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Stories

The Gum Caper


 


There is nothing quite as upsetting to a young lad as being falsely accused of a crime.  Now understand, I was not an angel around nine or ten years of age, but being accused of a heinous crime was a shock to my total being.

 

Most of the time when our family drove through Jasper, Texas, my father, Cecil, would stop at a café in the downtown area for coffee or a soft drink.  On this occasion as we walked into the building, I walked over to the gum racks and looked at several packages.  I was looking for Dentyne gum, but found none.  I put the packs of gum back into their boxes.

 

After enjoying our refreshments, dad stopped at the counter to pay our bill.  The man checking us out asked my father, “Do you want to pay for that package of gum in your kid’s pocket?”  We were all taken by surprise, especially me.  Dad asked, “What did you say?”  The man repeated his question, “You want to pay for the pack of gum that your son has in his pocket?  I saw him put it there when you came in.”

 

Dad looked at me, I looked at the floor, mother looked at Dad.  “Neal, do you have a pack of gum in your pants pocket?”, he asked sternly.  “No, daddy, I don’t.  I looked at some, but put them back on the shelf.”  The clerk chimed in, “I seen him put it in his pocket”.

 

Wow….what a revolting development this turned out to be.  Dad said, “OK, I want you to empty out all your pockets on the counter here, and we will just see what you have.”  Knees shaking, heart pounding, I emptied my pockets as instructed – no gum was found.  “Go on out and get in the car”, my Dad told me.  On the way out of the café I observed my father handing the man a nickel.  He said, “This is to pay you for the pack of gum my son did not steal from you since you seem to be so hard up for money.  I don’t think I will ever stop at your business again.”

I learned a good lesson that day.  I never examined gum or candy again in a store that would give the appearance of stealing.  To my knowledge, we never stopped at that café in Jasper again.  As “they” say, perception is reality, even when it involves only a package of gum.

 


“THE  GUM  CAPER”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
P. O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX  75972
936-275-9033
sugarbear@netdot.com

421 words

 

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Out of Gas


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Boy, *Willie is in a heap of trouble with the boss”, Gary told me when I walked into the funeral home office.  “I sure hope he doesn’t get fired.”

 

In 1955 I was a 19 year old college student attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.  Since money was hard to come by in those days, I had to work after classes in order to meet expenses.  I had been hired by the Oakley-Metcalf Funeral Home to live on premises and work as a general flunky.  I was paid the awesome sum of $120 per month, plus my room.  Seems very puny money today, but then it was a fairly decent job for a college student.

 

Oakley-Metcalf owned an emergency ambulance, affectionately known as the “hot shot”, a hearse, and a transfer ambulance.  The transfer ambulance had been converted to hold a cot for non-emergency sick calls.

 

Besides myself, there was Gary, an older fellow, married, who lived in the apartment above the ambulance garage with his wife, Ruth.  Then there was Willie.  His job at the funeral home was to keep the grounds neat, dig the graves, set up and take down the funeral tent, keep the ambulances washed, and full of gas.  Willie usually attended to these chores very well.

 

The particular week in question had been a very busy week, with several funeral services.  On this particular day, there was an auto accident several miles out North Street in Nacogdoches.  Skinny Garrison, our boss, jumped into the “hot shot” and headed out to the scene, red lights flashing and the siren blaring in response to the call for help.  While he was still on North Street, the ambulance ran out of gas.

 

What a revolting development this turned out to be!  He coasted into a service station and yelled for the attendant to put in $2.00 worth of gasoline as fast as possible.  While doing this, his competitor, Cason-Monk Funeral Home, roared by in their emergency ambulance and thus got in the lead.

 

By the time Skinny Garrison reached the scene, Cason-Monk had already loaded up the deceased driver, and was headed back to the funeral home.  Skinny ended up taking one slightly injured driver to the hospital.  Back in 1955, it was more profitable to conduct a funeral than it was to transport an injured person to the hospital.  Thus, one can see why our boss was so embarrassed, and thus angry at Willie.

 

“Well, Gary, I feel sorry for Willie.  I hope the boss will remember all the things he has done right over the years”, I opined.

 

The boss gave Willie a “lecture” about his failure to keep the ambulances full of gas and not to let it happen again.  I think Skinny knew that this incident was an honest mistake and that Willie was a good employee.  So, nothing further was said bout “running out of gas”, and it never happened again while I was there.

?Name changed to protect the guilty.

 

 

 

 

 

“OUT  OF  GAS”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
Phone: 936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com


529 words

 

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Not Worth His Salt


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Has anyone ever said about you, “He/she is just not worth their salt.”  This is an interesting statement. What about salt, and what it is worth?  To me, salt is a very cheap mineral.  One can purchase a box of salt at the grocery story for less than a dollar.  So, what’s the deal about salt being worth so much?  

 

Salt itself has an interesting history.  The use of salt dates back to Biblical days in the Old Testament. It seems that Sodium chloride, a.k.a, salt, is essential for human life, and until the invention of canning and refrigeration, was the primary method of preserving food. Not surprisingly, it has long been considered valuable.

 

Actually, what the phrase “not worth his salt” means is to be worth one’s pay. Our word salary derives from the Latin word salarium (sal is the Latin word for salt), and literally means salt money.  Salarium was the money paid to Roman soldiers that they used to purchase salt and other valuable items. 


Some historians believe that the Roman solders were actually paid with salt.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt preserving dates to around 6,000 BC when people living in the area of present-day Romania boiled spring water to extract salt; a salt-works in China that dates to approximately the same period.  Salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Indians.  Salt became an important article of trade, and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara desert on camel caravans.

 

In Biblical times we may recall what happened to Lot’s wife when she turned back to long for the city of Sodom. The Bible says the she was turned into a pillar of salt.  The people of that day would line their clay ovens with salt to enhance the heat.

 

Salt continues to be important enough to feature in the language for many centuries.  Other phrases that would have been known to the medieval mind were, “take with a grain of salt”, the “salt of the earth”, and “below the salt line”.

 

The ancient roots of “worth one’s salt” compares to the 13th century’s “worth one’s weight in gold”, and the 14th century’s “worth one’s while” which gives the phrase an historical air.

Despite its older counter-phrases, “to be worth one’s salt” did not originate until the19th century when a number of writers were taken by it.  An early example is in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883): “It was plain from every line of his body that our new hand was worth his salt.”

 

So, we find that the phrase “to be worth one’s salt” means a good employee, or to be worthy, or worthwhile.  In other words, this idiom describes a person who deserves the pay her or she receives, or someone who is worth the cost.  

 

Think about it – are you a person who is “worth your salt” in every thing you do?  If not, then you need to do something about it right away. 

 

 

 

 


‘NOT WORTH HIS SALT”

By:  Neal Murphy
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986

519 words

 

 

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Something Old, Something New...


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


When Clara and I married years ago, she was insistent that she live up to the old adage that goes “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”.  She had to borrow a couple of the items to complete the list.  I never thought about it very much until lately.  I began to wonder where does this rhyming wedding tradition come from, and what does it mean?  A little research provided me with the following information that might be of interest to you.

 

This tradition derives from an Old English rhyme dating back to around 1883. The full rhyme is as follows:

 

Something Olde,
Something New,
Something Borrowed,
Something Blue,
A Sixpence in Your Shoe.

 

The rhyme names five good-luck objects meant to bring prosperity to the bride who carries them on her wedding day.  But, how could these items bring good luck?

 

“Something old” – Back in the olden days including “something old” was a sure way to ward off the Evil Eye and protect any future children the couple might have.  The Evil Eye was thought to cause infertility in the bride. But more generally, “something old” represents continuity.  Contemporary couples use this as a chance to wear a sentimental piece of jewelry, or an item of clothing belonging to an older relative.

 

“Something new” – This offers optimism for the future. The couple is about to enter into a new chapter in life, so walking into marriage with “something new” makes total sense. It can be anything, including the wedding dress, veil, jewelry, or shoes.  It could be a gift from someone else, or the result of a treat-yourself moment.

 

“Something borrowed” – This one is supposed to bring the couple good luck. By borrowing something from a happily married friend, the bride is ensured a little of their good fortune rubs off on her.  Superstition urged the bride to borrow the undergarments of a female friend with a happy marriage and healthy kids for a touch of good luck as you say your “I dos”.

“Something blue” – The color blue stands for love, purity, and fidelity – three key qualities for a solid marriage.  The traditional “blue” was often a blue garter worn beneath the bride’s white dress.  Of course, the bride could address this item by sprinkling blue clematis into the bouquet, pick out a gorgeous pair of blue pumps, or find a powder-blue bow tie, or use blue ribbon to tie her invitations together, just because she feels like it.

 

“The sixpence” – This was a silver British coin. It was a symbol of prosperity or acted as a ward against evil done by frustrated suitors.  This superstition is known since 1883 when it was attributed to the English county of Lancashire.  The usual effect on the bride of the Evil Eye is to render her barren.  Both the “sixpence” and the “something borrowed” are devices to baffle the Evil Eye. 

 

So, there you have them, but do not stress over them.  They are not meant to dictate your wedding style, or inspire a hunt for the perfect “somethings”.  They are usually small tokens of love that your mother, sister, other relatives, or attendants will give you at the eleventh hour.

And now, of course, this sweet tradition extends far beyond trinkets for the bride.  The groom can sport a blue tie, or borrow their grandfather’s cuff links.  Bridesmaids can wear blue and act as the bride’s “something blue”.  Now days most anything goes – you name it.

So, there you have the meaning of this old wedding rhyme. If any of you readers are planning a wedding in the near future, you might do well to include all these items in your plans.  You surely don’t want the “Evil Eye” after you because you didn’t.

 

 


“SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW….”

BY

NEAL MURPHY
PO BOX 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: humptydumpty1940@gmail.com

632 words

 

 

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THE  HOT MIX  JOB


 

 


In 1959, shortly after my marriage, Roy Crowe hired me to work with the Texas Highway Department.  I had completed three years of college, so I assume that Mr. Crowe felt I had enough “learning” to be trained as a draftsman.  Mr. Jesse Price had his hands full trying to teach me the finer aspects of calculating the amount of steel and concrete for a bridge, or a culvert.  Plotting curves always gave me trouble.

 

One summer the state let a contract to have Highway 96 from San Augustine to the Shelby County line resurfaced with hot mix.  As I recall, the contractor was from Waco, Texas.  Little did I know how involved I, a lowly draftsman, would be involved with this project.

The state required continuous inspection of the hot mix itself, as well as its installation.  Suddenly, I became one of those inspectors.  Mr. Crowe set up an inspection station on the location of the hot mix plant, about eight miles north of San Augustine.  I had never even seen hot mix, much less checked the finished product from its source.

Grady Arbuckle and I were assigned to the little shack on the plant premises.  Grady had prior experience with hot mix and was the chief inspector.  I was the gopher.

Early in the morning dump trucks waited in line to receive their load of hot mix to transport to the paving site.  Apparently the truckers were paid for each load which increased their desire to get in as many loads per day as possible.  My job was to spot check the hot mix to make sure the temperature was just right.  I was given a large thermometer along with the authority to stop any loaded truck and check it.

 

The hot material had to be within a temperature range as it left the plant.  I would stop a truck, stick the thermometer down into the hot mix, then read the results.  Most of the time there was not a problem.  However, several times it was too hot, or perhaps too cold, and the load had to be dumped, much to the chagrin of the trucker, who then had to get back in line.
Several times a day I collected a bucket full of hot mix off a truck, and took it to the shack. Grady would then perform several tests on the contents.  I recall a machine that pressed the mix into a compact cylinder about three inches in height.  It was then immersed in water in order to check its “specific gravity”.  I never knew for sure what that meant, but it seemed very important to the job.  I took notes of the results for the permanent record.

 

Since it was rather lonely in the crude shack, I took an old radio to listen to music while working, sort of like “whistling while you work”.  I could only receive two AM stations, Center and Nacogdoches.  Both featured country-western music.  Buddy Pratt, who was driving a dump truck, chided me several times for listening to that kind of music.  “But, Buddy,” I explained, “that’s the only kind of music I can get here.  I will be careful and not let it affect me in a bad way.”  Buddy went on to become a pastor, and I still don’t really like C/W music.

On several occasions I was assigned to walk alongside the steaming hot mix laying machine, again to check the temperature of the mix.  That made for a long, tiring day, however I was rewarded one day by finding a half dollar on the side of the road.

 

After several months the job was finished.  It was the custom for the contractor to give gifts to the state inspectors which usually was a bottle of whiskey or bourbon.  The contractor, Mr. Probost, gave me, instead, a leather bound Bible.  I have that Bible to this day, and every time I pick it up I recall the hot mix job which earned it for me.

 

“THE  HOT MIX  JOB”

BY: NEAL  MURPHY
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
sugarbear@netdot.com

673 words

 

 

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So, you are left-handed.


 

 

About 10% of the population is left-handed.  Our daughter is left-handed even though both of her parents are right-handed.  So, what happened?  Is being born with the dominant hand being the left one blamed on genetics?

 

Lefties have had a tough time over the centuries overcoming their “handicap”.  Beginning at the time of the Industrial Revolution, workers needed to operate complex machines that were almost certainly designed with right-handers in mind.  This would make the leftie appear less capable and clumsier.

 

During this period schools invariably forced the left-handed student to learn to write with their right hand.  They were learning to write with a dip pen which right-handers could smoothly drag across paper from left to right, but this would not work as well if a leftie was dragging his hand over the wet ink.

 

Over the centuries left-handed people have been considered unlucky or even malicious for their difference by the right-handed majority.  Throughout history, being left-handed was considered negative.  The Latin adjective sinister means “left” as well as “unlucky”.

 

There are many negative connotations associated with the phrase “left-handed”: clumsy, awkward, unlucky, insincere, sinister, malicious, and so on.  A “left-handed compliment” is considered one that is unflattering.  Even Black Magic is sometimes referred to as the “left-hand path”.

 

But now, in the new era of reasoning, there have been discovered several weird advantages of being left-handed.  So, all you south-paws out there can appreciate the following surprising facts:

 

First, lefties make up only about 10% of the population, but studies find that individuals who are left-handed score higher when it comes to creativity, imagination, day dreaming, and intuition.  They are also better at rhythm and visualization.


Second, they are in some good company.  Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford are listed as left-handed, along with four of the last five U.S. presidents.  England’s Prince William is a lefty.  Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Renoir made the list as well.

 

Thirdly, left-handed stroke victims reportedly recover faster.  It is believed that it’s due to the left-handed people having to strengthen both sides of their brain to succeed in a right-handed world.  Because many lefties are better at using their non-dominant hand, it is less difficult for them to recover from a stroke that damages one part of their brain.

 

Fourth, left-handers may have the edge in competitions where opponents face each other, such as tennis, baseball, and boxing.  This may be due to the fact that left-handers have more opportunity to practice against right-handed opposition.

 

Fifth, the word is that left-handed college graduates go on to become 26 percent richer than right-handed students. In addition, four of the five original designers of the Macintosh (Apple) computer are listed as lefties.

 

Sixth, there are stores devoted to selling practical and novelty items to left-handed people.  Online shops offer everything from left-handed mugs and kitchen sets, to school and office supplies, clothing, and “backwards” watches and clocks.

 

According to myth, giving a toast with your left hand is the same as placing a curse on the person you are saluting.  When Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, depictions showed her as being left-handed, in order to appear more evil.  Left-handers were also harshly discriminated against during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was often “beaten out” of them.

But all you lefties have something to look forward to.  Every August 13th is declared “International Left-Hander’s Day”.  It was founded in 1990 by the “Left-Hander’s Club”, an annual event when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their left-handedness.  Thousands of left-handed people in today’s society have to adapt to use right handed tools and objects. The festivities include left-v-right sports matches, a left-handed tea party, and pubs using left-handed corkscrews, and playing games with the left hand only.

 

I understand that now days school teachers do not force lefties to learn to write with their right hand, but allow the students to use whichever hand is more comfortable.  I think that is good progress.  Being left-handed appears to have some advantages as mentioned above.  I will have to consult my left-handed daughter about this.

 

 

“SO, YOU’RE LEFT-HANDED”


BY: NEAL MURPHY

P.O. BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Web: www.etexasbook.com


690 words

 

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Well Shut My Mouth


 

 

 

 

 


Perhaps like me, you have seen women of all ages react to something they see in a strange way.  I have kept close note of this phenomenon recently and almost without exception note that women tend to place their hand over their mouth when scared or shocked, or see something particularly upsetting.  We witnessed this when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covered her mouth as she watched Navy Seals execute Osama Ben Laden, although she blamed it on allergies.  We even see this gesture when beauty pageant contestants are crowned.  The question is why do women do this?

 

According to body language experts it is called the “pacifier gesture”.  It’s like a kid sucking his thumb.  When our hands go up and touch our mouths it is saying to ourselves, “It’s OK, it’s safe”.  It’s like our mother giving us a hug.  It says that we will get through this just fine.

Some experts say that when females witness a terrible accident, hear bad news, or are in disbelief, putting their hands over their mouth is physically expressing that they can’t emotionally take anything else in at that point.  Males seldom make the same gesture, but will place their heads in their hands instead.  This is called a “face palm”.

This female body language gesture may have some roots in the ancient 
Chinese custom which forbade females from showing the insides of their mouths.  It was considered uncouth, thus they covered their mouths with their hand when yawning or eating. Thus, they tended to keep their mouths shut at all times.  I think it might be a good thing to resurrect this custom today.

 

Although men don’t usually cover their mouth with their hand they may use a softer version of this, as the man in the boardroom who puts his pointy finger over his lips and his hands on this chin.  He is expressing basically the same emotion as the female putting her hand over her mouth.

 

The body language gesture universally used around the world when we are scared is opening our mouths in an oval shape and raising our eyebrows.  One body language expert explains, “This gesture is in our DNA.  It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or Hispanic, from Iraq, Zimbabwe, or Chicago.”

 

It would seem to me that the had-over-mouth gesture in women is also in their DNA as well.  Make a conscious note of how often you see women do this.  Sometimes they will place both hands over their mouths in a particularly severe moment.  Perhaps this has its roots in the old Chinese adage of the three monkeys’ “hear no evil, “see no evil”, and “speak no evil”, with their hands covering their ears, eyes, and mouth.  Perhaps the ladies are unconsciously saying, “I had better keep my mouth shut at this moment, for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”  Now, with that I can heartedly agree.

 

 

 

 

“WELL, SHUT MY MOUTH”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

496 words

 

 

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The Christmas Song That Almost Wasn't


 


Many secular Christmas songs have been written over the years, some successful, but most never made it to the big time.  The second most popular song behind Bing Crosby’s White Christmas almost didn’t get recorded.  Had it not been for Gene Autry’s wife, Ina, the little song may have languished for lack of attention and faded away into the trash can of history.

In 1939 a little poem was written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward’s annual holiday booklet giveaway.  It was a story of an outcast reindeer whose “differences” ultimately helped him save Santa’s threatened sleigh ride on Christmas Eve.  To everyone’s surprise, the poem sold over one hundred thousand copies.  

 

May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, took the poem and composed a melody in 1947 and tried in vain to sell it to several popular singers, including Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Dinah Shore, who all rejected it.  By a stroke of luck, Gene Autry’s wife, Ina, heard Mark’s demo record and was enchanted by its “Ugly Duckling” theme. She strongly encouraged Gene to record it as a companion song to his Here Comes Santa Claus record.  But her husband hated the song and refused to record it.

 

It became widely acknowledged that if not for Ina, there would be no “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry. Carl Cotner, Gene’s musical director also tried to talk Gene into recording it.  Carl had told Gene he thought it would be a good song for him, and Carl did the arrangement.

 

At a recording session, Gene said, “How about that little song that you are so crazy about?”  They placed it on the music stand and he recorded it in one take.  It was later admitted that Ina had talked Gene into doing it.  Five weeks later, on August 4th, Gene cut two more Christmas numbers, Santa, Santa, Santa and If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas which had moderate success.

 

“Rudolph” became a favorite on The Hit Parade and soared to the top of the Billboard Country and Western, and Pop charts, a first for Gene Autry.  During its first year of release, “Rudolph” sold two million copies, selling an estimated twenty-five million more over the next forty years.  For decades it remained the best selling single of all time after Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.  The song also anticipated a new trend for Gene – recording songs specifically geared to the children’s market.  Over the years “Rudolph” would be recorded by more than five hundred artists, but Gene’s version always seemed to be everyone’s favorite.

 

“RUDOLPH the RED-NOSED REINDEER”

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names,
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
You’ll go down in history. *

Composer: Johnny Marks – 1949

 


“THE CHRISTMAS SONG THAT ALMOST WASN’T”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

554 words

 

 

 

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Mr. Larry Hume


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VFW Post 8904 Quartermaster Larry Hume started a project to identify all the World War I veterans from Shelby County that served in the war, or those from other places who are buried in Shelby County. Hume will not let our veterans be forgotten.

 

“Everybody including myself were really surprised that we ended up with 884 names”, said Hume. 2018 was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Hume organized a special once-in-a-lifetime event to honor all our World War I veterans. The event was held on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the historical 1885 Shelby County courthouse.

 

The Veteran’s Day memorial was well attended and featured different local musical performances. Speeches were given by Hume and other prominent members of the community. The local 4H bequeathed special quilts that they made to several surviving veterans from different wars.


The VFW Post 8904’s women auxiliary also unveiled a huge quilted display made of thousands of quilted buddy poppies. The display was hung from a window on the side of the historic courthouse. The individual poppies that made up the quilt were fashioned from hard work of many women both locally and abroad.

 

“Everything has been self-taught and has just kind of evolved”, said Hume. Hume and his wife Theresa Dibben Hume moved to Center, Texas in 1996.  They started their own successful printing business Chief Imaging. The couple started the print shop with no prior knowledge about it. He did not join the local VFW Post 8904 until one day in 2004.

 

As time went on Hume became more involved with the local VFW post and became the post commander. After being the post commander for a few years Hume switched over to the role of quartermaster. 

 

“It gives you an opportunity to see everything”, said Hume. The role of quartermaster is like a finical manager. Hume is very involved in the community. 

 

As well as being the post quartermaster, Hume is the face of our local VFW.  He appears and usually gives a speech at every war memorial that he can attend, sometimes even in the rain.  He is a member of the Shelby County Historical Society helps with the Shelby County Museum in Center, Texas.  

 

“I wasn’t in too long before I knew that is what I wanted to do,” said Hume. Hume made a career out of his military service. He served in the Air Force for 20 years and one month. When Hume first joined the military, he worked in administration. 

 

Over his years in the service, he worked various jobs from finance to teaching. Hume eventually became a Command Chief Master Sergeant working for a wing commander to advise him on enlisted matters.

 

“It grew me up”, said Hume, after being asked how the military shaped him as a person. Hume finished his military career as an E9 Command Chief Master Sergeant, which is the highest enlisted rank you can achieve in the United States Air Force. 

 

“I didn’t consider any other service”, said Hume. Growing up as a serviceman’s son Hume enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1961. Fresh out of high school and not wishing to pursue college at the time, Hume chose to join the Air Force. He chose the Air Force over the other branches because his father Lewis Hume Jr. served in the Air Force in World War II. 

 

“If you don’t want to go to college when you finish high school the military is a good place to start your life”, said Hume. During his 20 years of service in the militarily, Hume went on to pursue a college education. He graduated with two degrees a bachelor’s in business and a master’s in management. 

 

“I think every veteran would tell you they would do it again”, said Hume. Hume’s only regret about his military service is that he did not serve even longer

 

 

 

 

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The BB Gun


 

 

 

 

 

In the late 1960s, our family lived in Houston, Texas.  It was about a three-and-a-half drive north to our parent’s home in San Augustine.  Christmastime was always a hectic time for all of us.  My parents lived about twenty miles away from my wife’s parents. We, therefore, had to share time with both sets of grandparents when we would make the drive up north.

 

On this particular Christmas we had spent Christmas Eve in San Augustine spending the night.  Of course, Santa Claus came to see our two children while we where there.  He was quite good at finding us wherever we were.  Much to our surprise Santa brought our young son a real BB gun, a Red Ryder.  Although we were not too happy about this since he was so young, we did not want to spoil our grandparents’ Santa gift.  So, I took Doug outside and showed him how to use a BB gun, and included all the safety precautions.

 

Several hours later I went outside to see what was going on with Doug and his new BB gun.  I was shocked!  My parents had decorated their front yard, porch, and the cyclone fence with large Christmas lights.  To my dismay, I discovered that my son had shot out most all of the light bulbs in theses decorations.

 

I took him inside to “fess up” about what he had done.  He reluctantly apologized to his grandmother for this dastardly deed of shooting out the lights.  My mother hugged him and said, “Gosh, he really is a good shot.”

 

Well, it was difficult for me to say much to my son because I remembered when I got my first BB gun as a young lad.  In fact, one could look at the outside garage wall of my parent’s home and see the evidence. I perfected a game in which I stationed myself by the wall about eight or ten feet away and waited for flies to light on it.  Then I would shoot at them.  I did not hit every fly, but every BB left a dent in the wood.  So the evidence of shooting was still there until my dad had vinyl siding installed on the exterior walls.

 

This vinyl siding also covered up the sandy feeling to the wall.  It seems that my older sister and I poured sand in my dad’s five-gallon paint bucket years before.  Since paint was expensive, my dad tried to strain out the sand but could get all of it.  So he was forced to paint the house with gritty paint. But, that’s another story.

 

My son never shot at Christmas lights again, but he remains a good shot to this day.  As a retired police officer in North Carolina, he has had a lot of good training.  But, it all started with a BB gun and Christmas lights at granny’s house.

 

 

“THE BB GUN”

BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

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The Confederate Giant


 

 

One can only imagine what the Union soldiers must have thought at the sight of a giant wearing a confederate uniform running toward them in the heat of battle.  Henry Clay Thruston was beyond a doubt the tallest man in the Confederate army.  Perhaps at the time he lived he could have been one of the tallest men in the world at 7 feet 7 ½ inches in height.  The average height of the Union soldier was 5 feet 8 inches, and the tallest Union soldier was only 6 feet 10 ½ inches.  This Rebel towered over all the other fighting men like a pine sapling.

 

Henry was born May 4, 1830 in Greenville, S.C.  However soon after his birth his family moved to Missouri where he spent his early years.  In 1850 Henry married a distant cousin, Mary Thruston, and they had four children.

 

When the civil war broke out, Henry joined the Confederate Army, serving as a private under Col. John Q. Burbridge in the 4th Missouri Calvary.  Thruston survived the war hostilities with only a couple of relatively minor wounds.  He became a prisoner of war late in the conflict, but did not spend long in confinement, being paroled in June of 1865.

 

After the war, Thruston reunited with his family in Missouri then migrated to Texas, stopping when he got to Titus County.  He purchased 100 acres of land east of Mount Vernon, Texas, and spent most of the rest of his life there.

 

For many years following the Civil War, he spent most of his time traveling with a circus, and was always billed in these side shows as being “The World’s Tallest Man”.  In order to accent his height, he wore a tall beaver hat, high-top boots, and a long coat.  This made him look ten feet tall.  In those days, one of the big events of a circus coming to town was the parade through the downtown.  When the circus was in any of the Confederate states, he would always walk in the lead of the parade carrying a large Confederate flag over his shoulder, much like a human flag pole.

 

However, if the circus was performing in a Union state, he would usually lead the parade dressed as Uncle Sam, and carrying both the Union and Confederate flags.

 

Judge R. T. Wilkinson, of Mt. Vernon, was one of Thruston’s closest friends, and he said that Thruston was a vain old fellow, and proud of his height.  He was always willing and ready to recount events of the Civil War and of his life.  The Judge said that his hands were as big as hams, and his feet were so large that he had to have his shoes specially made, as well as his clothes.

 

He rode horseback quite a bit and when he was riding a smaller horse, his knees were usually pulled up as high as the horse’s back in order that his feet would not drag the ground.  He had a buggy specially built for him with the seat built high up in order that he could ride more comfortably.  In fact, Judge Wilkinson said that the old fellow always took great pains to call attention to his great height.

 

On Friday, July 2, 1909, Thruston sat down to supper with his son, Edward, his daughter-in-law and their son.  Mrs. Thruston told him that since he had not been feeling very well, he’d better pass on the cabbage.  The big man began to butter a biscuit when he fell back in his chair in heart failure.

 

Before Thruston could be laid to rest, the local undertaker had to await the arrival by train of a custom-made casket from Texarkana.  Being eight feet long, it could not fit into the hearse with the doors closed.  They buried him in a grave much longer than deep in Mt. Pleasant’s Edwards Cemetery.  His house, which had nine foot ceilings, still stands in Mount Vernon.
 
The editor of the local newspaper spoke for the whole community when he concluded, “He was our friend and we shall miss his cheering words and hearty handshake.”


SOURCES:
Texas Tales – “Tallest Rebel” -  Mike Cox – 2/2/2007
Confederate Veteran Magazine -  December, 1909 issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE CONFEDERATE GIANT”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

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The Yard Man


 

 


I grew up in that awkward time between reel mowers and power mowers.  During my early teen years one of my jobs was keeping our rather large yard mowed.  Using an old reel type mower can turn this task into a real chore.

 

Most people under age 50 have never even seen a reel type mower, much less used one.  They are blessed to have power lawn mowers today, and even more blessed if they have a riding mower.

 

The reel type mower was human powered, of course.  The thicker the grass, the more difficult it was to push the mower.  It cut grass fairly well, except for the tall weeds.  Whenever a weed was encountered the mower just pressed the weed down and rolled right over it.  The weed sprang back up to tickle your legs as you walked by.

 

Around the age of eleven or twelve, I was a regular user of our reel mower on the yard.  I always felt that I was somewhat skinny, and needed to gain some weight.  I recall that my mother would make me a milkshake with a raw egg in it to drink as I rested from my labors.  How I ever drank a raw egg is beyond me now.  The drink had a delayed effect as I did not gain weight until about forty years later.

 

I was very excided the day that my father, Cecil, purchased an electric lawn mower from the Deep East Texas Electric Co-Op.  Back in those days, the Co-Op sold all types of appliances, such as stoves, refrigerators, lawn mowers, and window air conditioners.  Now mowing was going to be fun.

 

The mower sounded like a siren as it powered up ready to slay the grass as well as the weeds.  No longer did I have to get the weed cutter to take down the tall weeds after I mowed.  There was only one problem with this state-of-the-art electric mower – the electric cord.  Our yard was so large that it took a couple of extension cords in order to reach the back forty.

For some reason I kept mowing over the cord with the inevitable result, a cut cord.  It would seem a simple thing to do to keep the mower off the cord.  It apparently was not.  After one summer of use the cord had numerous patched cuts.  And, the new wore off fairly soon.  No longer was it fun to use, it became a chore as well.  I used this electric mower all during high school.  At some point after I went off to college, my dad purchased a gas powered lawn mower.  However, I never did use it much.  After all, I was an expert on the old reel mower.

 

 

 

“THE  YARD  MAN”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033
cell: 936-275-6986
sugarbear@netdot.com


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WHAT'S FOR DINNER


 

 


In the early 1950s I was dating a young lady from the small town of Hemphill, Texas. Her father was the pastor of the local Baptist church.  In those days pastors were paid very little in salary.  However, there were other “perks” that automatically accompanied being a pastor.

One of these perks was offerings of food from the parishioners. Almost daily a member of the congregation would stop by his home and leave some food.  On the surface this seems a very nice thing to do, and it was.  However, some of the food often was unidentifiable.

On the Thanksgiving before his daughter, Clara, and I were married, I recall that a church member stopped by their house on the day before Thanksgiving and left some kind of fowl.  It had been plucked and cleaned, but it could not be identified as either a chicken, goose, or duck.  I always thought that it was a buzzard, but the consensus of opinion was that it was a goose.  In fact, one member of the family bit down on a led pellet from the bird shot used to kill it.

My future father-in-law was concerned about how to respond to the members who had brought food that he was afraid to eat, particularly when he dumped it behind the garage. If he told them that the food was delicious, then he was obviously fibbing which is frowned upon in the Bible.  After pondering this problem for a while he had a brainstorm of an idea to solve his problem.

He named the place where the food was dumped “the spot”. Then when his members asked how he liked the dish brought to him he would respond with “It truly hit the spot.  Thank you very much.”  Thus, the giver was pleased and the pastor had not told a fib.  Everyone was happy.

Nowadays most pastors are paid a living wage, and only a few people bring fowl, eggs, milk, and, yes, some unknown items to the preacher’s house as a sort of offering.  Thus, the problem does not exist in that area as it once did.  Over the years my wife and I have had many a laugh about all the things that were brought to her father’s house with good intentions but bad selections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“WHAT’S FOR DINNER?”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

P.O. BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
Web Site: www.etexasbook.com

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WISHING UPON THE WISHBONE


 


I vividly recall a “ritual” that we kids performed after the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals back in my early years.  This activity was passed down to our children but seems to have been lost to the current crop of kids.

 

I recall my mother announcing to we kids after dinner was over, “Here’s the wish bone.  Who wants it?”  Instantly there would be a flurry of activity toward that “Y” shaped bone garnered from the breast of the turkey amid cries of “I want to pull it this year”, or “It’s my turn. You did it last year.”  Eventually, things would be worked down to the two lucky ones who got to make a wish and pull the wish bone until it broke.  The holder of the longer piece was the “winner” whose wish would magically come true.

 

I am sure that the same ritual was played out in millions of homes each year.  Thanksgiving is a North American holiday of recent vintage, whereas the breaking of the wishbone comes to us from Europe. It was a tradition dating back thousand of years.

 

A bird’s wishbone is technically known as the furcula (meaning “little fork” in Latin).  It is formed by the fusion of two clavicles, and is important to flight because of its elasticity, and the tendons that attach to it.  We humans have a similar bone known as “collarbones”.  The question before us is - where did the custom of making a wish and then snapping the bone originate, and how did it get to America?

 

Research reveals that the custom came to us from the English, who got it from the Romans, who got it from the Etruscans, an ancient Italian civilization.  As far as historians and archaeologists can discover, the Etruscans were really into their fowls, especially chickens. In fact, many believed that the birds were oracles and could predict the future. They exploited the chickens’ supposed gifts by turning them into walking Ouija boards with a bizarre ritual known as “rooster divination”.

They would draw a circle on the ground and divide it into wedges representing the letters of the Etruscan alphabet. Bits of food were scattered on each wedge and a chicken was placed in the center of the circle.  As the bird snacked, scribes would note the sequence of letters that it pecked at, and the local priests would use the resulting messages to divine the future and answer the city’s most pressing questions.

 

When a chicken was killed, the furcula was laid out in the sun to dry so that it could be preserved, and the people would still have access to the oracle’s power even after its demise.  People would pick up the bone, stroke it, and make wishes on it, hence the modern name of “wishbone”.

 

As the Romans crossed paths with the Etruscans, they adopted some of their customs, including alectryomancy and making wishes on the furcula.  According to tradition, the Romans went from merely petting the bones to breaking them because of supply and demand.  There weren’t enough bones to go around for everyone to wish on, so two people would wish on the same bone and then break it to see who got the larger piece and their wish.

 

As the Romans traipsed around Europe, they left their cultural mark in many different places, including the British Isles.  People living in England at the time adopted the wishbone custom, and it eventually came to the New World with English settlers, who began using the turkeys’ wishbone as well as the chicken’s.

 

Pilgrims who immigrated to the United States are believed to have brought the tradition with them.  Once discovering that the wild turkeys populating their new home possessed wishbones just like the fowl from home, the wishbone tradition became a part of the Thanksgiving celebration.  Let us hope that the modern generation will not let it die completely.  It has come a long way and deserves to entertain children of today’s generation as it has so many others.

 

 


“WISHING  UPON  THE  WISHBONE”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com


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The First Thing We Do


 


The above line, first spoken on stage around 1590, and first published in 1594, evidences a basic animosity toward lawyers among the folk of the Renaissance period.

 

In the 428 years since the composition of this line, attitudes toward lawyers among the common folk have changed very little.

 

The Spanish novelist, Franciso Quevedo, suggested, “A lawyer is like a cartwheel – he must be greased before he’ll move.”  He also wrote, “A lawyer is one who picks your pocket, and shows you a law for it.”

 

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the USA, said, “I used to be a lawyer, but now I am a reformed character.”

 

Sir John Hamilton warned his contemporaries, “An attorney is like a porcupine; it’s impossible to touch him without pricking one’s finger.”

 

The following lawyer riddles have been around for awhile, and have been voted the best by us common folk. 

 

1. How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
( When his lips are moving)
2. Why won’t a rattlesnake strike a lawyer?
(Professional courtesy)
3. What do you need when you have three lawyers up to their necks in 
Cement?
 (More cement)
4. What is black and brown and looks good on a lawyer?
( A doberman pinscher )
5. What do lawyers use for birth control?
( Their personalities)
6. What do you call two hundred lawyers at the bottom of the sea?
( A good start)
7. What do you call a lawyer with an IQ less than 50?
( your honor )
     8. What do you get when you cross a lawyer with the Godfather?
          ( An offer you can’t understand )
          This is reminiscent of a remark made by Will Rogers, “The minute 
           You read something you can’t understand, you can be sure it was
            Drawn up by a lawyer.”
9. What is the difference between a dead skunk in the road, and a dead
Lawyer in the road?
( There are skid marks in front of the skunk)
10. What is the difference between an alligator and a lawyer?
( You can make a pet out of an alligator )

11. What is the difference between a chopped onion and a chopped up 
            Up lawyer?( People cry when they chop up an onion )
12.  Why are lawyers buried twelve feet deep instead of six feet?
( Because down deep they really aren’t so bad )

 

Did you hear about the blizzard in Amarillo?  The weather was so bad that schools had to close, pipes were frozen, and streets had to be sanded.  It was so cold that a lawyer was actually spotted with his hands in his own pockets.

 

One evening an honest lawyer, a dishonest lawyer, and the tooth fairy were sitting around a table.  There was a ten dollar bill on the table.  Suddenly the lights went out.  After a while, the lights came back on.  The ten dollar bill was gone.  Who took it?


     (The dishonest lawyer.  You don’t believe in the other two, do you? )

 

Once the Devil was walking through hell when he saw one of the big shot lawyers who was a resident.  Satan walked over to him and said, “You know, the trouble with you lawyers is you think you’re the best people in hell.  But you’re not. You are just the more numerous.”

 

All of these stories about lawyers help us to laugh at them, and at ourselves, and at the stressful situations which require us to deal with lawyers.  Some of my best friends are lawyers.


Excerpts from: corners of  Texas, by Francis E. Abernethy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE FIRST THING WE DO, LET’S KILL ALL THE LAWYERS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033
CELL: 936-275-6986
EMAIL: SUGARBEAR@NETDOT.COM


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COTTON, COURTSHIP, and CHEVROLETS


 

 

 


The summer of 1956 was an interesting one for me. I was out of classes from Baylor University for the summer.  I had purchased my first car, a 1950 Chevrolet two-door sedan.  My future wife and I were courting pretty often, and I found a much-needed job.  The only problem with this picture was that the job was in Houston, Texas.

 

A job had opened up for me with Anderson-Clayton Cotton Company paying $350.00 per month.  This was good money for a nineteen year old naive kid from East Texas.  I needed the money badly enough to accept the job, and rent one room in an elderly couple’s house on Pease street in Houston.

 

The job was located in a large warehouse on the docks of the ship channel. No heat or air conditioning made for an uncomfortable shift.  I had never seen so many bales of cotton in my life as were stored in this warehouse, and several more warehouses along the docks.  I soon learned that each and every bale of cotton received by the company had to be rated, weighed, and classified.  This is where I came in.

 

Situated at a long table with several other men, a bale of cotton would be brought to the table. One man took three samples from the top to bottom of the bale.  Another man would grade the color, another the texture, and finally a third man the length of the fibers of the samples.  My job was to write down all these ratings on a tally sheet.  I did not know much about cotton, but I sure could tally.

 

One week we were instructed to take inventory of the bales of cotton contained in these warehouses, which were stacked from floor to ceiling.  I and another man would start at either end of the cotton bales and start counting until the end of the row.  If we both came up with the same number, we could go to the next one.  Not only were there bales of cotton in those warehouses, there were also rats, spiders, lizards and other unidentified critters. Needless to say, I hated taking inventory.

 

Each Friday afternoon we were paid by check.  I would come to work Friday morning with my Chevrolet packed, then speed out of Houston at the end of the work day, stopping briefly in Cleveland to cash my check at a bank.

 

Once back in San Augustine on Friday night, I would call Clara and set up dates for Saturday and Sunday nights.  This worked well for us all summer.

 

One Sunday night while driving back to Houston after our date, my Chevrolet began to act up.  On highway 190 between Woodville and Livingston, the engine died and I coasted to the shoulder of the road.  I realized that I was stranded right in the middle of the Alabama and Coushatta Indian Reservation.  My only knowledge of Indians was reading about Geronimo and Sitting Bull, and they did not seem to be very hospitable.  I was more than a little nervous.  After locking my car doors, I dozed off to sleep.

 

The first car along the road after dawn contained an older couple, yes, an Indian couple.   Their car stopped, backed up even with mine.  The woman peered at me through the window.  I rolled down my window and told them I was stranded and needed help.  These nice folk drove me all the way to Livingston to the Chevrolet dealership.  The movies never showed this side of the Indians

 

Well, all’s well that ends well.  I saved up enough money to buy Clara an engagement ring. And the rest is history.

 

 

“COTTON, COURTSHIP, AND CHEVROLETS”

BY: NEAL MUPRHY
P.O. BOX 511
107  HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033


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The Stop Sign


 

 

 


I feel that I was one of the fortunate ones to have grown up in a small town in East Texas during the 1940s and 1950s.  I was fortunate as well because my father was not a farmer or rancher during that era which would have required that I spend a lot of time working the fields, wrangling cattle, or harvesting timber.  As a result, I usually had some free time on my hands after school, on Saturday, and even Sunday afternoon.

 

The free time usually would result in a search for something to do to occupy my mind and abilities.  Living in San Augustine, Texas, with a population of less than 3,000, there was not much for a young teenager to do.  This was pre-television and pre-computers days, so I had to find my own entertainment.  I did learn to drive early, and got my drivers license at age 14, so this enabled me to drive to places of enjoyment.

 

One of those places of enjoyment was the fellowship hall of the Memorial Presbyterian Church.  Unlike today, the church buildings were left unlocked, a silent invitation for worshippers to enter and pray, or visit with the pastor.


The fellowship hall contained a ping pong table, the only one in town.  So, anytime the urge struck, I would call several friends and we would meet there and have a self made ping pong tournament.

 

It was there that I learned to handle a ping pong ball and paddle like a pro.  Along with friends Ben, Mike, Gayle, Bobby, Harold, and others near our same age, we crowned ourselves the ping pong champions of San Augustine.  Occasionally, some Methodist and Baptist kids would show up to play, but they were no match for the Presbyterian crew.

At our age we did not appreciate history.  We never gave a thought to the fact that we were playing in the fellowship hall of the oldest Presbyterian Church in the state of Texas. Records show that this church was organized on June 02, 1838, under the name Bethel Presbyterian Church.  They met in a country school house, Goodlaw School, about four miles west of San Augustine.  The church minutes indicate that twenty-two people organized this church, and sometime later called their first pastor, Rev. Hugh Wilson.


Around 1888 the present church building was erected at a new location in downtown San Augustine on East Livingston Street.  The fellowship hall was completed in 1950, directly behind the church building.

 

My close buddy, Mike, had bought a Cushman scooter around the time our ping pong  playing.  He would ride about a mile from his home to the church on his scooter to play with us.  One fateful day as Mike was leaving on his Cushman, he ran over an embedded stop sign at the end of the street.  He lost control and crash landed in the middle of the intersection.

Other than a few cuts and bruises, Mike was not badly injured.  However, his Cushman suffered severe injuries.  I don’t recall seeing him ever riding it again.  Mike had forgotten that the city had recently installed new metal stop signs, about eight inches high, at each street intersection.  Only one of these embedded stop signs remain in the city today, having been replaced with the more modern signal lights and octagon shaped stop signs.  This remaining old sign, located at the intersection of E. Main and Montgomery streets, is just a reminder of how things were in a small town over fifty years ago.  Mike certainly remembers.

 

In April of 2015, the city resurfaced that portion of Montgomery Street that intersects East Main Street.  The last of the embedded stop signs was removed at that time, being replaced with a regular metal stop sign.  I hope that the old one will be preserved as a part of the history of our small city.

 

Today you can see this old stop sign, refurbished, and housed in the new 1919 Jail Museum in the old restored jail on the courthouse square.  I urge you to stop by and say “hello” to this relic of the past.

 

 

 

 


“THE  STOP  SIGN”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

 

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The Addiction


 

 

I suppose than anyone can get addicted to anything.  People get addicted to alcohol, drugs, shopping, and all kinds of other things.  My addiction happens to be to popcorn.

It started at an early age.  My parents used to pop corn in a deep skillet with a lid.  They usually put a bit of butter in with the oil and shake the skillet until the corn was all popped, except for a few “old maids”.  I got addicted to that wonderfully tasting corn which has lasted a lifetime.

Fast-forward to around 1955 when my wife and I were courting and we see the popcorn addiction coming into play.  It turned out that Clara’s family loved popcorn as well, and popped it very frequently.  So, I was courting another addict which came out whenever we attended a movie.

Clara’s friend, Bessie Alford, owned and operated the movie in Hemphill.  She would always let us in the movie for free, but had to pay for any treats once inside.  I soon learned that one bag of popcorn was not enough.  Clara would need two bags at a minimum.  Luckily for me they cost only 15 cents a bag during that time.  Her love of popcorn became a private joke between us.  In fact, for her wedding gift I gave her an electric popcorn popper.  In the years since then we have worn out numerous other poppers.

 

Our love of popcorn prompted us to purchase a popcorn business while living in North Carolina in the early 1980s.  I purchased fifty unique small popcorn machines and placed them in businesses within a twenty-five mile radius.  I also furnished flavoring to put on top of the popcorn, such as taco, green onion, cheddar cheese, and jalapeño.  I ran my route of businesses twice per month, collected the money and re-supplied the retailer with more  popcorn and flavoring.  It was a great sideline business.

 

When our first child was born in 1959, we would feed her popcorn.  Of course we would pinch off a piece of white corn and give it to her.  She loved it.  Her name for popcorn was ‘knock knock”.  Naturally she became an addict, too.  When our son was born we introduced him to popcorn at an early age.  Even today when we all get together several bags of popcorn adorn the card table when we play forty-two.

 

It seems that popcorn has been around in one form or another for many years.  It is said that Native Americans invented, or discovered, popcorn around 3,600 BC in the area now known as New Mexico.  The Indians reportedly taught the early explorers about growing and popping the corn.  Today three states claim the title “Popcorn Capital Of The World”, those being Nebraska, Indiana, and Illinois.  In fact, popcorn is the official state snack food in Illinois.  So, they seem to know a good thing when they see it.

 

Most homes today no longer pop corn the old fashioned way, over the stove in a deep skillet.  With the invention of the microwave oven and popcorn in a bag it is a very fast and tasty snack food. I still feel the old way produced the best popcorn one could eat.  But, that’s just me - an addict stuck back in the 1950s.

 

 

 

 

“THE  ADDICTION”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY

107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com


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Sticky Hands


 

 

 


When I was pre school age, a trip to Nacogdoches was always an adventure.  If I was with my mother we always stopped by the large Perry Brothers Five & Dime store on Main Street in Nacogdoches where I would purchase a small sack of warm cashew nuts.  These are my favorite nuts, but they have always been rather expensive.

 

On occasion I would ride with my Dad to Nacogdoches for various reasons and he would always stop at a store on East Main that was an ice house that also sold ice cream cones.  So I reasoned that if I did not get my warm cashew nuts, perhaps I would get a cold ice cream cone out of the deal.

 

My grandfather, Felix, loved to ride over to Nacogdoches as well.  I never recall “Big Daddy” driving a car so I assume he could not drive.  On this occasion the three of us motored to Nacogdoches for a bit of shopping.  After our business was done we pointed Dad’s 1941 Chevrolet east toward San Augustine.  I asked Dad if he intended to stop by the ice house and buy three cones.  My grandfather always called ice cream cones “say-so’s” - I never knew why and never asked.  So we decided to purchase two cones and one “say-so”.

We pulled up to the entrance of the ice house and a black gentleman met us, “What can I get for you today?” he queried.  My Dad ordered three ice cream cones and also asked what flavors they had today.  The man always gave the same answer, “We have chocolate, strawberry, and plain panilla”.

 

Holding our cold delights like small treasures, we began our trip home.  Cars were not air conditioned in those days so one had to eat the ice cream rapidly before it melted.  My grandfather managed to get melted ice cream all over his hand. That created a problem as he would be described today as a “cleanie”.  “Cecil, I can’t stand these sticky fingers.”  Dad looked irritated as he stared straight ahead, “Well, daddy, we will be home pretty quick and you can wash your hands then” my father replied.

We made it about half way home with grandfather fussing all the time about the sticky ice cream residue on his fingers.  Finally, I suppose Dad had heard enough and stopped the car on the shoulder of the road near a creek.  “Go wash your hands in the creek - we’ll wait”, Dad suggested.  (note - when one addresses his father one should always “suggest” rather than order).

 

Soon Big Daddy had clean hands which he held out the car window to dry in the hot air.  But our trip was not without additional interruption.  Several miles later we came over a hill to see several buzzards feasting on something that had not crossed the road fast enough.  All the buzzards flew away except for one that seemed to have trouble getting airborne.  We drove directly under the bird who then upchucked all over the front of our car.  The smell was terrible.

Luckily there was another creek nearby which provided enough water to wash the stinky mess off our Chevrolet.  We were able to get back home without further incident.

 

The Perry Brothers store has been gone for a long time, but the store that sold “say-so’s” to us is still there, but no longer an ice house.  Every time I drive by it I expect to see an old gentleman standing there to ask me if I want a “plain panilla” ice cream cone. But he has never appeared again.

 

 


“STICKY  HANDS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

P.O. BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com


607 Words

 

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Law and Order


 

 
 
Way back when I was in high school I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer.  My dad, Cecil, was good friends with James Doherty, the county attorney in San Augustine at the time, and I had several conversations with him about law school.  He encouraged me to go to law school but warned me about the tremendous amount of research and reading required of law students.  So, I enrolled in Baylor University in 1956 as a “pre-law” student. 
 
After my first three semesters in college I decided not to work toward a law degree so I changed to a business degree.  Over the years since then, I have seen lawyers come and go, some very nice and some not so nice.  In fact, attorneys have managed to make the list of hated professions, whether deserved or not, as evidenced by the following stories:
 
A lawyer in Charlotte, NC purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against loss by fire or theft.  Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of his fancy cigars, the lawyer filed a claim with his insurance company.   In his claim, he stated that the cigars were lost in a “series of small fires”. The insurance company refused to pay citing the obvious reason – the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.  The lawyer sued, and won!  In delivering the ruling the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous.  The judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what it considered to be “friendly fire or unfriendly fire”, and was obligated to pay the claim.  Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss in the “fires”.
 
After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!  With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in   jail and a $24,000 fine. 
 
A man walked into a post office one day to see a middle aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing “Love” stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them.  He then took out a perfume bottle and sprayed all over them.  His curiosity getting the best of him, he walked up to the man and asked him what he is doing.  The man said, “I’m sending out one thousand Valentine cards signed, “Guess Who?”   “But why?” asked the man.  “I’m a divorce lawyer,” the man replied.
 
A sharp young attorney was cross-examining an elderly witness to an accident. “You say you were about 40 feet from the scene of the accident?  Let me remind you that you’re 86 years old.  Just how far can you see clearly?”  The old man responded, “Well, when I wake up I see the sun and they tell me that’s about 93 million miles away.”
 
In another case, the defense attorney asked the witness to tell the court how far he was from the spot where the shooting occurred.  “I was exactly fourteen feet, three and one-half inches,” replied the witness.  “How can you be so sure of the exact distance?” asked the lawyer.  “I measured it because I was sure that sooner or later some fool lawyer would ask me that question.”
 
The district attorney was questioning an elderly woman from the jury pool.  He asked her, “Mrs. Smith, I am John Brown, the district attorney.  Do you know me?”  “Why yes,” she replied.  I have known you since you were knee high to a duck.  And I must say that I am totally disappointed at how you turned out.  You are lazy, married to your third wife, and you are known to run around on her.  Yes, I know you.”  Stunned, the lawyer stammered, “Well, Mrs. Smith, do you know the defense counsel, Bob Jones, sitting over there?”  She eyed the other lawyer for a few seconds, “Yes, I know Mr. Jones.  He is a low-down scoundrel who has a gambling problem, and from what I hear, has a drinking problem as well.  Yes, I know him.”  There was a pregnant pause, then the judge hit his gavel and says, “Counselors, both of you come to the bench!”  The judge whispered to them, “If either of you two clowns asks her if she knows me I’m going to put you under the jail for contempt!”
 
A woman called to the stand was handsome but no longer young.  The judge gallantly instructed, “Let the witness state her age, after which she may be sworn.”
 
Finally, in summary, someone asked a man what profession his son was going to select.  “I’m going to educate him to be a lawyer.  He’s naturally argumentative, and bent on mixing into other people’s troubles, and he might just as well get paid for his time.”
 
 
“LAW  AND  ORDER”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
861 words
 

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SAY IT WITH FEELING


 

 
When growing up in East Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s, my mother made sure that I had all kinds of lessons….piano, choir, and one that I remember quite fondly – “Expression”.   Now, you younger readers probably never heard of such a thing, but it was a very important matter in my early days of development which has stood me well over the years.
 
“Expression” was a term used for the studying and practice of reading, memorization, and stage presence -  sort of like an early version of the Dale Carnegie course.  Many of my friends studied along with me in 1944 and later.
 
After my mother died a number of years ago, I was going through some old photo albums and scrap books of hers, and , lo and behold, what to my wandering eyes should appear but copies of programs of all kinds in which I had been involved as a kid.  I began to think back to those days and memories began to flood back into my mind of these instructive programs.
 
Among the things I found was a “statement” from the teacher for my November and December lessons in 1944.  The bill was for $5.00 for those two months.  The $5.00 covered a total of eight lessons – one each week.
 
Another item caught my eye….it was one of my poems that I had to memorize and perform before an audience.  It was entitled, “Take A Tater An’ Wait”.  For those readers anxious to find out about this poem, it is copied below:
 
“Take A Tater An’ Wait”
 
When I’se a little feller – littlest one at home,
I used to always have to wait, whenever the Preacher would come.
“Now sit right down Bro. Johnson, and pass your plate.”
Then Ma would look at me an’  say,
“You take a tater, an’ wait!”
 
Then when they were through, tho it took them powerful long,
They started in with praying and ended with a song.
I felt like bouncing a rock on Bro. Johnson’s bald pate,
When he’d look at me an’ say,
“You take a tater and wait.”
 
When I get up grown, and have children of my own,
I’ll ask the preacher Johnson to come and carve the bone.
Then I’ll say, “Children, sit right down,
This dinner looks first rate.
Bro. Johnson’s old, he’ll take a tater an’ wait.”
 
 
Though I do not actually remember presenting this little poem to an audience, apparently I did.  
 
I think it sad that kids now days are not being instructed in “Expression”.  They need to learn how to memorize material, how to properly communicate it to others, perfect their diction, and then overcome their stage fright at an early age.  Instead, most of them get to eat first, and make the adults “take a tater and wait.”
 
 
 
 
“SAY IT WITH FEELING”
 
BY:  NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
Phone: 936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Bullying


 

 

 
 
 
 
We hear a lot today about “bullying” as though it is something new.  The fact is that bullying has been around for as long as there have been schools.  The truth is that some kids will always bully another child who appears timid or afraid.  The old cure for bullying is frowned upon by the experts today, but the practice worked. Most bullies will back down if they are challenged, or if they are subjected to a good smack down by the victim.
 
The year was 1950, and I had just entered San Augustine, Texas, high school where I was considered lower than a snake’s belly by the upperclassmen.  There was an initiation that all freshmen had to endure, an informal one, but an initiation nonetheless.  I had been warned by older friends that if one “took his medicine” willingly and without complaint, then he was generally accepted into the brotherhood.
 
Lunchtime seemed to be a good time to kidnap some low-down freshman boy and take him off campus.  So, here I was, kidnapped from off the high school campus by several senior boys and left half naked in the woods.  They took off my shirt, shoes, and belt and left me alone to figure out a way to get back to school.  However, there was one thing the kidnappers, or should I say bullies, did not plan on – they left me about a hundred yards from my home.
 
So, I limped home, barefoot, to find some replacement clothes.  Unexpectedly, my parents had come home for lunch, so I had to explain to them what had happened to me.  I had been kidnapped, bullied, and left alone in the woods, or the initiation into high school.  I hoped that my dad would just let the matter drop and not make a big deal out of it.
 
My father did not appreciate his son being treated in this manner, and he put me in his car and drove down to the high school.  He complained to the principal about my being mistreated and left alone in the woods.  The principal promised to talk to these upperclassmen and take appropriate action.
Now, put yourself in my position.  That was really going to make those older guys mad, and guess who they were going to take out their frustrations on?  Right, me.  And that is exactly what happened.  The remainder of my freshman year was pure torture as these older boys would taunt me, call me names, and threaten me with severe bodily harm.  Of course, they never actually harmed me, but the idea that they might was a constant fear.  I think that we call that “terrorism” today.
 
The next school year was much better, as all these older boys had graduated and were no longer around.  And added to that, I was no longer a “snake’s belly” freshman, but a sophomore, which, in the pecking order, allowed me to inflict some bullying of my own on the new freshmen.  Nothing bad, you understand, but enough for them to realize their place in the order.
 
My father, in his effort to protect his son had really made things much worse for me that school year.  But, I never said anything to him about it, because I understood why he did it.
 
My “kidnapping” was in reality an act of bullying by much older boys which, in the big picture, did not amount to a hill of beans.  Perhaps bullying today is much worse now that the kids have the social media as a weapon to use.  Except for a very few severe cases, I think our modern progressive teachers and political leaders have over-reacted to an age-old form of initiation into the herd.  As long as there are kids and schools there will be bullying, which can usually be settled by the kids themselves if they are left alone.  I feel I did not suffer any permanent mental damage from my episode.  You just have to roll with the flow.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“BULLYING”
 
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 HEMLOCK  STREET
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
 
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
671 words
 
 
 

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Are Men Still Relevant?


 

 

It seems that the twenty-first century has produced a general feeling among
the female of the species that men are no longer needed. I read articles and
see programs on television produced by young, liberated feminists who
espouse the idea that they have no need for a man in their lives. They are
educated, own their own businesses, and only need a man for pro-creation.
They can then rear their children alone – who needs a man around? Any
time a program or commercial needs a dufus, guess who gets that part – the
white guy. It would be a politically incorrect thing for a female to do.
In view of the above I was surprised to read an article which reported on a
recent survey among these women which revealed that they were still
interested in men, as long as the men did what they wanted them to do. The
article listed seven things these modern women think are missing in modern
men.
 
1. Elevator Etiquette - I suppose it is because there are no elevators
around here that I was surprised by the women’s complaint. The
ladies want the males to let them into the elevator first, then allow
them off first, according to this survey.
2. General Respect – the women complained of their perception that men
no longer show them the proper respect they feel they deserve. It
seems that a man staring at their rear end, or front end, and yelling
things such as “hi sexy” is no longer a sign of endearment.
3. Giving Up Your Seat – Apparently guys no longer let women have
their seat on the bus, train, or trolley car, and they resent it. I always
thought that this was a “built-in” automatic response of the male
toward the female, but apparently has now disappeared.
4. The World Is More Threatening To The Female – They feel that
women are being attacked more often and in more places these days.
The survey said that most women want a male to walk them to their
cars in a parking lot, or even walk them home.
5. Be Polite To Them – This covers a wide range of things. How about
reaching for something off a high shelf for them? Or, opening the
door for her to enter or exit? The survey reported that the women
 
would like for a man to help them carry a big box or package. Could
it be that men are no longer doing any of these polite things?
6. Hold The Door Open – Do not let the door close on her while she
enters or exits first.
7. Driveway Etiquette – This is not a new one. The women do not like
for men to drive up in their driveway and honk their car horn as a
signal for them to come out. They much prefer if the male walks up
to the door and walks her to the car.
So there you have the current ideas of the modern female regarding males. It
seems that in spite of the fact that most modern feminist have done their best
to emasculate men, they still have some need of them. They are trying to
“sissify” the young boys by forbidding them from playing “dangerous
sports”, and definitely not playing with a toy gun, and no playing “cowboys
and Indians” because of political correctness. In other words, manliness is
being discouraged, that is, until they have need of a man for one of the seven
reasons listed above.
Being a male is a matter of DNA.
Being a man is a matter of age.
Being a gentleman is a matter of choice.
 
“ARE MEN STILL RELEVANT?”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com
614 Words
 
 

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Attack of the Gerible


 

 

 
Around 1965 a new store opened in the Meyerland area of Houston, Texas near where we lived.  It was a new kind of store, a forerunner of K-Mart or Wal-Mart.  It was a “Sage” store, massive in size, and contained most anything any shopper would need.  The only thing different was that you had to “join” the club in order to shop there.  I recall the price was somewhere around $15.00 per year for the privilege to shop, and you had to show your ID card in order to enter.
 
One summer day I took my wife and two kids, around 6 and 4 years of age, to Sage for a good look at this new store.  Being reared in a small East Texas town, all this was new to me-- all your needs under one huge roof, from groceries to garden tools.  The kids wanted to stop in the Pet section to ogle the puppies and kittens.
 
While we were examining all the exotic animals for sale I spied a lone gerbil in a cage.  I had never seen one before although I had heard of people who owned one.  I had read in the paper that they made good pets.  The little bugger looked cute and docile as I looked him over.  The kids need to see this little critter I though to myself.
 
I called out, “Kay and Doug…you need to come look at this one.”   I stuck my right index finger over the open top of the cage as I spoke, pointing in the direction of the gerbil.  In a flash this wild animal jumped up and bit down on my finger so hard it started to bleed rather profusely.  Everyone thought the attack was funny, including the critter.  But I had to wrap my hanky around my finger to stop the bleeding.  Now it was getting serious.  Suppose he had rabies, or some other disease.
 
Running up to the clerk in the pet department I showed him my injury caused by one of his cute little creatures.  He seemed to be thinking something like “you idiot, you don’t put your finger where a Gerbil can get to it”.  “Are these animals vaccinated against every disease before you put them for sale?”, I inquired.  “Yes sir, you don’t have to be worried.”  Easy for him to say, he was not the one bleeding.  “Well, then, is Sage prepared to pay for any medical expenses?”, I queried.  “You will have to discuss that with our manager, and he is not here right now.” so I was informed.  How convenient for him. 
 
Our shopping trip was now over, so there was nothing else to do but to go home and treat my injury.  “It’s a good thing that Clara is a nurse”, I thought to myself as we drove back to Evergreen Street in Bellaire.  A little cleaning with alcohol, anti-biotic ointment, and a band-aid were administered and my wound felt better.
 
“Daddy, can we get a Gerbil as a pet?”, asked my son.  “Are you nuts, Doug? Those things are agile, mobile, and hostile.  They are attack animals as you can tell”, I replied while holding up my bandaged finger to show him. “Why don’t we get you some goldfish?  I have never heard of one of them attacking anyone.  Just make sure there is not a piranha included .”
 
It has been over fifty years since the little critter attacked me and I still have a small scar on my finger to prove it. So, if you are ever in the market for a small pet I would recommend a rabbit, and leave the gerbils alone. They are vicious animals.
 
 
 
“ATTACK  OF  THE  GERBIL”
 
BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
 
 
582 words
 
 

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WASHER PITCHING


 

 

When I was in high school during the 1950s, the game of washer pitching (Texas horseshoes) was a favorite pastime of us students.  Before school, during the lunch break, and even after school one could see boys pitching washers.  Occasionally a girl would participate, but it was mostly a masculine game.  I loved to play and got reasonably good at it.
 
The school yard was replete with holes dug in the ground in order to pitch washers at them.  I suspect that an inspection of the school grounds today would find no washer holes, as this game has been gone for many years, replaced by home computers, I pods, and MP3 gadgets.  Boys don’t venture outdoors much anymore to play the old games.
 
The game was very simple to play.  All one needed was a set of 2 ½ inch washers, and two 3 ½ holes dug in the ground approximately twenty feet apart.  Usually two players with three washers each pitched against each other.  Of course, the object of the game was to get the washer into the hole which was worth three points.  A “hanger”, a washer that teetered on the edge of the hole but did not fall in, was worth two points.
 
The history of washer pitching is unclear.  It apparently dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece around 500 BC, as evidence has been found of the game being played.  The first washers were made of fired clay, and because of this they were lighter than ours.
 
Tradition says that washer pitching was introduced into the United States around 1873 in Indiana.  It is said that pioneers took work breaks and used spare washers for their wagon wheels to play the game.  In the early West Texas oil fields, workers would pitch washers using the washers from their oil derricks.  However the game was introduced to the USA, I am glad that it was, as I spent many hours refining my tossing method.
 
In today’s modern world, I find that the game is still played, either indoors or outside.  The game is now played with two boards, each with one circular hole in the center as the target, usually made of four inch PVC pipe.  The boards are placed fifteen feet apart, with three washers per player.  It is said that these boards with holes are superior to the holes dug in the ground because you can’t take the holes with you when you leave.  I guess that logic makes sense.
 
Well, at least the game of pitching washers is still around.  I would like to see it get started again at our high school so the modern teenager could experience the thrill of tossing a washer twenty feet and have it land squarely in the hole for three points.  That is almost as exciting as scoring a touchdown, or making a three-pointer in basketball.
 
I grew up in a simpler time when we kids had to make up our own games to entertain ourselves.  Pitching washers was one of the best.
 
 
 
 
 
“WASHER  PITCHING”
 
BY: NEAL MURPHY
 
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
936-275-9033
cell: 936-275-6986
email: sugarbear@netdot.com
 
530 Words
 
 

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