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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Myths of the Alamo

The Myths of Texas Heroes

At the very moment you are reading this, one hundred and seventy four years ago, thousands of Mexican soldiers stood in siege of the Alamo in San Antonio.
Although the Gunfight at the OK Corral will run it a close second, the battle of the Alamo is probably one of the most well known battles in America.

At least it is to us Texans, and I’d be surprised if most countries throughout the world hadn’t heard about it.

The Alamo probably fits easily into that old western journalism admonition ‘when the fact becomes legend, print the legend.”
There are probably been more lies, legends, and folklore regarding the Alamo than any battle in history. I’ve seen figures from 500 to 15,000 Mexican dead; from 180 to 260 defenders dead. I’ve seen the battle climax at night, at dawn, at noon, and in the evening. I’ve seen Jim Bowie’s incapacitation blamed on everything from booze, illness, having a cannon fall on him, and combinations of them all. I’ve seen everything about Crockett’s death from bayonets to blowing up the ammunitions dump to spitting in Santa Anna’s face.

And I could go on and on and on. Even the ‘de la Pena’ manuscript, purportedly penned by an obscure Mexican officer in the battle, has parts proven to be forgeries.
But the one truth not to be denied is the battle took place and over 180 defenders died. Their bodies were burned, an indication of Santa Anna’s disrespect for the Alamo defenders.

Consensus has it that the ashes were placed in a small casket and buried at the San Fernando Cathedral, at least the ashes that could be gathered from the three pyres. Some rumors have it the ashes were buried in deep holes, others that they were left to nature, some even that they were thrown into the San Antonio River.

Many if any of the myths, legends, rumors, or folklore will ever be verified.

One of the more interesting, yet less discussed questions is whether Sam Houston ordered the Alamo blown up. His distracters say no. This was just another way of Houston covering up his own mistakes.

And the orders he sent Travis on January 16 to do so were destroyed; however on the 17th, Houston did write Governor stating he had ordered the garrison destroyed, and if the governor so wished, all of the cannons and munitions would be destroyed also.

One incident every Texan remembers is the ‘line in the sand.’ Did Travis draw it?

The answer is another enfolded in the blanket of myth. Believe it or not, the line in the sand was never mentioned until 1873 thirty-seven years later when William Zuber interviewed Louis Rose, who fled the Alamo.

Rose verified Travis asked those who wanted to leave to step forward. No one did, but during the night, Rose fled.

Zuber later admitted he made up not only Travis’s’ speech, but came up with the drama of the line in the sand himself.

But, in 1899, a Madam Candelaria, who was held in high esteem by the community for decades, claimed she not only nursed Bowie on his bed of consumption, but also saw Travis draw the line in the sand.

For a while, rumor had it Travis committed suicide by stabbing himself, a version Houston preferred for he never cared for the man. According to Francisco Ruiz, who identified Travis, there was a bullet hole in his forehead. Sort of a difficult spot for one to commit suicide, huh?

And what about the flag? No, it wasn’t the Lone Star like you see at most movies. Probably the thirteen-day siege began under the Mexican Tri Color, possibly with the date 1824 on it.

That was the Mexican flag of Independence, the one under which about thirty thousand Americans came to live the Mexican state that would be known as Texas. Chances were several flags flew, but according to Walter Lord, ‘A Time to Stand’, Santa Anna sent the New Orleans Gray flag back to Mexico City, the only standard remaining under which the men an the Alamo died.

What are they? Myths? Truths? Me, I prefer the myths of my heroes. I don’t want them to change.

Get Our Priorities Straight

How About Getting Our Priorities Straight

Prior to this administration, I’ve have always prided myself for supporting my president. I’ve having a hard time now. And I don’t like the feeling.

How can I support someone who is diametrically opposed to what my Dad taught me about fiscal responsibility? He taught me that I pay my bills as I go; that I quickly pay off anything I charge; that I buy only what I need to survive; that just because everyone has it is not sufficient reason to go into debt; that I save for retirement so I won’t be a burden on others; that I help those less fortunate; and that I mind my own business.

If any of us handled our personal finances the way Obama is handling the U.S.’s, we’d be bankrupt, evicted, and facing a life without Dr. Phil or Oprah on TV.
Obama’s devastating lack of executive experiences is painfully obvious. Like the majority of the media, “Newsweek” has always been an Obama supporter. Now, they have also drawn the line at Obama’s failed conciliatory efforts to establish a relationship with many of the so-called ‘rogue’ nations.

The ‘I’m your pal, so let’s be friends’ doesn’t work.

According to ‘Newsweek’, ‘from Burma to North Korea, Venezuela to Iran, the outstretched hand has been met with the clenched fist. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest in Rangoon, Pyongyang is testing missiles, Caracas rails against gringo imperialism, and Tehran has dismissed a year-end deadline to do a deal on its nuclear program. Engagement has failed and Obama is now poised to deliver on threats of tougher sanctions, as surely he must.’

In fact, Iran now brags that it is a nuclear nation, so my question, as I honestly believe every American’s question should be, will he go for tougher sanctions?

I don’t think so. Boy, I hope I’m wrong, but when I look at the guy, I wonder if he has a backbone; I wonder just what his priorities are. Is he looking after the economy and security of our country?

It doesn’t look that way.

Now, before you call me all sorts of names, then explain to me, like I’m a third grader, so said the guy in movie, why he is wasting his time addressing the BCS selection process when our problems in Irag, Iran, China, Afganistan, North Korea, and Pakistan are much more pressing that football.

What’s that? You don’t know what the BCS is?

For shame. That’s the august body that decides who plays in the major bowl games in football.

Foolish me. I guess I’m making too much of the fact Iran is only an eventual nuclear threat--like North Korea. But hey, football garners more votes than the dingy ‘Dear Leader’ of North Korea.

The BCS decision stunned me. When the world about us is filled with nuclear threats, terrorist crackpots, and tragic disasters, the Obama administration, according to the Justice Department, is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series.

Now you tell me, what do you want from a president, someone to build the economy and keep the country safe, or someone who’s got nothing better on his mind than worry about college football or do color commentary at a basketball game? What’s next, Texas football realignment?

Another stunt of his was trying the 9/11 guy in New York. Now he wants to move the trial, but on top of that, Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary said, “Khalid Sheikh—will be brought to justice and he’s likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in masterminding in killing three thousand Americans.”

Obama granted the terrorist the legal rights of an American. With all this attendant publicity, the terrorist’s lawyer is going to scream to high heaven his client can’t get a fair trial because of the president’s press secretary’s remarks.

Don’t be surprised if our judicial system doesn’t save the killer. Nothing under the present administration would surprise me.

Those of your supporting him, how about coming up with an explanation that will make all of us sleep better.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

writing class-week five

I was thrilled this last week. In our short, six week writing class, we're progressing better than I ever expected. All of you know, writing is a series of small tasks, all of which must be addressed precisely in order to have a publishable manuscript.

That's how we started, from the basics, the first being 'exactly what are we specifically writing about? What goal are we shooting at.'

In these first five sessions, all seven students have come up with a concise objective for their novel. Call it a premise, a goal, whatever. But they took a snap shot of what they wanted to do and set out after it.

Naturally, we spent time on the part most writers detest, the nuts and bolts of the entire machine. We discussed pictorial nouns, strong verbs, clear antecedents, important adjectives, and scarce adverbs.

With this group, it clicked quickly.

And when we hit scenes and the transitions, they ate it up like a Thanksgiving dinner. Written work they brought in and read in class was creative, professional, and a delight.

One constant I've striven with them, and with all classes, is that they are by themselves when it comes to writing the novel, rewriting, and then the horrible marketing process that follows.

We have one week left. I hope in that time, we'll have questions answered, and they'll have information they need to find those agents and editors who can help them further their careers.

I always enjoy this little sessions. They not only freshen my experience, remind me of various techniques, but also give me the immeasurable satisfaction of knowing that perhaps some of my little contributions have aided a hopeful author reach his goal, publication.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Super Bowl

I suppose like me, you’re tired of listening to all the second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking over the Super Bowl last week.

While I enjoy pro football, I’m not into the fantasy end of it. Truth is, I have absolutely no idea how it works, and the longer I don’t know, the better off I figure I am, nor do I buy any of the team memorabilia.

While a Cowboy and Texan fan, I’ve been impressed the last few years about the Colts.
Did you notice how many oddsmakers and prognosticators picked them to win the Super Bowl. I could be wrong, but other than the fanatical Saints’ fans, no one picked them.

In all the two-week build up to the game, everyone had an opinion, an observation, a comment, or some sort of reflection.

I don’t recollect any of the writers picking N’Awlins. The comments ran from ‘Sorry, Saints, the Colts have too much,’ to ‘Why the Colts will win and the Saints lose.’

Whether you read the local papers, online comments, magazines, or listened to the radio, all were predicting the Colts. The night before the game, I ran into a friend at the store and he asked me who I picked. Like everyone except New Orleans’ fanatics, I said the Colts.

I remember one writer stating that even if a team jumped on Peyton Manning the first couple quarters, that he was bright enough to figure them out by the fourth quarter. That, announced the scribe, was the explanation for so many fourth quarter comebacks to win games.

While I enjoy the game, I’m certain no expert, but I thought about the old boy’s comment. If that were the case, why didn’t some defensive guru come up with a difference defense in the fourth quarter.

Now teams might be doing it. You couldn’t prove it by me one way or another. When I look at a defense, I see eleven guys trying to smash down eleven others to get to the ball. If there is a scheme there, I don’t see it.

I remember when football was ‘the biggest with the mostest the fastest.’

Imagine my surprise when a Saint player in the post game hoopla commented that the coach had not only put in a first have defensive scheme, but a third quarter one and a fourth quarter one.

Did it help?

Well, the Saints won, but there seemed to me to be enough ‘ifs’ to warrant a player muttering a short prayer of thanks for some plays.

What ‘if’, N’awlins had not recovered the onside kick beginning the second half; what ‘if’ the Colts
had not tried three successive running plays after they had stopped the Saints at the goal line;
what ‘if’ the Saint CB had been half-a-step slower and missed the interception?

The Colts were moving then, and maybe the psychological damage a touchdown would wreak among the Saints would have been enough for Manning to score again.

Of course, it’s like a horse race. You never know who might pull off an upset.

If they replayed the game next week, it could very easily go the other way.

The Saints are good; the Colts are good. Which is the better team? Is Manning the best quarterback, or is it Drew Brees? I don’t know, but I’d hate to have to live off the difference between them.

Some old codger friends of mine were discussing that question. One fairly perceptive gent said, “Put it this way. If you were in a tie game, which of the two quarterback would you most dread facing?”

I suppose the answer to that question provides about the clearest distinction between the two.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Can Have the Cold Weather

You Can Have the Cold Weather

I don’t know about you folks, but I don’t care all that much for the cold weather we’ve been having. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into this warming climate business. I’m so dadgummed tired of listening to first one liar claim it’s getting hot enough to loosen the bristles on a wild hog and then another swearing it’s getting colder than a witch’s kiss. Folks are either ignorant or lying.

Why, even the weather scientists lied about warming conditions. Their explanation was that they suspected it was coming, but they wanted the world ‘powers-that-be’ to do something about what they thought was going to happen. (hey, I’m just as confused as you by their logic)

All that being said, I just don’t care for cold weather. I had my fill when I lived up in the Texas Panhandle where the only thing between me and the North Pole was a barbed wire fence, and it was falling apart with rust.

Now, in our little town, the only paved roads were the state highways coming in and going out and those around the town square. Half a block beyond the square, the dirt roads commenced, and from October to March, all we had was mud and ruts.

In the late forties, we moved to Fort Worth, which to me was a semi-tropical paradise. In fact, the weather was so balmy-opposed to that in the Panhandle- my Dad bought a 1948 Kaiser without a heater. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. Not the Kaiser, the heater.

Now, you had to know Dad. The fine old guy was like all who came up through the depression. He was going to save where he could, and in that paradise in which we had found ourselves, where the weather was balmy, who needed a heater?

Let me stray a tad here. Going with him to buy a new car was what turned me off about car buying. He’d haggle and quibble and wrangle about every single item on the vehicle. I can remember more than once going to sleep on the couch in the salesman’s office while he and Dad negotiated. And often with Dad, the negotiations became heated.

Now, Mama Conwell lived up in the Panhandle. After Papa died, she paid us a visit one year. We’d spent Thanksgiving up there, and she came back for a two or three week visit.
All of a sudden one morning, she wanted to go back home.

My Dad was a good son. A lot better than I believe I was. Mom once told me that when Papa Conwell was in the hospital in Pampa some forty miles east of Wheeler just after Mom and Dad married, that Dad drove the forty miles every day after work to see after Papa. Back then, that was a one hour or longer drive one way.(provided nothing went wrong with his old Model A)

But back to Mama Conwell and the unheated Kaiser.

As I said, Mama spent some time with us, and then she wanted to go home. That Friday afternoon when Dad came in from work, we took off. Mom and my brother stayed home for the ‘semi-tropical’ weather that day was right at freezing.

And the Panhandle, some three hundred miles north, was so cold—well, let me tell you how cold it was. When I was in the third, fourth, and fifth grades, we got our milk from my uncle’s cow there in Wheeler. I milked that bovine, and I saw it so cold one winter that one time, believe or not, the milk came out as icicles. It’s the truth. I wouldn’t lie to you.

And that’s how cold it was driving up there in that 1948 Kaiser without a heater. I lay in the back seat under two blankets; Dad and Mama sat in the front, topcoats wrapped about them.
Dad refused to admit he was cold, and when Mama jumped him for not having a car heater, he vociferously defended himself. But guess what, the next month he bought a brand spanking new 1951 Chevrolet coupe, with a heater.

Talk about heaven on earth. That’s when I fell in love with General Motors cars and been with them ever since.

Now, I know there’s a bunch of folks who enjoy cold weather. All I can say is ‘live it up. You’re a hardier soul than I.”