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Stories

Don't Get My Goat


 

 

Have you ever used the phrase “that really gets my goat”?  I think we all use that expression from time to time which means that an occurrence or object has caused annoyance.  The “that” in the statement might not even refer to an actual thing, but rather to a situation.  It is also common for a person to direct the phrase at someone else as “you really get my goat” to indicate that the object of the comment is annoying the speaker.

 

I wondered where this phrase came from and what it actually means, so I did some research on the matter.  As it turns out, there is no clear consensus on the phrase’s origin, but there appears to be agreement that the expression revolves around the idea that goats are kept with other animals to help keep them calm.

 

The saying is distinctly American dating back to 1909 and involved placing goats with racehorses to keep them calm.  Whenever opponents wanted the horse to perform badly they would sneak out the goat during the night, the horse became unsettled and ran badly in the race.  So, the bad guy “got someone’s goat”.

 

This idea is supported by Bette Gabriel, a horse trainer at the Arlington International Racecourse.  In addition to the approximately 1,200 horses stabled there, there are more than 60 goats that call the barns home as well.

 

Ms. Gabriel says that these little goats serve as “pets” for the racehorses and exert a strange, calming influence on most of the skittish, high-strung thoroughbreds.  In fact she has seen cases where a horse would become so attached that its goat would have to be brought along to the paddock every time the horse raced.  In most cases the relationship between goat and horse is a one-on-one situation and they become inseparable for life.

 

While most horses don’t seem to mind the short separation for racing and exercising, if their goats aren’t around the barn with them, it often means trouble.  They will pace the stalls and fail to get the rest they need.  “It really affects their performance.  They just can’t relax unless their goat is nearby,” she said.  In fact, if a horse is sold, the goat usually goes along with the horse.

Most goats, despite their gruff reputation, are quite docile.  They also stick pretty much to their horses’ stalls and don’t wander around.  Gabriel noted that miniature goats are becoming popular around the race tracks, as well as potbellied pigs.  The pigs sometime get too big and stubborn to transport around with the horses as they move from track to track.

 

Not every horse needs or even wants a goat in its stall, and no one is quite sure what the bond is between the two dissimilar animals, but horse trainers take advantage of the “equine-goat” connection whenever they can, especially since goats eat the same grain as the horses and are very little trouble.  The goat seems to be a security blanket for the horse, like it has a friend who is always there waiting.  It’s a useful tool.

 

One source noted in “Ye Olde English Sayings” the origin of “getting your goat” with reference to an old English belief that keeping a goat in the barn of cows would have a calming effect on the cows, hence producing more milk. When one wanted to antagonize or terrorize one’s enemy, they would abscond with the goat rendering their milk cows less to even non-productive.

Finally, there is an old French phrase “to get your goat” which suggests this is because in old times a person’s goat would be their only source of milk, so they would be understandably angry if someone took it.

 

So, the next time someone “gets your goat”, just remember from whence the phrase originated.  If the matter does not involve race horses or milk cows, perhaps you might want to use another phrase.

 

 

 

 

 

 


“DON’T  GET  MY  GOAT”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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

 

 

660 words

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Don't Look a Gift-Horse in the Mouth


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This little phrase is considered a “proverb”.  Proverbs are short and expressive sayings, in common use, which are recognized as conveying some accepted truth or useful advice.  However, it does present us with a few obvious questions i.e., what is a gift-horse?  Why shouldn’t you look in its mouth? What does this proverb actually mean, and how is it used?  When was the last time that someone gifted you with a horse?

 

This proverb is as pertinent today as it ever was.  The advice given in this “don’t look” proverb is this – when receiving a gift one should be grateful for what it is.  Don’t imply that you wished for more by assessing its value.  In other words, don’t be ungrateful.

 

As with most proverbs the origin is ancient and unknown.  We do have some clues to this one however.  This phrase appears in print in English in 1546 as, “don’t look a given horse in the mouth” by John Heywood.

 

As horses develop and age, they grow more teeth, and their existing teeth begin to change shape and project further forward.  Thus, determining a house’s age from its teeth is a specialist task, but can be done.  A horse’s teeth are regarded as a good guide to its age.  When you buy a horse you might check its teeth to see if they match the age of the horse according to the seller.

It is possible that John Heywood obtained the phrase from a Latin text of St. Jerome, circa AD400, which contains the text “Noli eui dentes inspcere donati’ which translated means, “Never inspect the teeth of a given horse”.


Where St. Jerome got the phrase from we aren’t ever likely to know.

So, the next time someone gives you a horse don’t be ungrateful.  It is considered bad manners to check its teeth, because you are pointedly drawing attention to your doubts about the quality of the gift.

 

 

 

“DON’T LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell 936-275-6986

332 words

 

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The Baptist Fox


 

 

The night of June 3, 2005 was hot, humid, and dry.  The drought conditions in deep East Texas had continued unabated all year.  Both man and beast were in search of cool air and wet water.

As deputies for the Shelby County, Texas Sheriff Department, my partner and I patroled the county, checking the security of businesses, churches, residences, and schools.  On this particular night, we were driving through Blair, a community on the far western side of Shelby County.  We pulled into the parking lot of a small Baptist church located right off the Farm-to-Market highway.  As we drove up to the church, suddenly an animal ran from under the church into the trees beyond.

 

Although we had gotten only a fast look, we identified the animal as a female fox.  She gave a glance back at her intruders as she disappeared into the pine trees behind the church.

Larry and I mused that the fox was probably hot and was using the church crawl space to rest and cool off.  Then, suddenly, a young fox peered at us from the church crawl space opening.  He seemed not to be very afraid of us as he ventured outside the entrance and stared at us.  

The little fox probably was hot, hungry, and thirsty.  Larry had brought along a sandwich to eat later on during our shift.  He eased out of the patrol car, opened the back door, and got half of his sandwich.  He moved toward the small fox, talking to him gently.  The fox retreated back into the safety of the church while Larry placed the sandwich on the ground at the entrance.
Then Larry found an old bowl, and filled it with water from a nearby water hose, and set it beside the sandwich.

 

After retreating to our patrol car, we sat and watched as the young fox came out of hiding, gulped down the food, and lapped up the water, ignoring his audience only a few feet away.  Then he just stood there watching us intently long enough for us to take several pictures of him.

I left a note on the front door of the church advising them that they had a family of foxes living under their church.

 

Each time we were in the Blair community, be would stop and check on our fox family.  We saw the mother a few more times, and the young fox began to run from us.  His mother probably gave him some lessons about the dangers of humans and how to avoid them.  Eventually, they were both gone, but they served as an interesting break for us while on patrol.

 

A church member jested that the two fox were baptized, and were never seen at church again.  Seems I have heard that before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE  BAPTIST  FOX”

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


472 words

 

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Stubborn as a Mule


 

 

 

Have you ever hear someone say about a person, “He’s as stubborn as a mule?”   Or perhaps even you have been called “mule headed” by others.  I think we all know what the meaning of the word is, but are mules really stubborn?  If someone is stubborn, it means that they are contrary, unwilling to change, or unwilling to do things that are expected of them.  Some people say that the stubborn person “walks to the beat of his own drum”.

 

Mule expert, John Hauer wrote a book several years ago titled “The Natural Superiority of Mules” in which he says that mules are not really stubborn at all.  He says that they are simply too intelligent to do stupid things.  They also have a powerful self-protective streak.  As an example, if you load up a pack mule with too much weight he will refuse to budge.  But when you lighten the load to a point the mule feels comfortable, he will get going.  Another example – when a mule is exhausted after a long day on the trail, he will stop.  Is he being stubborn?  No, it’s the self-preservation thing.  By contrast, a horse can be ridden to death.  

 

Contrary to popular belief, mules are not slow.  Sure, a quarter horse would win a race around a track, but a mule can keep up a nice gait for hours, and would likely win the endurance race against a horse.  Hauer says that extreme heat doesn’t affect mules as much as horses.  He explains that the large ears, inherited from the donkey side, radiate heat.  Because mules do not sweat much, they do not require as much water as horses.

 

Other mule facts: Pound for pound, they are stronger than horses.  They can jump better than horses.  Their speed and agility is equal to a horse.  They live from five to ten years longer than a horse. Also, their hybrid vigor (they’re produced by mating a male donkey with a female horse) makes them resistant to many of the infections and afflictions common to horses.  In addition, they are exceptionally cute and loveable.  Hauer says that a mule can do anything a horse can do; they can do some things better; and they’ll love you like a dog.  “I kind of consider the mule a super-horse,” says Hauer.

 

Hauer tells about how mules have carried him with unwavering sure-footedness into the highest reaches of the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains, through Nevada’s burning desert, and up Colorado’s canyons.  They did not get sick, they did not go lame, they never missed a step, nor did they slip on a rock.  Whereas on those rides, he recalls watching other riders dismount their horses and lead them along especially treacherous trails. “It never occurred to me to get off.  I knew the mule could handle the trail better than I could,” says Hauer.

 

I remember that in the long-running “Gunsmoke” television series, Festus Haggen rode a mule named Ruth, instead of a horse.  Perhaps Festus knew something about mules back then.  It’s time to give credit where credit is due.  Let’s put a stop to the “stubborn as a mule” myth.  The next time someone calls you “mule headed”, just say “Thank you for the compliment”.

 

 

 

“STUBBORN AS A MULE”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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

547 words

 

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Rocky Mountain Oysters


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in East Texas during the 1940s and 1950s, and must admit that my culinary experiences were very limited.  I ate mostly meat, potatoes, and other vegetables that my dad grew in our small garden.  I liked fried catfish, but never developed an appetite for the other little sea critters like shrimp, clams, oysters, and other like sea offerings.

 

It was not until I enrolled in college in Waco that I was introduced to the now popular pizza pie.  So, I was way behind the culinary curve in most areas.

 

In 1974 we moved to Littleton, Colorado where I took a VP position with an insurance company.  Being the new guy on the block, I had to endure some good-natured ribbing and pranks in order to become accepted by the herd.  It was at this point that I was introduced to a delicacy, or a Hors d’oeuvre, to many Colorado natives.

 

I had lunch with one of our local agents one day and he asked me the question, “Have you had any Rocky Mountain oysters yet?”  I hated to reveal my ignorance to the guy, but I had no idea what he was referring to.  So I replied, “Well, Bill, I don’t think I have ever eaten any.  In fact, I don’t like oysters.”  That comment produced a chuckle from Bill and he then told me what they really are.  I was stunned.  “Do you mean that people actually eat those things?” was my reply, knowing I had fallen for the loaded question.  He laughed and said, “Oh, sure.  They are quite a delicacy out here in the northwest.  You just got to try some.”  I never did eat one.

 

In truth, “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is a term for a dish made of bull, pig, or sheep testicles.  The organs are often deep-fried, coated in flour, pepper and salt, and sometimes pounded flat.  This delicacy is most often served as an appetizer with a cocktail sauce dip. 

 

In the western part of the United States, most people lived off the land.  “Waste not – want not” is often the idiom of choice when living off the land. Have left-over green tomatoes from your summer garden?  Fried green tomatoes it is.  Manure from your barn?  Throw it on the compost pile.  Found yourself with buckets of testicles from the annual branding and castrating of spring calves?  Tuck it in, pardners - we’ve got some eating to do.

 

It’s safe to say that the practice has appalled and fascinated the uninitiated for years.  Many “hunter and gatherer” cultures would not want to waste anything.  The dish, purportedly mainly cowboy fare, is most commonly found served at festivals, amongst ranching families, or at certain specialty eating establishments and bars.

 

Just as there are legends about the organ meats such as liver and heart, there’s also the historical notion that consuming testosterone-rich testicles can be a masculinity-booster for those gentlemen seeking that extra edge either on the battlefield, or with the ladies.  There is a supposed “Viagra” effect, according to tradition.

 

I have read that many ranches collect them during branding, and when they are all done they will have a party afterwards.  The “oysters” will be the main meal – a full course to go along with the beer and whiskey.

 

Going back to my culinary roots, I feel that this delicacy is one that I can do without, just like the real oysters, shrimp, and crabs.  I just wanted to warn those of you who visit one of the western states, that you might get asked the same question I was, but unlike me, you will now know what Rocky Mountain oysters really are.

 

 

 

“ROCKY MOUNTAIN OYSTERS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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


618 words

 

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Arm and Hammer


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


If you are like me growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, you are acquainted with the chemical bicarbonate of soda under the brand name of Arm and Hammer.  Baking soda, as it was called then, was used as an antacid for the stomach.  I recall my mother making me swallow a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a glass of water to make my stomach feel better, and it worked.

 

I was personally acquainted with the soda’s logo, a red circle with a muscular arm holding a steel sledge hammer inside.  I really never thought much about the company, however, a little research indicated a rather interesting history.

 

I always thought that the company was started by the tycoon Armand Hammer.  But, my research tells me that the product was in use 31 years before Mr. Hammer was born.

The logo of the brand depicts the ancient symbol of a muscular arm holding a hammer inside a red circle with the brand name and slogan.  This arm and hammer represents Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metalworking.  This logo is a registered trademark of Church & Dwight, a major American manufacturer of household products.

 

 

 

Originally associated solely with baking soda and washing soda, the company began to expand the brand to other products in the 1970s by using baking soda as a deodorizing ingredient.  The new products included toothpaste, laundry detergent, underarm deodorant, and cat litter.

Armand Hammer started out as John Dwight & Company in 1846 when John Dwight and Austin Church used their sodium bicarbonate in their kitchen.  They formerly made the COW BRAND trademark on their baking soda.  In 1886, Austin retired and his two sons succeeded in selling their Arm and Hammer Baking Soda through their name, Church & Company as a competing company which continued selling Cow Brand baking soda. The Church & Dwight Company was formed when the two companies were merged.

 

Armand Hammer was so often asked about the Church & Dwight brand that he attempted to buy the company.  While unsuccessful, Hammer’s Occidental Petroleum in 1986 acquired enough stock for him to join the Church & Dwight board of directors.  Hammer remained one of the owners of Arm & Hammer Company until his death in 1990.

 

The Arm and Hammer logo has been used in heraldry, appearing in the Coat of Arms of Birmingham, and the Seal of Wisconsin.

 

The similarity to the name of the industrialist, Armand Hammer, is not a coincidence as he was named after the symbol.  His father, Julius Hammer, was a supporter of socialist causes, including the Socialist Labor Party of America, with its arm-and-hammer logo.  This symbol is referred to by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities.  As of 2016 the original sign is being held in the Charles Dickens Museum in London. England.

 

 


“ARM AND HAMMER”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
“humptydumpty1940@gmail.com

475 words

 

 

 

 

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The Shooting Starr


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Starr claimed that he had robbed more banks than both the James-Younger Gang, and the Doolin-Dalton Gang put together.  He began robbing banks on horseback in 1893, and ended up robbing his last bank in a Nash automobile in 1921.  Thus, he was the first bank robber to use an automobile in a bank robbery.  Henry is alleged to have robbed a total of 21 banks, making off with nearly $60,000 in money and gold.

 

He was the most notorious bank robber of the old west.  He glorified himself in his autobiography, and at least didn’t blame outside influences as some do, but called it his chosen path.  Starr served a total of eighteen years in prison, and was generally a model prisoner.

Born in Indian Territory near what would later become Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, on December 2, 1873, Henry Starr was a horse thief, a train robber, a bank robber, and a convicted murderer.  Interestingly, he wrote an autobiography and also starred in the silent film that was made from his memoirs. The movie was titled “A Debtor to the Law”.

 

Henry Starr was destined to become a criminal.  His grandfather, Tom Starr, was known as “the Devil’s own”, and his father, George “Hop” Starr, was a bandit in his own right.  His uncle, Sam Starr, was also an outlaw and was married to the infamous Belle Starr.  Henry was part Cherokee, and grew up in Indian Territory near the Arkansas border.  By age sixteen he had been arrested for bringing whiskey into Indian Territory, reportedly in a stolen wagon.  He jumped bail and fled the territory.

 

Henry could not stay out of trouble with the law.  He robbed his first bank in 1893, and in all that time he only killed one man, and even that is not for sure.  Starr was sentenced to hang by “hanging Judge” Isaac Parker, but won a reprieve.  Eventually, no less that President Theodore Roosevelt pardoned him for bravery in disarming a noted badman, Cherokee Bill, during a prison break.  It is thought that his pardon was influenced because one of Starr’s relatives was a member of the Rough Riders in Cuba.

 

Starr then went straight, and got married, however the state of Arkansas wanted him extradited for an old bank robbery.  Starr then teamed up with Kid Wilson and robbed more banks.  He was eventually caught, and served four years in prison.  After he was released he robbed fourteen more banks.

 

Starr just couldn’t stay straight.  In 1915 he tried to rob a bank in Stroud, Oklahoma, but was wounded by a teenager, and captured.  He went to prison again, and after his release, re-enacted his role in a movie in 1920.  But, Starr went back to robbing banks.  At Harrison, Arkansas, Starr attempted to rob two banks on the same day.  Unknown to Starr, the president of the People’s National Bank, W. J. Myers had hidden a .38 caliber rifle in the bank vault, and while Starr was collecting the money, Myers shot him. Starr died four days later on February 2, 1921.

Henry Starr is buried in the Dewey Cemetery north of Dewey, Oklahoma on the east side of U. S. Highway 75.  

 

For decades afterward, Starr supporters targeted the by-then blind W. J. Myers and his family.  Myers’ grandson was even targeted for kidnapping and ransom.  All attempt at revenge by the Starr family proved futile.

 

 

 


“THE SHOOTING STARR”

BY:  Neal Murphy

PO Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
Humptydumpty1940@gmail.com


579 words

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fender Skirts


 


I haven’t thought of fender skirts in years until recently.  I was examining a few items in my toy car collection when I looked at my 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air which had rear fender skirts.  I always liked the look on most of the 1940 and 1950 model cars which sported the skirts.

 

When I was a kid, I considered “fender skirts” a funny term.  It made me think of a car in a dress.  But with the introduction of the white wall tire the fender skirt just added a bit more class to the automobile.  If you were born after 1950 you probably don’t know what fender skirts were.  Well, they were installed mostly on the rear fenders to cover the top half of the wheel.  They had both aesthetic and aerodynamic functions.  Rather than air flowing into and being trapped in the rear wheel well, it flowed smoothly over the body work. According to some fans, the fender skirts improved gas mileage due to the air flow around the vehicle, however back in those days we weren’t particularly worried about good gas mileage as gasoline was around .30 cents a gallon, a fill-up costing around $6.00.

 

The fender skirts were detachable to allow for tire changes and installation of snow chains.  Auto makers experimented with front fender skirts on the 1950-1954 Nash Rambler, but with very limited success because the front tires must pivot which caused problems.

 

The fender skirt innovation introduction by Ammos Northup became common after 1933.  However, by the 1970s, fender skirts began to disappear from mass market automobiles.  They remained for some time longer on a few cars, particularly large American luxury cars.  By 1985 fender skirts would disappear from all standard GM cars.  As of 2009, the last car produced with fender skirts was the 1999-2006 Honda Insight.

 

Thinking about fender skirts started me thinking about other items that quickly disappear from our language with hardly a notice - like “curb feelers”.  Curb feelers were springs or wires installed on a vehicle which act as “whiskers” to warn drivers that they are too close to the curb while attempting to parallel park.  The devices were fitted low on the car body near the wheels. As the car approached the curb, the protruding feelers acted as whiskers and scraped against the curb making a noise and alerting the driver in time to avoid damaging the tires or hubcaps.  It seems that those curb feelers have disappeared from common use today.

 

Remember “Continental kits”?  They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car look as cool as a Lincoln Continental.  I used to see them installed on Fords, Chevrolets, and Plymouths frequently, but no more.

 

When did we stop talking about “emergency brakes”?  At some point “parking brake” became the proper term.  But I miss the hint of major drama which went with “emergency brake”, don’t you?

When was the last time you saw a car with a steering wheel knob?  I had one on my first car, a 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air, and I loved it.  It allowed me to steer with my left hand and put my right arm around the girl sitting next to me.  I understand that the all-knowing government has outlawed their use except for people with disabilities.  They changed the name of the knobs to “suicide knobs” as they contended that in the event of a collision the knob would do a number on one’s chest.

 

I think that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the “foot feed”, or the windshield the “wind screen”.

 

Some words aren’t gone, but are definitely on the endangered list.  The one that bothers me the most is “supper”.  Now everybody says “dinner”.  Let’s save a great word.  Invite someone to supper and discuss fender skirts.
   

 


“FENDER SKIRTS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: humptydumpty1940@gmail.com

647 words

 

 

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The Art of Spitting


 

I know you have witnessed this strange ritual many times:  A baseball player steps into the batter’s box, hits the plate with his bat, then spits.  After each pitch he then steps out of the box and spits again.  Or, you have seen a football player get down in his stance, stare at his opponent, then spits before the ball is snapped.  I have often wondered about this spitting ritual done mostly by men.  Personally I have never felt the need to spit just to be doing it, so I guess that is why I don’t understand.

 

Spitting is currently considered rude and a social taboo in many parts of the world, including the West.  In China it is considered more acceptable.  Social attitudes towards spitting have changed greatly in Western Europe since the Middle Ages. Back then, frequent spitting was a part of everyday life, and at all levels of society it was thought ill-mannered to hold back saliva to avoid spitting.  By the early 1700s, spitting had become seen as something which should be concealed, and by 1859 many viewed spitting on the floor or street as vulgar, especially in mixed company.  

 

Spittoons were used openly during the 19th century to provide an acceptable outlet for spitters.  Spittons became far less common after the influenza epidemic of 1918, and their use has since virtually disappeared, though each justice of the Supreme Court of the United States continues to be provided a personal cuspidor.

 

So, the question is this, “Is spitting functional or gratuitous?”  On the sidelines, on the team bench, television gives us up-close images of a behavior that we frown upon in homes, most interior spaces generally, and out-of-doors public places as well.

 

Some sports see it, others don’t.  Golfers, or tennis players don’t spit. Basketball players in big indoor arenas don’t - or do they?  Is social class a factor?  Is the culture of a particular sport conducive or un-conducive?  If so, why?  I watch athletes spitting water and I wonder why don’t they just drink what they need, swallow it all, and quit there?  

Could it be that spitting has to do with the degree of exertion?  If you’re pushing yourself hard, especially if mouth breathing is used, the mouth tends to dry out and mucous and phlegm tend to build up.  Spitting clears the mouth before you inhale and start choking.

 

Many basketball players spit a lot, but much of this is done over the end lines in smaller gyms, or into towels.  Soccer and football players are big on expectorating, but seem to try to do it where they and others will not be falling into it.  The same holds true in tennis - you don’t want to grease the court, so many wait until the breaks when they can rinse their mouth with water at the same time.

 

Spitting is tied to chewing tobacco in our dear old American culture, and chaw use peaked in about 1890.  This cultural timing may partly explain the enduring association between chaw, baseball, and spitting - and may partly explain baseball’s remarkable supply of ritual gestures and posturing.

 

Another point about spitting and sport:  spitting has actually become a sport.  In Michigan they have cherry pit spitting contests.  In the deep south I have heard of watermelon seed spitting contests.  These are distance competitions.  I wonder if they judge the spitter on style as well as distance?

 

One last thought here - that is the ritual spitting of that last mouthful of water.  Not in clearing the throat, but in that last mouthful of water.  Why spit it out?  Is it a symbolic tribute to the gods, or to make a statement?  Do you know of any sport in which women athletes spit the way men do?  I can’t think of any, so spitting is perhaps male-specific.  One suggestion might be this - is spitting a way of an athlete marking his territory?

 

A lineman spits on a football field at the line of scrimmage in front of an opponent.  Is he not saying, “this is my turf”?  Is it not also an expression of disrespect to the opponent: “I spit in your general direction you wimpy pig-dog!”  Of course, I ask myself much the same thing when I see young men and boys spitting on the street or sidewalk, too.

 

I suppose there is no good answer to this question.  Men will continue to spit just because they can and it makes them feel good.

 

 

 

 

“THE  ART  OF  SPITTING”

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

754 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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My Hat's Off to You


 

 

 


One of my pet peeves is for a man to wear his hat or cap in the house.  Back in my day, men were taught to remove their hats or caps as soon as they crossed the threshold of a house or public building.  In addition, the ladies were to remove theirs if they obstructed someone’s view.  There were very few exceptions to the rule, so it was easy to know what to do.

 

The world has become more casual over time, and even though hats aren’t necessarily a problem, it’s never wrong to remove them when going indoors, especially when you are in the presence of someone from a generation when that was the thing to do.

 

Hats were originally designed to keep the head warm, protect it from the sun, and keep the dust out of one’s eyes. They were removed when the man went indoors to prevent the dust on the hat from getting on the furniture and floor of the house.

 

Now days, hats are as much a fashion statement as they are practical.  Even so, there are some places that a man might want to think about removing his hat. This includes dress hats, knit hats, berets, beanies, and baseball caps.

 

The following are some of the most important places that men should consider removing their hats or caps:

 

In Someone’s home:  Any time you visit the home of a friend or family member, take off your hat at the door. Keep your hat off until it’s time to leave.  If you have a habit of leaving it on all the time, work on breaking it at home.

 

In a Public Place:  This includes restaurants, malls, schools, offices, churches, and any other place where you will see other people.  There is nothing wrong with wearing a hat indoors if it’s required, such as a hard hat at a construction site.

 

During the “National Anthem”: The hat must be removed and held until the anthem is over.  This rule applies both indoors and outside.

 

What about women and hats?  This may sound like a double standard, but women have had a completely different set of rules for wearing hats, at least in the past.  Women could always pretty much get away with wearing a fashion hat whenever they want, as long as it doesn’t obstruct someone’s view, or interfere with their work.

 

Hats have been around for centuries, so they come with quite a bit of history.  Maybe learning a few things about your headwear will make you see it in a totally different light.

 

• To don a hat is to put it on.  To doff it is to take it off.

• The phrase “Mad Hatter” came from the time when hat makers handled mercury and other toxic chemicals that affected their nervous system, and often caused early dementia.

• National Hat Day is January 15th.  This is the time to don your favorite headwear in celebration of the hat.

• The first time a top hat was worn in public in the late 1870s, people were appalled and started a riot because it broke the rules of the day.

 

“Hat etiquette” rules have faded, but not disappeared for some people, generally the older generation, of which I am a part, where the old guidelines still apply.  Although knowing when and where don a hat or doff it is not difficult to apply. The old rules may seem silly, but they offer an excellent show of respect for society.

 

Ask any southern belle about hats, and she’ll tell you that wearing them is a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Wearing a hat or cap carries some responsibility, and that includes knowing when to take it off.

 

 

 

MY HAT’S OFF TO YOU

 

By Neal Murphy

 

PO Box 511

San Augustine, Texas 75972

936-275-9033

 

628 words

 

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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

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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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