Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hiatus

I am writing a book of fiction. The effort is two-thirds done and requires my full attention for completion. This blog, "the new old life," is going on hiatus so I can focus my energies on my fiction. It is difficult to entertain the both, book and blog. It's much like trying to balance two love interests at the same time. Eventually, you're going to upset the both and be left empty-handed.

Should something exceptionally postworthy come up in the days and weeks to come I'll share it here.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rubber Teat

After a few missteps in the thick mesquite mother and calf became separated. Survival for the little heifer now depends on the care and patience of the landowner and a plastic bottle tipped with a rubber teat.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Plenty to Eat

The county highways are so littered with roadkill that if the turkey vultures could piece together thoughts like humans they would call this summer "the season of plenty."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

High Definition

Slow to anger. That can be the only reason that a year and a half passed before I called for a Time-Warner tech to come see why our TV picture lacked high definition quality. It wasn't much trouble to resolve. A new set of RCA cables and tweaking the controls for a couple of minutes was all it took him. As a bonus, he programmed the remote to "do it all." Our second remote was retired to a drawer in the lamp table.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Too Much Pull

Al flojo lo ayuda Dios. The time is 5:30 p.m., an unforgiving sun hangs in the west, and nearly 28,000 square feet of real estate is thick with pesky grass burrs that have never known a day of thirst this growing season. They reach well above the ankles. It has to be mowed. The gas tank is filled, the engine is readied with three depressions of the rubber primer button, and all that remains is to hold down the starting lever with the left hand and to reach down for the pull cord with the right and perform a steady, but forceful, yank in the direction of my right hip.




SNAP! POW! slack...

The nylon cord comes away limp. Busted.  Al flojo lo ayuda Dios. The work stops before it begins. Por eso se hizo el mañana.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Slit of Light and a Monitor

The natural world is a small and silent place from behind his desk. Quality was not sacrificed on the narrow double-paned window that teases him with a muted glimpse of blue sky, cut grass, and the crinkled blooms of a lone crape myrtle. On the flat screen monitor mounted high on the wall twelve feet away, the clear color images of the same are mum too. The camera just outside the door is not equipped for sound. Busy with his work, hour after hour his eyes dart from the keyboard to the display, occasionally stealing a longing glance at the summer scene outside the walls that insulate him. Some days he is reminded of solitary confinement; only a slit of light and a monitor for comfort.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Faux Titanic


The last time Melba and I stood on the Grand Staircase of the faux RMS Titanic we were dressed like slobs; outfitted for manning the casino slots and touring The Strip. A year later we returned in more suitable attire so we could have our picture taken.

The Luxor Las Vegas has housed 'Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition' since 2008. The displays are fabulous.


This photograph of Titanic's original Grand Staircase comes courtesy of Francis Patrick Mary Browne. On the Titanic's final stop, before steering across the North Atlantic to the Port of New York, Browne stepped off at Queenstown, Ireland. In his possession were his priceless photos of the ill-fated ship's last days.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Summer Promise

"How do they make those lines?" The boy was looking up at a cloudless sky etched by a lone contrail arching miles overhead from north to south. He was not hesitant to ask questions. The boy was confident the man would have the answer.

"It's called a contrail. The engines on that jet up there shoot a stream of hot gas out the back. The gas cools very quickly because the air is so cold, high up there."

"How high?"

"I guess that jet is flying about five miles high. You know how far five miles is, buddy?"

"Uh-uh."

"From here to the ranch," the man said. "That's how far above us that jet is flying."

The boy continued to look up.

"The gas cools and leaves that long trail of ice crystals that you see. It's just like the breath you blow out of your mouth on a cold day. Understand?"

"A-huh."

"I'll tell you what. This summer we'll fly on a jet. We'll fly up there as high as that contrail. Okay?"

"We will?"

"We will. This summer. I promise. We'll go to the Grand Canyon. You have to see it. Okay?"

"Okay."
---
San Antonio International Airport

En route via jet to Arizona


As promised... the Grand Canyon

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Five of 5

Continuted from yesterdays's posting.
---

After dropping the tool box lid Laredo turned to face the red Dodge. The weight of the thirty-four-inch aluminum bat felt assuring swinging from his right hand. In the stark light of the area light he could see that Suzie was already standing behind her driver side door. She had a .45 gripped in both her hands and was pointing it at the red Dodge; its occupants paralyzed.

Laredo smashed the SUV  like a piñata before he quit swinging the bat. "Don't any of you ever fuck with any of my shit again," was all he said.

In the red Dodge Rudy had barfed all over his glass-sprinkled lap and the girl had quit her screaming and was only crying now. Carlos looked out through the smashed window to where Laredo was standing. He showed no emotion.

Laredo took a few steps to where Suzie had moved around  to the front of her car. Without releasing his grip on the bat, he reached around her waist with his left arm and pulled her close to his face and kissed her.

He took the gun from her and turned to Carlos and said, "Get out of the car right now and hitch the trailer."

The End

Friday, July 9, 2010

Four of 5

Continuted from yesterdays's posting.
---

It was getting close to 8 so Laredo decided to leave Rudy's place and head for the intersection where they were supposed to meet Ricky and Carlos with his trailer. Before leaving he asked Rudy for either Carlos or Ricky's cell phone number. He gave him Ricky's. Laredo dialed it immediately to ask where he was. Ricky answered saying that they were waiting "en donde esta la persona que tiene la traila." Laredo asked him if he was at Rio’s place. He said no. The trailer was somewhere in the Ramirez area. Laredo told him he was headed that way right now and that he would be at the Ramirez School waiting on them. Rudy had told him that Rios lived in a trailer house somewhere in the Sejita area, but he wasn't going to waste time looking for it right now.

Just then Chuy said he needed to get back home. He had been with Laredo most of the day and had not eaten. Laredo drove the 30 minutes to Falfurrias to drop him off. On the way back Laredo stopped in Premont to speak with Suzie Treviño about the situation. Suzie and he talked about the ongoing "waiting" and the return of the stolen trailer. She said when this was over that she was going to talk to the Premont Police chief about it.

Laredo said, "Okay, but it won't do you no good. This happened in Duval."

“They need to hang these cabrones by the balls,” she added.
Laredo didn't care what she said or did. He just wanted his trailer back. He then said he was leaving for Ramirez to wait for them and she said she would follow in her vehicle. It was up to her, he said. A half hour later they pulled into the Ramirez School faculty lot where Laredo parked his truck and got into her car. They moved to go and park a couple of blocks away by the small church.

Laredo called Ricky again. He answered. Laredo was concerned about it getting late and he told him so. "It's getting dark and that's when shit happens."

Ricky said, "We're here waiting for Manuel. He's driving back from work. He'll be here soon."
Laredo asked if he was at Michael’s house and he said he was. Ricky handed the phone to Carlos and he said, "Yes. We're here at Manuel Jose Rios' house waiting for him."
Laredo told him, "Why wait on him? You go pick up the trailer if it's there."
Then Carlos said, "Manuel is the only one that knows where the trailer is, so we have to wait on him." Again Laredo repeated, "It's getting dark pendejo, and that's when shit happens."
Carlos again asked that Laredo wait, adding "No los pongan las manos," meaning that they did not want to be harmed. Laredo said okay. "You just make sure I get my trailer tonight." All these crack heads were pussies, Laredo thought to himself.

At 9:30 Laredo called again telling Carlos "I'm not going to wait anymore."  Carlos then said, "Manuel is on his way already and should be here any minute." Laredo ended he call. A few minutes later Ricky called saying that Manuel was picking up the trailer and for him to wait a bit longer. At 9:45 Laredo called Ricky, but Carlos answered. "We're on our way already with the trailer," he said. Laredo advised him to "leave the trailer next to my truck. It's parked across from the school and we're watching your moves," Laredo warned him.

Laredo had been watching the highway leading to Ramirez when he saw headlights coming from the north. They were headed in his direction. When the lights grew closer he could hear the rattle of an empty trailer being hauled. It had to be his. The twin lights did not slow to turn into the school parking. Instead, they stayed on the highway, following the long curve, bending the highway to east. It was not going to stop. Laredo told Suzie to start the car and follow them. In less than a minute she was on their tail. Laredo recognized his trailer in the light ahead of them.

The first thing Laredo noticed was that the tires were missing off the trailer's rear axle. The ramps were also gone. Suzie proceeded behind the SUV. Laredo's phone rang. It was Carlos calling to say that there was a car following them. He was afraid to stop.
"Never mind the car following you. Just leave the goddamn trailer by my parked truck like I told you," said Laredo. 

When the vehicle pulling the trailer began to slow Laredo instructed Suzie to pass them. A red Dodge SUV was pulling the trailer. After a while both vehicles where headed back to the Ramirez School. Laredo didn't like that it was now totally dark outside. This shit had been going on too long.

They slowed and  red Dodge SUV arrived at the school and Laredo watched Ricky and Carlos climb out of the Dodge and work to unhitch the trailer. Laredo and Suzie waited in the car until they were done unhitching the trailer, leaving it next to the pickup as Laredo had instructed. When they returned to the SUV Laredo asked Suzie to pull up with her car and block their exit.

"You stay here," he told Suzie. "and cover my ass."

He then stepped out of the car and walked straight toward the SUV. Ricky was in the driver's seat. Carlos was in the back with a female. Laredo tapped on the driver's-side window and Ricky rolled it down. Laredo told him that the rear axle tires were missing as well as the ramps and that they needed to "return the missing stuff. You're going to pay for the rims, tires and ramps, or it's coming out of your ass." From the backseat Carlos called out, "Manuel returned the trailer in this condition. We will pay. Just give us a few days. We don't even have money for gas right now."
 
"Bullshit," Laredo growled. He then walked to his pickup and unlocked the stainless steel toolbox.

---

Fifth installment mañana.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Three of 5

Continuted from yesterdays's posting.
---

Laredo made some calls to find this Rudy Sanchez and learned that his place was somewhere on county road  440 over in the next county, Jim Wells. He and Chuy climbed back into the Ford and took off for the Palito Blanco area, leaving Sanchez in the center of a dust cloud in the road.

After a few misses they came on Sanchez' place.  Chuy got down and went over to knock on the door of the main house. No one answered. A nortenio tune was coming from somewhere in back so they drove around where a smaller building stood. Chuy again got off the truck to go knock. Laredo got out and stood by the pickup. There was no answer at the door. A few seconds later a fellow came from around back, stopping in the shade of the building when he saw Chuy standing standing in his yard.
Without looking away from the Sanchez, Chuy motioned for Laredo to come closer. They both came up to the fellow and introduced themselves. The small man identified himself as Rudy. Laredo told him he was there to recover his stolen trailer. Sanchez said that he did not know what they were talking about. Laredo made it known to Rudy that Carlos had just called him not less than an hour ago from his own cell phone and that he knew that the two had discussed the theft of the trailer and also that Carlos had asked for somebody by the nickname “Gordo.” Laredo told Rudy to quit the bullshit and tell him who this Gordo was. Sanchez hesitated to identify the person, and then Laredo told him that neither Chuy nor he was leaving until they got some answers.
He first looked at Chuy and then at Laredo, then said that Gordo was his little brother, Ricky Sanchez. They continued talking about the theft of the trailer from Las Colmenas Ranch believed to have been stolen by Carlos and Ricky. Rudy denied any knowledge or involvement in the theft, but did not discount the fact that perhaps the stolen trailer could be somewhere in the bushes around his property. "Ricky's always leaving his shit around here," he said.

"Agui son puras ratas," Laredo said out loud. "Tu y tu pinche congal son nada mas que pinches ratas."
He walked past Rudy to have a look around and see if the trailer was there. Chuy stayed put by the Ford. After searching a while Laredo found no sign of his trailer. He did come across three four-wheelers, a saddle, some tires still on the rims, and three young goats tied to a small mesquite out back. Rudy was very nervous now. Again Laredo told him that no one was going anywhere until he got some answers. Rudy then placed a call from his cell phone to Carlos Sanchez saying, "You better return this man's trailer right now." After the call, Rudy said, "You have to wait for them at the Ramirez School around 8 or 8:30" Laredo looked at his watch. It was 7:30.

Rudy continued talking about Carlos, Ricky and the theft, but he was the only one listening. Laredo interrupted him to say something about Carlos's appearance, saying that it seemed to him as if Carlos was under the influence of coke. "I know that ‘look’,” Laredo said. He suggested to Rudy that they probably sold the trailer for cocaine. Rudy nodded in agreement. Laredo continued talking about drugs and the likelihood of Carlos and Ricky Sanchez breaking into other people's places to maintain their drug habit. Laredo stated that Ricky and Carlos were trying to sell the trailer to buy an ounce or two of coke. Rudy said "probably for an eight ball or two of coke." Laredo told Rudy that his trailer was probably with some coke dealer right now.

Rudy then mentioned a person's name unknown to Laredo and something about "mi conección." After more conversation about Ricky and Carlos and dealers, Rudy indicated that they, meaning Ricky and Carlos, would not have "jumped his connection." Laredo reminded him that they had already done so, judging by the condition of Carlos at the time that he and Chuy had seen him.
 
This Rudy character was also pretty fucked up with coke, as far as Laredo was concerned, and was probably the guy who supplied Carlos with coke in exchange for stolen goods. Rudy went on to mention "Mi amigo, Manuel Jose Rios, has changed. He's all business now; no fuck ups."
Laredo told him that he knew Manuel Jose Rios, calling him no good coke user and thief; the same as him and Carlos and Ricky. He pointed a finger directly at Rudy, telling him to his face that they were the type that stole from people’s homes and ranches to feed their sorry-ass habits. "You're all fuck ups," he told him.

The words did not seem to register on Rudy and he continued talking about Rios, and then Laredo told him, "I bet my trailer is at this asshole's place. Where's he live?"
Rudy replied, "No. They (Ricky and Carlos) wouldn't have "jumped mi conección," meaning the two would not have bypassed their primary source for coke to get it from someone else. Laredo said he didn't know and didn't care, but he told Rudy that they had already "jumped tu conección" judging by Carlos's condition when he’d last seen him. Laredo repeated that they had better show up with his trailer or he was going straight to Rios' place.
“No. I’ll go get it,” he pleaded. “I don’t need no more trouble with him. I’ll go get it.”

---
Forth  installment mañana.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Two of 5

Continuted from yesterdays's posting.
---

“Chuy,” he called out, “let’s go get my trailer. Let’s go find this Carlos Sanchez.”

Laredo had purchased the trailer, with ramps, at the Big Tex dealer in Pharr, Texas -- shelling out $2500. When he’d got it to the ranch, he had gone to the expense of replacing its original tires with 8-ply heavy-duty radials. That had set him back another $500, plus the $400 for new rims. With these improvements the trailer was a pricey investment.

Laredo knew where this Carlos Sanchez fellow lived, so that afternoon he and Chuy drove to his place in Tienditas, a sad scattering of trailer houses and old homes that stood in a tiny ranching community that was decades past its prime.  When they got to Sanchez' place he parked along the makeshift privacy fence surrounding it. The fence, such as it was, was a collection of old corrugated tin and weathered 8X4 plywood panels. The impression it gave was that of a place that had something to hide.
In an effort to see into the property Laredo opened his driver’s side door and stood on the running board. Sanchez’ woman must have heard or seen them because a few seconds later they heard a woman's voice call Sanchez' name. He opened the front door and walked to the front gate and motioned to Laredo and Chuy to come over. Initially, Carlos did not recognize Laredo until he got up close. He said, “I know you,” then asked what it was he wanted. Laredo told him the reason for the visit was to "purchase" a trailer he heard he was selling.
“Yeah, I might have a trailer if you want to buy it,” said Sanchez.
“I want to buy it. I have the cash right now... right here with me” said Laredo.
“Yeah, I think I might have a trailer to sell... maybe.”
“I want to see it,” said Laredo.
Sanchez had yet to meet his gaze. His eyes were focused on empty space and then he went silent, but every now and then he would turn to steal nervous looks at Chuy.
Laredo wasn't sure Sanchez had understood him. He appeared nervous, looking pale and sweaty, and seemed unable to respond. This was going nowhere. When he still did not say anything Laredo made it known that he was the owner of the trailer.

“That trailer is mine, cabron,” he said, matter-of-factly. “You stole it from my place.”
Sanchez suddenly found his tongue and denied having any knowledge of a theft, any theft at all. Again, Laredo told him that the trailer he was attempting to sell had been stolen from him and that he had knowledge of Sanchez’ involvement. Laredo strongly suggested that he come with Chuy and him to recover the trailer from where ever he had it stashed. Additionally, Laredo edged an elbow in the direction of Chuy, telling Sanchez that he would spare no effort to recover his property.

"Okay," said Sanchez. "I… I…might know something about a trailer. I didn't know it belonged to y... you. I need to call s… s… somebody."

"Call whoever you have to right now, but get my trailer," Laredo said, slipping his cell phone from its holster and handing it to Sanchez.  When he started to make a call Laredo asked who he was calling.
"Mi tio Rudy," said Sanchez, “he knows more about the trailer than me.” Carlos wasn't making sense, or else he thought that Laredo was stupid. During the call Laredo heard him ask the voice on the other end, "¿Tio, esta Gordo alli?" Carlos then said that a "buyer" was at his place to get the trailer. He sounded desperate, then flipped the phone closed. He turned to Laredo and told him that he would have to wait until 8 or 9 to pick up the trailer.
Again, he said, "I did not know the trailer belonged to you. I will take it back to you today." Laredo just looked at him, then asked why the long wait. Sanchez said that according to his uncle "the guy that has the trailer is working a backhoe near Palito Blanco. We need to wait for him." Laredo told Carlos he was leaving and would be in the Concepcion-Rios area and that he expected to be kept informed by phone. Laredo looked at the man and told him, "Don't think for a minute, asshole, that I'm going to let this go."

---
Third installment mañana.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One of 5

Back in April of '09 a good story reached my ears. It was testosteronically invigorating because it was true and inspired the following fiction. It is presented in five bite-sized pieces. I only hope my mother does not  read it. She did not raise her kids to use the kind of language I peppered this thing with.

---

Don't Call the Law

One April morning Suzie was brushing a glossy red on the toes of her small feet with tiny strokes of nail polish. Her husband wouldn't be home for three days, so she was smoking, too -- Virginia Slims. Suzie's cell phone rang, interrupting the delicate work of beautifying her little toes. The call was from Marcos, her son, and he had bad news. She told him to stay put until she got there and hung up. Suzie put down her cigarette and capped the polish long enough to telephone her brother-in-law with the distressing news. At the receiving end was Baltazar Laredo. He was in Edinburg. She was in Premont, seventy-five miles to the north, where she recounted what her teen-aged son had told her minutes before. Someone with a good set of bolt cutters had busted the chain on the gate to Las Colmenas Ranch, 120 acres of sparse pasture mixed with prickly pear and mesquite near Concepcion. Suzie's husband and Laredo ranched it part-time. The property lay in the middle of dense brush country, one county away from where Suzie sat on her bed, beautifying the toes of her small feet. The lock and chain were gone, too, she explained.

“They stole your trailer,” she said. “Your brother's gonna be pissed when he gets back from El Campo and finds out. I’m not gonna call to let him know. He's already mad at me. You tell him.”

“What else did they take?”

Nothing else seemed to be missing from the property according to Marcos, she told him, but he had better come up quick and take a look for himself, she added. “Your nephew doesn’t know half the shit you all keep out there. They probably took more shit than just the trailer.”

Today was Wednesday. He suspected the theft had occurred over the weekend. The ranch was in one of the more isolated parts of the county and there was no one around to watch the goings-on except lizards, snakes, coyotes and turkey vultures high overhead, and they didn't talk, take notes, or snap pictures.
“I’ll take care of it,” he spoke into the phone. “Don’t call my brother, and don't call the law. I’ll take care of it.” He hung up.

A few minutes later Laredo’s phone rang again. It was Marcos, Suzie’s son, calling with new information. Some guy named Carlos Sanchez was trying to sell a trailer that morning to a couple of guys he knew in the area. It was now noon. Laredo had a quick bite, climbed into his Ford and headed north from Edinburg. On the drive up he called a friend in Falfurrias, Chuy Lopez.  He was going to need backup. The oilfield was down and his friend Chuy was without work. Laredo could depend on him to come along to watch his back. Chuy stood six-two and probably weighed two-hundred and seventy pounds. His sun-burnt hulk would project the right message.

When the two got to the ranch gate Laredo saw that the chain and lock had already been replaced. He figured it was Marcos who had done it. He was a good kid. Marcos and Suzie were waiting at the ranch house when they drove up. After a good look around, Laredo said all that was taken was his 16X8 equipment trailer, just as Suzie had said, but nothing else as she had suspected. It did not register on his face, but he was pissed.

---
Second installment mañana.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Impossible

NOTHING. NOTHING shall be impossible to those that believe.


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Sunday, July 4, 2010

El Cuatro de Julio

People were never so happy to have the weatherman err in his prognostication for the chances of rain this weekend. Happy too, are the fireworks stands. The countryside is so green you couldn't start a grass fire if your life depended on it. God bless America.

I love being an American -- proud of it, too. I relish freedom. My citizenship is an accident of birth and I make no apologies.

The Founding Fathers had such a hunger for liberty that they risked everything to satisfy it. In the process some lost their fortunes. Some lost their lives. They plotted to resist a tyrannical government possessed of the greatest military force in the world at a time when Revolutionary America had no army and no navy. It was madness to think of resistance, much less act on it. That was suicide. They had no money, nor any authority to stage a revolution. The British Empire possessed far superior manpower, experience and firepower. Americans' only earthly advantage was their lust for freedom -- for self-determination. They succeeded.

Today, to honor the sacrificial harvest of all the blood, sweat and tears they shed to secure the blessings of that hard-won liberty, we spend the day eating, drinking. listening to music, shooting off fireworks and generally having a jolly good time. So before you call it a day on this Fourth of July say a little prayer of thanks for the brave Americans who founded this great nation and another prayer for the equally brave Americans in uniform stationed around this wonderful world who stand vigilant against those who work to deny us our hard-fought freedom. Be reminded that the United States of America is... the home of the brave.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Here's Mud in Your Eye

The ol' man and cool wet mud  come to mind when I come across a nest of yellow jackets. Their sting hurts plenty, but I'm not afraid of them. My first recollection of a sting goes back nearly 50 years. Dad and his fellow ranch hand, Andres, were clearing brush from a fence line. My job was to keep a safe distance from the swing of their axes before reaching for the cut bush with gloved hands and pulling them clear. These I piled some distance away for later burning.

One limb of brush must have had a wasp nest in it. The yellow jackets were soon on me and I got stung on the brow of my right eye. It hurt plenty.

"¿Te picaron?" my dad called out.

I answered yes. He dropped his ax and rushed over to take a look. Soon, my eye begins to swell. We're in the middle of a long stretch of barbed wire fence in the middle of the brush and Dad's on company time. There isn't much that can be done. It's only the sting from a wasp. I still hurt, but remain stoic.

Dad places his hand on my small back and ushers me next to the old Willys jeep that served as his and Andres' wheels on the ranch. With one hand he reaches down and scoops up a palm-full of dirt, then straightens up and with the other reaches to the galvanized steel water cooler and sets it down on the narrow panel of the jeep's rear fender.

"Con un zoqetito se te compone," he tells me.  Dad jams his thumb into the button dispenser of the cooler and lets a trickle of cold water fall into the hand with the dirt. With a little swirl of his finger he soon has a pasty mud that he begins to dab on the area of the wasp sting.

That was that. I'm told to sit in the shade until I feel better and Dad gets back to where Andres is dropping the silver edge of his axe on the mesquite and huisache. Wasps make me think of the ol' man.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stay on the Road

This would be a better country for living if only Mother Nature would parcel out her gift from the clouds more evenly throughout the South Texas growing season. No one or no place needs it all at once.

On a long stretch of Highway 141 it was imperative that motorists do their best to stay on the road. Its grassy shoulder took on the nature of parallel canals cutting a beeline to Kingsville. The danger of drowning was greater than that of breaking your neck if one ran off the road.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Weather Event

In the middle of a hot summer last year God heard his children in the pueblito pray for the heavens to open up and pour 10 to 12 inches of relief on the drought-stricken land. He not only heard, but He answered in the affirmative, blessing them with a relatively wet 2010. The pueblitero's cup runneth over. This afternoon they clenched their fists and cursed the rain-laden clouds they once dreamed about and took to shouting basta! The far-reaching effects of Hurricane Alex slogging far to the south in Old Mexico dumped eight inches on the town in the last couple of days. The same pious bunch is now praying that it stop.

A sound bit of advice to follow is to study carefully what you pray for. God is true. He honors His Word; generously, as witnessed by the puddles, ponds and plethora of charquitos on every horizontal plot of real estate for miles around Benavides, Texas.