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Stories Archives for 2018-11

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

486 words

 

 

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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


484 words

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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

389 words

 

 

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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


679 words

 

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