Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving was really strange this year

It was just plain strange to have Thanksgiving dinner without Mother.

Dad, Lucy, Ethel, and I drove out to my sister's house in Boerne, where she had fixed a terrific dinner (I contributed mashed cauliflower and steamed asparagus spears with butter). We had cocktails, then dinner, then Cowboys.

My sister has two horses, Dottie and Roper; they were a bit skittish with me until I produced the Mrs. Pasture's Horse Cookies (I kid you not, it's horse treats just like dog treats! Who knew?). As soon as I made with the Horse Cookies, man, was I ever popular. They were literally eating out of my hand, then nuzzling me looking for more. I constantly tease Marla that they are really just very large dogs. (That's Dottie on the left, Roper on the right, btw).

Then Dad and I drove back to his assisted living apartment, after stopping off to visit Mother. Let's just say that she has good days and bad days, and today was a very bad day.


Now, Thanksgiving dinner at our house has NEVER been about turkey. The flat out truth is, none of us really care that much for it. I'll eat it, but I'll take chicken or beef or pork any day. The "traditional" Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have rarely, if ever, been served at our house.

Growing up, our Thanksgiving dinner was pretty much what we had today: beef brisket, veggies, apple pie. (I'm the only one in my entire family that loves pumpkin pie; the others actively loathe it. The only way I ever get pumpkin pie is at a restaurant.).

Sometimes we'd have roast beef, sometimes a pot roast, sometimes even meatloaf (nobody did meatloaf like my mother; I've got her recipe and she showed me how, and I can make a -barely- passable imitation, but it's certainly not "hers". I loved hers and tolerate most others).

Oddly, the main "Holiday" ingredient we actually WOULD have is cranberry sauce, homemade. Mother loved cranberry anything, so we had a lot of cranberry sauce---out of a can if she didn't have time, homemade if she did. She was very good at making it herself, too. And, of course, if you're going to all that trouble, why not top it with whipped cream?

Thanksgiving afternoon has always always always been about watching the Dallas Cowboys, America's Team (all others really are inferior...). We're all Cowboys fans; I grew up watching Dandy Don Meredith and Bob Lilly; the Doomsday Defense and then the battle between Craig Morton and Roger "the Dodger" Staubach; suffered through Danny White and others, was exhilerated during the divine Aikman era, have been once again through the Valley of the Shadow to our current Romo-led 'boys. I like the current team. I like Jerry Jones and what he's done (sue me, all of you go ahead, I don't care). I even like T.O. I dislike Texas Stadium, always have, and will not be sorry to see it go. Arlington, here we come!

Anyway, Dad and my sister and her husband and son and I, we all love the Cowboys. Mother, not so much. She was a Denver Broncos fan. I was never sure, but I think she thought John Elway was "cute". In any event, the Broncos don't play on Thanksgiving, and the Cowboys do.

So basically that was our old traditional Thanksgiving, one more time: Family and brisket and cocktails and dogs and horses and Cowboys. But no cranberry sauce. No whipped cream. An empty place at the table.

Familiar, similar, but oh, so different.


But surely, you say, we have turkey at Christmas, right? No. Christmas dinner is Swiss Steak. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it....


Uncle Malvie says, you couldn't pay me enough to go shopping tomorrow. I don't care how cheap everything is, it's going to be cheaper after Christmas. I plan to steer clear of any shopping areas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some things just never change

I loves me some football...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let's hear it for newfound relatives!

My cousin Lance contacted me as a result of this blog!

Lance and I are second cousins, once removed (I love it that I know how to do that). We've been emailing and I decided to post my part on the blog. I think there are exactly 3 people who read it (Lance makes 4), so it's mostly for my entertainment anway.

My Grandmother, Audie Virginia Brown Tarkington Forthmon, had a pretty amazing story. It sounds like a movie (maybe a bad one).

Here goes:

Grannie's father, John, killed himself because of depression and drug use. Her mother, Alice, died in a typhoid epidemic, leaving John alone with all those kids. Polly's escapades (unwed pregnancy) didn't help, nor did Arnet's (same deal), but he died of a broken heart. He was a Laudanum addict. He told the children to stay in the house one day (no idea where Polly and Arnet, adults at the time, were), went out back and shot himself.

Uncle Albert just attached John's (adjoining) farm to his own. He never filed any deed work with the County, and no will was ever probated for John. Accordingly, to this day there is a cloud on the title of the land. I have heard that there were people who wanted to do a class action suit to regain the land or (more likely) extract some kind of settlement from the current owners, but I don't know what ever came of it. It's not their fault (although they bought land without a clear title!); it is the fault of Uncle Albert. In every family story I've heard, Albert is the villain. He took the kids in, but unwillingly. He sent his own children to the one room schoolhouse while making OUR crowd work in the fields. He, of course, was a good Baptist (I have many things to say about the Baptist church, having been raised in it; none of these things are complimentary...).

When Polly turned up preggers AGAIN, by the same MARRIED man, he put her on the road. He threw Audie (Grannie) into the mix, because she was too young to work productively and was another mouth to feed. Grannie was emotionally scarred for life from this treatment. We have her life story in her own hand (need to scan that too). She was unable to write it in first person, preferring instead to write it as the story of a little girl, Virginia. She hated the name Audie and I think always would have preferred "Virginia".

When Polly got to Buffalo with the kids, I don't exactly know where she went. I know that she placed Grannie with a local Judge and his wife, who were childless and raised her. When she was 15, she was at a barn dance and the fiddler was a young man from LittleLot, Roy Tarkington. Roy had, um, a voracious sexual appetite (which he retained apparently till he died) and swept the young "Virginia" off her feet, as it were. They were married in Centerville. Mother and I actually travelled to the Centerville courthouse and were sent down in the basement to look for the marriage record. It literally was like a scene out of a movie, dusty old books strewn everywhere, cobwebs, brick walls and little windows up at the ceiling, the works. We found the book with Grannie and Grandaddy's signatures on the marriage license, took it back upstairs and made a photocopy. It's a good thing, because the courthouse subsequently burned and that book burned with it.

Grannie moved to LittleLot with Roy, but his frequent girlfriends made life difficult. Roy's sister Elsie and her husband, Jim, went with a friend to Arkansas because they heard there was work there in the rice fields; everybody in LittleLot was basically starving. Elsie wired back to LittleLot that there was, in fact, plenty of work in Arkansas and that the whole clan should come on. Roy and Audie decided to make the trip. They took a buckboard to Nashville (I don't know why; they could have gotten the train in Dickson or Waverley) but that's what they did. Attached is a copy of a picture of Grannie in Centennial Park in Nashville (the trees are still there) on that trip. She made the dress herself. She was 16, and had already had a baby (my Aunt Paulie, or "Polly" as we called her).

So they moved to Arkansas and had 3 more children (Roy would visit long enough to leave her pregnant, then take off with this woman or that). At the end, they were living in Prescott, Arkansas. Roy told the family they needed to go see his brother Laurence, so they drove to Malvern (my hometown) and had Sunday dinner with Uncle Laurence and Aunt Lillie (I met them when I was a child and they were very old). After dinner, Roy told them he "had business downtown" and left. He never returned; they found the car deserted at the depot; he had ridden the train back to Prescott and run off with Judge Callicott's daughter, with whom he actually lived the rest of his life. None of us think they ever married, although they used his last name. He was a mean old man when I knew him and I have several stories about that too.

After it became apparent that Granddaddy was not coming back, Grannie divorced him (I just found the divorce decree the other day, going through all this stuff from Mother's). She had no job, no money, no home, no education, and had been abandoned again, with 4 kids: Pauline, age 16; Fred, age 13; Horace, age 8; and Martha, age 2. She had no choice but to appeal to relatives for help. Pauline stayed with Uncle Laurence and Aunt Lillie in Malvern; they ran a boarding house. Fred and Horace were sent to Stuttgart to live with Aunt Elsie Oliver (I dearly loved Aunt Elsie, she was a complete scream even into her 90's). Grannie kept Mother with her. She moved to Little Rock to get work. She scrubbed floors at the Worthen National Bank (largest bank in Arkansas till the 1990's) at night and took in laundry by day. They starved. She went back to Malvern and found work as a domestic for some wealthy people who could still afford a maid in the depression.

It was at this point that Jim Forthmon came to the door selling Fuller Brushes (I'm not making this up). They married. Jim couldn't make a go of Fuller Brushes during the Depression and they did all sorts of things trying to get by. Jim built them a homemade trailer and they went all over the midwest, selling gun racks and curio shelves they made. (There are many lurid stories about this period. Two quick ones: they had no food and no money, and Mother had a pet chicken. Fried chicken was on the table and Mother was never able to eat chicken again, literally to this day. Another time, Grandaddy tracked them down and swiped Mother. No idea why he and Ethel wanted her; he never wanted children---but anyway, they kidnapped her and there was a chase scene right out of Bonnie and Clyde, with Jim shooting at the car and Granddaddy shooting back. Mother remembers it, or she did until this last stroke.

They wound up back in Malvern with Jim selling something or other. Mother hated him. She was 16 and working at "The Bright Spot", a local ice cream store. She went out on a date with Houston Jones, local bad-boy-from-good-family, because she loved to dance the jitterbug. They were at a local roadhouse; Houston was drunk and disorderly as usual. My dad, Houston's brother, was sitting in the corner with his buds. "Who's the cutie with my shithead brother?" is the exact quote. "Martha Tarkington". He went over, said, "Miss Tarkington, I see that my brother is making an ass of himself, can I drive you home?" She said, "Sure", hopped on the back of his Harley, and he took her home.

Two weeks later, on Valentine's Day, they got Dad's best friend to break into his father (County Clerk)'s office, forge a marraige license, went out to a country baptist preacher, got married, came back, walked into his folks house at 2:00 am, flipped on the light and announced their marraige. My grandparents Jones were the President of the Bank and Local Dragonlady, respectively (she was Pres of Garden Club, Sunday School, Ladies' Missionary Society, etc). They screamed.

Mother ran out to the getaway car and told the friends to take her home. Little did she realize the trouble she herself was in, until they turned the corner and every light in the house was on. She tried to sneak in but was caught. Mayhem ensued.

Next morning, Dad came to get her on his Harley. Jim met him on the front door with a shotgun, but Mother walked past him with her suitcase and they left. If Mother lives till Valentine's Day (doubtful but possible), it will have been 67 years.

Meanwhile, two more things happened to Grannie.

About a year after Mother and Dad got married, Jim was on his way back from a sales call in the middle of the night; he was sleepy. Larry Fitzhugh, distant relative of my Dad's, was driving a load of steel pipe in the same direction, north on US 67 south of Malvern. Larry went to sleep and just stopped in the middle of the road. No lights. Jim hit the back of that load of steel doing around 80 mph; they found the V8 engine of Jim's Ford in the trunk.

Grannie went to live with Uncle Laurence and Aunt Lillie, working as a maid again.

She developed a sty on her eye. These are painful, so she finally had to go to the doctor. Drunk old Dr. Barrier (only one who would treat her on credit) was going to wash it out with saline; instead washed it out with SULPHURIC ACID. So Grannie was blind in her right eye from 1942 till she died. She wore a patch for years, then finally they came up with a prosthesis she could comfortably wear. She never drove again.

World War II occurred. She and Mother lived together in Little Rock, mother working at the bomb factory (!), Grannie working as a laundress at University Hospital. Mother became pregnant on one of Dad's leaves, so they had an infant to care for as well. My sister became ill, finally dying of hydrocephalus at age 3, while Grannie was living with Mother. Dad barely made it home in time to see her. Dad and Mother were devastated, and moved to Dallas to escape the memories.

Grannie moved in with Pauline and her husband Robert. They had 3 kids. She lived with them, taking care of the kids while they worked.

In 1956, the oldest daughter, Neda, was having a torrid romance with an undesireable sort named Jimmy (he really was a creep, her parents were right about him, as she later found out). Neda and Pauline got into a knock-down drag-out fight over it, Grannie taking Neda's side. The result was Pauline throwing both of them out of the house. They walked with their suitcases to the train station and placed a collect call to my Mother, asking her to wire them tickets to Dallas. Mother was having a difficult pregnancy (I always was a problem child...) and Grannie was glad to help. She and Neda lived with Mother and Dad in Dallas until Neda, against all advice, married Jimmy and moved out.

Grannie lived with us the rest of her life. She never owned a home. She was thrown out (through no fault of hers) by her own uncle, deserted by her first husband, widowed by her second; blinded; thrown out by her own daughter, and finally taken care of for the last 26 years of her life. She died the day after Christmas, 1983, during a blinding snowstorm, at age 88. We had to delay the funeral 3 days so they could get the digger up into the cemetery. She's buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Malvern, next to Jim Forthmon. She really didn't want to be there, but those were the plots she owned.

I have her Bible, her Parker pen, and her alarm clock. My sister has her rocking chair. Those were the only possessions she owned.

She was a very sweet person, loving and giving. She held no animosity toward those who wronged her. She could sit at table and eat with Roy and Ethel Tarkington with us (Mother wanting to see her Daddy), and be civil and swap recipes with Ethel (I'd have murdered them both). She and Pauline were very close in later years, writing each other letters every day. I wish I had her loving kindness, but I'm afraid I inherited a pretty solid dose of Tarkington.

My first scan attempts

...leave a LOT to be desired. They are either very dark or you see a LOT of artifact (little flecks on the screen). I'm not sure if that's dust, or problems with the processing, or the fact that these things are over 50 years old. Anyway, here we go, fresh from 1959:

Grannie, dressed for church. Audie Virginia Brown Tarkington Forthmon. She was 63 years old here. She always wore tinted glasses, for a reason about which I will likely blog soon.

Dad and I on his Vespa (50 mpg @ $0.25 per gallon). He was 36, I was 2. He loved taking me on the scooter and I loved going on the scooter. No helmets, no seat belts, no kidding. I'd stand right in front of him and away we'd go (I actually remember this, aside from the pictures).

Mother and I on the scooter. She was 33. This has to be one of the ONLY times she EVER deigned to get on the scooter, she hated it.

Tired camper. If you look between me and Mother, you can see Tinkerbelle the dog. Tinker loved me, right up till I pulled her tail and her ears, etc. Thereafter she never liked me much.

For Lance

I'm really very excited; on one of the posts below, I heard from one of my relatives (whom I have never met). Obviously he must have some interest in the family, because he named Mother and Grannie by their real names.

Lance, here is the only picture I could IMMEDIATELY get my hands on. I moved to Houston about a year ago, but it's been a very busy year and all the photos, etc are packed up in boxes. There are tons, and I can go through them and find more.

Back in 1979, when I graduated from Baylor and hadn't started work yet, Mother decided she would take Grannie back to Tennessee to see what was left of her family. I didn't have anything to do so I was the designated driver. We left Tulsa (where they lived then) and headed out, stopping in Malvern, Arkansas to pick up Mother's Sister, my Aunt Paulie (prounounced "Polly"). We knew of one lady in Waverley, Tennessee, named Mamie, and called her asking if we could come meet them. Well good grief, they insisted we stay with them.

We drove up in their front yard and they started boiling out of the house; they had come from miles around to meet "Aunt Audie".

I should say that we all have a strong family resemblance. Mother, Aunt Paulie, and Uncle Horace looked like triplets. When you line all the male descendants of my generation---Jim, Glenn, Jeff, and I---you can absolutely tell we're related. We look just like Mother, Aunt Paulie, and Uncle Horace, who all looked just like their mother.

Imagine our surprise (because we really hadn't thought about it) when these people all started boiling out of that house---and they looked just like US! (or we looked like them....).

Anyway, this photo was framed in my den; I took it out and scanned it. I am pretty sure the year is 1974 (my lapels on that BURGANDY polyester coat stretched to the shoulder seam; how about that BOW TIE! What you can't see *thank GOD* is the pair of burgandy and white, houndstooth, bell-bottom polyester pants and stack-heeled patent leather shoes I was wearing with it. Marla had to IRON her hair to achieve that effect; Mother's and Grannie's has already been discussed in an earlier post. Dad's tie is as wide as a dinner napkin.

Let's see, 1974, we lived in Windcrest in San Antonio. Dad was 51 (my age now, yikes!), Mother was 48, I was 17, Marla was 12, and Grannie was 78. Grannie loved this picture; there was another one of just her. I have all of them, somewhere in these boxes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pass the coffee, please

Everything's ok as long as they keep making Community Coffee, dark roast, whole bean, and I have a burr grinder to grind it with, a fabulous brew machine to brew it in, and heavy cream and splenda (now) to make it just right. Makes getting up in the mornings worth it.

My first taste of Community was at Mardi Gras, 1987; I stayed with friends who hosted us in grand Louisiana tradition. (Jimmy, never a good driver, met us at the airport with a cocktail in a crystal highboy glass in his hand. He weaved us out of the airport and we were concerned about getting caught. "Aw, hell, this is N'Orluns", he slurred as he pulled into a drive-thru daquiri bar. I wondered aloud if they had Wild Turkey; the waitress heard me and asked, "Small or Large?" "Um, Large please!")

Naturally, we all stayed up all night in the quarter; got about 3 hours of sleep. Next morning, the Lady of the house served up a SEVEN COURSE BREAKFAST (she had "help"), and Community Dark Roast with sugar and cream in porcelain cups. One cup is all it took. I've been drinking it ever since. They don't have it in San Antonio, and I have to take my sister "care packages" from Houston.

This coffee should come with a warning: once you've had it, nothing else is good enough.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big jobs require Big tools

I may have alluded to this before, but I've been appointed (self-appointed and by unanimous consent of all concerned) to be the custodian of the family history.

This includes Dad's slides.

All my life, photography and picture taking has been a big part. My Dad, an inveterate photographer, always had some kind of camera. Since Dad was mostly broke, and unlike his son was credit-card-averse, his cameras for years consisted of the highly reliable, cheap, surprisingly good Kodak Brownie. He had 3: a black one, a blue one, and a green one. He took pictures of everything that came within his view; mostly his family, on which he doted.

In 1966, he "upgraded" to an Instamatic 404, which he used until he got his first SLR, a Canon A-1. He kept taking pictures until his hands got too shaky to hold the camera still.

I inherited the photography bug from him; was always fascinated; always begged him as a child to let me take a picture (he passed the old black Brownie on to me when he got the new blue one, though he wouldn't waste money on film for my photographic efforts at age 6...).

Dad got the first Brownie because he and his wife had a new house, a new puppy, a new car, and a new baby on the way. He figured he'd better get a camera, and since paying for all that wasn't cheap, he opted for the Brownie.

He took slides because (a) the film was cheaper to buy and cheaper to process, (b) storage was less difficult (he also bought an Argus slide projector, a total beast, exceedingly temperamental, and only Dad understood it. Also, it would allow only Dad to operate it; it knew how we felt about its temperamental ways...), which took these big metal "magazines"---also hideous to operate, and I'm dreading trying to extricate those fragile slides from those nasty old metal magazines), and (c) "slide shows" were a real event around our house.

We'd get a new roll of film back from Kodak (because, of course, you had to send the roll of film off to Kodak for processing, they'd process, and send the box of slides back to you; took about a week or two, depending on how busy they were), Dad would load them into a magazine, we'd stretch a sheet across a window (or just take one of the pictures off the wall) and have a slide show; Mother would pop popcorn, we'd all get a Coke or Dr Pepper, and on with the show.

When we broke up Mother and Dad's household, along with boxes and boxes of family history/genealogical research, I inherited boxes and boxes of slides. The slides are all of my baby pictures, my sisters, my first trike, my first bike, all our dogs, Christmases 1957 through around 1980, all the loved relatives now gone, Dad's trip to the Holy Land, my "Grand Tour" of Europe (he let me take the 404!), my first car, my sister as a pep squadder, my sister as a baby wanting to ride a horse (how unusual... ;-). I smile and wink because she lives on acreage in Boerne, TX and has horses---which are pets, very large pets who eat a lot and make very large poops and occasionally consent for her to ride on them.

In any event, the old 50's slides are very, very fragile now. They are in complete disarray and disorganization. The good news is, Kodak always printed the date on the slide, so I know when they were taken; of course, I remember most of them so the "where" part isn't difficult.

My year-long project is going to be to scan and catalog those slides.

I would be SHOCKED (shocked!) if some of them didn't find their way here.

Meanwhile, to facilitate the job, I've bought:

A one-Terrabyte external hard drive
A new Toshiba laptop
A new Scanner (Consumer Reports indicates it's the best for scanning slides)

So, it's off I go a-scannin. I figure, it's something to do this winter when the days are long and somewhat rainy.

Now, to get all that technology ready to go...

One more thing: I've got a Nikon D50 (very nice) with a cheap but effective Promaster zoom lens (I want the Nikon Zoom-Nikkor Zoom lens - 18 mm - 200 mm - F/3.5-5.6 - Nikon F; as soon as any of you would like to contribute $800 or so to my cause, I'll have one...), and I like to flatter myself that I take some pretty good pictures. But you know, I'll bet Dad's were just as good or better, with vastly inferior equipment. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Potts Camp, Mississippi

I got text messages, as usual, from my friend Kathy Beaumont as she went through Potts Camp, Mississippi en route to and from her son Ben's wedding in Little Rock. Two text messages, one each way, advising me that she and LBeau had made it safely through Potts Camp. We all insist that each other do this now. There is a very good reason:

Potts Camp, Mississippi is de debbil.

My first encounter with Potts Camp occurred en route to my very first Arkansas/Auburn football game. I survived the trip without difficulty. I was "with" a whole group of people driving separately, and we were to rendezvous at the Beaumont Inn for Wayward WebHogs (BIFWW), which I must admit is Birmingham's premiere establishment for such purposes.

All of us arrived safely---except the Bawiecs. This was of moderate concern, because Dee (the attractive part of the couple) was preggers at the time, and as the hour grew later, our concern about the possibility of a very early delivery grew.

Finally, here they came in Rick's BMW Z3.

Remember the scene in "Back to the Future, Part III" in which Doc Brown puts huge 1950's tires on the DeLorean? (Gee, the internets is a wonderful thing; I found a PICTURE of it...).
Well, that Z3 looked like that---3 "normal" tires and one "whacko" tire. Seems they had had a blowout in Potts Camp, Mississippi and the local tire store didn't have anything that even remotely fit a Z3 (likely they didn't know what a BMW was...). So Rick had to buy this mismatched, wrong-sized tire to get him from scenic Potts Camp the 140 more miles or so to Birmingham, where they are, in fact, civilized and not only KNOW about German cars but actually MAKE them…

Fast forward to 2005; my friend J. R. and I had been to the BIFWW and attended Arkansas’ loss to the evil Tide, following our trip the week before to the Arkansas/Southern California debacle (so you see, the stage was already set for disaster).

America, especially the south, was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and Hurricane Rita chose that weekend to strike the Texas/Louisiana coast. My sister, her husband, their children, dogs, horses, and friends, were involved in the Texodus, but that’s another blog entry (I think I’ll have her write that one up, she tells great stories about it).

Even though the hurricane was an entire state away, the bands were not. They swept ashore, raking the countryside with bouts of pounding rain---after which the sun would emerge---and then another band of pounding rain. It is the way of hurricanes.

So, J. R. and I were driving back in my (new at the time) Dodge Grand Caravan (Inferno Red), with the back end completely full of border collies---Frank, Lucy, Ethel, and Jack. I was driving, J. R. was piddling on his computer, and all was right with the world.

Until we reached Potts Camp, Mississippi.

We were between bands of Hurricane Rita; I had had to slow down drastically due to heavy rain, but the rain band ended and we emerged into the sunshine and –mostly- dry pavement. I promptly pushed the Warp Drive up to Warp 8.5 and rounded the bend and into the straightaway next to Potts Camp.

One minute, I was driving along; the next I was doing 360’s along the freeway; three complete ones, at 85 mph. I am a good driver, and was attempting to navigate out of the spin; J. R. did not help by grabbing my arm---he was afraid I would do something wrong, and former race car drivers don’t like it when anybody but them is behind the wheel anyway---but it didn’t do me any good.

When I finally came out of the spin, I was headed across the small grass median directly at the oncoming traffic. I succeeded in driving us into the median, where we literally plowed nose down into the soft muck. Suddenly, we were stopped and everything was very quiet. I turned the engine off, removed J. R.’s death grip from my arm, opened the door, got out, and had to hold onto the van due to weakness at the knees. J. R. was similarly afflicted. The dogs had the most interesting looks on their faces: “Um, excuse me, but what the hell just happened?”

While we were standing there, another car joined us in the ditch, missing us by about 10 feet. They were getting out when another car hit the same slick spot and went off the other side of the road.

So I called the auto club.

And here came a Mississippi State Trooper and a wrecker to tow us out.

The tow driver, from Potts Camp, looked it over, attached the tow cables to one of my tires, and pulled my van out that way. The suspension was never the same. He drawled, in his best Miss-uh-sipp-uh mushmouth: “Yeah, we sure have a lot of wrecks right here, ‘specially when it rains!” I didn’t ask him if he had paid the highway department to not fix the slight indentation (which caused cars to drop oil, which resulted in the invisible oil slick).

Our ship righted, and seemingly drivable, we got back on US 78 and headed on toward Little Rock. Less than a half mile down the road, we saw another Arkansas vehicle, an older Ford Explorer, with a couple of young guys trying to change the tire. I said, “Hey! That’s BEN BEAUMONT!”

The exit sign directly in front of their truck? Potts Camp >>>

Potts Camp, Mississippi is de debbil.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh, one more question for Congress

Um, my credick cards are a little high. I've got 2 car payments and a large house payment. My Texas homeowners insurance just went up 30% because of Hurricane Ike. My Texas automobile insurance just went up 25% because Harris County has a terrible accident rate.

My electricity contract expires December 31, and the rate just went from 13.7 cents per kwh to 15.7 cents per kwh; not bad but my bill (on averaged billing) is (low for my neighborhood because of the extraordinary steps Nathan and I take to reduce it) $200/month now. So it's going up.

My homeowners association dues are going up on 12/31.

My escrow account on my house payment is going up to cover the aforementioned insurance increase, and Harris County, being broke, is going to remove the "temporary" tax decrease from last year (why are tax decreases ALWAYS temporary, while tax increases are ALWAYS permanent?).

Gas has abated for right now, but I'll bet that's a temporary situation. In any event, I drive to and from San Antonio almost every weekend now because of Mother, so my consumption has dramatically increased.

Meanwhile, on the workfront, people are not buying much ready-mix concrete (no credit...housing slowdown...states and municipalities broke...), so my "raise" (not to mention my "bonus") this year is that I get to keep my job. Oh, and the cost of all of my benefits is going up fairly dramatically, while the co-pays are increasing and the coverage is decreasing. Oh, and my deductible for next year is $400, not $300, and it's harder to satisfy---but that's GOOD compared to almost everybody else.

My question:


An open question to Our Congress

Ladies and Gentlemen of the House and Senate:

I applaud your severity in dealing with the Big 3 automakers in Detroit. These bozo's and their high-flying lifestyle (kudos to the Senator who asked them, "You had to have 3 private planes? You couldn't have jet-pooled?") have just about run the American auto industry into the ground. Now, they're asking for $25 billion of our tax dollars to bail them out.

Yes, $25 billion is a lot of money.

Yes, the Detroit automakers put out a crappy product (though it is greatly improved).

Yes, the Detroit corporate executives are overpaid swine.

Yes, the unions (near and dear to the hearts of us Democrats) are WAY out of control, and the average Detroit auto worker is VASTLY overpaid compared to EVERYBODY ELSE.

Yes, Detroit made some bad decisions, building SUV after SUV after SUV after truck after truck, all of which get horrid gas mileage (even though WE, the Great American Consumer, shunned small cars like the plague and were, at one point, paying PREMIUMS OVER STICKER for Tahoes and Suburbans---my cousins, the former Chevrolet dealers in Searcy, Arkansas, told me that for years their salesmen had little lists in their pockets and would go out and meet the car haulers when they drove in with a load from Arlington; they'd then go down the line calling their waiting list, telling them, "We've got a beige Tahoe LTZ; it's priced at $42,000; I can let you have it for $44,000" and the people would rush down there with a checkbook. For years, my cousins couldn't drive a Tahoe or Suburban for their "demonstrators", because they made too much money selling the beasts---but at the same time, you could buy all the Cavaliers you wanted, in a variety of colors, at huge discounts.) This is what we here in America call "Capitalism", or "Market Economy". The Market, you see, dictates what it will buy and what it won't, therefore you supply the Market what it craves. And what it craved until a few months ago was big, V-8 powered vehicles in which you could haul 5 adults, 2 kids, a dog or two and all their junk, WHILE towing your boat or travel trailer.

But yes, Detroit made some mistakes.

BUT WHAT OF THE BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars y'all just GAVE the *BUSH ADMINISTRATION*, that bastion of intelligence and competence, knowers of the best way to do things? What happened to our $700 BILLION that you GAVE, as a BLANK CHECK, to the Bush Administration to bail out companies that (get this) made loans to people they KNEW wouldn't pay, then bought up these loans and bundled them and sold them (as "AAA" rated investments!) to other companies, which bought a bogus product from AIG called a "Credit Default Swap" so if somebody DID default, they'd be "covered" by "insurance"----you bailed AIG out to the tune of BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars, without even finding out where it went!!!! You gave JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars and they used it, not to make loans, but to buy up other banks!!! You saved Freddie and Fannie and AIG and Bear, Stearns, but you let Lehman Brothers go down the tubes. What was that all about, anyway? That's what brought on the current credit crunch! Why was Lehman Brothers deemed "not worthy" of bailout, but the other big investment houses were? Is it because Paulson and Bernanke were from a COMPETITOR and they just didn't LIKE them? We never heard....

Bottom line, dear Congresscritters: If you can afford $700 BILLION DOLLARS, unaccounted for, in a blank check, to bail out freaking Wall Street, which is, in my humble opinon, Las Vegas without the free drinks and showgirls---ok, scratch that, make it "Las Vegas without the heat but with lots of rain and slushy black snow"---then why can't you afford a comparatively paltry $25 Billion to bail out the American auto industry---you can put CONDITIONS on the money! You can literally change the laws regarding unions! You can pull some of the same crap Truman and Roosevelt did with regard to the unions. You can require the resignations of the CEO's, you can require the reduction in their pay and benefits and perks.

I really, really dislike Wall Street. Money truly is the root of all evil.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rant on conservatives

A "friend" got me thinking about political conservatives; this is my response to one of his eamils. I'd clean it up, but I'm lazy, and it pretty much expresses my views:

Some groups are totally unconcerned with Obama's racial characteristics whatsoever. They think he's a SOCIALIST (which is one step short of "COMMIE"). They think that before long, we'll all be wearing gray jumpsuits and working for the government, which will be the only entity left. Everybody will be a happy socialist worker, etc etc etc.

It's kind of amusing, really. These Uber-Conservatives (who worship at the feet of the mighty Limbaugh) think that ANY government is BAD BAD BAD. They are the ones who won't pay to drive on the Tollway. Their friends in Arkansas are the ones who refuse to vote for toll roads because the government shouldn't charge you for it because that's what your taxes are for, not all this welfare.

They are the exact same people who do not want government HELPING its citizens AT ALL. Now, I'm not happy with a total "welfare" state, but come on---

Hey, conservatives, here's what you do: go down and stand at the door of the emergency room at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Meet Jorge and Lupe Rodriguez (citizens of Mexico) at the door as they bring 5 year old Jaime, who is bleeding profusely from a head injury. Tell Jorge and Lupe (in ENGLISH, BY GOD, CAUSE THIS HERE'S 'MURIKUH!) that unless they can pay, they'll have to just see to Jaime's injury themselves. Go ahead, christian soldiers, go ahead and do it. I want to stand there and watch while you do.

They are the same people who don't want the EVIL GOVERNMENT espousing BIRTH CONTROL (because the government has no place in people's lives, unless it's gays trying to marry or adopt children, in which case the government has every right....), and especially handing out FREE birth control to "those damn welfare recipients", but who aren't exactly standing in line to adopt a child....

It makes me craxy.

They're not racist, but they are (truly) against every single social program. WIC. Food stamps. Aid to mothers with dependent children. Tuition assistance. They want to dismantle the entire social services program, including (really) Social Security and Medicare. They believe the government should do only and exactly the following things: provide military, provide a postal service, provide military, provide roads, provide military, provide border security, prevent gays from existing, provide military.

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


A salute to "mine":

Truman N. Baker, United States Army, "The Doughboys", World War I, France. Thanks, Uncle Truman.

Maurice E. Jones, United States Army Air Force, World War II, China-Burma-India campaign ("The Hump"); United States Air Force, Korean Conflict, USAF Reserves. Thanks, Dad.

Houston J. Jones, United States Army Air Force, World War II, Pacific theater. Thanks, Uncle Jay.

Horace E. Tarkington, United States Army Air Force, World War II, Pacific theater. Thanks, Uncle Horace.

Calvin E. Peeler, United States Army Air Force, World War II, Pacific theater; USAF, Korean Conflict; Vietnam; Colonel, retired. Thanks, Uncle Cal.

William J. Fink, MD, United States Army Air Force, Medical/Surgical team, World War II, Atlantic theater. Thanks, Pop.

Irby D. Bates, DD, United States Army, Chaplain Corps, World War II, Atlantic theater; Korean conflict. Thanks, Uncle "Ibel D".

Roy B. Tarkington, Jr., United States Army, Korean Conflict. Thanks, Roy Junior.

"Buster" Tarkington, United States Army, Vietnam, KIA. Thanks, Cousin Buster. RIP.

Jack D. Thompson, USAF, Vietnam, retired. Thanks, Cousin Jack.

Dana Thompson, United States Army, Iraq, currently serving. Thanks, Cousin Dana. (Lipstick and rocket launchers, only Dana...).


And, a salute to "Rosie the Riveter"

Martha Tarkington Jones, Bomb packer, Bomb factory, North Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks, Mom.

Edna Baker Tarkington, Bomb tester, Bomb factory, North Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks, Aunt Edna.

Arline Jones Peeler Fink, Secretary, War Department, Washington, DC. Thanks, Aunt Shorty.


But to hear my Republican friends talk, I'm "anti-Military" because I oppose the war in Iraq. Yessir, I don't like the military, no, not one bit....

I care enough about them to believe their lives should only be at risk when they are doing their duty defending their country, not wasted in some meaningless excursion for political purposes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Depression is not easy to handle. Everyone suffers from it occasionally, but for those of us who are chronic depressives, it's not a snap.

Yes, there are lots of new "miracle" drugs. They CAN have an effect, and people like my sister think they're the ticket---just take your meds and everything will be wonderful!

Well, yes, except for the nausea and diarrhea, the skin rashes, the sleep disturbances (expecially when you suffer from sleep disorders already), and the general feeling of swimming underwater (we will dispense with the sexual side-effects, but they are definitely there).

Oh, and the fact that, after a month or so, the effect wears off as the body adjusts, and you are right back where you started---except you also suffer from the side effects.


It's tough being single and watching your parents die. Married-with-children folks have their children, their grandchildren, etc, and assume (if they have a loving family) that they will care for them in old age.

Who's going to take care of me when I'm old? Nobody, that's who.

All this is by way of explaining the previous post on this blog. I'm not going to get into the same situation as Mother. I'm not that tough.

It's really bad, being alone and with no children. When Mother and Dad are gone, there will be nobody who gives a good goddamn whether I live or die.

And that's tough.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Scott had the right idea. Wonder how he accomplished it?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008



One of the things that makes this country great is that, if we don't like the government we have, we can throw the bums out.

The current group of Republicans are bums and we have thrown them out.

I can't think of a better comment on this situation than the Motto of the State of Arkansas:

Regnant Populus (The People Rule).

I love Election Day

Always have.

I was raised in a political atmosphere. My great-uncle, Truman Baker (nicknamed "the Kingmaker"), was one of the grey old men who would sit in a suite at the Marion Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, smoking "seegars", drinking good bourbon (served by scantily clad young ladies), playing high-stakes poker---and deciding who they, as the Power Brokers of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, would "back" (meaning "choose") in the Democratic primary (the de facto election in Arkansas until the Reagan Revolution).

Our family was politically involved, and it was just assumed that the children of the family would learn about politics and be politically aware. Of course, as a Baby Boomer, I also was politically active and interested.

I remember going with my Dad to vote in 1964; I wore my cowboy hat (of course) and one of the old gentlemen at the polling place asked me, "Who are you going to vote for, Tex?" and I responded (at the top of my lungs), "ALL THE WAY WITH LBJ!" to general laughter and agreement.

I was a big fan of Bobby Kennedy; I watched the '68 election intently, my first to "really" pay attention. I watched his speech on TV from the Ambassador Hotel, and of course was shocked and horrified at the events later that night.

I detested Richard Nixon, and was (like many other Americans) delighted that stolid Gerald Ford took over from Tricky Dick.

My first election was '76, and I voted for the peanut farmer from Plains, GA, Jimmy Carter. Jimmy disappointed me, but I voted for him again in 1980, when Reagan swept the country. Voted for Reagan (gasp!) for re-election over Fritz Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro (just couldn't handle Fritz). Then held my nose and voted for Dukakis.

I was thrilled when Bill Clinton from Hope, Arkansas was elected President. I was so proud of him, and still am. I don't care who he has sex with (I view that as "none of my business".). I thought he had the chance to be a GREAT president, but of course the religionistas and the Republicans would have none of that.

Just think, when George W. Bush took office, we had a budget surplus, peace reigned supreme, and the biggest worry of the political world was whether Billy boy lied about getting a blow job from a 28 year old woman on the Resolute Desk.

Then the worst 8 years of my life, politically speaking. I truly, genuinely detest George W. Bush and live in terror of what may happen between now and January 20th...what MORE evil can he do before we finally get rid of his ass????

I'm more excited about this election than any in my lifetime. Although I was a Hillary Clinton supporter (and delegate to the Texas convention pledged to her), I wholeheartedly support Senator Barack Obama and pray that he is elected tonight.

I haven't been this excited about a candidate for a long, long time.

We shall see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Nobody said it would be this hard

So today, they've backed Mother's meds off and she's lucid (her first comment to me: "Get me out of this f'in place!"). Problem is, the meds were keeping the pain at bay. Today, the pain was bad.

It's really hard to watch somebody you love writhe in pain.


We had a visitor today.

When Mother went to work at Southwestern Bell, little did she know she would wind up with lifelong friends out of the deal.

Joy, Joydean, Marjorie, Jewel; friends all. I called them all "Aunt". These gals were something else. They all worked hard, played hard, and shopped hard. Wearing those tiny little spike heels, girdles, garters, nylons, hats, gloves, and those tight tube skirts, they covered Downtown Dallas, from Sanger Brothers on the south through A. Harris and Neiman-Marcus in the middle, to Titche-Goettinger on the north, they shopped with the power and speed of a Southeastern Conference running back (think Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on a mission).

They all went all over the place, and Joy, Joydean, Marjorie and Mother wound up in San Antonio. Marjorie returned to Florida, but Joy and Joydean are still here.

Aunt Joy came to see Mother today. It was great to see her; she's as full of life as ever (traded those spike heels and skirts for tennis shoes and a pink sweatsuit, but still with style).