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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

I was in the window seat, first row behind the bulkhead on Texas-bound Southwest last weekend when the darling(!) flight attendant grabbed the carry-on at my feet.

“I must stow this overhead until we reach 10,000 feet. Then I get it for you.”

I was begging, arms outstretched, but he is fast. “But my Kindle is in there.”

“You’ll have it back in a few minutes.”

A few minutes turned into an hour and a half. There was no let up in turbulence. No drinks nor snacks nor bathroom trips—nor Kindle. The elderly man in the middle seat and his wife next to him would be my only source of entertainment while we gyrated through the spin cycle. Her only comment before she leaned back and handed him over was, “He’s a talker.” She forgot to say, “and spitter.” He was very nice, and happy to share with me his every ailment and every ailment of friends and family.

Finally my Kindle was delivered to me, along with juice and peanuts and crackers. During the final strap down for landing I grew more interested in the couple to our right talking to the attendants. They were adventurers heading to Big Bend Park for a week. He used to sing, he said, all over Europe, mostly Italy, mostly opera. And then he began to sing in his beautiful baritone. I gasped and said to no one in particular, wish he had done that the whole trip. Wife of spitter leaned forward and said, “ME, TOO!”

This was my first flight after turning seventy-five and I enjoyed getting to leave my jacket and shoes on at the TSA screening. I had learned from the website that they make the determination about your age visually, so it was a bit disconcerting that no one questioned me. However, in San Antonio, the first agent asked for my driver’s license and another stopped me after the naked scan and pointed to my shoes. I told him my age, and he checked where the first agent had stamped my boarding pass, and said, “And I was going to ask you out.” I suggest they place at least one Latino man at every screening station. They know how to make you feel good.

The following day forty or fifty close friends and family gathered in a private room to surprise my adorable niece on her fiftieth birthday. The restaurant in New Braunfels is a converted post office filled with charm. Brenda said later she was surprised, but thought something was up. When I stepped from behind the person in front of her and her blue eyes grew wide and mouth stopped working, I knew her daughter had pulled off one surprise.

My sister and I were escorted to the party by her first and second ex-husband. He claims he was drunk the second time and thought she was another woman. That’s the kind of family I come from.

Once the cat was out of the bag, Brenda and I could spend time together—and we did—along with four of her grandbabies, my sister, niece, nephews. . . you get the picture.

At my sister’s I had tamales for breakfast—eight of them, and I’m not sorry. Then there was my nephew Anthony’s amazing venison jerky. Who knew I liked jerky? Good wine. Oh, and even Strawberry Boones Farm Brenda and her high school friend brought “for old time’s sake.” Let me tell you, it still tastes good.

Once I made it back to my home Tuesday I had one hour to shower, dress and get to the monthly writers meeting, and made it. I got home a little more than twelve hours after leaving Texas that morning, but it was all worth it.  

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As Hurricane Alex was swirling into Texas I had a vision from my childhood. In it Daddy is stepping up his pace, with focus showing in the set of his jaw and his shoulders. He climbs into his yellow Texas Highway Department pick-up truck heads into the storm. He’ll check for washouts at bridges and flooded spots in the roads. He’ll put up barriers and flares before anyone can drive off a bridge or into washed out pavement. And he likely won’t be back until the storm has passed.

I am aware he is getting a real adrenaline rush from being able to do something in a crisis, and actually enjoying his role. But Mother? She’s getting a different kind of rush. Now she is alone with three kids in a house she is certain will be either blown away or struck by lightening. For us kids the biggest fear is the embarrassment of Mother following through on her repeated threats to move us to the courthouse for safe shelter. No one ever invites us to go to the courthouse as far as I remember, but Mother feels welcome there just the same. Her courthouse vision kinda reminds me of the farm Lennie was always going to in “Of Mice and Men,” except the courthouse is real — stone and marble fortress real.

I don’t know it, but I am receiving good training for my future in Florida during hurricane seasons. From Daddy I am learning to take the bull by the horns, to prepare and help avert tragedies.  From Mother I learn situations are seldom as bad as imagined. To Mother’s consternation, my siblings and I also learn how funny over-reaction can be. It’s a wonder we aren’t sitcom writers.

I have a vision of a particular storm that shouldn’t be treated with gales of laughter, but is. This time Mother tells us we’ll be safer in our car with rubber tires to protect us from lightening strikes. She is even more afraid of lightening than the wind, but we suspect she has ulterior motives. So we run to the detached garage and pile in our ‘39 Chevy. We are thinking: This is it! We are on the way to the courthouse where workers will stare at us and point and laugh. If that is her intention, the Gods interfere. As we crank the windows up and lock the doors we hear a crack and the ground shakes as the mesquite tree crashes across the driveway behind us. We aren’t going anywhere.  Who needs canned laughter?

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Because my older brother was shy and not socially adept, his talents were truly hidden. With a pencil he could make a lifelike sketch of the face of anyone he cared for and his singing voice was shockingly beautiful. Only our family knew because Bartell didn’t show his sketches, and would never think of singing in public, not even the church choir.

One day back in 1955 or so he began to sing a song and rave about this unknown singer. That one song was getting enough play on the Beeville, Texas radio station that he had learned every word. He told us endlessly that this new singer would be one of the greats. I had never heard my brother so excited. We finally listened when he called us to the radio the next time it came on. And then Bartell sat relaxed in his chair, stared into space and sang, “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” by a new young artist we had never heard of named Elvis Pressley. He sounded exactly like the recording.

With such positive response, Bartell began to sing that tune often around the house. My husband-to-be heard him once, and we had confirmation outside our family that my brother was indeed talented. Jerry was determined others should hear him, so the night of the KIBL telethon for some charity he saw his chance. Callers pledged a donation to the station if they could pick up whomever the caller suggested and get them to perform an act, anything that would transmit on the airwaves. Jerry told them where they could find my brother and that he would pay to hear him sing “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” on air.

After my brother was picked up by the local police, we all waited by the radio until the announcer called him to the mike. “What is it you are going to sing, young man,” he asked.

“I Forgot . . .” my brother started in his slow Texas drawl.

“Well, when you remember let us know. Sit down and we’ll call you again.”

We were aghast, yelling, “Let him finish the sentence!” But it did no good.

The announcer could see he was nervous and periodically called my brother back to the mike throughout the evening to ask what he was going to sing.

“I Forgot” my slow talking brother would start and he’d be asked to sit down and let them know when he remembered what he was going to sing.

The telethon ran until midnight and my brother was returned home without the world, or our small Texas town, having heard his singing talent. And only a few of us would know Bartell’s innate ability to pluck from all the new rock-and-roll artists the one who would be most famous of all, Elvis.

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First my calves, then knees, then thighs – and regions higher – began to feel the cold, wet snow as it rushed up my body. The frozen, white slope looked very long and steep. It was my first time snow sledding and I was twenty years old. On the sled behind me was my boss, Henry Snellings, Jr.

 Mr. Snellings (always Mr.) was the brains of my department at the City of Richmond, and second in command. I was a secretary.  His brilliant mind was balanced by the spirit and wonder of a little boy. He was ever proper and shy, yet playful. He once handed me a brown envelope to deliver to my husband. I had no idea what was in it. Jerry opened it to find a copy of a rather thick booklet I had typed to be printed. Inside was also a note saying, “I just wanted you to see what good work your wife does.”

 This was a man you trusted, so when he told me to come along with him at lunchtime while the snow was piled high outside, I put on my coat and went. He finally came to a stop at Bryan Park, opened the trunk and pulled out a sled.

 “We are going sledding. You can’t go your whole life without going snow sledding.” He had seen my excitement when the flakes began to fall the day before. Growing up in South Texas, it was all new to me. That boyish twinkle was enough to make me forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked down that steep hill. So I climbed on in front of him and braced for a new adventure.

 I have not told you what I was wearing. This was in the late fifties, and ladies dressed properly for work, which meant I was wearing a wool skirt, high heels covered by boots, and nylons on a garter belt. This was before pantyhose.

 At the bottom of the hill, I stood and shook as much loose snow from under my clothing as I could, but I was still cold and damp. He must have realized because we climbed back up to the car and drove back to work. He was very proud to have initiated a Texas girl in the benefits of a good Virginia snow, and am I still very proud to have known and worked for such a man.

 

 

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A local news story stuck in my craw the other day. That phrase from my Texas upbringing came to mind, and perhaps appropriately. The TV news reported a real stink in a neighborhood pond in the Orlando, FL area. Dead fish had floated to the surface and almost covered the pond. The resident interviewed was very upset. She could not open her doors or windows because of the smell. (Like we do that in Florida in August, anyway.) She pointed out that adding to the terrible situation were flocks of ugly, horrid, black birds all around the water’s edge.

 

I am, of course, yelling at the TV screen. “You *&#@. They are vultures, the clean up crew!”

 

Next day there was a follow-up report. Amazingly all the fish were gone. So were the vultures after filling their bellies. The lady was much calmer and surprised that BOTH her problems were taken care of. I will accept an apology on behalf of the vultures!

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I can almost smell the stinkbugs. Election night beside the Mercantile Store in Karnes City, Texas comes wafting back when votes are being counted anywhere. The cool night air, crickets and stinkbugs, of course, were all part of the atmosphere. Instead of a chalkboard against the brick wall we now have the TV  screen, but the feeling is the same. In that crowded street decades ago the chalk paused under a candidate’s name and we held our breaths. On TV tonight a digital graphic pops on the screen and commentators begin dissecting its meaning almost before we can think.

Behind the political scene it is no doubt brutal, but I feel as General Patton did looking down in the valley where a battle scene smoldered. “War,” he said, “God help me. I do love it so.”

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