Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amigo

He said he was a lucky man to have "the blood of Spain, the heart of Mexico and the freedom of America." Born Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso on December 11, 1905 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, the world knew him as Gilbert Roland.

In a former entertainment climate Roland's onscreen presence exuded a measure of masculinity, class and dignity that has all but disappeared for the appreciation of modern moviegoers. Today, he, as well as his body of work, are just about lost to memory, except perhaps by me in this little South Texas pueblito of Benavides; it too, forgotten by the world. Since I was a kid Gilbert Roland always reminded me of my dad's persona.

Long ago Roland penned his signature on a wooden column of La Perla restaurant in Acapulco's El Mirador Hotel. A local artisan then carefully carved it into the wood for posterity. Only God knows how long it had been there before I happened on it in the summer of 1985. I traced it with my index finger and that was the closest I ever came to Gilbert Roland. Happy birthday, Amigo.

Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso died in Beverly Hills, California on May 15, 1994 at age 88. His remains were cremated and the ashes scattered at sea.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Real Meat

He says one day to Melba and me as we're sitting down to supper... "I don't like your meat." (carne picada) "I like steak... T-bone... the kind that Grandpa makes." This evening the boy sat down to a plate of steak and was very grateful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Break in the Routine

(A True Story)
Early this morning Mom steps out of the house to feed the cats and the glass door swings shut, locking behind her. Now she finds herself locked out of the house with no phone and no way to get back inside. She walks around the house a couple of times imagining that if she found a window unlocked that she could somehow find the strength to pull her 85-year-old frame through a window that is five feet off the ground. At her peak Mom never stood more than five foot two.

She walks to the garage and explores for a tool that will multiply her strength to help pry open the locked door. She locates a small hacksaw and grows hopeful. After a couple of minutes of plying the narrow gap between the door frame and lock. her effort proves futile. She then resorts to brute force, deciding to utilize the oddly shaped 20-pound rock set by the door as a keepssake.

The new plan is violent. She pictures using the rock to smash the 30x48-inch plate glass on the door to gain entry. She utters a short silent prayer and hefts the relatively smooth white rock waist high then swings at the glass. To her surprise it resists the first timid blow. Now she swings again with greater force and the glass deflects the second blow. Then, in the process of adjusting her grip on the rock for a third try, her thumb catches a sharp edge of a griphold and it cuts her. The small wound is deep. She sets the rock down and examines the now bleeding thumb. Droplets of blood are falling steadily from the cut. They paint crimson discs the size of a quarter as they splatter on the wood planking of the porch she enjoys so much in the cool of the afternoons.

Mom sees a soiled rag draped over one of the chairs clustered around the metal table next to her and reaches for it. She wads it up and uses it as a compress against the wound and sits to collect her thoughts. She looks around is reminded of how very alone she is at the moment. She prays.

A tenacious spirit all her life, Mom decides to walk the five-hundred feet that separates her from the highway, presently, her only link to human assistance. She will stand between the road's edge and the cattleguard to flag down help. She needs a phone and every soul motoring  today's roads carries one these days, thank the Lord. The traffic is sporadic. The few motorists that pass from north to south and south to north exchange friendly waves to the little old lady cutting the air with waves of her arms. It is an uncommon sight, but not alarming enough for them to stop and examine the circumstances.

Finally, an older couple passes, waves back, and continues northward, but before the vehicle disappears beyond the crest the hill, they slow and return -- Good Samaritans this morning. What follows are examining questions and the accompanying answers to shed light on the situation. A phone is produced and a son is on his way. Thirty minutes later Mom is back on routine and in town playing bingo with her friends.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Day at the Office

Just another day at the office standing on the top of the world... lookin' down on creation... please hold my calls.


My nerves cringed every time this guy hoofed it around the top of the water tower; the heels of his work boots treading lightly on a steel platform 130 feet off the ground. His dance with death high up there was eye-riveting and I found myself envying the man.

I finished my lunch then climbed back into my pickup and headed back to the office for three-and-a-half hours of sitting on my ass at the keyboard; the whole while in the company of females. I wonder if guys like him have ever envied guys like me?

Later, I saw his company truck and trailer parked at one of our two local eateries. He and his crew were likely having lunch. I didn't have time to stop or I would have gone inside and shook his hand and told him that he performed admirable, if not entertaining, solo work.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Canine Contentment

The sweet air of the early fall season has descended on Benavides and that suits "Admin", the NSCL pooch, just fine.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Not Fast Enough

Cars and trucks are solid objects that pack a heavy punch. Squirrels do not know that until it is too late. All they know is that cars and trucks move back and forth on the broad bands of hard black ground that run in straight paths all over their local territory. As they move, fast or slow, they produce a lot of noise, too. Sometimes, their squirrel buddies get hit by one of these loud moving things. They do not bounce off them like they would were they more pliable like a tree. No... when the two come into contact, death is instantaneous and permanent.

Squirrels simply can not compete with the moving objects on any level. They are just not fast enough. What are you going to do?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nature's Resilience

It had not rained enough since January in these parts to fill a thimble. This was drought showing its ugliest face. Yet, a couple of inches in September stirred sleeping seeds in the hard-packed soiled. What sprouts from the ground is evidence of nature's resilience.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It Rained Here Once


Before the gods of the air turned their backs on the parched brush country, they permitted rain with great inundation on old Benavides, Texas.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Used to be Home


Exercise patience. The video of the U.S. naval base at Yokosuka, Japan (shot by another party) jumps to life after 40 seconds.

Monday, August 15, 2011

He's Having A Hot Time


"Admin", the NSCL wonder dog, has survived his assorted ailments only to spend his waking hours plopped down on a cool patch of earth stressing out the Dog Days of Summer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Old Bones

With tropical storm Don making landfall in less than twenty-four hours, mas o menos, my big brother took to the heights of the tallest mesquite to give it a trim job for safety's sake. Not bad for a guy who has 23,473 days worth of mileage on his bones.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I love the smell of...

A dear friend and her husband have operated a raspa stand in Benavides, Texas for 19 years. It has become a commercial icon in our pueblito. I read her post on Facebook today and felt a little ashamed that her gift for writing had escaped me all these years. She wrote...

"I love to stand in front of the raspa stand window when the pool is open. I love the sights and sounds of the pool......​..but most of all I LOVE when a little breeze blows and.... hmmmm.....​ I LOVE the smell of chlorine and suntan lotion."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How Small the World Is

In my former life, I taught school to high school kids. Mario Viera, an ex-student, graduated in 2006. Today, he serves our country and is stationed in Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki, Japan. Young Mario wears a United States Navy uniform aboard the USS Avenger. It's a minesweeper. Once in a while we chat via Facebook. At 10:01 a.m. Saturday my time, and 12:01 a.m. Sunday his time, we began a conversation separated by over 6000 miles of time and space.

[Mario Viera]
how r u sir
[Me]
Baking hot in Benavides, Mr. Viera. It's SUMMERTIME in the dry and dusty brush country.
[Mario Viera]

i dont miss that one bit
[Me]
We could use a cool sea breeze about now.
How goes the personal physical training?

[Mario Viera]
it going ok just gettin back from deployment
[Me]
Mario Viera.... Defender of the American Way and other good things...........
[Mario Viera]
lol
[Me]
My wife and I drove (DROVE!!!) to Florida last week to see the final launch of the Shuttle. It was fantastic.
[Mario Viera]
sounds like a real good time
wats new in benavides
[Me]
The dog population is up and the people is down.
[Mario Viera]
lol wow thats no good
[Me]
No... no... many of the dogs are much nicer.
[Mario Viera]
lol
[Me]
Do you have a Kindle, or a Kindle app on your smart phone?
The Kindle app is free.
[Mario Viera]
no i dont, i dont read books because i spend most of my work day doing paper work and reading instruction
[Me]
You are a busy man. If and when you do, buy this ebook. It's only $1.99. I wrote it.

 www.amazon.com/Nobody-Reads-the-Backs-of-Cereal-Boxes-Anymore
[Mario Viera]
ok ill check it out
when did you write it
[Me]
A couple of months ago. It's fiction, but you may recognize some of the characters. Only people from Benavides would be able to.
[Mario Viera]
lol im sure its some good reading
[Me]
Well... it may help you go to sleep faster.
[Mario Viera]
lol
[Me]
Bueno, Mario.... ya no te quito tiempo. It's always good to hear from you.
[Mario Viera]
im not busy right now sir, im out at sea as we speak so i got plenty of time
[Me]
Wow! Out at sea! I love technology. What time is it for you on that side of the globe? Midnight?
[Mario Viera]
1222 am
[Me]
Night shift work or free time?
[Mario Viera]
free time at night
well our day changes every day, it depends on what watch we have
[Me]
Too bad the Navy doesn't allow pet dogs onboard. They could help pass the time and be fun companions.
[Mario Viera]
ya that would be nice
so what made u write a book?
[Me]
The Marines on your ship don't have any?
[Mario Viera]
i dont have no marines on my ship
and them clowns r like pets
[Me]
Hahahahaaaaaaaaaa...........
You ever seen an old movie called "V for Vendetta"?
I am watching it now. Good story. Blood and action and drama.

[Mario Viera]
hows ur family
[Me]
All healthy and content. Our mother turns 85 in three weeks and is as strong as ever.
[Mario Viera]
wow thats awesome
my mom just turned 44 on the 14th
[Me]
And.... and... and..... we each (her and I) have a couple of cold Budweisers on the porch every Sunday afternoon.
[Mario Viera]
lol
[Me]
44... I used to be 44... 14 years ago.
[Mario Viera]
lol
thats a while back
[Me]
Like yesterday for me. As you, sir, grow older and wiser... the passage of days will speed up like a rocket to the moon, and you will ask yourself every morning... "where is the time going."
[Mario Viera]
i feel it already
it dont feel like it but its been 3 yrs in the service for me
[Me]
"Three Years," is like the blink of an eye.
[Mario Viera]
yeah it is but its been fun
[Me]
You have so many more winks to go, sir.
[Mario Viera]
yup i sure do
[Me]
So when your Navy days are behind you, what employable skills will you walk away with?
[Mario Viera]
right now i got electrical technician, and small arms instructor
[Me]
I see in the crystal ball a Border Patrol electrician wiring up a 10,000 volt fence along the TEX MEX border.
[Mario Viera]
lol that's a possibility
[Me]
By the time you get out of the service the new war front will be the Rio Grande.
[Mario Viera]
ya i hear the border war is gettin out of hand
[Me]
The news people talk about "sleeper cells" of Muslim terrorists lying in wait in all fifty states. That's not the problem for us. The Mexican cartels already have their own "sleeper cells" in operation among us. (Don't I sound scary!)
[Mario Viera]
ya its a scary thing to think about but its out there and people dont realize it
[Me]
The wife and I will one day move north to a place that has no check points or Border Patrol cruisers.
[Mario Viera]
that would be a great idea benavides is doing no good for anyone
[Me]
My idea for Benavides is to make it the 8-Liner Capitol of Texas. That would bring new life to the town. New life and new people and better breeds of dogs.
[Mario Viera]
well sir im gonna go catch a few zzzzz it was great talkin to u and i will read ur book and tell u wat i think bout it take care and tell ur family i said hi
[Me]
Buenas noches, joven. God bless you and thanks for the chat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Wrote a Book

It is an ebook and available on Amazon.com for only $1.99. Click HERE for a sample or to purchase. You can read it on your computer, a Kindle, an iPad, or other ebook delivery device. It is a work of fiction. Buy it and help make me rich. I always remember my friends.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It Doesn't Take Much

Dad always appreciated a good thick spread of St. Augustine grass. One of my earliest memories is of Dad carefully digging up neat squares of sod grass from our old place, circa 1958, to transplant to the yard of the ranch house we moved to when I was five years old. More than fifty years later the grass is still there, thriving.

Dad always said it was the water, and our windmill pumped good water -- sweet. To date, it is the finest tasting well water I have ever come across. The water was so soft you could hardly rinse the suds off of your hands when you washed before supper. After a bath your skin felt silky smooth and your hair was as soft as a baby's. That was long ago and Dad is gone now. Sol me quedan los recuerdos.

Dad's parents, a brother and a sister, aunts and uncles, are buried in the Salas Cemetery, a half-acre patch in the heart of what was once a great farming community in the day of my great grandfather. When my father's father was laid to rest there in December of 1957 the cemetery was bordered by farm and pastureland in all directions, but by then, the decline had begun. The farming communities that were the norm of the time, and the area, became fewer and fewer. Today, a vast tangle of mesquite brush has dominion over the land that cotton ruled a half-century ago.

Time marches on. Ours is a different age and a different economy. A good number of the old Salas clan lay underneath that ground. A couple of times a year some of the living will hoe off the weeds and tidy up the place, but our number will to perform that chore is in decline. The graves, like the memory of the people that rest beneath, are being forgotten. It doesn't take much -- just time. Before the present generation passes, the weeds and prairie grasses are going to hide them from sight.

The idea that no one would tend his grave irked Dad. Offhandedly, he let it be known that this was a great concern to him. As dearly as he loved his parents, he declared on more than one occasion that when the time came, he wished his remains to be deposited in Benavides.

"A si me ponen flores y regarán el zacatito mas sequido," was how he worded it.

He got his wish. The flowers that color his grave may be artificial, but they are bright and pretty. The grass is real. It is thick and green. At first I tried getting Bermuda grass to cover the ground there, but it would not take no matter how much effort I made. Sun, no sun, water a lot, water sparingly, aerate the soil, for years I tried. Then I did what the old man would have done. I dug up a good bit of sod grass from my brother's yard in Bruni and put it to work at the cemetery. I watered it religiously and bingo -- the grass took and thrived. Dad just had to have his way. He wanted what he appreciated most, St. Augustine.

Today I mowed it in this hundred degree heat and then gave it a good soaking for a couple of hours. Even during this miserable dry spell, the resting place for his earthly remains is green and shady -- just like he would have wanted it. The old man has been gone since the fall of '95, but I still follow orders. It doesn't take much.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Man on a Horse

From atop his mount the rider motioned down with his head to the three-year-old mare as "un paso fino," referring to the light horse breed, as well  as to how it handled. "See how she moves," he called out as the two cut figure eights between trees, posts and what obstacles could be had. The fluid motion of the pair trotting over the ground made for a graceful sight and a fine image. A bad picture cannot be taken of a man astride a saddled horse.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Easy Come, Easy Go

This short video was recorded a long time ago using an old Magnavox VHS shoulder-mounted camcorder.
Remember those?

Monday, June 6, 2011

D DAY

Sixty-seven Years Ago Today

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces:
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory.
"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.
"Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
-- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
June 1944

Sunday, June 5, 2011

El Cenizo

A story came to my ears a few weeks ago; a sad one. Some kid at the high school had asked why the school yearbook was called El Cenizo. To add to the insult, another question followed. "What does it mean, cenizo?"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Dead Fish in the Water

The boy was not bothered in the least by the stench of the dead fish. Small waves from the bay were lapping on the remains at water's edge, preventing him from examining it more closely. He turned and dashed off to find a stick.

It had been a year to the day since the boy had last stood on this narrow strip of coarse sand. The cloudy water was not inviting to him, but the place was interesting. There was that half-rotted fish to examine. He soon returned with a stick of adequate length to prod it with.

He lanced the fish with the stick and brought it up out of the water, holding it high for us to see more closely. He urged us to look. The boy was fascinated with the scales, bones and exposed organs. We declined his invitation. Our just eaten dinner was still digesting in our bellies. It was nauseating to look on it, but the slimy carcass had no effect on the boy. His disappointment in our lack of enthusiasm showed on his face. He could not understand that we had not driven this far for a good meal to come look at a dead fish in the water.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Etiquette

The lives of these proud but tattered banners at the BISD campuses could be doubled if they were only retired at the end of every workday and not left to flap unceremoniously around the clock.



It would require an employee to hoist them daily, then lower and secure them at day's end. In the present work climate, that is not going to happen.

Some would question the need to fuss with the flags at all if a light shined on them throughout the night. However, hanging limp, and bathed in the harshness of a mercury lamp throughout the long night hardly constitutes "a light shining" on them. The colors have earned more respect than that.

Many years ago Mr. Aureliano Garcia, Sr. used to perform the flag duties for the school; mornings and afternoons. Without witness or fanfare, he made certain the flag never touched the ground. Back in those days, proper etiquette was the norm.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Birthday Girl

Over the years I have seen my girl blow out a lot of birthday candles, but there weren't any today. As adults advance in years they begin snuffing out fewer candles, and instead  blow more money. Cold cash is more fun than hot wax.
Feliz Cumpleaños, Babe.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Uncomplicated

The long and narrow hallway linked the small brown man with the tourist families crowded into the noisy dining area. He was washing a never-ending march of dishes. Several paces from his back, fathers, wives and kids were chowing down Mexican fare. If any of them cared to pull their faces away from their food long enough, those seated at tables 3, 4 or 5 could look a couple of dozen feet down the hall and see the dishwasher rocking from heal to heal as he plucked dirty plates, glasses and silerware off a tray and ploped them into the stainless steel basin. The water was steaming hot. The collar and shirt sleeve arm pits of the brown man's shirt were damp from the steam and his sweat.

The dishwasher led an uncomplicated existence. That evening, after catching two city buses to his barrio, no one in the house would ask how his day had gone. They knew.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

¿Que Chansa Tengo?

As a lamb to the slaughter, he followed the women into the room. A plain countertop claimed one corner of the small space. Arranged neatly on the surface were a coffee maker, microwave oven, a short stack of foam cups and plates, salt, pepper and napkins. The ladies crowded around the tall table in the center of the room and began to build ice cream sundaes.

Taking turns, they each struggled with the ice cream scoop. The tubs of vanilla were frozen too hard and so he stepped closer from behind them to lend a hand. He had the required muscle to dig into the tub without grimacing too much. He wished to appear strong. In short order, he had their clear plastic cups topped past the rims. To his own detriment, he was especially generous with his.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Old Betsy


It would have been more prudent to have purchased the toy rifle when he first asked for it years ago. Today I am paying for it with 2011 dollars.

On this year's visit to "Shrine of Texas Liberty" the boy was especially inquisitive. His interest in the weapons employed by both sides at the Battle of the Alamo tested my ability to supply satisfactory answers.

From prior vists to the souvernier shop, the boy knew exactly where the toy "Old Betsy" rifles were racked. I did not hesitate a bit when his eyes moved from the orange-tipped toys to me and back again.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

1 year, 6 months, 24 days



How time flies. La Mota Street has a fresh smooth surface this afternoon. 571 days have come and gone since that morning on October 2009 when the machines came to rip away this quarter-mile stretch of fragmented and pot-holed blacktop. No hay apuro en el pueblito.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Piedras

Some time in the summer of 1979, the Ranch crew was working across Highway 359 putting up a new fence. We were setting T-posts and stringing barbed wire along the right-of-way of the former Tex-Mex Railroad tracks. Every couple of hours or so a train would come by and we would stop our work. What guy doesn't get a kick out of watching a very loud train rush by up close? There were a whole bunch of us back then. The crew was made up of Dad, Dick Shimer, Allen McDaniels, Ricky, Danny, and myself.




I don't know who picked up the first rock and threw it at a passing open boxcar, but very soon we all followed suit. The idea was to throw a stone or a rock clear through the open doors of the passing boxcar. It took a little skill and good timing to accomplish the task and it was a lot of fun. More often than not we failed at it and only heard the rock loudly bouncing off the steel walls inside the car. This was a great pastime and we took advantage of every passing train for the next few days that we were working on the fence line.

On one occasion, however, as the train was whizzing by and we were bombarding the passing boxcars with rocks and stones, we saw a couple of wetbacks duck for cover inside the boxcar when our barrage of rocks rattled the inside of the car they were occupying. After that we thought better of it and stopped the practice. These poor unfortunates had enough to worry about already without a bunch of locos like us pelting them with rocks and stones.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keep Hope Alive

"Admin", the NSCL pooch, visited with the vet at the Brush Country Veterinary Clinic in Freer this afternoon. After a methodical examination, he was diagnosed as suffering acute kidney disease. Admin is presently taking a cocktail of prescription medications and has been advised by his vet to avoid all forms of stress. Once the medication runs its course, he will return to the clinic for a follow-up visit. The prognosis is encouraging. His mashed paw remains tender, but it will heal satisfactorily.

Words do not come easily to Admin, and it is all but impossible for him to personally thank all those generous and good-hearted folks who worked to secure his health care fund. His gratitude will forever be true and boundless.

On a side note, most of his human friends figured that Admin was an old and tired dog. That is not the case. The vet determined that this once unfortuante canine was only about three years old. Life on the mean streets of Benavides, Texas must have taken their toll on Admin before his rescue and adoption. His outlook is hopeful.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Moved to Tears


No lines on a body were ever shaped more seductively than those that stirred my lust today. The sheer and curvy figure was pure perfection. I locked my thumbs in my pants pockets to keep my hands in check. Animalistic desire to reach out and touch made me tremble. My eyes pooled, blurring my vision. Boldly, I stole one more look, then walked away.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Watching Smoke

Mesquite smoke coming off the grill clouded their vision and made their eyes water, but did little to hinder their appetite for beer or barbecue.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hands That Can

He has a feel for machinery; how the moving parts should click and resonate when in good working order, and the telltale grinds and moans when not. It is a gift; a mechanical endowment that cannot be acquired from books or observation. In a perfect world, all men would be so blessed. Such as it is, in this world, he is a valued commodity, contributing as much to the quality of life as the sainted physician.


However, unlike the healer, the mechanic can bring the long dead back to life. The powers he calls on are the knowledge in his head, the right tools and replacement parts.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Have Sprayer, Will Kill

Absent the slightest tremor or hesitation, he has come to kill. Late this afternoon, his poison will snuff the life of his victims using the pale yellow mixture in the spray applicator hanging from his shoulder. The deliverer of death is Sevin XLR in the form of a gentle, yet toxic, mist. It is the hope of the killer that the hive is not populated by Africanized bees. He has no assurance that they are not, but he entertains little doubt that they are. Regardless, he has come to kill.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Thursday

"Admin", the NSCL company dog, conducted his raffle today. He did all right. Counting all the employee donations and raffle ticket sales, his health care fund rose to $477.15. Pictured are the Admin Office staff who initially adopted "Admin". They brought him in off the cold mean streets of Benavides last winter, and since that lucky day..., he has enjoyed a warm and loving home.

The cardboard box he had called his casita was today discarded for a swank and roomy hardwood model purchased by the Admin Office staff out of their own pockets. It was a good Thursday. Our canine friend visits with the vet next week. A great big wonderful 'thank you' goes out to all the good and generous people who reached out to this needful pooch, "Admin".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tres Anacahuitas

The anacahuita's blossoms fell to the ground mimicking flakes of snow as a dry wind, paired with the sparse motor traffic cutting west to east on Highway 359, helped sweep the curb free of petals that had spilled onto the hot pavement. A blanket of white spreading under the shade of the three anacahuitas was the only cheerful thing a passerby's eye might catch in the two minutes it took for them to put the cheerless little town behind them. The signs pointed to a dry Easter this year in Benavides, Texas.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hey Mister, can you spare a dime?

The company's resident dog enjoys breezy comfort in the shade of parked cars and trucks. On a workday, the lot is crowded with all makes. As the day progresses, each produces islands of shade that the dog migrates to. He picks a spot to flop down on, depending on the direction of the wind and the position of the sun. He naps more than a cat.

A few of the ladies at work call him "Lucky," others know him as "Admin," and one group named him "Flash." Regardless, he is either deaf or indifferent, because he answers to no alias that reaches his ears.

Sadly, in spite of all the shade and love he receives, his is not a life of comfort. The poor fellow may be afflicted with Gastric Dilation. It is a terrible condition more commonly refereed to as canine bloat. In his case, the stomach becomes overstretched by excessive gas content. It's an excruciating death sentence for Lucky, Flash, Admin, whatever, but his immediate concern these days is his leg. It got mashed when one of the employees was backing out. She was not careless, but the bloated dog was slow in relocating from underneath the Toyota when she started it up. The animal learned quickly that the hulking object that was the source of its shade was very heavy, and hurt very much, when it rolled over his hind leg.

The instant the driver heard his painful yelp, her heart stopped, and when all the fuss of the accident was over, she had a good cry. She was so very sorry for the poor animal. Thereafter, the dog made certain to hobble clear of man-made shade. For the next few days after his mishap, he avoided people, too. In the process, he discovered a preference for St. Augustine grass to nap on, instead of the cool shaded blacktop under the big hulks.

The dog's fortunes improved considerably this morning. Our boss, a kind and benevolent woman, took pity and initiated a collection for the mangled Flash, Lucky, Admin, whatever. She aims to get the pooch attended to by a vet. She had one of the clerks make the rounds of all the offices with a collection jar in hand and in only a few minutes amassed $104.00 from the kindhearted generosity of many employees. Tomorrow the dog is having a raffle to augment his health care fund. I kid you not. You can't make stuff like this up.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Elevated Position

Years of skin mite infestation have rendered one ear all but useless. It is a horrid looking piece of raw flesh encrusted with short tufts of moldy-looking fur. The leathery fold simply hangs off the side of its head like the tattered flap of a worn shirt pocket. It isn't the least bit pretty. The cat is probably deaf out of that one ear. Periodically, it will show up at feeding time bloodied around that ear from all its scratching. The irritation must be as near torturous as hell itself.

We feed the poor animal regularly and provide it and its companions with cool fresh water in a clean bowl, but the wife and I do not claim it, or the others. The only nickel we'll spend on the miserable unfortunate is the twice monthly $6.97  for a seven-pound bag of Meow Mix Original Choice. The cheaper brands would suffice, but the wife prefers a quality product.

When it isn't eating, scratching or mounting felines in heat, it gingerly leaps to the top of the pickup cab and rests there, surveying the country from its elevated position. The cool of the day is its prefered time to siesta up there. It ought not to claim that spot as its own, but it will not be run off. It is a stubborn creature. Only the skin mites have the advantage over it. I really would like to be rid of it, but I fear my wife would find it difficult to forgive me if I shot it dead. I've given up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Twist Wire

Respect the wire, but do not be afraid of it. Do not be thinking that it is stretched too tight. Do not imagine that if it breaks, it is going to recoil violently and bite into you like a thousand fangs, tearing into your flesh, shredding it off your body as though tiny knives were hungry for your blood. Respect it. Do not fear it. If you let fear in, you will make mistakes. You will become careless. Your fear will come without warning and strike you like the rattlesnake that lies coiled on the ground, unseen in the tall grass. Perform your work sure. Have confidence. You were instructed by the best. His example will not fail you. Do not fear the wire.


By the middle of summer his confidence was such that he worked without gloves. He could take hold of wire stretched tight as piano string and twist its ends expertly, same as his father had modeled countless times. More often than not, he produced the same neat coiled pattern that his father did. Truly, he had the advantage over the ol' man. He did not have to work with mangled and splintered bones in his fingers and wrists as his father had for years. He did the best he could with the wire, but could never match the fine work of his father.

Five strands of barbed wired stretched tight like guitar strings for a quarter mile were a thing to respect, especially when it came time for their ends to be wrapped and securely twisted around a pair of ceder corner posts planted solidly five feet in the ground. With good men around him, each secure in their work, respect had edged out fear. He could draw near the barbed steel, almost letting it brush his cheek like a mother would a child. No fear.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Summertime (1955)

David Lean's 1955 "Summertime" was filmed on location in one of my favorite cities. It's a chick flick. Ask me if I care. I liked it so much that I watched it twice today and didn't do a lick of work.

Best line delivered in the movie? "Sometimes I think a schedule in Venice is just.., well.., all wrong."

There ought to be a Make A Wish Fountain for guys like me. My request? "Lord, let me wake up in the morning endowed with the looks, charm and polish of a Rossano Brazzi."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tax Day

Seated behind the steering wheel, the man pulled on the release lever, then pushed against the floorboard with his legs, sliding back the seat as far as it could go. He adjusted the back to about 45 degrees, relaxed, reached for his iPhone and waited. In thirty-six years he had grown comfortable waiting for his wife to finish with her shopping, doctor visits, errands, etc. It was easy work for a patient husband. The man often recalled the days long ago when he had spent all his free time in pursuit of the girl. "All I want to do is be with her," the pangs in his heart had told him. He got what he wanted.

This evening she had disappeared behind the building's glass doors. "This won't take long," she had told him. "I love you," she said, with her eyes and her lips. "Lock yourself in." She had always had an elevated sense of security and caution --  more than the man.

He never bothered to look at the time. Not anymore. She would do what she had to do, and staring at his watch had never encouraged her to move any faster. He did not even wear a watch any longer. He hadn't for years. As the minutes passed, he listened to talk radio and amused himself with his phone.

After a while a neatly dressed person stepped into the open from behind the glass doors. From inside the cab of the truck the man took notice of the fellow's neatly trimmed mustache. The gentleman was about his age. He had a fine face, a face that showed character. He enjoyed a full head of thick dark hair, wore a white long-sleeve shirt and dress pants. The belt was thin and had a burnished look to it. His small boots shined in the artificial light. He stood by the building's entrance as though waiting. After a minute he began to pace a few feet, impatient with something or someone. The slightly built man was only about twenty feet away, but the man felt certain that the stranger could not see him in the shadow of the truck's interior. Presently, the stranger's attention was drawn a couple of blocks down the street to the sound of a train rolling through the heart of the city.

The noise of the train rattled something in the man's brain. Sitting patiently in his pickup, waiting for his wife, the man got a memory flash of his father. In this situation his old man would, too, have been waiting patiently, only he would have been outside, standing by the white stucco wall, enjoying a smoke. He certainly would not have been listening to the radio. Few of the vehicles he ever owned had had working radios. His father had not been much of a radio listener anyhow. He would have struck up a conversation with the mustached man. Later, he might have said something witty after the ice was broken, bringing a chuckle to the other. As the rumble of the passing train made conversation more difficult, the two would have turned to watch the squeaky cars roll and rattle by in the dim light from the corner street lamp. The two would have stood silent, each taking long slow drags of their cigarettes. Everyone smoked back then. Dad had an easy way with people. The man remembered his father, missing him.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

La Fuente

Over the years, it has been my good fortune to have stood before a few fountains in a few places; Tokyo, Fairbanks, Caracas, New York City, Paris, Rome, Benavides, others. With the exception of the one trickling arsenic tainted water in Benavides, all were lively places. They were people magnets.

Perhaps it's a location problem. The fountain in front of the city hall is void of pigeons, people, prospects, pennies and popularity. A remedy could be as simple as periodically tossing some loose change into its basin. That could attract a crowd for a short while. Change is in the air. Something will come up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Contains Lead

Long before boys and young men panhandled from their parents or guardian, they worked at a job to earn spending money in this town. Some pushed a broom or pumped leaded gasoline at a filling station. In better times, there were at least seven gas stations in Benavides, Texas; five full service, one self. Today? A lone self-serv remains to monopolize the motor fuel market. Full service and competition went the way of the 45 RPM, as did the better times for the pueblito.

A couple of the establishments had garage bays to perform minor auto service. When they weren't changing tires or oil, a mechanic would have been working on some fellow's car or truck engine. They offered a valuable community service. Why should anyone have to get out of their car to pump gas in it? Why should the more-seasoned members of the community have to wrap a bony arthritic hand around a bulky gas nozzle handle? Why should anyone soil their hands sponging splattered bugs off their windshield? There are so many whys.

Where the heck do all the high schoolers in this town work these days? Answer. Nowhere. There is no "where" in this place. The town's stock of young minds has not developed its sense of entrepreneurship. There is plenty of stuff to do that people would shell out cash for. Then, of course, they don't work because their Baby Boomer parents give many of them near all the money they want. Too bad the old service stations are no more.


They're all gone now. The full service, the boys that mowed your yard for a few bucks, the young man who would haul junk to the city dump using his father's pickup, they're gone. The dump is gone, too. The old filling station is the saddest loss of all. These places were excellent social centers for men and boys. Gas fumes, engines revving, girly calendars, cigarette machines, the hydraulic car lift, walls covered with fan belts, and racks of tires, all made for one testosteronic romantic image of Americana. It was a place that instilled a sense of community. All of that and more is long gone and lost.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Work at Home

The boy needed adult and learned guidance to complete his weighty homework assignments. Equipped with patience, education and ability, I am the man for the job. The boy comes pre-programmed with stubbornness and disinterest in the paperwork. To his eight-year-old mind, it lacks relevance. Though I am in complete agreement with the boy as to the assignment's pertinence, I keep the thought to myself. He must be made to understand that the purpose of the work is to exercise and refine his cognitive processes.

It is not long before the bias of the material leaps from the page. Example. What kid around these parts uses the term "pop" to refer to a soft carbonated drink. To the boy, it is Greek. Crocus bulbs? More Greek.

Trying with the boy to make relevant real-world ties to the homework was a struggle. His underlying frustration broke the surface only once. Voices are never raised. He snapped his pencil in an effort to vent a little steam. The work trying, and 90 minutes later it was completed. The volume assigned was a bit much for a Tuesday night, and this is the case more often than not on most weeknights. Work at home is tough.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Like German Chocolate Cake

A dry explanation exits to describe the reasons freshly dug dirt erupts with a bouquet of scented earthiness. The breakdown is so dusty and scientific that we are better served to let the colorless facts lie dead in the dirt. It is more satisfying to the senses to simply appreciate the aroma of earth and leave its analysis to the less passionate. Fresh dug dirt simply smells good.

My big brother is closing in on his sixty-fifth birthday. A minor earthworks project on the ranch has compeled this seasoned citizen to dig an impressively long and deep ditch the old fashioned way. With the force of his 160-pound frame, he drove his booted foot onto the shoulder of a spade and began to tear into the ground.

The labor is excellent exercise, working all the muscle groups. You needn't bother with a trainer or a fitness coach to hype you up. The depth of the hole, and the rising mound of loam next to it, serve as a barometer of one's progress.

The benefits of fresh mesquite-scented air gulped by the lungful are preferable to the flat  and recirculated climate-control excuse for air found in a sweaty gym. Digging a ditch outdoors is a plenty-fine workout at the ranch. One can scratch, whistle, pick, adjust, spit, sing or whatever, without regard.

The image of a big chunky helping of German chocolate cake comes to mind when I start a dig.  Nearing the end, the lip-smacking cake is superseded by the throaty soothingness of ice-cold beer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

All I Want Is the Girl

My wife was a single teenage girl the last time the sun filtered softly through the leafy canopy of the "Big Tree" at Goose Island State Park and settled as sparkling butterflies of light on her long hair and small shoulders. It was February 1974. Standing next to her in the shade of that tree there was a fire in my heart that she was fanning with every dreamy bat of her eyes.  Andaba de chicle with her family and exercising my best manners that day, but the only thought in my head was, "all I want is the girl." I did not give a damn about the tree, its legend or anything, except the girl.

Thirty-seven years later we stood again under the shade of the "Big Tree" and when I primed her memory, she could not remember that day long ago. Of course, I could. I am still on fire and still, all I want is the girl.