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Saturday, October 17, 2009

halloween tales

A Halloween to Remember

I’ve been lucky over the years for I suppose I’ve had some of the most frightening and exciting Halloweens ever.

In our little town in the Texas Panhandle, Halloween saw all the dusty streets filled with little ghosts and goblins. Not too many back then had costumes. If you were one of the lucky ones, you probably had a black mask like the Lone Ranger. Some of girls even had masks of pink or red.

One of the most common tricks back then was soaping windows. It was amazing how much writing you could get from a bar of Ivory soap. Some of the more daring boys toppled outhouses, what few there were; some went as far as putting cows on the schoolhouse roof or in the principal’s office.

Our little town was small enough that within two hours, a youngster could cover all the streets and stagger home with a load of treats.
And it just wasn’t kids who were out.

Oh, no, there were always a few adults who planned on putting extra fright in some of the trick or treaters—all in fun.

I had a couple of those experiences

Once, to my dismay, I had to spend Halloween on my grandmother’s farm out around Lubbock. There was only one neighbor, so I figured Halloween was shot.
Then one of my uncles told my cousin, Ed, and me that if we really wanted to see a scary ghost that night, all we had to do was put our clothes on backwards and then walk backwards around the old hanging tree three times. Now, the hanging tree was an ancient cottonwood by the cow tank that according to my uncles had once had a rustler strung from it. According to my uncle, the dead man would reappear sometime that night.

Well, we didn’t really believe his trick to conjure up a ghost, but that afternoon, when no one was looking, Ed and I put our clothes on backward and walked backward around the hanging tree three times.

That night, Ed and I trudged down the lane with handkerchiefs over our faces like bank robbers in the Saturday picture shows, and trick or treated the neighbors. Of course, they let on like they didn’t know who we were and pretended they were frightened.

Then their two boys accompanied us back to my grandparents so we could trick or treat them. Before we left, we told our friends about conjuring up the ghost.

They snickered at us.

Now, you’ve got to get the picture here. The full moon was straight overhead. On either side of the lane were pastures dotted with mesquite, and I promise you, in the dark, the twisted mesquite limbs took on mighty grotesque shapes in the eyes of spooky ten and eleven year old boys.

And the fact we were talking about ghosts and werewolves and such didn’t help. Our frightened eyes made every shadow into Dracula or the Frankenstein monster.

And then we saw it. Far to the north in the pasture, a floating white object. The wind seemed to be carrying it toward us, and then a mournful, whining moan came through the mesquite.

I remember leaning forward and squinting at the apparition, and when I looked around, I was all alone. My cousin and his pals were a hundred yards down the lane. Well, you can believe me when I can tell you, I did my best to catch up with them.

The apparition grew closer, and I ran harder. I caught them as they reached the house, and we burst inside, four breathless, frightened boys.

It must have taken us ten minutes to stammer out what happened. The grownups shook their head, and one uncle growled at us. “Did you boys put on your clothes backward?”

Reluctantly, we nodded.

He groaned. “That did it. That brought back old Burl.”

Another one nodded. “How long’s it been now, fifty years since he got cut all to pieces. He’s still looking for his missing hand.”

“Just about. Never did find who did it.”

Well, you can imagine when we heard that, our eyes bugged out like a stepped-on toad frogs.

And I don’t have to tell you how big they got when my grandfather said, “Well, Kent, it’s getting late. You and Ed walk your young friends back home, and then hurry back.”

Wild horses couldn’t have pulled us from that house.

One of my uncles had to take our friends back home.

And they couldn’t get us outside the next day.

Years later, we learned the whole family had played a big joke on Ed and me. It was my Uncle Bud, Ed’s daddy, who played Burl in a sheet.As I stare into the flames in our fireplace now, I tell you this, folks, those are memories I’ll never forget.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Grab a big bat

Carry a Big Bat

As a kid, I was skinny and short, a physique that was less than intimidating in the country school I attended in the forties.

Even back then, there were discriminating groups, the country kids and the town kids. I was considered a town kid even through we lived a mile from town on five acres with some stock and few crops, most for personal use.

Like most youngsters, I didn’t like to fight although such Donnybrooks were the most popular events during recess. I can’t count the number of times the combatants would sneak to the rear of the building and proceed to whale the daylights out of each other.

Oh, we always kept lookouts at the corner, but more than once as a lookout, I spotted teachers looking our direction, then turning away.

I finally figured out they knew what was going on, and since boys were boys, the youthful pugilists would rid their bodies of all those raging hormones and return to class docile as kittens.

More than once, I a proponent in the battle, and more than once, I ended up with a bloody nose or a scraped chin or a black eye.

When the battle was over and the dust had settled, we shook hands and then arms draped over each other’s shoulder, strolled back to class.

But, like every class in every school, we had our bullies. Take my word, some of those farm boys were big, especially those who had repeated the fourth grade three times.

That was way back in the days when schools insisted kids learn or fail. There was no kissy-kissy, bleeding hearts worrying about the kid’s self-esteem. If he failed, his father applied the self-esteem with a boot to the miscreant’s posterior.

A horrible act today. If the father weren’t tasered, stomped on, or run over, he would be convicted of child abuse, sexual deviancy, and if nothing else, driving without a license.

Our bully was named Doyle. Even today, every time I meet someone named Doyle, I think of our Doyle. Three years in the fourth grade, two heads taller than us, twice as wide, three times as strong, and mean as the dickens.

I wasn’t the only one he picked on. He selected a new victim daily so his old classmates who were now in the seventh grade would still consider him one of them. We couldn’t whip him. He was too big. All we could do was try to talk him out of whipping up on us too much.

I learned quickly not to go home crying when I got beat up. Dad didn’t care for whiners. One day when I was pretty much torn asunder by Doyle, Dad told me to pick up a club. That’s all bullies understand, a club.

A club? I would never have thought of that. Gene Autry never used a club! He always whipped the bad guys with his fists in a fair fight at the Saturday afternoon picture show.

At recess sometime later, Doyle started pushing me around, laughing and waving to his seventh grade friends. We were playing softball, and a ball bat lay nearby. I told him to stop, but he pushed me down.

I cracked two of his ribs with that ball bat, and fat Doyle never bothered me again. You know, Doyle wasn't so mean after all.

Think about it. America has a bunch of ball bats lying around. What we need now is someone with the guts to swing those bats, because right now there are half-a-dozen Doyles coming out of the woodwork, their mouths watering at what appears to be the old timey 98-pound weakling named America.

The national columnist, Cal Thomas is right. Bullies, like Doyle, fear one thing, and one thing only, strength, and the knowledge it will be used against them.

Like him or not, Bush used strength. Now, after a few months of our present administration, terrorist cells are beginning to grow once again. Is it because those Doyles don’t believe we’ll do anything about it? The answer is obvious.

I don’t know what will happen. All I know is that kissy-kissy never won the bully over. Never! But, now, on the other hand, you take a big bat---

Sunday, October 4, 2009

another so called change

Another So-Called Change

Excuse me for saying it, Mr. President, but you’re beginning to remind me of the ubiquitous soccer mom, her day filled with frenetic activity from before dawn until after sunset.

She runs the kids to school, after school activities; she shops; cleans; attends PTA; volunteers, all while packing in a dozen other obligations. All these responsibilities stretch her thinner than a politicians’ promise.

And whether she likes it or not, she is well aware than many of her obligations suffer from lack of attention.

You’re doing the same.

By taking on too much, cap and trade, stimulus, health, immigration, Olympics, and education, there is no way you can devote the requisite energy and attention to them all.

Sure, you were voted in because many wanted change. In their eagerness to make their lives better, they grasped at straws, and you were the straw they grabbed. So desperate, they never thought to ask what kind of change you had in mind.

Mr. President, you are attempting to change too much, too fast. What do you think all the fuss is about? And no, it isn’t because we’re a mob, savages, Nazis, un-American, non-Democrats, or uncooperative. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we uncooperative. It simply means eighty percent of us want to be heard and not have our opinions simply dismissed as you so curtly did with that steely-eyed remark in August, "I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don’t mind cleaning up after them, but don’t do a lot of talking.”

And now you plan on drastically changing education in America. As in all your various agendas, your team resorts to half-truths and outright fabrications to support your premises.

Since you’re from Chicago, it is no surprise you select people you know from that area to fill positions. That’s the way the political game is played. We all know that. Still, your choice of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education is puzzling. Either it was simply a political payback or a coin toss. It couldn’t have been his accomplishments as CEO of Chicago Schools

Greatschools, a nation wide non-profit organization that provides K-12 information about all private, public, and charter schools, ranked Chicago schools as a 4 out of 10 while rating Nederland and Port Neches as sevens and eights. A sobering comparison, huh?

After eight years as CEO, Duncan couldn’t even get the district to a passing score, and yet you’re listening to him about how to better American education?

Get real, Mr. President.

According to the Associated Press, Duncan explained his rationale for wanting longer school days by saying ‘Young people in other countries are going to school twenty-five, thirty percent longer than our students here.” He added to the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”

Sounds noble, you think?

Mr. President, that’s just another of the many fabrications to make your position look good.

In fact, according to the AP, U.S. kids spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours yearly) than kids in Asian schools that outscore us in math and science.

True, Japan and Hong Kong, said the AP, have longer school years by up to twenty days, but only spend 1,005-1,013 instructional hours yearly.
Don’t misunderstand. More time would help, but let’s be realistic about what is done and how it is achieved.

I can’t believe you’re taking the word of a man who couldn’t get his own district above a forty percent ranking. No, it had to be a political payoff.

And for Pete’s sake, either tell your people to stop making up data or be perceptive enough to figure out when they’re blowing smoke rings.