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Stories Archives for 2019-02

My Hat's Off to You




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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






By Neal Murphy


PO Box 511

San Augustine, Texas 75972



628 words



The Gum Caper


There is nothing quite as upsetting to a young lad as being falsely accused of a crime.  Now understand, I was not an angel around nine or ten years of age, but being accused of a heinous crime was a shock to my total being.


Most of the time when our family drove through Jasper, Texas, my father, Cecil, would stop at a café in the downtown area for coffee or a soft drink.  On this occasion as we walked into the building, I walked over to the gum racks and looked at several packages.  I was looking for Dentyne gum, but found none.  I put the packs of gum back into their boxes.


After enjoying our refreshments, dad stopped at the counter to pay our bill.  The man checking us out asked my father, “Do you want to pay for that package of gum in your kid’s pocket?”  We were all taken by surprise, especially me.  Dad asked, “What did you say?”  The man repeated his question, “You want to pay for the pack of gum that your son has in his pocket?  I saw him put it there when you came in.”


Dad looked at me, I looked at the floor, mother looked at Dad.  “Neal, do you have a pack of gum in your pants pocket?”, he asked sternly.  “No, daddy, I don’t.  I looked at some, but put them back on the shelf.”  The clerk chimed in, “I seen him put it in his pocket”.


Wow….what a revolting development this turned out to be.  Dad said, “OK, I want you to empty out all your pockets on the counter here, and we will just see what you have.”  Knees shaking, heart pounding, I emptied my pockets as instructed – no gum was found.  “Go on out and get in the car”, my Dad told me.  On the way out of the café I observed my father handing the man a nickel.  He said, “This is to pay you for the pack of gum my son did not steal from you since you seem to be so hard up for money.  I don’t think I will ever stop at your business again.”

I learned a good lesson that day.  I never examined gum or candy again in a store that would give the appearance of stealing.  To my knowledge, we never stopped at that café in Jasper again.  As “they” say, perception is reality, even when it involves only a package of gum.



P. O. BOX 511

421 words



Out of Gas









“Boy, *Willie is in a heap of trouble with the boss”, Gary told me when I walked into the funeral home office.  “I sure hope he doesn’t get fired.”


In 1955 I was a 19 year old college student attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas.  Since money was hard to come by in those days, I had to work after classes in order to meet expenses.  I had been hired by the Oakley-Metcalf Funeral Home to live on premises and work as a general flunky.  I was paid the awesome sum of $120 per month, plus my room.  Seems very puny money today, but then it was a fairly decent job for a college student.


Oakley-Metcalf owned an emergency ambulance, affectionately known as the “hot shot”, a hearse, and a transfer ambulance.  The transfer ambulance had been converted to hold a cot for non-emergency sick calls.


Besides myself, there was Gary, an older fellow, married, who lived in the apartment above the ambulance garage with his wife, Ruth.  Then there was Willie.  His job at the funeral home was to keep the grounds neat, dig the graves, set up and take down the funeral tent, keep the ambulances washed, and full of gas.  Willie usually attended to these chores very well.


The particular week in question had been a very busy week, with several funeral services.  On this particular day, there was an auto accident several miles out North Street in Nacogdoches.  Skinny Garrison, our boss, jumped into the “hot shot” and headed out to the scene, red lights flashing and the siren blaring in response to the call for help.  While he was still on North Street, the ambulance ran out of gas.


What a revolting development this turned out to be!  He coasted into a service station and yelled for the attendant to put in $2.00 worth of gasoline as fast as possible.  While doing this, his competitor, Cason-Monk Funeral Home, roared by in their emergency ambulance and thus got in the lead.


By the time Skinny Garrison reached the scene, Cason-Monk had already loaded up the deceased driver, and was headed back to the funeral home.  Skinny ended up taking one slightly injured driver to the hospital.  Back in 1955, it was more profitable to conduct a funeral than it was to transport an injured person to the hospital.  Thus, one can see why our boss was so embarrassed, and thus angry at Willie.


“Well, Gary, I feel sorry for Willie.  I hope the boss will remember all the things he has done right over the years”, I opined.


The boss gave Willie a “lecture” about his failure to keep the ambulances full of gas and not to let it happen again.  I think Skinny knew that this incident was an honest mistake and that Willie was a good employee.  So, nothing further was said bout “running out of gas”, and it never happened again while I was there.

?Name changed to protect the guilty.







107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
Phone: 936-275-9033
Cell: 936-275-6986

529 words



Not Worth His Salt









Has anyone ever said about you, “He/she is just not worth their salt.”  This is an interesting statement. What about salt, and what it is worth?  To me, salt is a very cheap mineral.  One can purchase a box of salt at the grocery story for less than a dollar.  So, what’s the deal about salt being worth so much?  


Salt itself has an interesting history.  The use of salt dates back to Biblical days in the Old Testament. It seems that Sodium chloride, a.k.a, salt, is essential for human life, and until the invention of canning and refrigeration, was the primary method of preserving food. Not surprisingly, it has long been considered valuable.


Actually, what the phrase “not worth his salt” means is to be worth one’s pay. Our word salary derives from the Latin word salarium (sal is the Latin word for salt), and literally means salt money.  Salarium was the money paid to Roman soldiers that they used to purchase salt and other valuable items. 

Some historians believe that the Roman solders were actually paid with salt.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt preserving dates to around 6,000 BC when people living in the area of present-day Romania boiled spring water to extract salt; a salt-works in China that dates to approximately the same period.  Salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Indians.  Salt became an important article of trade, and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara desert on camel caravans.


In Biblical times we may recall what happened to Lot’s wife when she turned back to long for the city of Sodom. The Bible says the she was turned into a pillar of salt.  The people of that day would line their clay ovens with salt to enhance the heat.


Salt continues to be important enough to feature in the language for many centuries.  Other phrases that would have been known to the medieval mind were, “take with a grain of salt”, the “salt of the earth”, and “below the salt line”.


The ancient roots of “worth one’s salt” compares to the 13th century’s “worth one’s weight in gold”, and the 14th century’s “worth one’s while” which gives the phrase an historical air.

Despite its older counter-phrases, “to be worth one’s salt” did not originate until the19th century when a number of writers were taken by it.  An early example is in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883): “It was plain from every line of his body that our new hand was worth his salt.”


So, we find that the phrase “to be worth one’s salt” means a good employee, or to be worthy, or worthwhile.  In other words, this idiom describes a person who deserves the pay her or she receives, or someone who is worth the cost.  


Think about it – are you a person who is “worth your salt” in every thing you do?  If not, then you need to do something about it right away. 






By:  Neal Murphy
P.O. Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
Cell: 936-275-6986

519 words




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