Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Stories

The Chair


 

All of us who have reared children know that it is difficult for the kids to keep their mouths shut, especially about things that go on inside the home.  I was a good example of that when I was around nine years old. I still recall the incident as though it happened only yesterday.

 

In 1945 my parents’ furniture in their newly constructed home was rather modest.  They had a dinette set that was probably a “hand down” from my grandparents. It was old and worn, constructed of wood.  The straight-back chairs were rather unsteady as I recall. All of these facts taken together set up the episode of which I now write.

 

One morning at breakfast, my father came to the table, pulled out his favorite chair and sat down.  Suddenly, the wood cracked and the chair collapsed with him in it. He hit the kitchen floor with a thud.  Uncharacteristically, for my father, he said a few choice words then picked up the broken chair and threw it out the back door.  This event had an impact on my nine year old brain.

 

Upon arriving at school the first thing I told my third grade teacher, Mrs. Georgia Mathews, was that I had something important to tell her.  She sat down at her desk and said, “OK, what do you want to tell me?” I swallowed hard then blurted out, “Well, my dad got mad at my mother this morning, broke a chair, and threw it out into the yard.”  Only part of the story was accurate, as is usually the case.

 

I felt much better telling someone what I had witnessed.  Well, things have a way of correcting themselves in a small town.  My mother owned a beauty shop and as luck would have it, Mrs. Mathews was a customer.  In fact, she had an appointment that very afternoon. Of course, my mother and my teacher both had a good laugh as the real facts of the incident were revealed.

 

Now, suppose that were to happen today?  I suspect that Child Protective Services would be called, an investigation launched, and my father might have been charged with child abuse.  My, have times changed. Personally, I liked the old days better.




 

“THE  CHAIR”

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

107 Hemlock Street

PO Box 511

San Augustine, TX 75972

936-275-9033

Email: sugarbear@netdot.com

 

0
comments


The Accidental Bootlegger


 

 

I never did like to live in college dormitories, so when I was attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, I lived in a boarding house near the campus.  It was a large two-story frame house with eight rooms upstairs, and one large bathroom.  Our meals were prepared and served to us in a large dining room down stairs.  As a 19 year old freshman in 1955, this set-up was about as good as it could get.

 

One of the students there was a few years older than most of us “human debris” freshmen.  I noted that he always seemed to have a lot of spending money, and he drove a nice car.  He was from up around the Tyler, Texas area, near the oil fields.

 

One sunny day, several of us guys were playing forty-two, which is a Texas game played with dominoes.  This fellow stuck his head into our room and asks, “Anyone want to go for a ride with me?”  That was like asking a hungry dog if he wanted some Alpo.  So, several of us piled into his vehicle, and we took off headed south.

 

Driving through Lufkin, 20 miles south, was not unusual for a pleasure drive.  However, when he turned on to highway 94 toward Apple Springs, a little red light went off in my brain.  Let me explain.

 

Nacogdoches and Lufkin were in “dry” counties, that is, no alcoholic beverages were sold.  However, Apple Springs was in a “wet” county as soon as you crossed the Neches River into Trinity County.  There were numerous liquor stores and night clubs all along the highway going into Apple Springs.

 

My little red light was correct….we were headed to Apple Springs and the liquor stores.  We stopped at the very first store, and the driver told us, “Just stay in the car.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”  He came back with several paper sacks of wine and whiskey.  “Here, put these bags on the back floor board between your feet and keep them there”, he orders us.  I was really getting nervous by this time.


We make several other stops with more sacks of liquor being added to the floor board between our feet.  Finally, I said, “Hey, we need to stop this and get back to the boarding house.”  By now it has dawned on me that this fellow was making his money by buying liquor, then selling it on the college campus at a high profit.  In other words, he was bootlegging,
 and I was an accomplice!

 

Finally, we headed back toward Nacogdoches with our load of contraband. I could picture the headlines in our local newspaper – “Local Boy Arrested For Bootlegging”, and my father was a county official..!  I was really wishing that Scottie could “beam me up” immediately.

He was driving rather fast, and started to pass a car in front of us.  It was then that we noticed the red spotlight and antenna on the vehicle.  Surmising this to be a police car, he eased off the gas and pulled back behind the car.  I could see the officer looking at us in his rear view mirror.  To our horror, the patrol car pulled off on to the shoulder of the highway, and let us pass.  Then he got behind us and began to follow, observing us closely.

 

The driver yelled, “Boys, if he pulls us over, start throwing the stuff out the window!”  So, I was prepared for the worst.  However, a minor miracle happened.  The officer never pulled us over.  He followed us all the way to Lufkin where we made some quick turns and lost him.  Apparently we were saved from hard jail time.

 

As you might guess, I never again took a ride with this fellow.  Looking back, I should have turned him into the authorities, but I did not…..something to do with being a part of the pack and you do not “snitch” on a member of the pack.  I have often wondered what happened to this young man who made me an “accidental bootlegger” for several hours. I have a feeling that he may have had an encounter with the legal system at some point. We know what the Bible says, “Be not deceived. Your sins will find you out.”

 

THE  ACCIDENTAL  BOOTLEGGER

 

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


 

0
comments


The American Express Card


In 1967 I was employed by the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company when living in Houston, Texas.  Although it was a very large company, it was bought out by the American Express Company.  Soon thereafter all we employees were presented with an American Express credit card.  I had always wanted one of these cards, but they were expensive to purchase.  Now, I had one for free.  I have carried and used it since that day in 1969.

 

Now, fast forward to a few days ago here in the year 2019.  I happen to notice a package placed near my front door.  I was surprised as I had not ordered anything of late.  I looked at the return address and it read, “American Express”.  “Wow, what could I be getting from that company?”, I wondered. I took the shoe box sized package inside and placed it on the kitchen table.  Soon I would find out.

 

My wife watched as I opened the box with anticipation.  What would American Express Company be sending me in that box?  Inside the box was another one, blue in color with the words “Tiffany” on the top.  I recognized that name as a rather exclusive company.  My hands were shaking just a little bit as I took off the white ribbon wrapped around the blue box.

 

Finally the contents came into view.  There were two of them obviously make of high quality crystal.  They were approximately ten inches tall, with long thin stems.  I held one of them up to the light to examine it.  “Wow, this is expensive stuff”, I opined.  They were very beautiful.

 

Enclosed was a card from American Express.  I read it and learned that I was being presented this gift because I have been a card-holder for fifty years without interruption. I was shocked that they would take notice of such a thing.  I looked at my card, and sure enough it showed that I had been a holder since 1969.  Needless to say I was a little shocked, but also pleased.

 

Now, I don’t know what to do with two, tall, expensive wine glasses.  We do not drink wine and have little use for them.  So, my wife tells me that she will use them as a decoration on a shelf.  Thanks, American Express for the kind thought. The old saying, “It’s the thought that counts” applies here.

 

I have a feeling that if should I be late in paying a bill to them, the late penalty will still apply to their long-time customer.



 

THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

 

259 County Road 214

San Augustine, Texas 75972

936-275-9033

Cell 936-275-6986

 

430 Words

 

0
comments


The Mystery of Santa Claus


 

 

Who is this person known as Santa Claus, aka Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or just simply “Santa”?  How can he be described? He has his roots in the Dutch figure of Sinterklass  which, in turn, may have part of its basis in tales concerning the historical figure of gift-giver Saint Nicholas.  It appears that he might have roots in early Greece around 1880.

To a young lad growing up in East Texas none of this was important to me.  I must confess that I was a “believer” for far too long, milking the tradition for all I could.  My parents were, I think, a little reluctant to stop playing the part for their youngest child.

 

Around five or six years of age I began to ask questions, as some things about Santa just did not add up in my mind.  I was informed that Santa always entered the home via the chimney, but our home did not have a fire place.  My parents had the answer to that one - he was like a spirit and could go through the key hole in the door.  I bought that one for a couple of years, even making sure that the front door key was removed before going to bed on Christmas eve.  He need not encounter any obstructions to gain entry.

 

Later, I considered how Santa could squeeze a bag full of toys through a key hole, even though he could enter himself.  No problem, my parents said that they always left the front door unlocked so he could enter and take care of business.  Ok, that one worked for a while.  But, the year that Santa brought an electric train set pretty much settled the matter.  I later saw the large box in which it came from the Western Auto store - “Mrs. Alice Murphy” was written on the box in plain view.  So, here was proof that my mother had indeed purchased the train set and not Santa.

 

Now this information was difficult to digest as I knew that all this Santa stuff was about to end.  The very last time it happened I recall being in my bed, but not asleep.  I saw my dad sneaking down the hall toward the living room with a shotgun in his hands.  That was the year he gave me his J. C. Higgins .20 gauge bolt action shotgun as Santa’s present.  Since I was old enough to handle and shoot a gun, I was therefore old enough to admit the painful truth about the matter.  Santa was now relegated to just a fond memory.

 

My parents always enjoyed telling the true story of my older brother, Richard, and sister, Evelyn when they were quite young, and before I was on the scene.  One Christmas morning Evelyn woke up early and proceeded to the living room where she observed the toys that Santa had left.  Being a bit mischievous, she hid all of Richard’s toys and put sticks in his stocking.  When he ran into the room to find what Santa had left, all he found was sticks.  It is said that he had his very first “Murphy fit” that day.  That “prank” may have been an early form of child abuse.

I read where recently in a “progressive” school somewhere in a “progressive” city, a second-grade teacher told all her students that there was no Santa Claus, and fingered their parents as the guilty party.  Predictably, this teacher and her principal were besieged with angry parents who felt it their duty to handle this matter with their children themselves - no help from a teacher needed or wanted.

 

So, what about this fellow, Santa Claus?  Tradition says that he lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and nine (originally eight) flying reindeer.  Since the 20th century, in an idea popularized by the 1934 song, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, Santa has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ( naughty or nice) and to deliver presents, including toys and candy, to all of the good boys and girls in the world.  But sometimes he gives coal or sticks to the naughty children.   All of this on the single night of Christmas Eve.  He accomplishes this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer who pull his sleigh.

 

Here’s a late bulletin regarding Santa Claus - A large shopping mall in a large city has decided that allowing children to sit in Santa’s lap would no longer be tolerated. Seems as though some pin-headed leaders feel that Santa cannot be trusted any longer with a child in his lap. My, haven’t we come a long way in a short time.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

 

“THE  MYSTERY  OF  SANTA  CLAUS”

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

822 Words
  
 

0
comments


She Put the Red in Christmas



 

 

If Santa Claus ever had a helper it was my mother-in-law, Leta Howell.  Though she has been gone from among us for 35 years, her love of the Christmas season has inspired all of her children to do many of the things that she did.  She was a minister’s wife and thus understood the true meaning of Christmas, and she passed that along to everyone she knew.

 

Although she was educated with college and seminary degrees, she retained the roots of her upbringing in the plains of West Texas.  While living in the piney woods of East Texas, she began several Christmas traditions.

 

“Granny” Howell was an excellent seamstress.  She made Christmas stockings for each family member.  She used red felt for the main stocking, then she put a green border around the top.  As grandchildren and great-grandchildren were born into the family, she would make sure the new baby would have its own stocking to hang across the fireplace mantle.  She stuffed each stocking on Christmas Eve with candy, fruit, and simple useable gadgets.  Near the end of her life, the Christmas stockings were almost too numerous to hang on the mantle.  This tradition has been taken up by many of her children and grandchildren, most of whom are now married with families of their own.

 

One Christmas, she got the idea of making red outfits for all the members of her family.  The good seamstress that she was, she made red suits for everyone to wear on Christmas day.  Even her husband, Rev. Howell, got a new red coat to wear.  She sewed for months on them, and gave each family member their red outfits on Christmas Eve, in packages wrapped in red paper.   On Christmas morning everyone donned their red clothes, and the house looked like a collection of walking poinsettias.  Rev. Howell continued to wear his bright red coat every Christmas until his death in December of 2006.

 

Now you know who put the red in Christmas.

 

 


“SHE  PUT  THE  RED  IN  CHRISTMAS”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

P.O. BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TEXAS 75972
936-275-9033
936-275-6986 (cell )

 

 

 

0
comments


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.

 

0
comments


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
 


 

0
comments


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

0
comments


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
 

0
comments


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

 

0
comments


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
 

0
comments


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

0
comments


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

0
comments


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

 

0
comments


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

684 Words
 

0
comments


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

434 words

0
comments


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

461 words
 

0
comments


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

747 WORDS

 

 

0
comments


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


741 words

0
comments


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


589 Words
 

0
comments


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”.

0
comments


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

0
comments


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
 

0
comments


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

0
comments


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

 

0
comments


LinkedUpRadio Envisionwise Web Services