered deck, enjoying the river’s tranquility and cooled by the misters. 

My wife, Maureen, full of food and a cold beer, drowsily commented, “a nap would be nice right now.” I agreed, but there was nowhere to have a nappy except the hot car, so that idea was out.

I summoned our bill and sat staring at the beautiful river, watching the tubers drift by, listening to the lull of bubbling water, I was entranced, hypnotized by nature’s respite.

 My bill arrived, and on the servers plate was an ice-cold Nehi Grape Soda, bound for another’s enjoyment. I hadn’t seen a Nehi soda in decades. 

I was slapped hard by this boy and girls, the Nehi, the river, the need for a nap, and nature, it all hit me at once. I couldn’t speak, and could only croak out “nap camp…Nehi…nappy.” 

Thinking I was having a stroke, my wife whipped out her cell phone and started to dial 911, but stopped when I finally choked out the words, “Uncle Nehi’s Nap Camp.” I had that stupid look that she knows all too well, something akin to “hold my beer and watch this.” She waited for the spiel, of which I was overly anxious to deliver.

Grabbing her reluctant hand, I dragged her down to the river bank. She was scared: I was excited. Invigorated and drunk on the elixir of my vision.

“Why didn’t I think of this years ago” I yelled. “It’s like the boy and his nuclear fishing worms. It’s not too late, seize the minute, make your mark, mark your territory, piss into the wind for a change. People need to sleep, they need a good nap, it’s our right!”

I was so excited I was waving my arms and spinning around like a “tent revival preacher.” I was on a roll. 

I was yelling like a five-year-old on a sugar high, “over there in the trees by the river, we can build cedar post and metal roof pole barns, add ceiling fans and misters and put up some comfy hammocks. We’ll have an outside bar selling Nehi sodas, cold Lone Star beer and baloney, and rat cheese sandwiches. We could have a small barn with little hanging beds for the kids and dogs, and a separate napping barn for in-laws and people you don’t care for. Imagine, napping in a hammock next to the calm river, life doesn’t get any better than that. Right?”

A grizzled old fisherman was sitting by a tree with his cane pole listening to this opera of fools. He piped in, “not a bad idea, sonny boy, but Old Blind Mable tried that back in 1949 and lost her butt. You can’t put a business in a flood plain. This river flooded pretty well every year back then.

Old Blind Mable had a mess of hammocks and people sleeping in them thangs, and the river floods and washes everyone down to New Braunfels, whether they wanted to go there or not. If you got some money to piss away, go ahead, I’ll have a nap here until it rains, then I’m heading to high ground.” My wife looked at me and said: “let’s go home and have a nap, Einstein.”

I was crushed, a broken man, my vision was a pile of raccoon crap, shot down by a crusty old river rat: and my wife agreed with him. No Nehi sodas, no ice-cold Lone Star in a hammock, no nap camp. What the hell.

As we walked back to the car, a large dog came strutting down the street, pulling a kid on a skateboard. I watched them cruise by and thought, “a big skateboard for two, add seats, get some big dogs and rent them to pull people around town, “now that’s a moneymaker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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