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Stories

The Addiction


 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“THE  ADDICTION”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY

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


554 Words

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Doings in the Doctor's Office


 

 

 

My wife, Clara, began her medical career in 1959 when she went to work for Dr. M. J. Buchele in San Augustine.  She worked there several years along with Helen Farr until we moved to Houston in 1962.  She then worked for several different doctors for the next twenty six years.  She has the “inside scoop” of what really goes on behind the scenes in a doctor’s office.

Most of us see doctor’s offices as rather drab and usually full of sick people not on their best behavior.  But, that view can be incorrect.

 

Clara was working for a Dr. Cruce in Houston on North Shepherd Street around 1964.  She was receptionist/bookkeeper/lab assistant/nurse for the office.  One spring morning when the waiting room was full of people waiting their turn, she heard someone cry out that there was a snake in the room.  “A snake?  I hate snakes!  I am afraid of snakes, everybody knows that.”  Clara thought as she responded to the distress call.  But, she needed a weapon to fight off a dangerous snake and nothing could be found.  She spotted a small cutting board on a cabinet.  She grabbed it by its handle and rushed into the danger zone weapon at the ready.

 

The snake had coiled itself at the base of a pot plant.  He was about a foot long and mostly green. “How did it get into our office?”, Clara wondered to herself.  She mustered up all her gumption and quickly lay the cutting board on top of the snake, then stomped on it with her foot.  The snake never knew what hit him.  While this was happening, a male patient ran his finger up her back about the same time as a joke, which almost backfired. “Just for that I am giving you a shot with a square, rusty, needle”, Clara retorted.

 

The doctor never knew what was going on at the time, but found it amusing after it was over.  However, Clara was not amused.

 

On another occasion a man walked into the same doctor’s office holding a cat in his arms.  He walked up to the window and handed Clara the cat.  He reported, “We don’t want the cat.  Here, take it back.”  She realized that he had mistaken their office for the Veterinary office located down the street.  As the man turned to leave, Clara protested, “But, sir, this is a doctor’s office.  The veterinary office is two doors down.”   Apparently not hearing or understanding, the man looked over his shoulder and repeated, “I said we don’t want the cat.  Just put it to sleep for all we care.”

 

As he walked out the front door, Clara raced after him with the cat in hand.  She caught him in the parking lot and finally convinced him that he had brought the cat to the wrong office.  He reluctantly took the cat back.

 

Back in the office Dr. Cruce kidded Clara, “Well, I see you almost got a new cat, didn’t you.”  “I sure did, no thanks to you”, she replied.

 

Since Clara performed some lab tests for the office, she would normally take off her wedding rings to protect them from chemicals.  On one occasion while she was taking her rings off they suddenly flew off her finger toward the floor, but she never heard them hit the floor.  After performing the lab test, her number one project was to find her rings.  She looked everywhere but could not find them. Even Dr. Cruce joined in the hunt but to no avail.

 

As a last resort, Clara asked Dr. Cruce if she could check the inside of his pant cuffs for the rings.  He agreed and she found them there.  The rings had apparently landed in his pant cuffs on their way to the floor.

 

Space prohibits me from relating several other incidents, such as getting her finger caught in the posting machine, accidentally breaking a finger by shutting a sliding door on it -  she x-rayed it herself.   She was even grabbed and kissed on three different occasions by male patients who apparently could not control their passion.

 

So, the next time you go to a doctor’s office you should realize that there could be some “doings in the doctor’s office” going on.


Author contact: sugarbear@netdot.com


“DOINGS  IN  THE  DOCTOR’S  OFFICE”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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

715 Words

 

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Clara's Culinary Calamities


 


When we were married in 1958 Clara knew nothing about cooking.  Since I knew a lot about eating she made it her mission to learn all about preparing food fit for a king.  I knew she must have thought of me as a king because she was always presenting me with burnt offerings.  My, how things have changed over the years.  I no longer receive burnt offerings from her as she has become a great cook.

 

One of her passions is sharing her culinary delights with other people.  Our car floorboard and seats are stained from juices of the many casseroles and other dishes that she has taken to people.  Our cat loves to smell around on our car as she discovers new food aromas.   All that being said, she has encountered a number of “calamities” along the way concerning her food.

In the summer of 1958, her parents drove to Beaumont to visit us in our very first apartment, a small roach-infested house on North Street.  Clara purchased a nice looking watermelon at Weingarten’s for us to enjoy.  Late in the afternoon I put the melon on the counter and stuck the large knife into the end.  The melon immediately burst and spewed its contents on us.  The melon was almost rotten.  Clara was upset because this was her first opportunity to entertain her parents as a married woman.

 

Several years later she decided to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving.  We were having a number of family members to enjoy the meal with us.  After cooking the turkey for several hours and putting dressing all around it, someone asked her about the packet of goodies stuffed inside the turkey which are to be removed prior to baking.  Clara responded, “What packet?”  In spite of the fact that the packet had not been removed, it was still delicious.

 

Back in the days when one could take most anything on an airplane with you, she decided that she should take a yellow water melon  to North Carolina.  She put the melon in a large tote bag and took it on the plane.  Upon arrival, the melon cracked open and made a mess in the bag. 

In a similar vein, she decided to take some fresh vegetables to our daughter in Wyoming since these items are rather rare there.  So she loaded up a large bag with fresh okra, ripe tomatoes, and a cantaloupe and carried the bag on the plane.  After landing in St. Lake City, our son-in-law commented that he smelled an odor coming from the tote bag.  Upon examination, he discovered that the cantaloupe had exploded at some  point in the flight.

 

Her most memorable calamity happened about ten years ago.  A couple that we had known for many years moved up from Houston upon retirement.  They had been here only a short time when the husband died of a heart attack.  Clara went into action in the kitchen.  She prepared much food to take to the family, including a large white cake.  It was placed on a cake pan which had a metal protective cover.  Several friends accompanied us as we made our way to the home.

Upon arrival the grieving widow met us at the door.  Clara handed her the freshly baked cake in its metal cover.  When the lady took the top off the cake pan, the cake had disappeared.  There were traces of it left on the bottom pan, so we knew that it had been in there.  Startled, everyone looked at each other silently wondering who had removed the cake and why.  Abashed, Clara asked for the cake pans back so she could investigate.  She found the cake stuck inside the top.  In spite of the sad occasion, we all got a good laugh out of that one.

 

Years ago there was a gentleman who had a vegetable stand on Hwy 147 north of town.  She referred to him as “the man who sells watermelons and peas beside the road”.  We still get a kick out of that one to this day.


“CLARA’S  CULINARY  CALAMITIES”

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

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Cheetos and 42



Both my parents and paternal grandparents were avid 42 players, and I was introduced to this domino game at an early age.  I began my 42 career around age eight or nine - they waited until I learned to count and cipher.

 

My grandmother, Mary Murphy, was a very serious player, you know the type who hates to lose, counts all the dominoes, and will know who has what domino in their hand.  I never advanced to her level of proficiency.

 

My parents hosted “42 parties” at least once a  month.  They had enough room in the house to set up four or five tables.  We had great fun with the winners of one table taking on the winners of another table until the champion team evolved.

 

It seems that after evening church services many times the pastor of Liberty Hill Baptist Church, Bro. Russell Smith, would join us for several games.  I recall him to be the most avid player of all time.  He would make very high bids with hardly any good dominoes.  I enjoyed seeing him in action.

 

Sometime before 1950 my mother introduced a new snack to the domino tables.  It was a cheese snack named “Chee-toes”.  I fell in love with these morsels and consumed more than my share every time.  This new snack was touted as “a cheese-flavored cornmeal snack” by their maker Frito-Lay Company.  The snack was introduced to the market in 1948 along with a potato snack, “Fritatos”.  I don’t recall the latter product as it must have had a short life.  I still enjoy a sack of Cheetos from time to time.

 

My 42 career continued during my college days.  I lived at a boarding house and a game was usually going most of the day.  I recall that we would begin playing soon after lunch and play continuously until midnight.  Some of us even cut our lab classes in order to play 42 uninterrupted.

 

I learned later on in my career that 42 is definitely a Texas domino game.  When in Colorado most people admitted that they had never heard of the game.   We found several transplanted Texas families and formed a 42 club.  We enjoyed the game one night a month, rotating to different homes.  All the couples were from Texas except a lone Louisiana pair.  We felt that they were close enough to Texas to qualify for acceptance.

 

I truly think that playing 42 helped me learn to count, to concentrate, and most importantly, how to lose gracefully. Eating a Cheetos snack did not hurt anything, either.

 

“CHEETOS AND 42”'

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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

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Don't Goose Me


 


When I was in Junior High in San Augustine, Texas back in the late 1940s, I had an acceptable mode of transportation to and from school – a Schwinn Bicycle.  Our home was only about ¾ mile from the school, so it was a good way for me to get to school, especially since the trip was downhill from the house.

 

We never met officially, this white goose and I, but he became my nemesis on the way to school every day.  Actually there were two of them in the yard, but only this one seemed to hate me.

The first time he attacked me on my bicycle I was shocked.  A mad goose is pretty intimidating to a 13-year-old boy, and they can bite a plug out of your leg. So, I had to take defensive measures.  From then on I would get up a good speed going by this goose’s house, then put my feet up on the handlebars and coast by.  The attacker could not reach my feet or legs and just flailed at the wheels.  I hoped that the goose would get its beak stuck between the spokes of my bicycle – would serve him right.

 

I then decided that the goose was mad at the bicycle, and not me.  So, I decided to walk to school so there would be no reason for the attack.  This did not work either, as the goose charged me, head down, wings spread wide, in full attack mode.  I had been told by some smart upper-classmen that I should not show any fear, just stand my ground.  Well, that did not work either as I had to fight him off with my books.  The goose owner never seemed to care whether his goose attacked me or not.

 

Eventually, my father began to allow me to drive his old pick up truck to school when I got my drivers license at age fourteen.  I kept hoping that the mad goose would charge the truck so I could extract revenge, but he must have been on to my plan.  He never charged the truck.

Pretty soon, the white goose became just a bad memory as I pursued other things at school.  Thinking back now, I never even noticed when the goose went away for good, perhaps as a Thanksgiving meal, or killed in some roadside mishap.  At any rate, he did make for a nice remembrance.  If only I had taken a picture of him, but I would have needed a “speed graphic” camera to catch him in his attack mode.

 

“DON’T  GOOSE  ME”

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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Driving Mrs. Thorp


 

 


When a young man is about to propose marriage to his lady, it is important that the lady’s family is in agreement.  That was the situation in which I found myself in 1956 at age twenty.  I was attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas, but my love lived a four-hour drive away in Hemphill, Texas.  Every other weekend I drove my 1950 Chevrolet to East Texas to be with Clara, my future wife.  I certainly wanted her family, all of it, to approve of my being grafted into their family by marriage.

 

A situation arose in which Clara’s grandmother, Mrs. Thorp, found herself in Waco and needed a ride to Hemphill on the Friday afternoon that I was going to see her granddaughter.  Here was a chance to gain the approval of another member of her family.  I agreed to her riding with me.  

Washing my Chevrolet made it look nice, and eased some of my nervousness.  I picked up Mrs. Thorp mid afternoon and we began what I hoped would be an uneventful journey to East Texas.  The fickle finger of fate, or Murphy’s Law, either, or both, decided that the trip would not be uneventful.

 

About one hour into our trip a tire blew out. How could this happen, I thought to myself as I struggled to replace the blown tire with the spare.  My spare did not get much attention, and I was surprised that it still had enough air in it to support my car.  Finally, we were back on the road again, my clothes a bit dirty.  I stopped at the first service station I saw and aired the spare fully.  I breathed easier now, and resumed the trip.  My passenger seemed unruffled about this event.

Still, I was not in the clear in trying to do my good deed.  About an hour later in our drive, another tire blew out suddenly.  This time there was no spare to bail me out of my predicament.  I was left to my own initiative to handle this crisis.  How I handled it would leave a permanent impression on Mrs. Thorp as to my abilities to care for her granddaughter.  Could I pass this test?

We were within a few miles of a small farm town so I decided to drive on the flat, slowly, until I found a tire store or service station.  The first business I saw was a Humble service station, so I limped onto the apron.  “Do you have any new or used tires in stock?” I pleaded.  After checking his stock, the attendant announced, “Well, don’t have any used ones, but I have a new one that will fit your car.  You want it?”   I really did not want it, but I had to have it.

 

Now, the big question – how to pay for a new tire.  I checked my wallet to find around twenty-five dollars, not nearly enough.  I began to feel panicky.  Then I spotted a Humble credit card that my dad had let me borrow, just in case of an emergency.  Well, I felt this situation would certainly qualify as an emergency.

 

Back on the road again, this time with a new tire on the front.  Mrs. Thorp appeared to be taking all this in stride.  She will never ride with me anywhere again, I thought.  What an impression I must be making on her.  How could anyone be unlucky enough to have two, count them, two blowouts on the same trip?

 

Then it came to me, the answer to my question.  A few months earlier I had seen a tire shop in Nacogdoches that specialized in recapping tires. For around twelve dollars one could take in an old, bald tire, and get a like-new retread.  I could not afford four new tires, so had all of them recapped.  They were supposed to be as good as new ones, I was told.  It never occurred to me that all those pieces of tires you see on the road came from recapped truck tires.  That should have been a clue.  Well, live and learn as they say.

 

The trip to Hemphill ended without further problems.  Mrs. Thorp was as happy to see her family as I was to see my young lady.  This unfortunate incident was never mentioned again, even at our wedding.  So, I assume that I passed the silent family test in spite of Murphy’s Law and the fickle finger of fate.


“DRIVING  MRS.  THORP”

BY: NEAL  MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
P O BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972

936-275-9033

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So You're Married to Type "A"


Medical experts tell us that there are two personality types of people – Type A and Type B.  Those who would be considered on the Type A side of the spectrum are those that are more driven, more focused, more goal-oriented, more diligent, more likely to get stressed and emotional, and more  likely to have heart attacks and/or mental breakdowns.

The other side of the spectrum includes everyone else, who are called Type B personalities. These people aren’t as driven or goal-oriented, are more laid back, and more careless.  

My wife, Clara, is definitely a Type A personality, and I tend toward a Type B.  If you happen to be married to a Type A person, then you will probably appreciate the following list of the things that the Type A person does.  One does not necessarily have to possess ALL of the following characteristics to be a Type A, but most will have several of them.

The experts tell us the following about the Type A person:

They don’t procrastinate.  They hate the idea of wasting time so they do things the moment they come to mind.  Why wait and do it later when you can just do it now?  My wife definitely has this one.
They always have a task list – a never-ending one.  If there is another day to be lived, then there is another set of tasks to be accomplished. They would be lost without a “to-do list”.  My wife has this trait as well.
They have several alarms set throughout the day so they always stay on top of things.  
Waiting in long lines kills them a little bit inside.  Type A’s are deeply irked by anything that slows their progress, or needlessly keeps them from getting things done.
They bite their nails or grind their teeth.  They are more prone to nervous behaviors like nail biting, teeth grinding, and fidgeting.
They are highly conscientious.  They may get stressed and anxious more often than others, but it’s because they really care.  It is important that they stay on top of all things.
Type A’s frequently talk over and interrupt people.  Not on purpose, of course. But they still find themselves cutting off their friends and acquaintances in order to make their points and advance the conversation.
They have a hard time falling asleep at night.  They tend to dwell on frustrations and worries, and it can keep them up at night.  Their brain goes into overdrive when their head hits the pillow.
People can’t keep up with them.  They like being on the go, and they love getting things done.  The result is more often than not, they’re in a rush.
Relaxing can be hard work for them.  Taking time off to relax can feel 
un-natural - after all, time is money.
     11. They have a low tolerance for incompetence.  Type A’s are driven 
goal centered above all else, which means they can be less accepting
than others when it comes to anything that gets in their way, or any 
person who doesn’t have the same sense of urgency.
12. At work, everything is urgent.  For Type A’s everything has to be done yesterday.  There’s a sense of time urgency that goes along with their impatience and need for deadlines. 
13. They are sensitive to stress.  Type A’s experience stress more intensely than others seem to, and either internalize or externalize it in response. The result is high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
14. They make things happen.  People with this personality type tend to be very good at accomplishing their goals.  Many managers want Type A employees because they know that they can be trusted to get things done.
15. Being late to any function is a sin.  They are punctual and expect others to be the same.  Other peoples’ time is worth respecting.

My wife possesses a number of these traits.  How does your spouse rate? I have always heard that “opposites attract” which may be the reason that I was so attracted to her the very first time I saw that beautiful, sixteen year old girl playing the piano at church. This attraction has lasted many years even though I am a Type B personality.  The answer is simply respecting and accepting each other’s differences and laugh together when you can.

“SO YOU’RE MARRIED TO A TYPE “A”


BY: NEAL MURPHY

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


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The Dueling Cops


 

 

This is the city.  Houston, Texas.  There are over one million stories in the city, and this is one of them.  My name is Murphy, and I was working the night watch out of the patrol division of the Harris County Sheriff Department.  My partner’s name is *John Smith.  The year is 1972.

We had been dispatched to a “suspicious car” call around Interstate 10 west, and Highway 6, in the far western part of Harris County.  The vehicle was not located so I cleared the call with the dispatcher as “GOA” – (police jargon for ‘gone on arrival’).  Then we were dispatched to another call several miles away.

 

John was driving our unmarked patrol car as we headed back toward the city on interstate 10.  Just as we crossed into the city limits of Houston, on the crest of a hill, the Houston Police Department had set up one of those new radar units on a tripod on the side of the freeway.  As we passed I noted that our speed was over eighty.  John said to me, “Well, partner, I guess they are going to come after us.”  He was correct.  I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a patrol car, lights flashing, gaining ground.

 

We pulled over for the city officer who approached the driver side of our patrol car.  I could not help but notice how young he looked.  Peering in the rear view mirror, I could see an older officer still in the car.  His training officer, perhaps?

 

Even though our police radio was chattering incessantly, and we were both in full uniform, the young police officer peered into our vehicle and inquired, “Who do you guys work for?”  John pointed toward his shoulder patch and replied, “We work for Buster Kern, Sheriff of Harris County.”  Unfazed, the young officer then asked, “Who owns this car?”  Again, John pointed to his shoulder patch which clearly read “Deputy Sheriff, Harris County, Texas.”

*Name changed to protect the guilty.


“Well, nevertheless, you were speeding over eighty miles per hour per the radar unit back there”, the young officer pronounced.  “I need to see your drivers’ license, Sir”, he ordered.  “And may I ask why?”, John shot back.  “Well, obviously I am going to write you a speeding ticket”, he replied.  Seemingly this young officer had never heard of “Professional Courtesy” before.

Unfazed, John responded, “Well, if you are going to write me a speeding ticket, then I demand to see your drivers license”, as he reached for his ticket book.  “Just what do you mean?”, responded the young officer as he took a step back.  “It’s simple, buddy.  If I was speeding, then you were speeding, also.  So you are getting a speeding ticket from me.  Now, give me your driver’s license.”

 

I suspect that he was not taught at the academy exactly what to do in a situation like this.  He blurted out, “Stay here!  I will be right back!” as he walked back to his patrol car.  I watched in the rear view and saw that he was discussing his dilemma with the older officer, who seemed to be smiling.

 

In a few minutes, the young cop came back and handed John his drivers license, with only a “You can go now.”  John grinned at me as he put his ticket book back in his brief case and said, “Works every time!”

 

“THE  DUELING  COPS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

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


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Why Don't They Name Tornadoes


 

 

 

On the night of April 24, 2019, I became personally acquainted with a tornado up close and personal.  This mighty wind did considerable damage to my house, particularly my wife’s music studio. I now wonder how tornadoes know which room of a house has the most expensive contents to zero in on.  The music room had two expensive organs and a new piano, all of which sustained water damage.

 

In the future, I will have to remember the date of the tornado to relate the details of it to friends and family.  I wonder why they don’t assign names to tornadoes like they do hurricanes.  Most people remember past hurricanes such as Rita, Katrina, and Carla.  Why, you ask.  Because they have names which identify them. The same should be true of destructive tornadoes.

The World Meteorological Organization is responsible for assigning names to hurricanes.  They began in 1953 using American female names.  Apparently they were running out of female names, so in 1978 they began using male names.  In 1998 they began using foreign names.  The first male named hurricane was “Gilbert”.  I note that today they use foreign male names as well.

I think that tornadoes should be named.  Research reveals that in an average year tornadoes cause some $400 million dollars in damages in North America, and will kill 70 people.  Over 1,000 tornadoes will hit the United States each year.

 

I would recommend that tornadoes be named after vicious animals and poisonous snakes. A few suggestions would be – Tornado Asp, TornadoViper, Tornado Rattler, Tornado Cotton Mouth.  As for vicious animals, I recommendTornado Hyena, Tornado Lion, or Tornado Black Bear.  Any of these would be appropriate names to use.

 

I have decided that Mother Nature will occasionally insert some levity among the destruction.  Case in point – Our yard was awarded “Yard of the Month” in April by the San Augustine Garden Club.  They placed an appropriate sign in our front yard.  The tornado blew the sign across the road and into a vacant lot. Someone found it, brought it back, and planted it in our yard amid all the debris. Almost everyone caught the humor involved.

 

The morning after the storm, we kept hearing someone singing the song ”Jingle Bells”.  I was unable to locate the source. Later on a visitor spied our small singing Christmas tree in the debris pile in the front yard.  After hearing the song over and over, he went over and stomped it dead. 

Hopefully we will be able to return to our house in a couple of months from now.  It appears that the cost to repair the house will exceed its original cost.

 

I have decided to name this tornado “Rattler” because it rattled our senses as nothing before has done.  Our cat, Maggie, is still in a catatonic state.   

 

It appears that Tornado Rattler deposited many things from our storage buildings in White Rock, and Patroon.  Chances are my power lawn mower is lodged in a pine tree somewhere in Shelby County, along with other keepsake items. We are thankful that God watched over all three of us, and we were not harmed.  Good bye, and good riddance Tornado “Rattler”.

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The Lost Weekend


 

Character actor Ned Beatty’s first film was released in 1972, and was entitled “Deliverance”.  It was the story of four male friends from Georgia who went on a weekend outing of boating and fishing in the mountains, and encountered trouble with mountain people. 

 

Long before this movie was made, I was involved in a somewhat similar occasion, a similar mission, but, however, with a decidedly different outcome.  In 1965 while living in Houston, Texas, several of my male friends decided we should go on a weekend trip of fishing and camping.  Our jobs at Allstate Insurance Company were hectic and frustrating at times.  So, this idea of relaxing and sleeping out in the open was very attractive to me and five friends.

 

We elected to drive north to the small town of Hemphill, Texas and find a spot on the Sabine River, which was the border between Texas and Louisiana.  After stopping for bacon, eggs, bread, and coffee at a small mom and pop store in Hemphill, we made our way through the piney woods, on red dirt roads to the banks of the river.  Compared to the mighty Mississippi river, the Sabine is a rather small river.  But its waters contained bass, perch, cat fish, gar, and probably a few alligators – more than enough for our motley crew to handle.

 

After unloading the cars of our gear, mostly sleeping bags and cooking utensils, we began to notice the northwest sky.  A breeze was kicking up, and a dark cloud began to appear.  Soon, lightning was streaking through the sky.  Having grown up near the Sabine River, I felt obliged to offer some sage advice – let’s get out of here before the dirt roads get wet.  I knew from prior experience that one could get stranded or stuck in the mud very easily.

 

So, it seemed wise to pack up the gear again, and try to get back to a paved road before the rain hit us.  About the time we got back on the paved road the rain came down in buckets.  I felt that we were lucky to have gotten out safely.  Consensus of opinion was that we might as well head back to Houston since we could not sleep on a wet and muddy ground.  We recalled the old adage, “You win a few, lose a few, and some get rained out.”  So, this was our rain-out.

On the way back home we drove past a new man-made lake, Dam B, a Corps of Engineers project that had developed a nice lake.  The rain had stopped, the stars were out in abundance, and even the moon was peeking out from behind clouds.  We decided that we might salvage at least one night of our outing by camping out on the shores of Dam B.

 

Again, we emptied our cars of our camping gear, built a fire, and cooked a supper of bacon, eggs, and bread.  We unrolled our sleeping bags and settled in them for a night’s sleep.  The storm had passed, we had full bellies, and the world was good.

 

Around 2:00 in the early morning, we were awakened by the sound of a motor boat out on the lake.  The operator was operating his boat recklessly, loudly, and unsafely.  I suspect that alcohol was a contributing factor to his conduct.

 

One of our crew sat up and made this statement, “I hope his dang motor blows up!!”

We all know that God works in mysterious ways, and sometimes exhibits a sense of humor.  This was one of those occasions.  Even as our brother was uttering his wish, there was a loud boom out on the lake, a fireball erupted around the motor, and we could see the operator diving into the lake, silhouetted against the red fireball.  We all looked at each other in amazement.

Several people rushed their boats to the aid of the victim and apparently he was unhurt.  I am unable to make the same statement about his boat and motor.

 

Well, our “Deliverance” weekend came to an unusual conclusion.  We never planned another outing.  I left Allstate in 1967 to work for another company. 

 

Now the Sabine River is under the waters of Toledo Bend Reservoir, although Dam B Lake is still yielding its fish to the locals.  Somewhere on the bottom of the lake rests a small boat and motor that seemed to have come under the condemnation of the Almighty.

 

“THE  LOST  WEEKEND”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY

107 Hemlock Street
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972

936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com


769 Words

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The Shelby County Houdini


 

 


Harry Houdini was a Hungarian born magician, escapologist, and stunt performer in the early years of 1900.  He was famous for somehow getting himself out of locked boxes, straitjackets, and handcuffs. In fact, in 1904 a locksmith named Nathaniel Hard spent seven years in making a special set of handcuffs that he felt would be impossible for any human to escape.  In a sensational stunt, Houdini freed himself in one hour and ten minutes.  No one knows how he accomplished this feat.

 

Not to be outdone, I once met a Houdini, of sorts, in Shelby County.  I do not know his name but would like to meet him and find out how he accomplished his feat.

 

While working for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department several years ago my partner, Larry, and I were patrolling the northern part of the county near Joaquin when we saw an old pickup having difficulty in staying between the white lines on the road.  After following the vehicle for a mile or so we decided that the driver was intoxicated and pulled him over.  After a couple of roadside tests, our suspicions were confirmed - the driver was under the influence and thus a danger to himself and other drivers.

 

We put handcuffs on the driver and placed him in the back seat of our patrol car.  I had brought along a sandwich and soft drink in a cooler for later use.  I moved it over to the other side of the floorboard to make room for our prisoner.

 

It took about fifteen minutes to drive to the Shelby County jail, during which time the prisoner was quiet and, we thought, napping.  After booking him into the jail system, we returned to our patrol car for further activities.

 

Several hours later my hunger was getting the best of me and decided that it was time to eat my tasty sandwich.  We pulled into a deserted cemetery to park and fill our empty stomachs.  I retrieved my car cooler from the back seat and eagerly opened it expecting to see my sandwich and a cold soft drink.  To my surprise there was only an empty can and empty sandwich bag inside.  Confused, I asked Larry, “Have you seen my sandwich and coke?  They are gone!”  Larry gave me a funny look, “Nope.  I brought my own.  Haven’t seen yours.”  “Well, I know that I put them in the cooler and brought them with me”, I stated.  “I remember that I had to move the cooler over when we put the drunk driver in the car…”, at which time a light bulb came on inside my brain - the prisoner had eaten my supper!

 

“Larry”, I whined, “the drunk has eaten my sandwich and downed my coke on the way to the jail.  That has to be the answer.”  “But”, Larry protested, “how could he?  His hands were cuffed behind his back the whole time.  And besides that, we would have heard him moving around back there.”  I tried to reason this out ...only three people knew that my sandwich and coke were in the cooler, myself, Larry, and the prisoner.  I knew neither Larry or myself had consumed them, so by deduction that left the drunk prisoner.

 

Over the years I have tried to figure out how a man whose hands were handcuffed to his back could open the cooler, eat the sandwich, drink the coke, leave the empty containers inside the cooler, all in fifteen minutes, and without making any discernible noise.  It just can’t be done, but it did happen. One answer may be that he worked one hand out of the handcuffs, did his deed,  then slipped it back in when reaching the jail.

 

At any rate I discovered that Shelby County has a modern-day Houdini in residence.  If I ever learn his name I will try to learn his escape trick.  In the meantime I just keep wondering.


“THE  SHELBY  COUNTY  HOUDINI”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY
PO BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN  AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
936-272-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986
Email:  sugarbear@netdot.com

665 Words
 

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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

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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

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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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