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Stories

Hoppin John


 

 

Another New Year’s Day is upon us and, as Southerners, we will be eating the symbolic meal of Hoppin’ John to assure a happy and prosperous new year filled with good luck.  Most of you are familiar with the dish usually made with black-eyed peas (Texas Caviar), rice, chopped onion, and sliced bacon, all seasoned with a bit of salt.  This dish has an interesting history.

 

Tradition says that the peas are symbolic of pennies or other coins, and a coin is sometimes added to the pot, or left under the dinner bowls.  Collard greens or turnip greens served along with the Hoppin’ John are supposed to also add to the wealth since they are the color of American currency.  Another traditional food, cornbread, can also be served to represent wealth, being the color of gold.  On the day after New Years Day, leftover Hoppin’ John is called “Skippin’ Jenny”, and further demonstrates one’s frugality, bringing a hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.  How did this strange tradition begin?

 

Unnamed sources indicate that it all goes back to the Civil War and Union General William T. Sherman and his march to the sea in 1864.  His stated purpose was to destroy the South, burning what he could, while stealing crops and cows and food stuffs of all types, so that “a crow flying south across the land could not find a provenance”, as he put it.

 

All that is true, but the story continues  that the only thing left to the starving people of the South were the black-eyed peas still in the fields, since the less savvy Union troops did not realize they were edible.  Figuring that livestock was the only thing that would eat the peas (hence the alternate name of “cowpeas”), and since they had stolen all the livestock, there was no use for the peas.

 

Thus, since New Year’s day of 1866, the South has clung to the tradition of eating black-eyed peas on that day of the year.  You may not, however, be familiar with Limpin’ Susan.  Supposedly, Limpin’ Susan was Hoppin’ John’s wife, and this shrimp and rice dish was named for her.  The ingredients for this dish usually contain items such as green bell pepper, Vidalia onion, cooked shrimp, white or yellow rice, and sliced okra.  As one might suspect, this dish is most popular in Louisiana and other coastal southern states.

 

The truth of the situation is that the South was an agrarian nation, and its meals usually were made from what was in season at the time.  By the time Christmas and New Year’s Day arrived, their barns and springhouses were low, but they still might have storage apples, sweet potatoes as well as winter crops of greens, peanuts, and some grains, and black-eyed peas.

However these two dishes originated, one thing is certain – they existed prior to the infamous trip of General Sherman, and he really can’t take credit for the delicious dish that Southerners associate with New Year’s Day.  The black-eyed pea was also eaten as far back as the Babylonians, so as the Bible says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9)


Now – after you’ve eaten of this meal, get ready for a happy and prosperous new year.

 

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Have you noticed?


 

 

I realize that I am now an old feller, and things are much more complicated today than when I was a young man.  Things change rapidly, and old things pass away in the middle of the night.  I have noticed a number of things that have changed hardly without notice. The following are few of the things that I have noticed:

 

Have you noticed that when you are watching television and decide to do a little channel surfing to see what else might be on, the new channel is right in the middle of a series of commercials?  It happens almost without fail.  So, you have a choice of either watching through all the commercials to find out what program is playing, or go back to the one you were watching. Are the new television sets now programmed to do that?

 

Have you noticed the television ads about new drugs for various ailments?  They universally have the disclaimer, “do not take this drug if you are allergic to any of its ingredients”.  Question…how does one know if he/she is allergic without taking the drug?  Perhaps the statement is a CYA cover in the event someone is severely allergic to the drug and sues the maker.  The manufacturer can then fall back on their statement saying, “We told you not to take it if you were allergic to it.” Case then closed.

 

Have you noticed that you never see white walled tires on automobiles any longer? Well, I have.  I think a set of white walled tires on a car just adds to its beauty.  But, I look around at the new cars at the dealers, and there just aren’t any with white walled tires.  What has happened to them?  Natural rubber is white, and the makers have to add something to turn the rubber black, so why not just let it stay in its natural color?

 

Have you noticed that the four-door sedan is slowly disappearing from the automobile scene?  Check it out.  You will find that most of the new cars sold to families are SUVs.  It seems the SUV is slowly replacing the sedan and the convertibles.  Is that a good or bad thing, or just a “who cares”?

 

Have you noticed that no body “dies” any more? In the modern vernacular, the person “passed”.  It seems the word “dies or died” is rapidly being replaced with the softer word “passed”.  I am not sure why this is happening, so perhaps you, the reader, will have an explanation.

Have you noticed that no one knows how to give directions any more?  We men are accused of not wanting to stop and ask for directions when we get lost.  The reason is that we do not think we are lost.  The last time my wife talked me into stopping for directions at a convenience store, the owner had just moved there from some foreign country and did not know where he was himself.  I have learned one sure thing…if a person is giving you directions and he says to go north, and his hand points south, then you go south.

 

Have you noticed how men tend to spit a lot, and women never spit?  Ignoring the fellow who is chewing tobacco and has a spit cup, just notice how often men spit for no apparent reason.  Watch a baseball game and you will see what I am referring to.

 

Have you noticed that there are no longer service stations that have free air for your tires?  When I was a teenager driving, every station, large or small, had an air compressor with free air.  Now days, you seldom find a station with an air compressor.  If you do, the air is not free. At least the air we breathe is free, for now.

 

Have you noticed that preachers of the Gospel rarely wear a suit and a tie while preaching?  Back in my day any respectable pastor wore a suit and a tie any time he stepped behind the pulpit.  My father-in-law would not have been caught dead clothed otherwise.  What has changed?  I think that it is an effort to make those who dress down for church feel more comfortable since the pastor has “dressed down”.  As a youngster, I heard my parents talk about our “Sunday best clothes”.  This meant that we always saved our best clothes to wear to church and Sunday school.  Now days it seems that the old adage has gone by the wayside as I see people wearing tank tops and flip flops to church.  It seems that the respect for God’s house has practically gone.

 

Have you noticed that church choirs and church organs are a thing of the past?  Even the mega churches are doing away with choirs and organs in favor of “praise teams” with guitars and drums providing the music.  The old hymns are a thing of the past as well.  They now use the new praise songs with the words projected on the walls. That makes it difficult for the folk who want to sing parts to the music.

 

Have you noticed that people no longer are asked to “give a hand” to entertainers?  They are now asked to “give it up for” them.  I have wondered what is being given up in some fashion by simply clapping approval.

 

As you age it is more difficult to accept change in everything.  We like for things to stay the same.  But, we just have to roll with the punches and try not to say anything about them, such as I have done in this article.

 

“HAVE YOU NOTICED?”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

P.O. Box 511
259 CR 214
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

926 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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The Day the Texas Rangers Lost


 

 


The Texas Rangers have been known for always getting their man over the years.  However, they did lose a battle right here in East Texas.  In 1887 a squad of four Rangers entered Scrappin’ Valley with warrants to arrest the leaders of the feud going on there for a number of years. However, they were ambushed by the Connor boys and all the Rangers were killed.

 

So, where is Scrappin’ Valley, you ask.  The northern edge of Scrappin’ Valley blends into the Sabine National Forest.  It is located in northwest Newton county and southern Sabine county.  It was settled in the early 1800s by the Weekses, Connors, Lowes, Fergusons, Smiths, and Easleys.  These families treasured their independence and isolation and set their own rules. Scrappin’ was a way of life in the maintenance of territory and dominance.

 

An early feud was the Smith-Lowe-Connor feud which began with the killing of a Smith and a Lowe in 1883. It ended with Uncle Willis Connor and five of his six sons and one grandson dead.  The remaining son was sent to the penitentiary.

 

Things were so bad in Scrappin’ Valley that a squad of Texas Rangers were sent into the valley to arrest the Connors. Among the squad were Texas Rangers Capt. Scott, Bill Moore, C. Brooks, and J. H. Rogers.  They were promptly ambushed by the Connor boys.  Moore was killed outright.  Scott, Brooks, and Rogers were wounded, but managed to mount their horses and return to Hemphill.  However they all died a few days later.  In all, eleven men were killed, including the four rangers.  A man named Carmichael was the only Ranger to survive the battle.

 

This bloody episode could very well have given Scrappin’ Valley its name, but tradition says that it was not named until around 1905.  In 1932 four people were murdered in a feud between whiskey distillers. News of these murders did not reach the local sheriff until 1936.

 

Like moonshining, Scrappin’ Valley eventually dried up and people moved away.  It became a hunting lodge and recreation area of more than 11,000 acres in the 1950s.  The retreat was built by Temple Industries.  It served as a place where company officials entertained important guests.

 

So, Scrappin’ Valley became a peaceful paradise for many to enjoy.  However, this episode became the worse loss on record for the Texas Rangers.  They eventually succeeded in their mission, but at a high cost.  But, the creeks still run clear, and the old families still hunt and fish whenever and wherever they want.

 

Francis E. Abernethy
Joe F. Combs

THE DAY THE TEXAS RANGERS LOST

BY

NEAL MURPHY
P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033

441 WORDS
 

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The New Car


 

 

I had not anticipated buying a new car in this year of 2019, however an accident totaled my 2015 sedan.  So, purchasing a new car became a necessity.  I had only one day to find just the right one at the right price.  So, I purchased a 2019 model.  I was astonished to find so many “high-tech” features as are now on these new cars.

 

I learned to drive at age fourteen – my mother taught me to drive on a 1940 Chevrolet Stylemaster. This automobile was, I thought, way ahead of its time with “vacuum shift” ( a $10.00 addition ) and “knee-action” front suspension. The vacuum shift made the steering column shift lever easier to operate, as opposed to floor shifts like in trucks.

 

The year was 1950 and it was on my fourteenth birthday that I passed all the driving tests and obtained my first driver’s license.  I have been driving ever since and can boast of not having an accident, and only one speeding ticket in over seventy years of driving.

 

Back to the new automobile.  When I first sat down in the driver’s cockpit I was confronted with a number of new fangled gadgets totally unfamiliar to me.

 

First, there is no ignition key now days.  So, how does one start a car with no ignition key?  Well, you must have your new “fob” at least within three feet of the car, press down on the brake pedal, and push on a button….it starts!  Reminds me of my first car, a 1950 Chevrolet coupe.  It started by pressing a button, too.

 

I am sure glad that the dealer told us about this one.  When you stop for a red light, the engine will shut down if it idles too long to suit the car.  I assume that this feature helps save gasoline by not running in “idle” at the light.  Neat..!

 

Now, get this one.  My new auto has a back-up camera that comes alive when you shift into reverse.  Now I can back out of my driveway without ever looking back.  My wife really likes this one.  Now if I could just teach her to use the rear view mirrors..!

 

A new feature allows me to hook up my cell phones to be heard through the radio speakers.  I can also charge and talk on my cell phone, provided I have a “smart” phone, which I do not.

This new car is pretty smart.  Every time I put the car in “park”, a voice reminds me to look in the back seat.  I guess this is to prevent me from leaving a baby locked up in the car.  Clara and I have not had any babies in sixty-five years, so we won’t be paying attention to that little voice.

Now I will see at a glance which direction I am traveling. I now have an on-board compass which keeps me constantly informed.  This feature could come handy in my later years when I might get confused and not know where I am, much less the direction in which I am traveling.

Not only does it inform me of my traveling direction, it shows me the outside temperature.  Now I do not have to wet my finger and hold it out the window to guess at the temperature.  I can just glance down at my handy dash for the answer.

 

One thing I am especially appreciative of is this…you don’t have to restrict your driving speed to fifty-five miles an hour for the first one thousand miles.  I recall this was a requirement for any new car purchased back in the 1940s and 1950s. That was called “the break-in period”.

 

I am sure that my new car has other neat features on it that I have not discovered yet.  But, I still can’t make myself stay below the fifty-five mile per hour rule…..it’s just ingrained in me from years ago.  I only have another five hundred miles to go before I can put the pedal-to-the-metal.

“Hey! Get that bucket of bolts out of the roadway so I can pass!”

 

“THE NEW CAR”

By: NEAL MURPHY
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972
936-275-9033
936-275-6986 (cell)


682 words

 

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Kilroy Was Here


 


If you were born prior to WW11 you probably knew Kilroy.  You might have had a yellow or orange lapel pin with his nose hanging over the label, and the top of his hands hanging over the label, too.  I really never knew why Kilroy was so popular, or who he was, but I joined in the fun of “Kilroy Was Here”, but who the heck was Kilroy?  Where did he come from and how did he get so world famous?

 

The search for Kilroy officially began in 1946 when the radio program “Speak To America” sponsored a nationwide contest to find the REAL Kilroy, offering a prize of a real trolley car to the person who could prove himself to be the genuine article.  Almost 40 men stepped forward to make that claim, but only James Kilroy from Halifax, Massachusetts, had evidence of his identity.

It seems that the “Kilroy Was Here” began quite by accident.  Mr. James Kilroy worked as a checker at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy.  His job was to go around and check on the number of rivets that had been produced.  Riveters were on a piece-work and got paid by each rivet produced.

 

Kilroy would count a block of rivets and put a check mark in semi-waxed lumber chalk, so the rivets would not be counted twice. However, when Kilroy went off duty, the riveters would erase his mark.  Later on, an off-shift inspector would come through and count the rivets a second time, resulting in double pay for the riveters.

 

His boss called Kilroy on the carpet about all the extra wages being paid to riveters, and asked him to investigate.  After checking he realized what had been going on behind his back.  Rejecting paint, Kilroy opted to stick with the waxy chalk.  He continued to put his checkmark on each job he inspected but added “Kilroy Was Here” in large letters next to the checkmark.  He eventually added the sketch of the chap with the long nose peering over the fence.  This all became a part of the Kilroy message.  Once he did that the riveters stopped trying to wipe away his marks.

 

Ordinarily, the rivets and chalk marks would have been covered with paint.  However, with the war on, ships were leaving the Quincy Yard so fast that there was not time to paint them.  As a result, Kilroy’s inspection “trademark” was seen by thousands of servicemen who boarded the troop ships the yard had produced.  

 

This message apparently rang a bell with the servicemen because they picked it up and spread it all over Europe and the South Pacific.  Before the war’s end, “Kilroy” had been there, here, and everywhere on the long hauls to Berlin and Tokyo.

To the outbound troops in those ships, however, he was a complete mystery; all they knew for sure was that some jerk named Kilroy had “been there first”.  As a joke, U.S. servicemen began placing the graffiti wherever they landed, claiming it was already there when they arrived.

As the war went on, the legend grew.  Underwater demolition teams routinely sneaked ashore on Japanese-held islands in the Pacific to map the terrain for coming invasions by U.S. troops and left the logo.  In 1945, an outhouse was built for the exclusive use of Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at the Potsdam conference. Its first occupant was Stalin, who emerged and asked his aide, “Who is Kilroy?”

 

To help prove his authenticity in 1946, James Kilroy brought along officials from the shipyard and some of the riveters.  He proved his case and won the trolley car, which he gave to his nine children as a Christmas gift.  It was set up as a playhouse in the Kilroy front yard in Halifax, Massachusetts.

 

Now you know who and what Kilroy was.  I can remember owning one of the lapel pins which I put in my top coat pocket on occasion. You might still find one at a garage sale somewhere if you look carefully.

 

Yes, “Kilroy Was Here” truly was an American phenomenon which helped our country through the war quite by accident.  And now you know.


“KILROY WAS HERE”

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


699 words
 

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The Fire Towers


Teenagers growing up in East Texas during the 1940s and 1950s were accustomed to being surrounded by towering pine trees, and sturdy oaks.  I was one of those kids being reared in about the deepest part of East Texas. In the pre-television days of the late 1940s, we kids had to invent our own activities to keep our minds occupied.  Some of them were good, and some were not so good.  Among the latter was climbing the metal fire tower located just west of San Augustine.

The U.S. Forest Service built a fire lookout tower probably during the 1930s just off Highway 21 west on what is now CR280.  The tower was located approximately 150 yards back in the woods.  Of course it was a dangerous thing to do, but it was great fun and a daring feat to trespass on the property to climb up the tower as high as one’s nerves would allow.  I recall a few females trying their climbing ability, but mostly it was the hairy-legged teen boys showing off for their dates.

Another fire tower was located just south of Red Hills Lake in Sabine County on Highway 87.  Whenever a group of teens made the trek to “Milam Lake” they usually capped off the swimming trip with a try at climbing that tower as well.  I do not recall anyone falling or otherwise injuring themselves during this activity.

A recent drive down CR280 shows no evidence that a fire tower ever existed, having been torn down years ago.  That is a shame as these fire towers served a significant service to our country.  The same is true of the tower that used to stand south of Red Hills Lake.  The towers have an interesting background, having been built out of necessity.

The obvious purpose of a fire tower was for a watchman to scan the forest for any sign of smoke indicating a forest fire.  They were constructed of either wood, or steel, with a small 10’ by 10’ building on top of the tower.  These towers gained popularity in early 1900s.  Fires were originally reported by use of carrier pigeons.  Later two-way radios were used, then telephones, or heliographs came into use as technology improved.  By 1911 fire towers were being built on the top of mountains.

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the “Civilian Conservation Corps” which put the men of our county to work building many things in our communities.  The CCC built over 250 lookout towers between 1933 and 1942.  So, the golden era of these towers was between 1930 and 1950.  In 1942 an additional task was assigned to the watchmen in the towers.  That was using trained enemy aircraft spotters, prompted by our entry into WWII.

The use of and need for fire towers began to decrease and decline in the years between 1960 and 1990.  Modern technology – aircraft, powerful radios, radar, and even satellites, made the towers outdated and of little use.
Thus, they began to disappear from our forests one by one, unnoticed by most people.

It is interesting to note that Idaho had the most towers, totaling 987.  Kansas was the only state that never had a fire tower.  The tallest fire tower in the United States was the Woodworth Tower in Alexandria, La. at 175 feet. The highest tower in the world was the Fairview Peak near Gunnison, Colorado at 13,214 feet, which was actually on top of a mountain.

In 1911 a U.S. Forest Service employee by the name of William B. Osborne, Jr. invented the “Osborne Firefinder”.  This instrument measured the distance to and location of a fire by use of his invention.  Improved versions of this device are still used in certain parts of the country to this day.

So the two fire towers that we used to climb on no longer exist.  They are just a memory, enhanced by a couple of snapshots in an album which prove their existence in a bygone era.
 

“THE  FIRE TOWER”

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


669 Words

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The Addiction


 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“THE  ADDICTION”

BY:  NEAL  MURPHY

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


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


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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

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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

 

 

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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

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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


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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

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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


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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

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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


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