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”

“Going Old School”


For my birthday a few weeks back, my wise and thoughtful wife gifted me with a classic 1970 Underwood 310 manual typewriter. It is a wonderful present that I would never have purchased, although I have yearned for one for a while now.

For sometime, possibly five years or so, I have been whining and casually threatening to go “old school” with my writing and get away from this demon laptop. It’s too easy to keep on tapping and spit out a page or two of gibberish that has more words than needed and makes no sense. It’s not about speed and what your program does, it’s content. A typewriter makes you think before striking that key. The delete button does not exist.

Hemingway would tap for hours on end, and then if he wasn’t pleased with his effort, to the waste basket it went. Using a typewriter for transposing your thoughts to paper, is a commitment; and not an easy one.

There was a typewriter in our household when I was a child. It was a large black Underwood, all metal, and took a grown man and a half to lift it. I would peck on it for hours and eventually come up with something legible. I never once saw my parents use it, so it’s presence in our home was a mystery.

My love of the machine started at an early age, and came into full blossom as a teenager in the 1960s, when I started to write stories. I took typing in high school to sharpen my skills and learn the keyboard. I studied two years of journalism, and learned to love the written word. My teacher was my mentor. She pushed me and helped me excel. It all paid off well. When computers came about in the late 80s, I was a good typist and had no problem adapting.

I will keep you posted on how this “old school” project turns out. I typed a page on my Underwood, and my fingers are throbbing.

” Little Moses” of Texas


A final installment of “feel good” stories from the country of Texas. The resemblance to any person, horse or cow, living or not, is purely intentional.

Pictured here is my grandfather on the left, and his friend Hymie Rothstein with his horse Miss Golda. Hymie was, or possibly is the only Jewish cowboy in the history of Texas.

Hymie left the “old country” (New York) in 1926 with a burning determination to become a cattle rancher. With a grubstake from his uncle, he bought 500 acres of prime ranchland between Weatherford and Mineral Wells and stocked the spread with 500 head of Hereford cattle. He named the ranch “The Flying Menorah,” his mothers idea.

Another relative in New York opened a number of restaurants and made a deal with Hymie to furnish him with Kosher meat for his patrons. Hymie, a bit of a slacker in his faith, had no idea how to raise Kosher cattle.

Using the best methods and practices formula, he required his ranch hands to wear Yamakas and grow a long beard. Every Friday before sundown, he would drive a wagon through the herd with the local Rabi standing in the back, blessing the cattle and the land. He assumed if the cattle were somewhat converted, then all would be Kosher.

He purchased a 3500 lb. Hereford bull from a nearby ranch to keep the cows happy and grow the herd. The bull, a massive beast with a hyde like steel, would walk through any barb wire fence and wander off for days at a time. He named the bull ” Little Moses.” because of the bovines wanderlust.

In December, a blue norther blew in and dropped 12 inches of snow on the ranch. It was two days before the ranch hands could tend to the cattle, and when they didn’t find the herd, they checked the fencelines. There at the back of the 500 acres, was a section of broken fence. Thousands of cattle tracks led through the opening and onto the vast prairie. ” Little Moses” had escaped again, and the herd was following his lead.

The cowboys tracked the cattle for miles but lost their trail in the rocky hills. Hymie was frantic and called his local Sherriff, JD Ramses for help. The Weatherford police put out a “missing cattle” alert with a poster showing a group of smiling cows. Calls from West of Mineral Wells reported a large contingent of cattle crossing Route 66 a few days ago.

Hymie and the boys found the crossing and followed the herd. The cattle had been missing for 39 days and nights without hay or feed, surviving on clumps of prairie grasses and creek water.

On the 40th day, the cowboys located the herd resting at the edge of Palo Duro Canyon. All 500 cows were accounted for, but “Little Moses” was missing.

At sundown, one of the cowboys spotted a snow-white bull lumbering and stumbling out of the canyon. It was “Little Moses.” His cow fur had turned completely white and his large pink eyes glowed like fiery jewels.

The bull lay down near the campfire. The herd moved in and surrounded the cowboys and the bull. The cows seemed to be saying goodbye to their leader. Hymie fed him some bread and a few sips of Kosher wine, and then ” Little Moses” expired. It was a good way to go. Laying by the warm campfire and surrounded by his minions.

There was a crack of thunder and lightning bolts hit a grove of trees nearby. Normally that would spook the cattle, but not a one moved. There was a sound of trumpets from somewhere in the sky. The herd looked skyward as if they were being summoned.

Two ” Heavenly Holstein” cows with angel wings descended from the sky into the camp. They each carried a golden trumpet in their left hoove. The angel cows stood on either side of ” Little Moses” and together, the trio ascended into the clouds, starting their journey to Bovine Heaven.

Hymie and the cowboys were gobsmacked by what they had witnessed.

The herd dispersed and laid down in the grove of trees next to the camp. In the morning, as they were preparing to saddle up and lead the cows back to the Flying Menorah, one of the cowboys found a large white sack where the angel cows had landed. He looked inside and found it to be full of chicken strips with honey mustard dipping sauce.

Mooch Goes To Portland


I haven’t heard a word from my old pal Mooch in over a month, so I dropped by his house yesterday.
The older than dirt Dodge pickup sits in the drive, and his lawn was knee-high, so I figured something is not right. Mooch loves his yard like it was his child.


Five minutes of door banging, and Mooch cracks the door and says, “go away, I don’t want any of it.”
” I’m not selling nothing old buddy, what the hell is going on with you,” I say.
He opens the door enough for me to get a good look at him, and holy crap, he looks terrible. A white beard, hollow yellow eyes, and a pale complexion. Not the fit and the tanned man that I know.


” I’ve been out of town for a while,” he says. “The wife and I heard that them Antifa folks were paying people to protest and riot, so we went to Portland for a while. We figured, why not, somebody’s got to get paid and it might as well be us. Old peoples got to eat too. We made $3000 a week plus room and board at the Holiday Inn. If we got arrested, there would be an additional $2000 a week for jail time. I made enough to buy a new pickup next month.”


” Where is your wife, Mrs. Mooch,” I say.
He looks down at his shoes and mumbles something. I ask him to repeat it.
He sort of shifts around and says,

” I left her in jail for a while longer. I figure another month, she will have made enough money and we can pay the house off.”
When I return home, I ask my wife if she would consider a visit to Portland.

Hunting Murder Hornets


Murder Hornet 1

While watering my landscape this morning, I hear a loud buzzing sound radiating from a Salvia bush. I part the leaves searching for this demonic buzzing source.

Bingo, attached to a branch, is a Murder Hornet. I have a picture of the little beast on my refrigerator for identification, since I knew they were heading my way. The Farmers Almanac said they would make Texas by late July, so the magazine was correct for once.

Why is it all pandemics and end-times monsters originate from the Asian continent?

It’s a laundry list of evil mutants starting with Godzilla, Mothra, Son of Godzilla, King Kong fighting Godzilla, Giant Transformers, The Corona Virus, The Asian Flu, The Bat Flu, the Pig Flu, the Bird Flu, and now hornets with the face and murderous attitude of Charles Manson.

Fearing for the lives of my Bumble Bee’s, I spray the Murder Hornet with a substantial dose of Raid. It flaps it’s wings a few times and buzzes at me. No effect whatsoever. Okay, so this mutant is chemical resistant and now knows what I look like and where I live.

I retrieve my 1966 era Daisy BB Pistol from my work shed; old school tactics are now on the table.

I sneak up to the Salvia bush and spread the branches enough for a clean shot. There it sits with a Bumble Bee in its grasp, stinging the life out of the poor pollinator. I see a dozen more casualties on the ground below the plant—Satan with wings and a stinger. This monster has to go to La La Land now.

The first BB bounces off the buggers’ armor plating, putting a hole in my den window. There go $300 bucks. Now it’s personal. The second and third shots wing the critter, and now it is insanely mad and buzzing like a New York apartment door buzzer.

With only two BB’s left in my pistol, I go for the kill shot to the head. I take my aim and begin to squeeze the trigger. The murderous thug-bug looks up at me with its Charles Manson eyes, and a shiver runs up my spine.
” Go ahead, kill me if you must, but I have friends that will track you down.” It’s look says it all.

I take the shot, and the invader falls to the ground, headless. The Bumble Bees sensing victory swoop in and finish the killer off. Payback for their fallen brethren.

I retrieve the dead hornet from the bush with a pair of Martha Stewert grilling tongs and place it on my backyard retaining wall. A few squirts of charcoal lighter fluid and a wooden match complete the deed, and the bad-ass bug is on its way to hornet Valhalla.

My wife walks up and says, ” so, you got him, good job. Look at these cute little packs of Chinese seeds that came in the mail just now.”

My Texas Garden of Eden That Never Ends


When my wife and I purchased our home, it was newly built. Sitting on a rocky hill facing Comanche Peak, the beginning of the Texas hill country, it was the perfect size for us, and the view was beautiful. The exterior was dirt and rock, a clean slate for a landscaper/ artist. That is how I see myself these days; or did for a short while.

A railroad tie retaining wall was added and backfilled, then dirt for a backyard, then 4 pallets of grass, then more dirt, then a 12 yard load of 1 inch gravel, then 6 yards of decorative pea gravel and I wasn’t even close to installing plants. I should probably mention that I was going through radiation treatment for cancer at the time I was doing this task, and my wife Maureen was working as a nurse here in Granbury. I was trying to get as much done before the high dose radiation kicked my ass, and by some miracle, I succeeded and then collapsed for a few months to recover. The ordeal was only beginning.

Our intent was to install as little as possible, using gravel, rock and native Texas plants to save water and time. The less maintenance the better as you age, but, somewhere during the process, my OCD Artistic Creative gene kicked into full gear. I was helpless and my body went with the flow. There was no sleep; only nightmares of plants multiplying and gathering for a siege. I am the Alamo, the fauna is the army. Every waking hour was spent spreading gravel, digging holes, wrestling with unruly petulant plants and dangerous cactus. I was a slave to the land, and could see no reprieve. By this time, the radiation was taking it’s toll on my body. I looked like Betelgeuse on a good day.

My wife suggested counseling, so I called a local radio plant show, the Dirt Doctor. He told me I was a sick puppy and to sell the house and move or I was going to collapse and expire while holding my Craftsman shovel. He happened to know a guy that would give me a good price. Right?

I called my famous friend Dr. Wu. He suggested I come in for a series of acupuncture treatments and Chinese meditation to rid me of my plant based demons. Neither one did any good. I was still as possessed as Rasputin and the siege of the greenery advanced. I tried to ignore them. It didn’t work. The plants, still in their plastic pots, sent telepathic signals to my tortured brain. They were making a pod person of me so the landscaping could continue when I stroked out.

Six Chaste Trees, multiple cacti, Oleanders, Texas Sage, Lantana, flowers, more cactus, Agave’s, Salvia, more cactus, more gravel, rock retaining walls, 100 bags of top soil, large rock stacks and sculptures, bird feeders, Canna’s everywhere, stepping stones to nowhere in particular. A landscape vision out of control. And then, for no apparent reason, we constructed a raised garden using concrete block and 50 bags of soil. The garden didn’t do squat. A few tomato’s, some cucumbers and some okra. It’s back to H.E.B. for veggies.

More later, the remaining plants are knocking on my door and staring into my Ring Doorbell.

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.”

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