Saturday, September 14, 2013

Welcome to the blog ...


Saturday, September 07, 2013

The never-ending story of my second trip








To be honest with you the only reason I went to Terlingua the first time was 'cause I was chasing a skirt. Okay it wasn't the only reason and it wasn't actually a skirt. It was a pair of fire engine red hot pants.  There was a chili named for them. Yeah, yeah, you know who it was.

But she's not actually the focus of the narrative.  And I didn't know how much this story would affect me until the first time I told it, which was over eight years after it took place.  I thought it was going to be one of those throwaway stories, just another in a list of "you-ain't-gonna-believe-this" kind of yarns — you know — the kind you only tell because it's your turn .

And it goes like this.

When you go to a big event like Mardi Gras, or a Shakespeare Festival or a Cowboys football game, you know you'll have more fun if you're more than just a spectator. To really enjoy the event BE the event. You've got to wear a costume.

If you go as a spectator, most the time what you're going to hear is, "Could you move over a little, please, I'm trying to take a picture." If you're lucky; more often it's, "Hey!  Sport!  Get out of the way!  I'm takin a damn picture!"

So I wore jeans and a western shirt and a leather vest with a bronze, star-shaped badge that said "Texas Ranger".  I topped it off with my prized Texas Hatters 10-X beaver "High-Roller" Stetson.  And naturally, I also strapped on a hand-tooled western belt and holster holding a replica 45 caliber Colt on my right leg.  

At the time —1975— I was still in my 20s; I'm considerably more prudent these days.  We're talking about Texas, after all, and everywhere around me there were plenty of guys wearing real badges, carrying real guns loaded with real bullets.   There were real Texas Rangers, DPS troopers, Border Patrol officers, some constables and a sheriff or two, all having a ball just like the rest of us.

Cooking and judging and announcements had finished, the contest was over, and everyone was hiking back down various dusty trails to their tequila to get smarter and richer and better looking. As I threaded my way through the cactus, campsites, motorcycles and RVs, two beautiful young girls approached me … on purpose, no less.  They were gesturing behind themselves and saying things I couldn't hear as they drew near.

"Could you help us?" The first one said.  Her friend was making a face and looking repeatedly in the direction from which they'd come.

Obviously something was amiss.  Also, obviously, they thought I could do something to help.

I quickly surmised my outfit had fooled them.

"No, no," I said, sweeping my outfit with both hands, "this is just for show."

"We know that!" they laughed.

For a second I thought about taking it back and making up an elaborate story about working undercover, and my outfit being a double-fake.  But before I could, one of them took me by the hand and pulled me down the trail.

Suddenly, we turned the corner past an abandoned RV, and they both pointed.  About 50 yards away, on the ground between the trunks of two abandoned cars lay the crumpled figure of a man. He was his left side in a seated position.  His pants were around his ankles and a stream of nasty brown matter oozed down his legs and ran to the ground. Obviously, this poor bastard was too blitzed and too far from home when the call came.

"This looks like a job for the Texas Rangers," I said.

"Don't be ridiculous!" one of the girls said. "Can't you do something?"

I thought, "Do I look like I carry toilet paper on me?"

Instead I said nothing, and looked quickly around the area.  After a few seconds I spied a lone cardboard beer flat.  I retrieved it, prayed we were upwind, and crab-walked towards the guy.  When I got close enough, I slapped his butt with the cardboard, and the shit did the rest. The cardboard stuck in place.

I scampered back to where the girls stood laughing.  They thanked me, we parted ways and I never saw them again.

And that, essentially, was the end of the story — at least I thought it was — until eight years later.

So now it's 1983 and I'm sitting on a friend's front porch with my new lady, and the three of us are swapping stories. It's her turn.

"The weirdest job I ever had," she said, "was the one I had all during high school.  I put makeup on dead people at my parents' mortuary.  I had to get the bodies ready for viewing."

"I don't think I could do that," I said, shuddering.

"Me either," said our other friend.

"Putting on the makeup was the easy part," she continued, "I didn't mind so much. Cleaning them up was the bad part."

"You mean, washing their face, or shampooing their hair?" he asked.

"No, I mean cleaning out their … cleaning up," she paused, then laughed, "I mean cleaning up their shit."

"What!?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah," my buddy said, strangely knowingly.

"Don't you know?" she asked me, "the last thing that happens when a person dies is their sphincter muscle relaxes."

"Yeah," my buddy added, "you shit yourself."  And he laughed.

"Oh my God!  He might've been dead!" I said.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Well, it was back in 1975…"


* * *

Friday, September 06, 2013

Are you ready for the country?


Are you ready for the country?

      [A different version of this article was originally published in the Fredericksburg Radio-Post in May 1979.  This version was published in a Chili appreciation magazine edited by Diana Finlay the following year.  The picture of the Pedernales River is from my personal collection, taken December 1979.]

 
           Folks continue in record numbers to flee the noisy, dangerous, crowded urban sprawl for the peace, quiet and safety of the country.  I don’t blame ‘em.  I got tired of finding stalled cars in the Fast Lane years ago!
Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles probably hold the lead among American cities for “most unrestricted growth” of the decade.  They could save money by mounting their “City Limits” signs on skateboards.  And if you look at their city maps, you’ll see tiny letters around the borders that say, “to be continued.”
I’ve lived in the Texas Hill Country nearly a decade now, but I still marvel at the cavalier attitude adopted by new arrivals from big cities. Once they finish hyperventilating the fresh air, calm down a little, and settle in, they wax militant about closing the doors.  It was the peaceful surroundings, low population density and slower pace of life that attracted them in the first place. Who wants that to change?
The “We’re here! Close the gate!-attitude is not fair to the general public, and it’s an ugly sight to see. Oh well, it’s only human nature.  Let’s face it is rather disconcerting to move away from “the crowd,” only to look back and see the crowd following you.  As an authorized intelligent person once put it: Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether you’re leading the pack or fleeing a mob, but in either case, it pays to stay in front.
Personally, I wouldn’t think of discouraging people from moving to the beautiful Hill Country that I call home.  There’s room aplenty for all, I say.  I’m a fair and open-minded person.
… but let’s talk about rattlesnakes.
There are literally, trust me, millions of rattlesnakes in the Texas Hill Country.  One  or two or more under every  rock.  You think you don’t want to see more people moving to the Hill Country?  These deadly little guys have had it up to here with new arrivals!  I found a gorgeous, six-foot specimen at my back door just a month ago, coiled, angry, ready to deal slow death in a heartbeat.  Of course, being informed about snakes, as I am, I knew instantly that the little critter was simply upset about having lost his way back to his rock, so I quickly found a large one and covered the poor baby back up.  And as any qualified outdoor type knows, where you find rattlesnakes, you also find coral snakes, copperheads and water moccasins.  In abundance.  The Pedernales River, just a few blocks from my house, is absolutely lumpy with water moccasins.  Even Marlon Perkins avoids this place.
Speaking of rivers…
There’s nothing as peaceful as the gentle sound of crystal waters coursing over the smooth, flat, round river rocks.  It allows you to sleep at night and sweetly wakes you with its morning song.  Most of the time.  Two or three times a year it wakes you with its terrifying roar as it breaches its banks and sweeps away all your possessions during flood season.  There’s talk of passing county ordinances requiring every riverside resident to keep an all-weather radio station turned up loud at all times since there NEVER is enough warning against these incessant floods.
“I just won’t live by the river,” you say?
That’s an excellent idea, but remember, as any qualified outdoor type will tell you, when the river floods — and it always WILL — thousands of water moccasins slither rapidly to higher ground, right up to your house!  Nothing enrages a watermarks and more than a flood, and there are few things more dangerous than a mad moccasin.
… except for mad skunks.
If you’re planning to move to the beautiful Hill Country, be prepared to run into rabies every day.  You probably haven’t heard much about rabies in the Hill Country lately, but that’s because local government views it as an image problem and suppresses the word.
The unreported fact is that every other raccoon and ‘possum you see — and you will see plenty of them — is jam-packed with the hydrophobia virus.  Even as you read this.  Furthermore, as anyone who’s lived up here 9 1/2 years or longer knows, all skunks are BORN rabid.  I won’t even mention the millions of rabid bats that infest every cave, railroad tunnel and highway overpass around the Edwards Plateau.  Okay, only half of them have hydrophobia — the other half are vampires.
Another well-kept secret is the growing number of unprovoked attacks on humans by crazed whitetails.  There’s been a serious upswing in attacks this year and when those numbers come out , they’ll make mighty chilling reading, I promise you.
Now if you are working towards a degree in the study of lethal insects, the Texas Hill Country is THE place for you.  The most commonly studied species are scorpions, tarantulas and centipedes, primarily because there are SO MANY OF THEM up here.  They’re everywhere. Scorpions in particular are easy to find since they love to curl up under the refrigerator near the nice warm compressor.  The only time they budge is when anyone opens the door.  That’s when they rush out and sting them on the toe.  Tarantulas are less of a problem if you keep a carpet beater next to the bed and thrash the dickens out of your blankets every night before turning in. And, you can usually have someone turn your pillows over with a broom handle before retiring so you can toss out the centipedes and earwigs.
You’re probably wondering about black widows and brown recluse spiders but they don’t pose a problem unless you own a garage or barn.  Or keep a pile of firewood around.  And our large supply of Rocky Mountain spotted fever ticks keep the stray dog and cat population to a minimum.  The Texas Hill Country is great for people, but hell on Poodles and Pomeranians.
Armadillos are tricky.  They don’t make much noise and are so cute and mild-mannered. Children just love to play with them, rub their little bellies and roll them across the lawn.  Of course, you should remember that the armadillo has carried leprosy for three million years, so don’t be too surprised when Junior’s fingers start dropping off.
You’ve all heard of “Springtime in the Hill Country.”  That’s what city folks call it.  We call it Tornado Time.  From March until September, every couple of days, the weather spends its time just twistin’ the night away.  And your mobile home.  Your car.  Loose livestock.  Some neighbors.  A fieldstone house or two.  It’s never boring around here, I’ll grant you, because on the nights when you don’t hear the river sweeping away the dummies who camped too close, you can hear the locomotive sound of a tornado heading for your back door.
Winter in the Hill Country is the best time of year.  That’s when you get to meet the many scholarly scientists from around the world who come here in search of a cure for cedar fever. During December, January and February, the “hills are alive”, as they say, “with the sound of” exploding cedar trees, darkening the skies with spores as far as the watery eye can see, which is about six feet on a good day.
Finally, you’ll want to start a little garden for fresh vegetables.  Forget it.  There’s only four inches of topsoil left and it’ll be gone in six months, leaving nothing but the rocks where the rattlesnakes (and their ilk) live.
So join us here in the Texas Hill Country where the fresh air and quality of life are excellent — so long as you are prepared, and know how to survive against the odds, which are heavily weighted against you.

* * *

Friday, August 03, 2012

Snacks for the coming Droughts

Kellog's may offer their version of this sure-to-be-popular Peruvian delicacy but I've got my money on Post's product.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I GOTTA BE ME ... MYSELF ... OR I

If you ever decide to clone yourself, read "How to be Your Own Best Friend," instead of "Winning Through Intimidation". I wish I had.

I cloned myself to have a friend who truly understood and empathized with me and I could think of no one who knew my inner workings better than I did.

My scheme backfired. I didn't know myself nearly as well as I thought.

Cloning is recreational, but pretty tiring. I was too exhausted to give my clone his own name, so I called him "Myself."

Myself turned out to be something of a dolt, if I do say so. He was overjoyed with his new-found freedom from what he sarcastically called, "Your body." He decided there were old scores to settle and claimed I'd treated him like a second-class citizen.

A creepy feeling swept over me. I soon harbored serious doubts about Myself.

"What are you insinuating," I demanded.

"Oh drop the innocent act, Man," I heard Myself say.

(I considered running away from Myself, but I could never hide from him.)
"Okay, stupid," he said ... I hate it when people argue ad hominem instead of sticking to the issues ... "how about the time you got caught cheating on that test we took in the third grade?"

"I give up. How about it?"

"You told the teacher -- and this is a direct quote -- 'I wasn't Myself!' You didn't have the guts to take the blame!"

"Oh, so you wanna play semantics! Well, dummy, there were plenty of times I wasn't Myself but I took the rap anyway. How about those times?"

"Sure, sure," he whined. I hate to hear people whine, especially Myself. "But Myself didn't cheat on that test, you did."

I reflected on it. What the heck? I thought, why not give Myself the benefit of the doubt? Surely there had been times when I was less than fair with Myself.

"And what about the time in the back seat of the car at the drive-in movie?" I heard Myself ask.

"As a matter of fact," I said, "that's one time you can't say I wasn't properly thankful. If you recall, when all was said and done, the next morning, I said very clearly, 'I'm so proud of Myself.' How about that?"

As we reminisced, I warmed to Myself.

"You always were a weird kid," he said. "Remember how you used to sneak around spooky old vacant houses with our friends?"

"Sure. I always thought it was a great adventure."

"Maybe for you. Remember why you did it?"

Suddenly I caught his drift, "Of course! I did it to scare the wits out of Myself!"

"Mmm-hmm," he nodded, "it's a wonder I've got wit-one left." Then he told me some jokes I'd completely forgotten.

Before I knew it, I was beside Myself with laughter. (But then, I've always been good at amusing Myself.) Sometimes I really crack Myself up. I really had to laugh at Myself.

Nevertheless, there were other things about which I remained troubled. For one thing, he acted helpless. Every time I went to get a beer, I had to get one for Myself, too. When he got the munchies, there I was, fixing Myself a sandwich.

"Who was your slave last year?" I asked.

"C'mon, Lee," he said. "I've got a bad arm and my neck really hurts. You oughta be used to the routine by now."

He had a point. I'd been taking care of Myself for years.

Precisely! And now I wasn't really getting the credit I deserved. Hey, I'd done a lot for the guy! I'd taught Myself to play guitar, repair cars, fix tape recorders and compete in sports. I'd taught him how to play poker, not very well, I admit, and every game he knew. Heck, I even taught Myself how to swim! You can't learn a better sport to save your life. Still, he knew which buttons to push and I felt twinges of guilt, so I suggested we go out for a few beers.

We hopped in the car and had another minor confrontation when I wouldn't let him drive. We compromised. I'd take us to town and let Myself drive us home.

We hit this bar and that and people asked were we twins and we winked together and said, "Sure." I got out the guitar and played while singing harmony with Myself. We were having a great time.

Then I made a major mistake. I saw Myself putting the moves on this gorgeous girl and decided, out of the kindness of my heart, to give Myself some room. I went to play some Pac-Man and Space Invaders. I should have kept and eye on him. When I returned to check on Myself, I found him penniless and drunk. Apparently he'd also insulted the girl because she had split. The worst part was catching Myself cadging drinks from other patrons. How disgusting.

I can hold my liquor fine, but I can't say the same for Myself. I forgot what a lush he is. Drinking at my normal pace, I scarcely noticed him slamming them down. I should have known he'd turn belligerent.

But when it happened, I could believe Myself. For that matter, I couldn't stop Myself. Oh, I tried several times, but he's a nasty drunk.

"D'you know whadda loush you rilly are?" he blubbered. "You always said things like, 'I'm ashamed of Myself! I can't stand Myself!' D'you have inny idee washlike t'be run down like 'at?"

I knew what he was trying to do, but I refused to feel sorry for Myself. Then he started crying and it looked like he was going to be sick. The situation was getting out of hand. I ducked a wild punch and then wrestled Myself to the floor. Before it was over, I demanded to have Myself thrown out. It was a terrible scene. I apologized for Myself, headed for the car and nearly tripped over Myself. He'd passed out in the parking lot. I poured him into the car and drove us home.

The next morning, as I heard Myself fumbling through the medicine chest looking for aspirin, I questioned whether I could live with him.

Then the phone rang. I got ahead of Myself to answer it.

"Hey, you sure made a fool of yourself last night, Man."

"No, I didn't," I said. "He did."

"I'll call back when you sober up."

Calls started pouring in. People asked how I could show my face in town after embarrassing Myself the way I did. I felt so humiliated, I left town for a week.

Was I ever surprised when I came home and heard Myself say, "Guess what? We've got another clone."

I glanced around warily, and there he was -- Me.

"Who gave you the right to drag Me into this? Did you ask Me if he wanted to be cloned?" I raged.

"It was lonely here all by myself," Myself muttered.

"What do you think about all of this, Me?" I asked.

"Don't ask Me!" Myself interrupted.

"Here we go again!" Me exploded. "Same old story! 'Leave Me out of it,' -- 'Include Me out!' Nobody cares about Me!"

"Who are you talking to?" I asked.

"Both of you!"

"Wait a minute," I said, "I'm the last one to find out anything around here!"

I studied Me a moment. He looked terrible, like he hadn't slept in a week. I turned angrily on Myself.

"Have you been giving Me drugs again? He looks like he's strung out on speed!"

"Lookit," Myself defended himself. "I was trying to share myself and you, of all people, oughta know how hard it is to keep Me interested."

"No shit, Sherlock! I had to leave town on your account! I can just imagine how you've bored Me with the story. Furthermore, you've probably been lying to Me all along."

"At first I felt kinda sorry for him," Me said.

I glared at Myself. "Same old story. Making Me feel sorry for you." I turned to Me and said, "It's okay. I get tired of feeling sorry for Myself, too."

Righteous indignation took over. I was so mad at Myself. If I'd been there, I never would have given Myself the chance to push Me around. I happen to like Me just fine, but I was getting real sick of Myself. In any case, now that I was home, I wasn't about to let Myself take advantage of Me, especially when I wasn't there to defend him.

Then all hell broke loose. I attacked Myself mercilessly, but I couldn't keep Me out of it. What's this? I thought. Surely there was no love lost between Me and Myself. When I saw Myself punch Me in the mouth, I grabbed Myself by the collar and tried to pull him off Me. He broke free but I lunged again, desperately trying to get a grip on Myself. I had to beat Myself to the punch. I yelled at him to leave Me alone.

But the damage was done. Whatever possessed Me to take so much dope when he, of all people, should know how it affects him. Now there was no reasoning with Me. I kicked Myself just as he hit Me while his back was turned. There was no stopping Me and I couldn't contain Myself. So I fled the room, locking them inside. Several hours later, after I calmed down, I called my best friend, Buck.

"Have you seen Me today?" I asked.

"No, of course not. What are you talking about?"

I quickly explained, gratefull I'd caught him before he heard it all from Me. I used to think I could trust Me to tell the truth, but the way things were going ...

"What did you do?" he asked, confused.

"I didn't have any choice," I said. "I went back with a gun and ..."

"You didn't ...?"

"I'm afraid so. I killed Myself."

"Can't you get in trouble for that?"

"C'mon, Buck, there's only Myself to blame! Listen, I've got a plan. I'm gonna fix it so they charge Me with the crime."

"Huh?"

"It's simple. I'm gonna turn Me in to the cops. They'll find his fingerprints on the gun. I'm so mad, I hope they throw the book at Me. But you know Me. They'll never take Me alive."

"Geez. I sure hope this works out," he said.

"One way or another, I'm sure it will. I just wanted to warn you before you heard it from Me. As far as I'm concerned, if I never see Me again it'll be too soon. Before I forget, if you do hear from Me, find out where he is and call the cops. Don't even hesitate. Hanging's too good for Me."

"OK, I guess," Buck said. "It sure doesn't make sense."

----------------------------------------

Funny. I always thought I could count on Myself when the chips were down. I was wrong. I guess I overestimated Myself all along. And frankly, I'm worried about Me. After he saw what I did to Myself, I wouldn't want to run into Me in a dark alley.

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© 1982 by D. Lee McCullough, first published in the May 1982 issue of Southwest Airlines Magazine.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The importance of "under God"

Yesterday, a Berkeley University professor of linquistics, commenting on the 9th Circuit Court's decision that the words "under God" could stay in the pledge of allegiance, pointed out the following. (1) The phrase was lifted from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ...". (2) In Lincoln's day the phrase "under God" was colloquial and meant "God willing".

What Lincoln was saying, translated into present day usage was "... that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, God willing." Understanding this, it is all the more appropriate that "under God" remain in the pledge of allegiance because what it is saying is "... one nation with liberty and justice for all ... God willing."

Let us pray.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stop Attacking Republicans

I'm sick and tired of all the abuse being heaped on the heads of Republican lawmakers. C'mon, everybody! These people are the finest dupes that medical lobbyist money can buy.