Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from Texas

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“A Small Miracle”


I wrote and published this true story in January of 2014.

My Grandfather was a farmer. His life was Seventy-five acres of cruel land in South West Texas. He would not have had it any other way.

On a scorching July afternoon in 1955, I stood next to him at a fence row along the south pasture watching anvil thunder heads form in the West, behind the Santana Mountain Peak, the namesake of his town, Santa Anna.
Little rain had fallen the past few years. The stock tanks were dry, animals were suffering, crops almost dead and the soul of the town was faltering. The prayers on Sunday were plentiful and to the point: please bring rain.

At the domino parlor, there was talk of bringing in a rainmaker, but the town had little money for such a wild idea. The town folk felt as though the good Lord wasn’t listening. A miracle was needed, even if it was a small one.

We had been standing at that fence row for a good hour, Grandfather not flinching or diverting his eyes from those clouds.
I wanted to see what he was seeing, but I couldn’t. He seemed to be taunting those thunderheads to come over that mountain, staring them down, challenging those clouds to bring what they had to his farm.
Looking away from the clouds for a moment, I looked at his weathered face. Just like his land, deep furrows everywhere. It’s as if each wrinkle was his reminder of a furrow that hadn’t produced a crop. He was only sixty, but his face looked decades older.
He glanced down and caught me staring. Embarrassed, I asked the first thing that came to mind “Grandfather, why are you a farmer?”
Still staring at the clouds he cleared his throat and said “I’ve always been a farmer boy, It’s all I ever knowed. One night, when I was about your age, the good Lord sent a tiny angel to my bed. She lit on the quilt and said Jasper, you’re going to be a farmer, and you will grow food to feed the children and the beast. This will be your life. How can you argue with the Lord boy? So, here I am.”
Up until then, we had never had a real conversation, and I liked the kindness in his voice. I wanted to know this man that had been so elusive and indifferent to me.
“Does the good Lord always tell people what they will do?” I asked.“It’s what I here’d” he replied.
Now you best go tell Granny to get the cellar ready, it’s going to come up a cloud tonight.” And with that, our first visit was over.
I came round the barn and saw Granny carrying an armful of quilts and pillows to the storm cellar. She already knew a storm was coming. She always knew.
Grandfather missed supper, unwilling to leave that fence row, afraid that if he did, those thunderheads would retreat. They didn’t.
The first crack of thunder shook the walls and sent me and Granny running for the storm cellar.
Grandfather wouldn’t come with us. He stood at that fence row until the hail stones pounded the cellar door. Only then, did he come down, wet and bleeding from the cuts on his scalp. Granny fussed over him for a few minutes and then he laid down on a cot and fell asleep.
We passed the night in that damp cellar. Granny, sitting, reading her Bible by the light of an oil lantern, Grandfather, snoring, and me slumbering between fitful dreams of thunder and lightning. The storm did what it was sent to do.

At dawn, we came out to a sea of water. The fields, flooded, reflected the sunrise like a new jewel. The farm animals rejoiced in unison. Grandfather checked the rain gauge on the fence, seven inches” he yelled. Granny cried into her cupped hands, and “I can’t remember why, but I cried with her.
Around lunch time, we loaded into the old Ford and drove into town. People lined the sidewalks. Women hugged each other, old farmers patted one another on the back, dogs barked and children laughed. The town had regained its spirit and hope overnight.
The Biscuit Café was alive, as was the domino parlor and the feed store. Everywhere the people of Santa Anna rejoiced and gave open thanks for this small miracle.
At the Biscuit Café, Grandfather treated us to a nice lunch of fried chicken. Pastor Bobby and his wife came in, and standing in the middle of the café, offered up a prayer of thanks for the rain. Grandfather, not a church going man, bowed his head and gave a hearty “amen” along with the rest of the patrons.

As we made our way back to the old Ford, Granny’s old friend Miss Ellis came up to Grandfather, hugged him tight and in a weepy voice said “it’s a miracle Jasper, God gave us a miracle.” He politely endured her hug for a minute, then we moved on towards home.
That seven inch rain didn’t end the drought for Santa Anna, but it gave the farms enough relief for the crops to stand tall again and the stock to survive that summer and fall. Grandfather became a church going man, never missing a Sunday, and his farm produced the best crop in years.
Fifty-eight years later, my wife and I took a day trip back to Santa Anna. I was curious if the town had grown and prospered. It hadn’t. The Biscuit Café, the feed store, the domino parlor and most of the other shops I remembered, gone. The old church still stood, showing its age, but still holding its head high.
We drove out to the old farm. The house, the barn and the smokehouse, all gone, lost to a fire. The only thing left was the windmill and the cellar. The fields were taken by scrub brush and weeds. Not a furrow survived.
I stood at that old fence line, and looked west to the Santana Mountain. Just like that day in 1955, thunder heads were building behind the peak. It was going to come up a cloud. I never forgot that conversation with my Grandfather that day, and sadly, I never got to know him better before he passed a few years later.
I have always believed that the power of prayer can produce miracles, and on that day, standing at that fence line, Grandfather and the Lord struck up a deal. The town got their small miracle, and Grandfather got religion.

“Grandad Is Way Too White?”


With all the hub-bub with big corporations and people, in general, being “too white” I knew I could count on my old pal Mooch to discover a solution.

I was in H.E.B. yesterday, and feel a tap on my shoulder. I turned and said, “can I help you?” I didn’t recognize this man at first, then I saw that possum grin and heard that stupid laugh.

” Hey old buddy, It’s me, the Mooch man. How do ya like my new look?”

” Holy Crap Mooch, you look like a gingerbread man; what happened to you?” I exclaim.

He got a little teary-eyed and said, ” my twin, spoiled, rich grand-daughters said they wouldn’t see me no more cause I am too old, too redneck, too Texan, and too darn white. They are sorority college girls at UT so I guess they know about all the latest woke stuff. They are graduating next week and each is getting a new Porsche and a trip to Europe from my son Harry, and his wife Karen. Those girls say I can’t attend their ceremony, and they don’t want to see me until I change my old ways. I found these pills in my “Popular Gardening” magazine and ordered a bunch for me and Mrs. Mooch. I can’t change my age or my redneck-ness, but I sure can change my color. Well, how do I look?”

I told him he looked real fine, but somehow, I think Mooch missed their absurd point.

“More Things That Make You Wonder, Why?”


In Texas, if you want a hamburger, you go to one place; “Whataburger”. Born in Corpus Christi in 1950, it is the home grown holy grail of burger joints. Always fresh cooked to your order with all the fixins’. It is a redneck culinary delight. Sure we have other boys popping up on prime real estate. “In And Out,” and “Five Guys,” are a bunch of West coast flakes trying to sneak in here and contaminate our burger pool. Cute little paper wrapped sandwiches you eat with one pinky finger sticking out like your drinking a glass of Chardonnay at a movie star pool party. I would like to see Spielberg try to eat a Whataburger.

I whipped into my local orange and white Whataburger here in Granbury yesterday for my monthly fix; a burger, fries and a Dr Pepper made to my order.

The voice from the speaker said, ” would you like to try our number 4?”

I replied, “no mam, just a Whataburger meal number 1 with fries and a small Dr Pepper, hold the onions and add two spicy ketchup’s.”

A few moments ticked by and the voice says, ” Sir, the meal comes with a large drink.”

Not trying to be difficult, well maybe just a bit, I say,” Yes, I know that, but that is too much liquid and my old bladder is smaller now, so I can only handle a small Dr Pepper or I will wet my jeans. I will pay for the large drink, but make it a small.”

Now the voice from the speaker is getting testy,” Sir, it comes with a large drink, and you have to take the large drink, that’s what has to happen.”

I pull up to the pick-up window for my meal. The lady opens the window and thrust a large drink into my hand.

I hand the drink back to her, and she shoves it back to me. I set it on the ledge and say, ” I will pay for the large Dr Pepper, but I want a small drink, just make the substitution and I will be on my way.” She is clearly, shaken and bug eyed. She leaves and in a few seconds, the manager appears at the window, ” Sir, you have to take the large drink, that’s the way it is. Our kitchen is in a turmoil now because you changed the Number 1 meal.”

“Tell you what Bub, take the Dr Pepper back, and give me a small Dr Pepper shake with chocolate ice-cream instead of the Dr Pepper drink,”I say. Now the crap is really hitting the fan. The window lady, standing behind the manager, is leaning against the counter, weeping. The manager looks as it he got goosed by a cattle prod and the kitchen is in a tither.

After a few minuets, the vehicles behind me begin to honk. The guy in the pick-up truck directly behind me takes his shotgun off of the gun rack and chambers a shell. Texans take their burgers seriously, and this is about to get nasty. There is nothing scarier than armed men in pick-ups having a blood sugar low because he can’t get their feed bag.

The window opens again, and the manager tosses me my burger meal, a large, and a small Dr Pepper, and a small Dr Pepper shake. He also gives me a gift card for twenty-dollars, a Whataburger Covid 19 mask, and a coupon for 30 days of free Whataburgers. ” No charge, and have a nice day,” he says.

Things That Make You Wonder, Why?


My wife and I visited our favorite Mexican restaurant a while back for lunch. We live in Texas, so Tex-Mex is one of our food groups that must be consumed at least once a month in order to maintain our cosmic balance and to keep our gut bacteria in check.

The wait staff, or the chip guy, plopped a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa on our table. No hello, how are you, and no water to wash down the salty chip dipped in a tomato and jalapeno fortified liquid fire? How does one eat hot and spicy foods without water? Why do they not think of that? Gringos are sissy-asses when it comes to hot salsa.

Our waitress, a pleasant young Hispanic girl arrives to take our order. The music in the room is loud and I have a hard time hearing her explanation of the “special of the day.”

Not wanting to appear deaf, which I almost am, I ask her to please turn down the music so I might understand her. She stares at me like I have a third eye on my forehead, something my wife does often. She says, “we need the music for the ambiance of the dining experience, and besides our staff likes it.” Okay, that’s fine, but it’s too loud.

This is one of the questions that make you wonder why, so I ask her, “young lady, do you know we are in Granbury, Texas, and not in Cancun, Mexico? Everyone in here is middle age or older, and they are all gringos that don’t speak Spanish, so they can’t understand a word of the songs being played.” She looks puzzled and rubs her chin a few times, then replies, “Sir, if we don’t play the Spanish music, then the food will not taste as good, and we want you to imagine you are in Old Mexico dining on a vine-covered patio and watching the waves roll onto the white sandy beach.”

Okay, this is getting good. I say,” I am looking through a window at a parking lot full of big-assed pick-up trucks and a highway full of speeding pick-up trucks pulling construction trailers, and nothing you can play or say will make me imagine I am in Old Mexico eating a resort lunch. We are in Texas, and I am going home, which is about four miles from here, to take a nap after this, not to my hotel room overlooking the beach.” I think she got the message.

Somewhere around my tenth chip and a few sips of beer, the music stops, then starts again. Eric Clapton playing “Sunshine Of Your Love” fills the room. The other diners smile, and there are more than a few tapping feet. Makes you wonder?

” 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.

“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.

“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.”

I’m Bored. I Think I’ll become a Beatnik !


A personal journey to become a Hep Cat. By Phil Strawn

Sluggo-nik

I am bored and uninspired. Writers’ block has crippled my creativity, and painting a picture on canvas no longer holds my interest. My guitar rest in a closet, untouched for two-years. My barber hasn’t cut my hair in months, and my goatee is taking shape, so the time is right for a change.

Last night, during supper, I announced to my wife that I have decided to become a “Beatnik.” Without looking up from her casserole, she asked if it will be like when I decided to become a “Hare Krishna” and move to India to play the sitar and hang out with Yogi’s. Ouch, that stung. She knows me too well.

“This coming Monday,” I say, “around 9 AM CST, I will no longer be a grumpy old guy, but instead, will become a finger-snapping, beret wearing, caffein guzzling, poetry writing, deep thinking Hep Cat.” She touched my whiskery cheek and said, ” now won’t that be fun.” She thinks I am not serious this time, but she can hide and watch.

I didn’t realize a change was afoot six months ago. The transformation has been silent and gradual. It’s as if Tinker Bell, the Beat Fairy, has visited every night and sprinkled pixie dust on my pillow.

A month back, out of the blue, I re-visited “On The Road” by the great beat author Jack Kerouac. It’s a challenging read, but I made it through for a second time. The free and rebellious nature of the characters piqued my imagination. If I can capture the “cool factor,” it might add a few more years to my punch card. Daydreams have no age limit or shelf life.

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