Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Texas Tales about Texas Characters

A Ride in A Time Machine

I attended my 50 year high school reunion on Saturday, October 19th. It was held in Plano Texas, the small town where I lived when I graduated a “Plano Wildcat” in 1969. Fifty years on, a town is bound to grow, but Plano has exceeded any of our expectations. Its now a part of Dallas, and that’s not a good thing for our formally small village.

I sent my money to the committee a bit late. Less than thrity days away, I was still unsure if we should attend. Trepidation is one of my worse faults and more often than not these days, it wins more than loses.

My wife, also knowing many of my classmates, urged me to go, or should I say pushed me to attend. She knows me better than myself and what will be good for my soul. She reminded me that I have recently completed cancer treatments and who knows if it will return and then I will have missed this chance. We don’t get many second chances at my age. So, reluctantly, I agreed to strongly consider.

One night, up late, while watching an old black and white melancholy laced movie that reminded me of my childhood, I made the decision to go. My heartstrings were in the right place at the right time, and I just went with it. Trepidation raised its ugly head a few more times in the weeks before, but I fought valiantly and won that battle.

Sitting in the parking lot waiting to enter the venue, once again, I panicked. What if an old friend now looks like the Elephant Man, am I suppose to say “you look great?” What if I don’t remember these people and they don’t remember me? I was to the point of chest pains, but kept that too myself. My wife is a cardiac nurse and I didn’t want her thumping my chest before we entered.

All the doubt and anxiety dissolved the moment we walked through the entry door. I didn’t need name tags to remember names or faces. I assume that during those fifty years, my brain had developed some CGI ability to project how we would look as old folks. There were handshakes, hugs, laughter and reminiscing. The high school antics and experiences were revisited and fondly remembered. There was more laughter than I have heard in years. Prizes, speeches, zingers, they were all thrown about with abandoned.

The ” Memorial” table was the clencher. The pictures of my fallen classmates, forever that age, now gone. Some died early on, some recently, but they were not with us, and that sadden me. Facing mortality is a bitch.

As the class was mounting the stage for the reunion picture, my old friend Jarry fell backward hitting the concrete on his back and taking a hard knock to the head. The jovial mood ceased, and lthough he insisted he was alright, he wasn’t, and 911 was summoned and Jarry was taken away to the hospital for testing. I believe at that moment, the group of us realized that we are not eighteen anymore. We are senior citizens and fragile in this world of hurry up.

God speed to my old classmates, and be careful. I hope to see you again in ten years.


Tupperware Is Not My Friend

It takes guts to admit to a phobia. I have more than one, but this one will do for now. I cant stand to touch plastic ware, mainly Tupperware or any brand that resembles that sturdy piece of American culture from the 1950s.

My mother, rest her soul and bless her heart, was a Tupperware lady. She hosted numerous parties in our home and the homes of her friends during those years.

It wasn’t until years later I learned the truth about these parties. They were a front for gossip and cocktails. In her old age, she admitted that it was a sham and the girls used it as a front to get away from us kids and husbands for a few hours. It was the perfect set-up. She made a small amount of money, had some good hi-balls and caught up on the neighborhood gossip. They were the forerunner to ” girls night out” which premiered in the 90s.

Our kitchen was stuffed to the point of bursting with the plastic-ware. It filled every drawer and cabinet and was neatly stacked to the ceiling on top of the ice-box. We ate on paper plates and drank from aluminum glasses. There was no room for real dishes or glassware; It was all Tupperware, everywhere. The ice-box was neatly arranged with meals sealed in Tupperware. We didn’t call them “leftovers” in our home, they were referred to as “future pre-prepared dinners.” I know for a fact that some of those dinners were on-call for a year or more. That’s the beauty of Tupperware, the food, if sealed properly per the manufacturers’ instructions, will last for years.

Now the explanation of the phobia. It’s complex and involves many layers of childhood anxiety. My therapist said it started with an incident when I was five years old. I don’t remember what I did, but it was severe enough for a butt whooping from my mother. While trying to escape, she grabbed one arm, a classic move that only mothers use, and wielded the nearest object she could find, which was an 8×10 Tupperware storage container. I had no idea plastic ware could hurt so damn much. The impression of the insignia on the bottom of the container lingered on my butt for days. Of course, I showed it to all my buddies and they were quite impressed and worried because their mothers owned the same Tupperware containers.

After that incident, I couldn’t bring myself to touch plastic ware in any form. That in its self brought more punishment because when helping with the dishes, I would retreat from the kitchen sink when a dirty piece of Tupperware was to be washed. There was nothing that could make me touch that vile object. That plastic dish scared me as much as the monster under my bed. My father realized that his only son was becoming a child neurotic, and stepped in to help my mother with the dishes, thus allowing me to enjoy a somewhat normal childhood.

Not much has changed in 65 years. I can be in the same room with Tupperware and have a few times, in the throes of hunger, removed food stuffs from the plastic demon to stay alive. My wife loves Tupperware. She has a comfortable assortment of useful containers that when soiled, she puts them in the dishwasher. That is another layer of my anxiety. I cannot take them from the rack. I use a dish towel to grab the cursed piece and then lay it on the counter for her to put away. I don’t care to know where she hides this stuff as long as I don’t come into contact with it.

My therapist is a cheeky fellow. He told me that being spanked with a Tupperware dish and all the problems it caused me could have been worse. My mother could have grabbed a PYREX dish.

Fruits and Veggies Please

Is there a radio commercial that drives you crazy? There is for me. Its a product called Balance of Nature and it’s on every station I listen to. I can’t escape it. The so-called real users giving testimonials sound like the cast of Seinfeld. There is The Costanzas and the Sienfields arguing about how good they feel and who feels better than the other, and who is going to live longer when they move to Florida. It’s maddening. The doctor that invented this pill sounds Scottish, or possibly British, but is probably from New Jersey.  I wonder if he has a secret lab hidden on the moors. Does he test this product on his sheep? Is he healthy? How did he get the Sienfield actors to push his pills?

A hundred or so years ago, Texas was awash with traveling medicine shows that hawked “cure-alls” for any malady. I suspect this is a more modern and polished version using the airwaves instead of a wagon and a banjo player.

I’m a hardcore skeptic by nature. When my oncologist prescribed my cancer treatment, asked him if he had tried it himself. He hadn’t but said it worked well on his relatives back in Pakistan. They are still up and running. I gave it a shot.

I ran into an old-old friend yesterday at HEB. Fidor is pushing 90 and his wife Elma Ruth is about the same age. I didn’t recognize them. Who are these people? Had replicants been grown in pods?

Fidor now has a full head of black hair, a big mustache, and muscles like Charles Atlas. His teeth are as white as Chicklets. Elma Ruth’s once thin white hair is now blond and flows to her waist. Her ample bosom would make Jane Mansfield envious and she looks like Elke Sommer on vacation. These people are old as dirt and are not suppose to look this way. What the hell I asked, ” what are you people eating and who is your plastic surgeon?”

Fidor, smiling, his white Chicklet teeth casting a glare on the wall, said, ” Elma Ruth and I have been taking Balance of Nature for three weeks now and we feel fifty years younger. She wants to start another family.”

I bid them goodbye, hobbled home, got on my laptop and placed my order.


A 70 Year Lesson

Today, September 17th, 2019 is my 70th birthday. I knew for a decade or two that it was coming but never expected it to show up so soon. It’s like an irritating distant relative that uninvitedly knocks on your door while you’re watching a good movie and now you have to entertain them, share your cheese and crackers, and miss your show. We are courteous in Texas. That’s what we do; even with birthdays, and relatives.

Birthdays, at least for me are personal, and I am often reluctant to share what I write with my followers and friends on social media. People need their privacy. Social media platforms allow and encourage you to give large pieces of yourself away to strangers. It’s too easy to write things you shouldn’t and hit the post button. It allows us all to make fools of ourselves in HD and living color. Hold my beer and watch this.

I convinced myself a few days ago to purchase a manual typewriter and spend less time on my laptop. Hemingway, Harper Lee, Capote, and Steinbeck all wrote longhand then completed their work on a typewriter. I am regressing but I feel in a good way. I am on a mission to complete numerous short stories and a children’s book before my batteries run down. Time is of the essence.

Ken Burns is the best documentary filmmaker in the business. If there is one better in some remote region of the Amazon or the mountains of Tibet, let them come forth. His latest effort on country music is a masterpiece in American history and the way our nation evolved to what we are today.

I love country music. I bleed three chords and a yodel. The old callouses on my fingers remind me that I am a musician and will be until the end. It’s my legacy and I fiercely protect my inherited history.

I grew up the son of a western swing fiddle player in Fort Worth Texas and watching the documentary film and seeing the faces of the people I knew as a child, renews my pride in what I was a part of.

Musicians playing instruments in our home was part of our everyday life. The guitars, fiddles, and banjos warmed the cold walls in the winter and floated on the summer breeze through our open windows to the delight of our neighborhood. I was a child in a crib, absorbing the notes. How could I not become a musician?

The men I knew that played their instruments and sang their songs are gone from this life and have been for some time. I watched them grow old and struggle to play until they couldn’t and graciously accepted their fate

I grew old with them. I walked and carried some of them to their final rest. I am humbled to have been part of their journey. It never occurred to me until decades later, that their journey was also mine. It was much more than classroom learning; it was life lessons. I am a better man because of my father and his country musician friends. The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air.








” I Love The Smell of Glue In The Morning”

As if protesters, lollygaggers, replicants, and ill-advised haters can’t get any worse, now we have the “oh so proper” Brits attacking supermodels in public. Fake blood, glue, and glitter are hurled upon the poor women as they go about their daily catwalk through old London town sporting their designer attire. Who knew that being a tall willowy clothes horse is such a threat to humankind. Evidently, it is.  It seems that a group of rowdy youngsters have emerged from their parents’ basements and has taken the antics of those young American scoundrels in Antifa quite seriously.

Their main complaint, as posted on social media is the pollution caused by the manufacture of designer clothing, perfumes, and skincare products hawked by these frail damsels in magazines and on television. When a pugnacious young female protester was asked if she used any of the products she is so vehemently against, she replied “no..never.” The reporter figured as much since the girl sported greasy lice-infested hair, severe acne and smelled like a garbage pail. A young man, interviewed after dousing supermodel “Willough” with Gorilla Glue and Unicorn glitter on her front steps, told the reporter ” I love the smell of glue in the morning.” Referring to the iconic line uttered by Robert Duvall in the movie Apocolypse Now. What he wasn’t expecting was the ass whooping he received from Willoughs Russian bodyguards. Protesting has its downside too. God save the Queen.





Sweet Baby Jesus Visits Vacation Bible School

My introduction to organized religion came by way of vacation bible school during my first “big boy” summer visit to my grandparents’ farm in Santa Anna Texas.
The year was 1955, and at six years old, by my grandmothers’ observation, I was a heathen child. Being raised in the big city of Fort Worth on a steady television diet of Popeye, Bugs Bunny, and Superman, I was living in a religious void. I saw the “good book” as a large decoration that sat on the dining room table and read at Christmas, Easter, and family funerals.
My Granny, a wise Cherokee, and self-proclaimed Texas Biblical scholar said a week at the First Baptist Church Vacation Bible School would fix me right up, and assure my acceptance into Heaven. I had no idea where Heaven was or when I would be required to visit, so I trusted my Granny would make my reservations.
Miss Ida Belle Mae and her younger sister, Rita Rose Mae are the self-appointed teachers of our bible school class of twenty children ranging in ages from six to ten years old.
The two of them, homely as a sack of poultry feed, are old maids and prolific spinsters that are rumored to survive on a tidy income from a single pumping oil well on their farm. It has been a long-standing gambling bet at the domino parlor on when that gasping little well will give it up. To date, no one has won the wager.
When the holidays come around, the two sisters are rumored to donate substantial sums of cash to the church. The kind, but milk-toast preacher, to appease the ladies and keep the cash flowing, is forced to let them do what they please. Their pleasure this summer will be teaching bible school. The preacher will regret this decision.
On the first day of school, our class, cut, pasted, and signed over two-hundred and seventy prayer cards for the sick misfortunate children in Africa. Quite a feat for twenty kids.
Miss Ida sent us outside to lounge under the trees to recover from our stint on her assembly line. There is no recovery; it’s 93 degrees and not a rustle of a breeze. But its better than forced child labor.
A black Cadillac sedan stops in front of the church, and an older lady escorts a boy of maybe nine or ten into the main building. The boy wears a black suit, white shirt, and red bow tie. We assume he is here for a funeral or a Baptism, but don’t care because it’s too hot to move, or think. Miss Ida rings the lunch bell. Yummy peanut butter, grape jelly sandwiches, and lukewarm Kool-Aid await. The usual menu for bible school attendees.
After we are seated, Miss Ida brings the “suited boy” to the front of the class. She is beaming like a schoolgirl attending her first prom. In a giddy voice, she addresses us,
” Children, I would like to introduce Master Stewart Sweet. His daddy is the famous tent preaching evangelist and faith healer from San Angelo, the Right and Honorable Doctor I.M. Sweet.
Master Stewart will be attending our Bible school and leading the children’s Bible study on Sundays for a few weeks, and I can assure you that he is quite capable since he read the Bible three times before he was six years of age, and preaches at his fathers’ tent revivals.” Miss Ida doesn’t know the back story on this kid, and neither do we, but it will soon come to light.
As a class, in childish camaraderie, we are not impressed and form an instant dislike for this brat. This kid, dressed as a department store dummy, is going to preach to us? At our young age, the worst thing we could have done is tell a few small lies or steal a cookie or shoot a chicken with a BB Gun. Hell and damnation are years away for us.
Young Master Stewart steps from behind Miss Ida’s table, slams his ten-pound Bible down on the floor so hard it sounds like a firecracker. A young girl called Bitsy is shaken and begins to whimper.
The young reverend Stewart raises his hands to the Heavens and cuts loose on a tirade that can only be considered appropriate for adults designated to visit Hell within the hour.
After ten minutes of our first “hell and damnation” sermon, we are ready to wrap this kid in scotch tape and send him to Africa with the prayer cards. Suddenly, he stops and begins to bless our food. He bows his head and in a reverent whisper says,
” Dear Lord, these children, wretched little hayseeds that they are, cannot survive on the butter of the Peter Pan and the mush of Welches. They need substantial sustenance so they may be healthy to accept your holy spirit. Starting tomorrow, a glorious feast of grilled sausages wrapped in soft buns, the salad of the potato and the ruby-red fruit of the melon will be their mana from Heaven. Amen.”
Miss Ida is speechless. The little preacher has called her food, garbage, and she has to sit there and take it. The class is now a bit impressed. This kid is good.
The sisters, rattled by young Sweets blessing, need time to recover and devise a plan to send this kid back to San Angelo as soon as possible, so they send the class outside to again, suffer in the heat.
Miss Rita delivers the ice cream freezer and instructs two of the larger boys to start churning for the afternoon desert. Allowing us to have ice-cream may be the one kindness these two witches grant us.
Twenty-five minutes into the churning, the ice cream remains a pitiful mush. The class, now impatient for their treat, gathers around the freezer, demanding an explanation. We are kids and know nothing of how these machines work. You add ice, salt, liquid, and churn. That’s all we know.
Young Stewart parts the crowd and approaches the ice-cream freezer. He kneels and places both hands on the contraption. In a soft, almost inaudible voice, he says a small prayer and violently shakes the machine a few times. He rises and declares, “there shall be delectable ice-cream in five minutes.” He is right. This ice cream might be the best we have tasted in our whole young lives. Little Master Stewart healed the ice-cream machine. A girl calls it a miracle.
After ice-cream, Miss Ida calls the class in for Bible study and a story. Her stories are known to last a bit too long, and kids tend to lose interest and fall asleep. Her voice is that of an older man that smokes two packs of Camels a day — raspy, and accentuated by the occasional hack.
Bitsy Bell, the smallest and youngest girl in class, is seated at the front table and is in distress. Most of the new kids in the class are unaware that she has an immobilizing speech defect. She stutters, and her vocabulary is limited to a simple yes or no.
Miss Ida knows her problem, and when Bitsy politely raises her hand to request a visit to the bathroom, Miss Ida insists that she must stand and ask aloud in front of the class. Of course, Bitsy, immobilized with embarrassment, wets her pants. Miss Ida snickers and calls her a baby.
The young Reverend Stewart comes from the rear of the class and stops in front of Bitsy. He turns and gives the two sisters a “stink-eye” that makes them fall back into their chairs, white with fear.
He bends down, takes Bitsy’s head in his small hands, and declares,

” Take this affliction from this small child. Purvey upon her the diction of William Shakespeare and the wisdom of Mark Twain. Let her words flow forth like the singing of Doves on the south wind. She will never again stammer or grasp for words, and will someday, speak to massive gatherings of people who will clamor to hear her message. Amen.”
The class sits in stunned silence. Healing the ice-cream machine was a warm-up compared to this.
A girl from the back of the room yells, ” thankyou Sweet Baby Jesus.” And there it is, Young Stewert is now known as Sweet Baby Jesus.
Miss Ida and Miss Rita sit rigidly in their chairs, eyes glazed and staring into nothing. The amount of “stink eye” Sweet Baby Jesus put on them must be compelling.
Stewert approaches the two women, lays his small soft hands on their wrinkled sweating foreheads and mumbles a few words. His back is to the class, so we have no idea what is said. The two evil sisters shiver a few times and awaken from their “stink eye” trance. They stand, gather themselves, and tell the class they are going home. Master Stewert will teach for the duration of the Bible school. They depart the church as if in a zombie trance.
Sweet Baby Jesus takes his Bible, sits on the edge of Miss Ideas’ desk, smiles, and says, ” now, let’s hear some real Bible stories straight from the source.” It was a beautiful afternoon full of unexpected laughter and acceptance.
The next morning, the preacher greets us with the news that young Stewert is back in San Angelo, and he will be teaching the class for the remainder of Bible school. We were, of course, sad to see our Sweet Baby Jesus depart our Bible school. Bitsy, in between constant talking, sniffles and wishes him the best.
The class wrote Sweet Baby a letter thanking him for his kindness to Bitsy and for putting the evil sisters in their place. He never replied.
I attended the vacation Bible school another few summers, but it wasn’t the same without Sweet Baby, and I attended my last one at eight years old.
A few decades later, I read that the Right and Honorable Reverend Stewert Sweet, with assistance from his wife, Bitsy, had established an enormous ministry in Africa and healed everything from Beri-Beri to old automobile engines.
It looks like Sweet Baby Jesus is still doing a great job.

Wills Story

The following is a passage from a short story I am writing. The character of Will is based on my Grandfather, John Henry Strawn. Henry served in the United States Army and fought in the trenches in France during World War I. Chili Pete and Nicotine were his friends during this time. Henry, wounded twice and gassed, came home, Chili and Nicotine did not. In honor of D Day, I feel it is appropriate to share some of his story.

The white-haired visitor sitting to Chili’s left had been quiet throughout Nicotine’s story; staring at his boots and showing no emotion. So, Chili, trying to be hospitable, asked him if he had something to say.
The way he wore his hat, all cockeyed and sweat-stained, was sad. He was dirty clothes, worn out boots, and no woman miserable. Chili wasn’t sure he wanted to hear about anything this old codger had to say, but he is a guest, so he gets to speak.
The visitor opened a Pearl, drank it all in one swig, gathered himself for a minute, and says, “my names William; my friends call me Will. I grew up around Waco and fought in the Great War back in 1916 over there in France. I ain’t never told anyone about this, but I’m getting old, and the angels are coming to visit at night, so I figure it’s about time to let this out.” Chili moved closer to the visitor.
“I joined up in the Army over in Fort Worth in1915. Then I got sent to Kansas for training and was then shipped over to France on a boat. When I got to there, my Captain, knowing I was from Texas, put me in charge of the caissons and the mules that pulled them. He figured if I was from Texas, I was a cowboy. I never told him differently. At least I was stationed back from the worst of the fighting, taking care of the stock. I was okay with that. I saved my sorry ass. I got pretty fond of those mules, and it hurt me a lot when one of them got killed. I always fed them more than needed. They were happy, critters. I liked my job; I loved being alive.
One cold miserable muddy morning these three German boys come walking across the battlefield holding a white hanky. They were giving up. Some of the boys wanted to shoot them, but our Captain said that wouldn’t be right to kill an unarmed man. Captain was funny that way. He was a preacher back in Kansas, so he tried to live by the word. Even in war.
Those kraut boys were pitiful. No coats, dirty and scared, they were a mess. We fed them some grub and gave each a blanket and a tin of hot coffee with some brandy. They were grateful. One boy sobbed a bit, and then in pretty good English, thanked us for not killing them. His name was Frank. I liked that young feller.
After a week with us, the men didn’t bother watching them anymore. Those boys helped with chores and even did KP for us. They were nice boys that didn’t want any part of this war, but like us, they were doing their duty. They were our prisoners, but we treated them like they were one of us.
I asked Frank if he wanted to help me with the stock, and he was happy to oblige. He said that back in Bavaria, his family raised farm horses for a living, so he knew horses. I was glad to have him help. I never imagined I would become friends with a German soldier, in a damned old war, but that’s what happened. Frank and I became best of buddies. Me and him exchanged addresses and such so when the war was over, we could keep in touch.
After a while, he and the other two got moved to a town in France and turned back over to the Germans when the war was over. I didn’t know if I would ever hear from him but hoped I would. I never had many friends, except for a couple of dogs and my horse.
A year after I got home to Waco, my Momma brought me a letter from Germany.
Frank, in his best English, wrote to me about him coming home, getting the horse ranch and farm going again, and marrying his girl. A baby was coming soon. He closed his letter asking me to sail over to Bavaria and work with him on his farm. He wanted to make me a partner. I didn’t have anything going on in Waco, so I told my Momma that I was moving to Germany.
I wrote him back and said I would come to Bavaria and be his pard. We exchanged a few more letters, and he writes that a boat ticket has been purchased for me to sail from New York next April. He also said that he has a cute cousin that might be interested in meeting me. Hot dog! I was going to live in Germany and marry me a little alpine princess. Whooooo-weeee.
I got my affairs in order. Sold my horse and saddle, found a home for my dogs and such, and was counting the days until I rode the train to New York City. It was never meant to be.
In early March, I received a letter from Frank’s wife, Liese. She told me Frank had died in a farm accident a month or so back. She said I could still come, and she could sure use the help running the place. I couldn’t do it, not with Frank being dead and all. I sent her a telegram saying I wouldn’t be making the trip and I was sorry about Franks passing.
I was devastated. It changed my life and not for the better.
I had a second chance to do something other than being a dirty cowhand, and it was jerked right out from under me. I was a real, bitter man for a long time. I drank too much whiskey and did some bad things to people. I was a horrible person at times. I didn’t know myself anymore, but I did know enough that if I didn’t change, the good Lord was not going to be calling my name on judgment day.
I sometimes did odd jobs for an old Mexican fellow named Pepe. He saw the demons on my back and talked me into coming to his church to worship with him and his family. I never was a church person, but I went just to shut him up. I never saw any of what happened until it hit me. When I walked into that little Mexican church, the demons lifted off my back. I accepted the Lord into my sorry life, and he led me to salvation. Imagine that.
I went round and apologized to everyone I ever did any wrong. I wrote Franks wife and apologized for not coming over to help her.
I enclosed a separate letter for her to put on Franks grave.
There it is. I’ve said it all. Feels good to get that off my chest after all these years.”

This Might Be A Little Uncomfortable

Round two of my cancer diagnosis commenced on May 13th at 3:45 pm. Going to UT Southwestern Oncology for treatment was a no brainer: its the best. Their staff radiates positive vibes, so naturally, I feel better. It is battling this evil little demon that has invaded my beloved earthly form with its sights set on the destruction of my body that keeps me focused. This course of action is my main goal and will receive my full attention for the near future.

Today is the ” oh so” specialized 3RDT MRI. I’m amused at the Star Wars comparison to R2D2. At least R2 would show me a hologram of Princess Lea for my entertainment. As with any procedure, it is inserting the word “specialized” into the mix that assures the method will be expensive and painful. I was right.

My bright eyed and bushy tailed MRI nurse accompanies me to my changing room, where I change into a scratchy blue hospital gown accented by yellow non-skid socks. After my wardrobe makeover, he inserts an IV pic into my arm and leaves.

A young woman, maybe twenty-one or so, also wearing the blue gown sits down next to me. She has two IV pics in one arm and appears scared. At this age, my shyness with strangers is minimal, so I ask her, ” first MRI?”.
Without looking over, she says, ” no sir, this is my sixth one, and there’s more to come. It’s Cancer.”
She looks at me and asks, ” how about you.” At this point, I feel like this young girl needs a laugh, even at my expense.
In a deadpan voice, I say, ” complications from the Racoon Flu. My entire body is pulsing with it. Never saw a garbage can I didn’t love. She knows this is total BS and laughs. I crack myself up.

Ten minutes later I lay on the MRI table, IV in place, earplugs inserted, headphones on, and the nurse/tech leans over and tells me “this might be a little uncomfortable.” He smiles and snickers as he says it.
I ask, ” how big is this thing you are inserting into my earthly temple.”
He laughs and says, ” not too big, just enough to get close to the subject and light you up with some good old Radiation.”
I plead, ” let me see it, and I’ll be the judge of that. What kind of Radiation are we talking here?”
Rather proudly he exclaims, ” this is the good old American stuff, came straight from Los Alamos Labs. The same material used to build “the nuke back in 1945. It’s so pure that Dr. Oppenhimer personally endorses it. Its the bomb.”

From behind his back, he produces a probe that looks like a 1/24th scale model of the Hindenburg Blimp. Attached to the business end is an evil pigtail coil that is glowing green. This contraption is right out of the Spanish Inquisition playbook of torture, and it’s going inside of me? Fortunately, for my mental stability, the relaxation drugs I took an hour ago have kicked in, so I am defenseless to attempt escape. I accept fate and brace for the assault.

When the nurse, Mr. Smiley inserts the “little Hindenburg” into my backside, I was convinced I was either in the throes of childbirth or expelling an alien creature from my abdomen. I will never again doubt the painful stories of Alien abductees or women birthing children as “no big deal. ” I am squirming like a brain-hungry zombie, begging for mercy, offering money to end the agony, anything to stop the immobilizing pain. Then, in an instant, the suffering was gone, and I was human again. Listening to some awful hillbilly music, I drifted into La-La land.

I drift back into consciousness hearing George Jones sing ” He Stopped Loving Her Today,” possibly the saddest damn country song ever written. I choke back a tear, then realize where I am and why I’m here. Nurse Smiley congratulates me on a job well done, helps me to my feet and back to the dressing room.

Heading for the waiting room, I realize that scenarios like this will be my life for months to come. I think of a song from The Grateful Dead: I will get by, I will survive. Catchy little tune. Everyone needs a theme song.


A few days back, my wife and I visited one of the big box stores looking to replace the water filter in our fancy refrigerator.
After reading the directions that came with the stainless beast, I realized that the filter is two years past its recommended change date, and it should be changed every six months. That explains why our ice tastes like garlic and smells like a stinky foot.

I said to my wife, ” don’t get me started on why a two-thousand dollar refrigerator needs a water filter. Back in the day, we got cold water from an aluminum pitcher that sat in the icebox and our ice from trays, and that was plenty good enough.” She agreed and knew better than to push the matter when I use the term “back in the day.”

The orange store didn’t stock the filter but said they could order one, and it may take up to six months to arrive. That got under my skin but good because we bought the sickly beast from them. We moved on to the other box store, the blue one.

The young lady at the blue store was no help. We gave her the part number and the model. She took a picture of the instruction page with her cell phone, then took a selfie and said she would be right back. Twenty minutes later, we are left standing in the appliance department, and the young lady is missing in action. My blood pressure is now up at least twenty points, and my hypoglycemia has kicked in, so I’m officially pissed, and dangerous.

I find the kiosk for the appliance department and the young lady is sitting at the desk, talking on her smart-ass cellphone. The conversation was much too personal and not related to customer service. I stand directly in front of the kiosk, hoping to catch her attention when she holds up one finger and shushes me away. I don’t mind my wife doing that, but when a total stranger does it, its pure audacity. I can’t tolerate impertinence and rudeness, especially from youngsters.

I am now in full meltdown mode. My face is burning hot, my back is itching, and this seasoned body is trembling like a dog trying to crap a peach pit. And, of course, I have to pee. The bladder of a senior has no conscience or timeline, so I hustle off to the men’s room.

Returning to the kiosk, the young, “essence of rudeness” little moron is now texting. I snap and reach for her cell phone with the grace and speed of Mr. Miyagi teaching young Daniel-San to wax on, wax off. I remove the phone from her fingers. I then throw the device on the floor and stomp the smart-ass piece of technology to pieces. Miss Moron of the year, is too stunned to react.

I don’t remember the few minutes that followed the killing of the phone, but my wife said it was the most epic display of cursing, fit throwing and thrashing around that she has witnessed. Rightly deserved she added.

While driving home, my wizened mate tells me, “you are going to see Doc Bones tomorrow.”
Still shivering and twitching from the effects of the demon that possessed me earlier, I ask,” why?”

She leans over, gives me a peck on my cheek and says, ” darling, I believe your social filter is about twenty years past its change date.”

A Girls Got To Look Good When She Goes

Thanks to the new Netflix movie “The Highwaymen,” the two most famous outlaws from Texas are captivating a generation that has never heard of them. I’m referring to those two crazy kids from West Dallas; Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Their hijinx and daily run-ins with the law kept many a small town newspaper in print and propelled the two young delinquents into living legends of their own time.

The car chases, robberies of banks, merchants, grocery stores, five and dimes, gas stations, gumball machines, lemonade stands, produce stands and just ordinary citizens made spectacular fodder for the papers. They were the new folk heroes of the southwest, and as bad as these two were, their antics were pure journalistic gold. And, they didn’t mind killing a few lawmen and citizens if deemed necessary.

In 1933, my Fathers Aunt, Katy Eberling owned and operated a beauty salon on the corner of Rosedale and Hemphill Street in Fort Worth Texas. For seven years it was prosperous and allowed her to employ four beauticians and a manicurist. She was thriving and often turned away new clients or referred them to other shops. She wasn’t wealthy but made a darn good living for the times. Then, along comes that pesky old depression and she loses three beauticians and the manicurist because her clients now do their hair at home, or go to Leonard Brothers Department Store for two dollars less per set. Katy is weeks away from closing the doors when a visit from a new client changes her luck.

A cold December Friday afternoon finds Katy sweeping up the shop and preparing to close when a man and women enter through the back alley door.

The women, a frail, bony little thing is dressed in the best clothes that money can buy. A pale yellow cashmere sweater with a beige camel hair skirt. A string of pearls drapes her little neck. The man that accompanies her wears a three-piece pin-striped suit and a black fedora. These two are right out of Macy’s of New York. 

The woman is small, almost child size, no more than eighty pounds. She strides up to Katy, extends her tiny hand and says, “ My name is Bonnie and could you please give me a wash, cut and set. I know its late, but I will pay you nicely if it is not too much trouble.”

Katy, having made little money that day, agrees and escorts her to the shampoo sink. As Katy is shampooing Bonnie’s hair for the third time, she notices the man sitting by the back door holding a shotgun in his lap. It is then, reality sets in, and Katy realizes who this new client might be. She removes her hands from the woman’s wet hair and retreats a few steps.

 Bonnie, sensing her fright, assures her in a kind voice, “ Mam, I am here for a beauty appointment, we mean you no harm and will pay for the service.” Katy assured that she will not be gunned down, completes the shampoo and leads Bonnie to the beautician’s chair.

Once Bonnie Parker is seated, it’s as if she’s a lost Catholic girl returning to confession.

She recounts her childhood, being married young, wanting to be a poet and attend a good university and make her Mama proud. She then makes mention of that mongrel over there by the door and how he has ruined her life beyond repair.

 Once she begins the tales of their lives on the run, she cackles like a mad witch and has Katy laughing along with her. First-hand knowledge makes it all the crazier. Katy knows that Bonnie is leaving out the killing parts to spare her.

Two hours later, the appointment is finished. Bonnie Parker hands Katy six twenty-dollar bills and says she will be back next month around the same time of day if that is alright. Katy says that will be fine, and Bonnie departs with Clyde in tow.

Knowing she has to keep this to herself, she tells her husband Harvey, and no one else. Katy is full of remorse, knowing that the money she accepted is probably blood money or someone’s life savings, yet she took it because it will allow her to keep her shop open for another few months. If she is truthful with herself, she enjoyed the excitement it produced.

The next month, on a Friday, the two most wanted crooks in the land arrive at 4:30 PM. Bonnie receives a wash, trim and set and the confessions continue. Katy earns another six twenty-dollar bills. This time, she is less remorseful and less frightened.

Bonnie visits twice more. The last visit was un-nerving for Katy. Bonnie Parker is unwashed, and her clothes need to be cleaned. She is gaunt and hollow-eyed. There are no confessions or funny stories. Clyde remained in their car and Bonnie, upon being seated in Katy’s chair removes a 38 pistol from her purse and cradles it in her lap as if she was expecting trouble.

When the appointment is finished, Bonnie Parker checks her makeup in the mirror, straightens her skirt and says to Katy, “ My mama always says, a girl’s gotta look good when she goes. How do I look, Miss Katy?” Katy replies, “ You look lovely as ever.”

Bonnie hands Katy eight twenty-dollar bills and says she will see her next month.

A few weeks later, Katy reads in the newspaper that Bonnie and Clyde were killed in a shootout with the law in Louisiana. Katy hopes she looked good when it happened.

This story was told to myself and my cousins many times. When we were young, Aunt Katy left out much of the detail. As we grew older, into teenagers, the story became more graphic and colorful. I had no idea Aunt Katy was so famous.

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