2018

Swaddling the Fear of Thunder

For the past week or so, thunderstorms have rolled into East Texas about 3 p.m., lasting at most an hour. After, the air is so heavy you can almost taste it, but at least it’s not 100 degrees. The heat will soon return, so no complaints from this quarter about these brief, soggy respites. Sometimes it rains, sometimes not, but thunder invariably rumbles. The family mutts, Sam and Rosie, are usually sound asleep on one couch or another, their heads resting comfortably on pillows. How dogs understand that pillows provide a comfortable resting place fascinates me. These two have the run of the lower...

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Loose Chickens & Oil Derricks: Longview in 1933

I spent a summer morning hiding out in the library, looking at 1933 microfilms of the Longview newspaper, trying to get a sense of this town 85 years ago when in the midst of the oil boom. When I have a few hours to spare, I dive into microfilms, no specific purpose in mind just yet. Here’s a sampling of what I found the other day: The paper reported in January 1933 that the newly sworn-in district clerk, Dozier Skipper, Jr., while organizing old court files discovered that the first legal action filed in Greg County was by a woman seeking a divorce. Mrs. Samantha Harty sought a divorce...

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Dale Watson and Steers at the Stockyard

FORT WORTH — At 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, the Longhorn steers at the Fort Worth Stockyards take a leisurely stroll down the brick streets of Exchange Avenue, flanked by cowboys on horses keeping a watchful eye on the herd — and the folks gathered on the sidewalk to watch. I suspect the cowboys are more worried about the two-legged creatures doing something dumb than the Longhorns making a break for it. It is obvious these magnificent creatures are well fed. Other than two 15-minute (at most) walks in the searing heat, life is pretty darned good for these bovine. Somehow I have managed...

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‘Gone to Texas’ 50 Years Ago

Fifty years ago this week, our family left New Hampshire and crossed into Texas, pulling a U-Haul trailer with our teal-green 1964 Mercury Comet. It took about 10 days and nearly 2,000 miles on the road. The first stop was for lunch at a café in downtown Linden since, as usual, we three boys — 12, 10 and 4 — were hungry. (I’m the oldest.) We all ordered hamburgers and fries. When the food arrived, I was non-plussed to find my burger loaded with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. What? A salad on a hamburger? My mother informed me that was a “Texas burger.” I picked off the offending vegetables...

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Lightning Bugs and Mimosa Trees: Summer Arrives

Summer officially arrives next week, about three weeks after it actually showed up, following an unusually cool and wet month of May. After a half-century enduring Texas summers, the heat and humidity still compel me to go into endurance mode for about four months. I continue to work outside in the yard or around the house, come back soaked from CrossFit, and gulp down tumblers of unsweet iced-tea. About 5 o’clock each day, I jump into the swimming pool, trying in vain to get my money’s worth out of it. Then I sit outside for an hour or so, with a fan blowing and listen to NPR while reading. It’s...

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Taking Two Boys Out to The Ballgame

MINUTE MAID PARK — I was 12 when Dad took me to my first major-league game, in September 1967. At least, it is the first game I recall. It is possible we attended a game at Fenway Park when I was younger. A faint memory remains. Sadly, there is nobody left to ask. My brother Scott and our buddy Bruce Courtemanche also attended that next-to-last game of the season. Improbably, the Red Sox as we watched could tie for first place by beating the Twins. The Red Sox in a pennant race was not something my dad imagined when he bought the tickets early in the season. The Sox were perennial cellar dwellers...

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Looking For the Quirky, Locally Owned Stores

I have spent dozens of hours on the road the past few months, peddling books, taking a road-trip vacation, and visiting friends. A few days ago, my Beautiful Mystery Companion and I took our daughter Abbie to DFW airport. After that, in a rare moment of weakness, I offered to take my BMC to her two favorite shopping stores — Home Goods and TJ Maxx. My BMC is not a huge shopper but loves occasionally whiling away a few hours looking for bargains —possible Christmas or birthday presents for others. Usually, I bring a book and find a chair in the mall, but these were free-standing stores — and it was 98 degrees...

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Sugar Sand and Fresh-Caught Bounty

SEASIDE, FLORIDA — The flag in front of the tiny post office in this tourist community is at half-staff. Two days earlier, a student at Santa Fe High School, between Houston and Galveston, killed eight students and two staff members. Once again across this country our flags are lowered, thoughts and prayers offered. I have no answers. Apparently, nobody has a solution because the carnage continues. And the flags drop again to half staff. |———| Seaside is 24 miles east of Destin, where we are staying in a spacious beachside condo generously offered to us by a friend. Seaside is quaint,...

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Spring Cleaning Underway in Earnest

THE DECK — The time had come. Pollen season had finally ended. The deluge of pine peanuts had subsided. The oak trees ceased dropping clusters. The time had come to tackle the massive wooden deck that wraps around the rear and north side of our house. By n ow, I know the drill. This is a four-day process. The deck is 1,800 square feet with long benches and railings all around — a shipload of treated pine that has to be stained every spring. The first spring after we bought the house, I got a bid from a painter. He quoted $3,000 but was nice enough to explain what needed to be done,...

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Life on The Book-Signing Tour, Minor League

For the sixth straight weekend, I’ll be on the road peddling books. On Friday night starting at 7 p.m., I’ll join two other authors at Austin’s Book People, my all-time favorite bookstore. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by and keep me company. In case you have missed previous shameless attempts at self-promotion, the latest offering is titled, Yours Faithfully, J.A.: The Life and Writings of H.B. Fox, the Circleville Philosopher. It is a biography of one of the funniest writers I have come across. Researching and writing it has been a labor of love. If you can’t make it to Book...

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