Do you know what this is?
Yep! It’s the National Debt.
Staggering, isn’t it?
The young couple, who hosted the gathering had two younger children, a boy and a girl, playing in the yard with their Beagle dog.
Also there was a horticulturist friend and his wife.
We talked of the desperate need for rain, the recent onslaught of those tiny but ferocious West Texas mosquitoes that invaded the environs following last week’s meager inch of rain and the recent mayoral election runoff.
The oldest youngster, a boy of maybe ten-years old, ceased his playing and wandered into our midst.
“Momma…can I have a Coke?” he asked.
“No, it’s too late, Jonathan…but you can have some ice water.”
He looked down, disappointed.
He scraped his little-footed boot across a yellow flower with green leaves growing between the cracks of the old brick patio.
A thought occurred to me…
“Jonathan?” I asked.
He looked up at me. “Yes, sir?”
“What’s a weed?”
My horticulturist friend shot me a side-long glance, and smiled slightly.
Jonathan looked at me, obviously not prepared for such a question out-of-the blue.
My question put Jonathan on the spot as all adults awaited his response.
Jonathan’s furrowed brow lightened and he said, “A weed is like that little plant I stomped on there!” he pointed at the mangled little yellow flower between the bricks.
“It’s not supposed to be there,” he added.
I looked at my horticulturist friend, smiled and asked, “How would you define a weed, my friend?”
He leaned forward in his lawn chair, holding his Carona in both hands and looked at me and then at Jonathan.
“A weed is a plant growing where it is not wanted,” and winked at Jonathan.
“See! I told ya!” Jonathan erupted, and who then spun around to rejoin his sister and the Beagle in the yard.
As my friend sat back into his chair, I said,
“Kinda like Washington D.C.”
$100 million dollars?
For a presidential vacation to Africa?
One hundred million dollars?
You gotta be kidding me?
are you going to stand by and accept this kind of travesty?
Who does this guy think he is!
Rise up! Rise up, citizens!
Methinks Nero is fiddling
Sierra the Dog sniffed at one, got her muzzle leapt upon resulting in a yelp but no bite and Jezzie the Cat repaired to the limbs of a nearby and handy Live Oak to gaze upon the exodus while I unwittingly tromped on one in the darkness. It was as though the grass was moving.
Ain’t nature great or what?
A frantic telephone call from a close friend's young daughter...
"You know about cats don't you? Daddy said you did."
"Some. Why Betsy?"
"Well, my cat, Ginger, has a REAL wet nose...is she sick?"
I smiled to myself remembering what a favorite veterinarian friend said to me years ago.
"No, Betsy, she's unlikely sick."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, Betsy, I can't be sure because you and Ginger are there and I'm here at the other end of the telephone."
"Have you been holding her and loving on her?"
"Is she purring?"
"Is her nose still wet?"
"Betsy...your cat is very happy."
"Goodbye, Mr. Blackburn."
(and thank you, Dr. Dave Sheen, DVM for educating me several years ago about cats with wet noses)
Dang near had a heart attack!!!
Was working on a cute story about scorpions, skunks and rattlesnakes when Sierra the Dog began complaining...low, guttural whimpers.
Usually an indicator that she had to do some business outside.
As I was about to arise from chair at the computer keyboard, phone rang.
It was my long time friend, Gene.
We visited...caught up...told a joke or two to one another, all the while Sierra the Dog getting more and more antsy.
Don't like letting Sierra out, unsupervised, this time of year with the rattlers coming out to warm themselves and hungry hunt.
Hung up the phone and ambled to the front door with Sierra, in high excitement, ears perked high and tail a-waggin' like a fan blade.
I stepped out on the front porch noting the soon-to-set sun in the west, turning right, northeast breeze on my face.
Sierra, at Mach 10, followed and went left, then, spun around and went right, almost knocking me down at the knees.
I was just turning the corner of the house as she went by.
and in my face, not more than ten feet away, flushed about six, seven, eight...haven't a clue how many...but a bunch...turkeys!
Right there in my front yard!
Big feathers and all! A squawk...lots of heavy wing beats...Sierra chasing, until she hit the boxwire fence...barking.
Scared the living bejezzus outa me...I even ducked when they flushed!
Sierra found her hole in the fence and chased for about 300 yards.
I sat down on the edge of the porch and put my hand inside my shirt over my heart.
Yep, still pumping.
As the northeast wind bent the grass leaves between the toes of my miserable, worn out boots, I thought...as Sierra panted with lolling pink tongue at my boot tips...
"Good to see the turkey back...hadn't seen nary a one for three years."
Now she had something else to chase.
Was on the way back from Sterling City, after a meeting with a land man who said he might be interested in an oil lease on my property.
Was I on time for the meeting?
Ten minutes early.
We talked and sized each other up over two hours of coffee, and played the “do you know so-and-so” game.
It was a good meeting and we shook a firm handshake as we departed one another.
But as I sped down the highway back to the ranch, I realized I was hungry, even for the skinny guy that I am.
“Ah, service station, just ahead.”
(I think they call ‘em “convenience stores” these days.)
Pulled off, eased into the driveway and parked between the yellow lines in front to the store.
Admonished Sierra the Dog to stay put in the back seat on her sheepskin comforter as I stepped out and then through the double entry doors of the store, the late afternoon sum casting shadows across the chip and peanut bags hanging on their display.
Yep! They had a little kitchen in back, which I was counting on. (common for West Texas)
The smell of fried foods wafted in the air. And there was a small glass case with sliding doors near the cashier’s stand with three metal shelves of…of, whatever, stuffed in small, open, cardboard containers under an intense warming light overhead.
I wandered over and glanced through the glass sliding doors while the young cashier with a butterfly tattoo just above the cleavage of her young breasts in her low slung, tightly clinging T-shirt (I don’t miss much) checked out the only other customer in the store.
“That’ll be $5.24,” she said.
He laid out the money… a $5.00 bill and a quarter, which he had to search for in his jean’s pocket.
“Keep the change,” he said and grabbed up whatever it was that he had bought and quickly stepped through the double glass doors.
“Thanks,” she said, as the door closed.
The young woman, 20-ish maybe, turned her attention to me.
“What can I get fer you?” she asked.
“Don’t see any chicken gizzards here,” I said.
“Chicken gizzards?!” she responded. “Whatzat?”
About then, I glanced up, through the sliding glass doors and through the nearby doorway behind, in a room bathed in fluorescent light (apparently the kitchen/office), to see a pair of skinny legs, bent at the knee, with soft shoes, in lime-yellow colored pants and a skinny hand and wrist, holding a walking cane.
All I could see were the skinny legs, shoes and cane.
Whoever it was sat behind the doorjamb and wall.
“Gizzards?” she said again.
“Sheila!” came the voice from the other room and I saw the walking cane tremble bit and heard the sounds of a body arising from, I guess a chair.
Around the doorjamb of the doorway shuttled an old man, very thin, dressed in soft shoes, ugly pants, blue shirt and green necktie. Leaning on his walking cane heavily.
He looked at me intently as he shambled toward the other side of the glass case.
I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
“You like gizzards?” he asked, over the top of the glass case.
“Yes, sir; I do.”
Sheila had almost backed into a corner, wide-eyed.
I was beginning to feel uncomfortable (did I say that already?).
“How old are you, boy?” asked the old man.
“bout 65-ish,” I said. “Why?”
“Well…you be the tail end of folk who go for gizzards. Southern, you are?”
“Good enough. Sheila!”
“Go look in the left-hand, back corner of the frig…get that little bag and throw it into the deep fryer…bring it out when it’s done.”
“Yes sir.” And she scampered away, leaving me and the old man alone.
“That’s my great granddaughter who’s helping me out at this store.”
“Oh!” I said, shoving both of my hands into my pockets. “You own this place?”
“Yep. Since 1950ish or something thereabouts. You got a name?”
“Ed, as in Edward.”
“That’s a good name.”
He fell silent.
“Yours?” I asked.
He looked up at me.
“Tony, as in Anthony’” and smiled.
I smiled back, taking my hands out of my pockets.
“That’s a good name.”
“How old are you, Tony?”
He teetered a second on his walking cane, using its soft rubber-tipped cap to catch his sway.
“And still running this store?”
“Only with Sheila’s help. And her mother’s.”
I could hear Sheila in the little kitchen loading up a plate.
“Wanna talk?” I asked.
“I like talking to old people.”
“I’m not old!”
“Yes you are, and you damned well know it!”
He looked at the linoleum floor.
“Who do you think you are, boy!” he yelled.
“A wannabe historian…and you’re walking history.”
Sheila showed up in the doorway with a plateful of fried chicken gizzards, still wide-eyed, probably having heard her great grandfather’s outburst.
“Sheila, give that plate to…to…Ed. Ed? Right?”
“Then, Cutsie, lock the doors and turn off the front lights, okay?”
“Ed…let’s go back here where there’s a table and chairs.. Bring the gizzards.”
So, Tony, Sheila and I munched on chicken gizzards on an old, near-dilapidated wooden table, sitting in squeaky old wooden chairs as the sun began to set…talking.
“Don’t know many folks these days, Ed, that go for gizzards…but obviously you were brung up right!”
I smiled, thinking of my upbringing.
“So, Tony, you were too young for World War 1, but you…..”
“Yes, I was at Pearl Harbor and……….”
Anyone who has spent any time in West Texas (and even those who haven’t) know that West Texans are famous for telling stories, some true, some not-so-true. Of those that tell the stories, some are good at it, others aren’t. Skipper Duncan, in his “Characters and Critters,” is one of the good ones. Mr. Duncan pulls from a lifetime of first-hand experience and observation to create a collection of short stories that not only brings a deep belly-laugh and snicker but also insights into some of West Texas history. Especially interesting is how he tells of his personal transition from struggling rancher to successful hunting outfitter and the cast of characters and events that tickled his fancy along the way, all of which he now shares with us in “Characters and Critters.” When I spoke with him the other day to set up an interview for The Texana Review, he said he was working on a follow-up collection of more stories. I anticipate it will be at least as entertaining as this one. As a storyteller myself, I highly recommend this book.
You can buy it at Amazon.com. Click HERE
Sad incident today...this evening...
Traveling at 65ish on the two-lane to the ranch with a trailer in tow listening to Appleby's piece on Thomas Jefferson.
From the left, in a streak, a whitetail doe, stretching for all her worth, across the highway to gain "whatever" on the right side of the highway.
Hit the brake, lightly, remembering my training not to brake hard or swerve. I hit her square broadside.
After the RanchHand bumper, she went under the front tires, then the back tires and then the trailer tires.
I quickly pulled to the shoulder of the highway.
A following car pulled up behind me, having witnessed the incident. Children aboard; 10ish-12ish. Hispanics as it turned out.
Admonishing Sierra the Dog to stay put, I leapt out of my Ford with flashlight to check damage to the truck, trailer and the deer, as did the occupants of the the following car.
"Hola, señor ... estás bien?" said the car's driver.
"Si, bien, gracias.' I said, looking over the truck and trailer for damage. None, at least under flashlight examination.
"Yo vi pasar," he said.
"Happend fas, no?"
"Sí, lo vi pasar"
"Pancho! los niños!?" hollered the woman, as the kids kind of ran around the car.
"Su nombre es Pancho?"
"El mío es Edward"
"Pancho, yo sugiero que los niños y su mujer en el coche. Si lo desea, puede venir conmigo."
"Maria, entra en el coche con los niños, y se quedan allí"
And the two of us strode to where the runover whitetail lay on the highway. It was still alive.
I looked at Pancho.
"Niños en el coche?"
So, I pulled out the .22 Magnum I keep in my pocket for rattlesnakes, poked it in the whitetail's ear, and pulled the trigger.
She died with my hand on her neck on a roadside in Coke County, Texas.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, Pancho's.
"Nunca es fácil, verdad?" he said.
"No." I said.
"Vaya con Dios, Senor Edward," as he slipped into the driver's seat of his car, pulled around my Ford pickup and sped off toward Robert Lee.
"Qué pasó?" I heard Maria ask as Pancho rolledup the window
As I continue my study of the history of our founding fathers, Jefferson at the moment, I was stricken by a comment made as an Editor's note by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in Joyce Appleby's offering on Thomas Jefferson, echoing a mantra I've been chanting for the better part of four years now...
"Truman's famous sign - 'The buck stops here' - tells only half the story. Citizens cannot escape the ultimate responsibility. It is in the voting booth, not on the presidential desk, that the buck finally stops."